Why Discus Fish Are Expensive

Why Discus Fish Are Expensive

Discus are kings of the freshwater aquarium with their bright colors and beautiful patterns, don’t you agree? But have you ever wondered why these fish are so expensive?

In fact, these guys’ prices can go all the way from $17.95 to $540.00, and sometimes even more! If you’re thinking about getting a discus fish or two for your home aquarium, then you might want to know why they come with such a hefty price tag.

In this article, I’ll discuss every reason behind the high price of discus fish so that you can be more informed before making your purchase.

Why Are Discus Very Expensive?

Discus cost hundreds of dollars due to their unique appearance and the fact that they’re difficult to breed in captivity.

Also, they are late bloomers when it comes to reproduction which means that the commercial breeders have to wait for a longer time to get them ready for sale.

Now let’s break down all the reasons one by one:

1. They Come from the Amazon River Basin

Many of the most popular tropical fish come from Southeast Asia. However, discus fish are native to the Amazonian River Basin. This reason alone makes them more difficult and expensive to import due to the long distance they have to travel.

Furthermore, discus fish are restricted in their natural habitat. They mostly reside in the Trombetas, Nhamunda, upper Uatuma, Rio Negro, and Abacaxis Rivers of Brazil’s Amazon basin.

In fact, nearly all discus fish now come from farms in Southeastern Asia. There are very few that originate from South America anymore.

2. They Require Warmer Temperature Compared to Other Tropical Fish

Applying for a permit to fish in the Amazon River is already difficult enough. But it becomes even more challenging when you have to maintain the delicate temperature that discus fish require.

You see, these fish are very sensitive to changes in water temperature. They need warm water that’s between 82 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit to thrive.

To maintain these water conditions, special equipment is necessary, and that’s not cheap. Not to mention, the electricity bill will be higher since the heater has to run all day long.

3. They Are Sensitive to Poor Water Quality

Although these guys are hardy that can withstand less-than-perfect water conditions, they are still sensitive to poor water quality.

For instance, they are susceptible to high levels of nitrates and ammonia. So, if you don’t have a good filtration system, then you might end up spending more on medications to keep your fish healthy.

Also, investing in a water test kit can be quite costly, especially if you’re testing the water on a regular basis.

4. They Are Difficult to Breed in Captivity

Discus fish are difficult to breed in captivity. They are late bloomers when it comes to reproduction which makes them even more challenging to rear.

What’s more, the fry (baby discus fish) is very delicate, and they need a lot of care and attention. Also, they have a high mortality rate, so many of them don’t make it to adulthood.

After 4 days of hatching, discus babies become free-swimmers. In the past, breeders used to remove the parents from the tank as they thought that parents would consume their babies, as angelfish do.

However, researchers found that parents’ presence is crucial for the fry’s survival. Turns out baby discus eat something from the sides of their parents as puppies do. This makes the task even more challenging for commercial breeders.

Not to mention, breeding also requires maintaining the proper water conditions. For example, the water should have barely any electrolytes present and a total hardness of less than 1 dH.

Additionally, the water should have a high level of humic acid and tannins, which implies that the number of fungi and germs is very small.

Furthermore, you should prepare the water for breeding discus through reverse osmosis and check it regularly. To be honest, I could talk about the difficulties of breeding for days, but I think you get the idea.

5. They Require a lot of Time to Grow

Discus fish have a long lifespan in comparison to other species of fish. The average lifespan of a discus is 10 years, but some can live past 15 years with the proper care. Thus, they take a long time to grow.

During the first three months of their lives, these fish grow only about 2.5 inches long. The growth to 4 inches can take as long as four or five months. These fish continue to grow until they are about 9 inches long.

But their growth doesn’t stop there! Even when they reach adulthood, discus fish can continue to grow until they are 12 inches long. So, what does this mean? The breeder will have to provide a lot of food, a large tank, and excellent water conditions for a long time.

As a result, the investment in these fish is significant, and the return on investment can take years.

6. The Demand Is Significantly Higher Than the Supply

As they all say, the demand is what drives the price. And when it comes to discus fish, the demand is significantly higher than the supply.

Due to their unique appearance and challenging care, not many people are willing to invest in these fish. As a result, the number of discus fish available for purchase is quite limited.

To make matters worse, most of the discus fish that you can find in pet stores are wild-caught. And as I’ve mentioned before, these fish are quite difficult to catch. So, the supply is even lower than the demand.

This is especially true for discus strains like the albino gold leopard and albino lemon yellow.

7. The Breeding Brand Has a Great Impact

When you go purchase a famous discus fish like the albino gold leopard, you’re not only paying for the fish itself. You’re also paying for the time, effort, and dedication that went into breeding that specific discus fish brand.

Some breeders have been working on perfecting a certain discus strain for years. And as we all know, experience doesn’t come cheap. This is especially true when we’re talking about a niche market like discus fish breeding.

8. The Travel Is Extremely Expensive

This poor fish has to go through a lot just to get to your aquarium. First of all, discus fish are only native to the Amazon Basin in South America. So, the journey from their natural habitat to your local pet store is quite long and complicated.

The fish have to go through multiple middlemen before they finally reach the store. And each middleman wants to make a profit, which quickly adds up.

Additionally, the fish have to be shipped in special tanks with specific water conditions. This is necessary to reduce the stress on the fish and prevent them from getting sick. All of this is extremely expensive and contributes to the high price tag of discus fish.

9. Only a Few of Them Reach Adulthood

The process of creating the ‘perfect’ discus fish is far from perfect. Hundreds of young fry are killed in order to breed and raise only those with the so-called “desirable” strain.

As you can see, the discus fish industry is quite ruthless. For this purpose, the breeders use a method called “selective breeding.”

With this method, the fry that don’t meet the desired standards are killed. However, the fry that live are then raised and bred to produce the next generation of discus fish. This process is repeated over and over again until the desired strain is finally achieved.

Thus, this process is quite costly and time-consuming. And only a small percentage of fry actually reach adulthood.

Which Discus Is Most Expensive?

The most expensive Discus fish is the Red Turquoise Discus, which costs between $440 and $540.

Below are the full Discus fish price ranges:

Fish NameOriginSizePatternsPrice
Cobalt BlueAmazon River2.0 to 4.0 inchesthick stripes on a light blue color$17.95 – $74.95
Pigeon Blood DiscusThailand3.0 inchesranging from creamy yellow to  orange$20.00 – $45.00
Mercury DiscusAmazon Basin4.0 to 6.5 inchessemitransparent pearl color$28.00 – $65.00
White Diamond DiscusAmazonian Basin, South America2.0 to 4.0 inches.bright white color.$32.99 – $74.99
Dark Green Fineline Snakeskin DiscusAmazonian Basin of South America.2.5 to 6.5 inches.metallic Ocean Green hue color and pattern like a snake. $38.00 – $165.00
Blue Diamond DiscusAmazon River3.0 to 6.5 incheslively chatoyant blue without any striations$42.00 – $135.00
Classic Blue Scorpion DiscusAmazon River2.0 to 6.5 inchessolid color with mild spots and stripes$42.00 – $175.00
Brilliant Blue DiscusAmazon Basin3.0 to 6.5 inchesmetallic blue color with thick stripes$45.00 – $145.00
Red Marlboro DiscusAmazon River2.0 to 4.0 inchesyellow and red$47.79 – $85.00
Yellow White DiscusAmazon River3.5 to 4.0 inchesorange hue over the yellow and white coral head$48
White Dragon DiscusAmazon Basin2.0 to 3.5 inchespearl white$55.00 – $75.00
Snow Leopard DiscusAmazon Basin3.0 to 6.5 inchespale pink, light-red leopard specks, translucent pink anal fins$55.00 – $148.00
Golden Crystal DiscusAmazon Basin3.5 to 6.0 inchespale abdominal area, orange or deep purple hues to the edge$65.00 – $138.00
Super Red Melon DiscusAmazon River3.0 to 6.5 inchesred and orange with no striations or specks$65.00 – $165.00
Albino Golden DiscusAmazon River2.5 to 5.5 inchesshades of orange-yellow, red, and white$75.00 – $148.00
Golden Leopard Snakeskin DiscusAmazon River4.0 to 6.5 inchesgold color with burnt orange, red and ochre specks$75.00 – $175.00
Albino Platinum DiscusAmazon Basin2.5 to 5.0 incheswhite color with iridescent pink on dorsal and ventral fins$88.00 – $148.00
Golden Marlboro DiscusAmazon River5.0 to 5.5 inchesyellow gold color with white specks $90
Super Pigeon Snakeskin DiscusAmazon Basin5.0 to 5.5 inchesorange, blue, red, and yellow specks $95.00 – $158.00
Albino Leopard DiscusAmazon River4.0 inchesranging from white to slightly yellow with leopard-like specks$99.75
Leopard-Skin DiscusAmazon River2.0 to 4.0 inchesred color striated with specks$123.99
Albino Red Spotted GreenAmazon River3.0 to 6.0 inchesmarshmallow white$125.00 – $175.00
Albino Snakeskin DiscusAmazon RiverRed with a hint of pink hue and red coral 4.0 to 5.5 inches$155.00 – $185.00
Albino Leopard Snakeskin DiscusAmazon River4.0 to 5.5 inchesleopard-like specks$155.00 – $185.00
Red Turquoise DiscusAmazon River5.0 to 6.0 inchesscarlet stripes on a chatoyant greenish-blue background$440.00 – $540.00


What Is the Average Price for a Discus Fish?

The average cost of discus fish is between $48.99 and $239.99. The price varies based on the fish’s looks, age, gender, and strain.

Why Are Discus So Hard to Take Care of?

Discus fish are difficult to take care of for several reasons: they require clean water, have dietary requirements, and don’t breed easily.

What Are the Most Expensive Discus Strain?

The most expensive discus strains are:

  • Albino red rabbit eye
  • Super red melon 
  • Golden red spot 
  • Singaporean firework 
  • Ring leopard 
  • Spotted eruption
  • Wayne firework
  • Golden leopard snakeskin

Last Words

Discus fish are indeed expensive. But if you’re able to provide them with the care they need, they can be a great addition to your aquarium. Just remember to do your research before making a purchase.

Also, these fish require special care and attention. But if you’re up for the challenge, then go for it! You might just end up with a beautiful and unique fish that will bring you years of joy.

I hope you enjoyed this article. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to share them in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!