Help Discus Info From Successful Discus Keepers?

jmaldo

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Over the last few months I have been researching "Discus". It appears not much info/discussions on FL, and what there is, the threads end abruptly. I have visited other sites and there is a lot of contradictory information.
Looking for advice/best practices from "Actual and Successful" keepers.
I see some of these members have replied to some posts Disc61 Fashooga 86 ssinit Mcasella Cretia nikm128


Okay, Ready, Set, Go

My plan is to start with 5-6 Blue Diamond Discus in a 55 gallon in 2-3 months. I have researched quite a bit over the last half year. There are so many contradictory opinions, it has my head spinning. I want to give the fish the best possible setup for success.
Right now I have a Planted Community 55 gallon which has been running for 2 years, with about 2.5 – 3 inches of substrate Eco-complete on top of black sand on top of pool sand.
Using an EheI'm 2217, 2215 along with a power head and an air stone.
I have breed EBA, Bolivian Rams and Angels. Other fish include Cories, Tetras, Otos, SAE, Shrimp, all types of snails and Plecos in the tank with success.

So here are some questions.
  • Bare bottom or sand substrate? Most recommend bare bottom, easier to maintain and better for the fish.
  • Planted or not Planted? - Most recommend not planted or plants in pots
  • Seasoned/Mature tank or start from scratch? See present 55 gallon above.
  • Keep them by themselves or have other fish with them? I am leaning towards starting the tank with the Discus as the only inhabitants then eventually adding some other fish, Suggestions on tank mates?
  • Feeding - This has really got me confused.. Number of feedings and what is best food? Also are Beef Hearts a proper food?
  • Discus size? Start with Juveniles 2-3" or adults 4-5"
  • Water Parameters? I will not be using RO water. My tap is 7.6 medium-hard.
  • Water Changes? How many? Use aged water or can it be straight from the tap?
 

Fanatic

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I don't know a thing about discus, but I am confused as to why you'd want to keep them in a bare bottom unplanted tank?

I personally wouldn't keep these fish in a tank without live plants, they benefit from them as do a lot of other fish species.
 

abarb

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I think sand should be fine and I'm also unsure about why you would keep them with no plants.
If the tank is stable either should be fine.
Other small schooling fish might help them come out more (dither fish)
For feeding I think cobalt discus food is good for a staple. There's better things to feed them besides beefheart. I would do something like flakes/granules/pellets 5-6 times a week and frozen/live/dried food once or twice a week. Don't feed too many bloodworms though. Frozen or live is better than dried.
Juvies will need to be fed a lot more.
They like a lower ph with soft water. You might want to consider ro water with remineralizer.
Also you might want to deworm them.
 

nikm128

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1. Bare bottom or sand or gravel. You have to clean in anyway so what's wrong with making it look nice? Both tanks I've used had a gravel substrate
2. Planted for sure. They need pristine water quality, and plants help with that, and simulate a more natural environment
3. What are the current readings in the 55?
4. In a 55, do just discus. I'd also suggest having a 75 minimum for 5-6 adults, then you can have tank mates too (will cover some mates if you want)
5. Freeze dried blackworms, cobalt discus flakes, tetra color bites, frozen bloodworms as a treat (once a week at most), beefheart is good, for juvies that is. I don't really like it since there's so much fat though. All those foods were recommended to me by Disc61 as opposed to my usual: Frozen brine shrimp, bug bites tropical pellets, and their cichlid formula.
6. Size depends on how much work you want to put into maintenance, juvies require way more work, but it is very rewarding to watch them grow and raise them.
7. PH 6.5-7.5, so your PH is fine. Ammonia 0, nitrites 0, nitrates 10-15, 20 is ok, but only very short term. I'd soften your water a bit though, medium hardness is doable, but keep it as soft as you can. My tap is great for them: PH 6.5, 0 ammonia nitrites or nitrates, GH ~30 (~1-1.5 degrees) and KH is 0-40 (0-2 degrees)
8. For juvies: at least 50% every other day, adults, same amount, but maybe with about 4 days in between. That is all subject to your nitrate readings and such though
 

86 ssinit

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The reason for bare bottom is to keep the water cleaner. No substrate to catch waste. Water quality is paramount with discus. I like the plants in pots idea.
Old tank or new tank won’t matter. What’s matters is saving the cycle from the 55. Best with an existing cycle. Tank size I would recommend is a 60 or 80 show tank. Both of these tanks are deeper. I think 30” discus like the depth.
Best to get discus from local breeders. Especially when just starting. Most from local pet stores and major chains are warehouse grown fish and not recomended. Best to watch the fish eat before buying. So you know what they eat. If buying online find out what they are feeding and if you can buy there food to start.
At first keep by themselves with large potted plants(swords,aponogeton) and peices of driftwood (things that look like tree roots) that they can swim around and hide if needed. Once adjusted to your tank and eating well you can add a dither fish. I’ve had tetras,rams and clown loaches with them.
Feeding is first going to be whatever the seller was feeding than whatever discus food you get them to eat. I’m almost 20yrs out of keeping discus so foods have changed. I fed discus flakes,bits and pellets. Treats were beefheart,frezzedried bloodworms and tubeaflex worms. Never live worms.
Size is up to you most 5-6” discus are full grown or close to it. These would be the easiest to keep but need large tanks 125 min. For 5-6 200 better because of the depth. 4 would work in the above mentioned tanks. 3-4” fish are nice to grow out. Once you have your adult fish going and healthy growing out different colored smaller fish is your next challenge. Means another tank. Like that 60-80 you started with. Yes mts all over again. Also a 30 gal qt tank is mandatory. Allways up and running. Never know when you’ll need it.
Water ph was a big thing when I was keeping but has now changed. Seems ph doesn’t matter as much now. Big reason to buy from local breeders. There water will be close in ph to yours. Whole different thing when buying online. Could be huge ph difference. If going this way ask what there ph is.
Water changes are at the least twice what you would do for the standard tank. The more water changes the better at first and for young fish. As they get older and into bigger tanks the amount of water changes will lower.
Hope that helps. They are a great and peaceful fish. Good luck
 

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jmaldo said:
Over the last few months I have been researching "Discus". It appears not much info/discussions on FL, and what there is, the threads end abruptly. I have visited other sites and there is a lot of contradictory information.
Looking for advice/best practices from "Actual and Successful" keepers.
I see some of these members have replied to some posts Disc61 Fashooga 86 ssinit Mcasella Cretia nikm128


Okay, Ready, Set, Go

My plan is to start with 5-6 Blue Diamond Discus in a 55 gallon in 2-3 months. I have researched quite a bit over the last half year. There are so many contradictory opinions, it has my head spinning. I want to give the fish the best possible setup for success.
Right now I have a Planted Community 55 gallon which has been running for 2 years, with about 2.5 – 3 inches of substrate Eco-complete on top of black sand on top of pool sand.
Using an EheI'm 2217, 2215 along with a power head and an air stone.
I have breed EBA, Bolivian Rams and Angels. Other fish include Cories, Tetras, Otos, SAE, Shrimp, all types of snails and Plecos in the tank with success.

So here are some questions.
  • Bare bottom or sand substrate? Most recommend bare bottom, easier to maintain and better for the fish.
  • Planted or not Planted? - Most recommend not planted or plants in pots
  • Seasoned/Mature tank or start from scratch? See present 55 gallon above.
  • Keep them by themselves or have other fish with them? I am leaning towards starting the tank with the Discus as the only inhabitants then eventually adding some other fish, Suggestions on tank mates?
  • Feeding - This has really got me confused.. Number of feedings and what is best food? Also are Beef Hearts a proper food?
  • Discus size? Start with Juveniles 2-3" or adults 4-5"
  • Water Parameters? I will not be using RO water. My tap is 7.6 medium-hard.
  • Water Changes? How many? Use aged water or can it be straight from the tap?
I've done a little research into them.

Sand bottom, you are wanting a display tank and not just some place to grow them out to sell?
Planted, they love plants (not to eat luckily), and some hardscape like driftwood. Biotope is best (no tannins needed but the design will make them feel their best).
A mature tank is better, this allows a nice biofilm but also the tank itself will be easier to maintain when getting them to be healthy.
Beef heart is good for fast growth but it is not healthy long term and can shorten their lifespan as fish aren't able to take in that much warm blooded flesh and store it properly or prevent issues from the excess.
Discus do good by themselves but can be a little boring, with choosing fish to be tank mates you need to make sure they are warm water species, I would avoid most plecos just in case they decide their slime coat is tasty (fish will continue to eat it even when offered better food).
With juveniles they need more care and food than adults, but are much cheaper to buy. Some juveniles look nothing like their adult colors, until they mature. Tank raised over wild caught, just because the wild caught can be more touchy when placed with already domesticated fish (aka possible disease).
They do better in softer water, if you plan on breeding it will need to be softer with a lower TDS. However ph isn't as big of an issue, just hardness and total disolved solids.
Water changes depend on your parameter readings and if you have juveniles (which will need more frequent changes than adults). The biggest thing is to make sure you have 0 ammonia and nitrite and low nitrate.
A mixed diet is going to work best for the fish, the babies need red several times a day, juveniles a couple times a day (depending on age and current appearance), adults can be fed less often, but still need a good quality food.
 
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jmaldo

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Thanks to all for your replies.
It appears I have found a well-known breeder near me.

While checking out his website, decided to give him a call. He gets his Discus from Thailand and Vietnam. Mentioned I was looking for 5-6 Blue Diamonds.
He has a few in the 3-4" range, but also had the number I was looking for but they are only about 2.5" right now. He is not comfortable selling them yet. It may work out since I am still making preparations. Pricing appears will be approx. $45-65 each.
What impressed me the most he was not trying to make a quick sale and once you decide to place an order he will send you a video of the fish you can choose..
If everything works out I'll be making the 4 hour round trip in about 12 weeks. At the very least it will save the fish another shipping trip.
Has anyone or know of anyone that have bought Discus from him?
 

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1. barebottom or sand or gravel?? my thoughts are more dependent on what size you get. juvies or sub adults up to 5 inches I think a Discus barebottom is the way to go. ( once grown out then you can set the tank up to your liking) the first year of a discus life is crucial. the less in the tank the better.
2. planted or not? definitely not planted. I understand the beauty involved but unless your an expert in both plants and Discus I would recommend focusing on Discus first then begin to add plants. I kept an Adult tank with potted plants in a barebottom tank. it turned out nicely.
3. I find this one funny to a point. many people say keep them in an established tank, and they also will tell you to do massive water changes.
myself, I always start out a new group with an empty tank an established sponge filters. to me, the established tank with décor and substrate come after I have grown them out.
4. species only or tank mates? species only while growing them out, less is better the first year. then tetras like cardinals or rummies are nice with corries. important to make sure the tank mates can handle the higher temp Discus require.
5. feeding - Beefheart mixes are good for bulk and growing but I eliminate that after first 6-9 months. Freeze dried blackworms is always my staple. to me, nothing compares and they love it. I also provide a staple flake food. I recommend Cobalts Discus flake which was helped into creation with Cobalt Aquatics and Discus Hans.
6. Size - I prefer Juvies of 2.5 to 3 inches from a Quality breeder. the joy of growing them out and seeing them reach potentials you wouldn't think is very rewarding.
7. 7.6 PH is fine. todays Discus have been bred in higher PH levels and are used to it. consistency is SO MUCH MORE IMPORTANT. don't try to chase a particular PH level, your Discus will suffer because it.
8. Water changes - I would refer you to this article I wrote
Massive water changes, are they needed?
 
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jmaldo

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Disc61 said:
Massive water changes, are they needed?
Thanks for the info and sharing the Link!
Wow, from 2014-15 it appears most of the info and care has not changed much.
 
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jmaldo

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Just thought I would share.
Spoke with Dennis – proprietor of

He seemed like a very humble, really great guy. We had a good discussion on the care of Discus. He is well aware of the confusing information that is automatically accepted as truth. But basically emphasized most of it occurs from the difference between a large scale breeding and selling operation vs. the average hobbyist.

As an example except for his Planted Display tanks all the other tanks are bare bottom. Why, the stocking levels require daily/multiple water changes also ease of maintaining and cleaning.

So, the following information is geared towards the general hobbyist with the disclaimer:

“This is what works for me”

On to the Questions:
  • Planted or not Planted? - Planted, he is of the opinion the plants are beneficial and bring out true beauty of the Discus. But he recommends research, due to the high temp requirements of Discus. And of course vacuuming of the substrate as often as possible. Especially if feeding beef hearts.
  • Seasoned/Mature tank or start from scratch? Depends, as long as the tank is disease free and had no problems. Then “Why not” but still a personal choice.
  • Keep them by themselves or have other fish with them? He sees “No” problem with other inhabitants. But recommends research along with good reputable disease free stock and temp compatible choices but still a personal choice. He has had buyers contact him a few months down the road with problems and in most cases the buyer decided to add different strains of Discus and or other inhabitants which introduce pathogens and disease to the tank. So be extra diligent and definitely OT any and all new additions including Plants.
  • Feeding – Depends on the size of the Discus. Mainly feeds his own recipe which includes beef hearts, shrimp, white fish, veggies and vitamins. But does offer freeze dried black worms, live food and flakes.
  • Discus size? Recommends – absolute minimum 3” but prefers 4-5”.
  • Water Parameters? He uses city water aged which is 7.6 medium hard kept at 84f but when breeding he uses RO water at 82f.
  • Water Changes? How many? Depends on quite a few variables, size, feeding, plants other inhabitants. Highly recommends matching tank temp, aged water at a minimum of 50 -75% at least 2 times per week. But more is always better. He even does 90 -100% on occasion. And also "Wipe" the glass and corners of the tank.
Learning All the Time.
 

RyanLee

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I would second what Discus61 said, and reinforce and stress a few points:

Do not put them in an established planted tank! Start with a freshly sterilized tank, you can use a bleach solution to do that, but rinse it out good before refilling. Do a fishless cycle in your discus tank, or get established filter media from your discus supplier.
Its important to not cross contaminate a discus tank with water or pathogens from another fish tank. Basically all fish have an immune system, if your discus have not been exposed to a pathogen or bacteria that your other fish have grown accustomed to. It could be slightly stressful to deadly for your discus. You can add other fish later, but the safe way to do it is quarantine the other fish in a clean tank for several weeks, then add one discus to the other fish tank. If he doesn't die, then you know those fish are safe with your discsus. The reason you only put one fish in with the other fish is to limit your losses if it proves to be a mistake.Discus are not that hard, you just have to know the no-nos. Attached is a pic of some discus fry I'm growing now.

 

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All water, with the exception of say store bought "aquarium water" that's usually sterilized, has all sorts of bacteria in it, both good and bad. Otherwise our fish wouldn't ever get sick.
For a display tank, planted and well established is the best environment to introduce them to. A newly cycled tank has a higher risk of crashing said cycle, hence me waiting ~5 months to add discus to my tank. I would never even think of putting them in anything other than an established tank
 

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Cycle matters not one little bit if you are going to do the proper water changes .The water you will change to successfully grow discus will be the same as cycling with fish in ??
Daily or every other day are minimum for smaller discus you think you are going to grow .
Just me and growing out rams like everyone else tries to do with discus on a larger scale .
To grow you need to feed as much as possible .
To feed as much as possible you need to change water as often as possible and don't be shy of learning about 75% + water changes .
Its not just discus ,I laid my angels flat the other day changing their water .
One laid eggs later !
 

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As far as tankmates, I think Cardinal tetras, Rummynose tetras, bristelnose plecos and German Blue Rams are good. I'm planning to get some more GBR from CoralBandit ^ for my discus tank, he is a good source for quality stock.
 

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I don't keep discus myself, and haven't had a chance to read everything yet, but I know it is suggested to have a bare bottom tank with floating and potted plants for junenile discus. When they are matured and grown out, they can move to a thin layer of sand. The reason is you don't want any bacteria or mulm to influence how they grow out. If pristine conditions are not offered, they have a good chance at becoming stunted. Daily water changes are a must with discus, especially as the grow.
 

86 ssinit

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As you can see now there’s a lot to keeping discus. I started small 60gal and 6-10yrs down I was up to a 200. I also started with small fish. Looking back if I was you with just a 55gal I would go big. Get a pair of 5-6” fish. Should be about a year old and healthy. Buy from your breeder you will get the best quality fish. Than enjoy and plan what to do next. Discus was all I kept for around 15yrs. Some dither fish with them but no other tanks. They’re a lot of work. Here’s a pic of a pic. Notice there’s a brown to the left.
87979213-F4A7-4540-BFE7-FA260DB32702.jpeg
 
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jmaldo

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86 ssinit said:
if I was you with just a 55gal I would go big. Get a pair of 5-6” fish
Interesting and worth considering. But most of the info mentions keeping a group (except when breeding). I understand a larger tank would be ideal. Just want to start and be successful with the 55 gallon then eventually pickup a 125g.

RyanLee said:
get established filter media from your discus supplier.
What a "Good" idea. I'll check with the supplier.
 

86 ssinit

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Your just starting and with a 55. So work within what you have. Bigger fish are healthier. As said young fish are very easily growth stunted. Discus growth is in there first year. Most will start with small fish bought from pet stores. More than 50% will fail. Don’t introduce dither fish till there full grown. To much stress on young discus. Stress is the number one killer.
Keep the larger fish (young adults) for 6 months. Planning your next move. Bigger tank,heaters,lighting(if planted),filters at least 2... I used a large fluval canister and a wet/dry system. Whatever else is needed. Than move the big fish into big tank and use the smaller tank to grow out smaller fish.
Read read read. There are lots of books on keeping and raising discus. I kept them before the internet. All my info came from books,magazines and breeders.
 
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jmaldo

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86 ssinit
Beautiful Discus and in a Planted Tank.
Thanks for sharing some "Good' and "Useful" information.
 

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