Cleaning and ....

Cleaning and ....


By Jim E. Quarles

I hope the method I use and have developed over the years helps you. I am sure there are many other ways to reach the same goal. This just happens to be the way I have learned over time to tank condition wild discus.

I rush to the airport a little ahead of time. Knowing that there might be a foul up with the shipment. It has happened so many times before. But one can always hope the Airline will have treated this shipment right and is on time. (That would be amazing) And that alone would be worth the trip to the airport to see!!

This morning I am expecting twenty boxes of assorted species, with nine to ten fish per box. Wow (180 wild ones.) But I think I am ready. I started getting the fish room ready for this shipment last week. Clean tanks with properly aged water are waiting. The new set of nets I bought will help, these guys when fully adult and wild, kind of go nuts at first. An old net will not last long when handling these guys.

When I get to the freight office I am pleasantly surprised the flight arrived while I was on the way. The boxes are stacked neatly in the (Warm Room) at the freight office. Looks like only two boxes are drip masters. (That's how I refer to leaker boxes.)

I open these to and check the contents right on the spot along with the freight clerk. All damages to boxes are noted on the air-bill. I was lucky this time no dead and dried out discus. There is still enough water in each bag that leaked to keep the fish alive.

I always take extra bags with me. I simply drop the leaky bags into new bags to prevent the loss of more water, if the water is really low. I add some aged water from a five-gallon water bottle in the truck. Just enough to give the fish a shot at making it to the hatchery room.


I am always prepared to open the boxes and look at the new wild arrivals expecting to see some very sad puppies. Most of the time I am not disappointed in this regard! Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised and find excellent fish with few problems or damage. But this generally is not the case.

Wild discus are collected a long ways from Sacramento, California and they are not treated as the King of fishes should be treated until they arrive at my hatchery, then and only then, do they start getting the Royal treatment that they deserve.

Discus are pretty tough fish in spite of what you have been lead to believe. They have to be or none of us would have any due to the treatment when shipped as wild creatures. The fish arrive with torn fins, in most cases in colder water than what is considered safe and hours after being placed in a small volume of water that has become fouled during shipment.


I have prepared in advance about a half dozen five gallon buckets with air stones and about two gallons of fresh clean aged water. I open the boxes and one by one place the fish in the buckets sometimes as many as five fish to the bucket. I then slowly add aged water with a pH. of 6.5 though a small air tube, like you use for your air stone. I can adjust the flow with an in line air valve.

The room is heated and the water is generally about 84 degrees in the buckets. I work very fast since it's a large shipment. I give the fish just enough time in the bucket to reduce the chance of water changing shock. Then I net them into fifty five gallon tanks that contain nothing but two sponge filters (very large) these of course have been seeded in working tanks before they are needed for this shipment.

These first holding tanks are on an automatic water replacement system. They have an overflow with Twenty-five percent of new aged water being replaced every 24 hours. Once all the fish are in place in the first holding tanks tight lids are placed on the tanks to prevent jumpers, and the lighting is reduced in that section of the fish room.

I do nothing more for the next twenty four hours except remove any dead fish that did not make the trip. Of course I do a 100% eyeball check of all the fish so that I can tell if I have any bad cases that must be treated at once. If I find such fish, they are moved to special twenty-gallon treatment tanks. Where the first thing added was Rock Salt. teaspoon per gal. These tanks also have one drop per gallon of Malachite Green dye that has been added with the salt.

These tanks contain no filters, only a heater that keeps the tank at 90 degrees F. And an air stone. This treatment is to help heal any areas of broken skin or missing scales and should fungus be present it will prevent its growth until other measures can be taken.

I will get back to these fish later. The remaining fish look fairly clear of damage other than torn or some lost fins. But we both know they are loaded with parasites.

The first feeding is done at least 24 hours after they arrive. I feed them a good supply of tubifex Worms. Now before you blow your top follow along with my reasons for doing this. 1. These fish are hungry they have most likely not had food for up to two weeks. Second they are already loaded with internal parasites so that is a problem I next have to deal with. But for the time being I need to get some protein into their system. Wild fish after not eating for a while are almost impossible to start on beefheart or flake foods, first they don't know what it is and second they will not like it even if they try it. Tubifex worm fill that need quite well they will generally start eating with little problem when offered the first worms.


At this point the torn and ragged fins should start to heal, I add teaspoon of salt to each 10 gallons of holding water and 1 drop of malachite green. I hold these conditions for a week to ten days. After ten days I start the fish on beefheart by mixing a little of the tubifex worms in with the beefheart, to change them over to pure beefheart can take up to a month. Once they are eating well and the fins and eyes start to regain a normal look, I let the salt and Malachite green be removed by water changes. I prepare new clean holding tanks, with the same type of water they are now used to.


I now have had the fish for about a month if all is according to normal conditions. It is time for the first removal of external parasites. To do this I use Potassium Permanganate. I get the PP in powdered form and setup a 20-gallon dip tank.

I mix 1/6 teaspoon of PP to a pint of warm water. This is added to twenty gallons aged water in the dip tank. An air stone or two is set to bubble on high in the tank.

I then net two or more fish in a very large soft net and while keeping them in the net, dip them into the PP mix. I retain the fish in the net for up to 3 minutes in the pp bath. They are then removed while still in the net and placed in the new clean holding tanks. This process is repeated until all the fish have been dipped for three minutes each.

The use of the PP removes most if not all the slime coat on the fish through oxidation. Along with this removal the parasites are also washed away, or at least a lot of them if not all of them are washed off the fish. Some of those parasites even in the gills will be removed this way, but don't count on it for the total removal of gill flukes that treatment will come shortly in our follow up dips or baths.

The discus will replace its slime coat in about 24 hours and I sometimes use stress coat in the water to aide this replacement. If the fish still had some fin rot working the pp dip certainly will end it or slow it down greatly. After this first dip the fish are once again allowed to rest for a couple of days. I watch them closely and make notes as to any additional problems that need attention next.


A couple of days after the first dip, I prepare to treat the fish for the removal of Gill Flukes, I assume they all have them. I have not been wrong about this yet!

I add three to four PPM of Praziquantel to the holding tank water. The filtering process is bypassed for 12 hours and in effect the fish have no filter working only the air stones. (Since I am on central filters, I keep the filters working just not exchanging water with these tanks.) After 12 hours the shut off valves are opened and the tanks go back on line with the filters. This process is repeated everyday for three days. At the end of three days the water exchange has removed the remaining praziquantel, and the fish are back in drug free water. Also hopefully they are free of gill flukes as well. (At least adult ones).


At this point the fish are eating good and the natural beauty of the fish has returned, their eyes are bright and the skin and scales look good and parasite free, the breathing is normal not rapid or short.

I now add Metronidazole to their beefheart food. I buy it in 250 mg tablets and mix two tablets or 500 mg. To one pound of pure beefheart. I feed this to the fish for up to two weeks. Generally on the second day of feeding the medicated food I notice dead worms expelled from the fish.

The fish are now 95% parasite free and growing in good health. But some work remains to be done before I can call them Parasite free and tank conditioned. Keep in mind that all the while, these events are taking place the fish are being supplied with lots of water changes and the pH has been between 6.4 and 6.8.

What I do now depends on a lot factors. Most of the time I move the fish to fifty-five gallon fresh tanks with six fish per fifty-five gallons. At this point I pick out the best looking fish and move them into 100 to 150 gallon holding tanks I sometimes have twenty fish per 100 gallons in these tanks. These fish will be considered as possible breeder pairs later. I will not go into how I pair them off since that is a different subject entirely.

One other thing should be noted, after we have reached this stage with the fish I add Nitrofurazone to the system at a ratio that will act as a slight disinfectant in the water. Not much but it does provide a little added safety and I think prevents some bacterial out breaks.

Well that's about it. I hope I have covered all the important parts of it. Of course dealing with the volume of fish I handle requires a lot of tanks and central filtering systems. I currently have seven filter systems working and it looks like a mad man entered the fish room and installed PVC pipes and valves everywhere.

Copyright 1996/2017 Discus Page Holland.
All rights reserved