by Jean Opsomer
photo of red discus
parents with fry by Erik Olson (from the
GSAS photo gallery).
- *****DISCUS CARE UPDATE****(long)
by dxf6-at-po.CWRU.Edu (Dean Fear) (15 Jan 93)
- Psuedo DISCUS FAQ - repost
by dxf6-at-po.CWRU.Edu (Dean Fear) (18 Aug 1994)
- RE: Amazonian fish and hard water
by "Griffiths, Richard" <rgriffit/visa.com> (Mon, 9 Nov 1998)
- RE: Discus & Planted Tanks
by stalan/ix.netcom.com (Sun, 07 Mar 1999)
by dxf6-at-po.CWRU.Edu (Dean Fear)
Date: 15 Jan 93
Based on the overwhelming response to my post on Mail Order Discus
here are my notes from conversations with Bob & Judy Daniel of
Apple Valley Discus: (feel free to e-mail or post comments or ?)
These are only my personal notes and no warranty or guarantee is
expressed or implied as to the accuracy of information they
<<<<<<<<<<<<< DRAFT FOR DISCUSSION PURPOSES ONLY>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Apple Valley Discus
Contact: Bob Daniel
Start with clean tank
No gravel until fish are 4-5 inches long
corner filter with ammo chips if cycling tank
heavy water changes 3 to 4 times a week-->
Fish secret hormones to keep other fish from growing
Don't use an undergravel filter - (due to build up of nitrates)
currently kept at ph 6.0
Wattley's beef heart mix (Discus Formula)
No brine shrimp
No Black worms!!!! can be a source of tape worms why risk it!
Minimum order $150
Fish are disease free
Fish are generally not that sensitive to Ph and Hardness just
require very clean water!
Don't baby them too much!!!
****It is extremely important to get disease free fish!!!!!***
(This is probably the most important point)
"Many people have an attitude about discus that centers upon the
belief that they are hard to keep. I agree that parasite infested
discus are hard to keep. Cleaning up an infested fish is difficult
enough for an experienced aquarist & almost impossible for the poor
novice. This practice of cleaning up fish adds cost to the real
price of the fish without adding value." Bob Daniel (reprinted w/
Once you have purchased disease free Discus you should keep them in
a disease free environment!!!
ie they should have their own net, bucket, water changers etc if
you keep other fish!!
Buy new fish from only disease free sources and quarantine them for
a substantial time period (months not weeks!!!)
What to look for:
1) Check out parents if possible
2) Try to purchase babies that have been away from their parents
for a few days
3) Positive Attributes:
round body w/ tall upright dorsal fin
smooth flowing lines along the dorsal and ventral fins
fish eagerly feed and come to front of tank
fish look fat and well feed
eyes are clear and bright
4) Negative Attributes
dark fish in tank
poor water quality
stretched out appearance
too good of color in small fish may indicate use of hormones
eye looks big and out of place- may indicate poor feeding
face off center
one eye larger than other-> blind in small eye
indent in side located near tail
any other apparent genetic defects
More Discus notes from Bob Daniel:
<<spelling of medications may not be 100% accurate
contact your veterinarian or someone with knowledge in the use of
these drugs before administrating them!!!! I provide this
information so that you are aware these drugs exist>>
Penacure - Dog dewormer
3 grams to a pound of beef heart
Treats: Capelara (sp?) worms, Thornhead worms
Droncit - Dewormer
Expensive $6 tablet (250 mg)
1 tablet to 2 tablespoons of beef heart
Pound into beefheart meat fibers - freeze
Fast fish for one day feed medicated food
Treats: Tape Worm (Adults only- Must retreat in 2-3 months)
Fluvanal - German Medication
All Discus have flukes
3/10 gram per 25 gallons per day for a 7 to 21 days
Treats Gill flukes
Nala-gram - Nalidixic acid $32.95 for 50 grams
Gram Negative Antibiotic
99% of Freshwater bacterial infection are gram negative
Per Fishy Farmacy:
1/4 teaspoon (1.25 grams) per 30 gals one time treatment for 5 days
Most do a complete water change after treatment!
Per Bob Daniel:
250 mg per 8 gal one dose 100% water change after 3 days.
Treats: Colmunaris, Bacterial Infections
Oxolenic Acid(sp??) - Another Gram negative Antibiotic
Better than Nala-gram but more expensive
Veterinarian (used by Apple Valley Discus)
Dr. Lon Schlussel
Countryside Veterinary Hospital
Chemlsford, Ma 01824
Wattley's Book - Handbook of Discus $16.95 TFH
Handbook of fish diseases $29.95 D. Untergasser TFH
Jack Wattley Discus Formula
Cichlid Deluxe - Nippon
Gwynnbrook Farms - (410) 356-7557
Jack Wattley - (305) 463-5011
Wet Thumb Aquatics - MI (313) 725-0960
The Fishy Farmacy for medications - expensive (800) 423-2035
Run with half cup of beach for 2 days let air dry for 2 days
80 - 85 normal
89 for treatment of illnesses
These are only my personal notes and no warranty or guarantee is
expressed or implied as to the accuracy of information they
by dxf6-at-po.CWRU.Edu (Dean Fear)
Date: 18 Aug 1994
I have had several request for this article so I am reposting it.
A Brief Discussion
By Dean E. Fear
I purchased my first discus in 1977, a dollar sized brown discus
(Symphysodon aequifasciata axelrodi). He lived about two weeks.
After this brief experience I shared the popular yet erroneous view
that discus are a difficult fish to keep. It had been well over a
decade before I had finally gotten the nerve up to try again. I
have written this article in the hopes that those of you out there
that are interested in discus, but are apprehensive, will give them
There is a great deal of mysticism surrounding discus. Hard core
discus enthusiasts are often very secretive about their
machinations. Mad scientists hidden in their basements or their
garages producing who knows what mutation. Reverse Osmosis (R.O.),
Deionization (D.I.), black water extract, discus buffer, a
cornucopia of terms to be digested. Well, the truth of the matter
is that maintaining discus really isn't all that glamorous. Water
changes, cleaning out the bottom of tanks, making food and more
water changes is more like it. Maintaining discus really isn't
hard. It's just a little demanding.
Before I go any further, I'd like to point out there are a
multiplicity of philosophies on maintaining discus. I am sure
there are several roads to ultimate success, each with its own
potholes. This article will expound the techniques that I have had
success with and is not intended to discredit any other method.
Reasons for choosing one method over the others are beyond the
scope of this article, but are excellent topics for the future.
Someone said that we don't really take care of fish we take care of
water. If we provide fish with the appropriate environment they
will take care of themselves. (Water and waste management - what
an exciting hobby!) Plainly and simply discus require clean water
at a temp between 82 F and 86 F. Take note here, I didn't say soft
water and I didn't say acidic water. As long as water parameters
are not extreme, discus can be successfully maintained. Breeding
though can be another story. However, I think keeping the fish
alive should be the initial goal for the novice discus owner. The
easiest way to provide clean water is to do frequent large water
changes. This correlates to about 50% water changes two to three
times a week. Without proper water changes you will stunt your
discus, probably irreversibly. Adult discus grow to be on average
5-7" total length (TL). Unfortunately, I view too many "adult"
discus that are 3 or 4" TL.
As far as filtration is concerned, with a proper regime of water
changes, the only filter needed is a sponge filter. However, a
hang-on filter such as a Aquaclearþ provides a little extra peace
of mind. Gravel and the corresponding under gravel filter (UGF)
are not recommended. Gravel is great place for detritus and
parasites to hide. When cleaning the tank it is just in the way.
A bare bottom tank is a generally accepted housing for discus.
(Hey, you spent so much on the fish you shouldn't have any money
left to buy gravel!) If you do insist on having gravel and the
sunken treasure chest, it is probably best to grow the fish out to
about 4" or 5" inches first and then set up a "show tank."
It sounds pretty easy so far, so you are probably asking "What's
the catch?" The achilles heel of discus is that they are much more
sensitive to parasites and disease than other cichlids. It is of
the utmost importance that discus you purchase are "disease free."
An appropriate analogy of purchasing a parasitized or diseased
discus is the purchasing of a race horse with a broken leg. It is
challenging for the experienced discus owner to successfully
diagnose and treat discus, and almost an impossibility for the
beginner. Discus just don't respond well to "shot gun" treatments.
A successful diagnosis is usually dependent on a microscopic
examination. Unfortunately, many hobbyists do not have access to
a microscope. Invariably it is more cost effective to invest in
quality stock up front than to try to "clean up" fish.
This sensitivity to disease and parasites necessitates the proper
quarantining of any new additions to the discus tank.
Unfortunately, many hobbyists take a laisser-faire attitude about
quarantining new specimens before bringing them into their fish
room. I strongly recommend that once you have established a
disease-free environment for your fish, that you don't casually add
new fish. Discus can contract diseases which can devastate an
entire collection in a matter of days. All new additions to your
collection should be subjected to a strict quarantine protocol
which includes an aggressive prophylactic treatment for parasites.
Furthermore, it is best not to mix discus with other species of
fish. Other fish can carry parasites which they can tolerate, but
discus can not. The most common example of this condition is
angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare) and capillaria. Angelfish may
handle a case of capillaria (internal worms) without noticeable
distress. This is not the case for discus. Adding an angelfish
which appears healthy to your discus tank can result in a tankful
of discus infested with capillaria. As such, I prefer to keep
discus in a species-only tank. Simply, the more you expose your
discus to, the higher the probability of the transfer of parasites
Another important aspect of discus health is proper diet. Many
live foods can introduce parasites. These include tubifex worms
and black worms. There is much debate whether you can "clean"
these foods and make them acceptable. My personal opinion is that
since there are plenty of other alternatives, why take a chance!
Beefheart based mixes such as Jack Wattley's Discus Formulaþ are an
excellent basic diet. These can be supplemented with safe live
foods, such as white worms, and commercial dry foods. Dry food such
as Tetra Bitsþ should not be overlooked. It is important to train
your fish to eat a food that can be easily administered when
someone else is taking care of them. Beefheart will foul a tank if
Psychological conditions play an equally important role in discus
health. Stress can lead to disease. Behaviorly, discus are a
schooling fish, especially at a young age. They will be happiest
in a small group. A lone discus may become very stressed without
any "mates." Two discus can suffice as long as one doesn't
constantly harass the other. (We sometimes forget that Discus are
cichlids!). To the aspiring owner I would suggest 6 juvenile
discus in a 29 gallon tank with an eventual upgrade to a 55 gallon
tank. A good rule of thumb for stocking levels would be one adult
to 10 to 15 gallons. One final note, a common fallacy exists that
discus require a planted tank to feel secure. Their natural river
environment does not include plants. Tree roots constitute the
only "vegetation." Accordingly, discus adapt readily to life in
bare tanks. Also, remember plants are just another avenue for
parasites to enter the tank.
I hope this article has helped clear up any general misconceptions
you may have had about discus. Future articles will go into depth
on specific topics of discus care. (BTW: for the two of you out
there that would prefer to have metric measures here are the
conversions: 1 gal = 3.7853 L and C = ( F - 32) * 5/9).)
This article is Copyright (C) 1994 by Dean E. Fear. It may be freely
distributed in its entirety provided that this copyright notice is
not removed. It may not be sold for profit nor incorporated in
commercial documents without the author's written permission. This
article is provided "as is" without express or implied warranty.
by "Griffiths, Richard" <rgriffit/visa.com>
Date: Mon, 9 Nov 1998
To: "'apisto/majordomo.pobox.com'" <apisto/majordomo.pobox.com>
There's a guy in Sacramento that raises Discus--some 80-100 breeding pair
that he keeps in generally 8.0+ water. He did a number of experiments many
years ago, moving pairs from one pH to another (i.e., 6.8 to 7.6 then to
8.0) to determine viability, tolerances, etc. His fish continued to spawn;
albeit with a differing hatch rate, but they continued to perform. He also
did the same with temperature tolerances and breeding, though I don't recall
the numbers there, except to say that he kept his fish lower than what the
books call for, and they bred with regularity.
A friend who was an angel and Discus breeder in Los Angeles did not treat
his water (ph a minimum of 7.8, with an average of 8.1 pH), but kept the
building at 80+, ran a drip irrigation method which changed 250% of the
water daily on his fish, and he fed extremely well; he had between
15,000-20,000 angel fry a week going; and a couple of hundred discus fry.
Since few Discus are 'wild caught' anymore, and what is out in the hobby has
acclimated itself to what 'is', you can see significant variation in ranges
for fish. Same goes for the 'angel'. The 'scalare' are fairly adaptable,
only not succeeding at real extremes, while the newer angels, 'altum' and (I
forget the species name, sorry), require attention to detail in their
It appears that the major, driving force, in being able to breed discus, or
angels, in any water (same with catfish, too) is the water quality (lots of
water changes/reduced nitrate/nitrite issues) and lots of food. Translate
all that to good care.
BTW: I currently have three discuss in a 60 gallon tank, pH 8.2,
hardness is high (off my scale) with some apisto's, central american
cichlids, and some livebearers, and all do fine. The temperature is room
temperature, which now, in the winter is somewhere in the high 60's at the
moment. They also suffered through high 80's during our 'hot spell' in
July--September when the room temperatures got up to 95 during the day.
So, keeping discus in other than 'Amazonian water' can happen, and
does, with more success than some would anticipate.
> From: lewis weil[SMTP:email@example.com]
> Sent: Friday, November 06, 1998 5:11 PM
> To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Subject: Amazonian fish and hard water
> Do not be alarmed I am not keeping soft water fish in hard water I am
> just wondering if you all have had success with this. I have met two
> people who keep have owned discus for a long time and have them in a pH
> near 8.0. Has anyone had success with conditions such as this? I am sure
> they do not breed but I am amazed that they do so well in a tank with
> water like that. (I know fish a VERY adaptive but discus in water like
> this is amazing to me.)
> Get Your Private, Free Email at http://www.hotmail.com
> This is the apistogramma mailing list, email@example.com.
> For instructions on how to subscribe or unsubscribe or get help,
> email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Date: Sun, 07 Mar 1999
IMO - it's not _critical_ to maintain discus at 86-88F (constant) in
a planted aqua-box. I've tried, and with all the incantations, CO2,
MH lights, nutrients, et al, the plants just don't do well. Of course,
this is < my > experience.
I've kept discus in planted aquaria for awhile, ?circa '85?... Had been
the "bare"-box before that. If your discus (and plants) are happy at
79-80F and you haven't any problems, I couldn't suggest you change that
which is successful. < I > maintain their (discus and plants) home at
83-84F. < My > experience with symphysodon is that temps lower than
82F (constant) invite (eventually) _those_ discus specific problems.
Here is what has proven successful for me (sorry for all the me's and
1) Put fully grown adults into an established planted aqua-box, (or for
a new system after <minimum> 12 - 14 weeks) preferably those which you
have raised in the "bare"-box (it's the _easiest_ way to get babies to a
large size - heavy feeding and water changes); OR if you acquire adults,
<<most definitely>> quarantine (as well as any fish previous to the
discus). Then hope that they don't decide to get <cozy> and make more
discus (which leads to #2)...
2) If you're interested in breeding the discus, < IMO > forget about
it in a _lush_ planted aquarium, unless you've got lot's of time to
spend with them. <<Lot's>>... (but then, raising a discus spawn means
a big time commitment anyway)...
3) Plant robust plants in one area of the aqua where the discus are fed.
When they go scavenging for more food on the bottom they will plow down
any fragile plants to get their dinner (lunch, breakfast) - they _do_
like to eat, pigs that they are...
4) Strong light and CO2 help balance the higher temperature for the
plants. 84-85F is the highest < I've > had success with (occasionally
higher, but not prolonged).
5) Choose co-inhabitants carefully.
6) Enjoy the discus in their planted home, they certainly will...
I like to give friends interested in discus and planted aquaria an
excellent little book: "Discus Fish" by Thomas Giovanetti, published
How about DiscusL? http://world.std.com/~enjolras/discus-l.html
"A M Moore" <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> For anyone who keeps Discus in a fully planted setup - how crutial do
> you think it is to keep the fish around 86F ? I have currently been
> keeping my temperatures around the 79-80F mark to give the plants an
> easier time, and me.
> Any constructive opinions welcome