FOOD, FOOD, FOOD, BUT WHAT TO FEED
By Jim E. Quarles.
You know it seems strange, but food is almost as important as the water
parameters for people who keep discus, yet little is ever published about
the subject. And stranger still is that no real comparison has ever been
made between the types of food that are currently common, and are being
used to keep and breed discus fish.
About all you really know about food is the sales pitch on the can or
bag or bottle and the advertising you see in the hobby magazines. I really
must ask is the advertised food in question really is what is best for
your discus? Or is it just a hype to sell you the product?
Perhaps the first requirement must be, will the fish eat what's
offered? if so at what ages? This is the prime question because if the
fish refuse the produce offered, that ends our interest in that item under
Discus fish can be trained either from an early age or by forced
feeding to eat almost anything offered. This does not mean that the fish
like the food or item, nor does it prove it is the best selection for the
general health and well being of the fish being forced to eat offered
WE WILL CONSIDER THE FOLLOWING ITEMS IN THIS COMPARISON.
- Baby Brine Shrimp, Adult Brine Shrimp, frozen Brine Shrimp and
- Dry or flake Brine Shrimp.
- Flake foods of all types.
- Granulated foods.
- Frozen foods of all common types sold.
- Fresh cut meats ( home made mixtures).
One thing everyone who keeps discus fish should remember is that this
species of fish has a very shortened gut arrangement and any food fed
should be in small Amounts and fed more often rather than a single large
feeding at any given time.
Brine shrimp when fresh and alive is an very good offering to young and
old discus, fresh live baby brine shrimp is a must if you are raising
newly weaned discus fry.
Frozen brine shrimp in my view is next to useless because in the
process of freezing most of the body fluids are lost and only the skeleton
remains even when vitamins have been added, and vitamins in such offerings
are quickly defused into the surrounding water and lost.
Freeze dried or powdered bring shrimp is offered by retailers, I find
it useless in the feeding requirements of discus, young or adults.
You name a substance, and someone has made a flake food out of it at
one time or another. A lot of the offerings in flake food will be found
worthwhile as a prime food for discus. Most fish will accept it and some
will greedily eat it. However a warning must be issued here. While the
nutritional value of flake foods are acceptable, they should never be
considered as a sole source of food for any fish.
Another drawback when using flake food is that sometimes it is believed
to be a causative factor in intestinal blockage, which in turn can cause
head standing in discus. The gut become packed and passage of the food
fails, this in turn increases the chance for imbalance in fishes swim
While flake food is almost the universal food sold in most pet stores
care must be used when feeding it. Most promise that they will not cloud
the water. This claim is mostly false. If over used and allowed to remain
to rot in the tank bacteria go to work on the rotting food and that in
turn will cloud the water after a period of time.
I have found most granulated foods the most undesirable of all the
types offered for sale when you are feeding discus. Of course like all
things there are exceptions to the rule. Some discus develop a desire once
they are trained to eat this type of food but I am not sure the extra work
required to train them to eat it is worth the effort.
It has been my experience that the nutritional value of all dry type
foods are about the same, of course all brand names give you the old song
and dance that theirs is better, " new and improved, fortified,
redesigned " and a lot of other sales pitches to get you to buy a
Recently one brand, BioKyowa, has been touted as some kind of super
blend that beats mother nature when it comes to nutrition. Their
advertising states the following. " Fry feed Kyowa A. is a fine
particle feed produced by a special manufacturing process and is blended
from rigorously selected ingredients. " Sounds a lot like " New
and improve or fortified to me." I found that young fry will quickly
learn to eat their grade A food and I've had some degree of success with
their grade B product.
But based on my experience with BioKyowa food it is no better than any
granulated food where the particles are made the same size. As for their
claim to improve growth, I would take that will a grain of salt.
One other disadvantage with this food is that they only sell in bulk
and it must be kept in a cool dry place or it goes bad quickly.
I would advise most people to pass on the claims made for this product
because of the factors listed, plus adult or near adult discus will rarely
eat it. The cost is also not competitive with the current market place for
All test results I have for this "Super" food were done with
food fish none with tropical fish. When you compare this product with
others you will find it's claims to be mostly hype to sell the product.
Over the years many people and companies have put together all kinds of
combinations of foods then subjected them to the frozen state, Will I
agree this makes shipping and handling fish foods much easier, and it does
add a degree of " supposed freshness " to the product, and in
some cases this might even be true.
Just as in humans, fish need bulk and fiber in their food, the total
protein content is also to be considered as a major factor.
Before moving on to the meaty formulas you should understand a little
about the foods sold as medicated types. Unless you mix the formula
yourself with known ingredients I would not put much stock in the
advertised claims on this type of food.
Along with 99% of the anti-biotics sold by pet stores and aquarium
shops this type of medication is useless, because it is either falsely
labeled or the contents are so outdated in shelf life that they have
little or no effect. This may or may not prove true with complex chemicals
such as formaldehyde, and potassium permanganate, even with this type of
product you should be aware of it's packaged date and it's general
condition before use.
Discus fish are omnivorous feeders, this is due to the fact that in
nature they are offered only what can be found in the local habitat they
live in they are not migratory fish. They depend on what is available
It is important that plant material be included in their diet, it should
even contain some fruit to round out the offerings. Vitamins can also be
added to the formula, and this to some extent is of questionable value.
Vitamins tend to lose their effectiveness when mixed with water.
HERE ARE THREE MEATY FORMULAS:
The following mixtures are in common use among the most success discus
breeders of the world. But remember you can very the ingredients greatly
and devise your own formula that your fish might like better and accept
Any of these formulas can be medicated as required to treat any sick
- Formula 1.
Finely chopped beef heart minced with multi-vitamins, shrimp meat,
chopped spinach, white worms are sometimes added, Live brine shrimp
- Formula 2.
Beef heart mix that is prepared as follows, one whole beef heart,
remove all the veins, gristle and fat leaving only the lean red meat.
Chop to size, and run through a grinder once, then add one uncooked
egg. Then 1 pkg of gelatin unflavored, one teaspoon of paprika, and
four tablespoons of spirulina algae flake food. Then place the mixture
in the grinder and run until nearly a liquid. Spread on a cookie sheet
and place in a freezer. In addition I sometimes add frozen artemia and
frozen blood worms.
- Formula 3.
One part beef heart or turkey heart, one part liver, one part fish and
one part mixed vegetables. In addition a selection of flake foods, or
bulk dry foods of almost any brand is then mixed with the formula. In
addition you can feed frozen brine shrimp and bloodworms.
These are just basic ideas to allow you to consider making up your own
formula, your fish will soon tell you if the like it. But once they start
eating your mixture you're on your way to healthy and well developed fish.
In closing, just a word about the hormones used in cattle which of
course appears in the beef heart. Some say it's bad, some say it has no
effect at all. I personally find it helps enlarge the fish that feed upon
Also some breeders say no to tubifex worms and say they are nothing but
trouble, others state they use them in their fish rooms with little or no
problem. I leave it to you to decide which way to go with feeding live
Be alert to those who would tell you they have the perfect answer or
formula for discus. There is no perfect food, but a wide ranging mixture
comes close to it.