So, you think you’re ready to dive into Discus? Beautiful, graceful, AND personable to boot, the casual observer might ponder why every aquarist isn’t eager to give them a home. But, like all beautiful things worth having, Symphysodon aequifasciatus require some hard work. In order to thrive in captivity, they need very large tanks with pristine and stable water conditions, which can be a tall order since Discus are known to be voracious, messy eaters with excretion in matching proportions. Incredibly susceptible to even the smallest amount of nitrites, weekly 50% water changes are a necessity.
Still with us? OK, let’s talk habitat! Discus fish hail from the rivers of the eastern and central Amazon basin and are found in blackwater, clearwater, whitewater, and floodplains. Many discus keepers prefer to keep their tanks planted with swords, anubias, and floating plants to offer their wards a more natural feel. A biotope setup would also include driftwood to lower pH and soften waters. Substrate should be incredibly easy to clean and sometimes it’s advisable to go substrate-less for easy cleanup. Found frequently in the warmest waters, they do best at temperatures around 82 to 85°F and pH should be maintained consistently between 6.5 and 7.0.
Peaceful and shoaling by nature, they should be kept in conspecific groups with individuals of all the same size, to prevent bullying. Discus are most commonly kept in species-only tanks, but they may be kept with small, South American Tetras that tolerate the warm environment. With a maximum size of roughly 6 inches, care should be taken to make sure prospective tankmates aren’t small enough to be eaten, however. They should never be mixed with other territorial or otherwise aggressive cichlids or any fin-nipping or fast-moving species. Carnivorous by nature, they need a protein-heavy diet consisting of live and frozen invertebrates like bloodworms, though they will accept high-quality granules and dried foods that float or sink slowly.
Not for the faint of heart (or short on time), but undeniably gorgeous and interactive pets, Discus are regarded as some of the most rewarding fish to keep for a reason! Whether you’ve taken the deep Discus dive or not, we’re here to support you every step of the way!