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Discus Fish (Symphysodon spp): A Complete Care Guide


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Discus are among the most lovely fish out there within the freshwater aquarium pastime. Nonetheless, they’re additionally among the most difficult.

With just a little little bit of analysis and the right setup, anybody can have a surprising tank crammed with discus. These fish want pristine water circumstances and may be very costly, so you’ll want to give them the perfect care doable! 

Hold studying to seek out out all the pieces you’ll want to find out about this standard aquarium fish and the way to preserve these difficult fish in your individual aquarium! 


Discus (Symphysodon spp.) are named for his or her prolonged disc-like look. These fish vary in form and measurement and may be round or triangular.

It’s at present believed that there are 3-5 completely different species throughout the Symphysodon genus. The blue discus (Symphysodon aequifasciatus) and purple discus (Symphysodon discus) are the preferred throughout the aquarium pastime. 

Although these fish aren’t typically known as cichlids, they’re part of the Cichlidae household.

Pure habitat

This text will primarily take a look at blue discus (Symphysodon aequifasciatus) and purple discus (Symphysodon discus). 

Blue discus are present in japanese elements of the Amazon River in South America. Extra particularly, they stay in slow-moving tributaries east of the place the Negro River meets the Solimões River. 

They are often present in faculties; throughout breeding season they’ll develop into extra territorial and is likely to be present in smaller numbers. They like to cover among the many rocky substrate behind fallen branches and roots. 

Pink discus are additionally discovered within the Amazon River however are extra concentrated in Brazil. These fish may be discovered on the mouth of the Negro River and within the decrease areas of the Abacaxis and Trombetas Rivers.

Whereas not a lot is thought about their pure environments, we are able to assume that they like slower-moving waters with roots and vegetation, as blue discus do. 


The primary cause that discus are so standard within the aquarium pastime is because of their fascinating physique shapes and intense colorations. These fish have a specific pigmentation that makes them a lovely centerpiece within the aquarium. 

Many variations have been created by means of the trade, like pigeon blood discus, snow-white discus, and starburst discus. Their coloration depth and patterns will additional affect pricing.

One of the frequent patterns to come back throughout is checkerboard, the place a contrasting coloration is mottled over one other, making for a genuinely vibrant fish. 

As their frequent names counsel, blue discus may have principally blue our bodies whereas purple discus may have principally purple our bodies. 

It’s not unusual for a blue discus to have some purple coloration or a purple discus to have some blue coloration. Horizontal and vertical patterning can even differ throughout fish, and yellows, greens, and browns could also be current. 

Discus usually have completely different coloured eyes, which may be vibrant purple, yellow, or brown. 

How massive does a discus fish get?

Discus Fish In Aquarium

Each blue and purple discus develop to be about 8 inches (20.3 cm) lengthy and eight inches excessive. These fish are laterally compressed, which makes them very tall as a substitute of broad. 

What’s the lifespan of a discus fish?

Discus fish can stay for a surprisingly very long time. Many captive-bred fish can stay to be 10-15 years previous. 

Sadly, not many discus make it to this age as they are often tougher to maintain than most different freshwater tropical fish.

However what makes discus so difficult to maintain?

Discus tank necessities

Discus aren’t as troublesome to maintain as individuals say. Nonetheless, they do want a whole lot of house to flourish.

As a result of these fish should be stored in teams, it is best to have no less than a 75 gallon (283.9 L) tank or bigger. 

Many hobbyists consider that these fish do greatest in a bare-bottom tank. They’re simpler to scrub as a way to preserve water parameters steady.

In addition they really useful including driftwood and potted crops, like Anubias spp., Java fern (Microsorum pteropus), and Amazon swords (Echinodorus amazonicus), which are in a position to stand up to larger temperatures.

Then again, many hobbyists have nice success with a sand substrate with planted species. So long as water high quality is maintained and crops are chosen accordingly, there shouldn’t be a lot of a distinction. 

Are discus fish arduous to maintain?

Discus have a status for being very troublesome to maintain. It is because these fish are typically additional delicate to modifications in water parameters, which many newbie hobbyists won’t absolutely perceive or have the ability to management. 

Water parameters

Discus additionally should be stored at larger water temperatures. They do their greatest when maintained at a continuing 85-86° F (29.4-30.0° C); some hobbyists even wish to preserve them nearer to 90° F (32.2° C), however that is the overall superb vary. 

pH must be between 6.5-7.5 always. Basic hardness (GH) and carbonate hardness (KH) don’t matter except you’re planning to breed. 

To maintain oxygen ranges up within the aquarium, compensate with stay crops and/or an air pump. Greater warmth additionally means a quicker metabolism and the necessity for extra meals and waste elimination. 

Water modifications

As a result of discus want such precise water parameters, many hobbyists carry out 50% water modifications 2-3 occasions each week, particularly within the first 12 months of the fish’s life. This retains your fish from turning into stunted, which can stop it from reaching its spectacular full measurement.

After all, many hobbyists have gotten by with solely performing one water change per week, however that is solely really useful for professional discus-keepers. 

Why do discus fish flip black?

Whereas at first, a black discus would possibly seem to be simply one other uncommon coloration, that is really a horrible signal that their well being is in hassle.

Discus ought to solely ever get extra colourful over time; in the event that they lose their colours, one thing is fallacious. 

A discus turning black is an indication of stress, illness, bullying, or the entire above.


The very first thing you’ll want to do is take a look at your water parameters. If there are any unideal or sudden outcomes, begin to carry out 25% day by day water modifications.

Earlier than bringing your discus residence, it’s important to verify the water circumstances the place they’re at present dwelling. Too broad parameters swings could cause your discus to show black or may even be deadly, and you’ll want to make acclimation as clean as it may be.

Illness in discus

If water parameters aren’t the issue, then search for different indicators of illness or sickness. Discus can contract most tropical freshwater illnesses, so be ready with a quarantine tank and a wide range of remedies. 


Lastly, verify the conduct of the opposite fish within the tank. Are they wholesome? Is your darkish fish on their own hiding in a nook?

It’s doable that if all different fish are seemingly wholesome in your tank that your fish is getting picked on. Do not forget that discus are cichlids, and a few aggression is regular.

If doable, add extra discus to the tank. It will assist diffuse aggression. In any other case, attempt to rearrange the tank and unfold out meals in numerous sections of the aquarium. Hopefully, the aggression will die down by itself, and your fish will regain its coloration.

Discus tank mates

Discus are education fish and should be stored in small teams. In a 75 gallon (283.9 L) tank, six discus is an effective college with 4 females and two males. 

Many hobbyists select to maintain their discus tanks species-only as a result of sustaining water parameters may be arduous sufficient. That doesn’t imply that holding different fish with them is inconceivable, although.

The primary issues to remember when choosing tank mates are that discus are gradual feeders and wish larger water temperatures.

The right tank mate will stand up to larger temperatures and keep out of the best way throughout feeding occasions–ideally making little to no extra mess!

Probably the most generally stored discus tank mates are cardinal tetras (Paracheirodon axelrodi) and Sterbai corydoras (Corydoras sterbai). Some discus fanatics even have luck with angelfish (Pterophyllum spp.), however they’ll develop into territorial. 

Discus conduct

Although discus are lovely to have a look at, sadly, they don’t have a lot persona. That doesn’t make discus any much less fascinating, although!

Discus are shy and calm fish. For probably the most half, they like to remain shut to one another, floating effortlessly within the water column. They may often work together with their environment, searching for meals and taking shelter. 

Nonetheless, these fish are nonetheless cichlids and may develop into aggressive, particularly males throughout mating durations.

One other vital discus persona trait to notice is that they’re very choosy eaters. This may develop into very irritating because the well being of your fish closely depends on a superb constant weight-reduction plan. Uneaten meals additionally must be cleaned, that means much more tank upkeep.

The easiest way to beat a choosy discus is by leaving extra time between feedings. As a result of their metabolism is quicker in hotter water, you solely want to attend a few days. 

In case your fish nonetheless refuses to eat, you then would possibly must strive an assortment of different meals. Should you discover that your fish nonetheless solely likes one meals, although, don’t settle!

Hold attempting and fasting till your discus are open to a big number of meals. 

Discus weight-reduction plan

Normally, discus are greater than prepared to eat so long as they’ve the correct sorts of meals. These fish have tiny mouths, and their meals ought to mirror that!

Discus completely love bloodworms, plus they’re straightforward to eat as a result of they’re lengthy and thin! Frozen, freeze-dried, and stay bloodworms are a wonderful selection for a discus snack. Nonetheless, they shouldn’t be the staple of the weight-reduction plan. 

As an alternative, fill your fish’s predominant weight-reduction plan with beef coronary heart, blackworms, and discus-specific granules. Keep in mind to have a big selection available in case in the future your fish decides that it hates all the pieces it’s a must to provide! 

Breeding discus

Now, we get to the arduous half. Breeding discus is seen as probably the most fulfilling freshwater aquarium hobbies. These fish are additionally extremely worthwhile, making it much more worthwhile.

Getting a breeding pair

Discus Fish Pair

The very first thing to do is purchase a breeding pair. That is simpler stated than performed as these fish don’t show sexual dimorphism and never all women and men are appropriate. You’ll be able to’t inform them aside they usually would possibly combat!

The easiest way to get a breeding pair is to purchase 6-8 juveniles and allow them to develop up and pair naturally in your tank.

In case you are restricted on time, then it might most likely be higher to buy an already-paired female and male, although this could additionally take a very long time. 

Establishing the tank

You will want to separate this pair from the remainder of the fish within the tank into their very own aquarium for greatest outcomes

This tank doesn’t should be excessively giant however ought to be about 30-40 gallons (113.6-151 .4 L). The tank sides ought to be lined up in order that your fish aren’t distracted by exterior shapes and colours, particularly if putting a number of tanks subsequent to one another. 

For a discus breeding tank, bare-bottom and minimal decorations are normally most popular to maintain detritus from getting caught. Additionally, you will need to make it as straightforward as doable for the fry to seek out the mother and father. 

Some breeders depart a vertical breeding tube or cone within the tank as discus will lay eggs on the perimeters of objects as a substitute of on the underside. Nonetheless, this isn’t essential, and your fish could lay eggs on the aquarium glass as a substitute.

In any other case, the one issues that should be within the tank are a sponge filter and aquarium heater. 

Water parameters and upkeep

Should you’re in a position to preserve discus glad in a show tank, you then gained’t have to fret about water parameters an excessive amount of when organising a breeding tank. 

As all the time, stability is healthier than perfection. No matter circumstances you’ve got been holding your fish in usually shouldn’t be modified only for breeding functions, together with water temperatures.

Water modifications ought to nonetheless be performed a number of occasions all through the week to keep up water high quality. 

Nonetheless, if breeding wild discus, then you’ll have to be very cautious and specific with water parameters and upkeep. 

Bother breeding?

Typically, even when circumstances are excellent, your discus will refuse to put eggs. This may be very irritating and depart you questioning what you’re doing fallacious. 

Funnily sufficient, the issue right here is that issues are most likely too constant. Within the wild, most fish species rely on modifications in environmental circumstances, like extra frequent rainfall or hotter temperatures, to start spawning. It’s no completely different within the aquarium pastime.

Should you’re experiencing this, strive exchanging water modifications with hotter water, altering surroundings within the tank, and even transferring the fish into a brand new aquarium setup.

Total, keep in mind to have endurance. You’ll have to wait on your fish to mature after which to pair. Fortunately, as soon as paired, they are going to normally keep collectively for all times.

Even when shopping for an already-paired couple, it could possibly nonetheless take just a few years for them to breed in your tank’s circumstances. 

Bother with profitable breeding?

One of many predominant issues aquarium hobbyists run into is their grownup discus consuming their eggs and fry. 

This may be arduous to keep away from and the one technique to succeed is to maintain permitting the pair to breed. Finally, they are going to let the eggs and fry develop up. 

In case your eggs don’t appear to be hatching in any respect, you might need mistaken your female and male pair for a feminine and feminine pair. What would possibly seem to be a fertile feminine would possibly really be two fish which are laying eggs at completely different occasions. 

Hatching eggs and elevating fry

As soon as the eggs have been laid, it is going to take 2-3 days for them to hatch. In contrast to different freshwater species, discus fry usually are not free-swimming, and as a substitute, they are going to connect themselves to a floor; the mother and father might transfer them across the tank throughout this time.

The fry will then detach from the wall and start to swarm across the grownup discus; throughout this time, they feed off the mucus of the adults, so no extra feeding is important but. 

At round three weeks, the fry will start to eat small stable meals. At this level, you may take away the fry from the tank. When prepared, the grownup pair will proceed laying extra eggs. 

After two months, the discus fry will settle for bigger meals. The quantity that you simply feed and the standard of the water maintained will considerably have an effect on the expansion charge of the fry. 

As soon as the fish have reached a substantial measurement, they’ll then be bought or moved to the show aquarium. 

Why are discus fish so costly?

As you may see, breeding discus is a full-time job. Day by day water modifications, a number of feedings a day, and discovering the proper grownup pair can take years to do proper. Consequently, every fish finally ends up costing no less than $40. 

You need to word that you should purchase all of your discus collectively at one time. It will stop some fish from turning into bigger than others and guarantee they’re all coming from the identical water parameters. 

In any other case, search for vibrant coloration, clear eyes, and application. It will even be a good suggestion to ask to see them eat.


Discus are probably the most difficult and rewarding fish species to maintain within the freshwater aquarium pastime.

These lovely fish want larger water temperatures and near-daily water modifications. Nonetheless, they’ll convey coloration to the aquarium, in contrast to every other species.

When you’ve got any questions on discus, different species originating from the Amazon River, or have had expertise elevating your individual discus fry, don’t hesitate to depart a remark beneath!

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