Keeping discus fish in an aquarium

Many aquarium owners consider discus fish to be one of the most beautiful species that can be kept in an aquarium. But when it comes to keeping and caring for fish, they are also among the most challenging.

Discus fish get their name from their flat, roundish body and long fins that stretch across almost the entire length of their body. Native to the Amazon River basin, these fish grow to an impressive size of up to 18 cm and come in various colours, depending on their type and breed. Many aquarium owners believe that they are the most beautiful fish that can be kept at home. However, there are two sides to every story. These fish have a reputation for being susceptible to illness and difficult to keep. They are not suitable for novices and require special care from the aquarium owner. However, if you take time to explore this fish species in detail and offer them the best possible living conditions, they will give you pleasure for a long time to come. Their water must be low in minerals and have a pH value of 7 or below.

The aquarium

The first thing you need to know is that the discus fish needs plenty of space – not just because of its size but also because it is a schooling fish. Discus fish are happiest when they can swim around the tank with other members of the same species. You should have a group of at least five, or ideally a school of up to ten fish. To house a small group, your aquarium should have a minimum capacity of 300 litres. A school of discus fish will be happiest in a tank measuring at least 500 litres.

The floor should be covered in a soft substrate such as fine-grained sand. The fish also enjoy using small fragments of rock or roots as hideouts. Large roots are perfect for fish to hide under. Sturdy plants with wide leaves provide ideal vegetation. Amazon sword plants and Cryptocorynes fit the bill particularly well, as do small clumps of Vallisneria. The lighting should not be too bright. The water temperature should be between 28°C and 30°C and may drop to 24°C during the winter. The pH value of the water should be 6-6.5, while water hardness can be up to 8 dGH. Short-term temperatures of over 30°C can also be tolerated.

Co-habitation

Although discus fish can be kept in tanks alongside other species of fish, expert opinion is divided on what is best for the fish. The discus is a relatively sociable fish and a peaceful co-habitant that is extremely tolerant of other fish. This said, it is possible that it may feel disturbed and stressed by other, superior species. Therefore, discus fish should only be kept alongside other peaceful fish that have the same water requirements and potentially also inhabit other areas of the tank, such as armoured catfish. If you want to play it safe, you would be best advised to keep discus fish in a tank of their own.

Food

To ensure your discus fish have a balanced and species-appropriate diet, we recommend using dried food granules or flakes. Specialty stores offer special mixes for discus fish which contain all the essential nutrients and minerals, and thus cover the needs of the fish. Please note that discus fish need time to adjust to new food. For this reason, their food should not be changed unnecessarily. Furthermore, you should not feed your discus fish Tubifex or red mosquito larvae on a regular basis. The fish may love them, but these food types can cause problems in the long run.

Call into your local store today to discuss your fish’s personal needs with our Maxi Zoo Pet Experts.

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