Threespot Eartheater Care: Complete Guide for Beginners

The Threespot Eartheaters is very interesting and has a lot of character. These exotic freshwater fish, scientifically known as Satanoperca daemon, are a fantastic addition to any aquarium. In this comprehensive guide for beginners, we will cover everything you need to know to successfully keep and care for these beautiful creatures.

threespot eartheater

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Threespot Eartheater Species Profile and Identification

The Threespot Eartheater (Satanoperca daemon) is a fascinating species of freshwater cichlid, originating from the Amazon River basin in South America. The species can be found in countries such as Colombia, Brazil, and Peru and is popular among avid aquarists for its unique appearance and interesting feeding habits.

  • Average Size: 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) when mature
  • Average Lifespan: 5-8 years with proper care
  • Temperament: Relatively peaceful cichlid
  • Aquarium Size Requirement: Minimum 50 gallons, preferably larger
  • Water Temperature: 79-84°F (26-29°C)
  • pH Level: 6.0-7.0
  • Water Hardness: Soft to moderately hard (dGH 1-10)

The Threespot Eartheater has an elongated body, with an eye-catching silverish-brown base color and three distinct black markings, hence the name “threespot.” The first marking can be found on the gill cover, the second is on the middle of the body, and the third spot is situated near the base of the caudal fin.

Some specimens may also showcase a subtle green or blue hue, especially during times of breeding or in a favorable environment.

To identify a Threespot Eartheater, pay close attention to the prominent markings and the general shape of the fish. The species has a characteristic protruding lower jaw, equipped with special throat muscles and teeth designed for sifting through the substrate in search of food, such as worms, crustaceans, and plant material.

This fascinating feeding behavior is the origin of their common name, “eartheater.”

Threespot Eartheater Supplies

Before setting up your Threespot Eartheater aquarium, it is essential to gather all the necessary supplies to ensure a healthy and thriving environment for your fish. Here is a list of supplies you will need:

  • A high-quality aquarium: Since Threespot Eartheaters can grow up to 6-8 inches, it is recommended that you choose a tank with a minimum capacity of 55 gallons or larger.
  • A powerful filtration system: Threespot Eartheaters are sensitive to water quality, so it is crucial to have a reliable filtration system to maintain efficient water circulation and filtration. Canister filters or external filters are suitable choices.
  • Heater and thermometer: To maintain the proper water temperature, you will need a heater and a thermometer. Threespot Eartheaters thrive in water temperatures between 75°F and 84°F (24°C to 29°C).
  • Lighting: Threespot Eartheaters do not have specific lighting requirements, but a standard LED aquarium light is recommended to support the growth of plants in the tank and provide a comfortable environment for your fish.
  • Substrate: As the name suggests, Threespot Eartheaters love to dig through the substrate. To mimic their natural habitat, opt for a soft, sandy substrate, or use fine gravel mixed with sand.
  • Decorations and hiding spots: Threespot Eartheaters appreciate some hiding spots in their tank. Provide them with driftwood, branches, rocks, and aquarium-safe plant species such as Java fern, Anubias, or Amazon swords.
  • Water test kit: Regular water testing is crucial for your Threespot Eartheater’s well-being. A test kit that measures ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, pH, and general hardness levels is essential.
  • Fish net and siphon: These basic maintenance tools are necessary for cleaning your tank and capturing or moving your Threespot Eartheater if needed.

Threespot Eartheater Tank Setup

When setting up your Threespot Eartheater’s tank, there are a few crucial components to consider. A tank of at least 75 gallons is necessary for one Threespot Eartheater, while larger tanks are recommended for groups.

Keep in mind, Threespot Eartheaters are skilled diggers, so it’s important to make their environment comfortable and safe. To achieve this, utilize a soft sand substrate to help protect their delicate barbels from injury while they dig. Additionally, provide several hiding spots: use driftwood, large rocks, and aquatic plants to create a natural and secure atmosphere.

Water movements, such as that provided by a canister filter or powerhead, is essential to keep the water oxygenated and detritus-free. However, avoid excessive currents that may stress your fish. Furthermore, maintain a stable water temperature between 76°F and 82°F and pH values of 6.0-7.5.

Lastly, offer adequate illumination to stimulate plant growth and mimic a natural environment. A standard LED or fluorescent light will suffice. Remember to maintain a 10-12 hour light/dark cycle to ensure the fish have a natural day/night setup.

To set up an ideal tank for your Threespot Eartheater:

  • Choose a tank of at least 75 gallons
  • Use a soft sand substrate
  • Provide hiding spots with driftwood, large rocks, and aquatic plants
  • Ensure proper water movement with a canister filter or powerhead
  • Maintain a stable water temperature and pH level
  • Utilize adequate lighting with a 10-12 hour light/dark cycle

Threespot Eartheater Water Requirements

For your Threespot Eartheater (Satanoperca daemon) to thrive, providing high water quality is essential. In this section, we’ll address vital water requirements to ensure your fish is happy and healthy.

  • Temperature Range: Threespot Eartheaters prefer a temperature range between 78°F and 84°F (25°C and 29°C). Make sure to use a reliable aquarium heater and a thermometer to monitor and maintain the optimal temperature.
  • pH Level: Ideally, the pH level in your Eartheater’s tank should be between 6.0 and 7.0. To measure the pH level, use a test kit and adjust it appropriately with water chemical solutions, peat moss, or driftwood when necessary.
  • Water Hardness: Threespot Eartheaters prefer soft water with a hardness level between 2 and 10 dGH. You may need to adjust water hardness by using water conditioners or other aquarium-safe products.
  • Water Filtration: Invest in a good quality aquarium filter to maintain water quality and provide the best living conditions for your fish. Choose a filter with a flow rate suitable for your tank size and also consider filters with adjustable flow rates.

Some other aspects to bear in mind for your Threespot Eartheater’s water quality include:

  • Regular water changes: About 25-50% of the tank’s water should be replaced every 2-4 weeks. This helps to maintain optimal water quality and prevent the buildup of waste and harmful substances.
  • Avoid overfeeding: Overfeeding your Threespot Eartheater can lead to excess waste and poor water quality. Stick to a feeding schedule to minimize waste buildup and maintain water clarity.

By following these guidelines, you’ll provide the best possible water environment for your Threespot Eartheater, ensuring they stay healthy and flourish in your care.

Threespot Eartheater Diet and Feeding

A well-balanced diet is crucial for the long-term health of your Threespot Eartheater. These fish are primarily omnivorous, which means they consume both plant-based and meat-based food sources. To ensure that they get the necessary nutrients, provide a variety of high-quality prepared, frozen, and live foods.

  • Prepared foods: Granules, pellets, and flakes specifically formulated for cichlids can be used as a staple diet.
  • Frozen and live foods: Offer bloodworms, brine shrimp, and daphnia to add variety and essential nutrients.
  • Vegetation: Threespot Eartheaters enjoy nibbling on fresh vegetables like spinach, lettuce, and zucchini.

Feed your Threespot Eartheater 2-3 times a day, giving them only what they can consume within a few minutes. Overfeeding can cause water quality issues and health problems for your fish. Remove any uneaten food from the tank as it can quickly spoil and pollute the water.

In addition to their regular diet, Threespot Eartheaters have a unique behavior known as geophagy, which means they sift through the substrate in search of the nutrients. Opt for a fine-gravy sand substrate as it allows them to exhibit their natural feeding behavior without damaging their mouthparts.

Careful observation is key to ensure your Threespot Eartheater is eating well. Monitor their eating habits as well as body condition and adjust their diet if necessary. Providing a balanced and varied diet will not only keep your fish healthy but also bring out their vibrant colors, making your aquarium a lively and fascinating centerpiece.

Threespot Eartheater Care Schedule

To ensure the well-being of your Threespot Eartheater, it’s crucial to establish a consistent care schedule. By doing so, you will maintain a healthy environment for them to thrive in and detect any potential issues early on.

Daily tasks:

  • Check and maintain water parameters (temperature, pH, and ammonia levels)
  • Observe fish behavior for signs of stress or illness
  • Feed your Threespot Eartheater the appropriate diet

Weekly tasks:

  • Perform a 20-30% water change
  • Clean aquarium glass to remove algae build-up
  • Inspect the filter and replace or clean the filter media as needed
  • Test water parameters (nitrate, nitrite, and pH) to ensure optimal conditions

Monthly tasks:

  • Inspect and clean tank decorations and structures
  • Replace or rinse filter cartridges if using
  • Check for any worn or damaged equipment

Yearly tasks:

  • Replace all light bulbs and perform a full clean on the tank, including substrate, filters, and decorations

Keep in mind that although this care schedule is a general framework, it might require adjustments based on the specific needs of your Threespot Eartheater. Monitor the overall health of your fish and make any necessary changes to keep their environment safe and clean.

By adhering to this care schedule, you’ll provide the best possible habitat for your Threespot Eartheater and maximize their chances for a healthy, long life.

Threespot Eartheater Health Problems

Threespot Eartheaters, like any other fish, can experience health issues if their care isn’t maintained. As an aquarist, it is crucial to be observant of your fish and act accordingly when signs of sickness arise.

  • Stress-related diseases can occur if the Threespot Eartheater is exposed to inadequate water conditions or if there is a lack of hiding spots. To avoid this, keep water conditions maintained and provide shelters within your tank.
  • Ich (White Spot Disease) is a common issue affecting fish, and Threespot Eartheaters are no exception. To treat Ich, increase the tank temperature to 86°F (30°C) for three days and apply appropriate medication.
  • Fin Rot occurs when the fish’s fins are damaged, resulting in slow deterioration. Treat Fin Rot with a water change, removal of damaged fins, and use of antibacterial medication. Make sure to inspect your fish regularly to identify and treat any wounds.
  • Swim Bladder Disease may occur in Threespot Eartheaters if their diet isn’t balanced. Provide a variety of foods to ensure that your fish has a complete and healthy diet.
  • Parasitic infections are common in aquariums, and Threespot Eartheaters are no exception. Signs of these infections can include listlessness, rapid breathing, and a loss of appetite. To treat parasitic infections, perform a water change and apply an appropriate anti-parasitic medication.

To keep your Threespot Eartheater healthy, adhere to these guidelines:

  • Perform regular water changes and monitor water quality
  • Observe your fish for any signs of illness
  • Maintain the tank with appropriate conditions and hiding spots
  • Feed a balanced diet to avoid malnutrition

Threespot Eartheater Tank Mates

Choosing the right tank mates for your Threespot Eartheater is essential for maintaining a harmonious and stress-free environment. Due to their relatively peaceful nature and unique feeding habits, it’s crucial to select compatible species that share similar requirements.

When considering tank mates, keep in mind the following factors:

  • Size: Threespot Eartheaters can reach up to 8 inches in length. Make sure to choose tank mates that are similar in size to avoid predatory behavior or aggression.
  • Temperament: Stick to peaceful, non-aggressive species that are unlikely to harass or disturb the Eartheaters while they’re feeding.
  • Water Parameters: Opt for fish with similar water requirements, ensuring everyone can thrive in the same conditions.

Based on these criteria, here are some recommended tank mates for Threespot Eartheaters:

  • Large tetras, such as Congo Tetras or Bleeding Heart Tetras
  • Peaceful South American cichlids, like Angelfish and Discus
  • Other eartheater species, such as Geophagus or Acarichthys
  • Various catfish species, including CorydorasPlecos, and Farlowella
  • Livebearers, like Swordtails and Platies

Avoid: Highly aggressive species, like Jack Dempseys or Red Devil cichlids. Also, avoid extremely small fish that can become quick snacks for Threespot Eartheaters.

Remember to always introduce new tank mates gradually and closely monitor their interactions to ensure a peaceful coexistence. If problems arise, be ready to separate incompatible species and adjust your tank setup accordingly.

With careful consideration, your Threespot Eartheater will thrive alongside their new companions, creating a vibrant and active aquarium environment.

Threespot Eartheater Breeding

Breeding Threespot Eartheaters can be a rewarding experience, as they exhibit fascinating parental care behavior. In a well-established tank, it’s quite possible for them to breed successfully when provided with proper water parameters and a nutritionally balanced diet.

To encourage breeding, you should create hiding spaces with flat rocks or slate caves that can serve as spawning sites. Threespot Eartheaters are substrate spawners, meaning they lay their eggs on flat surfaces. In addition, raising the water temperature slightly to 82-84°F (28-29°C) can stimulate breeding behavior.

Here is a summarized process for breeding Threespot Eartheaters:

  • Ensure optimal water parameters and provide high-quality food
  • Create hiding spaces with flat rocks or slate caves
  • Raise water temperature slightly to 82-84°F (28-29°C)
  • Observe for courtship, spawning, and brood care behavior

Once a pair forms, they will defend their territory aggressively, particularly during breeding. After spawning, the female will lay around 200-300 eggs on the chosen surface, with the male fertilizing them shortly after.

Unlike some other fish, parental care doesn’t end once the eggs are laid. Both parents will diligently protect their eggs and offspring, even digging pits in the substrate to transfer their young after hatching.

Keep in mind that Threespot Eartheaters are known to be slow growers. Although their parental care instincts make breeding and raising fry slightly easier, it may still take many months for the young to mature.

In order to optimize the growth and health of the juveniles, it is essential to maintain high water quality, a diverse and nutritious diet, and a stress-free environment. By following these guidelines, you can successfully breed this unique and fascinating species.


Proper care for the Threespot Eartheater involves understanding their natural habitat, dietary needs, and tank requirements. With careful planning and attention to detail, your Threespot Eartheater should thrive in its new home.

Please feel free to leave a comment with any questions or experiences you’ve had with these fascinating fish.

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