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Discus Fish Ultimate Care Guide: The King Of The Aquarium?



The king of the aquarium, Discus fish are one of the most beautiful freshwater fish available for the home aquarium.

Notoriously tricky to care for, but so rewarding when kept correctly, Discus fish are the pride and joy of those that keep them.

They are treasured in the aquarium trade for their bright appearance and shoaling behavior.

Below we cover in detail how to care for these majestic fish.

Discus Fish Overview

Recent research suggests are five species of Discus, though there is some debate around this.

In the aquarium hobby, there are two species that are commonly available: Symphysodon aequifasciatus and Symphysodon Discus.

There are many color variations available thanks to selective breeding, and interestingly it can take up to 6 years for them to reach their best colors.

They can live up to 15 years, but most live for around 10 years.

You will find they are available at most aquatic stores, but rarer colors will have to be ordered through your local store or on the internet.

You should expect to pay anywhere from $25 to several hundred dollars, depending on the species purchased. Most will cost around $40 per fish.

They are often bred in southern Asia, but they originate from the Amazon where they populate flood plains and cling to breaks in the water flow in large schools.

Typical Behavior

Discus fish are very peaceful, avoiding conflict through escape and intimidation. In most tanks, they are one of the largest and brightest fish.

They are a schooling fish, and in large groups can create a wall of patterns across the tank.

Like all cichlids, there can be some competition in the shoal and a pecking order will be established. This means smaller fish will need to be monitored to make sure they are able to eat.

They tend to stay in the mid-levels but will rise to the top and dip to the bottom to forage; so they can easily dominate all levels of the tank. They do prefer to be free-swimming but need the option to be close to cover such as large driftwood or plants in the tank.

Appearance of Discus Fish

Discus fish are named after their disc shape appearance – some variations are more triangular or round than others, but all are thin and flat looking.

They have rounded dorsal and anal fins that add to their overall body shape, as well as pronounced pelvic and caudal fins.

The body can be 8-10 inches long, making them a large fish for home aquariums.

Their popularity comes from their intense colors that can have:

  • greens
  • bright blues
  • reds
  • browns
  • yellows

They are much brighter when bred in captivity compared to their wild counterparts.

The coloring comes together in vertical and horizontal stripes that cover fins as well as their body.

They become more pronounced and will flare when they feel threatened, which is beautiful but should be avoided as they are sensitive to stress.

Their eyes come in a variety of colors too, with red being highly prized – red eyes are not a sign of health despite this myth being spread frequently.

Discus (Fish) Tank Conditions

These fish require higher temperatures than most fish 82-88°F. Keeping this warmer temperature will reduce the chance of illness and deaths, it can be maintained using a good quality heater.

Amazonian water is soft and slightly acidic, with a pH between 6 and 7. Check before purchasing your fish what pH and temperature they have been raised in to prevent drastic changes that could be fatal.

The water in your aquarium needs to be de-chlorinated and treated with formulas that neutralize your tap water. The flow should be weak, this can be broken using a spray bar or by using driftwood or ornaments.

Vertical wood can also be used to break the water flow, just make sure that these pieces of wood can’t injure the side of the Discus as it swims past.

They prefer soft to medium sediment, as they often search for Discus food on the substrate and larger pieces could injure them as they forage.

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