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Low Budget Discus.
By: cosmo1952



The facts, fiction and my ideas. On how to keep, and breed discus, the old fashion way,,,very low cost....and anybody can do it.


The first thing you should know, is that all discus, are nothing more than a south American Cichlid. Probably the most interesting of all Cichlids, the discus, are coming more in to home aquariums than ever before. A lot of them are dying from lack of proper care, or a lot of money is being spent on what is supposed to be the state of the art systems to insure success with discus.
Truth is coming from all corners, in books, magazines and the Internet, that it takes no more care for discus keepers, than any other kind of fish.
There are some basics that you will need to know, just like you would any other fish. What do they eat? What kind of water do they like? and What kind of environment do they like? Discus like to eat meat! There are many types of discus food out there, the trick is to get the ones that are good for the fish, and they will eat. Just to mention a few. Frozen foods like, brine shrimp, blood worms, daphnia, beef heart and special discus formulas. And they are available almost any where. There are flakes, pellets, frozen-dried shrimp, tubifex worms and etc. They are all good foods for discus. What I feed mine is a good mixture of different stuff. I first have the best angel flake that money can buy (I'll tell you where to buy these products very inexpensively, later) The best all around food is a good flake. The other part of the diet should consist mostly of beef heart. (And I'll tell you how to get it or make your own) I also feed them blood worms, that I buy. But I also feed them roast beef, chicken and live brine shrimp, to the babies (a very easy job I'll cover later ). You can pay a lot for these foods, but you don't have to. In my foods section I will cover all foods for discus and other fish. You don't need expensive food for discus, just quality! You are probably thinking now, sure food can be cheap, but what about equipment?


I'm glad you asked that question!
You will need a vessel to hold water. I recommend the fishtanks you buy, instead of building one. And as with any other fish the size of the tank will depend on how many fish you want to keep. I highly recommend at least a 35 gallon tall tank. But really would like to see a 55 gallon. However, you can keep two fish in a twenty gallon and one in a ten gallon. Your wallet will also help in this matter. Look for used tanks as this is a low cost, but by no means, a cheap set up. You will need a regular power filter, The kind that hangs off the back of the tank (one that is matched to the size of your tank ). The other kind of filter that you will need is a small sponge filter that is air driven. The sponge filter is very important, as it acts as your biological filter, other than these two items all you will need is a good (inexpensive ) , submersible heater. This must be a good one, as the temperature must be able to keep 86 to 88 degrees, even on cool nights, but a cover for the tank will also help The only other things that will make life a lot easier is a light, the fluorescent type and a small power head, that I keep running all the time (except at breeding time) in the bottom of the tank so any food will be pushed up in the water for the fish to see easier, and to keep debris moving to your mechanical power filter. You can do without a powerhead, but you will have to clean the bottom of the tank more often.
The consumables that you will need are.

  • Ammo-carb. This stuff is made up of carbon and ammonia remover rocks. I would and do use it in all my tanks, that way you will never worry about ammonia build up (a very toxic gas to fish) You use this stuff in your filter inserts in your power filter. If your power filter inserts are the kind that you cannot open to get in the middle, then take a pair of scissors and cut across the top of the plastic filter weave so you can put the ammo- in instead of just carbon.
  • Peat moss. Brown peat moss, not Green. It comes in many forms, loose, pellets, bricks, sheets, cubes and etc. The deal is that you will also need to use this in either the same power filter or any extra type of filter you could filter the water through the peat moss. I use another small power filter. Filtering your water through peat, will make it softer and releases 3 different acids that is helpful to discus.
The ammo-carb and the filter cartridge should be rinsed off once a week, and reused. Just rinse it off in warm tap water. The same with the peat filter. Change ammo-carb, once a month. And the peat also, BUT,,,save the filter cartridge as it can keep going for a year, if you don't rip a hole in it. Take the sponge filter out once a month and squeeze it under warm running tap water until clean, about 5 min.
That's it. I do promise you if you follow the following directions, that you will have success with discus.


What ever size tank you get, just make sure that the stand you are going to put it on can be reliable for the tank and all the water. Next make sure (before putting in water) that the tank and the stand are level, from side to side and front to back. Do not put the tank in front of a window, very little direct sunlight is the rule. It would help not to put the tank in peoples way, as too much traffic is not the best conditions (this is for the fishes mental health), but on the other hand by no means think that they have to be in a corner, and kept away from. Just treat them like any other fish you have. The set up I am explaining is just about good fish husbandry,,,,Keeping the tank clean! as should be done for any tropical fish. Once your tank is set on it's stand, get the hose out, or buckets. And start filling the clean aquarium with your tap water.( Now, if you have chlorinated, or chloramine in your water you will have to treat the water with the store bought preparations for this. And water changes afterwards, will have to be treated before being added to the tanks.) Now fill a few inches to make sure it's still level. Go ahead and fill to a few inches to top, about 6 inches. Then put in the heater, the power filters and the sponge filter (if you can,t get these little sponge filters, I can tell you how to make them) By now your probably thinking, When do I put in the gravel? Well, This is one of the keys to success, Bare bottom tanks!!!!! some of you will not like this but at least for beginners this is a must! You set the power head down in one corner so it flows across the bottom of the tank, again this will circulate the water just gently enough to lift food and debris. Put the power filter wherever is good for you. Set up your little air pump some where and run an airline long enough for the sponge filter, if the sponge will not stay down at first, weigh it with a rock. The only other thing that can be in the tank is a piece of Brown colored clean drift wood. Let the aquarium run, and here's the hard part. You must let it run for 30 days with no filter changes at all,( this is called cycling a tank ), before adding any discus. You can add a small Cory cat and maybe a cheap fish of your choice, that will be leaving as soon as the discus get there. Keep the catfish. This break in period is very important in especially new tanks. The only way to cheat on this process is to have an already existing tank that has been set up, or a sponge filter that has been already been cured (you can even clean off an old sponge filter in the new tank, this is my favorite method) and some dirty water from another tank. All these steps will allow you to put the fish in a much shorter time. (Look under my water section to understand further the nitrogen situation)


GOD, and everybody makes discus, or at least through selective breeding. The wild ones are as beautiful as the man made ones. It's really a matter of your choice, beauty is in the eye stuff. There are hundreds of types and hundreds of places to get them. You can either buy locally or buy through mail order. Mail order having a slight advantage, being as you can get your choice of what you want better, and are good ways of getting nice fish. I however, I do like to shop around. I'm in it just for the fun, and to breed the fish I think would look good. OK! the fish have arrived in plastic bags, to your home and theirs. First thing to do is lower the water in your fishtank so you can float the bags in the tank without the water over flowing. Once the bags are floating, get some spring clothespins, carefully open each bag and clip the top of the bags to the side of the tank, so as to open the top of the bags to get air. Let them float there for a total of at least one hour. Every Ten minutes add 1/4 cup of tank water to the bags, then in the last ten minutes let them into their new home. Do not feed right away, give them a few hours to settle in, keep the light on so they get used to things, the way you want it to be. You.....! want fish that do not hide all the time, you want them to run to you every time you feed them (of course not in the same day you get them). Go about your business as they are like any other fish, and let them get used to you, not the other way around. Feed very little the first few days, but feed them three times a day, and only enough that they eat it in three minutes. They should be able to take good flake three or four hours, but if they are real babies you might need some blood worm, or even live brine shrimp to eat. So make sure what size you are ordering, and find out from the dealer what they are eating. Feed them whatever it takes to get them eating, then you can offer them other foods later.


Get them feeding the first week (if you have trouble, e-mail me.).....Then it's time to do your first WEEKLY, water change. In every book on beginning aquariums, they all say to do weekly water changes, for any fish. That is especially true for any quality fish, fresh or salt water. So the weekly water change for discus, is 50% water change once a week. Make sure the water going into the tank, is clean, the same temperature as what was taken out. I live in the country so I just have a 50 ft. hose that goes to an adapter from my bathtub faucet. I syphon the tank (assume it's a 55 gallon set up) with the hose in my bathtub and run the water back from it. Clean off the filters under the running water in the sink. Please follow through with weekly water changes, REMEMBER these fish are swimming in their own bathroom, and with our low cost filters this must be done, even with high tech equipment, the professionals change water more than that. I have found that if you don't over feed, once a week works great. Sounds easy???? It is. I will add the breeding section real soon....chow.
This is an information exchange page, so please help others and send me your ideas on low cost discus keeping/breeding




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