Discus Care Guide

Discus Care Guide

Discus Care Guide

  1. Keep a clean tank. Clean water= happy discus!
    1. They are sensitive to diseases and water conditions, so do not make extreme changes (in terms of water conditions, among other things).

    2. Min. tank size: 55 gallons (bigger the better, like always.)
      1. Give your discus the most space you can! If you don't have the space (in your house) for a good sized tank, don’t get discus until you’re 100% ready, and have the space.

      2. They react to you being near the tank, things on the tv, etc. So include a few hiding places. *not too many, because they can feel like they need to hide*
    3. Their natural habitat is open, sandy, and has shallow plants, some driftwood. Discus are comfortable in an open territory. Do not go crazy thinking you need extreme planting. That is not how they would naturally live in the wild. Having simple decor is perfect!

    4. Do not have sand thicker than ½ an inch! The reason for that is because you will end up with anaerobic bacteria pockets. And when you disturb those pockets after a long time, it gets released and leads to possible death.
      1. Bare bottomed tanks are better, since the waste will be right there and you'll just HAVE to clean it up.

      2. You can use planted pots so you won’t need a substrate! You can also tie anubias to driftwood so you get the planted look without the substrate.
    5. Having large, dense plants, leads to waste build up and hard to clean areas.
  1. Use a bare bottom tank for discus that are not fully grown (a grow out tank then move them to a planted tank (optional)
    1. Pothos plants suck up nitrates and don’t contribute waste to the substrate. Their pretty basic for planted tanks, but not required.

    2. 79-87 deg. F
      1. If you’re dealing with parasites, you can raise the temperature. It is not necessary, but some people swear by it.
    3. KH: 1-3

    4. pH: 6.1-7.5
      1. Try to avoid pH alteration products, as the result will not last.
        1. Buffering in the tank (natural buffer) keeps the pH from crashing
      2. They would live in water that is soft and acidic in the wild. But they can adapt to different pH’s.
  2. Using RO(DI) water is common amongst hobbyists that have water of bad quality.
    1. RODI water is reverse osmosis water. It cleans up the tap water and allows you to start from scratch.
  3. Diet : carnivore
    1. Freeze dried black worms, frozen bloodworms, beef heart mixes (avoid if the tank is planted, as it is very VERY messy), quality discus pellets (Diskus Gold, Cobalt, New Life, Spectrum, Ocean Nutrition)

    2. Mysis shrimp

    3. Dried krill, bloodworms, high protein flakes

    4. Live California blackworms

    5. Live compost worms (red wigglers)
  4. They like being in groups of 5-6 discus (total in the tank)

  5. Max size: 8”

  6. Use a really good filter.

  7. A water change every day/every other day *depending on the bio load and how stocked the aquarium is*
    1. The more stocked your tank is, you will need to do more water changes, due the heavier bio-load.

    2. If you overstock the tank, you will see that they lose their natural behaviors.
  8. The Basics:
    1. There is a lot of things on the market you don’t need.

    2. The basic needs are clean water, balanced pH, and good nutrition.
  9. When purchasing discus, look for these:
    1. Eye to body ratio: the eye on each side should be able to fit 5-6 times up and how the front “face” of the discus. If you can only fit one eye and another on top of that and the head ends there, that discus will never be round. Do not purchase if this is so.

    2. Round, clear eyes. No “nicks” or “chips” in the eye.

    3. Straight fins (no bends)
      1. Also make sure the fins are not clamped (not straight down on their sides, as this is an indication that the fish is fighting an internal or external parasite)
    4. Good body mass *not thin*
      1. Should look thick, and meaty

      2. Should not be *pinched* in the front (like a point)
    5. Good appetite (eats normally and well)

    6. They should be swimming and not laying down sideways in the corner, or hanging at the top at the back.
  10. When you get your discus, quarantine them so the spread of any possible diseases. Follow the steps week by week, day by day, to avoid complications.
    1. Receive the Discus: Home them in a clean (aged) tank with a cycled filtration system. Have the tank well aerated with a stable pH. The temperature should be within 84 and 87 degrees F. Use bio filtration or do large daily water changes.

    2. Week One: Do frequent water changes, observe their behavior, and treat them for anything noted. Make sure that they are eating and pooping normally.

    3. Week Two: Prophylactic deworming with Praziquantel for tapeworms, and several days after that use a general dewormer *Levamisole* in water as a 24 hour bath.

    4. Week Three: Repeat the Levamisole treatment as a 24 hour bath.

    5. Week Four: Let the discus take a break from all the excitement. Do nothing except for water changes.

    6. Week Five: Redose 24 hour Levamisole bath.

    7. Week Six: The quarantine period is done if the discus is/are looking healthy. But do not mix them with the other fish yet! Add a “test fish” to the quarantine tank with the new discus.

    8. Week Six - Week Eight: Observe the new fish and the test fish. If everything has gone well, it is more than likely safe to mix the new discus with the others.

    9. Parasites sometimes do not show until 3-5 weeks after getting them. So instead of having to treat a whole tank of fish, you will just have to treat one (tank).

    10. Keep the quarantine tank away (in separate areas) from the other tank(s)
      1. All it take for a disease in the water to jump from tank to tank, is ONE drop of water.
    11. Use separate equipment. Take care of the quarantine tank LAST. Wash your hands very thoroughly.

    12. Maintain optimum water quality so the discus is not stressed.
  11. When discus are bred, one of two methods are used.
    1. Artificially Raised: Eggs are taken out after fertilization. The fry hatch, and are fed artificial “slime” and live baby brine shrimp or commercial food.

    2. Naturally Raised (Parents raise them): Eggs are tended by the parents, and they hatch. The fry swim freely and feed from the parent’s special slime coat. They also eat live baby brine shrimp or commercial food.

    3. Basically anyone with a solid background on these fish can breed them. If they are provided with good food, clean water, appropriate living conditions, and healthy parents, they will spawn!
      1. Happy adult discus will spawn better than stressed ones.
  12. Everyone thinks that discus are so fragile. But they’re not a fragile as you might think.
    1. A discus that is healthy can recover easily from serious injuries. Just keep the water clean and suture the injury.

    2. The soft tissue grow back, but the hard tissue does not.

    3. If you’re having issues with your fish, do a larger water change than you typically would.
  13. If you see discus in bad hands or they just look bad, it’s okay to feel sorry for them. But do not put money into a fish that will not heal. There is a reason for that fish not looking good. If you’re going to spend money on discus, buy healthy ones that will live a long, full life.

  14. Do not mix fish from different vendors. One or more will look sick eventually. You will regret it.

  15. Brew’s Top 11 Discus Health Issues:
    1. Chemical poisoning: chlorine, chloramine, ammonia, nitrite, heavy metals (copper, iron), medications
      1. Can be treated with a lot of clean water.
    2. Dissolved Gases: low dissolved oxygen or high dissolved CO2/nitrogen, etc.
      1. Treat it by aging the water (so there are no bubbles) and aeration (air stone)
    3. Bad Shipping/Handling:
      1. Do a prophylactic screening of suppliers/vendors

      2. Buy from reputable vendors
    4. The Vendor Taking Care of them Wrong:
      1. Do a prophylactic screening of suppliers/vendors

      2. Buy from reputable vendors
    5. Inaccurate Advice:
      1. Check resources, references
    6. Bad Care on the Hobbyist’s Part:
      1. Learn as much as you can and do a lot of research so you know everything there is to know about the species and how to keep the tank, etc.
    7. Nutritional Deficiencies:
      1. Every single species on Earth needs an adequate diet. Feed the discus properly and they can possibly recover.

      2. Don’t feed them only one food! They need variety.
    8. Gill Flukes, external protozoans, nematodes, bacterial infections, viruses, plagues, etc.
      1. If you do everything correctly, you will not need to worry about this. A healthy fish with all of the needs taken care of and a stress free life, will rarely get sick with the assistance of a strong and healthy immune system.
Sabrina Shelton
First release
Last update
1.67 star(s) 3 ratings

Latest reviews

too much of a generalization. The stuff that needed to be included wasn't there.
I agree with the comment above, a portion of the information is just general aquarium information and lots of valuable information has been missed.
  • Nataku
  • 2.00 star(s)
This guide could be simply surmised as 'quarantine your fish, and clean water is the answer to everything.'

Perhaps if more time were devoted into other specifics of dealing with treatment of discus other than water changes it would be of more use to keepers. Perhaps more in depth description of the anatomy of the discus. Perhaps a listing of appropriate plant or tankmate options. Perhaps a more detailed look at the water parameters that discus require other than just temperature and the why's behind it.
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