DPH Tank of the Month
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
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
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.
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
5 discus - 4 blue diamonds and 1 blue snakeskin(?)
11 rummynose tetras
4 serpa tetras
4 black phantom tetras
1 clown loach
Anubias Barteri Nana
Anubias Spps. "Spade-Leaf"
Hydrocotyle Leucocephala (?)
Nymphaea Lotus v. Green
Rotala rotundifolia (?)