by Tony Bernard
From the Monthly Bulletin of the Hamilton Aquarium Society
Originally described in 1910 by Eigenmann & Hildebrand, they are found in the major
drainages of Columbia. This relatively small fish will grow to a size of 14cm. The females
are a little smaller growing to about 11cm. Theirs mouths are turned down, which places
them into the Geophagus genus. They love to dig and sift through your substrate
but they really are not into moving it around. The body of the male is 80% covered with
metallic green spots and his body is a cream colour with a black horizontal band down the
lateral line. The female looks the same but has fewer metallic spots. They are known in
the hobby as the Red Hump Eartheater.
I acquired a bag of juveniles in Sarnia at the local club's auction. They were under an
inch in size and were placed into a ten gallon tank for conditioning. I fed a mix of flake
foods with small pellets and occasionally threw in some freeze dried foods for flavour.
Once they got up to an inch and a half I put them into a growout tank with other various
cichlids, some African - well, mostly African. They did fine and grew quickly in the 100
gallon tank. Originally starting with 5 fry I had 3 make it to adults. I am surprised by
their aggression towards each other. With one male and two females I figured I was well
set up for breeding.
My growout tank became a breeding tank for the steindachneri before I was
ready to remove them to a smaller venue. With two mouthfuls within a week I was happy and
made a note on my tank on the proposed removal of the females. When at all possible I like
to place the female into a ten gallon tank by herself, to imprint to the fry the proper
release techniques for brooding. A good female will hold a brood for approximately 3 weeks
and release the fry within the next. Unfortunately they haven't read any of the books I
have and upon the second week they were both eating away with their other tank mates. Grrr
came to mind a couple times but they are young and this was likely their first spawn
The male is very aggressive and is ready to harass the females at any given moment. I
believe that an overly stocked tank will help lower the aggression level of the male just
by the fact that he can't see them all the time. The next spawning was a few weeks later.
I was surprised at the behaviour of the female, she was on a rampage and that other female
just couldn't get far enough away from her. I think the constant head butting with the
female and the aggressive advances from the male were too much for her and I found her one
morning, dead and picked over. To top off the day the female must have celebrated by
having a breakfast of baby steindachneri.
Well I was upset and irritated so I proceeded to forget about these guys for a bit,
just to cool down. Now that the conditions were perfect and nothing else in the tank
bothered them, breeding started and with no problem, a nice big mouthful appeared and with
a little harassing from the male and the good instincts of the female, not to mention her
ability to stay behind him or under something. I was rewarded with a brood of 26 fry the
day after I put her into a 3 gallon tank. I made daily water changes of 50% from the
parents' tank for a week then down to a 20% change once a week. The fry easily took
crushed flake and high protein powder, and are growing nicely.
The female has spawned again with another big mouthful and I was pleasantly surprised
to find her releasing the fry into the 100 gallon tank and taking them back up whenever
anyone came too close. I watched this for a while and then caught and stripped her before
she released them for good in the big tank. Just like in the wild their odds of making it
in there are very small. I am quite fond of these Geophagus, they have their own
minds and are always active. They are very good breeders and I expect that she will
quickly be producing the 40-60 fry that is in the literature I have read. Now that I am
more familiar with these fish I'm sure that a species tank would be quite nice. However a
pair will quite easily become a cherished addition to a cichlid community tank, African
like mine or South American. If you have been thinking about Geophagus or steindachneri
I wouldn't hesitate to recommend The Red Hump Eartheater.
(Note: G. steindachneri may also be found referred to as G. hondae or