Geophagus steindachneri – Red Hump Eartheater

Geophagus steindachneri

Geophagus steindachneri, also known as the Red Hump Eartheater, is a species of freshwater fish belonging to the Cichlidae family of fish from South America. Despite its common name, this species may actually have been more closely related to the genus Heros than to Geophagus. This species should not be confused with its congener, Geophagus gibbiceps, which was previously included in the same species.

A red hump eartheater, also known as Geophagus steindachneri, is an attractive freshwater fish native to South America and popular in the aquarium trade. If you’re interested in keeping your own geophagus steindachneri at home, this guide will help you with everything from choosing a healthy pet to planning its care and maintenance.

Aquarists have long been interested in the red hump eartheater, or geophagus steindachneri (also known as Geophagus altus), a species of fish endemic to the Amazon River Basin and its tributaries in Brazil, Colombia, and Peru. It has also been known by the common names red-humped eartheater and red-humped pike-characin, as well as simply Eartheater and Pike Characin respectively.

Red Hump Eartheater Identification

Geophagus steindachneri is a very distinctive and beautiful fish. Males will be bright orange with a dark red humped back, while females are paler in color. They also have a unique black spot behind their pectoral fins. They can get up to 10 inches long and weigh around 3 pounds.

The juveniles are much more colorful than adults, but they will lose their color once they’re full-grown or after spawning. The Red Hump Eartheater originates from Bolivia, Brazil, Guyana, Peru, and Venezuela. It lives mostly in large rivers where there is an abundance of submerged trees and roots for them to hide among. These trees provide cover for them to ambush prey that swim by above like insect larvae, crustaceans, and smaller fish.

Origin and descriptions

Geophagus steindachneri

The Red-humped eartheater, Geophagus steindachneri, is one of three species of large South American Cichlids and was previously included in a genus known as Cichlasoma. This species reaches up to 26 cm (10 inches) in length and feeds on small invertebrates. The front half of its body is reddish-brown while its rear portion is black and covered with red spots that create an attractive contrast.

This fish has been moved from Cichlasoma into Geophagus due to different characteristics found within it. It’s considered a good aquarium specimen for new hobbyists but isn’t recommended for those who have more experience keeping them; however, they can be kept easily in smaller tanks (6 feet or fewer).

They are mostly peaceful towards other non-aggressive cichlids and should not be kept with anything smaller than they are because they will eat smaller fish.

Species profile

Geophagus steindachneri

This striking species is native to large rivers in tropical South America. It belongs to a relatively rare and poorly understood family of fish known as prochilodontidae, more commonly referred to as earth eaters. This unusual name originates from their ability to burrow through soft substrates in search of worms, mollusks, small crustaceans, and other tasty treats.

These bottom-dwelling fish have no natural predators in their environments due to their thick armor plating and strongly developed jaws; any fish foolish enough to try eating an eartheater usually ends up on its belly rather than on top! The red hump eartheater is best kept in a very large tank with lots of space for swimming at different depths.

Geophagus steindachneri habitat

Geophagus steindachneri is a fish of South American origin. It prefers to live in large bodies of water like rivers and lakes. To survive, it relies on holes in riverbeds that are perfect for hiding from predators. The largest populations can be found near Machu Picchu in Peru and Lake Titicaca in Bolivia.

There have also been sightings as far north as Brazil but these are relatively rare. They prefer to move around at night using their snout to feel out potential threats while they rest during daylight hours. They feed mostly on aquatic insects, mollusks, worms, and crustaceans.

Unfortunately, deforestation threatens their habitat throughout much of their range so it’s important for hobbyists who own them to provide them with plenty of space (we recommend at least 55 gallons) with plants or hiding spots so they feel secure.

Red hump geophagus size

The red hump eartheater can grow to a maximum of 7.9 inches (20 cm) in length.

Red hump geophagus tank size

The minimum recommended tank size for a Geophagus steindachneri is 55 gallons

Tank set up

Geophagus steindachneri is a bottom feeder and should be kept in a tank with a fine gravel substrate. You can keep it with other peaceful species but you must be sure to give them enough space so they don’t fight over territory. They are not very aggressive but can become overly territorial when breeding or guarding their young.

The tank should have caves and rock formations, both on land and near the bottom of your aquarium, as well as plants for hiding. Water flow should be moderate. The Red Hump Earth Eater will do best at a temperature of 75-82°F (24-28°C) and pH 5.5-7.2.

It needs high oxygen levels and water movement, so use an aerator if needed to achieve that goal. Provide ample filtration because these fish produce more waste than many other cichlids due to their bottom-feeding habits.

Geophagus tank mates

Geophagus steindachneri is a long-lived species that can grow to 7.9 inches. It is generally peaceful and can be kept with fish of a similar size. Smaller fish may get eaten by these powerful predators, so it’s important to select tank mates that are larger than your eartheaters.

Some good tank mates are Discus, angelfish, piranhas, silver dollar, and other eartheaters. A 200-gallon tank would be fine for two or three of these fish. The red hump eartheater is peaceful towards other eartheaters and silver dollars. It’s aggressive towards most anything else you put in with it because of its size and predatory nature.

Geophagus steindachneri breeding

Geophagus steindachneri

When left to their own devices, Geophagus steindachneri breed very easily in home aquariums. Even when breeding conditions are controlled, there is a chance that any eggs laid will fail to hatch. To increase your chances of success with breeding red hump eartheaters, make sure that you’re using healthy fish from a good source and keep them in a high-quality aquarium with lots of hiding places, rocks, and driftwood to mimic their natural habitat.

To trigger spawning behavior, many hobbyists recommend slowly reducing water temperature to about 75 degrees F (24 degrees C) over several weeks before introducing males into the female territory. If you plan on trying these methods, just be aware that they do not always produce results; some aquarists report spawning after turning off all lights for three days at dawn or dusk during summertime.

In addition, if your female has spawned previously she may refuse further attempts—so consider getting more than one female as insurance. Don’t remove fry unless they become trapped under something or start showing signs of disease; unlike most other cichlids, red hump eartheaters don’t release their young into open water right away but protect them by keeping them in caves and crevices within the tank until they are able to survive outside of them.

Are Geophagus steindachneri aggressive or peaceful?

Geophagus steindachneri are peaceful and good community fish, but when kept in small numbers they can be quite aggressive. Although not as aggressive as some other commonly available freshwater cichlids, they will sometimes try to pick on their own kind and are also known to exhibit aggression towards similar-looking species such as Geophagus brasiliensis or Geophagus pulcher.

Red hump geophagus care

Geophagus steindachneri

The red hump eartheater is one of about two hundred species of eartheaters, which are a genus of cichlid fish in South America. These fish are named after their earthen hue; in many cases, however, these cichlids are not really reddish or brownish. Some species may be yellow, black and blue, or even pale—but that’s not important for our purposes here.

Generally speaking, Geophagus steindachneri are medium-sized and round-bodied fish with thick lips (hence why they’re sometimes referred to as convict cichlids) plus an extended dorsal spine on their caudal fin. Males have longer dorsal spines than females do. Their colors often aid them with camouflage, many have vertical stripes to better blend into sandy bottoms of rivers and lakes.

What do Geophagus steindachneri eat?

Geophagus steindachneri eats a variety of worms, crustaceans, insects, and other small fish. Its particularly fond of worm-like animals called oligochaetes that live in mud and sand. These creatures are high in protein which is what helps give it its red coloration. The eartheater can also be found near rocky reefs or schools of small fish where it will dine on shrimp or crabs to satisfy its need for saltwater protein.

In fact, they’ve been known to hang out around coral just waiting for morsels of food to float by. Once caught, their strong jaws allow them to consume their prey whole; no fishing license is required!

Water parameters

Geophagus steindachneri

These fish will do best in an aquarium with soft, slightly acidic water; they require a higher pH level than most other cichlids. They should also have at least medium hardness and ideally be kept in water with increased levels of dissolved oxygen. Hardness of 10-15dH is ideal. The pH should range from 6.0 to 7.5, and carbonate hardness (KH) should be 3-6dKH.

Like other Mbuna, these fish will do best in an aquarium with soft, slightly acidic water; they require a higher pH level than most other cichlids. They should also have at least medium hardness and ideally be kept in water with increased levels of dissolved oxygen. Hardness of 10-15dH is ideal.

Geophagus steindachneri lifespan

This species can live for 8 – 10 years with good care.

Parasites and diseases

Because geophagus steindachneri is a tropical fish, it’s subject to most of the diseases that affect freshwater fish kept in captivity. However, they aren’t as easily affected by parasites because they breathe through their gills, not their skin. This also means that keeping them in extremely soft water will be dangerous for them. The two biggest threats to these beautiful fish are Cryptocaryon irritans and Myxobolus cerebralis (the causative agent of whirling disease).

Cryptocaryon irritans are small parasitic crustaceans, while Myxobolus cerebralis causes a kind of encephalitis (disease affecting the brain) leading to severe twitching and spinning behavior. Both require immediate medical attention if they affect your eartheaters or other fancy goldfish.


The red hump eartheater is most threatened by human interference in its natural habitat. Since they live and hunt mostly in shallow waters, these fish are easy targets for hungry birds or other larger creatures. However, their biggest threat is not natural but man-made. Aquaculture operations pollute nearby waters with chemicals that are detrimental to the health of red hump eartheaters.

They’re also accidentally caught during fishing expeditions due to their bold coloring; since fishermen don’t want to waste such a big catch, it often escapes with just a few scratches on its body.

Do Geophagus steindachneri make good pets?

An eartheater might not be a good pet choice if you live in an apartment. They’re large fish, reaching up to 12 inches long and often growing too big for their tanks. On top of that, eartheaters are messy eaters, and they’ll throw around their food when they eat, they have no issue eating it out of their tank or off the bottom.