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Geophagus Winemilleri

(Geophagus winemilleri)

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 Quick Care Facts

• Care Level: Easy   • Temperament: Peaceful   • Maximum Size: 8"
• Minimum Tank Size: 40 gallons   • Water Conditions: 75-84° F, KH 2-8, pH 5.5-7.0
• Diet: Omnivore   • Origin: Amazon, Southern Venezuela, Northern Brazil   • Family: Cichlidae
• Species: Geophagus   • Aquarium Type: Community, New World Cichlid

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Species Information

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

The Geophagus winemilleri is a species of earth eater fish discovered by Dr. Kirk Winemiller in the Rio Casiquiare region of southern Venezuela. They are generally found living in river tributaries and along the margins of larger slower moving rivers. They prefer sloping areas near the river shore line that have a sandy substrate or a mix of sand and mud. It is within the soft substrate that they hunt for food items like tiny crustaceans, insects and other similar food items that they sift from the river substrate.

Geophagus winemilleri will look for areas that provide ample feeding opportunities, but also provide them cover from larger predatory fish, birds and animals. They look for river bank areas or river tributaries that in addition to a sandy substrate provide cover in the form of rocky out crops, tree roots, submerged logs, aquatic vegetation and even leaf litter in jungle canopy covered streams.

As with most Geophagus species, Geophagus winemilleri are used to river habitats that pass large volumes of water through them daily. This means that they are not accustomed to high nitrates and do much better in clean water with low levels of dissolved solids. Their river habitats have good water movement that provides both high levels of dissolved oxygen at the substrate level, but also helps keep decaying matter and other solids from building up on the river bottom where Geophagus spend the majority of their time.

Aquarium Care

How to successfully keep Geophagus Winemilleri in the home aquarium.

Hobbyists keeping Geophagus winemilleri will want to focus on the following: group size, water quality and flow and suitable aquarium decor. Geophagus live in social groups and do much better when kept in groups. In the aquarium environment it is recommended to keep them in a group of at least 3 to 6 individuals in ideally a 75 gallon aquarium or larger. While a 40 gallon is ok for a pair or group of 3, it is ultimately too small for a group of adult Geophagus winemilleri who will reach upwards of 8 inches in length.

Water quality is very important for this species as they are intolerant of poor water quality or wide swings in water chemistry. Strong mechanical and biological filtration is important for Geophagus winemilleri, as the breakdown of decaying material on the aquarium substrate and lack of water flow will quickly lead to poor water conditions near the aquarium substrate where Geophagus spend much of their time. It is recommended to utilize both a higher end mechanical filter like a canister, wet/dry sump or high-end hang-on filter in conjunction with a powerhead in order to provide the needed filtration and internal aquarium water flow.

The most important aspect to aquarium decor for Geophagus is a soft or sandy substrate as it contributes to part of the fishes diet, sifting for food in the substrate. Additionally, coarse or larger gravel or clay based substrates can inhibit feeding, damage gill filaments and even be ingested with the potential of causing internal digestive tract damage or blockages.

Beyond the substrate Geophagus winemilleri are going to feel more comfortable in aquariums that do not have super bright lighting or at least has areas of the aquarium where lighting is more defused by floating plants, larger leafy plants, driftwood or a combination of these. They will also appreciate significant open areas for swimming and for foraging in the substrate, along with areas where they can retreat to if they feel threatened. Rocky caves / outcrops, plants, driftwood, root structures, branches or other similar items can all be arranged to provide suitable cover.

While leaf litters are common in some of the jungle tributaries in which Geophagus winemilleri is found living, they can be tricky to maintain in the home aquarium environment. As the leaf litter breaks down or decays it will be stirred up by the fish and generally end up clogging up mechanical filters, where it will breakdown and negatively effect both biological and mechanical filtration systems.

Geophagus winemilleri can be kept with an extremely wide variety of tank mates, both native to their Amazonian home waters and from other parts of the world. Basically they will do well with most all fish with the exception of very large aggressive species that may seem them as prey or bully them or extremely small species that they Geophagus may eat.

Feeding & Nutrition

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

In the aquarium environment Geophagus winemilleri will feed both on leftover food items and food debris that makes it to the aquarium substrate; as well as, on sinking foods. They will also consume food from the water column, but are unlikely to ever feed from the surface of the water. Their diet should contain both meaty foods and plant based material. They make a great clean up fish for messy eaters like Oscars or other larger Cichlids. However, Geophagus should also be fed their own food as well, with a mix of sinking pellets, frozen or freeze-dried worms and other commercial foods designed for Cichlids making up the bulk of their diet.

Young Geophagus should be multiple times per day due to the faster metabolism of younger fish; however, once mature they can be fed one a day an amount of food they will consume within a few minutes. Additionally, mature aquariums will offer supplemental feeding opportunities as the Geophagus sift through the aquarium substrate for small organisms and leftover food items.

Breeding Information

How to successfully breed Geophagus Winemilleri in the aquarium environment.

Geophagus winemilleri are a mouth brooding substrate spawning species, who will readily breed within the aquarium environment. As they are somewhat difficult to sex, most hobbyists will keep a group of 5 to 10 individuals and allow them to create a hierarchy and establish breeding pairs. Breeding pairs will not generally form until the fish are mature, which is at least a year of age and 6"-8" in length.

Courtship amongst Geophagus winemilleri generally takes the form of a dominant male attracting a female through circling her and flaring his fins, along with some jerking motions of his body and gaping mouth displays. Once a breeding pair has been established, the pair will find a rock, slate or other similar surface on the substrate in which to lay their eggs. The pair will clean the area by pushing away excess substrate and debris and create a clean smooth site on which to lay their eggs.

Once the pair has their established breeding site they will defend it against other fish and are much more aggressive than their normally peaceful demeanor. Once breeding commences the female will lay her eggs in the prepared site and the male will fertilize the deposited eggs. After the eggs have been fertilized; but before they hatch into fry, the female will stay right above the nest protecting the eggs, while the male will be nearby defending the general vicinity of the nest.

It takes around 3 days (72 hours) for the fertilized eggs to hatch and it is at this time that the female or in some cases the both the male and female will take the newly hatched fry into their mouths and begin mouth brooding their young. Most often the female and male will share mouth brooding duties with the parent not caring for the baby fry feeding and then switching the brood over so the other parent can feed.

As time goes by the fry will venture out from their parents mouths only returning when danger is sensed and often at nighttime. Eventually the fry will grow too large and will stay nearby their parents for some time as they continue to grow.

Fry can be fed powder fry foods, finely crushed flake foods, artemia nauplii, baby brine shrimp, microworms, etc. and can begin feeding on these items as soon as they are at the free swimming stage.

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