Geophagus Altifrons Care, Size, Tank Mates & Types


Geophagus Altifrons are among one of the most popular fish for the home aquarium for their beautiful iridescent coloration. They have bodies that range from tannish to gray, and they have iridescent banding on their bodies as well as dotting. The iridescence ranges from golden orange to blueish green. These markings are also visible on their transparent fins. Giving them the appearance of glowing. They can grow rather large up to 8.9 inches in captivity with some owners reporting them growing much larger.

Scientific NameGeophagus Altifrons
OriginSouth America
Temperature79°F – 82°F
Water Parameters4.8 – 6.6 pH
Size8.9 inches
DietOmnivorous

Geophagus Altifrons Facts

  • The name Geophagus means earth eater, and Altifrons means high tail. They were named after their characteristics.
  • Geophagus Altifrons like to sift through the substrate for food. They use their mouths to scoop up the substrate as they search.
  • There are many variations of Geophagus Altifrons.
Geophagus Altifrons
Geophagus Altifrons

Geophagus Altifrons are among one of the most popular fish for the home aquarium for their beautiful iridescent coloration. They have bodies that range from tannish to gray, and they have iridescent banding on their bodies as well as dotting. The iridescence ranges from golden orange to blueish green. These markings are also visible on their transparent fins. Giving them the appearance of glowing. They can grow rather large up to 8.9 inches in captivity with some owners reporting them growing much larger.

Geophagus Altifrons do not have a true common name. They are sometimes referred to as Earth Eater Cichlids, but this refers to the translation of their scientific name. Geo means earth, phagus means eater. Altifrons means high tail. These descriptive words put together make up the scientific name of Geophagus Altifrons. These fish have been selectively bred to display different color variations within the species.

Geophagus Altifrons Care

Geophagus Altifrons are considered a hardy fish, and easy to care for if you are a beginner to the fish keeping hobby. The main thing to do to keep your Geophagus Altifrons is to make sure that you have the correct aquarium setup for them to live and thrive.

Tank Requirements

Geophagus Altifrons require a tank that is at least 55 gallons. They are hardy fish that will do well in a mature tank setup. They require a temperature of 79F to 82F, and 4.8 to 6.6 pH. When setting up a tank for Geophagus Altifrons, you will want to take a close look at their natural habitat, and model their aquarium after that.

Food and Diet

Geophagus Altifrons are called Earth Eaters because they scoop up mouthfuls of substrate to sift through it in search of food. You will have to keep this in mind when setting up a tank for Geophagus Altifrons. You will need to choose a fine sand or gravel so that they are not injured when they try to do this. Geophagus Altifrons do best with high quality sinking pellets, but they also do well with a varied diet of spirulina and flaked foods.

Geophagus Altifrons Eartheater Cichlid
Geophagus Altifrons Eartheater Cichlid

Geophagus Altifrons Size and Lifespan

Adult Geophagus Altifrons in captivity can grow up to 8.9 inches, but in the wild they can grow much larger at around 12 inches. Owners of Geophagus Altifrons have said that they have had their fish grow larger than 8.9 inches in captivity, but their growth rate and longevity are directly related to how well they are cared for. If cared for properly, Geophagus Altifrons can live up to 10 years or more.

Tank Setup

When setting up a tank for Geophagus Altifrons, you will want to keep in mind that they are a fish that primarily spends most of its time on the bottom of the aquarium. They are

called Earth Eaters because they scoop up mouthfuls of substrate to sift through it for food. When choosing substrate, you will want to use fine gravel or sand. Make sure that your tank includes many places for your Geophagus Altifrons to root through the substrate, so make sure that a large portion of the substrate is available for them. It is for this reason that Geophagus Altifrons prefer a tank that is longer opposed to taller.

How to Create the Ideal Tank Setup for Geophagus Altifrons

Creating the ideal tank setup for Geophagus Altifrons really just means taking a look at their natural habitat, and modeling their tank after those conditions. You will want to make sure that you are choosing a fine sand or gravel substrate so that they are able to sift through it to find their food. Geophagus Altifrons are native to the Amazon River Basin, and they spend their time among the slow moving streams sifting through the substrate for food.

Can I Keep Geophagus Altifrons in a Planted Tank?

Geophagus Altifrons like to sift through the substrate for their food, and this means that they will sometimes uproot plants in your tank. It has been suggested by owners of Geophagus Altifrons who have successfully kept Geophagus Altifrons with plants, that you cover the base of the plants in large flat river rocks so that they do not get too close to the roots of the plant.

Geophagus Altifrons Breeding

When Geophagus Altifrons are ready to spawn, you will be able to see the male digging and creating little craters in the substrate. Once he is done, he will try to coax the female over to the spots that he has prepared. Once the female Geophagus Altifrons releases her eggs, and the male fertilizes them, one of the parent fish will scoop up their eggs in their mouths. The eggs will hatch in roughly 3 days.

How Do Geophagus Altifrons Breed?

Geophagus Altifrons are mouth brooders. This means that one of the parent fish will scoop up their fertilized eggs into their mouths to hold and protect them until they are ready to care for themselves.

When Geophagus Altifrons males are ready to spawn, you will see them digging up small pits in their substrate. This is where they will try to coax the female Geophagus Altifrons to lay their eggs for them to fertilize.

Geophagus Altifrons Male or Female

There is no way to tell the difference between juvenile male and female Geophagus Altifrons. The only clear way to determine if you have a male or a female is by looking at their bodies as they spawn. During spawning, you will be able to see the female Geophagus Altifrons ovipositor. This is the organ she uses to lay her eggs. The best way to get yourself a breeding pair, is to get a small grouping of them as juveniles and let them mature together.

Geophagus Altifrons Disease

Geophagus Altifrons are susceptible to many of the same diseases as all freshwater fish. They can get parasitic, bacterial, and fungal infections. The health and happiness as well as their size and longevity, deeply depend on the conditions in which they are kept. It is better to prevent ailments from happening than it is to try and fix them once they do. You can avoid potential problems by performing regular water changes, and water parameter checks to make sure that they are being kept in the correct conditions.

Some conditions such as Ich, can be cured if caught early enough on, but keep in mind that ailments are highly contagious in fish, and affected fish should be quarantined. It is also a great practice to quarantine any new fish before you place them into your aquarium so ensure that they are healthy and disease or parasite free.

Are Geophagus Altifrons Aggressive?

Geophagus Altifrons are not typically aggressive. They are considered a peaceful species and great for community tanks as long as they are being kept in the correct setup. They do not do well in crowding situations, and it is better to house them in an aquarium that is longer opposed to taller. Geophagus prefer to live in a small grouping of at least 6 fish, where they will create their own hierarchy and display their unique grouping behaviors.

Geophagus Altifrons Tank Mates

Geophagus Altifrons are a great addition to a community tank setup due to their peaceful nature, and their preference for bottom dwelling. Being bottom dwellers, it frees up the middle and upper water columns for other fish. They do best with other Geophagus species, but they can also be kept with other fish that are roughly the same size, and temperament. Great tank mates for Geophagus Altifrons are Tetras, Parrot Cichlids and other South American Cichlids, small catfish, and Appistogrammas.

It is not a good idea to house Geophagus Altifrons with fish that are aggressive, territorial, or could potentially see them as a meal. For example, even though they can tolerate similar water requirements, you do not want to house your Geophagus Altifrons with Oscar fish.

Compatible and Incompatible Tank Mates for Geophagus Altifrons

Compatible tank mates for Geophagus Altifrons include other peaceful fish of roughly the same size and temperament. They do best when kept in a grouping of at least 5 Geophagus Altifrons where they can form their own natural hierarchy amongst themselves. Since Geophagus Altifrons occupy the bottom of the water column, they make for a great addition to a community tank setup. You will want to place them in a tank with other fish of roughly the same temperament and needs. Tetras are a great choice, as well as some African Cichlids.

You will want to avoid placing your Geophagus Altifrons with other species that are territorial, aggressive, could out compete them for food, or could mistake them for a meal. Even though Geophagus Altifrons and Oscar fish can tolerate similar water conditions, they still do not house well together.

Geophagus Altifrons and Discus

Geophagus Altifrons can safely and peacefully coexist in a community tank setup as long as they have enough room. They require a longer tank that is at least 6ft in length. This will give the two species plenty of spaces to get away from one another. By giving them a tank that is longer opposed to taller, they get more room to spread out away from one another.

Geophagus Altifrons Types

There are many different types of Geophagus Altifrons. These variants within the same species have different characteristics that are noticeable and recognizable.

Geophagus Altifrons Rio Araguari

Geophagus Altifrons Rio Araguari is a color variation of Geophagus Altifrons that shows up as a white colored body with orangish-red iridescent markings spotted over their body and fins.

Geophagus Altifrons Sao Felix

Geophagus Altifrons Sao Felix have golden colored heads with a shiny golden yellow, iridescent reflection on their bodies and fins.

Geophagus Altifrons Rio Negro

Geophagus Altifrons Rio Negro has a golden coloration to their bodies, with a reddish iridescent coloration to their bodies and their fins.

Geophagus Altifrons Rio Xingu

Geophagus Altifrons Rio Xingu also has a yellow-gold coloration to its body and fins with a lighter reddish iridescent coloration to their scales and fins, but they also have a distinctive black spot on their side.

Geophagus Altifrons Rio Tocantins

Geophagus Altifrons Rio Tocantins have a distinctive feature that makes them a little easier to spot. They have a downward sloping face and mouth.

Geophagus Altifrons Rio Trombetas

Geophagus Altifrons Rio Trombetas have a much larger looking head shape in comparison to other types of Geophagus Altifrons.

Where Can I Find Geophagus Altifrons for Sale?

If you are looking to purchase Geophagus Altifrons for your home aquarium, you will be able to find them from breeders online for around $25 per fish. Make sure that you are doing your research to make sure that you are buying from a reputable source to ensure that you are getting a healthy fish.

Geophagus Altifrons vs Geophagus Surinamensis

Geophagus Altifrons and Geophagus Surinamensis are very similar, and are often mistaken for one another. There are entire forums online to identify whether or not a fish keeper has received the correct Geophagus species that they ordered. Geophagus Altifrons are the main Geophagus fish sold in stores and online. Geophagus Surinamensis is a much more rare fish that is not as easy to find or get your hands on. Make sure that you are purchasing your fish from a reputable source to ensure that you are actually getting the fish that you are paying for.

Geophagus Altifrons and Geophagus Surinamensis can be distinguished mostly by their head shape. Geophagus Altifrons have a much steeper, more sloped look to their head shape. In Geophagus Altifrons, the first two lateral bands bisect, and they have spotting and banding on their tails. Both of these species live and thrive in similar conditions, with roughly the same tank requirements, and dietary needs.

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With decades of collective fishkeeping experience, we are happy to share the fish care tips that we've picked up along the way. Our goal at Fish Laboratory is to keep publishing accurate content to help fishkeepers keep their fish and aquarium healthy.

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