Acquired: Fish / pet store
Posted Sep 10, 2014
Discus aren’t as difficult to keep as their reputation sometimes suggests. They’re still not a beginner’s fish or for the casual aquarist. Discus are a sensitive species that requires far more intensive maintenance than most freshwater fish.
The ideal water for discus is warmer than many tropicals, soft and acidic. Depending on your local water source, these can be difficult conditions to meet. As long as you’re not planning on breeding, discus can get by with less than ideal conditions such as the water being a neutral pH.
What discus don’t tolerate well is sudden changes in water conditions. This can be a bit of challenge given that the other condition they require is extremely clean water. Discus need a powerful filtration system and water changes that are done frequently so that they can be small enough not to cause major shifts in the water chemistry and still keep the tank immaculate.
While young discus can be kept in smaller tanks, their water conditions are far easier to maintain in large tanks. These fish can be nervous and greatly benefit from an abundance of plants and driftwood. Plants can also help to diffuse the currents from the filtration system, which can make swimming difficult for discus.
Discus do best kept in groups with other discus or in pairs. They can be territorial when preparing to spawn, but tank conditions have to be ideal in order for this to happen. I never saw aggression amongst my non-breeding discus. The only problem with their preference for their own kind is that these are expensive fish so purchasing groups can be pricey.
They can also be kept with other fish that enjoy similar water conditions, but given how clean they need the water it’s best not to overstock the tank. They are also prone to stress and should only be kept with peaceful community fish.
Having calmer fish like schooling tetras can help to keep discus relaxed and neon tetras look gorgeous with discus. However, discus are a carnivore species and some adults will eat small tetras.
Discus do need a high protein diet and while they shouldn’t necessarily be eating other fish, they do well with live brine shrimp, frozen food and high protein cichlid pellets. It’s important that they are given a quality diet along with ideal water conditions to prevent problems such as hole in the head disease.
These are regal fish that make for an extremely beautiful aquarium, but which do require the royal treatment.