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Geophagus Balzanii

(Gymnogeophagus balzanii)

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 Quick Care Facts

• Care Level: Moderate   • Temperament: Peaceful   • Maximum Size: 8"
• Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons   • Water Conditions: 62-82° F, KH 5-19, pH 6.0-7.8
• Diet: Omnivore   • Origin: South America: Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Uruguay   • Family: Cichlidae
• Species: Geophagus   • Aquarium Type: New World Cichlid Aquarium

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Species Information

Geophagus Balzanii native habitat, distribution, behavior & aquarium compatibility.

The Geophagus Balzanii or as it is also known as the Argentine Humphead, originates from the Paraná River basin area of the Paraguay drainage area of Brazil and Paraguay; the Paraná drainage in Argentina, and the lower Uruguay drainage in Uruguay and Brazil. They are generally found in groups of individuals with a higher concentration of females to males. They move about the vegetation and tree roots near the banks of the larger tributaries and throughout the flooded forest areas feeding on organic material, small crustaceans and other similar items that they sift from the sandy substrate.

Gymnogeophagus are specialized eartheaters who constantly take in mouthfuls of the substrate and sifting it in search of food. They have one of the most southern distributions among cichlids in the Neotropics, which means they are comfortable in temperatures all the way down to the mid 60's° F. Gymnogeophagus eartheaters belong to a subfamily of neotropical Cichlids named Geophaginae. Many aquarium favorites such as pike cichlids and Geophagus and Apistogramma species are frequently taken while collecting Gymnogeophagus species.

The temperate habitat in which the Geophagus Balzanii originates is characterized by cool winters and sweltering summers. All of the fish from this region will do best in temperate aquariums with temperatures in the high 60°s to low 70°s F. When kept in heated tropical tanks in the upper 70°s to low 80° F for too long, these cichlids will be listless, lack color and will live significantly shorter lives. However, of all the Gymnogeophagus species collected from the Paraná River basin area, Geophagus Balzanii is by far the most heat-hardy.

Aquarium Care

How to successfully keep Geophagus Balzanii in the home aquarium.

Geophagus Balzanii do well in aquariums of at least 30 gallons in size, with 75 gallons or more being more suitable for full sized adults. They will appreciate aquarium conditions that at least somewhat replicate their natural habitat. In order to make them feel at home in the aquarium environment hobbyists should provide: good water flow, sand or fine gravel substrate, submerged wood, rocky formations, some plants, areas of filtered or subdued lighting and peaceful to semi-aggressive tank mates.

Like many fish who spend much of their time on the aquarium substrate either feeding or resting, they are susceptible to bacteria infections if too much organic waste is allowed to build up on the aquarium substrate. Insufficient water flow, which leads to a lack of mechanical filtration can allow waste to build up on the substrate and between rocks and then decay lowering water quality. This is an all too common occurrence at the aquarium substrate level of many tanks, as many freshwater aquariums lack sufficient water flow to keep solid waste suspended in the water column and removed by aquarium filtration equipment.

Despite only reaching around 8" in length for males and 6" for females, Geophagus Balzanii are tall, thick fish when it reaches maturity. Their adult size, need for swimming room and the fact that they will most likely be kept with other fish, means that while they can start life in a smaller aquarium like a 30 gallon, they should ultimately be kept in a 75 gallon or larger aquarium as an adult. As is the case with most fish species, keeping them in too small of an aquarium or in poor water conditions will increase their aggression towards their tank mates, make them more susceptible to disease and decrease their lifespan.

They will do well with a variety of tank mates; however, they are best suited to be kept with hardy community fish species or Cichlids with peaceful to moderately aggressive temperaments. When kept in community aquariums they make for an interesting contrast to smaller schooling Barbs and Tetras, adding size diversity to the tank. When kept in Cichlid aquariums a group of Geophagus Balzanii can act somewhat like a dither fish in keeping more aggressive Cichlids from trying to create vast territories within the tank, while also providing useful clean up duties sifting through the aquarium substrate for leftover food items.

Geophagus Balzanii are less aggressive that most other Geophagus species, thus don't do well when kept with other larger more aggressive Geophagus species in average sized aquariums. Advanced hobbyists who have a large aquarium with the right mixture of fish and decor can often make it workout to keep Geophagus Balzanii with other Geophagus species; however, this is on a case by case basis and will often require the hobbyist to make adjustments in fish stocking and aquarium aquascaping to make things work out.

Feeding & Nutrition

How to properly feed Geophagus Balzanii and provide a healthy diet.

In nature Geophagus Balzanii feed primarily as a sand sifter grazing along the bottom and sifting out meaty foods and plant matter from the sandy bottom streams and tributaries in which they inhabit. However, they will certainly eat food floating in the water column if the opportunity presents itself. In the aquarium environment, they will feed on flake foods and pellets as the sink through the water column, and then sift through the aquarium substrate looking for any leftover food items.

They should be fed a varied diet of high quality flake, pellet, freeze-dried or frozen foods designed for freshwater omnivores. They will also relish blood worms, chopped earth worms or other similar items. Ideally they should be kept in aquariums with a medium to fine substrate to allow them plenty of sand sifting grazing opportunities.

Breeding Information

How to successfully breed Geophagus Balzanii in the aquarium environment.

Gymnogeophagus Balzanii form monogamous mating pairs and like many South American cichlid species are initially substrate spawner's; however, after spawning the female will pick up the eggs in her mouth in a form of delayed mouth brooding. After identifying a suitable location, the pair will clear out a small pit in the substrate in which to deposit and fertilize their eggs. Both parents will diligently guard the fry after they hatch, at which point the female will closely guard the them while the male stands guard in the general vicinity which he considers his territory.

Delayed mouth brooding give the Gymnogeophagus Balzanii a leg up over simple substrate spawning Cichlids, as it greatly enhances the survival rate of the fry. Here the female takes the eggs into her mouth as soon as they are fertilized, or sometimes just before the eggs hatch. This breeding mode allows the male to mate with several females and leave the female to provide parental care alone. The male is thus free to breed with other females and guard his territory.

The young fry will take shelter in their parents’ mouths when threatened. The “threatened” signal for the fry to take refuge in the parent’s mouth seems to be a dark visual circle, visible in the parents’ open mouth. Hobbyists who wish to breed this species should separate a mated pair into their own 30 to 40 gallon aquarium where they can both mate and raise their fry.

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