When people come around to my house, generally they love my Discus. Which is great! Because I love them, and they are also literally the most expensive fish I own or will ever own. (I swear to god).
Since I’ve kept them for a few years now, and have had my share of ups and downs, I thought I would do a quick list to help anyone reading this see whether or not Discus are for you.
People can be pretty opinionated with Discus keeping, and there is no one way to do it. This is the way I keep mine.
First thing’s first, Discus are expensive. This should prevent impulse buying but hey, you never know. They’re expensive because they’re hard to keep and breed, so it’s always good to keep in mind that they’re tricky.
Like many, many fish, Discus are social. One Discus may do well, but two will be better, and five or more is ideal. So referencing the previous paragraph, Discus are a big decision - you could buy a pedigree puppy or kitten for the price of a good sized community of discus.
Also as with many fish, not all fish shops are created equal and some stores have sickly fish. Never ever buy a Discus that looks less than perfect unless you know what you’re doing, have a dedicated hospital tank and a lot of time. As with many large, pretty fish, Discus are delicate, shy and slow moving. An unhealthy discus will get out-competed for food by other discus (and any other fish) if you don’t watch it, and they will stop eating when too stressed and starve to death.
A healthy Discus should have a good, fat head, and ‘plump’ sides. Viewed from the front, the eyes should not visibly protrude from the sides of the fish. This is difficult to describe, but since most stores have more than one discus per tank, you should be able to tell by looking at them.
I normally buy ‘jerk’ fish. In the store, there is generally a fish who is the boss of all the others, the most aggressive. I like to buy these fish because I know that they are the most likely to be getting a lot of food. It means you have to be more careful when introducing new fish, but I’ve found that this is in the end much easier than buying a stressed out discus.
Discus can survive in the usual tropical range of ~26C, but they do much better in warmer tanks of 28-30C. I keep mine at around 30C, which is far too warm for a great number of common community tank tropical species. For example - mollies, platties, dwarf gourami, kilifish are all out and will die in water this warm sooner rather than later. It has the added bonus of being an intolerable temperature for diseases like white spot, yay!
Great tank mates for Discus include their fellow South American species like tetra. Small peaceful South American cichlids can coexist in a large tank with enough cover (I keep Apistogramma cacatuoides with mine). I wouldn’t put anything close to the same size as a discus in my discus tank.
There are quite a few popular South American cichlids which are totally inappropriate as Discus tank mates, the most common of which are Angel Fish. Angels are quite slow moving and delicate, similar to discus, but they are far hardier and more aggressive. They will kick the stuffing out of your discus. Actually, if you’re a fish newbie thinking about a South American tank that’s not going to break your heart or your wallet, angels are a great species to look into! Just not with discus ever.
Others include Green Terrors, Red Terrors, Jewel Cichlids, Jaguar cichlids… basically anything bigger than an Apistogramma or a Ram is a no-go, in my opinion.
Water quality is critical. I know that fish keepers always say this, but I’m really not joking around. Captive-bred discus will generally tolerate a neutral PH (although a maintained acidic PH is obviously better), but they do not tolerate dirt. I keep a heavily planted tank with good substrate, have a massive filter and clean my tank every week religiously. Before I kept discus, I could maintain great water parameters with a 20% siphon every 3 weeks, but discus need perfect water or they start getting sad.
I hand feed my discus to make sure I can see who is eating and who isn’t. It takes a bit more time, but I’ve found it is essential to keeping on top of any weirdness and acting on it fast. I feed frozen blood worm, brine shrimp and specially formulated discus food I buy from a reputable brand at my LFS. My discus have never really taken to pellets, but I also haven’t tried very hard to convert them, since I enjoy feeding by hand and this is probably not possible with dry food. I supplement their diets with live blood or black worms every few months because they love it, but don’t do it all the time because I am shit at keeping them alive.
All this said, they are extremely delicate fish and they do get sick sometimes even with your best efforts, and a sick discus is very hard to nurse back to health (I do recommend live food and even more frequent water changes as one method).
I love my discus, but I have lost some and it’s devastating, as it is with all fish, especially ones with personality and beauty. If you’re considering discus, you’re probably already a pretty experienced fish keeper, to which I say : you know what you’re getting yourself into, but Discus don’t forgive anything that other species sometimes do (holiday away? Think you can leave your tank without a water change for 3 weeks just this one time? Not really, hey.) If you’re new to fish keeping and find yourself enchanted by this stunning fish, that’s great! But I would recommend building up a heavily planted tank with a South American focus (small fish! There are other big and amazing South Americans out there), and consider it after a few years of fishkeeping.
I’m putting together a list of URL’s that can benefit others.
Please only reblog if you are comfortable answering questions about general fish care and you feel you have enough knowledge to help new keepers.
I’m looking for blogs that post about different types of fish care and has a well rounded knowledge of different types of fish.
I see that this is an 8 month old post but I’m happy to answer people’s questions! I keep Malawi Cichlids, Tanganyika Cichlids, South Americans (Discus, Apistogrammas and Rams mostly), Ancistrus sp, Peppermint bristlenose, Bettas, Loaches (Botia almorhae & Chromobotia macracanthus) and keep low-tech planted tanks. :)
I’ve bred everything except for Bettas, Apistogrammas and Discus.
If you are still looking for blogs I would be honoured anyway! :)
Quick question, my Vals have sent out plenty of runners & I was wondering if I can remove some & plant them elsewhere as separate plants?
You sure can, however in my experience it’s always best to wait until the runners have foliage of at least 3-4 cm long per baby plant.