|A dwarf cichlid (Apistogramma agassizii) above, and an eartheater (Geophagus brasiliensis) below|
The Geophaginae are a subfamily of cichlid fishes from South America, where they are found as far west as the Andes and as far south as northern Argentina. The subfamily includes about 160 species. A single species, Geophagus crassilabris, is from southernmost Central America.
For aquaristic purposes, the subfamily can be divided into two groups based on size, appearance, and to some extent behavior. This grouping, however, does not reflect the phylogenetic relationships of these genera within the geophagine clade:
- Dwarf cichlids, which do not surpass 10 cm (3.9 in) in length, include: Apistogramma, Apistogrammoides, Biotoecus, Crenicara, Dicrossus, Mazarunia, Microgeophagus, and Taeniacara. With soft or sufficiently fine substrate, some of these will behave like the "eartheaters", and take up, mumble, and spit out sand and fine gravel, stripping it of biofilm nutrients.
- Eartheaters, a range of medium-small to fairly large cichlids, where many species have a habit of picking up large mouthfuls of earth or sand, include: Acarichthys, Biotodoma, Geophagus, Guianacara, Gymnogeophagus, and Satanoperca (the superficially similar Retroculus is sometimes also called eartheater, but is a member of another subfamily).
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