You Want Start Keeping Discus??
OK. But Start Out Doing It Right!
By Jim E. Quarles
This article is for the Newbe to discus keeping. And just perhaps a few
things can be of use to those not so new to the hobby.
If you want to keep discus, you had better spend time and effort
learning all you can before you buy your first fish. There are several
right ways to get started and hundreds of wrong ways that would make your
introduction either enjoyable or a living hell.
Before you even consider picking out that first wonderful discus at
your local aquarium store, just turn around and walk over to the book
section. That's where you will find the books you should buy and read
before adding that beautiful fish to your collection. The more you can
learn before you start, the more enjoyable will be the result. Who knows,
you might even become an expert later on!
Recently at one club meeting the speaker told those present that the
best investment they could make in their hobby was a supply of books. I
totally agree with that.
Discus fish are a special type of fish, anyone who tells you that is
not so, just plain don't know what they are talking about or have learned
just enough about them to be stupid in passing on that information. Discus
are demanding in both, food and water conditions, they also are special in
that they present more problems in your effort to keep them parasite and
While all general aquarium principles apply when keeping them, some
must be applied far more rigidly then with other fish.
Now none of the above presents impossible problems to the NEWBIE.
But it is far better to be prepared than to be uninformed and make
Discus fish come from a native habitat that contains soft acidic water.
To keep them in good health, you should provide them with that requirement
They are classified as cichlids, and their are many different kinds of
cichlids each with their own water and food requirements so what applies
to one species does not always meet the requirements of the others.
One thing will become very clear once you obtain your fish, and start
your discus adventure. Frequent and massive water changes are required
much more often than with most aquarium fishes. While a bare bottom tank
is not essential it sure makes it easier keeping the water and tank clean
and clear of uneaten food or fish waste.
WARNING. Under-gravel filters are a big NO NO. They are nothing more
then filth collectors. They take the waste out of site, but not out of the
system. They are not good for fish or plant life.
The ideal setup for a discus tank would be a bare container, with fresh
acidic water that is very soft flowing through it 24 hours per day. (
Dream on ).
Since that is not likely to be the case the next best would be a bare
container of at least 2 ½ gallons of water per inch of fish, with a
couple of sponge rubber filters and a canister filter with activated
carbon in it. That is maintained at 6.8 ph., set at 82 to 84 degrees F.
And remember each tank arrangement must be cycled to develop the
biological filter to good working conditions before adding fish. ( more
about this later.)
Regarding tank size, while young discus fish are small, remember they
grow fast and become quite large. So if your tank is to small they will
not be happy and it will stunt their growth. I recommend the largest tank
you can afford or place.
Breeding tanks later on can be down sized to even twenty gallons per
pair. Now lets pretend we have a nice large tank ( maybe ) fifty five
gallon show tank, and it's biological filter is working as required. How
many fish can you keep? Well it depends on their size. Up to twenty young
fish say to 3 inches in size, or 6 or 8 fully adult discus.
I know the next question? Can I keep Angel fish with my discus, the
answer is yes but it is not advisable for two reasons. One, angel fish are
pigs when it comes to eating they will hog the best food and since the
discus are shy slow picky bottom feeders they may not get enough food.
Second, angelfish can carry diseases that have little effect on themselves
but prove deadly to discus. If you must have other fish in their tanks
make it tetras, small catfish, or other non-aggressive fish.
The next item is proper food. Discus will eat almost anything if they
are trained to do so. But they should have a mixed plate to select from.
Meat like ground beefheart is good if not over done. Flake or pellet food.
Brine shrimp. White worms, but NEVER LIVE WORMS, EITHER BLACK OR TUBIFEX
TYPES. These are worms that can bring in diseases and tapeworms to your
Discus have short guts, and it is better to feed small amounts more
often than one large meal once a day. All uneaten food should be removed
after one hour or so, this helps keep the disease and rotten waste factor
down. Remember these fish demand clean water at all times to remain
Well I hope I have given you good guide lines if your adding discus and
not frightened you away from the most beautiful of all the aquarium
fishes. Join us discus nuts but please make it a pleasure for your self,
not a disappointment.