Asian bred discus are sometimes subject to criticisms and there are
occasional articles that pass very negative and general comments on Asian
bred discus. These comments are for most part, by disgruntled hobbyists,
who had undergone bad experiences with dishonest breeders or even outright
cheats. Some of the negative comments however came from
"jealous" breeders who are envious of the success that Asian
bred discus seem to enjoy. It is very unfair to make general accusations
and not substantiating these accusations.
We are not in defense of all Asian breeders as we know that there are
breeders from Asia who had caused disrepute. These breeders, not only from
Asia but from any part of the globe, need to be exposed to protect discus enthusiast
from becoming victims of these dishonest breeders.
Aquadis wishes to give our views on the issues below and this article
is not intended to offend or criticize any party. We apologize
unreservedly if this article has caused offence to any party(ies) and we
would like to state that the views expressed here is strictly our views
and we welcome other views. The main purpose of this article is to place
the situations of Asian discus in proper light and to offer alternative
opinions on some of the issues that had been raised.
The issues commonly commented upon may be summarized below :
1. Asian discus being susceptible to infections or carrier of
Before we talk about susceptibility to diseases one should realize that
all living mammals and fishes have in their bodies a mixture of faunas,
that in simple term, meaning they have in their bodies a mixture of good
and bad bacteria's and other microorganisms. In the case of the discus the
common microorganisms present are the cappilaria, spironucleuas (Hexamita)
and intestinal parasites like worms.
Aquarium fishes by the very nature of their environment is living under
"stressful" conditions. However having mentioned this one, one
must not forget that fishes raised in aquariums will generally be able to
tolerate more of the "aquarium stress" compared to those caught
in nature and then confined to the aquarium. Another point most often
overlooked is that in the water itself there are bacterias and fungi &
fungal spores unless one is using sterile water or water produced by very
good filters or RO units.
Coming back to the balance of good and bad bacterias, a healthy fish
will generally not exhibit illness even when they have with them the bad
bacterias or even other parasitic microorganism. However under severe
stress like bad handling causing physical damage or poor water quality be
it insufficient oxygen or chemical toxicity leading to deterioration of
water quality, the fishes may succumb to the infections (both bacterial in
origin or otherwise). Long transportation itself causes considerable
Then there is the issue of different faunas in different countries.
This means that for bacteria's alone, the strains of bacteria's (good &
bad) found in a healthy discus in country A will probably be different in
country B. Even in the same country the strains of bacteria's in different
locations may vary. This is why fishes from different locations and more
so from different countries should NOT be mixed until a certain period of
time. Quarantining newly acquired fishes is a habit aquarist must perform.
It would be better to treat the quarantine fishes as a matter of routine
practice and then introducing the new fishes to the water that is normally
being used for the other fishes. Only after a period of quarantine which
we would propose to be at least two weeks (preferably more) can we mix the
newly acquired fishes with the older fishes.
We suggest that fishes under quarantine should be treated routinely for
a period of 5 days with Metronidazole (preferably added into fish food),
formalin, methylene blue and a wide spectrum antibiotic (like the later
cephalosporins eg cefuroxime or the quinolones eg perfloxacin). We
mentioned these group of antibiotics because the oral forms are available
and are preferred to be added into the fish food. If antibiotics are not
readily available, the use of potassium permanganate in small amounts
may be useful. After this period of quarantine the fishes will begin to
adjust to the new fauna populations in their new set up.
If the fishes are not properly quarantined and prepared or worst still
if the newly acquired fishes are mixed with the existing fishes, we are
then mixing up the different faunas and exposing the fishes both the newly
acquired ones and the existing ones with "new" strains of bacteria's
and/or other microorganisms. Depending on the health and
resistance of the discus, and the "stress" conditions mentioned
the infections may or may not manifest. Remember that infections generally
means that there is an overgrowth of microorganisms. In other words there
is an upset in the normal balance of good & bad microorganism with the
bad microorganism gaining an upper hand.
This may explain why hobbyist who are purchasing fishes from other
countries may experience infections problem with their imports. If more
problems are apparently encountered with Asian Discus it is probably due
to the fact that Asia exports a very large quantity of discus and other
tropical fishes compared to others. There are so much more non Asian
purchasing from Asian breeders than vice versa.
2. Implications that Asian discus do not breed true
Accusations that Asian discus strains do not breed true is often exaggerated
and misplaced. There are so many Asian "made" discus
that do breed true. The blue diamonds, the famous goldens, the ghosts the
red angels & the pigeons can all breed true just to name a few. If a
new strain do not breed true it is simply because the new strain is not
fully "clean" or developed yet!!
An understanding of genetics is important in this area to appreciate
why some discus strains are yet to breed true. One must understand the
theory of dominant and the recessive genes in genetics to delve in this
subject. We are not touching on the topic of genetics as this is a very
large topic to go into. In any case we are sure for those who are
interested many articles can be found in the Internet or other library
Another point which we would like to mention is that Asian breeders
seem to be able to come out with more newer strains because they are
willing to experiment especially with inbreeding which may be frowned upon
by many other breeders. Nevertheless inbreeding experimenting is also
picking up with many non Asian breeders. Some say that the future in
discus is to raise discus from the wild bred only. This could not be
further from the truth as otherwise the newly created Asian strains would
not have fared so well. We dare say that the several new strains developed
over the last decade had injected a lot of life into the discus hobby.
Even well known discus figures are dealing a lot with these new strains.
We would not say that the future for the discus industry lies with the
creations of new strains but nevertheless discus keeping has become more
interesting and exciting with these new strains.
However we do believe that too much inbreeding can "weaken" a
strain and we do encourage breeders to cross breed the new strains with
the wild discus. Firstly this can act to introduce new genes to the stain.
It can also "strengthen" a strain, so to speak, in genetic
terms. Moreover cross breeding with the wild strains can also lead the
breeder to newer strains like the spotted variety of the different
existing new strains. Cross breeding may also see breeders develop new
color forms or better body or finnage or eyes.
3. The use of hormones or artificial coloring agents by
Firstly it is wrong and grossly unfair to assume that only breeders
from Asia uses hormones or other coloring agents. It is even more erroneous
to think that only breeders uses these substances. The various
discussions that had taken place especially in the Internet's various
forums/lists had revealed that SOME breeders from ALL OVER THE WORLD use
this substances. Many good breeders do not use these substances at all,
especially the hormones, but some wholesalers and retail outlets, like the
pet stores, use them in their effort to produce vibrant colors so that
they could be sold off much faster. However it is inadvertently the
breeders who get the bad name!!
It is generally agreed that hormone using is bad because it causes
physiological changes. The usage of artificial coloring substances are
also not very well received. However there seem to be general acceptance
to the use of natural coloring substances like the Canthaxanthines and the
Beta Carotenes which are all Vitamin A precursors and are naturally
available in shrimps, some fishes and animals & many colored flowering
In any case it is not so much the use of these substances which angered
the aquarists or hobbyists but the fact that the usage are not made known
to them that is causing the resentment. We thus have no negative comments
for breeders who admit to the use of these substances. In fact honest
breeders like them should be appreciated.
4. Unscrupulous or dishonest breeders
Here again it will be very unfair to make generalizations or to imply
that all Asian breeders are not trustworthy.
As we had pointed out before, there are so many fish breeders in Asia
and the bad practices of some should not be generalized less the genuine
ones are affected by such general comments. In Malaysia alone there more
than 600 discus breeders. So if you take Asia or even S.E Asia alone, the
number of discus breeders run into thousands. Of course not all are
professional breeders and many are just hobbyists who also breed for
recreation and for pocket money. Nonetheless out of these thousands there
are bound to be many "bad apples".
If we know of breeders or even traders who resort to bad practices (be
it in Asia or otherwise) by all means be specific and expose them so that
others are forewarned. Then we should also, in the name of democracy,
offer the other party a chance to state their side of the story as the
saying goes, "there are two sides to the coin".
We have to mention this because we know that there are many people who
wanted to purchase quality fishes but are not willing to pay the prices
that such quality fishes can command. In our case we cannot entertain such
purchasers. However there may be others who may accept such orders on the
assumption that the purchaser/s should know that each product has its
value. Controversies may develop later over quality which in the case of
live fishes are a very qualitative matter. This point is especially
important for purchases made without actually seeing the fishes first like
in mail order or Internet order. Our advice to hobbyist is just this,
"You get for what you paid". If you do not get for what you paid
then you have a strong ground to complain. Here again we hope the
complaints and comments are specific and NO GENERALIZATION please.