thoughts on Discus Classification :-
By Johnny Yip (Hong Kong), Author of Asian Discus 1
What is the proper way to classify discus? There are two schools of
thought here. The old school classified discus based on their heritage.
This is evidently shown in old discus literature and the emphasis being
placed in the marketing of discus "strains" in the past. Asian
hobbyists and breeders alike classify discus according to their physical
characteristics; in particular body pattern and base colors. For those who
tend to classify a discus according to its heritage, I suppose their
reasoning behind this would be their embedded tradition in dealing with
other live animals such as thoroughbreds, dogs, cats and so forth. And
they applied that similar classification module to discus as well. That is
why they tend to base their categorization of discus according to what the
parental lineages are. However, problems may arise employing this method
with discus fishes. For one thing, as in many cases, it may be impractical
to know what the parent fishes are. And even if we tend to think we do
know, can we be absolutely sure that it came from that certain line? Even
in the case of wild discus we cannot be absolutely sure. In the past, many
people are strongly influenced by this line of thinking. To those, hybrid
carries a certain negative connotation. Only the best should breed with
the best to maintain it's line. That is probably one of the reasons why
discus has progressed so slowly in the past. However, Asian breeders like
to experiment with crossing discus of different variants. By doing so, we
came up with many interesting specimens and gave birth to newer varieties.
Some of course are successful while many are horrific! And in the process
of manipulating their genetic characters, the genetic composition of
discus hence become rather complex, making classification by this nature
nearly impossible and impractical. The situation will get even more
complicated down the road.
Times have changed. Today, hobbyists become rather demanding. They
desire more different varieties and this is evidently shown in the
enormous popularity of the new creations being developed and offered by
Asian breeders. What was desirable in the past becomes less fashionable.
People want changes. They want to see new things. Genetically stable
strains would be nice but not absolutely essential anymore. And at this
day and age with the general breeding skills greatly improved, once a
certain variety becomes genetically stable, the economic value quickly
decreases. Unlike the old days, when a strain is fixed, the value goes up.
Clearly the law of supply and demand comes into play. This is a different
trend I observe today. People demand exceptional individual specimens.
Whether that specimen is a "strain" or not becomes a lesser
issue. And there is nothing wrong with that, especially if you are just a
hobbyist and wanted the best looking discus or a rare specimen in your
aquarium tank. Whenever "strain" is regarded, this should be the
concern for the professional breeders who want to produce them in mass
quantity or for serious hobbyists who are interested in discovering their
genetic pattern or carrying out genetic experiments. Remember that as a
hobby, we keep and display discus for their aesthetic value; not economic
value. So, for us hobbyists, we better leave the genetic engineering part
to other people and focus more on the appreciation of the fish instead on
the "strain" aspect.
Take the case of the Pigeon Blood. It is indeed a beautiful fish
whether one like it or not. It is one of the most successful varieties
ever produced. And in fact it is still the best selling discus fish in the
trade. But its beauty bears no direct relationship with price. In terms of
genetic stability, I would say it is one of the most stable strains of all
time. For those who have bred Pigeon Blood before would surely understand.
Anything that touches the Pigeon Blood will bear its offspring. Not only
that but also the percentage of the offspring are high. The Pigeon Blood
is truly a breeding strain; which means that the basic characteristic of
its features are passed on to later generations. No doubt about it. But
being a true strain that possesses both attributes (beauty and genetic
stability); its price definitely does not reflect that at all. Then again,
beauty and desirability are two different things. But the most ridiculous
thing is when Pigeon Blood was launched in Singapore a decade ago, the
"experts" were so ignorant that they would not allow it to enter
the competition claiming it a defective fish, hormoned fish and what not.
It was not finally until this year that we rectify this fault and at last
given the fish a class of its own in international competition after
nearly a decade.
Discus classification whether it is for the purpose of judging in fish
show and competition or simply for references only should be given to all
varieties of discus. Whether that class is popular or not is another
issue. As for discus shows, maybe we should evaluate only the most popular
class (in terms of the number of entries). It is rather unfair to retain
the traditional class just for the sake of its historic status while
leaving all the newer creations to be thrown into an "open
Discus varieties came into existence by means of hybridization. I believe
that if you examine them scientifically, they all belong to one taxonomic
group with the Brown discus being their ancestor. All other types are
merely genetical modification or simply a morphism of colors and pattern
evolved out of environmental factors. Recently, genetic scientists made
great progress in unveiling the evolutionary process of the human species
and concluded that we, human race, all originated from Africa. It was not
until some 500,000 years ago that we branched out and reside into
different areas of the globe and transformed into races such as European,
Asian and African. The case strongly demonstrate that all things
originated from one source. Discus, I believe, also fit this pattern of
Discus are being bred for their color and pattern variants. Classifying
them by their physical criteria is the only feasible method. All that is
to classification of discus is merely superficial until maybe one day when
genetic mapping becomes practical. Meanwhile, due to the limitation of
other measurable parameters, we could only afford to classify it in this
manner. After all, judging discus is only a game we designed and as long as
we all agreed upon a standard the controversy will end.
|Who would have thought that the Pigeon Blood originated from the Red
||Likewise, the Snakeskin also came from the line of Red Royal Blue.
Like Pigeon Blood, it is a branch of the R.R.B.'s descendants.
First photo: The Red Royal Blue of Thailand is a true breeding strain with nearly
All photo's on this page are
copyrighted by Johnny Yip