Keeping Discus 3

Keeping Discus 3


Keeping Discus The Easy Way III
By Uncle Bill

In the two previous installments we discussed several things to do and not to do, to avoid some common mistakes that often lead to problems for the hobbyist new to the keeping of Discus. The best way to solve problems is to avoid creating them in the first place.

So far, we've carefully observed the fish in question prior to purchase, and avoided as much stress as possible during the move to its new home . Something that should be considered so far is the purchase of discus through mail order. This can be a dream come true or a real nightmare.

When buying by mail order, it is a good idea to stick with established breeders. This suggestion may not be true if one is not interested in good or verifiable blood lines or is just trying to save money. My reasons recommending known breeders is that they are far more experienced in long distance shipping, will guarantee live delivery and do provide you with established and verifiable blood lines. There are so many breeders touting their new "strains", e.g., lollypop red and blue, sunset orange with green lightning, etc. (you get the idea). These advertised strains, in a great many (most) of the cases, are not "strains" at all and will not breed true. The advantage of dealing with established breeders such as Jack Wattley, Bernd Degen etc., is that they have either developed proven strains, or in many cases refined them, and their fishes breed true. You can expect to pay a premium for these quality fish and it will be well worth it.

OK, the discus are now in the quarantine tank. If the display tank has not yet been set up and cycled, there are a few things to consider.

  1. Find a location with very low foot traffic. Just by constantly walking past the tank, vibrations from the footsteps and the constant motion around the fish can cause additional stress.
  2. Choose a location that is as close as possible to the water source. This will save a lot of walking and spills when changing the water.
  3. Get a very sturdy stand. Water weighs 8+ lbs./gal. (approx. 2 kilos/l.). There is also the added weight of the tank itself as well as that of the sand, rocks, etc.
  4. Think ahead about those spills and/or leaks. Pumps do break down, hoses come loose and occasionally a tank will leak (always when you're on vacation for a couple of weeks) and there will be the occasional spill during water changes. Guys, don't place the tank and stand on an unprotected hardwood floor or on the new white wool carpet that your wife looked forward to all those years.
  5. Very important - be sure there are electrical outlets conveniently located nearby.
  6. Get a "ground fault interrupt" electric power strip or two. Preferably with two sections so that one side can be switched off without affecting the other equipment that must remain on constantly, e.g., pumps, heaters, pH meters, etc. They are not expensive and can be found at any retail computer store or at Radio Shack.
  7. Another thing which is often overlooked is equipment failure. Pumps stop, heaters either won't heat or get stuck on hot and ballasts burn out. Have backup equipment on hand. Even an inexpensive air pump can keep the water circulating and save the day (and your fish) when a pump fails. Whatever you do, always have a backup heater on hand.
  8. I will get a lot of critical email about the following, but here goes anyway. Any tank of between 5 and 55 gal. (20 - 220 l.), (not stocked with fish such as Oscars, Arrowanas, and other similar large waste producing fish) be it planted or not, community or not, can be filtered with a hang on power filter. Choose one that will circulate the total volume of water between 4 and 5 times per hour. This will hold true only if regular weekly water changes are done of at least, and I do mean at least, 25% and that is if the tank is not overcrowded. Allow for 15 gal.(60 l.) per discus before including the water requirements for any other fish. That's actual gallons of water, not advertised gallons. To determine the true volume (allow for sand, rocks, etc.), measure the inner dimensions of the length, width and height in inches. Multiply L x W x H and divide by 231. This is how many gallons of water are really in the tank.
  9. Whatever you do, do not overfeed. This is probably the most common mistake that less experienced hobbyists make and is one of the worst. Your fish should be fed several times each day when quite young and then only in small amounts. Remember that, as a general rule, a fish's stomach is only about the size of its eye. Fish that come swimming to the front when you approach and beg for food are healthy fish. That doesn't mean they should be fed each time.
  10. Keep the temperature at a constant 86F (30C) degrees. When designing a community tank that features discus, choose only fish that originally (historically) came from these warm waters. Choose Cardinal Tetras Paracheirodon axelrodi rather than Neon Tetras Hyphessobrycon or Paracheirodon innesi and maybe dwarf cichlids Apistogramma sp. instead of Cory catfish Corydoras sp.
  11. Leave the lights on for 12 hrs./day, sit back and enjoy the show.

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