The Eartheaters

7th Jun 2023

The Eartheaters

Delving into the Depths: An Introduction to Earth-Eating Cichlids

Today, let's uncover the secrets of a fascinating group of fish known as earth-eating cichlids. Originating from South America, these striking creatures exhibit intriguing behaviours and will undoubtedly add a vibrant touch to your aquarium.

What are Earth-Eating Cichlids?

Earth-eating cichlids,are part of a fascinating group of fish named for their unique feeding behaviour. These cichlids scoop up mouthfuls of substrate, sift it through their gills, and devour any edible particles they find within, such as microorganisms and detritus.

What are the notable species?

  1. Geophagus: The most famous of the group, this genus includes several species that are popular in the aquarium trade. Some notable species include Geophagus sveni, Geophagus wenemilleri, and Geophagus brasiliensis.
  2. Satanoperca: This genus includes the well-known species like Satanoperca daemon and Satanoperca jurupari.
  3. Gymnogeophagus: This genus is known for species like Gymnogeophagus balzanii. They are generally smaller than their Geophagus and Satanoperca counterparts.
  4. Biotodoma: This genus has a few notable species including Biotodoma cupido and Biotodoma wavrini. They're known for their attractive colouration.
  5. Acarichthys heckelii: Commonly known as the threadfin acara, this species is known for its long, threadlike extensions on the dorsal fin.

Housing Your Earth-Eating Cichlids

Given their active nature and unique feeding habits, space is crucial when housing earth-eating cichlids. A minimum 55-gallon tank is advisable for one individual, but larger tanks are needed for larger species or if you wish to keep a group, as these fish tend to be quite social.

The substrate is equally important, with fine sand being the best choice as it won't harm their gills during their sifting behaviour. It's also a good idea to add some hideouts using securely-placed rocks and driftwood, but be prepared for some reshuffling as these cichlids love to redecorate.

Recommended Water Parameters

Earth-eating cichlids thrive in warmer waters, ideally between 24°C to 28°C. While they can adapt to different pH levels, they usually prefer slightly acidic to neutral waters, so aim for a pH of around 6.5 to 7.5.

As these cichlids tend to produce a lot of waste, maintaining high water quality is crucial. Regular water changes and efficient filtration are non-negotiable to keep nitrate levels low.

Feeding Your Earth-Eating Cichlids

Although their sifting behaviour will provide some of their dietary needs, a varied, high-quality diet is key to ensuring your earth-eating cichlids stay healthy and colourful. A mix of high-quality cichlid pellets and a variety of live or frozen foods, like brine shrimp, daphnia, or bloodworms, should make up their diet.

Choosing Tank Mates

While generally peaceful, earth-eating cichlids can be territorial. Choose tank mates that are robust enough to hold their own without bullying your cichlids. Suitable companions often include medium to large-sized characins, other similar-sized South American cichlids, and sturdy catfish,

Remember to monitor your fish for signs of stress or aggression and adjust your tank set-up if necessary.


Embracing the challenge of keeping earth-eating cichlids can be incredibly rewarding. Their remarkable behaviours and stunning appearances make them a true highlight in any suitable aquarium.

As always, the key to successful fishkeeping lies in understanding and catering to your aquatic pets' specific needs. Armed with knowledge and a bit of preparation, you're ready to explore the captivating world of earth-eating cichlids. Good luck!