Discus Care + Fascinating Facts (Ultimate Guide On Keeping Discus)

Discus fish

Discus fish are known for their vivid, majestic, and regal colors.

People call them the “King of the Aquarium” because of their immense popularity.

Discus are sensitive fish and need pristine water conditions and a healthy environment to thrive.

So a lot of effort is needed to keep them.

Let’s learn about how to take care of discus fish and some interesting facts about them.

Discus Species Overview

Discus are freshwater fish that inhabit the floodplain lakes and flooded forests of the lowland Amazon River basin and some of its tributaries, including the Rio Negro.

They prefer to live in flood plains with other living organisms and dense vegetation.

They like to inhabit calm waters and are rarely found in locations with a strong current.

The water that the discus fish inhabit doesn’t contain suspended particulates or debris and is kept incredibly clean by nature’s filtration system. As a result, these fish love clean freshwater.

Appearance

Beautiful discus fish

Discus fish got their name because of their disc-shaped appearance.

Although these fish vary in appearance, some species are more elongated or rounder than others.

They have large, prominent fins protruding dorsally and on the rear.

Their bodies have horizontal and vertical patterns that add to their appeal.

Discus fish bred for aquariums have much brighter colors than discus fish in the wild.

Their colors come together perfectly and become even more beautiful when stressed.

Names of Species

Discus fish are one of the famous and most commonly kept cichlid species.

The wild discus are classified into the following species, the Heckel Discus, the Green Discus, and the Blue and Brown Discus.

However, numerous aquarium-bred discus species can’t be assigned to the wild ones.

Below is the list of discus fish classified based on their body coloration and pattern.

Color/PatternDiscus Species
Mild PatternedRed Discus, Blue Discus, Green Discus, Brown Discus, Heckel Cross Discus
Solid ColorWhite Butterfly Discus, Ghost Discus, Albino Golden Discus, Albino Platinum Discus, Red Sun Discus, Blue Diamond Discus, Albino Green Discus, Mercury Discus, Red Diamond Discus, Yellow Discus, Red Marlboro Discus, Red Cover Discus, Solid Blue Discus
Prominent PatternTiger Turkish Discus, Brilliant Blue Discus, Albino Turquoise Discus, Pigeon Blood Discus, Rot Turkish Discus, Blue Snakeskin Discus, Leopard Spotted Discus, Checkerboard Red Valentine Discus, Spider Leopard Discus, White Leopard Discus, Checkerboard Red Map Discus, Albino Leopard Discus, Fineline Snakeskin Discus

Lifespan

Discus fish tend to live up to 10 years. They prefer warm water as it improves their metabolism.

On the other hand, a protein-rich diet stimulates growth and enhances the lifespan of discus fish.

However, these fish are susceptible to environmental stress and don’t like to live in an overly bright environment.

So you need to place the aquarium in a location that’s not exposed to direct light.

It’s also not recommended to keep the tank next to a television or any other device that makes a loud noise.

Discus are shy creatures and can get disturbed easily by loud music or noise.

By providing a healthy environment, maintaining stable water parameters, feeding a well-balanced diet, and offering a peaceful surrounding, you can increase the longevity of discus fish.

Average Size

Discus fish can reach seven or even 9 inches in length if kept in warm conditions and fed protein-rich food like brine shrimp and blood worms.

Young discus fish often grow rapidly. Once they grow past four or five inches, their growth slows down.

As they reach the size of six or seven inches, their growth rate drops even further.

Keeping them in warm water will increase their metabolism.

Feeding a high protein diet at regular intervals and frequent water changes will also help the discus to grow faster.

Discus Tank Setup

Discus fish tank

Discus prefer warm water temperatures to remain healthy and thrive.

So it’s essential to set up your home aquarium such that it replicates the rugged natural conditions of the discus fish in the wild.

Let’s understand how to set up a discus tank in more detail.

Tank Size

Discus grow pretty large and need an aquarium of at least 75 gallons when they have grown fully.

Tall aquariums are best for accommodating their large body shapes.

Discus are schooling fish by nature and are much happier when surrounded by many of their kind.

So there must be at least 10-gallon space per fish to keep them happy.

Like other cichlids, they may begin to bully each other if there isn’t a decent-sized group.

So you need a large tank to accommodate a discuss shoal.

Tank Equipment And Decorations

Discus are large fish that need a big tank with ample space to move around.

It’s also essential to create an environment that replicates their natural habitat.

To begin with, create plenty of hiding places for the discus fish so that they don’t feel threatened.

Caves, rocks, plants, and driftwood are ways to provide shelter for these fish.

Discus prefer warm water as it helps them grow faster.

However, the downside is that warm water has a lower dissolved oxygen level.

So add an air stone to improve the oxygen levels of the tank water.

Water movement should be slow and steady, and decor should feature large broadleaf plants and pieces of driftwood arranged vertically to simulate fallen branches and trees.

Given below are the items required in a discus tank:

  • Soft sandy gravel,
  • Filter,
  • Heater,
  • Live plants like Amazon Sword and Dwarf Hairgrass,
  • Water Conditioner,
  • Air Stones,
  • Dim Lights,
  • Decorations like artificial rocks, caves, driftwood, etc.

The tank should mimic the natural habitat of the discus.

So providing a cover and keeping the lights dim will help the shy discus fish to live peacefully.

Discus Care

Healthy discus fish

A discus is also referred to as the “King of the Aquarium” for its beautiful and regal colors.

However, this fish needs a proper diet and specific water parameters to remain healthy and thrive.

Diet

Discus are omnivores that eat both plant and animal matter.

Besides eating plants, these fish forage at the bottom, looking for small crustaceans and invertebrates in the wild.

Feed discus fish at least twice a day. You can give them a wide variety of food like algae wafers, flakes, pellets, and granules.

Live food has high nutritional value and is protein-rich.

So adding live food and fresh veggies can benefit the discus fish by stimulating growth and overall well-being.

Some of the live food that you must feed your discus are:

  • Bloodworms,
  • Black worms,
  • Brine Shrimp,
  • White worms,
  • Beef heart,
  • Fresh vegetables like green beans, carrots, cabbage, peas, etc.

Discus fish should ideally be fed small portions of food every day, which they can consume within three to five minutes.

Water Parameters

Discus fish need soft and slightly acidic water.

So you must dechlorinate and treat your aquarium with a formula that can neutralize the metals and chlorine found in tap water.

The ideal water parameters to keep discus fish healthy are:

Water Temperature82°F to 88°F (28°C to 31°C)
Water pH6.0 to 7.8
Water Hardness (dGH)1 to 4

Tank Maintenance

Discus fish need clean and fresh water to thrive.

You should change about 30% of the tank water every day to maintain stable water parameters.

If changing the water every day isn’t feasible, you should at least do a 50% water change over a couple of days.

It’s essential to keep the water in the tank as clean as possible.

Bacteria and toxins in the water can make it difficult for the young discus fish to grow.

It’s essential to provide a healthy fish environment to stimulate faster growth.

When refilling the aquarium, use a water conditioner to neutralize the unwanted metals, chlorine, and chloramines so that the water is safe for your discus fish.

Common Diseases

Discus fish are sensitive to fungal and bacterial infections.

These fish are known to forage at the tank bottom, which is the ideal place for parasites and bacteria to thrive.

So it’s essential to clean the tank bottom and eliminate unwanted pathogens.

Given below are some of the common diseases that can affect discus fish:

  • Rapid Breathing,
  • Flicking,
  • Loss of Balance,
  • Gill Fluke,
  • Swollen Eyes or Abdomen,
  • Cloudy Eyes,
  • Fin Rot,
  • Tail Rot,
  • Skin Ulcer,
  • Hole in the Head,
  • Tapeworms, and
  • Velvet.

So keep the tank water clean with regular maintenance.

Also, quarantine the new fish before adding them to the tank to avoid fungal and bacterial infections.

Discus Behavior And Temperament

Discus are one of the peaceful fish among cichlid species.

They often live in harmony with other fish except during spawning season, when they will fiercely protect their young.

Like other cichlids, discus can compete for food and space.

To establish peace, you should separate large, aggressive discus fish from the smaller ones.

Discus usually spend most of their time in the middle level of the tank.

But they will go up to the surface or the bottom of the tank to feed.

So it’s best to provide them with some hideouts so that they can take shelter and avoid conflicts.

Discus fish can also get aggressive when conditions aren’t conducive, the tank is overcrowded, or the food is scarce.

Discus Tankmates

Discus fish tankmates

Discus are one of the most adored fish in the aquarium hobby.

They’re unique because of their beautiful colors and docile nature. So many new aquarists settle for a discus-only fish tank.

The golden rule for selecting discus tankmates is to keep fish that are similar in size, temperament, and habitat.

You can also add peaceful fish that occupy the bottom part of the tank to ensure peaceful coexistence with discus.

Some of the popular tankmates for discus fish are:

  • Emperor fish,
  • Corydoras Sterbai,
  • Marbled Hatchetfish,
  • Rummynose Tetras,
  • Assassin Snail, and
  • Beckford’s Pencilfish.

Discus fish are slow eaters. So it’s essential not to keep them with fish that are fast eaters.

Otherwise, the discus fish can starve.

Some of the tankmates that you must avoid keeping in a discus tank are:

  • Angelfish,
  • Barbs,
  • Cardinal Tetras,
  • Clown Loaches, and
  • Dwarf Cichlids.

Don’t put too many different types of fish with discus in your aquarium. Else, the discus may lose out on the required nutrition.

Discus Breeding

Breeding discus fish isn’t easy as they’re known to eat their eggs.

So you need to either separate the parents once they’ve laid their eggs or place a wire tube to secure the eggs.

The breeding season typically occurs twice a year.

Discus fish may lay eggs every week for up to 15 weeks during the breeding season.

Typically, the fry will hatch from the eggs after three days.

After hatching, the young discus fry will feed off their parent’s heavy body mucus for a few days until they start swimming freely.

After that, you can feed them protein-rich food like brine shrimp and bloodworms to stimulate growth.

Frequently Asked Questions