Discus: As Tough As They Say?

Common Name: Discus
Latin Name: Symphysodon aequifasciatus
Origin: Amazon River, Blackwater Tributaries, South America
Temperature: 80-84F, 28-30C
Ease Of Keeping: Varies
Aggressivness: Peaceful
Lighting: Medium, some hanging plants for shade
Adult Size: 6-10″ diameter
Minimum Tank Size: 25g tall (18″ or more) for a breeding pair, 55g and up for a school
Feeding: Bloodworms, Flakes, Sinking Crumbles
Spawning Method: Egglayers, eggs are laid on a vertical surface at least 8 inches above the gravel, parents care for young in a particularly unusual fashion.

Discus are a beautiful and fascinating fish. For many aquariasts, both novice and experienced, they can be very intimidating. However, I think the veil of the Discus as an extremely fussy and difficult fish can now be lifted. Thanks to todays knowledge of the nitrogen cycle, and water conditions that are specific to different species of fish, Discus can easily be kept by anyone, even the somewhat new aquariast.

I was given my first Discus as a gift (actually a gift to my boyfriend), and was incredibly worried about the poor thing. From what I had heard, Discus are incredibly difficult fish to keep, and espescially to breed. At first the Discus (a hi-fin Turqouise), seemed very stressed out. I gave it a very long acclimation, adding some tank water every 10 minutes for 2 hours. I then gently released the fish into my tank.

It took the Discus about 6 days to settle into my tank, during which time he displayed vivid vertical barring, which I believe is attributed to stress. Being very worried about him, I went to the fish store and purchased a second one, as I had heard they are schooling fish.

Voila! What a fabulous move on my part! Within 3 days the two Discus were displaying to each other, and the following day they laid their first batch of eggs.

What did I do to promote their breeding you ask?
Absolutely nothing. In fact, some people would argue that Discus would never breed in the conditions mine are kept in. Let me elaborate:
These two Discus are being kept in my 75g community tank. This tank has a plethora of community fish, from mildly aggressive to extremely peaceful. It is a busy, bustling community, fairly well planted, but not to the extent that people usually keep Discus in. The fish in my tank range from small fish(glowlights, neons, pristellas, rummynose, white cloud mountain minnows, danios) to large fish (m/f pair of Pearl gouramis, 3 large Bala Sharks, etc) and has a marvellous group of bottom feeders (queen botia, weather loaches, polka dot botia, yoyo botia, Upside down catfish, Inspector and Bristlenose pleco, ottos, Bolivian Rams). I had also recently overhauled the tank in my Aquascaping efforts, completely removing, flipping and replacing a large peice of driftwood, as well as trimming and moving plants, etc. Yet the Discus keep on laying eggs. Every 6 days like clockwork now, they lay a batch of eggs. Unfortunately, the eggs get eaten. I attribute this to the busy-ness of the tank, and perhaps a hungry catfish or two.

Now, the fascinating thing about Discus is, when their eggs hatch, which they care for to prevent fungus, the fry become free-swimmers after about 6-7 days. At this time, the discus fry will rise in a cloud (as do baby angelfish), and then the fry surround the parent fish in a cloud. During the next few weeks the fry will feed off the parents slime coat, until they are large enough to forage a little farther away for food. I have yet to witness this, but hope that, seeings I have removed my large twitchy bala sharks, that the Discus will manage to raise the babies to free swimmers. (Of course like any parents, this skill takes time to learn).

Another thing I have noticed of Discus is, despite the rumors that they will not eat flake or prepared foods, mine sure do. They relish flake, eat Wardley Tropical Slow Sinking Crumbles with particular zeal, and even nibble algae wafers. They do enjoy a treat of frozen bloodworms from time to time, but I dont go out of my way to spoil the Discus more than my other fish. I fully believe now, that any aquariast who is knowledgeable of water conditions, can provide soft acidic water, and warmth of 80F – 84F, as well as some basic plant cover and somewhere to spawn, will be able to keep Discus happily. Not even excessive water changes are required, I change mine every 2 weeks.

Discus are a beautiful and rewarding fish, and I highly recommend them to anyone who has been previously intimidated, even as a great centerpeice of a community tank.
Name : mujaqo
Comments : You are absolutely right, discus are not that much difficult to keep. I bought 10 discus fish for my 50g tank 19 months ago along with mix of other types of fish. 6 died within the first month and the rest still alive while I change my water once a month. The pH level is around 7.2 and I don’t have a bio-filter, just a poor sponge filter with 200w heater and air pump.
They never spawn but at least they are still alive, that’s what I call life instinct… 🙂