Discus for beginners. An introduction to discus from my own experience.

Discussion in 'Articles' started by dash, Mar 26, 2014.

  1. dash

    dash

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2013
    Messages:
    3,193
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Durban
    Discus for beginners.

    When I first contemplated the idea of trying my hand at keeping discus, I did what most people would do. Google, Google and more Google was the order of the time. All that did was confuse me even more then I already was. Every person on the www, had their own views and opinions as to how to keep and care for these kings of the aquarium. Well, it was thanks to TASA and its fantastic discus keepers that I was able to get some info that kept me in good stead. It is for these reasons that I have decided to compile an article on my experiences on how to keep and raise these magnificent fish. I am know expert and have only been keeping these fish for about a year in July 2014 so, I still have a lot to learn however, I will share my experiences thus far.

    Discus in their natural habitat
    Discus are found most commonly in densely vegetated and woody slow moving rivers and backwaters of the Amazon river system in South America. These waters are generally warm, soft and acidic with very little current. My research indicates Discus are social cichlids that are often found in large groups when they are still juveniles. Even though many of us who have discus probably have captive or tank bread fish many generations away from their wild cousins, it is important for us to take cognizance of the natural environment of these cichlids as I will explain in later paragraphs.

    Discus setups
    There are generally three types of discus setups depending on the size of your fish. When starting off with juveniles, the purist discus keeper will keep them in bare bottom tanks. This is due to the ease of cleaning and keeping a sterilized environment. The second setup is to add a light layer of pool filter sand as a substrate. I am one of those that have chosen this method. The third type of setup is to have large discus in a natural planted aquarium witch makes a stunning and beautiful display.

    Water parameters
    This is one of those topics that has been extensively covered in every article, web site and youtube video that concerns the keeping and caring of discus. As we stated in the above discus come from generally soft acidic waters in the wild. Whilst this is very true, as I have mentioned many of our discus that we keep as hobbyists, have been captive bread and have adjusted to water above PH 7. The key in my opinion is to strive to keep PH stability. I have found that keeping a PH of any thing from 6 to 6.8 is the optimal conditions for keeping them healthy. I have chosen this because firstly, soft acidic water is the natural habitat for the discus and secondly, ammonia if present in the water is less tocsic when PH is under7. This is know excuse for not doing water changes and general tank maintenance etc however, I just thought I should point this out. I think that it would be seriously advisable to get your self familiar with some basic water chemistry so you have an understanding of KH, GH and PH.




    Temperature
    This in my opinion is a nonnegotiable. We can play around with the PH but not temperature. Discus thrive in warm temps, any thing from 28 degrees up to 31 degrees is vital for optimal growth. Warmer temperatures stimulate the appetites of juveniles and increase the metabolism and assist in the general good well being of the fish.

    Filtration
    One would assume if you are reading this article, you have a pretty good understanding of filtration and the nitrogen cycle with in a tropical aquarium their for, I am not going to discuss this in detail as it goes beyond the realms of this article. You can find many resources on the web and on TASA giving you in-depth discussions around the nitrogen cycle... Never the less, discus are not cycle or beginner fish for an aquarium and should never be used as such. Discus require adequate filtration due to many of the meaty foods that are fed however, they do not enjoy high flowing currents so this can pose a challenge to the aquarist. The trick if using a canister filter or sump is to direct the spray towards the bottom of the tank or, use a really good spray bar to diffuse the water. Many discus keepers will make use of sponge and hang on filters. These are normally round like sponges that have an airline tube attached to an air pump. This is a great means of biological filtration and water circulation. Due to the high temperature water in the discus aquarium, oxygen levels are low in the water and using such filters creates surface agitation allowing for gas exchange.

    The discus tank
    Let’s talk a little about the discus tank. When starting out, I think it it is advisable to start off with know less than a 3foot aquarium. Many with disagree by saying you should go with the biggest tank you can afford and this is true however, I will soon explain why I say this. In order for discus to feel secure and comfortable, they need to be kept in groups as juveniles. This group stimulates natural behaviors like hierarchy and a general since of security. The discus as an aquarium fish can be very shy and skittish and if kept in few numbers can result in bullying, not eating and shying away until eventual death. If one has the money then a 4foot aquarium with about 15 juveniles would work however, not every one can afford this so, a 3foot to start with with about 9 or 11 discus would be fine. It should be noted that if you start off with this method, you will have to insure that in a few months you will have to upgrade to a larger tank when your babies start to become young adults. The only drawback on a smaller tank is that you are required to be extremely dedicated to every day cleanings and good water changes. Mind you, keeping discus is a full time job!

    The tank should be completely bare with know decorations and plants. Try for a bare bottom first as it is easier to keep clean. The only reason that I added a very thin layer of PFS was because my juveniles were a little afraid of the reflections at the bottom panel. One of the ways to fix this I discovered, was painting the glass at the bottom (on the out side)removing those reflections.




    It is advisable to install a background on the back and sides of the aquarium. Stick with neutral colors but not black. This is to promote security for the new fish. You can remove this as required or when the fish have adapted to the aquarium. Finally I would also suggest that you have an aquarium lid. Discus do not usually jump but when stressed have know trouble leaping out of the tank. I have never had one jump on me yet.

    Selecting your discus
    Unfortunately here in South Africa we are rather limited to the selection of discus we can purchase. High quality discus come with the price to match and many aquarists simply cannot afford the fish however, there are a number of successful breeders and sponsors on our forum that have kept and sold discus for a long time. This is going to get me in to trouble however I will clarify. Take due cortion when picking up discus from your local fish shop (LFS) Many LFS do not understand the requirements of discus keeping and very often place discus in unsuitable conditions stressing out the fish. Only for you to come along and buy this fish when it is far too late for the fish. You go home, take care of the fish and after a week or two, it soon dies. Let me make it very clear that this does not applies to all LFS and our sponsors on this forum.

    Let’s assume that you have found a breeder or a good LFS that has been keeping discus for a while now and, you have now decided to buy some from them. A few questions that you should ask. What is the PH of your aquariums?, what food are you feeding? And temperature of the tanks. This is vital as when you bring the fish to its new home you want to replicate conditions as much as possible.

    There are a number of issues that I have not covered in this short article such as feeding and nutrition, breeding because I have never bread discus, tank mates because I keep them alone etc.if you think that I should jot down my feeding routine and general maintenance program then please let me know. I hope that I was able to shed some light on these magical fish the kings of the aquarium

    Resources and links

    A simple guide to keeping Discus Fish

    http://www.SimplyDiscus.com

    Basic Discus Guide
    http://www.aquahobby.com
     
  2. Guest




  3. fhmarais

    fhmarais

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2013
    Messages:
    506
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Pretoria East
    can confirm. had one that tried to fly. But luck and a few year of Action Cricket paid off big time.
     
  4. OP
    dash

    dash

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2013
    Messages:
    3,193
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Durban
    Not sure I understand
     
  5. Good_Times

    Good_Times Kalahari Sandhaai

    Joined:
    Jan 18, 2012
    Messages:
    928
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Upington
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2014
  6. fhmarais

    fhmarais

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2013
    Messages:
    506
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Pretoria East
    Peaches (one of my discus) got a hell of a fright. Took off and jumped out of the tank. I was lucky to be in the position to catch her and get het back into the tank. It was not the first time she did this. This was the 2nd time she got a fright, took a turn and tried to jump out the tank. Both times was at feeding time in the morning. The one morning she might have been asleep and might have taken a huge fright when the Clown bumped against her. The other time I am not sure of.

    Another thing what I saw is that they can get speed build up, and they do hit the sides of the tank some times. Pepper (that passed away few weeks ago) took a spin round the tank, and hit the one side. She was dazed for about 10 minutes. Silver did it once as well where he hit the side in my brothers tank. For more than a hour he could not get which side was the right side up. But he is fine and still swimming round.
     
  7. OP
    dash

    dash

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2013
    Messages:
    3,193
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Durban
    Thanks mate I understand. Had a blond moment. Discus I have found, will jump if they are insecure or water is not good. Do you have the back and sides covered?
     
  8. fhmarais

    fhmarais

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2013
    Messages:
    506
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Pretoria East
    @dash, Yes they are painted - The rear. Other sides closed with a blanket to keep the heat in on the cold winter days and nights... But the discus moved from my brothers tank to mine. So new environment and a lot of changes that took place in a short span of time. It is funny question, but how does one know when they are asleep. The Elephant nose I can see, but the discus are another story. The Pleco and Cory kids as well, but not so sure about the discus.
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2014
  9. fhmarais

    fhmarais

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2013
    Messages:
    506
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Pretoria East
    One thing I did notice: They became tame and adapted to the feeders (human that provides the food)
    At first they did not take food from my hands. How both will eat out of my hand. I can even touch them and they seen to like human touch for some reason. Peaches will come up if I am busy and it seems as though she seeks attention (she is female so would explain a lot in that regard)

    Keeping discus is a daunting task but rewarding. The pair I have seems to be a breading pair with a tast for fish eggs at the moment. Pre fertilization they will eat the eggs. Can't wait till the day that they realize that those eggs are not food, but their seed.
     
  10. OP
    dash

    dash

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2013
    Messages:
    3,193
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Durban
    Hi. That I cannot answer however, try not to put bright lights on all at once if it is dark. Rather gradually put lights on so the fish can adapt. I have found that fast movement and lots of traffic around the tank will also spook them. Post a picture of the tank please? So we can have a look.
     
  11. fhmarais

    fhmarais

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2013
    Messages:
    506
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Pretoria East
    Will have to shoot one tomorrow. Lights are down and don't want to open the tank right now. Will scare the poo out of the Elephant and The Lorax...

    *edit: Just spotted I had a photo on TASA

    ImageUploadedByTapatalk1401771725.216685.jpg
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2014
  12. fhmarais

    fhmarais

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2013
    Messages:
    506
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Pretoria East
    This morning opened the tank to a horror pick. Both discus swimming upside down. dosed the tank with 3 tea spoons of epsom salt. Will keep an eye on the discus. The last two left, and feel like I killed them. Will give them time and hope that they will recover from what ever happened to them. Only change in the last 24 hours was three new plants. Rest of the kids are fine.

    But if they do pass, I am going to dump a few barbs in the tank. Had enough discus to last me 1000 years.
    Oh and did a 10% water change this morning as per schedule...
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2014
  13. fhmarais

    fhmarais

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2013
    Messages:
    506
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Pretoria East
    Both discus passed today. Went out to find meds. Hour later one was dead. Went out with my folks, when I got back, other was gone as well. So that was my try at discus. And calling it quits WRT discus
     
  14. OP
    dash

    dash

    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2013
    Messages:
    3,193
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    Durban
    Hi mate firstly, sorry for your loss. It's not easy loosing fish and the feeling of giving up on them is very normal.

    You say you had 2 discus? Can you share a little more about the tank?
     
  15. fhmarais

    fhmarais

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2013
    Messages:
    506
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Pretoria East
    Started with 5. My brother gave them to me. They all had the same symptoms. Floating upside down, hard time breathing.
    Feeding them a combo of pellets.
    250l community planted tank. 2 heaters set at 28'c.
    pH of 6.5
    Used RO water mixed with tap water. Used either Safe or Prime for water with Discus buffer.
    Also fed them blood worms. Always unfroze the bloodworms before feeding.

    Running a SunSun canister with UV.

    Will post a few more details. Have to get ready for work on this chilly morning
     
  16. Quakeszn

    Quakeszn

    Joined:
    May 16, 2014
    Messages:
    464
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Durban,South Africa
    Some will recomend discus buffer use.in my personal opinion as discus can live in a very wide range of ph its not neccesary.As when editing ph and then experience a ph crsh it will be worse.And how much ro water to tap are you mixing?test ur ph from the tap.Then age and aggitate in a barrel for 24 hours.Give us the ph reading before and after.With using uv steriliser and ro water it sounds like lots of minerals are gone from the water.Id test ph and get some dicus trace and miniral suplement add to water.Please give us the ph readings

    Quintin
     
  17. fhmarais

    fhmarais

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2013
    Messages:
    506
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Pretoria East
    RO water: 4l of water 21 of tap water with Safe or Prime
    Left the water to stand for 36 hours before use.
    Out of tap pH round 8.
    pH of water drops to about 7.5. Will then add Buffer or pH down. Depending on the amount of water. If it is less than 10l I will add pH down. more than 10l I used Discus Buffer.
    Dosed tank with Discus trace as per instruction on the bottle
     
  18. Quakeszn

    Quakeszn

    Joined:
    May 16, 2014
    Messages:
    464
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Durban,South Africa
    how it going now?
     
  19. AmithS

    AmithS

    Joined:
    May 17, 2011
    Messages:
    968
    Likes Received:
    132
    Location:
    Gauteng
    I never kept Discus so mind the question.

    Why is stunted discus a topic on its own so to say - does this not apply to all fish?
     
  20. BoelderBeestie

    BoelderBeestie

    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2016
    Messages:
    1,966
    Likes Received:
    756
    Location:
    Cape Town
    That's what killed them, you made the ph move too much by adding the acid. You made it drop and shoot back up. Using normal tap water is perfectly fine. You only need the RO when you set the TDS for fertilization during breeding.
     
  21. AmithS

    AmithS

    Joined:
    May 17, 2011
    Messages:
    968
    Likes Received:
    132
    Location:
    Gauteng
    @BoelderBeestie this is a really old post - sorry about that - I just jumped on the post to ask my question due to the subject line...
     

Recent Posts

Loading...
Similar Threads - Discus beginners introduction Forum Date
Discus for beginners General Discus discussions Sep 13, 2012
My second batch of discus Discus Breeding Thursday at 5:39 PM
Discus wanted in JHB General Discus discussions Oct 1, 2018
Wanted: Discus pairs for sale? Wanted/Swop/Freebies Aug 9, 2018
Discus breeders with stock? General Discus discussions Jul 6, 2018
First Time Discus Laid Eggs Discus Breeding May 26, 2018
Wanted: Angels and discus wanted Wanted/Swop/Freebies May 11, 2018

Share This Page