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New to Discus

Title: New to Discus -- Help w/ renovating a friend's tank
Post by: Alesia on June 23, 2007, 11:50:54 PM
Hi all --

I've been asked by a friend of mine to help her "renovate" her rather sorry looking 90 gallon freshwater tank.  I don't really have experience with a tank of that size (I tend to stay with 30g and under) so I'm well aware of the basics but not with the specifics of a tank that large.  She has a single mid-sized discus (3" or so), 1 blue gourami, 1 gold gourami, and 1 common pleco in there at the moment.  The tank substrate is pea sized river gravel with a few plastic plants and decorations.  The filtration is performed by two very large HOB filters.  Not sure on the lighting, it looks like just standard fluorescents. 

The ultimate plan is to have her fund the venture while I do the research.  She would really like to have a more naturalistic aquarium with some easy low-light live plants, some driftwood, and a nice school of something small, in addition to 4-6 discus (she works with someone who breeds them and would get more from him). 

I have a LOT of questions regarding this set-up and would love some input, please!  Any help you can provide would be great.



1.  Is the filtration provided by the two HOB's adequate for the "pristine" water conditions that I have read that discus require?  I'm unsure of the models, but they take up almost the full 48" of the 90g.  If not, what would be the preferred form of filtration?

2.  How much lighting do I need in a tank of this size/depth for "low light" plants?  What type of lighting?  Do we need to change the substrate to something finer than pea gravel?

3.  For the small schooling fish, I was considering rummy nose tetras.  Are they able to thrive in the warm water that discus prefer?  Are there any other schooling fish that would do well?  (Probably a school of 10-15 for the tank.)  I'm going to try to talk her into giving the gouramis away and keeping the tank to discus/tetras/some sort of algae eaters.  Should we keep the pleco?

4.  Anything else I should know about discus tanks?  Things that have/have not worked for you?



This whole project is probably still a few weeks away, but I'm going to keep reading up on discus.  I just think communities are the best resource for first hand advice and I would really REALLY like some guidance here. 

Thank you!   :D


Title: Re: New to Discus -- Help w/ renovating a friend's tank
Post by: mikedmatthews on June 24, 2007, 12:21:09 AM
well, i don't do discus but i would be surprised if the gouramis would be comfortable at the temps they do best at.

my 70 is planted and looks pretty good.  i put a bag of charcoal soilmaster pro in there and i have a 4 ft power compact and two 25 W flourescents.  it looked terrible until i added the flourescents, so i think the PC i had just wasn't quite right somehow.  i use flourish excel daily and flourish iron/flourish weekly.  i use a single aquaclear 300 HOB and a large sponge filter.  trade in the common pl*co, they will tear your plants out of the dirt constantly. 

now i'm not a plant geek at all, but i desperately aspire to be one so my knowledge of what plants i have is pretty limited.  i know the water sprite is doing really well and i have sag growing and my java ferns are putting on new growth.  there are several stems in there too, but aside from the cabomba and rotala, i couldn't say what they are.


Title: Re: New to Discus -- Help w/ renovating a friend's tank
Post by: Gen Gen (still lookin for her rum!) on June 24, 2007, 12:26:49 AM
mike i'm envious lol


Title: Re: New to Discus -- Help w/ renovating a friend's tank
Post by: mikedmatthews on June 24, 2007, 12:38:54 AM
mike i'm envious lol

well, i have a planted 55 that looks bad enough to make up for the good one!  i'm running 160 W flourescent shop lights on that and i think i finally have the cyano on the run.  seems like the only thing that thrives in that tank is duckweed and najas.  maybe someday wifee will take pity on me and let me have another PC.


Title: Re: New to Discus -- Help w/ renovating a friend's tank
Post by: mikedmatthews on June 24, 2007, 11:51:36 AM
took some pics this morning



Title: Re: New to Discus -- Help w/ renovating a friend's tank
Post by: Lori on June 24, 2007, 12:46:39 PM
Wow, is that pretty!  Every time I see it it looks better!


Title: Re: New to Discus -- Help w/ renovating a friend's tank
Post by: Aiptasia on June 25, 2007, 08:57:53 AM
Getting back to the original question about a discus tank:

1.  Is the filtration provided by the two HOB's adequate for the "pristine" water conditions that I have read that discus require?  I'm unsure of the models, but they take up almost the full 48" of the 90g.  If not, what would be the preferred form of filtration?

Discus prefer clean, bacteria free water, so it's more important that whoever is taking long term care of the tank knows that they'll have to do water changes on a fairly regular basis. Discus breeders change up to 100% of the water in their stock tanks daily, but more commonly for adult discus you can get away with 50% changes twice a week or so depending on the tank. Tank bred discus are hardier than their wild cousins, so if you properly acclimate them to your tank, you won't have to worry as much about pH and TDS values so long as the water is clean and changed often. Suggested pH from 6.5 to 7.4, TDS from 50 ppm to 200 ppm should be fine as long as it's stable and clean.

As far as the filters, aim for a ten tank volume per hour turnover rate based on the flow ratings of the filters. Don't worry, discus can take up to a moderate current in their tanks with no problems. I have over 500 gph on one of my 42 gallon discus tanks and they're hardly phased by the current.

Quote
2.  How much lighting do I need in a tank of this size/depth for "low light" plants?  What type of lighting?  Do we need to change the substrate to something finer than pea gravel?

That depends on the plants your trying to grow. If you are going to use finer rooted plants, you might have to change out the substrate to one more suited to plants such as eco-complete, flourite, or any of the laterite based substrates for aquatic plants. You'll need enough for a minimum 3-4" depth. As far as wattage is concerned, 2-3 watts per gallon for low light plants is a rough guestimate. You may have to replace the tank hood with a glass canopy and a different light fixture, such as a compact florescent lamp or T5 lamp.

Quote
3.  For the small schooling fish, I was considering rummy nose tetras.  Are they able to thrive in the warm water that discus prefer?  Are there any other schooling fish that would do well?  (Probably a school of 10-15 for the tank.)  I'm going to try to talk her into giving the gouramis away and keeping the tank to discus/tetras/some sort of algae eaters.  Should we keep the pleco?

Sure, rummynose are fine and can take discus temperatures. Scissortail tetras and silver tetras are also nice additions. I've had good luck with zebra danios as well in discus warm waters. You can keep the pleco, it should be able to take the heat, but if not bushynose plecos and rubber lipped plecos do well in discus tanks.

Quote
4.  Anything else I should know about discus tanks?  Things that have/have not worked for you

First and foremost, they're cichlids. This means they will establish a definite pecking order with the first fish in her tank most likely becoming the dominant fish because it's been in there the longest. I'd suggest removing it to a small 20 gallon tank while you re-decorate the main big tank and then introduce all of the discus at the same time, giving all the fish an equal footing for establishing the new pecking order. Deaths are rare if you give the alpha fish plenty of targets to chase around, so discus should really be kept in groups of five or more fish, or just one fish solo.

Discus are pickers, and they will graze the bottom of the tank and the plants for bits of food to eat. This poses a problem if you don't keep the substrate clean, which is difficult to do in a planted aquarium. At high concentrations of bacteria, discus can develop bacterial HITH (hole in the head), the damage is unfortunately perminant and scarring. In fact, most breeders don't have any kind of substrate at all in their discus tanks to keep bacterial loads down and make cleaning easier.

Keep them warm, discus tanks should be maintained between 84-86 degrees f..

Discus are also known to secrete a fear pheremone into the water like other schooling fish. They can dash themselves against the sides of the tank if startled. Water changes and time will allow them to calm down. Sometimes this takes weeks or longer.


Title: Re: New to Discus -- Help w/ renovating a friend's tank
Post by: Alesia on June 25, 2007, 04:26:26 PM
Thank you so much for the information!  I do have a few more questions though (big surprise.)

For a 90g tank, what's the most feasible way to do those large water changes?  I'd like to make this as painless as possible for my friend, but she does know that the tank requires maintenance and is ready for it.

I'm concerned with the bacteria levels now, and don't want her water quality to go downhill too quickly if she doesn't get to change the water one week.  I would like to keep the tank "lightly" stocked to lighten the bioload.  I can't really go by the old "inches per gallon" here, so would 5-6 discus, a 6 inch pleco, and 15-20 small schoolers be considered "light"?

Like I said, I'm learning as I go here, but I couldn't pass up the chance to play around with a new tank and make some fish (and my friend) a little happier.  Thanks again!


Title: Re: New to Discus -- Help w/ renovating a friend's tank
Post by: Gen Gen (still lookin for her rum!) on June 25, 2007, 04:30:59 PM
i would say invest in a python. hooks up to a faucet uses water pressure to drain; flick of the switch (or turn rather lol) and you can fill w/o having to disconnect. easy.  keep in mind water pressures vary from house to house. so draining and filling times vary


Title: Re: New to Discus -- Help w/ renovating a friend's tank
Post by: mikedmatthews on June 25, 2007, 04:46:54 PM
i would say invest in a python. hooks up to a faucet uses water pressure to drain; flick of the switch (or turn rather lol) and you can fill w/o having to disconnect. easy.  keep in mind water pressures vary from house to house. so draining and filling times vary

buy 2 sets of garden hose brass quick connects.one for your faucet connection and one for the hose.  it will let it rotate freely and keeps you from stripping out the plastic fittings.  its either $10 now or maybe $10 every 3-4 months to replace the aspirator if it shears off.  happened to me twice.


Title: Re: New to Discus -- Help w/ renovating a friend's tank
Post by: Aiptasia on June 26, 2007, 05:14:43 AM
Thank you so much for the information!  I do have a few more questions though (big surprise.)

For a 90g tank, what's the most feasible way to do those large water changes?  I'd like to make this as painless as possible for my friend, but she does know that the tank requires maintenance and is ready for it.

I'm concerned with the bacteria levels now, and don't want her water quality to go downhill too quickly if she doesn't get to change the water one week.  I would like to keep the tank "lightly" stocked to lighten the bioload.  I can't really go by the old "inches per gallon" here, so would 5-6 discus, a 6 inch pleco, and 15-20 small schoolers be considered "light"?

Like I said, I'm learning as I go here, but I couldn't pass up the chance to play around with a new tank and make some fish (and my friend) a little happier.  Thanks again!

The python system is good, and I think wal-mart still carries it. If not any major pet retailer that has a fish section should have the python in stock. For a 90 gallon tank, I don't think that your stocking level would be too light. Adult discus can be large. Cleanliness will be your major issue to contend with.


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