Successfully Keep Your New Discus    Aqualand’s inside info on Symphysodon species  

 

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Discus Factoids

Origin

Amazon river basin

New Origin

99% reared in captivity

Sexual Differences

Most apparent at breeding time

Temperature

82 minimum.  Warm up if they get sick. 

Attitude

Shy at first.  Not the best community fish.

Security

Likes bare tanks.

Foods

Frozen shrimps, worms, insects,  tiny fish

pH

pH 7.5 okay.  pH 6.5 for breeding

Nitrogenous Wastes

Needs zero ammonia and nitrates

Clean Water

Frequent large water changes (50%)

Disease Threat

Hexamita (hole-in-the-head disease)

Egg incubation

Parents care for eggs

Brood Size

100 to 400 eggs

Breeding Comments

Fry eat the slime from parents’ bodies

LA Pic
Discus look great.


Appeal.  Everyone wants to try discus at some time during their life.  Discus are at the top of the desirable fish list because they are flat out beautiful (and flat out flat).  Unfortunately, discus are also flat out expensive.  The equipment to keep them is also expensive.  Discus work best for people who are handy with money.

LA Pic
Hormoned discus about the size of a silver dollar.

LA
Non-hormoned three incher.

Size.  Big discus cost more than small discus.  However, the larger discus survive better than the little guys.  Discus less than the size of a half dollar can be very difficult to keep alive.  Start with the largest discus you can afford.

LA Pic
Some nice five inchers.

Space.  Just because you saw discus in a retailer’s 10-gallon tank does not mean discus enjoy that tank.  Adults need more than 10 gallons each.

LA
Three incher kept by himself acts much shyer than discus kept in groups.

Groups.  Get two only or get six or more.  If you get three discus, they want to play odd man out.  The shy guy gets picked on until he dies.

Water.  Yes, you can keep your discus healthy in our “moderately hard”  (220 ppm) pH 7.5 Des Moines water.  However, if you decide to breed them, you need to lower your hardness and pH level.  Don’t do this unless absolutely necessary.  Very soft water usually cannot maintain a stable pH.
  

Bright Colors:  Discus (like other cichlids) do not develop their full colors until they attain maturity.  Those very bright red/blue/green juveniles are “juiced up” with hormones.  The hormones bring out their adult colors.  Some discus keepers insist these color hormones sterilize the discus.  In any event, your bright colored juveniles will lose their bright colors after a while.  They will regain them when they mature.

 

LA Pic

Tank Mates.  Okay, you just bought two $100 fishes and you want to mix in some cheapies to keep them company.  Just add some feeder goldfish.  Or maybe a carp out of the nearest river?  Let’s get serious.  Every fish you add is a potential disease carrier.  At least quarantine your new additions before adding them to your tank of discus.  Most algae eaters love to suck on the sides of discus.  Livebearers also enjoy picking at the slime that covers discus adults.  Cichlids usually harbor hexamita – a disease often fatal to discus.  Your best mixers?  Tetras or cory cats.  Better yet, add some snails.  Best of all, keep your discus by themselves.

 

LA Pic
Both these critters make fair additions to discus tanks.  Ghost shrimps also.

LA Pic
Hole-in-the- Head disease on an oscar.  Non-fatal on oscars.  Fatal to discus.

Disease.  You’ll probably never see “ich” on a discus, since you keep them in water too warm for the ich germs.  Discus have a different problem -- hexamita.  Hexamita causes the nasty “hole-in-the-head disease” which causes discus to darken, quit eating, and waste away.  (Of course they die.)  Treat it with metronidazole.

LA Pic
Discus love California Blackworms.  Feed them worms as dessert.

Food.  Discus (and discus keepers) tend to lock onto one favorite food.  Give your discus a variety.  Yes, they eat flake and frozen foods.  Add some snails to clean up any excess food.

 

Breeding.  You will need additional info, if you intend to breed your discus.  At least 20 books have been written on this very popular fish.  Buy at least one BEFORE you kill your first batch of discus.

LA Pic
Can you resist a school of 50 discus?  Really great looking fishes.

LA Pic
Most serious discus keepers keep theirs in bare tanks -- not planted tanks.

Last Comments. Clean water is essential to keeping discus.  Change 50% weekly.  You can add hornwort or another fast-growing plant to help keep your water clean. LA.

Additional Comments from 
Thom Donald:
Hi there!
I was reviewing your site today when I decided to check in on my favorite
fish, the discus.  I read your page about discus, and wanted to inform you
that you have some faulty information.  I bred discus for 10 yrs. while I
lived in Germany, and think that counts enough to correct some of your
information.  Some discus that are imported are hyped up on hormones, but
those are usually only those from the Asian breeder farms.  In my own
experience, I have found that the pigeon blood, blue ghost, Marlboro red
all show colour right around 3/4” in size, or roughly 6 wks.  The color,
while not spectacular is present.  By the time I was selling my fish, they
were usually around 3” in diameter, and 4 months old.  They were all
showing very definite colours that would only improve and darken with age
(excluding the blue ghost who would simply be glowing).

For breeding purposes, the discus should be kept separate in an empty
aquarium (as should all breeding pairs regardless of species), but for
display, I have found time and again that discus prefer a long, tall, deep
tank with quite a few long, grass-like plants, large roots with plenty of
room to swim around, under and over (I prefer to set them up with the
ceramic-look-a-likes for sanitary purposes ... much easier to sterilize if
necessary), and a fine gravel (not sand ... it’s too small and will just
about kill any plants you put in there unless you pot them).  Anything
with a rough edge should be avoided.  Probably the best set up that I have
seen to date was one that I manufactured for a friend in Germany.  It was
66”x36”x30” (LxDxH).  It was constructed out of 22 mm tempered glass with
a canister filter and 2 HDS lights hung 4’ above the tank.  Into this tank
went 8-3” discus; 2 pigeon blood, 4 Marlboro reds, along with quite a few
different tetras.  Personally I don’t recommend putting smaller tetras in
with discus.  Regardless of how docile they may appear, discus are still cichlids, and if it’s smaller than their mouth, or might possibly be tasty, they will take a bite, especially during breeding.  I don't know if this has been of interest or help to you, but I felt I should send the information on to you.
Sincerely,  T. Donald

LA Pic
1.5-inch hormoned discus from an Asian fish farm.

Thanks, Thom.  We get most of our discus from the Far East.  Their price list calls them “Hormoned Discus.”  We used to have an Iowa source, but no longer do we see locally raised discus.  LA

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