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Discus Fish Care Guide: Feeding, Breeding & Requirements

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By Lindsey Stanton

discus fish in aquarium

Discus fish are native to the Amazon and they definitely like the warm conditions. Don’t let their laid-back look and their colorful hues fool you though, because these fish are actually relatively hard to take care of and require some very specific conditions to be happy and healthy, not to mention to simply stay alive.

Discus Fish Care

Like we mentioned before, discus fish are relatively hard to take care of and they need some pretty strict conditions in order to stay healthy and happy. Follow these tips, or rules if you will, and your discus fish will be just fine.

Discus Fish
Image Credit: Robert Balog, Pixabay

General Housing

Discus fish are perfect to have in planted aquariums and plants are actually ideal to have with these fish. Aquatic plants are great to have with discus fish because they help to control pH levels as well as nitrate levels.

There is also the fact that discus fish are originally from the Amazon where there are lots of plants; they love long stem plants and small foreground plants. Having these plants will help make your discus fish feel comfortable and they will also help soften the water too (we have covered our top 5 plant picks for Discus fish, click here to see the article).

Some people like to have discus fish in a non-planted aquarium which makes the water easier to clean and maintain at the proper parameters, but of course it is not nearly as pleasing to the eye.

Furthermore, before you put the discus fish into the tank it is a wise idea to give them some deworming medication to ensure their health. This may cause them some stress, but healthy discus fish will usually be able to deal with it no problem.

Moreover, take some form of tubing and create a syphon to allow a few drops of water to drip into a bucket every second (this is the bucket in which your fish are after you have bought them from the store). This will slowly get them used to the water in your tank. Let this process occur for about 30 minutes before you introduce the discus fish into your tank.

discuss fish in aquarium
Image Credit: Piqsels

Water Hardness

When it comes to the hardness of the water which your discus fish are in, the water needs to be anywhere between 1 dH and 8 dH. In other words, discus fish need relatively soft water conditions.

There are some discus fish that can withstand slightly harder water, especially those that have been bred in a tank, however even those can’t handle much more than 9 dH. If the water is too hard you can always add some aquarium grade water softener or you can add some driftwood too.

discus fish in aquarium
Image Credit: Piqsels

pH Levels

Discus fish generally require water that is slightly acidic. The pH level of your aquarium should be between 6 and 7, with an ideal pH level of 6.5. Anything over a level of 7 or under 6 will not be good for the discus fish, cause them stress, and may even cause them to die.

In terms of the discus fish pH level, just like the water hardness, discus fish may be able to handle pH levels as high as 7.8, but that only goes for tank bred discus fish and if there is little to no fluctuation.

NOTE: Wondering how many Discus you can house? Here is the answer.

Discus Fish Water Temperature

Discus fish require the water temperature to be fairly high, to be exact the temperature should be anywhere between 28 and 31 degrees Celsius. Water with lower temperatures may cause your discus fish to slow down, and temperature anywhere under 23 degrees Celsius put your discus fish at serious risk of death.

On the other hand, when the temperature is higher than 31 degrees Celsius, it will lower the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water, thus lowering your fish’s ability to breathe and will also reduce the amount of fish that you can house in the aquarium.

Other Compounds

There are a few other compounds which tend to be present in aquarium water, and for discus fish, well, they all really should not be present at all. The nitrite levels in the tank should be 0 parts per million as discus fish are extremely susceptible to any and all nitrite.

The same is true for ammonia levels in the water. Discus fish are very susceptible to ammonia, and anything over 2 parts per million will cause heavy breathing, a sluggish nature, a loss of color, and may also cause death. If you need help lowering ammonia levels then this post will help you.

Finally, the nitrate levels in the water need to be kept under 20 parts per million. Anything higher than that may cause death.

As an easy fix, you can add several aquatic plants to your aquarium to reduce nitrate levels. Since discus fish are very susceptible to all of these things, you need to change at least 50 percent of the water every week to make sure that your fish are healthy and safe.

two colorful discus fish in tank
Image: Andrey Armyagov, Shutterstock

Feeding Your Discus Fish

Of course another important part of keeping your fish alive and healthy is feeding them properly. Discus fish are carnivorous in nature so you do need to feed them the proper diet. Some of the things that they like most include blood worms, brine shrimp, daphnia, worms, beef heart, and other meat based foods.

You should also feed them a small number of pellets or flakes in order to provide them with vitamins. Just keep in mind that you need to feed the meat to your discus fish first and they should not be living primarily off of flakes or pellets.

Something to keep in mind that the vibrant coloring which is inherent in the discus fish species does depend on their diet. To optimize their coloring and keep them looking bright you should be feeding your discus fish a wide variety of fresh and frozen foods. You need to make sure that they get protein, vitamins, minerals, and all of the other required compounds to keep them healthy.

You should also be aware that discus fish like to feed from the middle of the tank, not the top, so you should get foods that slowly sink to the bottom. Just on a side note, discus fish love beef heart as a treat, but it can pollute the tank, so be sure to maintain great water quality and turn off the filter while feeding it to them.

discus fish red purple
Image Credit: Rethinktwice from Pixabay

Discus Breeding Guide

Breeding discus fish is not something that has been accomplished very many times in the past. However with more scientific evidence being available as of late hobby aquarium enthusiasts have slowly becoming more successful at it. There are a number of different tips that you absolutely need to follow if you want to have any chance of successfully breeding your discus fish.

First of all, the aquarium needs to be at least 15 inches in depth. Discus fish, due to being quite tall in size, will not breed if the water is too shallow. A smaller cube aquarium will do the job because it forces the fish to be close to each other, but a slightly larger tank is ideal.

Furthermore the temperature of the water is also very important and it should be at least 28 degrees Celsius, preferably a little warmer. This is because warmer temperatures will spur your discus fish on and get them in the mating mood. One of the most proven methods of getting discus fish to breed is by increasing the temperature and replicating the rainy summer conditions in the Amazon.

When it comes to the pH level of the water, it needs to be kept at 6.5. This is because the rainstorm season in the Amazon causes the water to soften and this is when these fish like to mate. The same goes for the hardness level of the water.

The water hardness needs to kept very low, between 1 and 4 dH. A low dH level will reduce the water’s ability to buffer out other compounds such as nitrates and ammonia. Therefore you need to change the water very frequently, once per week, in order to keep those compounds at a minimum.

Another thing to keep in mind when you are trying to breed discus fish is to feed them protein rich foods. You should feed them things such as beef heart and bloodworms combined with spinach. Spinach is very high in protein, but also has many other vitamins and minerals to keep the discus fish healthy.

Finally, you will also want to supply the discus fish with a hard surface such as a clean upturned clay pit or a professional plastic cone in order to give the discus fish a place to lay their eggs on. On a side note, the discus fish should be cleaning the egg laying surface by constantly sucking on it to get it prepared for spawning.

If the discus fish are not visibly cleaning the surface, you need to recheck the water quality to ensure that it is at the proper parameters, with one of the most common problems being that the water is too hard. On another side note, once hatched, discus fish fry can become quite aggressive and you should therefore remove the parents from the tank for their own safety. Furthermore, when the discus fish reach 1 week in size you can start giving them commercial food.

fish divider

Wrapping Up

We hope you have found the post helpful and that you now know how to take care of discus fish the right way. Enjoy your beautiful aquarium!

Featured Image Credit: Regina Wölk, Pixabay

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