Raising the Discus Fish in your Tank
This is a practical & easy-to-follow guide on raising Discus fish with FAQ and answers. There's a forum under the article, feel free to share your experiences or ask questions! This page is here especially for beginners who ask basic questions and for those who consider buying and later want to keep the Discus species. If you are looking for a more comprehensive article about Symphysodon species, simply click here.
In defiance of common judgement, housing the discus species in not very difficult. A newbie or an experienced hobbyist might ask himself why discus species are considered to be difficult-to-keep, why many people think they're not immune enough, why are they suitable for professional fish keepers, etc. Basically the myth about their immunity system or demands has been built by so-called “Discus fish expert-keepers”. First of all, they require a couple of basic things:
- Aquarium depth should be 50 cm at least,
- Width of their tank should be not less than 70 cm,
- Length of their tank should be not less than 80 cm.
Since majority of all hobbyists are not looking for breeding their pets, the care is limited to feeding only. Man must understand that feeding includes various foods usage. If you bought blood worms and flakes, it is definitely not enough. Buy another type of food. In order to help you with your decision, read the lines below, please.
Apart from ordinary foods available in shops, you could try following recipe in order to make your Discus fishes more happy.
Discus food – Just a recipe that works
- 250 g of beef heart without leaders
- 1/2 of garlic nipple, 2x mangled
- 1 some multivitamin pill, completely flatten into powder
- 2 squares of frozen spinach (1.5cm x 1.5cm)
Carve the beef heart into squares and remove the leaders. Then put all squares into freezer. When frozen, grate it and let it be for a few minutes. Add garlic and mix it together. Then add the multivitamin pill and always mix.
Let the frozen spinach defrost and add it to the mixture later. When finished, let it be for about 3 hours under some pan.
Store it in the freezer and dose it as required.
This recipe was posted by Jennifer in our forums some time ago. No wonder that it really works. It is not tasteful only, but it is healthy as well.
Aquarium set-up (or “give them plants, give them space”)
Every discus is a fish which requires large tank. As I mentioned above you can't buy this species if your tank's dimensions are 30x30x30 cm. Bear in mind that small juvenile will grow as time goes by and sooner or later you'll have to solve the problem with space. Adult specimens are about 15 cm long.
This fish' origin is South America. Rivers with black waters, decomposing trees and plants, slow moving water. This determines your aquarium to be well planted, with quality filtration and slow water current. However, overgrown tanks aren't suitable because every fish requires space for moving. I recommend you to secure 20 litres of water for 1 Discus. This means max. 5 specimens in a 100 L tank.
Newbies also lay questions related to water temperature, pH and dGH values, and lighting. There is nothing easier to answer. Understanding the natural environment you'll keep the lights turned on for about 10-12 hours, with slightly acid and soft water (neutral water is good and they will survive in hard and alkaline water as well). Keep the temperature at normal values which are about 26°C – 27°C. 24°C or 25°C will not hurt them anyhow.
Tank mates and hole-in-head disease
In general you can put any South American species into the Discus aquarium. However, I would keep catfish with them only. In this case, your aquarium will look terrific.
Regarding diseases, people are aware of the hole-in-head disease the most. Let me cite something from Red devil cichlid profile.
The hole-in-head disease follows as the result of unbalanced feeding; absence of some vitamins and minerals exactly. Because there are not enough minerals, fish’s organism takes them from cartilage fibres which are mostly present on the head.
You should feed your fish foods which are full of minerals and should stop feeding beef, heart, and generally all beaf immediately.
In order to maximize the treatment effect, make sure your water is hard enough, keep adding vitamins and minerals each day no matter if illness disappears.
The last note
People are scared by what they hear or read on many forums or books. But the best thing how to test all theories is to try everything yourself. Set-up the stable tank, buy the fish and that's all folks.
Additional questions and answers
We keep answering questions that visitors of Aqua-Fish.Net ask; That's why aqua-fish.net/answers was originally created back in 2008. However, due to merging the content with articles, we added the following questions here on March 20th 2011. Some of the questions may be partially answered in the article above, but it's easy to find a particular question&answer if they're listed one-by-one. If you'd like to ask something unique, something that isn't yet covered on this page, feel free to use a form at the bottom of this page, please.
Why does my discus hide in the corner of the aquarium?
Answer: This is quite common with discus; they are a very nervous fish that needs to build up their trust with the fish keeper. Spend a bit of time at the tank so that the fish get used to movement and feed at regular intervals. They will soon realize that you are their friend and come to the front of the tank every time you enter the room.
What is the proper water hardness for discus?
Answer: Discus do well with a water hardness between 3 and 10, much like the water conditions in their natural habitat, however to be on the safe side try to keep the water parameters as close as possible to the water conditions where you purchased this fish, and adjust slowly.
What are the optimal water conditions for discus fish?
Answer: Discus do well with a water hardness between 3 and 10 with a pH between 6.0 and 6.8. The temperature will depend on the age of your fish, young will need to be kept at around 88 degrees Fahrenheit and adults will need to have the temperatures around 84 degrees Fahrenheit.
Which fish make good tank mates for discus?
Answer: There are a few choices of tank mates; in my own tank I have a selection of Corydoras, Cardinal tetras, Glowlight tetras, and Clown loaches. If adding Corydoras make sure you purchase species that can handle the higher tank temperatures.
What size of tank do I need for discus fish?
Answer: The golden rule for keeping discus is 1 fish per 10 gallons of water. Discus need to be kept in groups of no less than 6 fish so a 60 gallon tank would be a minimum.
What do I do if my discus has laid eggs?
Answer: If the discus has laid eggs in your community tank do not alter your daily routines, the fish will be used to it. There is not much chance of the fry surviving in this situation but if you wish to try to grow on young fish from the pair, move the adults to a breeding tank where they can be left alone to produce fry.
What can I do if my new discus fish are stressed?
Answer: This is normally due to them being added to a new tank. In time they should settle down and get used to their new surroundings, try not to alarm the fish with sudden movements in front of the tank and provide them with some hiding places so that they can get away for a while if they need to.
Why is my discus fish struggling to swim?
Answer: This could be because the fish has an infection or even that the swim bladder is not functioning. If it is an infection treat for that first then treat for the swim bladder afterwards.
Why do you need a cone to breed discus?
Answer: The answer to this is simple-you don’t! Discus will lay their eggs on the tank glass, plant leaves or even a length of slate leant on the side of the tank.
Where are discus fish from?
Answer: The Discus species comes from the Amazon river in South America. But nowadays it is easy to breed them in tanks too, so you can get a Discus fish from nature, or a tank-bred discus.
Why won’t my discus fish eat?
Answer: There could be a couple of reasons for this. If the discus has just been introduced to the tank it can take them anything up to 4 weeks to settle down and start eating. If the discus has been in the tank for a while check that it is not being bullied by the other inhabitants. Bad water quality will also stop a discus from eating. Offering the incorrect food is also a common mistake.
What makes a discus turn dark?
Answer: A discus fish will turn dark if water quality in the tank is not at its highest level. Darkening is also a symptom of an infection in the fish.