Discus Fish Care Guide

Did you know that there are over 70 different varieties of the popular discus fish?

Huge number, right?

These beautiful freshwater fish come in many different colors and can be found in both the Amazon and Orinoco rivers.

However, while discus fish is one of the most popular cichlids in the aquarium hobby, they tend to be a bit more pricey and a little harder to care for, especially if you are a beginner.

For this reason, we put together this guide to help you care for your new friends even if you have no experience at all.

In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about discus from their preferred temperature and feeding habits to how to breed them.

So, without further ado, let’s jump right into it.

1. Discus Fish Tank Requirements

a. Water Parameters

1. Water Cycling

When it comes to how often you should change your aquarium water, there is no set rule; some people do 100 percent water changes every week while others don’t, so it’s up to you to decide what’s best for you.

However, according to our observations, a 50 percent weekly water change is more than enough, especially if you are a novice and don’t have the time for more frequent changes.

Keep in mind that changing your discus’s water is critical since it eliminates dangerous pollutants and other impurities, so if you can’t do it on a regular basis, make sure to do at least a 25% water change every week.

2. Discus pH Level & Water Hardness

Other important variables to consider include pH and water hardness.

In our experience, both wild-caught and captive-bred discus thrive when the pH levels are between 6.0 and 7.0.

The same can be said about water hardness; discus is resilient from soft to medium water hardness, 1° to 4° dKH (18 to 70 ppm) is recommended.

3. Water Temperature

Discus fish are native to Brazil. The waters in which they swim are always warm, so they need high temperatures in order to develop and stay healthy.

If you want to properly care for discus, keep the water temperature at or near 85°F.

This might be different from your regular fishkeeping habits, so a separate tank may be required for these picky fish.

Always remember that when the temperature is kept high, your discus will become more active, their metabolism will work better, they will grow faster, and their color intensity will increase.

b. Tank Setup

1. Tank size

When it comes to tank size, most people want the simplest, cheapest, and quickest method to begin with.

They want to know the bare minimum discus fish tank size rather than what the ideal aquarium size is for discus fish.

I can’t blame them. I used to do the same myself. While that isn’t always the greatest approach, it’s a human inclination. We constantly seek the biggest bang for our buck.

This method may be successful for various things, but it’s not the greatest when it comes to discus fish.

Before we get into the specifics of your discus’ tank size, first, you should know something about these fish.

Discus are schooling fish. They prefer to be kept in groups, which means that you’re not keeping a tank for a single fish; you’re keeping a tank for a group of them.

If you start with six juveniles, for example, you’ll need at least a 55-gallon tank.

However, a 75-gallon tank is necessary when these youngsters become adults.  Anything less would be difficult to maintain.

What if you wanted to do the right thing from the start? What if you had enough money, time, and resources? What is the best approach to proceed with?

Purchase a dozen juvenile discus. Raise them in a grow-out tank (preferably a 75-gallon tank or bigger) as youngsters, and then remove the most aggressive ones when they mature, so as not to pully the other ones.

Then, when they reach adulthood, place them in a tank with a capacity of about 100 gallons or more.

A common guideline is to use one discus per 10 gallons of water. And, as these fish are tall, do not keep them in shallow tanks.

2. Aquarium Filter

Due to the discus fish’s messy nature, it necessitates one of the most thorough filtrations.

As a rule of thumb, you should have a level of filtration that is considerably higher than the size of your fish tank.

This indicates that if your aquarium is 50 gallons, you will need a greater filter with a capacity of 100 gallons or more, or you can replace it with multiple filters with capacities of 50 gallons each.

3. Heater

Unlike mammals, discus fish have no means of regulating their body temperatures. As a result, they require an aquarium heater to survive.

As we stated previously, the temperature is critical for Discus fish. This is due to the fact that when your Discus fish tank warms up, they are encouraged to eat more, which results in them growing larger and healthier.

Therefore, installing a heater for your beloved discus is a very essential step.

4. Lighting

You shouldn’t be shocked to learn that discus fish have huge eyes, which is why they require such little light since they are very sensitive to it.

In most cases, ambient light will suffice. Intense illumination, on the other hand, can be harmful to discus fish and their health.

Despite their preference for darkness, they do come from the tropics, so make sure they get 10 to 12 hours of sunshine each day. Simply ensure that it isn’t too bright.

5. Tank Decorations

a. Driftwood

Discus like to live near submerged tree roots and limbs in their natural habitats, which is why Driftwood is the best décor for them.

However, we must be cautious when moving and selecting driftwood.

We want wood that won’t alter the pH of our tank or leach nutrients over time.

As a result, Manzanita is the greatest kind of wood for a Discus aquarium. It’s clean and blends in with its environment.

b. Substrate

The substrate (the surface on which an organism thrives or is attached) in your planted aquarium is not only necessary for the health of your plants, but it’s also an essential element of the ecosystem in your aquarium.

For your planted aquariums, we recommend using inert gravel as a substrate, especially if you’re starting from scratch, because you must be vigorous with your fertilization to keep more demanding plants healthy.

You should also make sure that the gravel is small enough for plant roots to grow into.

As a result, aquarium gravel from an established tank is ideal since it contains fish mulm, which serves as a fertilizer for your plants.

c. Plants

When you want to keep a discus in your aquarium, the most common method is to make a temperature compromise.

And to maintain the correct temperature for your fish, you’ll need to maintain a temperature that’s a bit lower for them but a bit higher for plants.

Our recommended plants:

2. Discus Fish Tank Mates

If you want to keep your Discus together with other species, keep in mind that not all fish will get along. In fact, the majority of them won’t!

For this reason, you’ll have to pick your tankmates with great care so as not to cause any problems for your beloved discus.

Ther are five main factors to take into consideration when choosing a tankmate:

a. Temperature

When two fish species are to be combined, the environmental requirements for water temperature (and water values) must be equivalent.

Discus are natively found in extremely hot regions of the Amazon basin, and they prefer their aquarium water to be much hotter than other popular species.

This might make it difficult to choose compatible tankmates because fish from cooler climates will find it difficult over time in heated Discus tanks.

As a result, if you want to keep Discus with other types of fish, seek individuals that like the same warm water.

b. Water values

The temperature problem also applies to water parameters.

By default, your Discus’ Amazon home is extremely soft and acidic.

And as we all know, you’ll have to duplicate this in your aquarium, which necessitates the removal of several tankmates that prefer harder or more basic water conditions.

c. Characteristics

You’ve probably heard that discus aren’t the most aggressive cichlids on the market, well that’s right.

They are quite peaceful fish that may be housed with other species without issue.

And, as with every other living thing, peaceful animals such as discus can be harassed by tankmates who are hyperactive or violent. 

As a result, when it comes to housing any fish with your discus, you should pick individuals with a similar temperament.

d. Tank size

This is another point you can’t afford to overlook.

After only a few months, the discus become big and energetic, requiring a lot of tank space.

Even peaceful community fish like Tetras may quickly outgrow your tank.

Make sure to buy a large aquarium to house all of the fish you want to keep comfortably.

Also, don’t forget that crowded fish get irritated!

e. Biotope

When it comes to establishing an optimal Discus environment, many aquarists prefer to keep things as natural as possible.

This entails creating a biotope tank that closely resembles the Discus’ natural dark-watered Amazon habitat avoiding any fish that doesn’t share the same habitat.

If you can’t find any other fish that share your requirements, consider a peaceful bottom-dweller or algal eater.

However, if you want your Discus to be happy, go with fish who have similar characteristics rather than ones who may cause difficulties.

3. Discus Fish Diet

Discus fish are omnivorous in their natural habitat of the Amazon, therefore aquarium Discus should be fed a diet that is comparable to or exceeding that of their wild relatives.

To speed up the development rate of mature discus fish, feed them a diet containing 35-45% protein.

Newly hatched fry and juvenile discus, on the other hand, require a diet with up to 50% protein in order to grow more quickly.

It is also important to mention that the discus diet isn’t entirely protein-based, and they need additional fats and vitamins.

And to meet their nutritional needs, Discus fish, like all living things, require specific vitamins.

Vitamins are not a source of energy, but rather the fundamental building blocks for several bodily functions, including the immune system, reproductive system, and digestive system.

As a result, it is critical to give your fish the correct number of vitamins.

A mix of live food, frozen food, and freeze-dried food must be eaten to meet all of the necessary proportions of protein to fat, fat to vitamins, and so on.

What Types of Food Should You Feed Your Discus Fish?

1. Bloodworms

We recommend bloodworms as the number one option for protein.

These worms are known to be very rich in protein thanks to their high concentrations of the amino acids that Discus fish need.

2. Tubifex worms

Tubifex worms contain more protein than bloodworms, although they are not as rich in essential amino acids.

However, they are also much larger than bloodworms which makes them more suitable for bigger discus fish.

3. White worms

White worms are a great source of protein and fatty acids, but they’re also rich in Vitamins B1, B2, and G.

Therefore, they’re an excellent source of energy for your fish!

4. Beef heart

It’s no mystery that beef heart is one of the best foods you can feed your Discus.

And it’s also known to be an excellent source of fat and protein, making it one of the best food options for your fish.

A couple of notes about beef heart:

It has a very strong smell, so you may want to find ways to mask it.

Also, too much beef heart can cause digestive problems as well as other related illnesses.

However, if given in moderate, carefully controlled doses, beef heart can help to promote healthy growth.

5. Brine Shrimp

In addition to protein, discus fish require a high amount of fats in their diet to stay healthy.

Brine shrimp contain a high number of saturated and unsaturated fatty acids that help to keep your fish at their optimum health.

But remember to balance it by also feeding them protein-rich foods.

4. Discus Fish Breeding

Discus are difficult to maintain and breed, and in the normal situation, you won’t have a good survival rate for the young on your first try.

And to have successful breeding, there are some critical factors to take into consideration:

a. Selecting a Breeding Pair

Discus fish sex is difficult to tell just by looking; it’s especially tough before they mature.

And, because there’s so much uncertainty about who’s a boy and who’s a girl, it’s ideal to start with a group of six or more juvenile discus fish and raise them together before determining if they’ve paired up.

b. Prepare a Breeding Tank

Many fish breeders fail because they do not provide a suitable breeding tank.

Many novices may believe that providing some pebbles at the bottom of the tank, setting up some fake plants within, and adding a few heater tubes is sufficient to create a breeding tank.

However, before you spawn your discus fish, you must fulfill numerous important requirements.

Factors such as water cycling, water temperature, pH level, tank size, and tank mates are all essential and must be put in your mind if you really need to breed them successfully.

c. Provide Your Fish with a Well-Balanced Diet.

The food that your fish consume has a big impact when you are trying to breed them.

Mosquito larvae, adult brine shrimp, or white worms are great for providing adult discus with the nutrients they need to reproduce.

On top of that, you’ll need to feed them vitamin cocktails, powdered spinach, spirulina, or high-quality flake food on special occasions.

d. Watch for Mated Pairs

You’ll be able to tell when the time is right for spawning.

A pair of discus fish will begin to hang out in a corner cleaning a spawning area and driving away any other fish that approach.

Female discus fish also start showing their bellies, which are inflated with eggs, and the males become quite aggressive as guardians of their partners.

At this point, you can realize that your fish is about to lay its eggs.

e. Decide Whether to Raise the Young Discus Alone or with the Parents.

Discus bred in captivity may be better parents than those raised in their own environment, which may be beneficial if you want to continue breeding fish for many generations.

Raising the young ” fry” alongside their parents will also improve survival chances considerably, potentially extending their lifespans.

Some discus parents, however, may eat eggs or fry, or spread disease, so you’ll need to examine the situation before deciding whether or not you want these fish to raise your fry.

This is a difficult choice since it will have a big impact on how many offspring you can expect to have.

However, in both cases, you have to care for the fry and provide them with sufficient food to grow.

Last Words

To ensure that the discus fish you buy grows well and becomes a good parent, you must dedicate yourself to taking care of them properly.

Love your discus fish and they’ll love you back.

We hope you have enjoyed this article as much as we did.

If you still have any questions, please share them with us in the comment section below.