November 2002

November 2002


DPH Tank of the Month questionnaire
With Pamela Nelson

How did you get into keeping a Planted Discus Tank?

It was a natural evolving of the hobby for me. I have always had a lot of houseplants, and have always kept fish. When I purchased an 80 gallon tank in 1999, I had the room to attempt what was for me a large, fully planted community tank for the first time. This first community setup included 5 angel fish and a large assortment of tetras. The fish did very well, but the plant growth left allot to be desired. I did not have enough light for the plants to do their best and knew nothing about fertilizers or CO2 injection. In December of 2001, it was necessary to tear down the tank and start over as I was moving from Oregon to California. I had seen some large discus on display at a local fish store in Portland, and decided that I wanted to set up a community tank with discus as the focal point. With this in mind, I began planting my aquarium, buying their tankmates, and reading everything I could find about Discus.

What do you feel has been the most rewarding aspect of keeping such a tank?

It has been fun to watch and learn from the constantly evolving aquascape. It has grown from a few scraggly plants barely hanging on - to a lush garden with the same plants, that I have to trim constantly to keep under control. Now I am in the process of slowly replacing the fast growing plants with better, slow growing ones. It also has been exciting to watch my discus pair up and begin spawning among the leaves.

What has been the hardest challenge for you in keeping a Planted Discus tank and have you overcome it?

The hardest challenge was without a doubt learning the requirements of a planted tank, and providing them on a low budget. I had spent many an hour admiring the lushly planted tanks in magazines and books, but the only detailed information I had found on starting one myself involved much more high-tech equipment and substrate than I had the means to purchase. The turning point for me was when I was able to purchase a used computer and subsequently discovered the internet and the wealth of information available.

What kind of approach do you take in maintaining your tank the High Tech way or a more natural way?

Definitely low tech. I have 3 bottles of DIY CO2 with hoses leading into my filter intakes, plain gravel as substrate - with Jobe Fern and Palm sticks under my more demanding plants, and 2 double fluorescent light strips from the hardware store. The bottles of CO2 mix I have behind the tank in a window sill - they warm up with the morning sun and slow down from the cooler air in the evening. I space the preparation days so that there is always 2 bottles going strong.

What piece of advice can you give to others who are thinking about setting up a tank like this?

Read everything available before beginning your planted tank, sorting through the many different ways of doing things before deciding what approach will be best for you and your fish.

The biggest regret I have is purchasing inferior fish from a local fish store, instead of ordering my discus from a reputable breeder.

Tank Details

80 gallon tank

Penguin 330 one side of tank, Fluval 204 on other
average 3 inches gravel substrate
2 wattes per gallon
Jobe Fern & Palm spikes under some plants
dose with traces every water change
change 25+ gallons every 3 days
3 bottles DIY Co2 running into filter intakes

Fish -

5 discus - 4 blue diamonds and 1 blue snakeskin(?)
11 rummynose tetras
4 serpa tetras
4 black phantom tetras
2 corydoras
1 clown loach


Anubias Barteri
Anubias Barteri Nana
Anubias Spps. "Spade-Leaf"
Cabomba Caroling
Valisneria (Jungle-Val)
Crinum Calimistratum
Cryptocoryne Wendtil
Echinodorus Amazonicas
Hydrocotyle Leucocephala (?)
Hygrophilia Diformis
Hygrophilia Salicifolis
Microsorium Pteropus
Nymphaea Lotus v. Green
Nymphaea Maculator
Rotala rotundifolia (?)
Sagittaria subulata


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