The Pearl Cichlid Geophagus brasiliensis has been kept in the South American cichlid aquarium for many years. It is a durable and attractive cichlid and is most noteworthy for its propensity to change its coloring during spawning. On normal days it will present a grayish-green body covered with bluish white pearly flecks. The fins have a slight amount of red coloring and the center of the body displays a dark round spot. However, during spawning or when under stress, this fish changes to present a color ranging anywhere from a pale brown to dark blue, even almost purple. It is also called the Pearl Eartheater, Mother-of-Pearl Eartheater, Brasiliensis, and Brazilian Eartheater.
Despite its current scientific designation, this cichlid does not actually have much in common with its eartheater cousins and may eventually be removed from the Geophagus genus. Their distribution is restricted to the harder and more alkaline coastal drainage waters rather than the Amazonian waters where other Geophagus originate. In addition, they are not mouth brooders and do not sift through the substrate as aggressively as the other Geophagus. Another, more plainly seen difference between the Pearl Cichlid and the other eartheaters is the fact that the Pearl Cichild's mouth is straight in the front of the face, as opposed to being tucked under and downward pointing as with most eartheaters.
Though the Pearl Cichlid is known to reach a good size of about 11" (28 cm) in length (with the females generally being about 1/3 or 1/2 the size of males), they are actually a great fish for beginners. They are quite hardy and tend to be undemanding and very easy to care for. Though the fish itself is usually inexepnisve, it does require a fairly large aqarium of at least 40 gallons minimum for a single fish and 75 gallons or more if keeping a pair or keeping one with other fish. However, once the initial expense is out of the way this fish doesn't require much in the way of maintenance and can tolerate a much wider range of water conditions than most cichlids; the perfect requirments for a beginner fish keeper!
Provide a gravely substrate with some areas of fine sand for when they do decide to sift a little bit. A decor of rocks and roots will provide caves and crannies for hiding and separating territories. These fish will also enjoy plants, but the plants need to be potted with both the soil surface and the roots protected from digging.
Along with the Convict Cichlid, they are one of the easiest fish to breed. They are excellent parents and will readily breed in the aquarium with not much more than a water change. With such a good combination of characteristics, they are a great fish for beginners and experts alike.