Wine Time!

Posted by Aquatropic Staff on June 30, 2022

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The Winemilleri Eartheater (Geophagus winemilleri) is a member of the family Cichlidae, better known as just “cichlids”. The name Geophagus means “Eartheater”; the reason for this name will be evident the first time you see one, they can hardly stop themselves from digging and rearranging substrate, which mostly looks like they are eating (and spitting out) the substrate. Reaching about seven and a half inches, these brilliantly colored fish are hard to miss. Adults will have an olive green body with red eyes and fins, covered in beautiful blue green iridescent lines covering most of its body with a black lateral spot. This is a great, larger, showy South American community fish.

In the wild, these Eartheaters are native to Southern Venezuela, coming from the Casiquiare drainage, and the headwaters of the Rio Negro. They are found in tanic (stained brown by organic material) water with a muddy or sandy substrate, usually around structure such as a down tree. This means aquarium wise they they will appreciate fine substrate and some well affixed driftwood. Floating plants would be appreciated as they can help dim usually bright lighting. As they come from stained water they prefer dimmer or interrupted lighting. Because of digging behavior, Winemilleri Eartheaters are very unlikely to allow your substrate plants to stay in one place. Some flat rocks should be included if spawning is desired. These fish are not aggressive and due to their feeding methods, are safe to house with all but the smallest fish. Once they start spawning, aggression can become an issue.

On the topic of feeding, in the wild, Winemilleri earth eaters are omnivores. As their name suggests, they will take scoops of substrate in their mouth and filter it for small invertebrates, plant or algae matter, and some detritus. They are omnivores – and so adding a quality sinking pellet with some plant or algae supplement is a good place to start. They need very small foods and fine substrate, as they are not adapted for eating larger foods and if the substrate is too coarse or large they can eat it and become impacted. Tiny live foods will also be accepted with gusto!

Geophagus genus fish generally spawn easily in the home aquarium, given you form a pair, feed a good diet, and perform regular water changes to keep up with their messy habits and eating. The parents will both defend the nest and territory after eggs are laid, and after the eggs hatch the parents will protect the fry in their mouth. This phenomenon, known as parental mouthbrooding, will continue but with less and less frequency as the fry mature. There are no easy differences between males and females for the average aquarist to notice, so your best bet is to either acquire a pair from a trusted source, or to start with a larger group of juveniles and let them pair off naturally, then re-homing those not paired.

The Winemilleri Eartheater is truly one of the most beautiful fish in a long line of stunning South American cichlids. Few things are as interesting or rewarding as watching a pair of fish build and defend a territory, and then take care of their young. Imagine walking house guests up to your aquarium to let them witness all the fry swim directly into their parents mouths, only to emerge again once certain that danger has passed! If you are interested in acquiring a sustainably sourced Winemilleri Eartheater ask your local fish store to order one today from Aquatropic!