Why so many water changes with Discus?

OhioFishKeeper

I don't have Discus, but aspire to get there some day. I definitely want to fully understand the responsibility before going down that road.

Jack Wattley Discus on YouTube says 1 fish per 10 gallons, Mid 80s for temp, varied diet, and 20% water changes per week with vacuuming up all the debris. This seems very manageable. On the other had, the daily high volume water changes and cleaning I'm reading about in this forum is something I don't think I want to take on at this time.

Why are the extreme water changes necessary? If you have a fully cycled tank with 0/0/and less than 20 N03, why is the water needing to be changed so much? And if it's the NO3, what about one of these tanks with a deep bed and driftwood that supposed to denitrify and keep NO3 at zero?
 

ppate1977

I'm no expert, but from what I understand ANY fluctuations are difficult on discuss. I think you want to keep nitrates below 10ppm. Someone will chime in that knows more. Good luck.
 

TClare

I have wondered the same, I believe the daily water changes are important when they are juveniles, not so much as adults. I once asked this question in my lfs and was told that it is because they eat a lot and are very messy eaters. I suppose in the higher temperatures that they need decomposition of uneaten food and fish waste will take place more quickly. I am sure 86 ssinit will be able to explain more fully.
 

SparkyJones

the extreme water changes is because nobody including Jack Wattley keeps 10 fish per 100 gallons of water. For beginners 1 fish per 10 gallons, it's the easiest introduction because the learning curve is steep on how it has to be maintained for optimal color, health and growth.
1 per 10g, that's just not the reality of Discus keeping for anyone that keeps them really.

they need low GH under 3 low KH under 3 low pH from under 7 down to around 5.5. it needs to be temp controlled and clean always for maximum growth. Discus don't know Ammonia naturally because of the water where they are taken from, , and below pH7 Ammonia is Ammonium and non-toxic. pH7 is the high end, you'd want it lower than that. and the basic idea is to keep nitrates under 10ppm at all times. Ideally as close to zero as you can get it and keep it.

So,,,, water change water change, water change in order to maintain that kind of water quality, However, if you are doing all that work,and willing to do just a bit more, you can keep more fish in the same volume of water., once you really have the hang of it, maybe 15-20 discus per 100 gallons, daily water changes, keeping a separate containers to make up water using RO and building it to where it's wanted and right temp and all things being equal except pristine from the water in the tank.

extreme water changes are necessary to maintain the 0/0/0, 3GK, 3KH, when it's stocked moderately heavy. ( i mean a bit more than 1 per 10g. just a couple extra fish)

It really hurts to lose expensive fish out of laziness. Discus keepers decide beforehand if they want to take on all the work, once they figure out it's a lot of work. Wattley, just wants to sell fish, and he's giving the right advice to a novice on how to start. 1 fish, 10g, 20% water change weekly. that will work for a long time, but go to two fish per 10 gallon, and it's not going to work.
Go to a 6" or 8" diameter discus, and it's not going to work.
But his advice with get the small discus he sells into your tank for a couple months doing well, and either you pick up the pace and learn or the nitrates build, the GH goes up and the fish dies.

they are low pH fish (soft water) their immune system isn't very strong because they don't deal with much bacteria at low pH (soft water), they aren't tolerant of ammonia at all because they don't experience it in soft water. neglect will shift soft water to hard water quite easily, TDS will raise parameters.

Honestly, it's mostly Discus keepers being unwilling to gamble with the lives of their expensive fish, not wanting to risk killing them and let anything build up that would could become a problem. Fish like that you want top condition, top size and top color. you won't get that from slacking on the water conditions.

And slack enough you'll have sick dying raggedy fish just from certain bacteria that they can't tolerate.
 

86 ssinit

Yes juvenile discus need daily 50% or better water changes. It’s just the type of fish. They need clean water. As adults they can get away with 2 water changes. I have a thread running for new discus keepers. I suggest you start with 5” discus.
the extreme water changes is because nobody including Jack Wattley keeps 10 fish per 100 gallons of water. For beginners 1 fish per 10 gallons, it's the easiest introduction because the learning curve is steep on how it has to be maintained for optimal color, health and growth.
1 per 10g, that's just not the reality of Discus keeping for anyone that keeps them really.

they need low GH under 3 low KH under 3 low pH from under 7 down to around 5.5. it needs to be temp controlled and clean always for maximum growth. Discus don't know Ammonia naturally because of the water where they are taken from, , and below pH7 Ammonia is Ammonium and non-toxic. pH7 is the high end, you'd want it lower than that. and the basic idea is to keep nitrates under 10ppm at all times. Ideally as close to zero as you can get it and keep it.

So,,,, water change water change, water change in order to maintain that kind of water quality, However, if you are doing all that work,and willing to do just a bit more, you can keep more fish in the same volume of water., once you really have the hang of it, maybe 15-20 discus per 100 gallons, daily water changes, keeping a separate containers to make up water using RO and building it to where it's wanted and right temp and all things being equal except pristine from the water in the tank.

extreme water changes are necessary to maintain the 0/0/0, 3GK, 3KH, when it's stocked moderately heavy. ( i mean a bit more than 1 per 10g. just a couple extra fish)

It really hurts to lose expensive fish out of laziness. Discus keepers decide beforehand if they want to take on all the work, once they figure out it's a lot of work. Wattley, just wants to sell fish, and he's giving the right advice to a novice on how to start. 1 fish, 10g, 20% water change weekly. that will work for a long time, but go to two fish per 10 gallon, and it's not going to work.
Go to a 6" or 8" diameter discus, and it's not going to work.
But his advice with get the small discus he sells into your tank for a couple months doing well, and either you pick up the pace and learn or the nitrates build, the GH goes up and the fish dies.

they are low pH fish (soft water) their immune system isn't very strong because they don't deal with much bacteria at low pH (soft water), they aren't tolerant of ammonia at all because they don't experience it in soft water. neglect will shift soft water to hard water quite easily, TDS will raise parameters.

Honestly, it's mostly Discus keepers being unwilling to gamble with the lives of their expensive fish, not wanting to risk killing them and let anything build up that would could become a problem. Fish like that you want top condition, top size and top color. you won't get that from slacking on the water conditions.

And slack enough you'll have sick dying raggedy fish just from certain bacteria that they can't tolerate.
Please this isn’t true. The 1 per 10g is dead on. Yes there are many people doing many more. There just not around long. Ph can be from 6-8. Just don’t chase it. Leave it as is. Tons of mis information out there. The whole thing with discus is you’ve got to be committed to the time needed.
 

TClare

Discus don't know Ammonia naturally because of the water where they are taken from, , and below pH7 Ammonia is Ammonium and non-toxic. pH7 is the high end, you'd want it lower than that. and the basic idea is to keep nitrates under 10ppm at all times. Ideally as close to zero as you can get it and keep it.
This is true, but is also true of many other fish, including cichlids, from similar environments, soft water, low pH, no ammonia. I am sure all of these species will do best with clean water and low nitrates, but daily water changes are not usually necessary for most species unless very heavily stocked.
 

OhioFishKeeper

This has me thinking... So the Jack Wattley information is good, but most people don't stay within the 1 per 10g rule and that's why they need more water changes. He alluded to that in the video...

If 0/0/0 is what you want, with 85degrees, stables pH, and low KH/GH, has anyone built a denitrifying setup? Not to avoid water changes, but rather to keep the Nitrates at zero. If you test the water and it's staying within ideal parameters in all categories, I wonder if this is a good thing to try.

I'm nowhere near ready to start a tank large enough for discus. I'm just gathering information to decide what kind of tank and equipment I want to purchase that can be converted to discus when I'm ready.
 

86 ssinit

The water changes do away with denitrifying. And me denitrifying is a myth :). Nitrates are given to much thought. I never check mine. If you change your water weekly you don’t have to worry.
 

OhioFishKeeper

The water changes do away with denitrifying. And me denitrifying is a myth :). Nitrates are given to much thought. I never check mine. If you change your water weekly you don’t have to worry.
I have no experience with it, but there are a lot of people who claim to do it. I'm not saying you try to do this to avoid water changes, but if it could keep the nitrates at zero, it would make the discus that much happier maybe.

I'm just trying to wrap my head around if there are other factors that haven't been discussed why heavy water changes are necessary.

Thank you for the input.
 

TClare

I change 30-40% of the water in my large SA cichlid tank each week. It is quite a new tank so I have been measuring nitrates at the end of the week (I only rarely do it with the well established tanks). Nitrates are always below 1. I think this is because the stocking is quite low, none of the fish are full sized, and because the tank is covered with water lettuce.. But I do the water change anyway as I believe nitrates are not the only factor, I do not have a test kit for phosphates for example, and there must be other organic compounds that build up and nutrients that become depleted. I have a good system going for the water change and I am happy to do it each week, but I would not want to have to do it every day, even on a much smaller tank. That, and the price of the fish, have put me off keeping discus, otherwise I would like to have some wild Amazonian ones...
 

OhioFishKeeper


Anoxic zones... Again, I have no experience with this, but it seems like it might have value if our goal is zero Nitrates for happy discus.
 

SparkyJones


Anoxic zones... Again, I have no experience with this, but it seems like it might have value if our goal is zero Nitrates for happy discus.
yes and no. I have some experience with it actually, I was trying it to avoid water changes 3 decades ago doing it, it works, however, it doesn't get you out of water changes. you wind up with super high GH and super low pH and no KH at all. Not ideal for discus either,, or African cichlids, or most any fish. but they can all acclimate to it until it's too stressing or bacteria gets m.

yes totally works to eat up nitrates for a while but once it goes really acidic it's stacking on GH and nitrates that it can't handle braking down ammonium and the pH falls out, that, I think is the misconception, at least it was my misconception, that, if it was zeroing the nitrates and 0 Ammonia and Nitrites, the water was fine. However, it's not, every top off was adding more GH, and KH was going lower and lower, minerals were stacking up.

I'd suppose if combined with RO water for top offs this could partially be avoided, but you'd still need to add for depleted minerals, and remove for excess minerals. The fish will eventually run the calcium low to near nil in time. Phosphates will build up, magnesium, potassium ect. it's not as easy to get it balanced as the pushers of anerobic nitrifiers seems to believe but it will work for a while without water changes,,,, until it doesn't anymore.

But yeah anoxic zones work, it's just not a way out of water changes, but if coupled with water changes, you can ride zeros. and really high water quality and maintain the other parameters in balance, it's just not a solution for water changes.. (anoxic zone coupled with water changes, it could be very effective I think.) but I think that kills the selling point of the anoxic zone. if'it's not getting you out of lugging water,, why go through the trouble?

works in a salt water tank also, Live rock as an example, or even with a reactor, still have to do those water changes though.

but tank bred discus are adapted for more tolerance than the wild discus are. higher pH accepting, harder water, but you know, it still falls back to the GH.

old water is bacteria laden and/or full of minerals, which can lead to issues with discus. I think this is reason #1 for the frequent water changes people do. keep the free range bacteria and uneaten food and waste down.
reason #2 for trying to keep hardness down, if for spawning and eggs. the harder the water is the harder time the eggs have at letting oxygenated water pass thought the eggs. softer water it's easier to keep the eggs oxygenated. although you might want harder water for fry-juveniles for appetite and growth.

this is why I think the designer colors of the tank raised discus from the breeders are more pH and hardness tolerant. kind of getting bred into them over the years as with all fish, stable pH is better than the "right pH". the tank raised discus are probably also building bacteria tolerance the wild discus didn't have generation after generation..

i think, situationally specific reasons for heavy water changes occur when keeping discus. like breeding, or a bacterial infection, or waterchanging to promote feeding when they slack off food, ect. situations occur that can be resolved though water changes. i don't think it's an always and forever, daily water changes, but plenty of reasons you'd want to do them a lot for the health and growth of the fish.
 

86 ssinit

Well it’s not about nitrates. They aren’t from the Amazon anymore. These discus are from breeders. Mainly from Asia and some from Germany. Now the breeders from Asia brein vats or ponds. No filtration they change the water 2-3 times a day. All of it. This is the reason to keep up your water changes. Yes you can slow them down to twice a week. After you’ve owned them awhile you’ll know what they can take.

Didn’t watch the video. Seen them before. I stoped on the title. Why are you keeping fish if you can’t even change the water? Yes some have proved with a deep bed of substrate you can grow nitrate eating bacteria. Limited fish and many plants. For discus the suggestion is no substrate at all. Yes some do try this deep substrate planted tank for discus. But they go with big 100+g tanks and 2-6 discus. Most don’t do it long term.

Discus are not a normal fish. But that doesn’t mean they’re a hard fish to keep. They are more of a time consuming fish. Water changes are key. Knowing your water is a must. As the water gets older in the tank the ph tends to drop. The longer you wait the lower it drops. By changing the water your keeping your tank water at the same ph as your tap water.
 

OhioFishKeeper

I'm not trying to get out of water changes, but rather have a safety net if you can't do a water change for a week or two. I do go away on vacations for a week at a time once or twice per year. If I can do something to buy some time, I would be interested. With my betta, I hope I'll be okay...if I had discus I might not be able to go away.
 

SparkyJones

I'm not trying to get out of water changes, but rather have a safety net if you can't do a water change for a week or two. I do go away on vacations for a week at a time once or twice per year. If I can do something to buy some time, I would be interested. With my betta, I hope I'll be okay...if I had discus I might not be able to go away.
Just gonna say, and no offense meant or shot taken at anyone personally, but I doubt people would go on vacation for 1 or 2 weeks and leave the dog or cat or their kids to fend for themselves for the duration... I don't see why people think of fish any differently but they do, like it's a houseplant.

"I dunno, when I left two weeks ago I sanitized the kids room, fed him all he could eat and changed his diaper, I took care of everything left a big bowl of M&Ms out too!... what do you mean there's a problem officer?"

hahahahaha! you can skip water changes for discus for a week or two, skip feeding also, I'm sure something will probably survive, in pretty poor shape, but survive. Same goes for the Betta or any fish really.
 

86 ssinit

Lol :). Ok for me when I go away I change 50% of the water the day before. Do stop feeding them. Yep no food till I get back. Not even m&ms. Sound harsh but they can easily go a week or 2 without food. Having someone feed them when your away is asking for trouble. My regular tanks my dog sitter will feed once every other day. Never a problem and they are no worse for wear. Oh I also lower the temp to 82.
 

OhioFishKeeper

No offense taken. I certainly don't plan to abandon my responsibilities, that's why I'm trying to figure out a way to do this that works with my lifestyle. I don't want to manually do daily water changes and I want to be able to leave for a week without harming the fish. If I can't figure out how to have what I want, then I can't have discus.

I'm thinking about a timer for feeding and I'm working on a drip water change concept that would make this all happen automatically.
Just gonna say, and no offense meant or shot taken at anyone personally, but I doubt people would go on vacation for 1 or 2 weeks and leave the dog or cat or their kids to fend for themselves for the duration... I don't see why people think of fish any differently but they do, like it's a houseplant.

"I dunno, when I left two weeks ago I sanitized the kids room, fed him all he could eat and changed his diaper, I took care of everything left a big bowl of M&Ms out too!... what do you mean there's a problem officer?"

hahahahaha! you can skip water changes for discus for a week or two, skip feeding also, I'm sure something will probably survive, in pretty poor shape, but survive. Same goes for the Betta or any fish really.
 

86 ssinit

Well not feeding is the best way. Pretty much what most discus keepers do. No food means much less waste. Cleaner water!! It not like they eat many flakes. Some don’t eat flakes at all.
 

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