Complete Discus Fish Guide for Beginners


Keep them Hot!

The first and foremost tip for keeping Discus is, keep them hot. Whether they are wild-caught or not, this is a species that prefers it to be warm than too cold. That means temperatures between 85-86 degrees.

If you were to look at a thousand different Discuss, 60-70% of them would not do well under 85 degrees. So, my first suggestion is to keep them very hot. 

Reasons behind keeping the higher temperatures:

  • It keeps them active.
  • Keeps the metabolism going well.
  • In general, they will show better color.

The reason why you should keep the water warmer is that they come from countries like Malaysia and even Germany, where they are naturally found in warm waters. If they have been raised for their entire life in warm water and then you get them, and you try to put them in water that is significantly cool waters, it will only stress them out further. Especially if they were wild-caught, they are already stressed out from being transported. The cooler waters will only add more stress.

Discus are known to be a little bit "finicky," and in all honestly, it's not the Discus that are "finicky," it more like most fishkeepers are hard-headed. This fish needs particular conditions to thrive, and if you do not make the necessary adjustments for them, it can cause them stress.  So the temperature is a big one, so keep that in mind.


Discus Tank Mates

With the elevated temperature that Discus needs limits what species you can add to the aquarium with them, you also have to keep in mind that Discus are slow eaters. Discus are not built like bullets, so they can't move quickly. So, you want to add species with similar features, you do not want to add a fish that is an aggressive eater, and that would prevent the Discus from eating. Here are a few tank mates that I would suggest to keep with your Discus:

I would suggest starting with just Discus in your tank, then afterward you can add some other fish. Just make sure the species can live in warmer waters and will not outperform them when it comes to feeding time. I like the idea of making the Discus the centerpiece for your tank.

Fish that are not compatible with Discus

You don't want to keep Discus with Barbs or even too many tetras. The idea here is that you do not want to ad species or too many fish that would out-compete them for food. So, Discus typically will eat the food chew it up a little and then spit it out, then will keep doing this over and over because their mouth isn't that big, and most fishkeepers feed them food that is too big. You also want to stay away from clown loaches, rams, angelfish; all these other fishes will out compete Discus for food.


What You Should Feed Your Discus

For food, it's simple, the smaller, the better due to the small size mouth. They like Bloodworms, but they can get addicted to them easily. The shape of their mouth does not open very wide, and Bloodworm are shaped like a burrito, making it easier for them to eat. Bloodworms also have a lot of nutrients. You can also feed them a variety of frozen foods as well as live foods. There are also many other foods explicitly designed for Discus that help enhance their colors and are small shaped to make it easier to eat.

While feeding your Discus, the food size is essential, plus the delivery method is also crucial. If they are picky or they are shy, you want to avoid stressing them out while feeding them. A diverse diet is also essential, allowing them to get several different nutrients, so do to feed them the same thing all the time.


Discus Suggested Water Parameters

We already covered the water temperatures and trying to keep them between 85-86 degrees. Another essential water parameter is pH. The suggested pH range should be kept between 6.8 to 7.6; for the most part, if you keep your pH within this range, then they should do great.

For the Discuss that are raised in German, they are known to tolerate higher pH ranges. In general, if you keep them hot and you keep their stress level down, then they should thrive, and I feel like these are the most important things to focus on when keeping Discus.


The Ideal Discus Tank

When it comes to Discuss, the minimum tank size I suggest is a 75-gallon aquarium. You can go as small as a 55-gallon tank, but you will have more maintenance because these fish get big ('Saucer Plate Size') in the right conditionsWhen the fish gets that big, and you are feeding them a lot because of their higher metabolism due to the warmer waters. The higher metabolism will require you to feed them more, which leads to more waste in the tank, which means more water challenges. 

In a 75-gallon aquarium, you can put at least 6 Discus, but you do not want to put a group together. If you do, they will end up bullying each other. You can keep a single Discus technically, but they do better in small schools.

As far as decorations, you can do a planted tank with plants like sword plants, micro sword plants, and other plants like it. These plants tend to do well with Discus.  

I suggest adding an air stone with the increased temperature during the dead of summer. The temperature of the tank will typically rise slightly. The higher temperature can get to the point that it might start to run a little low on oxygen. An air stone can takes care of this problem. 


Breeding Discus

Water parameters for Discuss are critical, but when it comes to time to breed Discuss, they need to be perfect because it matters. If you are trying to breed them and raise the fray, then the Discus will need a much lower pH ~6.5 and hardness of 4.0

But if you are not planning to breed them, then the hardness must be medium-hard and softer. The big key is reducing stress.


Take good care!

So, just feed them the right food, keep the water warm, the water parameters good, and keep the tank clean. You also want to avoid unneeded stress such as kids tapping on the tank all the time, don't keep the tank next to loud sounds from speakers or a TV. You also want to avoid flashing lights from strobes, and ideally, you would like to limit the walking traffic.

There is a bunch of things that can be done to make them feel safe in the tank. If the Discus outgrows its tank, limiting its movement even the smallest actions can stress them out. Select a bunch of females with fewer males, give them good food, and you should be in good shape.

If you haven't ever kept Discuss, then don't buy the cheapest one but also don't buy the most expensive one, because you don't know how to keep them. Buy a group all at once. If you buy them at different times or from different places, then you'll have a variety of Discus with different shapes and sizes. This would make it extremely easy for them to out-compete each other.

If you already bought then, look for the one which is loosing and put it in a quarantine tank. You do not want to force it to compete with the other fish. In the quarantine tank, give it food and nurse it back to a healthy state before adding it back to your display tank. If it is still has a hard time competing with the other fish, go out and buy 3 or 4 more Discuss and ad them all to the tank at the same time and they should all thrive.


Enjoy Your Discuss

If you are enjoying your fish, then you are keeping the Discuss correctly. A lot of people are so worried that they will end up killing their Discuss that they spend so much time worrying that they don't enjoy the fish. Instead of that, just enjoy their beauty and enjoy them for however long you have them for. 

Good Luck with your Discuss!

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