Discus The Easy Way III
By Uncle Bill
In the two previous installments we discussed several things to do and
not to do, to avoid some common mistakes that often lead to problems for
the hobbyist new to the keeping of Discus. The best way to solve problems
is to avoid creating them in the first place.
So far, we've carefully observed the fish in question prior to
purchase, and avoided as much stress as possible during the move to its
new home . Something that should be considered so far is the purchase of
discus through mail order. This can be a dream come true or a real
When buying by mail order, it is a good idea to stick with established
breeders. This suggestion may not be true if one is not interested in good
or verifiable blood lines or is just trying to save money. My reasons
recommending known breeders is that they are far more experienced in long
distance shipping, will guarantee live delivery and do provide you with
established and verifiable blood lines. There are so many breeders touting
their new "strains", e.g., lollypop red and blue, sunset orange
with green lightning, etc. (you get the idea). These advertised strains,
in a great many (most) of the cases, are not "strains" at all
and will not breed true. The advantage of dealing with established
breeders such as Jack Wattley, Bernd Degen etc., is that they have either
developed proven strains, or in many cases refined them, and their fishes
breed true. You can expect to pay a premium for these quality fish and it
will be well worth it.
OK, the discus are now in the quarantine tank. If the display tank has
not yet been set up and cycled, there are a few things to consider.
- Find a location with very low foot traffic. Just by constantly
walking past the tank, vibrations from the footsteps and the constant
motion around the fish can cause additional stress.
- Choose a location that is as close as possible to the water source.
This will save a lot of walking and spills when changing the water.
- Get a very sturdy stand. Water weighs 8+ lbs./gal. (approx. 2
kilos/l.). There is also the added weight of the tank itself as well
as that of the sand, rocks, etc.
- Think ahead about those spills and/or leaks. Pumps do break down,
hoses come loose and occasionally a tank will leak (always when you're
on vacation for a couple of weeks) and there will be the occasional
spill during water changes. Guys, don't place the tank and stand on an
unprotected hardwood floor or on the new white wool carpet that your
wife looked forward to all those years.
- Very important - be sure there are electrical outlets conveniently
- Get a "ground fault interrupt" electric power strip or
two. Preferably with two sections so that one side can be switched off
without affecting the other equipment that must remain on constantly,
e.g., pumps, heaters, pH meters, etc. They are not expensive and can
be found at any retail computer store or at Radio Shack.
- Another thing which is often overlooked is equipment failure. Pumps
stop, heaters either won't heat or get stuck on hot and ballasts burn
out. Have backup equipment on hand. Even an inexpensive air pump can
keep the water circulating and save the day (and your fish) when a
pump fails. Whatever you do, always have a backup heater on hand.
- I will get a lot of critical email about the following, but here
goes anyway. Any tank of between 5 and 55 gal. (20 - 220 l.), (not
stocked with fish such as Oscars, Arrowanas, and other similar large
waste producing fish) be it planted or not, community or not, can be
filtered with a hang on power filter. Choose one that will circulate
the total volume of water between 4 and 5 times per hour. This will
hold true only if regular weekly water changes are done of at least,
and I do mean at least, 25% and that is if the tank is not
overcrowded. Allow for 15 gal.(60 l.) per discus before including the
water requirements for any other fish. That's actual gallons of water,
not advertised gallons. To determine the true volume (allow for sand,
rocks, etc.), measure the inner dimensions of the length, width and
height in inches. Multiply L x W x H and divide by 231. This is how
many gallons of water are really in the tank.
- Whatever you do, do not overfeed. This is probably the most common
mistake that less experienced hobbyists make and is one of the worst.
Your fish should be fed several times each day when quite young and
then only in small amounts. Remember that, as a general rule, a fish's
stomach is only about the size of its eye. Fish that come swimming to
the front when you approach and beg for food are healthy fish. That
doesn't mean they should be fed each time.
- Keep the temperature at a constant 86F (30C) degrees. When designing
a community tank that features discus, choose only fish that
originally (historically) came from these warm waters. Choose Cardinal
Tetras Paracheirodon axelrodi rather than Neon Tetras Hyphessobrycon
or Paracheirodon innesi and maybe dwarf cichlids Apistogramma sp.
instead of Cory catfish Corydoras sp.
- Leave the lights on for 12 hrs./day, sit back and enjoy the show.