Growing Out The Juvenile Discus

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Discus Juvenile Grow Out

Care Sheet


HI All, I often see threads with questions on raising juvenile Discus. From how many water changes to how fast do they grow, etc... and although I do not mind at all answering these threads I have had several members ask me to put up a care sheet on juvies.

In no way do I claim to know everything about Discus and in fact I continue to research thoughts and ideas all the time. I have been raising them for roughly 12 years now.

This is my attempt at helping guide someone through the steps of raising Discus from juvenile stage to Adulthood. [Disc61]

The Juvenile Discus

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Before talking about anything else I think it is important to speak on the subject itself. The Juvenile Discus. I would consider juveniles to be 2 inches to 4 inches in size. With that said, it is important to understand you could find a 3.5 inch Adult or sub adult. I would encourage anyone to walk away from this option. What I mean by this is the fish is probably stunted and may never grow bigger than it is.

Discus, even stunted ones, are beautiful and this can trick some folks into buying a less than desirable specimen.

So, what can you do to prepare yourself. First and foremost, do your own research and understand the look of a healthy juvenile Discus. Its eyes should be proportionate to its body. If the eye seems rather big when you first look at it, walk away, this Discus is probably stunted. If the stomach area seems sunken, walk away this discus is stunted. If its forehead seems pinched above its eye, walk away this Discus is stunted. Roundness of the body should be apparent. A football shape is not what your looking for. There are many pictures of healthy juveniles and many pictures of stunted juveniles, do yourself a favor and understand this before beginning to shop for your babies.

The Proper place

So, where do I find that proper looking Discus? I have nothing against LFS's or larger chain stores and buy much of my equipment and such from them. BUT, for the most part (not all the time) these stores do not specialize in Discus because they are a more expensive fish. This is normally where you will find the stunted variety. And on top of that they are generally more expensive than the healthy Discus you should be purchasing. And please, don't rescue these fish because you think you can provide a better home for them. In reality all your doing is supporting the LFS's business and telling him/her “hey, I make pretty good money off these Discus, I should order some more.” and the cycle continues..... there are many, many online breeders and importers that sell healthy Discus at a very reasonable price, you might be surprised how reasonable. And before you say “i'm not sure I trust shipping them” understand that most lfs's get ALL there fish shipped to them. They know how to ship and many have been doing it for 15-20 years. Not trying to advertise for anyone in particular, please feel free to message me and I can provide a list of qualified Discus breeders and importers I recommend.

The Fish & Equipment

Keep it simple. Remember, your not setting up a display tank. You need a simple setup and nothing more.

  1. Discus from 2.5 inches to 4 inches, although I would encourage you to keep all fish as close together as possible in size.

  2. tank should be minimum of 55gl, then it just depends on how many Discus you plan on raising. So for instance, in a 55gl, proper stocking should be 5-6. (please, if you need to save your money to buy 5-6 do so. Don't buy 2 or 3 then buy another 2-3 later.) there are many benefits of buying the group all together.

    a 75 gl can hold 7-8 easily. A 100 gl can take 10.

    General rule is 1 Discus per 10gl of water with a minimum tank size of 55gl.

  3. Two good heaters. Always do two so when (notice I said when not if) one fails you still have a good one to hold the temp.

  4. filtration should consist of 2 sponge filters (#4-5 in size) one on each side of the tank. Yes, there are other options like HOB's but this is truly the easiest and best way to do it. ( and I always keep several extra sponges in my display tanks so I can just pull them out and have an instant cycle in the new tank)

  5. some type of airstone to provide extra oxygen in the tank.

  6. Lighting does not need to be fancy.

  7. A lid of some type for the top of the tank.

    If you try to go topless you may also be Discusless. These fish will jump.

  8. A pythoon or something similar for water changes....
Very simply, this is all you need......


OTHER DISCUS, remember, this is a care sheet for raising Juvies. As adults there are options in tankmates, but as juvies less is better, and no you don't even need bottom cleaners. That would be you and your water changes.

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Daily Procedure

I am not going to Discuss cycling your tank. I am assuming you are aware of this procedure and your tank is ready for Discus. IF NOT, please stop and research cycling a tank.

So, your research has helped you find the appropriate supplier to stock your tank. And the day has come for your beauties to show up at your front door.

Day 1, Discus get acclimated to your tank, lights off, let them rest.

Quit turning the lights on to take pictures or stare at those beauties, let them rest, they are stressed and need to relax. Turn the lights off and walk away......Pictures can be taken tomorrow

Day 2, turn the lights on and begin interacting with them. Seriously, tap on the glass, show them attention. Make this an everyday thing. You want them to get use to you and the surroundings. After several weeks, if not sooner, these guys should rush the front of the tank when you enter the room and there should be less and less startling because you have gotten them use to the movements and activity in the tank.

feeedings – a variety of foods is BEST. 4-6 times a day in small amounts. Yes I understand life gets in the way and 6 may be out of reach, do as many as you can. At least 3. from a good beefheart/seafood mix, to flakes, to color granulars and my favorite and the staple food of all my Discus. Freeze Dried Blackworms. There are many other options and variety is the key.

Water changes – very simply, the BEST thing you can do for your Discus.

One a day is plenty all though I know many that do 2. I am not here to get in a debate with anyone on whether or not daily needs to be done. Yes, you can do less. But in most cases you will get less in your grow outs. I am trying to give your Discus the best chance to reach their full potential in size and health.

I highly recommend doing at least 50% of a change a day and would prefer you to do more like 70%. I myself do 80-90% everyday.

Make sure you use a dechlorinator like prime or Safe and match the temp of the water which should be 84 degrees for juvies.

Wipe down the inside walls and floor of the tank at least every 3-4th day and rinse the sponge filters out in tank water (don't squeeze dry) every week or so.

Day 3, - Repeat Day 2

Day 4, - Repeat Day 3

etc., etc,

it really is this simple, feeding 4-6 times daily and doing your water changes each day will go a long way in helping you raise healthy Discus...

How Long

I would encourage anyone to keep this practice up for at least the first 6 months. I myself stick to this regimen for the first 9 months, which should put your newbies at approx. 1 year old.

Again, I am no expert but normally a 2.5 – 3 inch Discus is about 3 months old.

Another couple months under your care should put them at rough 4.5 – 5 inches in size.

And by the time you have had them for 3-4 months they should be over 5 inches. My experience has been one seems to outpace the rest and the others then catch up at some point. Usually the pacer will become your biggest but not always. At 9 months (6 months under your care) most Discus with proper raising should be reach 5.5 to 6 inches . This seems when people slow down and try less water changes and less food. Nothing wrong with that, but I firmly believe you should continue your daily practice for the first year to help your babies reach their full potential.

Then what

at a year I believe your Discus become Sub– Adults and really don't reach Adulthood til they turn 2 years old. During this time you will see your guys and gals fatten up and thicken throughout the body and begin to finalize their colors and patterns.

At roughly 9 months to a year or longer depending on how you feel about your group you can lower the feeding and water change habits. I normally go to 3 feedings at first then to 2. at this time I also stop feeding any beefheart mix, that's just me, many continue to use this food. I eventually get to feeding a good Discus Flake in the morning and Freeze dried blackworms in the early evening. I also reduce water changes to 3 days a week to begin with, then to 2 days a week. I continue to do 75% each change, this doesn't change. Its just good habit.

Other Thoughts

Acclimating - I always lean towards what your specific supplier recommends.

PH - the Discus of today has adapted well over time and can handle much higher PH readings than years past. the range is pretty open from 6.5 the whole way 8.
with that said, if the PH is above 8 you may need to test your options. many age their water and this helps most. some need to dig further into natural ways of reducing.
most of all, if the PH is in range, say 7.6, don't try to zero in on a lower number like 7.0, this is unnecessary and can cause issues instead of eliminating them. consistency is so much more important than a lower PH.

Mixing Sources - trust me, this is a really tricky and touchy situation. it can be done, I have done it myself. But I spent a good year leading up to the point of mixing Asians with Germans. I kept them in different tanks and let them grow over time, then when I was ready I mixed slowly. very slowly.
my recommendation is stay with one source, Germans or Asians. and one supplier. many Discus carry pathogens that they are immune to, but introducing them to another group can cause big issues. even from the same source, Proper QT should always be top priority when bring in new fish. one week is not near enough time, it doesn't matter if you get them from the same supplier or not. 4-6 weeks should always be a minimum for qt'ing.
this is a big reason, not the only reason, that I recommend getting your group all at one time. don't get 2-3, then 2-3 weeks later 2-3 more. many people say they don't want to overload their filtration system. if you are doing proper maintenance your daily water changes will offset any risk in overloading the bioload.

In conclusion

By following some simple guidelines you can reduce the chances of having issues with these beauties. The first 12 months of a Discus life is crucial to their overall health and longevity. by providing some one on one time with your group the first 9-12 months of their life it will provide many years of enjoyment. the satisfaction you get from getting them start out on the right fin is priceless and will come back to you 10 fold.
this is a simple guideline but by no means an all inclusive way to do things. there are other things involved in raising Juvies, but most of those are discussions we need to have to help fix an issue because something here wasn't followed.
Discus have long been thought to be very tough to keep. this is not the case, with simple guidelines these beauties are easily kept by many a hobbyist. and yes, many short cuts have been tried, but for the most part it always seems to come back to water changes....
I hope this in some way this helps the hobbyist out there considering Discus to give them the confidence that they can keep This King of Freshwater fish.
  • #2
Excellent!! Thank you Disc61, this thread should be standard reading for all who are considering discus, whether grow-outs, sub-adult, or adult. Thank you!
  • #2
Nice write up
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  • #4
I am already seeing several topics I need to add to this. When I do, I will update
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  • #5
I have added a "other thoughts" section to this. most things I have missed will wind up going into this section.
I currently added 3 more subjects.

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