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SouthAmerica

 

Discus

Symphysodon aequifasciata

 

Overview:
    Considered the King of the freshwater aquarium, the discus is hard to find and picky in its water conditions. Not for the beginner as specialized tank and water parameters are needed to maintain them in good health. If your up to the task there are many color varieties available from specialized breeders.

Quick stats:

    Listed tank sizes are the minimum
    Size: Up to 6" (15cm)
    Tank: 48 inches
    Strata: All
    PH: 5.0 to 7.0
    Hardness: Very soft, dH range: 0.0 - 5.0
    Temperature: 79°F to 88°F (26-31°C)

Classification

    Order: Perciformes
    Suborder: Percoidei
    Family: Cichlidae
    Genera: symphysodon

Common name

    Discus
Image gallery:
    Additional species photographs

Discuss:

    Badmans' Forum

Distribution

    Found in the Rio Solimões, Rio Amazonas and the Río Putumayo-Içá in Brazil, Colombia and Peru.


Biotope
    Sections of deep, calm water with submerged trees in clear and White water in Amazonia The fish live in groups among the branches of these trees.


General Body Form
    Almost circular, or orb shaped with strong lateral compression. Small mouthed with a steep rising forehead. Dorsal and Anal fins are rounded with a long base. Caudal fin is indented and the Ventral fins are saber shaped. They can reach a size of about six inches (15cm.)


Coloration
    Today the different colors of the Discus can rival any marine fish. All of the new and exciting fish we have today came from pretty but not awe inspiring stock. In the wild this species has three subspecies which are distinguished by their coloration. Most of our beautiful variations have been breed from these original fish.



    green
    Click for larger picture
    S. aequifasciata aequifasciata
    Green Discus


    Background color dark Brownish Green, with nine dark transverse bands. The first running through the eye and the last lying at the base of the Caudal fin. The head back Dorsal and Anal fins are marked with horizontal dark streaks, but usually not apparent on the main body. The checks have diagonal pale Blue stripes and the gill covers have three similar vertical ones. Dorsal and Anal fins have a blackish base with a pale Olive Green field. The first ray of the dark Green Ventral fins is Blue and the tip of the rays are dark Brown.


    blue
    Click for larger picture
    S. aequifasciata haraldi
    Blue Discus


    Generally brownish in color although older specimens tend to be pale Blue. The head has a faint Purple sheen. The sides have nine transverse bars of which only the first and last can be clearly seen. Dorsal and Anal fins are on the Black side with a Reddish hue to them. The outer rays of the Ventral fin are Blue, turning rust Red at the tips. This subspecies most distinguishable trait are the numerous horizontal pale Blue longitudinal lines which cover the whole body and extend into the Dorsal and Ventral fins.


    brown
    Click for larger picture
    S. aequifasciata axelrodi
    Brown Discus


    The entire fish has different shades of Brown. Body Yellow Brown with the ever present nine bands which can be very visible or not seen at all. The body color extends into the Dorsal and Anal fins and can be marked by bright rust Red streaks running parallel to the fin rays, contrasted with iridescent pale Blue streaks-beautiful! The Caudal fin is pale Green to pale Yellow. The head is marked with a facemask of pale Blue lines and dots.




Maintenance
    The dream of many aquarist is to keep the Discus. Not so few years ago the scarcity and high price limited their keeping to a few specialist. Thanks to these pioneers the Discus in its many colors are available to most hobbyist. Still expensive for a freshwater fish we want to make sure we can provide them with the proper environment.

    Discus require special care and attention. The tank must be large enough to give plenty of open space and also lots of places to hide. These shy fish like to retreat among bogwood or vegetation when disturbed. Plants in a Discus tank should be robust and reach up to the surface of the water. Bog roots and driftwood as well as clay flowerpots can be added also. The substrate should be dark and the lighting subdued.

    Water quality must be pristine. The water should be very soft and slightly acidic (2-3 degrees DH, pH about 6.5 ) older specimens can tolerate somewhat harder water. Temperature should be kept in the upper seventies to low eighties. The water should be well filtered with partial changes a must. Feeding the Discus can be a frustrating experience. Live food should be varied and given at every occasion possible. Tubifex, Daphnia and brine shrimp are great choices. Discus are very peaceful and should be kept in a species tank, other fish will keep them constantly on guard and they will never fully adapt. It is always best to keep a group of five or six and to disturb them as little as possible.



Breeding
    When well cared for and given a very varied diet these fish become sexually mature after about two to three years and will breed in the tank where they are being kept. They should never be transferred to a special breeding tank. A pair will separate themselves, usually during the spring, and chase the other fish as far as possible into a corner. Discus are typical open breeders with a quiet form of courtship and mating. The eggs are laid on rocks, more rarely on leaves, and they hatch in about 50 hours. Both parents tend the young, helping to "chew" them out of the egg membrane and transferring them to leaves. There they remain suspended by short filaments, are fanned by both the adults and finally start to swim after a further two to three days.

    In contrast to nearly all other fish the young feed not only on very tiny animals but also, and mainly, on a skin secretion produced by the parents This is produced by large one celled skin glands, mainly in the region of the back; these glands increase in number during the period of brood protection. The adults, and particularly the female, thus fulfill the function of a lactating cow. The fry do not in fact swim free very much, but attach themselves to the adults and suck at their skin. The parents alternate their duties at this time. The young will concentrate on one parent until a flip of its tail shakes them off and sends them to the other partner. Gradually, however, the young start to taken an increasing amount of small food from the open water, so they must be supplied with brine shrimp nauplii and rotifers. The young have a typical elongated fish shape, but soon become more rounded. They grow rather rapidly and by three months they are the typical Discus shape. The juvenile coloration changes to the definitive pattern after eight to nine months. Finally, it should be noted that Discus frequently eat their own eggs.

From Dr. Sterba's Aquarium Handbook


Your comments:

 

Please remember that the following comments are personal experiences and may or may not apply to your setup. Use them as guide to help better understand your fish, like us all individuals will behave differently under different circumstances.

 


From: Ray Kilgore
Date:09/14/2006
Well lets start this easy- I have 18 discus fish in a 100 gal tank, All are pigeonbloods and very hardy I've had them for about 3 yrs. Most of the above written suggestions are right on though if you want to breed them. They are fine in most tanks with many diff kinds of mates. But to successfully repeatedly breed above conditions must at least be attempted in your tank. Also I've found that a great plant they prefer over the amazon swords is a good section of cabomba plants. I had a small patch in my tank until recently and they all fought for this spot every breeding cycle. I have added many more spots apart from each other and they are much preferred over amazon swords. If your breeding these beautiful fish be easy they are only picky when given the option to be, and for good breeding you should offer the options. Good luck.
From: Deby
Date:08/08/2006
I have just been reading all the info on the Discus "The King" and would like to thank people for some of the tips on how to keep them. I would like to also tell Discus owners/keepers that I have 3 Discus fish (named George senior, George Junior and the blue one is called Monty) in the community tank ........... The tank has 2 Silver sharks (Bruce and Anchor), 5 Tiger Barbs, 12 Neons, 10 assorted guppies, 1 Ghost, 1 Catfish (called fang), 4 Tetras, 1 Siamese fighter (called Bloke), 2 Angel fish, 1 fat goldfish (a calico)called parrot and to top that there are 2 short neck turtles (named Spot and Crush) and 1 Long neck turtle called Dude. The water is changed every week and a half and we do about a 40% change, the PH is 7.3 (avg.) and the temperature sits around 22-23c. All the fish swim out at the front and we can hand feed the discus, turtles and angels. They have flake food, turtle blocks, mince and blood worms. We haven't lost any fish and they all get on well !!!! I find it hard to believe that the majority of fish all come from surrounds in the wild where they do not have people checking PH and water quality and they have to reside with many different species of marine life. So I don't see why tanks should be any different. Maybe the trick to it is that we we have introduced everything at young ages. We also had a couple of Mexican walking fish and a couple of Gouramis in their up until a couple of weeks ago.???? It's interesting to watch a tank with so many characters of fish and turtles and surprising how they all have their "own space" as I have noticed that the Discus appears more territorial than all the other fish in the tank. They seem almost as territorial as the Africans (the other tank) Maybe Discus keepers under estimate the Discus.... they are alot tougher than we think maybe.........
From: Chris
Date:05/04/2006
So I've read some people's comments and I have to disagree with many of them. Despite what people say about these great creatures, they are not as hard to take care of as you think. I have had my 6 discus' since they were small and now they are full grown. Readings are; PH 7.0, temp. 82, honestly I don't know the hardness/softness and of course no ammonia/nitrites. I have had no problems with these guys and I keep them in a fairly large tank (72 gal. bow) with a variety of other fish. If this is a fish of interest, I would suggest asking for tank-raised discus over wild caught although mine are wild and seem just as easy to keep. I change the water once every 2 weeks (10 gal.). I have a 75 gal. and a 50 gal. penguin bio-wheel filter, a 5" disc bubbler and a maxi-jet 1200 powerhead attached to an undergravel filter. The discus live on frozen bloodworms and believe it or not they love flakes and algae wafers. They won't touch beefheart though. If anyone has problems with Discus rage against each other, take the one that is fighting the most and put him in a small tank for a day. Then introduce him back into the main tank. He will think he's the new guy (considering the horrible memory on a fish) and most likely will leave the others alone. I've done this before and it works like a charm.
From: Dave
Date:07/26/2005
I would respectfully disagree with a few of the comments above. First, discus should be kept in clean, stable water. The parameters being pH 6-6.6, temperature 84-88F, and gH 6. Discus need high quality food, those being beefheart, frozen bloodworms, etc. And all leftover food must be vacuumed up an hour after feeding. Hence, why many discus keepers have bare bottom tanks. Water changes should be 50% daily, while they are being raised to adulthood. And 50% weekly after that. Water must be aerated and heated overnight in water barrels, before being put into the tank. Reverse osmosis units are a must if you plan to bred discus. Discus require 10 gallons per fish and need lots of filtration. There are several large forums on the web that can help you keep this magnificent fish. One last thing, be warned, if you do successfully keep discus, you will get bitten by the bug and become discus crazed.
From: Dastagir
Date:10/24/2004
I would not recommend them to a beginner but if you have some experience they really are a top fish to keep putting them in a new tank could be risky so would only put them in a mature tank or run a new 1 in for two MONTH as they are expensive but in my opinion well worth it. They look very pretty that's why they are called king of aquarium ) I think the trick is to give them a area with floating plants to give them shade as they don't like bright light. They require somewhere to hide and a tank without too much turbulence but enough air obviously. They are a very beautiful fish to keep and are very graceful as fish go. There colours change with there moods and go very dark when upset. They hate water changes and go into hiding during these so I do them about once a month. If it is young fish (2"-4"), better off to keep in a bare bottom tank. If you do daily 10% water change, 30C temp, they are not that hard to keep. The trick is high temp and clean water.
From: Neil Lomas
Date:09/21/2003
I have 2 5 inch Discus that I have had for about 3 year now. There tank is 2 foot by 12 inch they are not as hard to keep as is made out as long as you give them the right tank mates all I have in with them are 2 cory's and a 4 inch black ghost knifefish (the knifefish will have to be moved as it gets bigger) I think the trick is to give them a area with floating plants to give them shade as they don't like bright light. They require somewhere to hide and a tank without too much turbulence but enough air obviously. They are a very beautiful fish to keep and are very graceful as fish go. There colours change with there moods and go very dark when upset. They hate water changes and go into hiding during these so I do them about once a month and have a barrel with a bit of hose on the tap so the returning the water enters tank BELOW surface to minimize disturbing them I would not recommend them to a beginner but if you have some experience they really are a top fish to keep putting them in a new tank could be risky so would only put them in a mature tank or run a new 1 in for two MONTH as they are expensive but in my opinion well worth it

From: TJ
Date:08/29/2003
Discus are not as hard to keep as most people say. I have 9 asst. discus in my 90gal tank. 2 6in. wild madera river blues 1 5in. blue leopard. 1 5in. snowflake. 5 3.5in. rainbows and red dragons. 10in. royal pleco 4 other fancy plecos. There is also a 12in. s.a. redtail cat that was raised on frozen prawn and other meaty foods. Only ate one 2 in. discus when I went on vacation. Water changes once a month with a tidepool2 and a turbo twist 9 watt UV. I also have peat and I use chemi pure. I have savanna wood and plastic plants in the tank. They are happier in my tank than in the tanks where I bought them. Where I bought them did 10% changes every day with r.o. water. I think if u have a u.v. and an extra large filter with peat a monthly water change should be plenty.

 

 

 

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