Something we can all understand.
By Jim E. Quarles

For some time now I have been wanting to take up the battle involving the wild, senseless, crazy result of everyone ( Naming Discus ) random names that make no sense to anyone, other than the ego of the persons naming the fish.

This has lead to the most bizarre arrangement in the tropical fish hobby today. If you have kept discus for more than a week, I am sure you realize that the current usage of names tells you absolutely nothing about the blood lines of any given fish being offered for sale or added to your collection.

Frankly, a "sunset-sunrise-moonlight-star-burst solid green-red fin discus" does not help much in knowing anything at all, if you are considering buying some of the new fish selections. While the name above is far fetched, it not out of line with a lot of names you see advertised everyday for discus.

Unless we develop a sensible program for classification it is bound to get worse, not better!


TYPE I Discus have yellow brown background color.
TYPE II Discus have red or maroon body background color.
TYPE III Discus have a solid colorations that is 85% of the individual.
Male fish will have to show as much solid coloration as permissible under the color type.
TYPE IV Discus are full-colored fish that show no striations whatsoever and minimal barring allowed.
TYPE V Discus would be used to define any special fish that do not fit in any of the above defined types. This classification would need to be defined sooner or later.

If you study the above system you can see that all current discus can be classified using the five types stated. The beauty of using such a system is that all of us can know what fish is being offered and in addition, the developer can " tack on any silly common name they like without confusing the buyer as to exactly what the fish looks like".

A common name applied will in no way be considered a defining element in the classification, but for the time being can be used for "ODD BALLS".

Within the system each developer can apply any common name they want but this in no way will be considered a defining element in the classification. " This would be nothing more than an ego trip for the developer".

Today, there are no pure strains of discus. ( discus wherein 100% offspring of f1 f2 f3 and further generations that are virtually identical to the original parents, with the possible exceptions of wild discus, and even this is open to question).

Rather, what we have are types that have been selectively engineered by the breeder, or breeders, for dominant or recessive traits.

It is beyond the scope of this article to go into details of discus genetics.( Which I feel is mostly an unexplored field).

Generally, in any animal or fish, the breeder, over time, creates individual types using dominant and recessive genes. This more often than not is in response to what sells well, or a pure profit motive.

In considering a uniform classification the first step is to chart by background color. The next step is to classify it by the color of the striations ( if not a solid color type.) Then the fish is further identified by the direction of the striations and finally, by the body form that is exhibited.( Not all discus are round anymore, they should be but they are not).



Intensely colored individuals can be described as Brilliant or Metallic.
Weakly-colored individuals can be described as Powdered or Pastel.

There are three terms to describe the striations forms presently available.

  • < CS> Complete Striations, that should be well defined, with the striations running completely through the fish.
  • <TS> For fish with ( thin ) striations where the backgrounds at least 50% of the fish.
  • <HS> For fish that have thick or heavy striations that covers more then 50% of the fish.

Now we deal with the directions of the striations.

  • ( H.) Is for horizontal striations that run laterally from the front to the tall of the fish.
  • ( V ) Is for vertical striations the run up and down the sides of the fish with no substantial horizontal striations present. ( These types currently bring high prices).

If there is spotting on the fish , it should be as uniform as possible to create an eye-appealing look. Spotting can be defined as:

  • <LS> Light spotting, with few spots and not well defined as a pattern.
  • <HS> Heavily spotted with a defined pattern.

Body Form.

There are presently three recognized body forms of discus offered on the market. Once you have identified the body form and using the above guidelines you can be sure of the classification and will know the type of discus in question.

A discus is normally shaped as round as possible, with a shape that is pleasing to the eye, with good proportions and symmetry. The shape should be a rounded platter type of look. ( Football shaped discus should not be allowed to reproduce). This applies to any other noted deformity as well.

  • <MF> Mid-form Discus with mid form have a steeper upper and lower body.
    There is a lot of room to develop sub-types within this form. Fish with pronounced high and low body development are not eye appealing to most hobbyist.
  • <HF> High form. Discus can look impressive if the fins are balanced. But it must be noted that, in such forms, the look can be the result of a deformed spine within the fish, which is of questionable taste, and improper breeding procedures.

A little bit of salesmanship for the above system.

No one can doubt that world wide uniform system of discus classification is needed, and needed badly and needed now. Or at least as soon as an agreed upon system can be internationally be developed.

The current state of affairs is best described as total madness, it is like the tower of babble reported in the bible, where by the only one who understands what is described is the person who is describing it.

I have seen nothing suggested in the trade magazines or other publications that acknowledges this problem. Perhaps this is because it has not occurred to others that in order to establish these or other classification standards some sort of international body must be formed to work on the project. The people selected for this first effort must be well known as leaders in the current field of discus culture.

Only in this way will any resulting suggestions be considered by the industry.

I therefore suggest that the following individuals be asked to serve on such a body and make individual recommendations and come to an agreement for such standardization.

Mr. Jack Wattley, Mr. Dick Au, Mr. Bing Seto, Jim E. Quarles, Dr Herbert Axelrod, Marc Weiss, Horst W.Kohler, Ms. Mary Sweeney, Mr Bob Wilson

These people could be the start of such a project, I am sure other names can be put forward and a well rounded and excepted committee formed. While I make no claim that the suggested system herein is the only one or even the best one, but it is a start.


Examples of current forms using this method of Classification.
Using this chart you can categorize all the known types.

Type I. Fish have a brown background color.

  • < 1A > Blue striated.
  • < 1B > Green striated.
  • < 1C > Turquoise Striated
  • < 1D > Pearl form.
  • < 1E > Blue spotted
  • < 1F > Green spotted
  • < 1G > Turquroise Spotted

Type II Fish that have a red form maroon background.

  • < 2A > Blue striated
  • < 2B > Green Striated
  • < 2C > Turquoise Striated
  • < 2D > Pearl Form
  • < 2E > Blue Spotted
  • < 2F > Green spotted
  • < 2G > Black Spotted

Type III Fish are solid color of least 85 to 95% males, striated females possible.

  • < 3A > Blue
  • < 3B > Green
  • < 3C > Turquoise
  • < 3D > Red
  • < 3E > Yellow
  • < 3F > Golden

Type IV. Fish are full color. Solid color no striations in either the male or female also no barring allowed.

  • < 4A > Blue
  • < 4B > Green
  • < 4C > Turquoise
  • < 4D > Red
  • < 4E > yellow
  • < 4F > Golden.

Type V. This type is harder to define, since they do not fit well in all the types list above. But generally they might be classified as follows.

  • < 5A > White to pearlecent background with golden barring through the head and the slight turquoise sheen.
  • < 5B > Albino types.

Also working with in this system: discus such as the tiger, snake-skins, and others can be fit into this fifth type.

In closing, sooner or later we have got to bring order to this tower of babble, and I can think of no better time than now.

Credit is hereby gratefully extended to Mr. Stephen S. Scaman who passed away before we could complete the system as I have now defined it. I am sure Stephen would agree if not totally with the above system, at least with the need for a international system of discus classification.

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