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Discus Fish Care Guide: Diet, Tank mates

The Discus fish species, which is also commonly known to most fish tank hobbyists as the "Aquarium King", is part of the Cichlidae Family of fish.

A large part as to why they've been christened the "king's of the fish tank" is because of their vibrant, regal color scheme and, of course, their majestic beauty. 

To date, three species of this kind are known to man, however, a raging debate still goes on over the validity of the numerous scientific names that have been assigned to them.

Those Discus fish that have been captured from the wild can sometimes prove very challenging to keep because of their dietary needs and the specific water condition requirements needed for them to survive.

Most fish of this kind, that are on sale today, are normally captive bred and happen to be much easier to take care of.

Where is it originally from?

The Discus fish is a South American native, specifically from the Amazon region, which means that warm water conditions is what they're naturally accustomed to.

They are mostly found in the flooded forest and floodplain lakes of the lowland River Basins of the Amazon forest, as well in a few of its tributaries such as the RIo Negro.

The seasonal flooding that happens in these areas means they suffer extreme and drastic water level changes. The Discus fish species love congregating along the shores, around fallen trees (also referred to as 'galhadas').

When were they first discovered?

This species of fish was first discovered by Dr. Johann Heckel, in the year 1840, in the Amazon's freshwaters as well as in its tributaries. These small, aesthetically-pleasing fish are popular for the disc-shaped, flat bodies alongside the fact that they prefer to exist in groups.

They enjoy the cover of underwater plant matter, where they have the solitude and indirect sunlight needed to thrive. Because their body shape is flat, they love making unrestricted movements while playing hide and seek around the underwater vegetation.

The Discus fish usually comes in three colors; brown, blue and green. Their overall coloration largely depends the geographical location of where they naturally reside.

Basically, they're a product of their surrounding. Their natural habitat is usually still and deep backwater accompanied by submerged plants and trees. This is a place that these small, pretty fish flourish in.

There most ideal conditions are areas that offer warm water which is gently acidic, and because they're naturally peaceful as well as a little shy, they'll always prefer territories that are secluded and that allows them to keep themselves clear of predators and unwanted enemies.

What Does This Fish Look Like?

This fish is a considerably small fish with a flat and round body shape, accompanied by fins that are out-stretched which help enhance its disc-like form and body-shape.

Its body features are characterized by tiny bright red eyes, a small mouth, a vibrant brown, blue and green coloration as well as nine dark, vertical stripes. However, the Discus fish that have been bred in captivity may have wider color variations.

This is largely due to the aquarium environment or the potential cross-breeding that may occur with other varying colored species that exist in the fish tank. The nine vertical stripes act as a protective shield as well as being a way fish in the Discus school communicate with each other.

A Discus fish when fully matured into adulthood can grow to a total of around six to eight inches in diameter. When they're still juveniles and straight from birth, they normally measure around two inches long.

Their growth rate is around a growth of slightly less than an inch every one or two months. If provided with proper nutrition and care, a Discus fish in captivity can live for up to as much as fifteen years of age, and even more. It takes them about two years before they attain the eight inch diameter measurement.

What Are The Tank Requirements For This Fish?

The Discus fish can't really be categorized as a big fish, however, it can grow to be a larger size than your average aquarium pet. It's because of this you'll probably require at least a seventy five gallon tank to house one of this type of fish.

And remember, concerning fish tank keeping, the general rule is usually the bigger the better. Tall aquariums (one measuring at least sixty centimeters in height) are usually your best bet. Provide a gentle water current, and decor that includes vertically arranged driftwood or broad-leaf plants in order to simulate downed trees and branches.

However, bare bottomed aquariums and tanks also happen to be ideal choices for housing Discus fish. In fact, some aquarists believe that using this type of tank is actually the best way to go when housing this particular fish is concerned, even though it's usually far from aesthetically-pleasing.

The lack of substrate makes it so much easier to clean and maintain and is a sure way of keeping your water quality in pristine condition.

Once you've gotten your hands on a fish tank or aquarium that is appropriately sized, it is time to ensure your Discus is going to be comfortable enough inside it.

For starters, you'll need to install a strong filtration system which your Discus can quickly and easily adapt to and then begin a bacteria cycle procedure. The fastest way you can jump-start this procedure is by using a filter-pad that has already been used in someone else's fish tank and start running it through yours for a few hours.

Don't forget that Discus fish require plant matter and vegetation to thrive. Place many decorations and vegetation in the tank so that your Discus fish have areas where they can hide and play.

However, because of the way this type of fish feeds, most home aquarists are generally advised to avoid adding substrate to their fish tank. This will go a long way in maintaining excellent water conditions.

How Do You Acclimatise The Discus Fish?

Before you start doing anything really, you'll need to first and foremost ensure that you've chemically tested your aquarium, and that the results lie within the parameters recommended.

The Discus is particularly susceptible to drastic changes in the quality of water they're living in. The addition of deworming medication is usually a very good idea and is something that isn't commonly found in most aquariums.

Ensuring you have healthy Discus fish will reduce the chances of them experiencing too much stress during the introduction period. The medication will keep them free of parasites which will, in turn, help them remain healthy for a long time.

Using a rubber-band and air-line tubing, make a siphon from the tank and attempt to kink the tubing together by placing your rubber band over the section of the tube that's bent.

Where you've kinked the tube, adjust it slightly allowing for a slow drip of about one to three drops of water every second and let the existing water flow into a separate bucket or aquarium.

Monitor this slow drip closely for the next twenty to thirty minutes. After this time has elapsed, using a soft mesh net, transfer the Discus fish into the aquarium, keeping a close eye on their progress.

If any complication should arise, immediately check your water for both chemical and temperature parameters, then change out the water in its entirety and try to locate the problem.

What Are The Water Conditions Required By This Fish?

When water hardness is concerned, the Discus fish species should be able to thrive in water that measures hardness levels of between one dH and eight dH. Anything less or more than that should be avoided like the plague.

This type of fish basically needs soft water parameters. There are some of them that can survive in water that is a little harder, especially if they've been bred in captivity, but, even those can't survive in water that measures more than nine dH.

Aquarium grade water softener products work just fine in cases where the water in your aquarium becomes too hard.

When it comes to the pH level they require, Discus fish need water that generally isn't to acidic. They won't survive in water that has high levels of acidity.

If you want your fish to not only be comfortable, but thrive as well, keep your pH level measurements around six and seven with the optimal position being a pH level measuring 6.5.

Anything under the level of six or over the level of seven could prove extremely detrimental to your fish. It could potentially increase the fish's stress levels, which could eventually lead to its early demise. However, just like in the case of water hardness, Discus fish that have been bred in captivity have the ability to withstand a pH of as much as 7.8.

The water temperature needed by them to survive needs to be fairly high. with specific measurements of around twenty eight to thirty two degrees Celsius.

Low temperature water may cause your Discus to have slow and sluggish movement, while temperatures that hit levels below twenty three degrees Celsius may cause the early demise of your aquatic companions.

When temperatures end up surpassing thirty one degrees Celsius, it lowers the amount of oxygen dissolved in the water which inevitably makes it difficult for your fish to properly respire. It will also limit the amount of fish you can house together in that particular aquarium.

What Are Breeding Requirements For This Type Of Fish?

If anyone told you breeding Discus fish is easy then they lied to you. It happens to be a considerably difficult endeavor to undertake. The Discus fish can readily reproduce in an aquarium, however, it might take a few months or, in some cases, even a whole year, but that's if you started out with juvenile fish.

For a while now these fish have only been successfully bred in captivity by a handful of aquarists and even then, only by those that happen to be extremely dedicated.

Nevertheless, those days have long past because many aquarists across the globe have began to successfully breed this type of fish while in captivity.

A mating pair of Discus fish won't be able to spawn in a fish tank or aquarium that's too shallow. They'll need to be provided with an aquarium that has a depth of not less than fifteen inches because they happen to be particularly tall themselves.

Smaller fifteen inch cube fish tanks are especially ideal for breeding because they keep the breeding pair in close contact with each other. But, the more suitable as well as humane aquarium when breeding Discus fish is one that measures thirty six inches by eighteen inches by eighteen inches.

The water temperature inside should be about eighty two degrees Fahrenheit. Warm water will help coax the pair into a mating behavior. Replicating the year round weather climate of the Amazon forest and its River Basins is quite vital when it concerns to the breeding of Discus fish.

The pH level should be kept and maintained at an optimal measurement of 6.5. The Amazon forest rainstorms, during the summer, collects mud and substrate from the wild which helps soften the water.

When breeding this type of fish in captivity, the water in your fish tank needs to be as soft as you can possibly get it to be. A good measurement is around one to four dH.

Soft water is important because it offers poor buffering abilities which means that you'll need to check the water pH level daily. Also, nitrates need to be kept at a minimum and this can be done by siphoning out waste and/or changing out the fish tank water weekly.

You don't necessarily have to remove all the water, a thirty to fifty percent water change out should do just fine.

When it comes to feeding breeding Discus fish, your best bet would be to feed it fish food that's rich in protein. Maintaining a balanced Discus diet will require you to have diversified food sources.

Seasoned Discus fish breeders normally use the heart of the cow to feed their breeding Discus fish, however, it should be supplemented with bloodworms as well as vegetative substances like spinach in order to ensure sufficient vitamin uptake.

If you want your Discus fish to stay in excellent health, try as much as you can to feed them high quality tropical granules not less than two times a week. This will help them stay in great shape because it supplies them with the nutrients and vitamins they may not have enough of themselves.

Placing an upturned cone or clay pot inside the aquarium tank you keep your Discus in will give your fish the hard surface they require in order to lay their eggs on.

Make sure the cone or clay pot you've chosen to use is extremely clean so as not to interfere with the cleanliness of your aquarium. Available to you is the choice of buying professional plastic cones that have been designed for such a need and that have been endorsed by many aquarists across the globe. These products are mostly sourced online.

What Is Their Reproduction Process?

The Discus fish will portion out the spawning cone and lay its eggs on one side while leaving the other side free. Before they're just about to spawn, you'll notice them cleaning the surface of the cone by constantly sucking at it.

If you don't see this happening, ensure your feeding them enough food consistently and recheck your water quality. During this period, it's vital you ensure your tank water remains soft.

It happens to be a critical factor in the egg shell formation stage. Hard water can sometimes make the shells too hard for the young ones inside to break open.

This stage requires patience and is one of the hardest of them all. It's where chemistry in Discus breeding is realized. Discus fish that breed in the wild have a lower chance of successfully spawning as compared to their counterparts that have been bred in captivity.

When and if your Discus fish successfully spawn at this stage, they'll lay their eggs every single week for about a total of fifteen weeks. This is a cycle that normally happens about two times each year and the results can be altered with the use of careful feeding, water temperature and condition adjustments.

This type of fish mate all throughout their lives, so if you keep them in pristine condition they'll, hopefully, continue to do so for the rest of their natural lives.

Once the eggs have been laid on the spawning cone's surface, the Discus fish will show care by constantly fanning the eggs for aeration. They'll even go as far as consuming the eggs that have been unfertilized with the sole goal of eliminating any chance of disease getting transferred to the healthy eggs.

The eggs should then hatch after around forty eight hours or so and once this happens, you won't necessarily have to feed them anything because they'll instinctively eat a secretion provided to them by their mother.

In another forty eight hours after that, the young Discus fish will start to grow rapidly and begin to swim freely as well.

Fry can stay in the company of their parents for a very long time. However, when in captivity, these juveniles can be particularly aggressive sometimes and can start peeling scales off their mother's body.

When they're a week old, most are advised to separate the parent from their offspring for their own safety. During this time is when you can raise your juvenile Discus fish using commercial fish food. Discus fry that is carefully cared for can produce survival rates of almost around seventy percent.

What Do These Fish Like To Eat?

When in the wild, the Discus fish can basically eat anything they see. They're naturally an omnivorous fish and love to feed on daphnia, brine shrimp, small bloodworms and underwater plant matter, which happens to be mostly algae.

If you intend on providing your Discus fish with a nutritious diet plan, then when feeding time comes, try as much as possible to blend in bloodworms and brine shrimp (meaty meals) with shredded vegetables such as spinach and the like to keep your fish as healthy as it can ever be.

Unfortunately, you'll need to remember that live fish food is usually susceptible to carrying harmful parasites and bacteria. Make sure you're very careful with the meat products your feeding your school of fish.

Another highly recommended diet for the Discus fish is high quality tropical flakes. It's an absolutely wonderful supplement to the food you're already feeding your fish because it provides the school with some much needed vitamins as well as nutrients.

These are some things that those other foods may not have in abundance. Commercially packed foods, such as pellets and the like, will also work fine and it also has the ability to help supplement the dietary requirements of your Discus fish.

Another thing you'll probably need to feed you adult Discus fish, if you want it to keep and maintain good health, is a variation of diet granule products. This is yet but another supplement required by the Discus fish in order to get enough vitamins and nutrients it needs to exist healthily.

This type of fish likes to eat while at the center of the aquarium and will probably ignore fish food that just sits on the top of the water surface as well as any that food that floats and sticks around the aquarium walls.

You might need to use small feeder cones if you want to feed them beef heart and bloodworms. If you're giving beef heart to your school of Discus fish, you'll always need to make sure to remove the uneaten food so as to avoid the invitation of harmful parasites and bacteria that could inevitably cause your fish to fall ill.

To effectively protect them from diseases and infections, you must train yourself into having a regular aquarium maintenance routine in order to keep your tank free from pollution.

When their tank is clean, you'll notice that the Discus aren't really that hard to keep and take care of. Also, they can go quite a long time without having to be fed, however, before they've grown into their full size you'll need to feed them at least thrice a day to help them get there.

What Are The Health Complications These Fish Have?

Most aquarium fish are prone to contracting disease. However, you can drastically reduce the chances of this happening by maintaining a well conditioned and clean aquarium at all times.

Most of these harmful diseases out there come from bacteria that arises from a dirty or ill-maintained fish tank. Any harmful environment will most likely affect the health of your aquatic companion(s) eventually. Nevertheless, clear aquarium water doesn't necessarily mean your fish is staying clear from disease.

The Discus fish, just like any other species of fish, is likely to fall sick due to one thing or another. This means that you still need to pay close attention and look out for sickness, just as much as you would with generally any other type of fish.

After all that time and effort you've put into breeding and/or transferring your Discus fish, it would be so sad to watch them kick the bucket and head to fish heaven over something you probably could have been able to completely avoid.

Cloud eye is among one of the most common health issues that affect the Discus fish species. How you know your fish is suffering from this complication is, you'll notice a mostly-transparent, white film-like layer over both or one of its eyes.

Poor water quality conditions is the main cause of this issue, because polluted water invites harmful parasites and bacteria, like we mentioned earlier. This complication can sometimes be rectified by changing out the water a little more frequently than usual for a couple of weeks or so. If this doesn't work, you may need to employ the use of some antibiotics.

Tail or fin rot is something the Discus fish occasionally suffers from so you have to keep a kin eye out for its symptoms. When your fish is affected by this ailment, you'll notice the fin or tail of your Discus start to look disintegrated or shredded, normally accompanied by a slight discoloration around the fish's holes.

This is another health complication that can be caused by having an ill-maintained aquarium or fish tank. However, bacterial infection is something that can attack your fish even though you maintain excellent tank conditions.

Whenever you notice any one of these symptoms mentioned above, immediately change out the water in your aquarium and continue doing this frequently for the next few weeks and/or start your fish on some antibiotic treatment.

There are several other harmful illnesses that could potentially attack your Discus fish, but the two we've mentioned above are the ones that happen to be the most common of them all.

Discus fish generally need to be watched and observed as frequently as possible. Anything you see different with them should be marked and dealt with immediately. Better safe than sorry, don't you think?

What Make The Best Tankmates For This Fish?

The Discus fish species, like most of the other cichlid fish, happen to be very aggressive towards their own kind as well as other fish species in general. However, their relatively small size helps make them particularly friendly towards other fish of similar size.

Sometimes, you might just need the addition of these other fish species in order to ensure that your fish tank doesn't come off looking boring and we wouldn't want that, would you? Maybe you have a few other fish already, like ​Bolivian Rams, and you are wondering if you can mix them?

Thought so. Anyway, some of the other fish that this type of fish can coexist harmoniously with, besides themselves, are the Cardinal Tetra, Neon Tetra, Red Nose Tetra or Black Phantom Tetra fish.

They can also live alongside Catfish such as Plecostomus and Corydoras. These type of fish are ideal for a fish tank setting that contains Discus fish in it.

As we highlighted in the paragraph before this one, the Discus fish species tends to show aggression towards their own kin. There's always going to be one

Discus in the school that becomes dominant, acquire its own territory and have sole dominion over that particular area. In the event that you have three Discus fish being housed together, a dominant female and male will arise leaving the third fish with a tough time.

The third fish will struggle to cope in this situation and could eventually even die from stress. To avoid this, it's best you house them in schools of at least four or five Discus fish.

This will help ease the pressure the non-dominant fish might be experiencing. However, if you choose to do this, each fish will require a space of at least one hundred extra liters of their own.

How Much Do They Cost?

When buying Discus fish, what will largely determine how much they should generally go for depends on the particular type and size of fish in question. Some of them can actually prove to be very expensive to acquire.

A small Discus fish should set you back around thirty dollars, however, the much larger ones can easily go for one hundred dollars and more.

But, if you have your eyes on one that happens to be a rare and exotic species of Discus fish, then my friend, you can expect to part with well over four hundred dollars. Their prices range like this because it also takes a lot to successfully breed this type of fish.


One of the best ways you can learn a lot more about the Discus fish is by spending time with them and closely observing them. Even this comprehensive Discus fish care guide can't beat that.

We hope after reading this you know a little more about this type of fish and what it generally requires to not only survive, but thrive as well. It's a wonderful group of fish to have in your home aquarium and will definitely add aesthetic value to the tank as well.

Now you know what we know. So, what are you waiting for? Go get yours today. Oh and remember, sharing is caring.


Hey, thanks for passing by, welcome to the blog for Pet Fish fans. This is me, Wayne, and my son Theo. I started this journey after we bought him hist first Fish Tank of fish. Follow my site for my research and info on Pet Fish.