Geophagus Sveni (Sveni Eartheater): Ultimate Care Guide

Geophagus Sveni, also known as Sveni Eartheater, is a docile and beautiful Cichlid from South America. A schooling species, this fish does best in groups of 5 or more. Their light, almost pearlescent coloration, makes them a striking fish in a group. In its natural environment, Geophagus Sveni will dig through sand looking for insects and other food.

When keeping Geophagus Sveni in a home aquarium their sand digging behavior can dislodge and move plants and hardscape. For this reason, this isn’t the best species for planted aquariums which feature rooted plants. Easy care combined with stunning looks makes this a great fish for beginners with larger tanks. Before adding this species to your collection, you’ll need to know some facts about their habitat, food, and care. We’ve put together this guide which will show how to get the most from this stunning and colorful Cichlid species!

Geophagus Sveni Care

Geophagus Sveni are hardy fish but need well maintained and filtered water. This is complicated because this is a schooling fish which is more comfortable in groups of 5 or more. Large groups can increase the bioload of your aquarium, especially as they grow larger. This fish can live for up to 10 years, and a tank setup that met their needs when young, may have to be modified when they become fully mature.

Are Geophagus Sveni easy to care for?

Geophagus Sveni are easy to care for, and can be a great beginner’s fish. They are less aggressive than African Cichlids and are one of the more docile Cichlids originating from South America. Being a sand digging species, they have specific feeding needs but these aren’t challenging to meet with the right preparation.

Geophagus Sveni (Sveni Eartheater)
Geophagus Sveni (Sveni Eartheater). Edited. Klaus Rudloff, CC BY-SA 4.0

Water pH

A South American Cichlid, Geophagus Sveni prefers mostly neutral water with a pH between 6.2 and 7.6.


Geophagus Sveni need water temperatures between 76° – 84° F.

Geophagus Sveni Size

A smaller Cichlid species, Geophagus Sveni reach an average adult size of 6 ½ inches. With enough space and excellent care they can reach a maximum size of 10 inches.

Food & Diet

Geophagus Sveni need smaller sized food compared to many other Cichlids; even fully-mature adults must be fed small to medium-sized foods. This species sifts sand for food, so make sure to provide sinking foods. Floating pellets, while ideal for some other Cichlids, should be avoided with Geophagus Sveni. The basic diet of this fish should consist of sinking, pelletized omnivore food. Being an omnivore, Geophagus Sveni will appreciate an occasional treat of meaty foods such as bloodworms and brine shrimp. Some hobbyists even feed chopped frozen shrimp, but this can cause problems: frozen shrimp from the grocery store might introduce diseases and parasites to your tank. The safest choice is to only feed frozen commercially prepared fish food which is guaranteed to be free from disease.

Geophagus Sveni Lifespan

Geophagus Sveni can live a long time if they have excellent care. Lifespans of 10 years are not uncommon.

Tank Size

Geophagus Sveni do best in groups of 5 or more. 75 gallons is the minimum tank size you should consider. While this species is smaller than some other Cichlids, it’s important to remember that they can reach up to 10 inches. Depending on group size, a larger tank may be needed.

Tank Setup

Geophagus Sveni likes to dig. They will need a deep and soft sandy substrate, free of sharp objects which might damage their mouth and gills. Provide hardscape, such as rocks and bogwood to give this species hiding spaces. Any hardscape items such as rocks or wood should be placed in the tank before adding substrate. This is important because digging can dislodge heavy items. If hardscape is placed on top of substrate it might become unstable and fall, injuring your fish. Geophagus Sveni’s digging behavior can make keeping a planted tank a challenge as rooted plants can be moved or dislodged. Also, the soft and sandy substrates this species prefers aren’t the best for growing plants. One possible solution is to keep rooted plants in pots. Alternatively, epiphytes such as Anubias and Java Fern don’t need soil and can be anchored to hardscape elements in your tank.

Like many Cichlids, Geophagus Sveni can be a messy tank inhabitant, and they’ll need excellent filtration. This is especially true when keeping multiple specimens. Make sure your filter has enough capacity to keep this fish’s water as clean as possible. You’ll want a filtration system which can turn over at least 5 times you tank’s volume per hour, possibly more. For instance, a 75 gallon tank will need a filter which runs around 400 GPH (gallons per hour). Multiple specimens will increase the bioload in your tank, and increase filtration needs. Perform regular water changes and check water chemistry often to make sure this species has the right support to stay healthy.

Geophagus Sveni Temperament

Geophagus Sveni can be somewhat aggressive to smaller species but have a generally mild temperament. This fish does best when all the member of its group are of similar size. If one or more members grows larger than the others, it can bully smaller tank mates. Being a sand-sifter, you might think Geophagus Sveni would be a bad tank mate for bottom-dwelling species such as catfish. However, its relaxed nature means it can coexist with a range of peaceful species which include many types of catfish.

Geophagus Sveni Tank Mates

Geophagus Sveni is a good match with peaceful South American Cichlids, large tetras, and catfish. Other good choices include: Red Fin Pleco, Red Spotted Severum, and Keyhole Cichlids. Geophagus Sveni is a omnivorous fish so smaller tank mates may be attacked or eaten, but this isn’t an aggressive species. In fact, it’s important to avoid aggressive tank mates as they may attack this fish or its long, trailing fins. Even small tank mates can cause issues if they are known to be aggressive fin nippers.

Geophagus Sveni Breeding

When breeding Geophagus Sveni, it’s critical to allow pairing. This is easiest in a larger tank with multiple specimens: observe the group and spot when two members seem to pair off, these should be separated to a “honeymoon tank” where they can spawn and raise fry. This is a mouth brooding species, which means the female will hold eggs and fry in her mouth until they become free swimming.

How do Geophagus Sveni breed?

A pair of Geophagus Sveni will lay eggs on flat rocks or pots which must be included in their breeding tank. Common egg laying surfaces are pieces of slate laid flat on sandy tank substrate. This species’ courtship ritual involves circling, fin slapping, and locking mouths. During this time they will choose and prepare a surface to receive eggs. Usually this will be a flat rock surface, but occasionally they will remove sand to expose the tank’s glass bottom. Once eggs have been laid and fertilized, both parents will guard the eggs for a day or two before the female begins carrying them in her mouth until they hatch and become free swimming. When the fry no longer need their mother’s attention you can remove the parents and begin feeding small fry foods. These foods can include specialized, commercially prepared feed, or live foods such as small brine shrimp, microworms, or vinegar eels. Eventually the fry will grow enough to begin taking small sinking Cichlid foods. Even adult Geophagus Sveni require smaller foods than some other Cichlids, and this is especially true of their fry. Make sure to supply these fry a variety of tiny foods, both live and prepared so they can have a varied diet.

Geophagus Sveni Male or Female

It’s nearly impossible to discover the sex of Geophagus Sveni until they start breeding. Usually breeding pairs are allowed to form within a larger group before being removed to a separate breeding tank.

Geophagus Sveni Disease

Geophagus Sveni are hardy and disease resistant, but can still succumb to common freshwater diseases like Ich and Hole-in-the-head disease. Maintaining high water quality is the best way to keep this species disease free. Elevated levels of ammonia, nitrates and other toxic substances can lower Geophagus Sveni’s disease resistance and can lead to life-threatening infections.

Where can I find Geophagus Sveni for sale?

Geophagus Sveni are available from local fish stores and online sources. Expect to pay between $20 USD and $100 USD per fish, depending on size. This species enjoys company, so expect to buy more than one fish at a time!

Geophagus Sveni vs Geophagus Winemilleri

Geophagus Sveni and Geophagus Winemilleri look similar, with Winemilleri having more vivid body patterns including a darker side spot. Both of these species can interbreed, and some breeders will produce hybrids to achieve a certain look. These makes finding pure-bred specimens difficult. If you want to make sure you’re getting a genetically pure fish, of either species, make sure to only deal with reputable breeders.