Can Apistogramma and Geophagus Live Together? What You Need To Know!

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Chances are that if you have been interested in South American biotope setups, you have heard of Apistogramma and Geophagus (or eartheaters).

They are both brightly colored and relatively peaceful (in the right habitat) cichlids that make excellent additions to a calm community tank. This leads to the question of whether Apistogramma and eartheaters get along in the same tank or if that might cause some problems. 

Here’s what to know about the coexistence of these two colorful species and how you can make them coexist peacefully.

Can Apistogramma and Geophagus Live Together?

Apistogramma and Geophagus Iporangensis (Juvenile)

Well, it depends on how we define “living together.” In general, the answer is yes, but it’s not as black and white as it may seem. With the right setup and species, these two fish can cohabitate in a tank, but they aren’t likely to be best companions.

The biggest concern with housing Geophagus and Apistogramma together is that they are territorial bottom dwellers that will stake out their own areas of the tank and defend themselves against intruders. 

If there is enough space in the aquarium, they can live together harmoniously. Adding lots of hiding spots will also help to keep tensions between them low.

Another issue for their coexistence could be the specific species. Both Apistogramma and Geophagus are large families of diverse species that differ in temperament, size, and breeding strategies.

The majority of Geophagus species are fairly large cichlids, with a maximum length of 12 inches (30cm). On the other hand, Apistogramma are known as dwarf cichlids, usually no more than 3.5 inches (8.9 cm) long. Plus, Apistos are not fast-swimming fish, so they can be easily bullied by those eartheaters.

The 8 Tips for Housing Apistogramma with Geophagus Harmoniously

If you’ve decided to pair a pair or trio of Apistos with eartheaters in your South American community tank, here are a few tips to help them coexist peacefully.

Choose the Right Geophagus Species

Despite Apistos staying small, they can vary in size from the smallest known A. angayuara, measuring less than an inch (2.5 cm), to the giant A. steindachneri, which reaches slightly larger than 4 inches (10 cm).

Many Geophagus eartheaters can grow to be twice as large as A. steindachneri. Luckily, their mouths are small, which means they can’t prey on Apistogramma.

However, bigger eartheaters may still be more likely to chase and bully your smaller Apistogramma. Therefore, avoid large species such as G. brasiliensis (Pearl cichlid)G. altifrons, or G. proximus.

Here is the full list of Geos, sorted by the maximum length:

SpeciesMax. Length (in)Max. Length (cm)
Geophagus diamantinensis2.9 SL7.4 SL
Geophagus parnaibae3.0 SL7.6 SL
Geophagus iporangensis3.9 SL10 SL
Geophagus obscurus3.9 SL10 SL
Geophagus multiocellus4.1 SL10.3 SL
Geophagus grammepareius4.1 SL10.3 SL
Geophagus rufomarginatus4.1 SL10.4 SL
Geophagus brokopondo4.8 SL12.3 SL
Geophagus brachybranchus5.4 SL13.8 SL
Geophagus itapicuruensis5.6 SL14.2 SL
Geophagus taeniopareius5.6 SL14.3 SL
Geophagus surinamensis5.8 SL14.8 SL
Geophagus pellegrini6.0 SL15.2 SL
Geophagus santosi6.0 SL15.3 SL
Geophagus mirabilis6.4 SL16.2 SL
Geophagus crocatus6.5 SL16.6 SL
Geophagus sveni6.6 SL16.7 SL
Geophagus camopiensis6.9 SL17.5 SL
Geophagus harreri7.2 SL18.3 SL
Geophagus megasema7.4 SL18.9 SL
Geophagus gottwaldi7.8 SL19.8 SL
Geophagus steindachneri7.8 TL19.8 TL
Geophagus winemilleri7.9 SL20 SL
Geophagus abalios7.9 SL20 SL
Geophagus dicrozoster8.0 SL20.2 SL
Geophagus neambi8.0 SL20.3 SL
Geophagus crassilabris9.4 SL24 SL
Geophagus argyrostictus9.5 TL24.2 TL
Geophagus altifrons10.4 TL26.5 TL
Geophagus brasiliensis11.0 TL28 TL

DataSource: FishBase

The Temperament of Your Apistogramma Really Matters

As all cichlid lovers know, the Apistogramma genus is known for its species richness. Currently, there are almost 100 scientifically recognized species, and over 400 remain undescribed. An interesting side note: In terms of the number of species, only the genus Crenicichla (pike cichlids) can rival it.

Due to their different mating strategies, some Apistogramma tend to be more aggressive and selective when it comes to choosing mates. For some species, you can keep them in pairs, while others must be kept in trios or small groups.

Fish with the same personality and aggressive levels have a better chance of living together peacefully. Choose calm, peaceful Apistos to pair with Geophagus in order to prevent any issues due to their varying temperament.

Behavior and Temperament of the Apistogramma Species Groups

Match The Water Conditions Requirements 

Apistos are found in a wide variety of native habitats; some live in white and clear waters, others in isolated blackwater tributaries and creeks with a pH of about 5.4 and no detectable hardness, such as A. iniridaeA. nijsseni, and A. baenschi.

Given the preferred general hardness range of 10 to 20 dGH for Geophagus eartheaters, it may be wise to select some of the hardier Apistogramma species that can thrive in these conditions. That being said, some blackwater species can adapt to harder water, but it is unlikely that they will be able to reproduce successfully in it.

Provide a Roomy Tank

The size of the tank is important for the successful coexistence of the Apistos and Geophagus. Being bottom dwellers, the more space they have to establish their territories, the less likely they are to cross paths and cause territorial disputes. We’d recommend at least a 125-gallon tank (72″ x 18″ x 21″) for accommodating both fishes.

Offer Lots of Hiding Spots

Make sure your aquarium is well structured and provides plenty of safe and secure places to hide when they feel threatened. Provide hiding spots, such as rocky caves, driftwood, clay flowerpots, and some artificial or live plants to provide shelter and make it easier for them to find food.

Use a Sandy Substrate

Did you know that Geophagus is a close cousin of Apistogramma? It’s true, and both fishes belong to the American cichlid tribe, Geophagini. As a part of the eartheater group, these Geophagus cichlids usually feed by picking up mouthfuls of sand to strain for food items such as crustaceans, insects, and their larvae.

A sandy substrate is a must if you plan to keep Geophagus eartheaters with Apistogramma. The finer the sand grain size, the better, as this will make it easier for them to sift through it without damaging their delicate gill plates.

Be Prepared to Separate Aggressors

Despite all your efforts, it is still possible for a territorial dispute to arise between them. Regularly monitor the tank for any behavior that could be interpreted as aggression and be prepared to move the aggressor into a backup aquarium if needed. 

Apistogramma and Geophagus can be peaceful tankmates with proper planning, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

Introduce Them at The Same Time

To ensure a peaceful acclimation of your Geos and Apistos, add them to the tank all at once. This way, they will have a chance to establish their territories simultaneously without any of them having an opportunity to target the other.

If you plan on introducing new Geos to your Apistogramma tank, or vice versa, a good rule of thumb to follow is to rearrange the tank. This will minimize any potential territorial stress and give everyone a fair chance to settle in without any sudden surprises.

Summary

Now you have all the information you need to keep Apistogramma and Geophagus cichlids in the same tank – happy, healthy, and peaceful. Set up the aquarium properly, provide them with plenty of hiding spots, match the water conditions for both species and introduce them simultaneously to ensure a hassle-free coexistence.

References:

  • Geophagus diamantinensis, a new species of the G. brasiliensis species group from Chapada Diamantina, north-eastern Brazil (Cichlidae: Geophagini)
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Jeff Colt

Jeff Colt

Hello, I'm Jeff- an aquarium enthusiast with over 25 years of experience caring for a wide array of tropical fish, including koi, goldfish bettas, cichlids and more! For me: Aquariums are like jello - there's always room for more!

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