For Beginner Discus Keepers

86 ssinit

Starting this thread just to give anyone who’s thinking of starting a Discus tank some info. So many people will try this not knowing what there getting into. I’m no master discus guru!! I’m a keeper. I keep discus I don’t breed them and I’m not into growing them big for show. Just a keeper . My fish D2BAAEAA-746D-480B-A85F-23EA4C02FB50.jpegFA03FA58-5D43-47B4-AA07-7BFACFE05EB4.jpegthese are 2 different tanks. Both 125g 11 in the first 13 in the second. I will add pictures as I go . I going to be adding to this as I go so be patient there is a lot of info .

Keeping discus is not hard it’s time consuming. Water quality is the most important thing. Clean water first. Not just anybody can start a discus tank. It’s best if you’ve already kept fish and know how to cycle a tank and care for fish. Know what tanks require and know how to test tank water. Starting without this knowledge is a recipe for disaster.

Discus can handle a ph of 6.5 to 8.5. So there not that demanding of a fish. They need a temp of 82-86 and they need to be fed good food sources. Freeze dried black worms (fdbw) beef heart (Bh) quality flakes and pellets and frozen foods suck as blood worms and brime shrimp. All of these they need and mixing these up keeps all your discus eating. Now because your feeding all these foods during the day the tank water needs to be cleaned. So that’s why the big water changes and to add minerals back into the tank. Young discus need to be fed a lot. Older discus can be fed twice a day like your regular tanks.
Discus grow for most of there first 2 years. 2” 3 month old discus need many feeding a day and at least a 50% water change daily. Water changing is the same as water changing your regular tank. If it’s working fine in your regular tank it will work for your discus. It’s just daily till your fish reach 4” about 5-6months old. Some discus will grow bigger and faster than others. Some slower. When your majority is at the 4” mark you can change water every other day. Do this till your fish reach the 6” mark. Than you can slow down your water changes. At this point you’ve been watching and caring for your discus for 6+ months so you should really know your fish. Watch and see how the fish react to less water changes. They’ve got to adjust. Many ways to slow down the water changes. Change less water daily every other day or just do one or 2 bigger changes a week. After a few month of playing with the water you’ll know what works. Discus don’t like dirty water and will let you know. Some will get pimples on them. If you see this you’ve went to long without a water change. These pimples go away in a few water changes. The fish that get these pimples are your go to fish. Always watch them.
BE654F6B-43BD-415E-92C7-74A4A0AA3192.jpegNotice the pimple on the back of the top fin.

Next I’ll talk about tank set up.
 

86 ssinit

Tanks for discus should be big. 4-6’ minimum. A 75g would be the smallest tank I’d suggest. Anything smaller would make a great grow out tank. Growing out discus in a smaller tank works out great for you and the fish. You start smaller. Say a 40 or 45g. With this tank you can get 6-10 2” discus. Take filter media out of your other tanks and add it to this tanks filter. Get an ATI sponge filter big enough for a 60g tank and an air pump for it. Put that in and run it. Than what I use is an odyssey 250 sponge powerhead. You could also use an hob that moves at least 250gph. The day before you get your discus put this in the tank with 1 of its sponges and the media from your existing tanks in the other chamber. Your not worried about cycling because of the water changes you’ll be doing. This size tank will greatly reduce the amount of water your changing. Figure you’ll change 25g a day. Every other day I would rinse a filter in wc water. This way every day you clean one filter. Not much needed in a grow out tank. Bare bottom a heater that will reach 90 degrees your filters and a light. A piece of driftwood would be good for decor. 109CF5ED-8274-429D-B69C-B227DC9E34DE.jpeg
So you’ve got your grow out tank going and your deciding on your main tank. For a 75 6-8 discus as you go bigger you can add more. Like 12 for a 125 15 for a 150 and so on. These fish do grow big 4 to 6” round so you don’t want to many. Now this bigger tank will be your main tank so you want to think about how you want it. Many discus keepers continue on the bare bottom (bb) approach. This keeps the water cleaner and easier to care for. Next is filtration. Many choices here. Your looking for good filtration for cleaner water. Again your keeping your discus not breeding or growing out. So this is your next big choice. If you already keeping planted tanks and know what your doing and what your water grows. You may want to go with a semi planted tank. This is the hardest discus tank to maintain. I’ll come back to this later. Nowifyou want a regular tank with some substrate on the bottom and some decor in the tank this can be done. But you only want to add a small amount of gravel. Say a half inch. Than do your decor as you want. Many ideas online. When you water change you’ll need to vacuum through the substrate. So this makes it that much harder than bare bottom.
So you’ve decided what your doing and now filtration. For a 75 an fx4 or similar will work. For bigger go with the fx6. Also a wet/dry or a sump system will work. These come in all sizes. For me I like 2 sources of filtration. My backup is the odyssea. It’s cheap under $20 2models a 250 or a 350. Sponge filter and great for starting up a qt tank if needed. Qt will be that grow out tank you started with.

So as your seeing not only is it time consuming it’s expensive . And we haven’t even bought discus!! Below if you want to venture into planted tanks.

To the planted tank. To many this is the way to go. I’ve kept planted tanks for 30yrs. Discus twice now. Started in the late 80s the heyday of discus. Back than the goal was a planted discus tank. Now not so much. Most will tell you it’s to hard to do and maintain. This is true. Plants trap debris under them as does decor. Plants need a deep substrate. Plants don’t like warm water and plants don’t like their substrate constantly being vacumed. But that’s what you’ll be doing with a planted tank. My first 125 is planted with a 1” to 1.5” of gravel. The gravel is about 1/4” thick. I started this tank with small plants and small fish.6C12D972-6F2A-4BDB-A70C-8C162F1D01E3.jpeg
It’s changed as its grown. But the discus did grow in it. Thing is you have to vacuum the gravel regularly. Me I vacuum with every water change. So this tank takes about 1.5 hrs to change. Plants will grow. Not all but most. Some plants like fish in warm water will grow out quickly and start dying. These need to be moved. Many will struggle in the warm water but once they adjust will grow. Remember the discus come first so if you see a plant dying remove it. Being planted you’ll need ferts and lighting and a Uv steralizer. I would not recommend using co2 or trying carpeting plants. A failure of the co2 could kill your fish $$$. Carpeting plants will hold debris in them and you don’t want to be vacuuming them all the time. Your really looking for easy plant.

What I did with my new tank is I went with planters. I found ones that were a foot long and 3” wide and filled them with gravel and root tabs and added plants. This tank I went with about a 1/2” of fine gravel. 20lbs for a 125g.. so far this is much easier than the old tank. This tank takes about a hour to change water. My old tank is 2 years oldB84C2140-630D-4816-B17A-BE45D6D70230.jpegthis new tank is about 2-3 months old15352840-9CA9-4619-89F9-CA1EDB4A59CC.jpeg the old tank has an fx6 and odyssea 350 and the new a wet/dry with the 350. I’m very happy with the wet dry. I think it the better filtration. Here’s side pics of both tanks. Cleaned yesterday.F910C14D-E8CB-4AAA-9ABC-E62288457928.jpeg11B3302D-1A15-409F-B279-B1D053550A9B.jpegfirst pic is old second new. Look how much clearer the new one is.

Next I’ll talk about getting your discus .
 
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86 ssinit

Ok buying your discus. This is where it all begins. How much will you spend? Will you get it shipped? Is it best to buy from lps? Most begginers will buy locally. Buying locally you need to know what to look for. Unfortunately discus don’t sell. Very few people keep them. Those that do mostly buy online from the same vendor. This is the best way. But if buying locally your looking for round fish not football shaped. Your looking at tanks with only discus in them. If the discus are with other fish your not interested. It’s always best to get them when the store first gets them. The longer they’ve been in the store the more chance there’s something wrong with them. Alway qt your new discus. Never add directly to your main tank. People have wiped out there tanks by not doing this. Most stories of illness start with “I just added”. This is true with plants too. Everything gets qt. Know your store and visit it a lot to see how there discus are before you buy. I say buy small and grow out. Small fish you know are young. Most stores buy from the same wholesaler who buys from the same breeder. They will buy different sizes of the same fish. So if you look at the bigger fish you can guess what the small ones will look like. Here’s some pics of a store that knows discus. C73ADE8C-9FBC-4629-85BA-12F4B4536BFD.jpegNot the best pic but these fish are about 2-3” fish. Waters clean and changed regularly. Fish fins are extended and there round in shape. Though there is a black one front left. That fish should be avoided and because of that that’s why we qt. Could just be stress. So I would still chance these fish. Next tank is the larger ones42AF474C-A570-4229-AFA0-64A318E62BB3.jpeglooking at thesethey are good looking discus. These are about 4” with nice round body’s extended fins and nice markings. If you can afford these they’re good choices. Now the smaller ones are from the same place so they should grow to these shapes. This is what your looking for in a store bought fish.
Now below is what to avoid.A79257C0-1E10-4B53-9381-970A030D0A82.jpegthese are the football shape I said to avoid. They are in a tank with other fish and in general just a dirty looking tank. 205EE858-0F66-4165-9ED1-D0FDD2BF31CF.jpegThese are the small version. Notice not many in either tank. Why? Nobody’s buying them. In both tanks the fish are huddled in corners. Reason is there are other types of fish in the tank. Fish that don’t belong with discus. Notice the clamped fins and the black fish. Now you might spot a nice colored discus in a tank like this. But I would avoid. Now here is there premium discusADABA23F-D4B5-4B70-A94C-71E175DF02FB.jpegthese they say are wild caught. Very expensive even in this shape. Searching for discus this is a store to avoid.

These stores are what you will find. Any lfs selling discus is selling many other fish and not spending the time needed to care for discus. Next is one of my discus. You will notice the eye to body ratio. This was my first discus this time. I bought 2ACFEB6D6-3C8D-4374-84E8-636D7BD74790.jpegas you can see they are football shaped.
From these 2 discus 2 years later this is what they look likeE2160CEA-9686-4312-9CEF-198E29C86256.jpegAC4C536D-49EA-4EA1-85DC-2361772D11ED.jpegnotice the first one. It’s eye is oversized from its body. It looks to big. This fish is about 3.5” long but 2 yrs old. Local pet stores will sell this as a 3.5” fish. They won’t tell you it’s 2yrs old. The one below has a better eye to body ratio and is 5” long. Not a bad looking fish but no where near perfect. It’s eye is also to big.
 
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coralbandit

This is all good info you are sharing Tom .
Many should thank you and pay particular attention to the things you say to avoid .
A successful discus keeper is a patient keeper .They don't buy just any discus ,or at least they shouldn't..
They should know what to look for and not settle for less.
 
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86 ssinit

Thanks coral!

Here’s a pic of those 2 about 2 weeks after I got them. The dark one is the small one. Look at the pic you can see than that this fish wasn’t right. Now the 2 orange ones have a great body shape and nice color. All are around 1.5” so they’re tiny.403334A0-C15F-427E-B66D-052C5479918D.jpegsee how the eye to body looks right compared to the dark blue.
This is an orange 2 yrs later. This guys just short of 6 “ and has a great body shape.E62230BA-5631-49E3-9680-FCFFBEC9E70B.jpeg
Now these are 2 discus that that I would say were born last may. I’ve owned since June. First is a GermanC4E89578-1B65-4FAD-8B30-4E17ACC6673C.jpegthese discus were bought online. Notice how he’s a little beaky. This seems to be a German trait.This guys around 9 months old and about 6” wide. Now this next fish is Asian and around the same age and size as the last.0227BC51-0C2F-4358-A4BF-181CA8376E7A.jpegnotice the forehead goes straight down no beak. Both of these fish look at the eye to body ratio. These guys are perfect. Looks like you could fit 3 eyes above and below the eye. Perfect for a 6” fish. Eyes are small so you know this is a young fish.
Now here are a pair of 2yr old German fish.E4DE163B-B276-4723-AEB3-BD653D893FF3.jpeg73FCEED7-FAA5-4467-8DA3-C35FEC43EE3A.jpegnotice these discus eyes are bigger but still right for the body. These fish are 6+”. For me these are my 2 best discus. Body shape is perfect. Notice the beak is gone left is a small hump. These last 4 discus were bought from online sellers. Now not all will come out like these. Here’s a pic of 4 of my new eight Germans 4CB010A5-F62E-4BB8-BDF8-4698A839647D.jpegthe center fish is the same age. The 2 in the front are almost twice it’s size and the last guy is 4”. So different fish grow at different stages of there life. Another year will tell me what there going to look like.
Now not all will look the same grown out. Here’s another 2 yr old discus and it’s the same size as the last 2.332BFE69-1EB3-4FE4-992C-C52183C6AB93.jpegthis guys 6+” but the body shape isn’t as good as the other 2. Now to me I don’t care I’m just a keeper. A grower may have culled this fish. Here’s a pic with its sibling. It’s a full inch smaller.E8C5531A-82CF-4517-990C-361FE290A857.jpeg But this discus was 2” smaller 6 months ago. I’m surprised how it’s still growing. So you don’t know when there growth spurts will happen.
 
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86 ssinit

Next is on-line sellers. This is your best option. The good sellers are selling their fish regularly and getting new stock. Not many breed there own stock anymore. You want a recommended seller. There are many scams. So recomended or someone who will show you pictures of the fish your getting. The good sellers are dealing with one breeder overseas. So all their stock comes from the same place. Look for one with a big choice of colors. Ones I’ve used are Hans discus: these are German discus. Stendker.These to me are the best beginner discus. He sells smaller sizes and they grow big. They can handle many water conditions and when grown it is advertised they can go with one 30% weekly water change. Kenny’s discus: these are Asian discus from Forest discus. These will require clean water and water changes. These discus start at bigger sizes. Usually 4” and bigger. Beautiful colors and healthy fish. These fish are sold out monthly. Usually within hours of being shown. So a little tougher to get. Uncle Sams discus: Asian discus. Again a monthly seller but much easier to get his fish and he does get smaller sizes. Mixed results here. I bought 2 at 5” and 5.5” and neither grew since bought. Both are fine but I was expecting growth.
Another seller is Dennis discus. Asian discus. I haven’t bought from him but he’s got a great reputation will send pics of the fish he’s selling you and gets some nice discus. There are many others with good reps. Please ask before you buy.
Many others are a gamble. discus .com should be avoided. Uses other sellers pictures. IFish can also be hit or miss. Many of these seller are buying their fish from wholesalers. These are discus coming from different breeders and getting combined and sold online. Read reviews!! Not just there sales gimmicks.

Problem with different breeders is many breeders fish have become immune to some diseases and when mixed with different discus that aren’t immune they wipe out the others. Different discus could be immune to different diseases and when mixed wipe out each other. Many stories about this happening. This is why you always qt new fish 4-6 weeks. Next add a hero fish to the new fish to see what happens. Leave them together for a month to be sure.
 
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JayAlva

Been mia for a while, been so busy back at work but what a great write up you taught me alot on keeping discus and it's awesome to see you share that with others.
 
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86 ssinit

Ok I’m adding medicines to this. For me I’ve never medicated till now. For me clean water has always been the answer. BUT these fish are susceptible to diseases. Big thing and what happens the most is cross contamination. Seems breeders are breeding their discus to be immune to some stuff. There fish are immune but most other breeders fish aren’t. And different breeders fish are immune to different things. Most are bacterial. This just happened to me. Bought 2 new fish locally from a place I’ve bought before. They looked great and still look great but had something on them that I transferred into both my other tanks. For me I qt new fish so this must have moved on my hands or a peice of equipment. Even though I have separate equipment for the qt room. So even with what I thought was the best preparation wasn’t.
When my first tank started showing signs something was wrong I went with adding salt at 2tbs for 10g and changing 50% water daily. Next I lowered the temp to 82 this slows down bacterial diseases. The warmer the water the faster the bacteria will grow. 82 is the lowest you want to go for discus. Fish continued getting worse. Went to 4tbs on day three and 6 on day 4. This slowed everything down. Because the tank was planted I had to remove most plants. Something to think about if your going planted. On day 3 the cc jumped to my other tank. Found info online about using rid-ich plus for cc and did this in the second tank. This seemed to stop the spread very fast. Fish were still black but eating. Has taken 11 days now on this tank but the fish are looking much better. On day 10 I added 1tbs salt to this tank. Back on the main tank with salt on day 9 I added the rid-ich plus and had a huge result in one day. Blue discus started showing color again and all started eating. So rid-ich plus does work for cc and bacterial diseases (your discus turning black and showing their slime coat). But the salt also helped and I recommend both.

Thing I learned with meds is go slowly and follow directions.
Lots of meds out there that take care of different things. Again discus are different than any other fish. This contamination didn’t go into my other tank and didn’t bother any of the dither fish in the discus tank. So with discus it’s best to have some meds on hand. Things I will recommend is rid-ich plus, furan II, prazipro , metroplex and for eggs methylene blue. Keep these on hand.
 
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FisHobbyist

Thanks coral!

Here’s a pic of those 2 about 2 weeks after I got them. The dark one is the small one. Look at the pic you can see than that this fish wasn’t right. Now the 2 orange ones have a great body shape and nice color. All are around 1.5” so they’re tiny.View attachment 762596see how the eye to body looks right compared to the dark blue.
This is an orange 2 yrs later. This guys just short of 6 “ and has a great body shape.View attachment 762601
Now these are 2 discus that that I would say were born last may. I’ve owned since June. First is a GermanView attachment 762599these discus were bought online. Notice how he’s a little beaky. This seems to be a German trait.This guys around 9 months old and about 6” wide. Now this next fish is Asian and around the same age and size as the last.View attachment 762598notice the forehead goes straight down no beak. Both of these fish look at the eye to body ratio. These guys are perfect. Looks like you could fit 3 eyes above and below the eye. Perfect for a 6” fish. Eyes are small so you know this is a young fish.
Now here are a pair of 2yr old German fish.View attachment 762615View attachment 762617notice these discus eyes are bigger but still right for the body. These fish are 6+”. For me these are my 2 best discus. Body shape is perfect. Notice the beak is gone left is a small hump. These last 4 discus were bought from online sellers. Now not all will come out like these. Here’s a pic of 4 of my new eight Germans View attachment 762616the center fish is the same age. The 2 in the front are almost twice it’s size and the last guy is 4”. So different fish grow at different stages of there life. Another year will tell me what there going to look like.
Now not all will look the same grown out. Here’s another 2 yr old discus and it’s the same size as the last 2.View attachment 762630this guys 6+” but the body shape isn’t as good as the other 2. Now to me I don’t care I’m just a keeper. A grower may have culled this fish. Here’s a pic with its sibling. It’s a full inch smaller.View attachment 762631 But this discus was 2” smaller 6 months ago. I’m surprised how it’s still growing. So you don’t know when there growth spurts will happen.
Good stuff. I always noticed one of my discus was a little odd in shape and wasn't ideal but learning about what to look for in the eye size and head is very helpful. Thanks for sharing!
 
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philly27

such a great thread. i really appreciate it. I was really thinking about doing a discus tank in my 55 gallon (48X20X13) but after extensive research ive decided not to. 1, this tank is a little on the small size for a group of 8 or so. 2nd, the daily WC will be a detergent and i would feel extremely guilty if i missed a day or two or went on a weekend get a-away. thank you for posting and validating my concerns... as i wont get these beautiful creatures.
 
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86 ssinit

Just adding on. I bought 4 more discus a few months back from Dennis discus. Great seller. I ordered these fish in the beginning of the year but with covid the delivery got pushed back months. When they did come in I had a problem with my tanks. Dennis held on to them till my tanks were ready. Now these discus came in at 4.5”. They were 3 red raffleisa and one yellow Marlboro. Here’s a video from May
. Now july these fish have grown nicely. I’ve had them in a 50g doing 50% wc daily. The reds aren’t to red and the yellow looks the closest to a raffleisa. This is what the yellow looks like now31A5056C-CFD0-4061-81E9-43A5C3E3BCF4.jpegand these are 2 of the reds7B4548D8-147F-4D91-BB0A-C1B0B7E7855F.jpeg4B723AD1-324B-4103-8A8C-4861E4187FCF.jpeggood looking discus with great body shape! But not red.
 
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jmaldo

Beautiful!
Agree, "Great" seller. Thar's where I got my "Blue Diamonds". Very helpful and guided this novice through the entire transaction. Even worked with me on my scheduling issues.
https://dennisdiscusfish.com/
Highly recommend.
 
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86 ssinit

Jmaldo that pretty much why I bought from him. Your blue diamonds were great looking. Very happy with these discus! Probably the best guy I deal with so far.
 
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