Geophagus Brasiliensis (Pearl Cichlid): Ultimate Care Guide


Also known as the Pearl Eartheater and Pearl Cichlid, Geophagus Brasiliensis is a robust fish native to Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. It’s also present in a number of different countries where it’s sometimes classified as an invasive species. Geophagus Brasiliensis has one, and sometimes two, large black spots along its sides. This fish will change colors depending on mood and mating seasons, and can vary between pale light brown to dark blue or almost purple. Healthy fish are covered in iridescent bright blue speckles, making them a great fish for display aquariums. If you’re looking to start keeping this colorful fish species, we’ve put together this helpful guide to show you everything you need to know!

Geophagus Brasiliensis Care

Geophagus Brasiliensis is a large Cichlid with a good appetite which can eat a wide variety of foods. This fish needs a large aquarium, particularly if two are being kept together as a mated pair. Geophagus Brasiliensis is so robust that it’s classified as an invasive species in some parts of the world.

Are Geophagus Brasiliensis easy to care for?

Geophagus Brasiliensis is a hardy and easy to care for fish species. This is a good fish for beginning aquarium hobbyists because it’s easy to feed and can tolerate a large range of water temperatures and chemistry. It’s also an easy species to breed and can be a great introduction to Cichlid breeding.

Geophagus Brasiliensis
Geophagus Brasiliensis

Temperature

Geophagus Brasiliensis prefer water temperatures between 68° and 73° F. However, this species can acclimatize to a large range of temperatures in the wild, and likely in home aquariums as well. It has been known to live in water temperatures up to 89 °F., but it’s unknown how higher temperatures affect its long-term health.

Water pH

Geophagus Brasiliensis want water that is neutral to slightly acidic in a range of 6.5 to 7.0 pH.

Geophagus Brasiliensis Size

While Geophagus Brasiliensis can reach a length of 11 inches, it’s likely to have a smaller mature size in home aquariums.

Food & Diet

Geophagus Brasiliensis is an omnivorous fish which can eat many foods including Cichlid pellets, and live or frozen meaty foods. Prepared Cichlid foods can be the basis of this fish’s diet but they should be given a varied diet for the best health. In the wild they will forage through substrate for weeds and insects, but in an aquarium this isn’t usually an option. Live foods can include smaller feed fish, worms, and shrimp. They can be fed chopped frozen shrimp but this can sometimes introduce diseases, so use this food source with caution. Avoid feeding chopped mammal meats such as red meat, chicken, and beef heart. These types of food contain fats and proteins not normally found in this fish’s diet and can cause digestive problems and harm their health.

Lifespan

Geophagus Brasiliensis can live between 10 to 15 years with excellent care. This fish is tolerant of a wide range of water conditions but a high quality living environment will improve health and lengthen life expectancy.

Geophagus Brasiliensis in Aquarium
Geophagus Brasiliensis in Aquarium

Tank Size

Geophagus Brasiliensis needs a tank size of at least 40 gallons for a single fish. A breeding pair will need a larger tank of at least 75 gallons. This species can become large, so plan ahead to ensure you tank size is suitable when they are fully mature.

Tank Setup

Geophagus Brasiliensis is a sand sifting species, so their tank should include fine sand substrate along with gravel. Include rocks and caves to give this fish places to hide and claim territory. Because Geophagus Brasiliensis will dig in substrate, including plants can be a challenge. Rooted plants should be placed in pots with appropriate growing soil and buried in sand or gravel. Place rocks or other heavy hardscape elements where they can prevent the pots from becoming dislodged. Epiphytes such as Anubias and Java Fern are another good choice. These aquarium plants don’t need soil to grow and can be anchored to rocks, bogwood, and other hardscape.

Being a large omnivorous fish, Geophagus Brasiliensis needs quality filtration. Your filter should be able to turn over 5 times the volume of your tank in a hour. For example, a 40 gallon tank will need a filter which runs around 250 GPH (gallons per hour). While filtration is important, this species doesn’t like strong currents. Avoid powerheads or canister filters in your tank’s setup. If you must use a canister filter, make sure its output is spread wide to decrease strong currents which can disturb this fish.

Lighting will depend on your personal preference. This is a colorful species which benefits from lighting that accentuates its natural pigmentation. If your tank setup doesn’t incorporate many plants, you’ll have a wide variety of lighting to choose from. 10,000K White LED light is a great choice that can make this fish’s natural coloration pop. Some Cichlid enthusiasts choose to use marine LED lights because they feel these give the best results. With the large selection of LED lights available it’s easy to find the best one for your tank setup and fish.

Breeding

Geophagus Brasiliensis is easily bred in captivity provided you have a mated pair. When a group of juveniles reaches 2 to 3 inches they will begin pairing off and can be moved to a separate tank.

How do Geophagus Brasiliensis breed?

Geophagus Brasiliensis is a substrate spawner, and both parents will take part in caring for eggs and raising fry. Whey they are ready to spawn they will clean a spot on smooth rock or a flat piece of driftwood. The female will lay 150 to 200 eggs which the male will fertilize. The parents will guard the eggs until they hatch and the fry become free swimming.

How to take care of Geophagus Brasiliensis fry?

Geophagus Brasiliensis fry need to be well fed, and water should be changed regularly. They can consume a range of foods including prepared fry food, blanched and cooled vegetables such as cucumber, and frozen meaty foods. While the adult parents will look after the fry until they become free swimming, the parents should be moved to another tank while their fry mature.

What is the growth rate of juvenile Geophagus Brasiliensis?

The growth rate of juvenile Geophagus Brasiliensis varies depending on feeding amount and water quality. For the best growth rate you should make large and frequent water changes, up to 75% every three days. In a group of juveniles the largest alpha fish will produce growth inhibiting hormones which must be removed with water changes. If your Geophagus Brasiliensis are growing slowly even with plenty of food, make sure you are performing enough water changes.

Geophagus Brasiliensis Male or Female

It’s difficult to determine if Geophagus Brasiliensis are Male or Female when juvenile. The males tend to be larger when fully grown and have more pointed genital papillae.

Geophagus Brasiliensis Disease

Geophagus Brasiliensis are hardy but can still become afflicted with common freshwater diseased such as Ich, skin flukes, and “Hole-in-the-Head” disease. The best way to avoid these conditions is to make sure water quality is high and any new tank additions spend 6 to 8 weeks in a separate quarantine tank before adding to your community aquarium. Ich is visible as white spots along the body, fins, and gills. This is a serious condition but can be treated with copper-based medications. While these medicines can be a life-saver for your fish, they can kill many invertebrate tank mates. Exercise caution with using any medication, and follow all package instructions. “Hole-in-the-Head” disease is visible as pits or cavities on the head and face. This condition can come from lack of a varied diet, inadequate water changes, and over filtration with chemical media such as activated charcoal.

Temperament

Geophagus Brasiliensis is a semi-aggressive fish which can become more aggressive and territorial during spawning. Only one should be kept in a tank unless they’re part of a mated pair. While these Cichlids don’t get along with other members of its own species they can coexist with other large and peaceful fish. Most of the negative aspects of this fish’s personality won’t appear until maturity and during spawning, at which time they’ll become very aggressive and territorial.

Geophagus Brasiliensis Tank Mates

Geophagus Brasiliensis can coexist with other large and peaceful fish. Some good choices include: Blue Acara, Discus, and Angelfish. They should not be kept together with other members of the same species unless they are part of a breeding pair. This fish can eat smaller tank mates and is a particular threat to Shrimp, Crabs, Snails.

Where can I find Geophagus Brasiliensis for sale?

Geophagus Brasiliensis is available from local fish suppliers and online sources. This is a somewhat uncommon fish and it may be a special order at some stores. You can usually expect to pay between $10 USD and $30 USD per fish. Large specimens are sometimes available, and these can go for as much as $75 USD.

Fish Laboratory

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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