Posted: Fri May 15, 2009 6:50 am Post subject: Handbook for Discus Newbies
Common Name: Discus, Discusfish
Scientific Name: Symphysodon aequifasciatus
Many people wonder why discus are called king of freshwater aquarium fish but only discus fanatics can vouch for suitability for the title awarded to them. I would say I would like to call discus a ‘King’ because of its smooth royal movement and the amazing colours this fish possesses. Originated from Amazon basins of Brazil and Peru, discus has become really popular among aquarium hobbyists. Discus breeders all over the world developed many strains of discus by cross-breeding various original strains.
A common newbie hobbyist is sometimes found to be bit reluctant to start with discus because of many misconceptions in his mind. Fear of losing this heavily paid-for fish, its expensive diet, water changes etc. can be some of the ‘Fear Factors’ in his mind. However this is not entirely true, discus is not that hard fish to keep as you think if you follow the basic rules of raising them.
As a startup process, read about discus as much as you can from various fishkeeping forums on the internet, books etc. If possible, meet an experienced discus breeder/hobbyist in your locality and have your doubts got cleared, no matter how stupid those doubts sound. These experienced people would be happy to help and encourage you to proceed further.
Selecting Tank: Tank-size would play an important role in healthy development of your discus. As a thumb-rule, discus demand 10 Gallons of water per fish. I would say, minimum of 36”x18”x18” or 48”x24”x24” tank-size is recommended. 24” height seems more appropriate as discus prefers to swim in upper direction more as a vertical movement and also it may contribute to the proper development of its body. Though I agree to the fact that discus look stunning in planted tanks; for beginners, I would strictly recommend bare-bottom tank for the ease of cleaning. Refrain from your any dark colour background stickers as it stresses discus. Preferably, have a light-blue colour background or if the behind wall is of faded colour, such sticker is not necessarily required. Avoid any decorative to your discus tank which provides hiding places to your fishes and they will tend to be shy swimming freely. Place your tank to avoid direct sunlight or at a place having consistent movement in front of a tank. Also avoid shadows falling on your tank.
Selecting Discus: It would be highly recommended to source your discus from breeders and not from your local fish shop as the quality of the latter can never be guaranteed. Discus is cichlid and they do better when kept in a school of minimum 6 to 7. A fish of 3-3.5” length is better to get started with for newbies as its internal system is more stabilised compared to smaller size ones. Avoid selecting discus which is triangular in shape, having bloated stomach or chipped eye. Observe the fish’s eye to body ratio, eyes should not appear bigger in proportion to fish’s body. Keep away from discus that show vibrant colours at juvenile stage, particularly red colour discus which could be hormone fed if they show flashy colour at younger age. Select discus which are most active than others from the lot. I would recommend newbies to start with hardy strains like Blue Turquoise, Blue Diamonds, and Pigeon Bloods as their tolerance level is superior compared to others. Mixing discus together from various sources is not recommended; newly brought fish should be quarantined for minimum 7-10 days in order to get adjusted to its new home. I would suggest adding Terramycin to this quarantine tank, I use 1 capsule (250mg) per 10 Gallons of water. It is recommended to have QT without any decoratives or power filter, simple air-stone or small sponge-filter would suffice.
Aeration/ Filtration: Aeration is another important factor directly influencing the health of discus. A simple sponge filter would suffice connected to an air-driven pump. It would be a good idea to have couple of such filters in a discus tank so that they can be cleaned alternatively to retain the beneficial bacteria in at least one filter. However, you can add a powerful external filter to maintain water quality to its best as much you can offer, as commonly said no filteration is adequate to aquarium fishes. Avoid using internal power filters, powerheads as their water turbulence will stress your discus.
Water: Discus can easily play around within pH variation between 6 and 8. It is always a safe deal to use water stored for about 24 hours. Chlorine is very volatile and evaporates very quickly from the stored water. However in certain areas like Mumbai, you can use direct tap water for your discus provided you de-chlorinate it by using Sodium Thyosulphate (Hypo). Dropping one hypo crystal per 10 Gallons of water should be fine, do not use excessive hypo than recommended. The more water changes to your discus tank, the more fresh oxygen supply to your fish contributing to their speedy growth. Many breeders follow the rule having at least 3-4 water changes in a day to their discus tanks. For juvenile discus, minimum of 40-50% water change is recommended on a daily basis. However, adult discus can be entertained with weekly water change.
Temperature: Discus prefers warm water conditions hence any temperature between 28-31 degrees Celsius is ideal for them. Particularly in northern India, it gets really chilly during winter; hence the use of quality heater is recommended during winter time.
Food: Live food like Tubifex and Blood Worms should be strictly avoided. Instead, protein-rich food like Beefheart serves good for the swift growth of discus. Alternatively, other animal hearts like of chicken, pig, and goat can be used. Various Beefheart mix recipes are available on the internet and you can chose own of your choice. Do not feed excessively to your discus as they prefer eat in small quantities by making little pieces of their food off the bottom. Now you will understand, why undressed base for your discus tank was recommended. Juveniles need to be fed at least 4-5 times while adults can do very well with 2-3 little feeds in a day. Dry food like good quality pellets, frozen bloodworms, artemia etc. can be added to their feed as discus would love to have variable diet just like any other fish. Make sure you are not doing immediate water-change after feeding, have WC preferably after an hour or so.
Sexing: There is no full-proof method to identify the sex of discus even at an adult stage. Male will chose his own female partner from the group and both of them are found to be getting along together.
Medication: If your discus are eating well and so long as you are not feeding any live worms to them, there is no need to medicate (de-flaggellate or de-worm) them. Refrain from exercising unnecessary medicinal experiments with your discus, unless required which should be done with proper advice from discus experts.
Tankmates: It is always better to give discus, a tank of their own. Discus is stressed by fin-nipping fishes and movement of other huge fishes roaming around them. However if you insist for its tankmates, corydoras can be accompanied with them. Some people add neon tetras as ditchers when their discus are shy of swimming freely.
Life: Average Discus can grow upto 5-6 inches can easily live for 7-8 years. Some strains like Turquoise/ Blue Knights can grow even bigger like 8-9 inches can ideally be called 'Bucket-Size'.
Hope this information will benefit discus newbies and people who plan to keep discus soon.
BEST OF LUCK AND HAPPY DISCUS KEEPING!!!
Last edited by Yogesh on Mon Nov 21, 2011 8:53 am; edited 4 times in total
Posted: Fri May 15, 2009 10:02 am Post subject: Re: Handbook for Discus Newbies
That was a wonderful piece of work. I was exactly expecting something like this for newbies like me. Also if you can cover some aspects of problems encountered and their remedy it will be fantastic. Good work buddy
Posted: Fri May 15, 2009 2:26 pm Post subject: Re: Handbook for Discus Newbies
Thank you all for the compliments, much appreciated.
Vardesh - Amended Medication title 'boldly' missed, thank you for the correction. Have requested Shiva to contribute towards 'Discus Diseases & Cure' and we'll be covering it soon for advising discus health queries.
Garothmaan - It all depends upon TLC you offer to your fish.
However, you can be bit flexible about some rules like live food. I feed live BW (reliably sourced & treated) to all my fishes including discus as a weekly diet change.
Have amended 'Selecting Discus' part to add some more details about QT procedure.
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