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GEOPHAGUS - The "earth-eater" family

Looking for a different type of cichlid to enhance your tank? 

One that's not too aggressive, and capable of growing to a good size without becoming a monster? Or perhaps you need a new and different specimen for a show tank? Take a look at the Geophagus family.

   What exactly are these Geophagus fish? The name is Latin for "earth eater", which means they forage for food by taking in big mouthfuls of sand or gravel and sifting it through their gills, eating whatever edible items are left behind. Don't confuse this with the destructive pit digging of other cichlids; a Geophagus will move a bit of gravel around but won't start any "landscaping" projects. 

   Another fascinating trait. They are mouthbreeders. After a pair of these fish spawn, the mother incubates the eggs in her mouth. After they hatch, the young fry continue to seek refuge inside the mother's mouth when threatened. When they are too large to fit inside, the mother will generally leave the youngsters to fend for themselves. This unusual habit is fascinating for those of you interested in breeding fish. 

   How many types of Geophagus are there? Probably several dozen; but only a few are imported or bred for the aquarium hobby. Here are a few types commonly available:

• Geo. Jurapari - The most popular type: a very peaceful green and silver fish that can grow to 8 inches or more in captivity and makes an excellent show specimen. 

• Geo. Braziliensis - Sometimes called the "pearl cichlid". As this fish matures, its scales become very iridescent, hence the name. This is an extremely pretty fish that is usually available. 

• Geo. Balzani - The oddball of the family, this green and yellow fish develops a very large rounded hump over its entire forehead when at maturity, giving a very unusual appearance. The males develop this hump; females do not. 

• Geo. Surinamensis - These are similar to the Jurapari in shape and proportion, but its colors are a stunning yellow and orange, with blue/green highlights and red coloration in the fins.

• Geo. Pellegrini - also called the Red Hump Geophagus, this attractive, iridescent green/blue fish develops a big, pointy red hump on its forehead when mature. Once again, males display this trait; females do not. Another intriguing specimen. 

   So, as you can see, there's a lot of appeal in this family of fish. A few of these beauties in your tank will generate some excitement and be a great "conversation” piece when friends drop in.


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