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May 30, 2012

My obsession with Geophagus cichlids continues to grow each and every day I clock in for work. I’ve spent several hours searching the web in pursuit of more information, and even read the entirety of Thomas Weidner’s “South American Eearthearters” book front to back. If I don’t know the answer, or have questions on a new arrivals identity, I’m immediately emailing a couple of honorable gentlemen who may know the answer. Needless to say, I like to think myself well educated enough about the family, so when we received my next featured fish, I was more than positive when I laid eyes upon them what they were…

I quickly snapped a photo and sent it to my friend Wayne Leibel. The 1.5” fish had just arrived, so there was a little bit of stress showing, and the camera flash did take away some of the coloring. He explained to me the same distinguishing characteristics I remembered from the first time I had seen the fish -the black stripe through the eye, the yellow body and a single black spot in the middle. All of it seems to match up except for the collection locale. According to Leibel and Weidner, Geophagus taeniopareius comes from the upper Río Orinoco in Venezuela. However, this batch was supposedly sent from Colombia to our importer. The time before we had received G. taeniopareius it was also from Colombia.

Geophagus taenioparius

My theory, and I could be completely wrong on this, is that the range of these fish is larger than expected. According to planetcatfish.com and Ingo Seidel’s “Back to Nature L-Catfishes” both Hemiancistrus subviridis “L200” and Hemiancistrus sp. “L128” occur in the upper Río Orinoco in Venezuela. But again, we receive these fish from Colombia on a regular basis. Or, perhaps, Colombian collectors are crossing over into Venezuelan waters for some fish before returning to the big city?

G. taeniopareius is one of the five species within the Geophagine family that are not included in the G. surinamensis ‘group’. The only member that closely resembles this fish, according to seriouslyfish.com, is Geophagus gottwaldi. The main differences between G. gottwaldi and G. taeniopareius is that G. taeniopareius has a smaller spot in the middle of the body, has fewer dorsal fin spines, and the tail spots are blue as opposed to large, light spots as seen in G. gottwaldi. All of these characteristics match with the fish we currently have.

I will be setting up a 75-gallon aquarium to house a small group of around eight or so of them. My intention is to breed these wonderfully and rarely seen eartheaters. I’ll be using a sand substrate with a few pieces of driftwood. I’ll be placing a couple of slate rocks across the bottom for them to use as a spawning ground. For now, I’ll keep the pH around 6.5, but when the fish become large enough (about 4”) I’ll begin to lower the pH to around 5.5. Ideally, the temperature should be around 78-84° year around. With any luck, I’ll be watching the courtship happen in the bedroom, which I’ve heard is a site to behold. Weidner states: “The courtship behavior of G. taeniopareius is particularly noteworthy. The male flutters around the female like a butterfly. He positions himself in front of the female, head down and fins spread, and quivers, before darting up to 30 cm away, swimming in a semi-circle around the female, and then displaying in front of her again”. How fascinating!

The spawning can occur for up to 90 minutes and contains up to 150 eggs. Once all of the eggs are laid she will spit sand over them to “camouflage” them from potential predators. The female then stays close behind fanning fresh water over the brood to keep them becoming infected. The male will stick close to his “gal” and defend any other fish that comes to close to their nest. Depending on water temperature, the eggs will hatch out about 70-80 hours later. The female will then take the eggs into her mouth and continue to guard them until they are large enough to live on their own, which can take several months.

G. taeniopareius is one of the smallest members of the Geophagus family and only reaches a maximum of six inches. They are difficult to sex. The female seems to have shorter fins and stays a little smaller as an adult. Despite this small size, it is very agile and can handle larger cichlids if needing to protect itself. You will notice daily quarrels with one another, but this rarely leads to serious battles or injuries. Like all of the Geophagus, I would recommend a varied diet of frozen foods, pellets, and fresh vegetables like zucchini and squash to keep their health and color.

Perhaps you were considering the great journey to collect Geophagus taeniopareius yourself, but just didn’t have the funding. Well, we’ve made it easy for you by bringing them in and delivering them right to your front door. I know you may miss out on the excitement of trenching through the humid Venezuelan jungles, but it sure saves on the ole penny bank!

Until next week!

Anthony Perry
Sales Manager