How to take care of Discus Fish?

We are going to talk about ‘the king of Aquarium’ i.e discus fish care in this blog.We will briefly explain how to keep discus,their habitat, tank set-up,water-parameters,health conditions and much more.

Overview

In this blog

  • Key specifications of discus fish
  • Why is discus care essential?
  • Discus general and physical attributes
  • Discus fish habitat
  • How many discus fish should you start with as a newcomer?
  • What is the ideal tank size you need for keeping your Discus?
  • What are the types of tank set-up preferred for Discus?
  • Water parameters for discus fish
  • Temperature for discus fish
  • What live plants are best for discus aquariums?
  • Compatible tank-mates for discus
  • What discus prefers to eat?
  • Discus fish health conditions
  • Discus daily care and bi-weekly care
  • Conclusion

 How to take care of Discus Fish?

You can take care of your Discus fish by doing the following:

  • Daily water changes are not recommended if the tank size is big and spacious.
  • Understand their behavior well.
  • Air stones are highly recommended to maintain oxygen level in the tank.
  • Temperature, pH and water hardness should be maintained and checked everyday.
  • Discus takes time to finish their meal.feed them slowly and try not to overfeed them.Feed them high quality food which are nutritious and healthy.Remove leftovers daily to avoid ammonia spikes in the tank.
  • Feed them twice (adults) or thrice (young) daily.
  • Crush the large sized food to smaller ones and then feed them.
  • Check if all the aquarium accessories are in working condition or not.

Bi-weekly care tips for discus fish

  • 30-35% water changes thrice a week
  • Vacuum the tank substrate properly before adding the new water.
  • Replace the tank water with the warm water (more warmer than the water already present in the tank)
  • Install a very good quality filter.Filters should be cleaned nicely once in two weeks by gently scrubbing the filter parts. 
  • Deworm your discus once a month
  • Kindly check the food labels for the expiry dates.

Key specifications of Discus fish

Genus Symphysodon
FamilyCichlidae
HabitatFreshwater Amazon river basin
Lifespan10-15 years
DietOmnivore 
Body lengthBody shapeBody colors8-10 inches longDisc shapedVibrant colors like red,green,yellow,bright blue, and brown
Another namePompadour fish
Optimum temperatureOptimum pHWater hardness82F-88F6.0-7.0 9 (acidic)3-10 (soft-medium)
TemperamentCalm and shy (advanced social behavior)
Care levelHigh maintenance fish
Tank sizeTypes of tank 50-gallons (max capacity)Bare bottom tankSubstrate tankPlanted tank
Preferred plantsHigh temperature tolerant plants
Sexual dimorphismYes
Different species of DiscusSymphysodon aequifasciatus Symphysodon discusSymphysodon tarzoo
Breeding ideal ageNo of eggs 9-18 months400 tiny eggs

Why is Discus care essential?

Discus are very sensitive to water parameter changes and are one of the most difficult freshwater fish to maintain.Clean surrounding will help them to thrive well in the tank.

Protecting them from stress and disease conditions is also very important.Stress is something common in all the fishes,so reducing the stress will help them settle easily and quickly in tanks.

Discus are difficult to keep,not maintained properly in the aquarium. They need proper care, well balanced nutritional diets and happy surroundings for survival. 

Avoid:

  • Overcrowding
  • Small tank size
  • Aggressive tank mates
  • Poor water conditions and tank pollution (keep the tanks clean, highly recommended)

Discus

Discus are beautiful freshwater ornamental fish and are mainly famous for their striking appearance.They are calm and shy.They move in large groups and are called ‘King of aquariums’ because of their large size and advanced social behaviour.They belong to Cichlidae family and are high maintenance aquarium fish.

Discus fish physical attributes 

  • Discus are thin and flat in appearance
  • Shape- Disc shaped, some are round and triangular,and laterally compressed.
  • Size- 8-10 inches long.
  • Prominent fins- dorsal,anal,pelvic, and caudal fins.
  • Body colors- red, green, brown, yellow,and bright blue.
  • Males are larger than females.

Discus fish habitat

Discus are freshwater fish and are usually found in lowland Amazon river basin (floodplain lakes and flooded forests) and Rio Negro.

How many discus fish should you start with as a newcomer?

Like mollies,discus are schooling fishes and get along well when kept in large groups of their own kind.Minimum 5-6 discus is what I would personally suggest for newcomers. 

If you are buying for the first time then the ideal size of 2 or 3 inches is what I would recommend, as they grow big in size.

Avoid getting juveniles or small discus, since they are not so strong immunity wise and take a long time to adjust in the tank.

What is the ideal tank size you need for keeping your discus?

Tank size for discus fish

The tank size for a fully grown discus is 30 liters or 10-gallon per Discus.Tall aquariums are best in my opinion for them.

They need more space because of their size.To avoid overcrowding try to get a bigger tank for your aquatic friends.

  • Maximum tank size- 50-gallons

What are the types of tank set-up preferred for discus fish?

  • Bare bottom tank
  • Planted tank
  • Substrate tank 

Discus fish are bottom feeders,So bare bottom tanks would be a great choice for the new owners,as it’s easy to clean and water conditions can be easily monitored in these tanks.

Some people prefer planted tanks, as they work as natural filters and keep ammonia and nitrates spikes in check.

Secondary tanks for discus fish

  • Quarantine tank (for new fishes)
  • Hospital tank (if they are sick or stressed)

Water parameters for discus fish

They require freshwater conditions to thrive well.The pH levels should be maintained between 6 to 7(acidic) and gH of 1 to 3. De-chlorinate the water, if required.

The water should be cleaned regularly to avoid any kind of biomass accumulating in the tank.

Temperature for discus fish

The temperature of water should be maintained between 82 to 88 degrees Fahrenheit, which mimics the natural habitat temperature and helps your discus to thrive well in the artificial habitat.

If possible, install a nice quality heater in the tank to meet the requirements.

  • General temperature-82F-88F
  • Juveniles or young discus-86F-88F
  • Breeding purpose-82F

What live plants are best for discus aquariums?

Pick Plants that can tolerate high temperatures such as:

  • Anubias barteri
  • Bacopa caroliniana
  • Java fern
  • Sword plants
  • Micro swords
  • Bucephalandra

Compatible tank-mates for discus

Fish compatibility is very important as it is one of the most important factors in aquariums.Keeping fish that don’t get along well with each other can create chaos and it’s one of the main reasons for stress in fishes.

The more the stress, the more they are susceptible to illness and this makes them less active and colourless.Some people don’t prefer to keep their Discus with other fishes.

But keeping them with compatible tank-mates would be a great idea for these guys.Make sure to quarantine new tank mates before introducing them to an established aquarium.

Here is list of some of the compatible and non-compatible tank-mates for discus:

  • Tetras
  • Rummy nose 
  • Neon
  • Ember
  • Cardinal-they are mostly kept in the tank with discus but they have the tendency to compete for resources in the tank.
  • Pencil fish
  • Bolivian rams
  • Gouramis
  • Cory cats

Fish to avoid:

  • Angelfish (fight for food supplies)
  • Oscars
  • Guppies (prone to parasitic diseases)
  • Koi fish
  • Goldfish
  • Female bettas
  • African Cichlids
  • Amer Cichlids

What Discus prefers to eat?

Feeding habit- Omnivores, feast on a variety of foods.

  • Live microworms
  • Live or freeze-dried blackworms
  • Bloodworm
  • Beef heart
  • Shrimp pellets
  • Algae pellets
  • Frozen or live brine shrimp
  • Mosquito larvae
  • Prepared foods-Tetra discus granules,hikari discus bio-gold, hikari vibra bites,sera discus granules
  • Flakes-Tropical fish flakes,spirulina flakes.

Feeding frequency:

  • Young discus fish- feed thrice a day
  • Adult discus fish -feed twice a day

Discuss fish health conditions

Like other fish, Discus are prone to wide range of diseases due to bad water conditions such as:

  • Fin rot Disease or Bacteriosis pinnerum- leads to discoloration of fins
  • Columnaris or cotton mouth disease- Fatal for Discus
  • Ich- cyst or tiny white spots on the skin
  • Lateral line erosion disease or hole in the head disease
  • Parasitic diseases
  • Nitrite Poisoning
  • Eating disorder- Anorexia

Conclusion

Discus are beautiful brightly coloured large fish and are notorious in nature.They get along well with suitable tankmates and get turned off when kept with aggressives mates.

Discus enjoy eating varieties of food and thrive well in warmer temperatures.Avoid overcrowding your discus tank, as this creates stress in them which is not good for their health and they might die out of stress.

Quarantine new mates before introducing them to the aquarium as they come with a wide range of diseases and can make your discus unhealthy and inactive.

Discus need proper water conditions, temperature, pH and a clean environment to survive in an artificial environment.

Discus are quite expensive and high maintenance fish but if maintained properly by following all the above mentioned points they will definitely grow well and will live upto 10 years in an aquarium.

Frequently asked questions on Discus fish care

Why are Discus called the ‘King of aquariums’?

They are called the ‘king of aquariums’ because of their impressive personalities.They are considered as highly valued aquarium fish due to their large size and beautiful colours.Red Turquoise Discus are the most expensive among discus.

How long should you quarantine your new Discus?

New discus fish or other fish should be quarantined at least for 4 weeks in a separate quarantine tank before introducing them into the main tank setup.The reason for quarantining the new mates is varieties of disease, which could be harmful for the existing tank members.

How many Discus fish should be kept together in an aquarium?

Discus are social fish,and prefer to shoal together so a minimum of 4-5 Discuss is recommended.

Are Planted tanks suitable for Discus?

Different keepers have different opinions on this, some prefer bare bottom tanks and some planted tanks.Discus are bottom feeders, so some go with bare bottom tanks and planted tanks has its own advantages, as it provides aeration in the tank and even acts as a natural filter and keeps ammonia and nitrates pollution in check.

Sources

https://buceplant.com/blogs/news/discus-care-guide-how-to-keep-a-discus-aquarium

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