Geophagus Surinamensis (Red-striped Eartheater): Care Guide

Common Name(s)Red-striped Eartheater
Scientific NameGeophagus Surinamensis
OriginSouth America
Temperature76-88°F (24-27°C)
Size10-12 inches (25-30 cm)
Minimum Tank Size55 gallons
Food & DietOmnivorous diet
Lifespan5-6 years on average
Water pH6.0-8.0
Tank MatesNeon Tetras, Cardinal Tetras, Corydoras Catfish, Suckermouth Catfish, Guppies, Angelfish, and Plecos.
BreedingSpawn in shallow depression in the substrate
DiseaseWhile they are hardy fish, they may be susceptible to certain bacterial and viral infections.
geophagus surinamensis
Geophagus Surinamensis. Edited. Citron / CC-BY-SA-3.0

The Red-striped Eartheater (Geophagus Surinamensis), is one of the most peaceful species of cichlid one can keep. These species of cichlid are nicknamed Eartheaters due to their habit of grabbing mouthfuls of gravel and sand when in search of food. They can be found mainly in South America, in the Amazon river basin, the Marowijne River of Suriname and French Guiana, and the Saramacca and Suriname Rivers of Suriname, South America. Sensational thoughts cross the mind whenever the Geophagus Surinamensis meets one’s line of vision. These species possess glamorous, virtually neon markings, coupled with a benign nature for which it is treasured. Words alone cannot contain the elegance of this magnificent species. And so, in the best possible way, in this article, we will be discussing in detail, the Geophagus surinamensis.

To begin, let’s start by considering some facts about the Red-striped Eartheater that makes it such a wonderful species. Come along.

Geophagus Surinamensis Facts

There are countless facts about the Red-striped Eartheater that makes it so interesting:

Geophagus Surinamensis Are Colorful

The Geophagus Surinamensis is a stunning species of fish. Red striped Eartheaters possess beautiful, neon-like markings. Originally when in their juvenile state or when newly purchased, these species of fishes will be muted in color, and their true colors only start to emerge as soon as they are stabilized and growing. Red-striped Eartheaters display neon-like straight patterns of red, green, and blue when they are non-stressed and well kept in comfortable environments. These species also possess long and flowing light blue spotted patterns on their tails and fins. Their beautiful coloration makes them a prized species and a perfect addition to any home aquarium.

Geophagus Surinamensis are Bottom Dwellers

The Red-striped Eartheater loves to dwell on the floor of river beds, calm pools, and backwaters where there is a considerable amount of pebbles for them to hunt through, and rock for them to shelter themselves. 

Geophagus Surinamensis are Eartheaters

The Geophagus Surinamensis are not called the Red-striped Eartheaters for no reason. These species are known for scooping up mouthfuls of sand in their mouth and sifting through them in search of food, ejecting the sifted particles through their gills. They seem to be particularly built for this purpose. These species possess a diagonal forehead and their eyes are located so that they can keep an eye on the happenings around them as they feed. And since they possess red striped neon markings, the name red-striped eartheaters becomes ideal.

Geophagus Surinamensis Are Large Fish

Although it may take about 2 to 3 years for a Red-striped Eartheater to achieve its full size, on average, red striped eartheaters can grow as long as 10 – 12 inches, making a larger aquarium a necessity for healthy keeping. 

Geophagus Surinamensis Are Peaceful Fish

Unlike most species of cichlids, Red-striped Eartheaters are surprisingly a peaceful and sweet-tempered species of fish and will not bother their other tank mates, large or small. The males are only territorial when it’s spawning season.

Geophagus Surinamensis Are Omnivorous Feeders

Red-striped Eartheaters are an omnivorous species of cichlids. Generally, their diet revolves around a variety of high-quality dry, frozen, and live meaty foods. Regular feeding habits are highly recommended for the optimal health and coloration of this species.

Geophagus Surinamensis Care

As a general rule, the Geophagus Surinamensis needs adequate care, especially in the aquarium, to live. Red-striped Eartheaters, however, do not require much attention. They are mostly simple to care for. Nevertheless, as with a good number of fishes kept in the aquarium, there are vital details one has to bear in mind when contemplating keeping the Geophagus surinamensis. Let’s discuss some of them.

Geophagus Surinamensis Temperature 

The temperature of the Geophagus Surinamensis is mostly between 76.0 to 84.0 degrees Fahrenheit, which is about 24 to 29 degrees Celsius. Since they have been found in waters that are about 76°F to 88°F (24 – 27°C), it is also advisable to house them in those familiar conditions.

Geophagus Surinamensis Size

As pointed out at the onset of this article, it may take about 2 to 3 years for a Red-striped Eartheater to achieve its full size. However, on average, red-striped eartheaters can grow as long as 10 – 12 inches (about 25 – 30 cm). Due to its size, a large aquarium is a requisite for the healthy keeping of these species of cichlids.

Geophagus Surinamensis Water pH 

With Red-striped Eartheaters, the pH of the aquarium water should range between 6.0 to 8.0 at best. The Geophagus Surinamensis as well prefers a water dGh ranging from 5 to 19. Although the red-striped eater has a reasonable tolerance for pH and hardness, acclimating these fishes with a range of water quality similar or close to the ones listed above will save you the time and cost of chemical treatments.

Geophagus Surinamensis Tank Size 

Red-striped Eartheaters are quite easy to care for, but their potential to attain up to 12 inches in size makes a large aquarium tank a requirement to appropriately set up and house these species of cichlids. Coupled with their size, the Geophagus Surinamensis is also an active species of fish and therefore requires some level of free-swimming area. A 55-gallon minimum size horizontal aquarium tank is ideal to keep a single pair of these species of cichlid. Utilize this tank measurement as a factor for every pair of the Geophagus Surinamensis added to the aquarium. Of course, with this large-sized species of cichlid, the bigger the tank size, the better.

Geophagus Surinamensis Food and Diet 

The Geophagus Surinamensis are not difficult to feed. As an omnivorous species, the Geophagus surinamensis requires a variety of high-quality dry, frozen, and live meaty foods. Furnishing red-striped eartheaters with live food is highly esteemed, but live food comes with some impediments because most live foods can inaugurate diseases into the aquarium, and so one has to be cautious in this regard. Adding protein foods such as bloodworms, daphnia, chopped shrimp, or brine shrimp in their diets is very much recommendable. Since the Geophagus Surinamensis are bottom sifters, having omnivore foods in the form of sinking pellets is a favorable all-round choice. Occasionally putting in some diced vegetables such as squash or zucchini to their diets is also a great idea. 

Due to its distinct natural feeding demeanor, red-striped eartheaters require food of lesser sizes than several other cichlids. Even as they advance to adult size, they should be fed foods with sizes equivalent to the size of blood worms, including tiny to moderate size grade dry foods.

To maintain the optimal health and coloration of this species of cichlids, regular feeding habits of quality diets are a high recommendation. Mixing in a bit of spirulina slightly to their diet will also assist in this regard.

Geophagus Surinamensis Lifespan

The lifespan of the Geophagus Surinamensis is mostly known to be about 5 – 6 years on average. But when given extensive care, the Red-striped Eartheater can live up to 7 years, and on rare occasions up to 10 years.

Geophagus Surinamensis Tank Mates

In general, Geophagus Surinamensis are not aggressive fish. In fact, they are a very peaceful sweet-tempered species of cichlids and will not bother their other tank mates. Unlike most species of cichlids, the red-striped eartheaters do not display any inclinations or habits of aggression towards other fishes, large or small. They can peacefully coexist with their kind as well, and even tend to thrive better and display their best colors when in groups of 6 or more. As they are bottom sifters, the red striped Eartheater does not consider tank mates as food.

Generally, this species of cichlid is compatible with other peaceful fish as long as it has a lot of free terrain, except during mating season when the men become highly territorial. Territoriality is naturally at its apex during spawning, but this species tends to thrive and show its best coloration in groups of 6 or more. 

When it comes to tank mates, the best means to guarantee the compatibility of the Geophagus surinamensis is to keep both large and small aggressive species of fishes out of the aquarium. Less dominant specimens in the aquarium are more prone to intimidation, especially in smaller groups. Dwarf shrimps and other tiny, subtle invertebrates should not be kept with the Geophagus surinamensis. More sturdy, bigger shrimps and snails have better possibilities of making good tank mates in a big enough aquarium.

Possible tank mates of the Geophagus surinamensis may also comprise schooling fish such as neon tetras, cardinal tetras, and Corydoras catfish. Suckermouth catfish and other relatively peaceful fish such as guppies, angelfish, and plecos also make good tank mates. However, if spawning the Geophagus surinamensis is the objective, tank mates of other species should be kept minimal in the aquarium or avoided altogether. 

Geophagus Surinamensis Tank Setup

To best reproduce the natural habitat of the red-striped eartheater, a large aquarium tank is a prerequisite. The tank should be large enough to hold a sufficient amount of free-swimming room. As generally accepted, a tank with about 55 gallons or more is ideal to keep a single pair of the Geophagus Surinamensis, especially if their care is long-term. With Red-striped eartheaters, the water pH should be between 6.0 to 8.0, and the water dGh should be about 5 to 19. Red striped eartheaters thrive better in clean waters free of ammonia and nitrates. Since they do a thorough job digging the bottom, a good aquarium filter is important. These filtration systems should be well hidden as exposed pipes will get chewed on. Changing the aquarium water weekly is also advisable. This exercise can be performed manually but with big aquariums, it becomes too labor-intensive. And so an automated water-changing system will be a much easier way to go. 

Red-striped eartheaters dwell mostly in the mid to lowest levels of an aquarium and use up most of their time grazing the aquarium bed. A good aquarium layout will provide them with plenty of sand and tiny gravels to mug while concealing the filtration system. But bear in mind that harsh soil, huge rocks, and other larger substrates can injure the organs and gills of this fish as it feeds. Adding plants to the aquarium is often acceptable since it adds to the beauty of the aquarium. But due to the Geophagus surinamensis digging behavior and periodic craving for soft-leaved plants, delicate plants are not compatible with these species. Plants on aquarium beds tend to be uprooted, so putting plants infused on rocks or driftwoods is advisable. Floating plants also give some variation and cover for minor tank mates. 

Constructing hiding places with boulders and aquarium structures large enough to contain these fish for their exploration will help keep their interest in their aquarium habitat. Resin roots or driftwoods in large fractions also provide them with spots to explore and make the aquarium seem more like their natural environment.

Geophagus Surinamensis Breeding 

While not a notable prolific breeder, the Geophagus surinamensis spawn in captivity. When collecting the Geophagus surinamensis with the objective of breeding, you can tell the males and the females by the length of their fins. Males have lengthier, more elaborate tails and fins. The differences between both sexes start to exhibit when they are a year old.

Breeding may typically occur when Red-striped Eartheaters attain sexual maturity. Some fish keepers, however, make use of black-water conditioners to mimic the dark color of the Amazon river during flood season which is also breeding season for these species. Generally, the male initiates spawning behavior by making shallow depressions in the tank bed and encourages the female to lay her eggs there so he can fertilize them. Afterward, either the male or female takes the eggs into their mouth for safekeeping. The eggs mature and hatch in about three days. When they hatch, the fry will swim freely but will return to their parent’s mouth if threatened by other tank mates. Note that during this period of spawning and rearing, both the male and female will be aggressive to their tank mates. Once the fry becomes too large to fit in the mouth of both parents, they both discontinue their duties. Red-striped Eartheater fry can be easily fed with live foods like little brine shrimps.

The Geophagus Surinamensis is a tender and beautifully colored species and a great addition to the home aquarium. The information provided in this article will very much be of benefit to you if you choose to house this polished species. If you already house a Red-striped Eartheater, share your experience with this outstanding species with us in the comments below.