Care Guide for Discus Fish – The King of the Aquarium
Discus fish are one of the most beautiful freshwater fish in the hobby, known for their spectacular colors and large, circular shape. Discus fish are notoriously difficult to maintain. Many forums recommend strict water changes, such as 100% every day, which is something many Internet forums encourage. Only a few people can follow these rules. The rest of the world follows more low-maintenance methods. We have spent many years caring for discus at home and in our fish shop, helping customers succeed with them. This care guide is based on our experience and provides useful tips and practical advice for anyone starting a discus tank.
What is the ideal temperature for Discus Fish?
To keep happy discus, raise the water temperature. 85-86 degrees F is the recommended water temperature. The reason is because the discus farms we get them from usually keep their waters at these temperatures, and when we try to force them to cool down, it becomes a source of discomfort. If the heat is maintained high, discus are more active and have better color. So if you want to successfully care for discus, be willing to make this necessary change, which may differ from your normal fish keeping habits.
You should also consider pH and water hardness. It is not easy to determine the pH level that should be used, as many people put a lot of emphasis on it. We have found that both wild-caught discus and captive-bred discus perform well at pH levels between 6.8 to 7.6. The same applies to water hardness. Discus can tolerate soft to medium water hardness. Although we haven’t yet kept German-bred discus, they are known to tolerate higher pH and harder water. These parameters are important if your goal is to breed and raise discus fry. However, they’re not as important if you just want to keep them for pleasure.
Although aquarium plants and tank mates are possible for discus aquariums, they must be capable of handling the required hot water temperatures.
What size tank do you need for discus?
Bigger is always better, so we personally recommend a 75-gallon aquarium or larger. Although a 55-gallon tank can be used, you will have to make frequent water changes. Remember that these fish get big, usually 5 to 7 inches in diameter if you’re doing things right. Also, by heating up the tank, their metabolism goes up, you have to feed them more, and then more waste is created. People recommend frequent water changes.
We get asked a lot by customers if we can keep one discus. Although dogs are considered to be pack animals, many people just keep one dog and go home with them every day. This is possible, although it isn’t ideal. Discus is the same.
They are schooling fish and they will be more happy if there is a large group. As a type, cichlids can bully each other, so make sure you have enough. You can reduce this aggression by purchasing 10 to 12 juveniles for your 75 gallon tank. You want them all to be roughly the same size so they can all compete for food. You’ll be able identify the males who are rowdy and can rehome them to the fish shop as they grow in size. You will eventually have a peaceful group of six adult discus, mostly females, with maybe one or two males.
For tank setup, they can be placed in a plant tank. But make sure that you find plants that can withstand high temperatures like anubias. Java ferns, bacopas, microswords, and anubias. Because the higher water temperature reduces oxygen levels, we recommend that you add air stones. A water stone can reduce the possibility of low oxygen levels during summer heat.
Start with a larger school of juvenile discus and then remove the most aggressive ones over time.
Do Discus Really Need Daily Water Changes?
It depends. Remember that the purpose of water changes is to remove waste buildup. Every aquarium is different so the frequency and amount of water changes will vary. Several considerations include how large your tank is, how many fish you have, how much you feed them, and how much biological filtration (e.g., beneficial bacteria and live plants) you have. We recommend that the nitrate level be kept below 40 ppm in planted tanks, and less than 20 ppm in non-planted tanks.
Get an aquarium water test kit to determine how often water changes are needed for your aquarium. You can also download our free infographic which guides you through the process step-by-step.
What fish can be kept with Discus?
Two criteria must be met by tank mates: they must be able live in extreme temperatures and cannot compete with the discus for food. Discus are slow feeders. If they are placed with large schools of tetras or barbs, the discus will be less likely to survive. They can also be too fast for other hot water fish such as clown loaches and German blue rams.
Instead, consider starting with a discus only tank where they are the centerpiece fish. After they are eating well, you can gradually add cardinal tetras and Sterbai cory catsfish to the tank, or a bristlenose pleco. You should limit the number of tank mates or the discus might lose its nutrition.
Cardinal tetras are a popular tank mate for discus tanks, but don’t get so many that they outcompete the discus for food.
What is the best food for discus fish?
Most people feed them foods that are way too big, not realizing that discus mouths are quite small. You may suspect that they are eating too much food.
Frozen bloodworms are great because their skinny shape is perfect for slurping up, but discus can get addicted to them quite easily. To ensure they get all the nutrients they require, make sure you give them plenty of small food items. We’ve had good luck with prepared foods like Hikari Vibra Bites, Sera Discus Granules, Tetra Discus Granules, and Hikari Discus Bio-Gold. Others include live or frozen brine shrimp, blackworms or microworms, as well as freeze-dried or live blackworms.
Why are Discus Fish so Expensive
This was something we mentioned previously. Tank conditions are essential for raising fry and breeding them. Because discus take longer to grow to full adult size than other fish, such as guppies, it is time-consuming and labor-intensive. There are many options for discus to be bought from local breeders, fish shops, and even online. However, if you have never owned discus before, we advise that you stay away from extreme prices. In other words, don’t buy the cheapest ones that may have quality issues, and don’t buy the $300 adults that may die from your lack of experience. For the best bullying prevention, ensure that you purchase at least one group.
Keeping discus for entertainment is easier than caring for high-maintenance discus fry.
How Do You Keep Discus Fish Happy?
The main takeaway from this care guide is to
. Raise the heat, keep the water clean and stable, and feed them correctly. Keep your children away from the tank, and keep them off of the glass. Also, don’t put their aquarium right next to the TV with lots of loud noises and flashing lights. Anything you can do for these timid creatures will make them feel more secure and help to improve their quality of life.
Last but not least, reduce your stress. Many novice discus owners worry too much about their discus and don’t take the time to enjoy their beautiful discus. These simple guidelines will help you have a fun and successful discus tank that lasts many years.
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