The Discus Fish is a beautiful South American Cichlid.
For a long time, this “King of the Aquarium” was very difficult to care for in captivity. That’s because these fish required pristine tank conditions and soft water that was at a very low pH.
Furthermore, these fish were initially wild-caught, and the journey from Brazil to North America and Europe often caused irremediable levels of stress.
Their difficulty in care contributed to the Discus’ royal status. Some (elitist) aquarists prided themselves for being able to keep and breed Discus in captivity.
Yes; the Discus had a bumpy entry in the aquarium hobby. But, times have changed and so has our understanding of this extraordinary fish. Even the fish, itself, has changed. The king is back, but he’s wearing a different robe.
Sadly, the Discus’ former reputation of being a very difficult fish to keep in the home aquarium has generated a lot of myths and misconceptions about this beautiful species.
In this Fish-of-the-Month post, I hope to debunk some of these half-truths.
Discus have come a long way in recent years. Although they’re still not a good beginner fish, Discus have become much easier to keep. Selective breeding has produced not only a multitude of color variations, but also hardier fish.
While wild-caught specimens should only be kept by experienced aquarists, captive bred varieties will fare well under the care of hobbyists with moderate experience.
The vast majority of Discus Fish available on today’s market are captive raised. You can have great success with these fish, provided that you arm yourself with knowledge of both Discus and of aquariums in general. The Kick-Ass Aquarium is a good place to start.
Basically, Discus Fish need three things to do well in an aquarium. They need efficient and quite filtration (canister filters are great at providing both), a hearty and varied diet, and the appropriate tank and water conditions (see Aquarium Care below)
Okay, what about the myths, then?
The people who claim that Discus will eat only one type of food are doing something wrong! Loss of appetite is a sign of stress.
Discus will take a variety of foods as long as you provide them with a healthy environment. A healthy environment makes for a healthy appetite.
My Discus gobble up frozen beef heart, frozen mysis shrimp, frozen brine shrimp, and even flake food. You too should offer your fish a varied diet in order to ensure their long term wellbeing.
Of course, if you train your fish to take only one type of food, they will learn to accept only that food.
Discus can be shy, especially in aquariums that have noisy power filters and in ones that house boisterous fish. But, if you provide your fish with a quite tank and suitable tankmates, Discus can be very sociable.
My beauties stay in the front of the aquarium most of the time. Rarely do they hide. In fact, when I stick my hands in the aquarium to do some tank maintenance, I often have to physically (but gently) push the curious critters aside! They just follow me around!
Some people think that Discus should not be kept with other fish. This is a valid concern, but this “rule” is not etched in stone.
No; Discus should not be kept with large, fast swimming, or aggressive fish. But, there are plenty of fish in the sea, as the saying goes. If you do some research, you’ll find that there are a few types of fish, such as cardinal tetras and blue rams, which make for great additions to a Discus tank.
Again, provide your fish with the right environment, and they’ll reward you with beautiful displays of color and long life.
-Scientific Name: Symphysodon aequifasciata spp.
-Origin: Parts of the Amazon River, but most occur in some of the Amazon’s many tributaries, including the Rio Negro.
-Water Temperature Range: 82-86 °F (28-30 ºC)
-Water pH Range: 5.8-6.8
-Temperament: peaceful but territorial during spawning.
- Maximum Size: 8 inches (20 cm)
- Minimum Tank Size: 50 U.S. gallons (190 liters)
- Diet: Frozen beef heart (recommended), Frozen mysis shrimp, frozen brine shrimp, frozen bloodworms (not recommended), flake food (okay when fed in addition to frozen foods).