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10 Great Tank Mates for Discus Fish (With Pictures)

Lindsey Stanton Profile Picture

By Lindsey Stanton

discuss fish in aquarium

The Discus is an exceptionally beautiful fish that comes in various striking colors and is known for their flat, disk-shaped body, the trait for which they are named. They are also docile and easy-to-care-for fish, making them one of the most popular tank pets for aquarium keepers.

Discus fish do not need to be kept in a species-specific tank, though, and can thrive with many other fish species. Not only will this make your tank look more colorful and diverse, but other species can also benefit your discus fish in the long run. Discus fish are fairly prone to stress, so adding another peaceful, docile species can go a long way in keeping your Discus calm and stress-free.

In this article, we look at 10 of our favorite Discus tank mates!

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The 10 Great Tank Mates for Discus Fish

1. Sterba’s Cory Catfish (Corydoras sterbai)

Sterba's cory catfish
Image Credit: Guillermo Guerao Serra, Shutterstock
Size: 2–2.6 inches (5–6.6 cm)
Diet: Omnivore
Minimum tank size: 10 gallons (37.8 liters)
Care Level: Very easy
Temperament: Peaceful

The Sterba’s Cory makes a great tank mate for Discus fish because they can tolerate the relatively higher temperatures needed for Discus, are docile and peaceful plus easy to care for. Another great aspect of this species is that they live in a different water layer than the Discus, filling your tank beautifully without making it too crowded. They are also bottom-feeding fish, which makes feeding a breeze. The Cory is a sturdy, large species that won’t easily be harmed by your Discus.

2. Cardinal Tetras (Paracheirodon axelrodi)

Cardinal tetra
Image Credit: InsectWorld, Shutterstock
Size: 1–2.0 inches (2.5–5 cm)
Diet: Omnivore
Minimum tank size: 20 gallons (75.7 liters)
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Peaceful

Cardinal Tetras are beautifully colored, peaceful fish that make great Discus tank mates because they share similar care requirements and are slightly larger than commonly kept Neon Tetras. These fish tend to school beautifully in the presence of larger Discus fish, and their shimmering colors will stand out all the more. They are tranquil fish that bring a calm energy to your tank, an ideal trait for when your Discus gets stressed out.

3. Marbled Hatchetfish (Carnegiella strigata)

marbled hatchetfish
Image Credit: Photofenik, Shutterstock
Size: 1–2.5 inches (2.5–6.3 cm)
Diet: Omnivore
Minimum tank size: 15 gallons (56.7 liters)
Care Level: Medium
Temperament: Peaceful

Marbled Hatchetfish rarely leave the surface of the water, making them great tank mates for Discus fish because they inhabit a different water layer. Hatchetfish get their name from their unique shape and are commonly kept as Discus tank mates. The Marbled Hatchet in particular has similar tank requirements and is easy to care for. They love surface floating plants to hide away in and feel safe, and this will add a great aesthetic to your tank.

4. Rummynose Tetra (Hemigrammus rhodostomus)

Rummynose Tetra
Image Credit: Grigorev Mikhail, Shutterstock
Size: 2–2.5 inches (5–6.3 cm)
Diet: Omnivore
Minimum tank size: 20 gallons (75.7 liters)
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Peaceful

With their gorgeous red coloring across their nose and face and their peaceful disposition, the Rummynose Tetra is a great addition to any aquarium. They are large enough that they don’t fall prey to Discus fish. They inhabit the middle layer of the tank, making them great Discus tank mates. Because Discus fish are fairly prone to stress, these peaceful fish bring a well-needed sense of calm to your aquarium.

5. Bristlenose Pleco (Ancistrus)

Bristlenose Plecos inside aquarium
Image Credit: TTONN, Shutterstock
  • Size: 3-5 inches (7.6-12.7 cm)
  • Diet: Herbivore
  • Minimum tank size: 30 gallons (113.5 liters)
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Temperament: Peaceful and social
Size: 3–5 inches (7.6–12.7 cm)
Diet: Herbivore
Minimum tank size: 30 gallons (113.5 liters)
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Peaceful and social

There is debate around whether Plecos make good tank mates for Discus fish, as these fish feed mainly on algae and may view the Discus’s thick slimy coat as a tasty meal, potentially wounding the Discus. That said, most aquarium keepers have had no issue keeping these fish together, and since the Bristlenose is a somewhat smaller Pleco variety, they make great tank mates.  They are bottom feeders that keep your tank free from algae, and their large size and beautiful patterning make them a great addition to your aquarium.

6. Long Fin Red White Cloud (Tanichthys micagemmae)

long fin red white cloud fish
Image Credit: Pavaphon Supanantananont, Shuterstock
Size: 1–1.5 inches (2.5–3.8 cm)
Diet: Omnivore
Minimum tank size: 10 gallons (37.8 liters)
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Peaceful and social

The Long Fin Red White Cloud fish is a beautiful variation of the common White Cloud Minnow fish. They are hardy fish that can tolerate less-than-ideal conditions in aquariums, making them a popular tank mate for many other fish species, including Discus fish. They tend to stick to the middle level of the tank and become highly active in large schools. They are a wonderful addition to your Discus tank.

7. Agassizi’s Dwarf Cichlid (Apisto Agassizi)

Agassizi's dwarf cichlid
Image Credit: Andrzej Zabawski, Shutterstock
Size: 2–3.5 inches (5.08–8.9 cm)
Diet: Omnivore
Minimum tank size: 15 gallons (56.7 liters)
Care Level: Easy-medium
Temperament: Social, aggressive toward other males at times

With its gorgeous bright coloring and long body, the Dwarf Cichlid is one of the most popular aquarium fish. They are generally easy to care for and placid, although males are known to be aggressive at times, although not toward other fish species. Their larger size keeps them safe from Discus fish, and their low maintenance makes them an ideal tank mate too.

8. Clown Loaches

clown loaches
Image Credit: Joan Carles Juarez, Shutterstock
Size: 6–12 inches (15–30 cm)
Diet: Omnivore
Minimum tank size: 30 gallons (113.5 liters)
Care Level: Medium
Temperament: Social and peaceful

Clown Loaches are extremely social and peaceful fish that are active during the day. They tend to hide away from lights at night, so you’ll need to provide them with plenty of hiding places, although they are too large to be seen as prey by your Discus. They are often used as tank mates for various fish species, including the Discus, because they are such peaceful and docile fish. Therefore, they are proven to be ideal tank mates!

9. German Blue Ram (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi)

German blue Ram fish in aquarium
Image Credit: Kristiana Berzina, Shutterstock
Size: 2–3 inches (5–7 cm)
Diet: Omnivore
Minimum tank size: 10 gallons (37.8 liters)
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Peaceful

German Blue Rams are beautiful fish indeed, with a gorgeous, deep blue coloration. They are peaceful fish that thrive with various other species, including Discus fish, although they tend to hide away. They can be aggressive during mating season and are slightly more of a challenge to look after because they can easily become sick in fluctuating water temperatures. However, with a bit of experience, they make wonderful and unique Discus tank mates.

10. Assassin Snail (Clea Helena)

assassin snail
Image Credit: Arunee Rodloy, Shutterstock
Size: 1–3 inches (2.5–7.6 cm)
Diet: Omnivore
Minimum tank size: 30 gallons (113.5 liters)
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Peaceful

The Assassin Snail is the perfect clean-up crew for your Discus tank. These snails eat other small snails, and because they are scavengers, they will clean up any leftover food from your tank too, preventing potential water quality issues. They make great non-fish additions to your tank, are super low-maintenance, and have beautiful shells.

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What Makes a Good Tank Mate for Discus Fish?

Any fish that don’t get too large but are not small enough to be viewed as prey will make great tank mates for Discus fish, provided that they don’t have environmental needs that differ too much. While Discus fish don’t necessarily need other species of fish in their tank, they will certainly add a different look to your tank and will make it far more diverse and attractive.

Since Discus fish are known to be easily stressed, calm, peaceful, and docile fish species can help your Discus stay calm too.

discus fish in aquarium
Image Credit: Piqsels

Where Do Discus Fish Prefer to Live in the Aquarium?

Discus fish are free-swimmers, meaning they enjoy the open water, but they need the option to hide too, so the addition of plants or driftwood in their tank is essential. They will usually stick to the middle levels of their tank but will often rise to the top or sink to the bottom to feed or forage.

Water Parameters

Discus fish originate in the freshwater rivers of South America, and the key to happy, healthy fish in captivity is to match these conditions as closely as possible. They prefer naturally soft, warm, and slightly acidic water, with a pH of between 5.0-7.0, hardness between 18 to 70 ppm, and temperature from 82-86 degrees Fahrenheit.


Discus fish can live up to 15 years in captivity and can reach surprisingly large sizes in that time! They typically grow 4–6 inches in length, but some captives are known to get up to 9 inches. They will usually reach their full size within 3 years. Since they need to live in schools of at least five fish, their tank will need to be no smaller than 50 gallons.

Aggressive Behaviors

In general, Discus fish are calm and peaceful but are known to be aggressive during breeding, especially if there are not enough females to go around. Underpopulated tanks can also often result in aggressive behavior. If you only have three to five fish, the largest will naturally bully the others. On the flip side, overpopulation in a small tank can also cause aggression. If you have 10 or more Discus fish in an aquarium, you’ll need to make sure the tank is massive because these fish prefer a great deal of space.

discus fish in aquarium
Image Credit: Regina Wölk, Pixabay

Benefits of Having Tank Mates for Discus Fish in Your Aquarium

1. Stress Reduction

Since Discus fish are known to be easily stressed, adding a docile species into their tank can help provide a peaceful environment that aids in keeping them calm.

2. Healthier Tank

Not only will other species of fish look great in the tank along with your Discus, but they’ll also add diversity that will make your tank healthier and less prone to disease and bacteria.

3. Cleaner Tank

Bottom-feeding fish or snails will eat all the leftover food from your Discus and help keep your tank clean and healthy and reduce the amount of cleaning that you need to do.

Won’t Discus Fish Attack Their Tank Mates?

While it’s certainly possible, depending on the fish that you decide to keep with them, they will most likely not attack other fish. Other than when they are breeding or if their tank conditions are not ideal, Discus fish are among the most peaceful of all home aquarium fish. As long as they are paired with equally peaceful species of fish, you shouldn’t have any issues.

Tank Mates to Avoid

Discus fish are peaceful, docile fish and should not be paired with any aggressive species. These include:

  • Angelfish
  • Piranhas
  • Oscars
  • Severums
  • Flowerhorns
discus fish
Image Credit: Juan Carlos Palau Díaz, Pixabay

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A tank full of Discus fish is a beautiful thing indeed, and adding in a few more species of fish will only make your tank more diverse and beautiful. There are a ton of potential tank mates to consider for Discus fish, and this list is just a handful of our favorites. As long as the fish that you choose are not too big, can thrive in the same tank environment as your Discus (warm, slightly acidic water, with plenty of plants), and are non-aggressive, they are most likely perfectly suitable Discus tank mates!

Featured Image Credit: Piqsels

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