START KEEPING DISCUS by: Jim E. Quarles
This article is for the Newbe to discus keeping. And just perhaps a
few things can be of use to those not so new to the hobby. If you want
to keep discus, you had better spend time and effort learning all you
can before you buy your first fish. There are several right ways to
get started and hundreds of wrong ways that would make your introduction
either enjoyable or a living hell.
Before you even consider picking out that first wonderful discus at
your local aquarium store, just turn around and walk over to the book
section. That's where you will find the books you should buy and read
before adding that beautiful fish to you collection. The more you can
learn before you start, the more enjoyable will be the result. Who knows,
you might even become an expert later on!
Recently at one club meeting the speaker told those present that the
best investment they could make in their hobby was a supply of books.
I totally agree with that. Discus fish are a special type of fish, anyone
who tells you that is not so, just plain don't know what they are talking
about or have learned just enough about them to be stupid in passing
on that information. Discus are demanding in both, food and water conditions,
they also are special in that they present more problems in your effort
to keep them parasite and disease free.
While all general aquarium principles apply when keeping them, some
must be applied far more rigidly then with other fish. Now none of the
above presents impossible problems to the NEWBE. But it is far better
to be prepared then to uninformed and make costly mistakes. Discus fish
come from a native habitat that contains soft acidic water. To keep
them in good health, you should provide them with that requirement above
all. They are classified as cichlids, and their are many different kinds
of cichlids each with their own water and food requirements so what
applies to one species does not always meet the requirements of the
others. One thing will become very clear once you obtain your fish,
and start your discus adventure.
Frequent and massive water changes are required much more often then
with most aquarium fishes. While a bare bottom tank is not essential
it sure makes keeping the water and tank clean and clear of uneaten
food or fish waste. WARNING. Under-gravel filters are a big NO NO. They
are nothing more then filthy collectors. They take the waste out of
site, but not out of the system. They are not good for fish or plant
life. The ideal setup for a discus tank would be a bare container, with
fresh acidic water that is very soft flowing through it 24 hours per
day. ( Dream on.) Since that is not likely to be the case the next best
would be a bare container of at least 2 ½ gallons of water per inch
of fish, with a couple of sponge rubber filters and a canister filter
with activated carbon in it. That is maintained at 6.8 ph., set at 82
to 84 degrees F. And remember each tank arrangement must be cycled to
develop the biological filter to good working conditions before adding
fish. ( more about this later.) Regarding tank size, while young discus
fish are small, but remember they grow fast and become quite large.
So if your tank is to small they will not be happy and it will stunt
their growth. I recommend the largest tank you can afford or place.
Breeding tanks later on can be down sized to even twenty gallons per
pair. now lets pretend we have a nice large tank ( maybe ) fifty five
gallon show tank, and it's biological filter is work as required. How
many fish can you keep? Well it depends on their size. Up to twenty
young fish say to 3 inches in size, or 6 or 8 fully adult discus.
I know the next question? Can I keep Angel fish with my discus, the
answer is yes but it is not advisable for two reasons. one angel fish
are pigs when it comes to eating they will hog the best food and since
the discus are shy slow picky bottom feeders they may not get enough
food. Second angelfish can carry diseases that have little effect on
themselves but prove deadly to discus. If you must have other fish in
their tanks make it tetras, small catfish, or other non-aggressive fish.
The next item is proper food. Discus will eat almost anything if they
are trained to do so. But they should have a mixed plate to select from.
Meat like ground beefheart is good if not over done. Flake or pellet
food. Brine shrimp. White worms, but NEVER LIVE WORMS, EITHER BLACK
OR TUBFLEX TYPES. These are worms that can bring in diseases and tapeworms
to your fish. Discus have short guts, and it is better to feed small
amounts more often than one large meal once a day. All uneaten food
should be removed after one hour or so, this helps keep the disease
and rotten waste factor down. Remember these fish demand clean water
at all times to remain healthy. Well I hope I have given you good guide
lines if your adding discus and not frightened you away from the most
beautiful of all the aquarium fishes. Join us discus nuts but please
make it a pleasure for your self not a disappointment.