Discus fish are known for their bright, vibrant, majestic, and regal colors. Because of this, they are fondly called the “King of the Aquarium.”
However, these beautiful fish are notorious for being difficult to keep and care for. Several forums on the internet suggest strict practices like 100% water changes. The reality is that even this doesn’t guarantee success.
It is essential to understand how best to take care of your finned friends to ensure they reach their full potential.
We have devoted several years to caring for the Discus fish and would love to share all that we have learned about raising these fish.
In this article, you will find all of the knowledge we have gleaned from our experiences.
Discus Fish Stats
|Colors||Several colors available|
|Minimum Tank Size||55 gallon|
Discus fish are endemic to floodplain lakes and flooded forests of the Amazon River Basin. You can also find them in Rio Negro; basically, any area that experiences extreme changes in water level thanks to seasonal flooding. It is not uncommon to see them huddled around fallen galhadas along the shore.
– Types of Discus Fish
There are different types of Discus fish grouped according to their coloration. Common varieties like the Giant Flora and Alenquer Discus have light blue colors, while the Albino Discus are white and have the most sought-after red eyes. You can create the shoal of your dreams with the right mix of stunning colors from the different types.
The Discus fish come in many color variants thanks to years of selective breeding. Their colors continue to evolve over the years, and interestingly, it takes up to 6 years for them to reach the peak of their colors. Standard colors include bright blues, greens, reds, yellows, and browns.
Discus fish bred in captivity have much brighter colors than their counterparts in the wild. Their colors come together beautifully and become more pronounced, becoming even more beautiful when stressed. Their eyes also come in a variety of colors, red being the most sought after.
Perhaps, like others, you have wondered why they have such a peculiar name: Discus fish; the answer is simple. Their body has a disc-like appearance; thin and flat-looking, measuring about 8 inches. They also have round dorsal and anal fins, pronounced pelvic and caudal fins. Their dorsal and anal fins are rounded, while their pelvic and caudal fins being more pronounced.
Discus fish can live up to 15 years with proper care, nutrition, and breeding practices. Sadly, most live for only 10 years. They are inexpensive, costing as little as $25; however, rarer colors cost a little more.
Discus Fish Care
So if you want to care for a Discus fish successfully, you must first learn about the best care practices and be willing to make the necessary changes. These changes may differ from your usual fish-keeping practice.
Let’s get started, shall we?
To care for Discus fish, you must first learn how it behaves. They are generally calm and peaceful, but they can become aggressive during their breeding season. Like all cichlids, competitions in the shoal may arise; however, you can balance the playing field by removing shy Discus from the tank.
In most tanks, the Discus is the biggest and brightest fish in the tank. In groups, they create a wall of stunning patterns across the tank. In pairing them with other fish species, you must consider their preferred food, water hardness, pH, and temperature.
Now that you know a little more about the Discus fish, it’s time to explore their tank requirements.
1. Tank Set-Up
We promised to give you insider information on how we successfully raised our shoal of Discus fish. In part, we can attribute this success to the tank set-up.
2. Recommended Tank Size
From knowledge gleaned from years of raising Discus fish, we can tell you that it is best to get a big tank of at least 55 gallons. The bigger the tank is, the better it can accommodate the fish’s needs. Another advantage of large tanks is that it reduces the frequency with which you need to change the water.
3. Tank Decoration
Try as much as you can to replicate the natural habitat of the Discus fish. Their tank should contain plants capable of withstanding high temperatures, like Java ferns, Micro swords, Bacopa, and Anubias.
We also recommend that you add air stones to the tank to act as an oxygen buffer; the higher the water temperature, the lower the oxygen levels. Air stones are crucial in summer when the weather becomes hotter than usual and water oxygen levels plummet.
4. Ideal Temperature
The easiest trick for raising happy Discus is to increase the temperature of the water. The ideal discus temperature lies between 85 and 86°F.
One reason for this is that the Discus fish farms supplying most of these fish keep their temperatures within this range. Storing them below this temperature will discomfort them.
Maintaining the recommended temperature keeps your fish more active, with better metabolism, faster growth, and brighter colors.
5. Best pH and Water Hardness
Apart from temperature, it would help if you considered other environmental conditions, for example, pH and hardness.
The recommended Discus pH level is between 6.8 and 7.6, while the recommended water hardness is between soft and medium. In our experience, to raise the Discus fry successfully, you need to lower the water hardness and pH.
In the wild, Discus fish have light-colored substrate. We recommend that you use gravel or heavy flint sand. Not only does it not hurt the fish’s abdomen, but it also looks better in the tank.
– Tank Mates
It is essential to select fish compatible with Discus.
To help, we have summarized the criteria they must meet. The fish you intend to add must thrive in high temperatures and not eat faster than your Discus.
Remember that Discus fish are slow feeders, so putting them in the tank with fast-eating fish will not work; they’d lose out on vital nutrition.
Here’s a list of possible tank mates for the Discus:
- Cardinal tetras
- Sterbai cory catfish
- Bristlenose pleco
– Tank Mates to Avoid
As much as possible, avoid keeping fast, aggressive fish in the same tank with the Discus.
To help, here’s a shortlist of fish to avoid:
- Clown loaches
- German blue ram
Discus fish have pretty strict requirements for breeding. Thus, the recommended water parameters and tank quality must be adhered to. The good thing is that Discus bred in captivity pair-up and spawn quickly, but inexperienced parents may feed on their eggs.
Owing to this, you must place a wire tube over the laid eggs to prevent the parents from eating them.
Another measure is to separate the female Discus from her fry because she is more likely to eat her fry. The male can care for the fry on its own once the female has been removed.
What Happens After They Hatch?
It takes the Discus fish’s eggs 3 days to hatch, and after hatching, they feed on their parent’s mucus for a few days before they become free-swimming. The transition from fry to free-swimming Discus takes another 3 days.
A lot of people wonder what they can feed Discus fish. To answer that, you must understand what diet is best for your Discus fish at each stage of its life. Discus fish fry can live on secretions from their parents. However, this is not a feasible diet plan.
Discus are omnivores in captivity, but they feed primarily on a diet of green plants in the wild. A good portion of their diet should come from arthropods and invertebrates like insects and amphipods. The common problem is that most people feed them fish that are way too big for them, not considering their tiny mouths.
What to Feed them?
A combination of live, frozen, and commercial foods won’t hurt your fish; however, you need to ensure that they are of high quality and the right morsel size.
A couple of things to try include:
- Frozen bloodworms
- Live brine shrimp
- Live or freeze-dried blackworms
- Live microworms
- Commercial foods like tetra discus granules
To cater to their vegetable requirements, we advise that you feed the Discus with high-quality flake food. These high-quality flakes include spirulina, algae, and shrimp pellets.
Remember that Discus fish eat slowly, often taking more than an hour to finish one meal. You must pay attention to when they are done to remove the uneaten food to prevent the tank from becoming polluted.
How Often Should They be Fed?
Discus fish should be fed small portions of food every day, portions that they can finish within 3-5 minutes. Since they eat slowly and have a pecking order, you must watch them to ensure that they eat the food and not be disturbed by larger tank mates.
Discus Fish FAQs
Can I Raise One Discus?
Yes, you can. However, to get the best of your Discus, you must keep these fish in pretty large groups. This is because they are schooling fish and are happier in large groups. Also, they may become increasingly aggressive if kept in small groups. Thus, we recommend a group of at least 6 Discus, primarily female, to mitigate the aggression.
How Often Should I Change the Water of the Aquarium?
We recommend that you change the water in the tank biweekly to maintain Discus water parameters. However, if you have more than the recommended number of Discus fish, you’d need to change the water more frequently. Vacuum the substrate and wipe down the tank before replacing the water; this would help prevent contamination.
It is vital to know that the higher the tank’s temperature, the higher the metabolism of the fish, and of course, an increase in waste. So, you will need to change the water more frequently.
How Many Discus Can I Keep in My Tank?
The rule of thumb is that for every adult Discus, you need 10 gallons of water. With this calculation, if you have a 215-gallon tank, you can keep 22 Discus in it. A 55-gallon tank, on the other hand, will only hold about 5 to 6 fish. We recommend that you avoid exceeding the recommended number of fish for your tank size because it increases the risks of contamination and diseases.
Do I Need a Bare-Bottom Tank?
No, a bare-bottom tank is unnecessary; however, they make cleaning the tank easier. If you choose to use them, then that’s fine. You’d need to paint the outside bottom to prevent reflections that stress the Discuss fish out.
How Do I Acclimate My Discus to the New Conditions?
We recommend that you acclimate your new fish so that they do not become stressed out by the sharp variations in tank quality and parameters. You can do this by leaving your new fish in the bag and letting it float in the tank for at least 15 minutes to help the fish acclimatize to the temperature.
If your tank’s pH tends towards an acidic level, you will need to use an airline tube with a closed valve. Place a 5-gallon bucket under the tank and drop your fish gently into the bucket. Next, pour a few cups of water from the tank into the bucket to even out the pH.
Continue until the water fills up the bucket. This process should take less than an hour.
However, we recommend that if the pH is higher than 7.0, you place the sealed bag containing the fish into the tank and leave it there for 20 minutes. After that, open the bag and pour the shipping water out. Conclude by sliding the fish into the tank.
- Discus fish are brightly colored fish species that are endemic to the Amazon River Basins.
- They grow as big as 8 inches and, with proper care, can live for up to 15 years.
- Like most freshwater fish, Discus do not do well with sharp contrasts in water parameters; thus, it is essential to acclimatize.
With the proper knowledge, you can successfully raise Discus fish. Proper care includes catering to their tank needs, water requirements, diet, and much more. We are optimistic that this care guide will help you raise your Discus with success.
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