Discuss Fish - KING of the Aquarium

discuss fish


Shoal of Discuss Fish in Amazon River Basin

Discus fish, scientifically known as Symphysodon, are native to the Amazon River Basin in South America, a region renowned for its incredible biodiversity. These captivating fish have a rich history dating back to the early 19th century when explorers and naturalists first documented their existence.

In their natural habitat, discus fish thrive in slow-moving waters of flooded forests, oxbow lakes, and backwaters of rivers. The warm, acidic, and soft waters of the Amazon Basin provide an ideal environment for these graceful creatures. Discus fish have evolved to display a stunning array of colors and patterns, ranging from vibrant reds and blues to earthy browns and greens, adapting to the diverse aquatic landscapes of their origin.

Their unique circular shape, laterally compressed bodies, and distinctive fin patterns have made them a favorite among aquarium enthusiasts worldwide. Discus fish are not just admired for their beauty; they also hold cultural significance among indigenous tribes in the Amazon, where they are revered for their vibrant hues and graceful movements.

Adult Size & Lifespan

Discus fish, known for their elegant appearance and vibrant colors, typically reach their adult size within 12 to 24 months, depending on factors such as diet, water quality, and genetics. When fully mature, discus fish can vary in size, but they generally reach an average diameter of about 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 centimeters). Some well-cared-for discus individuals can even grow larger, reaching up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) in diameter.

In terms of lifespan, when kept in well-maintained aquariums with suitable conditions, discus fish can live for a relatively long time. On average, they have a lifespan of around 10 to 15 years. However, with proper care, some discus fish have been known to live even longer, occasionally reaching up to 20 years or more.

Maintaining stable water parameters, providing a balanced and nutritious diet, and ensuring a stress-free environment are key factors in promoting the longevity of discus fish. Regular water changes, appropriate tank mates, and a well-balanced diet consisting of high-quality pellets, flakes, and occasional live or frozen foods contribute to their overall health and lifespan.

Colors, Patterns, Fins, and Sex Differences of Discus Fish

Colors and Patterns: Discus fish are celebrated for their stunning array of colors and intricate patterns. They come in various hues, including vibrant reds, blues, greens, yellows, and browns. These colors often blend and merge, creating captivating patterns that can be striped, spotted, or marbled. The intensity and combination of these colors are influenced by genetics, diet, and the fish’s overall health. Discus enthusiasts are continually fascinated by the seemingly endless variety of color combinations these fish display.

Fins: Discus fish possess distinct fin structures that enhance their beauty. Their dorsal fin, located on their back, is typically long and graceful, complementing their streamlined body shape. The anal and pelvic fins are also prominent, with intricate patterns often extending into these fins. The caudal fin, or tail fin, varies in shape, from rounded to slightly forked, adding to the overall elegance of these fish.

Sex Differences: Determining the sex of discus fish can be challenging, especially when they are young. However, there are subtle differences that become more apparent as they mature:

  • Size: Adult females are usually slightly smaller and rounder compared to males. Males tend to be larger and more elongated in body shape.

  • Pectoral Fins: In some cases, the pectoral fins (the fins located on the sides, near the gills) of males are more pointed and elongated, while those of females are more rounded.

  • Breeding Tubes: During the breeding season, females develop a small, tube-like structure (the ovipositor) behind their anal fin. This is used for laying eggs. Males may have a similar structure, but it is usually more prominent and thicker.

  • Behavior: Males are often more territorial and aggressive, especially during breeding. Females, on the other hand, may display protective behaviors around their nesting sites.

It’s important to note that these differences are not always definitive, and the best way to accurately determine the sex of discus fish, especially for breeding purposes, is through the observation of their behaviors during the breeding season or with the guidance of experienced discus breeders.

Habitat and Tank Requirements of Discus Fish

Discus fish, native to the Amazon River Basin in South America, are found in slow-moving waters of flooded forests, oxbow lakes, and tributaries. These areas are characterized by warm, acidic, and soft waters, often shaded by the lush canopy of the rainforest. Discus fish are accustomed to living in densely planted regions with ample hiding spots among roots and submerged vegetation. The water in their natural habitat is typically rich in organic matter and has a stable temperature, ranging from 82°F to 88°F (28°C to 31°C).

Tank Requirements:

To ensure the well-being of discus fish in captivity, it’s essential to replicate their natural habitat as closely as possible. Here are the key tank requirements for discus fish:

  1. Tank Size: A spacious tank is crucial for discus fish, especially if you plan to keep a group. A minimum of 55 gallons (208 liters) is recommended for a small group. Larger tanks provide more stability in water parameters and reduce aggression among fish.

  2. Water Parameters:

    • Temperature: Maintain a stable temperature between 82°F to 88°F (28°C to 31°C).
    • pH Level: Aim for a slightly acidic to neutral pH level, ideally between 6.0 to 7.0.
    • Water Hardness: Discus prefer soft to moderately soft water, with a dH range of 1 to 8.
  3. Filtration: Invest in a high-quality filtration system to keep the water clean and clear. Discus fish are sensitive to water quality, so efficient filtration is essential. Consider a canister or sponge filter for gentle water movement.

  4. Substrate: Use a fine-grained substrate like sand or smooth gravel. Discus fish often sift through the substrate, and a soft substrate prevents injury to their delicate barbels.

  5. Plants and Decor: Include live plants such as Amazon swords, java ferns, and anubias. Driftwood, rocks, and PVC pipes can create hiding spots, reducing stress in the fish.

  6. Lighting: Provide subdued lighting. Discus fish come from shaded areas in their natural habitat, so too much bright light can stress them.

  7. Tank Mates: Discus fish are peaceful but can be timid. Choose tank mates wisely, opting for calm, non-aggressive species like tetras, corydoras catfish, and peaceful dwarf cichlids.

  8. Feeding: Offer a varied diet, including high-quality pellets, flakes, and occasional live or frozen foods. A balanced diet is essential for their health and coloration.

Breeding of Discuss Fish

Breeding discus fish can be a rewarding yet challenging endeavor, requiring careful planning, proper setup, and patience. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you successfully breed these beautiful and fascinating fish.

Selecting Breeding Pairs

  • Choose healthy, mature discus fish for breeding. Look for pairs that are compatible in terms of size, temperament, and coloration.
  • Discus fish often form pairs naturally, but if not, you can observe their behaviors and select pairs that show interest in each other.

Conditioning the Breeders:

  • Provide a balanced and nutritious diet rich in protein to prepare the breeding pair. Live or frozen foods such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, and high-quality pellets can enhance their reproductive health.
  • Maintain pristine water conditions in their tank, ensuring optimal parameters such as temperature (around 84-86°F or 29-30°C) and slightly acidic to neutral pH (around 6.5-7.0).

Spawning Setup

  • Set up a dedicated breeding tank with soft, acidic water and gentle filtration.
  • Place flat surfaces like smooth stones, PVC pipes, or broad leaves (like almond leaves) where the discus can lay their eggs. These surfaces will serve as spawning sites.
  • Provide dim lighting and minimal disturbance to mimic their natural habitat.

Courtship and Spawning:

  • Discus pairs engage in courtship rituals, including circling, twitching, and color changes.
  • The female will lay adhesive eggs on the chosen surface, and the male will follow to fertilize them.
  • After spawning, the parents will take turns guarding the eggs and fanning them with their pectoral fins to provide oxygen.

Patience and Observation

  • Breeding discus fish requires patience. It may take a few attempts for the pair to be successful.
  • Observe the behavior of the breeding pair and the fry closely. Regular monitoring allows you to intervene if issues arise.


discuss fish with fry
discuss fish with fry

Rearing the Fry

  • Once the eggs hatch (usually within 48-72 hours), the parents will guide the fry to feed on their skin secretions, known as ‘slime feeding.’
  • After a few days, the parents may lead the fry to forage for tiny organisms or introduce them to suitable fry food.
  • If the parents show signs of aggression towards the fry, consider moving them to a separate tank to prevent harm.

Growing and Caring for Fry

  • Feed the fry with newly hatched brine shrimp, micro worms, or specially formulated fry food.
  • Maintain excellent water quality with regular small water changes and gentle filtration.
  • As the fry grow, separate them into larger tanks to prevent overcrowding and aggression.


Discus fish are not only prized for their beauty but also known for their sensitive nature. Providing proper care and preventing diseases are essential to keep these magnificent fish healthy. Here’s a guide to help you understand common diseases and how to care for your discus fish:

Maintain Pristine Water Quality

  • Regular water changes (about 25-30% weekly) are vital to remove waste and maintain stable water parameters.
  • Use a reliable water conditioner to neutralize chlorine and chloramine in tap water.

A Balanced Diet

  • Offer a varied and nutritious diet. High-quality pellets, flakes, frozen, and live foods ensure a well-rounded diet, enhancing their immune system.
  • Avoid overfeeding, as uneaten food can deteriorate water quality.

Quarantine New Fish

Quarantine new fish in a separate tank for at least a few weeks to observe for signs of illness before introducing them to the main tank.

Proper Tank Setup

  • Provide hiding spots and plants but ensure the tank is not overcrowded, allowing for free movement and reducing stress.
  • Avoid sharp decorations that might injure the fish.

Monitor Behavior

Be attentive to changes in behavior. Discus fish may hide, lose appetite, or become lethargic when they’re stressed or unwell.

Tank Mates

Choosing suitable tank mates for discus fish is crucial to maintaining a peaceful and harmonious aquarium environment. Discus are known for their peaceful nature, and it’s essential to select companions that share their temperament and water requirements. Here are some compatible tank mates for discus fish:

  1. Tetras: Species like cardinal tetras, rummy nose tetras, and neon tetras are excellent choices. They are small, peaceful, and add a splash of color to the tank.

  2. Corydoras Catfish: Various species of Corydoras catfish, such as the panda cory or bronze cory, are bottom-dwelling fish that are non-aggressive and help keep the tank clean.

  3. Dwarf Cichlids: Peaceful dwarf cichlids like German blue rams or Apistogramma species can coexist with discus. They add diversity to the tank without causing disturbances.

  4. Schooling Fish: Peaceful schooling fish like rasboras, hatchetfish, and small loaches can be suitable companions. They create a dynamic and lively atmosphere in the tank.

  5. Angelfish: Although both discus and angelfish are cichlids, they can cohabitate if the tank is large enough and well-decorated with hiding spots. However, observe their interactions carefully, as occasionally, territorial issues might arise.

  6. Peaceful Gouramis: Certain gourami species, such as honey gouramis or pearl gouramis, can be compatible due to their calm demeanor.

  7. Livebearing Fish: Peaceful livebearers like mollies, platies, and guppies can share the tank, provided there are hiding spots to prevent any potential aggression.

Diet and Feeding

Ensuring a well-balanced and nutritious diet is paramount to the health and vibrancy of discus fish, those captivating creatures renowned for their vivid colors and graceful swimming patterns. Discus, native to the Amazon Basin, are predominantly carnivorous, and in captivity, their diet should mimic their natural feeding habits. A staple diet often includes high-quality pellets or flakes specifically formulated for discus fish. These commercial foods should constitute the foundation of their diet, providing essential vitamins, minerals, and proteins. However, to enhance their diet, it’s crucial to incorporate live or frozen foods. Brine shrimp, bloodworms, and daphnia are excellent choices, offering live proteins that mirror their natural prey. These live treats not only supplement their diet but also stimulate natural hunting behaviors, promoting mental stimulation and physical exercise. Furthermore, discus fish benefit from occasional offerings of blanched vegetables, such as zucchini or spinach, providing fiber and additional nutrients. Feeding discus fish multiple times a day in small, manageable portions is key. This approach aligns with their natural behavior, ensuring they have ample sustenance while minimizing waste, which could affect water quality. Regular observation of their feeding habits and adjusting the diet as necessary is pivotal, as it ensures they receive a varied and nutritionally rich diet, ultimately leading to their overall well-being and longevity.

Discuss fish Gallery