When to Treat

When to Treat



Jim E. Quarles

In today's hobby if you read the questions and information being posed by discus hobbyists, you can not help but be shocked and confused by such a rapid and totally unjustified use of drugs and chemicals used by people trying to keep these wonderful creatures.

It seems few really understand the nature of these fish in spite of claiming to be knowledgeable about their care. When I tune into such chit chat, I hear far more about drugs and chemicals then I do the fish themselves! That is indeed sad. When to Treat.

While certain treatments control some parasites, and should be used wisely the truth of the matter is that most chemicals or drugs are being used without the slightest idea of the over all effects or effectiveness of the treatment.

Discus hobbyists need to learn just what their limitations are and learn to accept the fact that chemicals and drugs are indeed very ineffective and harmful if their use is either poorly applied, misunderstood or not even called for.


Is it just the current trend? The latest fad? Sickly fish to begin with? A lack of knowledge on the part of the hobbyist? Perhaps it is the carry over of wanting what I want now and I am not willing to wait so I'll get what I want out of bottle or pill? Maybe it's a combination of some or all the above?


Other than starting with sickly discus, 95% of the problems with disease can be controlled with proper care without the use of drugs or chemicals.

So how do you avoid sickly discus? That is the 64 thousand dollar question. I always approach this problem in a number of ways.

How well you are able to do this depends to a large extent on how much are you into the hobby. If you have just one tank the task becomes almost impossible, since you have no way to ( Quarantine ) new arrivals. And this is perhaps the most important step of all! This leaves you at the mercy of pure chance. The second consideration is how to avoid transferring infections from one tank to another even with a quarantine tank arrangement. This becomes even more important the more tanks you have in operation.

It seems simple when you think of it but I would bet that in 9 cases out of 10 the following practice is not followed or even considered.

Keep all equipment used in all tanks free of infection or transfer of parasites! Don't dip a net into one tank then use it in another without making totally sure disinfection of the net has been done. The same applies to all items used between tanks. A good question to ask yourself. If you put your hands in one tank, then go to another for a different reason or task, do you wash your hands and clean under your finger nails to be sure you are not transferring something undesirable? Think about it! If a net or hose can transfer parasites or bacteria why not your hands and things lodged under your finger nails?

One other factor I always consider. How clean in general do I keep my tanks and equipment? They say being clean is next to being godly. I don't keep a dirty work area. I disinfect all equipment and areas often. When a given tank comes out of service, I clean it and treat it like I was going to eat out of it myself before reuse. In fact I think I clean it even better than that!


Do you really know what's in your tap water? What's in the R.O water you are placing in holding containers for use later? The answer most of the time is you don't. Most of the time the normal treatment of water via using aged tap water or R.O. water is perfectly safe. But you will notice I said " most of the time " not all the time. With just a little extra effort you can make 100% sure there is nothing harmful being transmitted through your water supply. By stating just a little effort, I mean little effort compared to treating fish for disease factors time after time if you don't.

By running your water through a R.O unit you remove a very high percentage of harmful substances this works fine as long as the Micron Carbon Block is in good shape. The membrane must also be back flushed on regular schedules. This form of filtration is often mis-used and just because you run the water through the R.O. does not mean it is working properly to do it's best job. The use of a properly operated R.O. unit will remove most of the heavy metals and chemical compounds used to make pesticides that can be found in tap water.

However I still do not consider this water " Clean " in terms of the best standard of what is best for discus. More work needs to be done with it to make it as near perfect as possible.


The use of pure 100% R.O. water is not advised in the discus tank, the resulting water output needs to have trace elements replaced, these trace elements are vital to the long term health of the fish. The most effective way I have found to balance out the trace elements is to use 75% pure R.O to 25% tap water after treatment as outlined herein. It is advised to filter the 25% of tap water used through a D.E. filter. ( Diatomaceous Earth ) This will remove 95% or more of any harmful bacteria that might be lurking in your tap water supply. The two waters are then fed into holding containers which are designed in such a way that the temperature is maintained at eighty six degrees F. This replacement water is then passed through a system of (UV) Ultra violet lighting tubes before it is actually used in the fish tanks.

It should be pointed out that if you want to play chemist, this is the place to do it, with mixing of trace elements.


By using water as pure and clean as described and replacing as much as fifty percent of your water per day, you will rarely have need to fight diseases of any type. Of course it is only common sense that over feeding must be avoided at all times. And any and all uneaten food must be removed from your tanks no more then one hour after the fish being fed.


While I am sure many do not want to hear it, and some will not accept it, part of the problem most hobbyists find themselves fighting is the result of poor breeding over the past twenty years of the fish themselves. While the color types have increased the immune system has gone down hill. The current crop of hybrids are far weaker now when it comes to naturally fighting off disease. This factor alone makes perfect water all the more important. If you can keep the diseases and parasites out of the water, then the weaker hybrids can be managed with reasonable medication.

It is my recommendation that maximum effort be placed on water treatment and I am sure this will greatly reduce the need for chemical and drug treatment.

There are many elements to consider when keeping discus, Food, Vitamins, Drugs, Chemicals to control parasites. The total subject is far to complex to be covered in one short article. But the major factor here is to point out that far more can be done with proper water management that far exceeds what is commonly found in the hobby today.

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