Freshwater Tropical Aquarium Fish: Discus (Symphysodon sp.) Basic Care Guide
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Discus Species Profile and Basic Care Guide

Discus Basic Care

Often regarded as the "King of Freshwater Tropical Fish," the graceful and stately Discus is a joy to behold. Bred in captivity since the early 1960s, Discus (Symphysodon sp.) boast many beautiful varieties prized for their bright and intricate color schemes and are beloved by freshwater aquarists around the world.

Discussing Discus
Years ago, Discus-keeping was considerably more difficult. But thanks to advances in aquarium equipment, greater availability of hardy captive-raised specimens, and better understanding of husbandry and care requirements of the species, Discus-keeping is easier and more enjoyable than ever before. However, it is important to note that proper long-term care of Discus requires dedicated attention to aquarium water quality, other water parameters (pH, hardness, etc.), and diet. This commitment makes the Discus best suited for devoted or experienced freshwater aquarists.

Aquarium Setup
Discus can be kept in either a planted or bare-bottom aquarium. Whichever setup you choose, the aquarium needs to be large and deep to comfortably accommodate the broad body shape and the maximum potential adult size of 8". Provide a well-filtered, established aquarium of at least 55 gallons in size. If setting up a biotope or planted aquarium for your Discus, aquascape liberally with driftwood and several dense plant groupings scattered around the aquarium. Be sure to maintain an open area for swimming and consider including floating plants to create areas of low or subdued lighting.

Though they may squabble among themselves, Discus are peaceful and somewhat retreating in nature, so house only with other peaceful fish that share the same water parameter requirements as Discus. Peaceful tetras such as Cardinal Tetras and Rummynose Tetras are good examples of compatible tankmates. Better yet, consider a Discus-only setup comprised of at least six individuals as they are schooling fish that do best in groups.

Aquarium Water Parameters
Discus originate in the mixed tropical waters of the Brazilian Amazon River of South America. The Amazon River and its tributaries contain water described as either white, clear, or black. Discus are typically found in streams, creeks, and small lakes where these waters "mix" and combine to form naturally soft, acidic waters. In the home aquarium, Discus require similar conditions - very clean water with pH between 5.0 and 7.0. These water conditions can be achieved with a reverse osmosis unit and pH water conditioners. To maintain high water quality, frequent water changes - at least 25%, twice per week - may be necessary. In addition, Discus prefer warm water temperatures so be sure to maintain constant water temperatures between 82°F and 86°F. Get into the habit of testing and monitoring aquarium water regularly, especially the pH level, and become confident making adjustments necessary for fish health.

Discus Diet
Discus are largely carnivorous, preferring meaty food items such as freeze-dried bloodworms and tubifex, pellet food designed for Discus, high-quality flake food, and meaty frozen foods. Discus have hearty appetites, so it is recommended to feed them frequently during the day, especially if they are breeding. However, only feed them an amount they can finish within a few minutes. Remove any uneaten food to help maintain water quality.

Discus Basic Care
Royal Red Discus
Discus Basic Care
Blue Diamond Discus
Discus Basic Care
Red Marlboro Discus
Discus Basic Care
Green Discus, Wild (Tefe)

 

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