Discus of all South American cichlids. They can

Discus
in the wild
The
discus is native to Brazil and lives in the Amazon river. It can be
found in large shoals or groups of discus. Discus live among dead
trees and roots. The bottom of the river usually has a sandy bottom.
There are hardly any plants in their environment. They can be found
mostly with festivum cichlids. There is a cooperation between the two
species with Discus inhabiting mid to lower depths and festivums
inhabit higher up in the water column. It is thought that the two
species act as look outs for each other.

Discus
in nature often live in very large shoals. The discus is the most
social of all South American cichlids. They can be found in social
groups of 100s of discus in their own enclave in the Amazon. They are
not found in the shallows but in deeper water. However they avoid
fast moving parts of the river but will cross past fast moving
sections when travelling.

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In
the wild Discus feed on mostly plants and algae and organisms living
on those algae and plants. Insect larvae, small crustaceans and
various worms are also eaten when found. The availability of the live
foods is seasonal. During the rainy season there is an abundance of
live food available that stimulates the discus to come into spawning
condition. In the dry season live food becomes scarce causing discus
to seek out food in seasonal ponds and lakes where there is more
chance to find food.

Discus
inhabit floodplains of the Amazon river. In the dry season these dry
up and may become isolated from the river. The floodplains are
teeming with many species of fish and insects.

In
the wild the vast majority of discus spawning happens at the start of
the rising water period. Most Amazonian fish, insects and other
creatures breed at this period too. This results in an abundance of
food for the growing discus fry after they have been weaned from the
parents.

Choosing
and buying Discus
When
buying discus for the first time you must be careful who you buy from
and examine the fish by eye before buying. This may not always be
possible because a lot of good quality discus can be bought mail
order. The best you can do in that case is to ask to see pictures or
videos of the fish before buying.

For
first time buyers it is best to buy a group of 6 or more young discus
all at the same time from a single source. The best buying size for
youngsters is between 2 and 4 inches long. At 2 inches the young
discus will have more chance to adapt to your aquarium conditions and
of course will cost a lot less. And at this size they grow fastest.
However, smaller discus are still developing and will change colour
and shape as they grow. At 4 inches you will get a good idea of the
adult colour and shape. But, the discus will be more expensive at
this size and may have already adapted to the sellers tanks.

The
best source will be a breeder local to you where you can visit and
see his tanks of fish. You should make sure to ask him about the
water conditions such as ph,hardness, filtration, water changes and
foods for his discus. This will help your new discus to adjust
quickly to their new environment when you take them home.

Try
your best to buy healthy discus from healthy tanks. To do this look
for any signs of illness. Don’t just examine the discus you are
buying but also look at tank-mates. If any of the fish in the tank
avoid buying the discus because even if the fish you are looking at
look extremely healthy, they have been exposed to disease or
parasites from their tank-mates which may not show up in the healthy
discus until days or weeks later.

The
illness check list includes:
White
or grey spots which is most likely ick
Grey
yellow spots or pathes which is most likely velvet
Fungal
growth which may be white/grey fluffy patches
Pits
around the lateral line or near the head. This is hole in the head
disease.
Dull
colours which may be a sign of internal parasites.
White
or stringy faeces may be a sign of parasites or of poor diet.
Clamped
fins. Healthy discus hold their fins out.
High
breath rate. Healthy discus have a relaxed breathing rate.
Fish
not feeding. Ask to see the fish feeding.
Fish
hiding away.
Fish
with ragged fins.

Look
for fish with bright red eyes. If the eyes are too big for its body
do not but that discus because it is a badly cared for discus that
has not grown properly.

-buy
breeding pair or group of 6+ youngsters
-European
discus acclimatised to harder water than wild or Asian

Discus
fish care guide
There
are 3 secrets to keeping discus. The first is the use of soft water.
The second is to provide very low levels of nitrates. And the third
is that the discus need vegetable matter in their diet.

Discus
are a shoaling cichlid and grow to a large size so you will need a
large tank to house a group of discus. Discus will not be comfortable
in unless you have at least six discus. The aquarium needs to be 18
inches deep. The aquarium will be heavy because of the larger weight
of water so you will need to buy a stronger stand or cabinet than
normal. Make sure the base is level by using a spirit level. Place a
layer of polystyrene foam on top of the stand to even out any
pressure spots.

Filtration
Reverse
osmosis is a form of filtration that removes a lot of hardness from
tap water. Unless you have soft water from your tap then reverse
osmosis is compulsory for discus fish.

Filtration
is the same for all fish species, but discus are more sensitive to
fish waste because they are from the river Amazon. In the wild the
river Amazon washes away a lot of fish waste. This process is
replicated in the aquarium by frequent water changes. In the aquarium
fish waste decomposes releasing harmful ammonia. Ammonia is harmful
to fish. Luckily there are bacteria that will digest this and turn it
into nitrate which is less toxic. The nitrate is diluted by the water
changes. Plants soak up nitrate as fertiliser, but in the aquarium,
plants usually don’t soak up enough nitrate. That is why water
changes are necessary.

Professional
discus breeders use filters that turn over the volume at the rate of
10 times per hour. In other words, for a 100 liter tank they employ
filters running ar 1000 litres per hour.

Biological
filtration is the most important part of filtration. In a discus
aquarium it is best to employ mechanical filtration that will remove
most solids from the water. This will allow the biological filtration
to just have the job of breaking down the fish waste without getting
clogged up with gunk. A pair of sponge filters in a discus aquarium
is a good choice for biological filtration. You can do mechanical
filtration by having an external canister filter or a hang on the
back filter.

Professional
discus breeders sometimes use a smaller external tank (a refugium)
that can perform biological filtration. In these tanks algae or fast
growing plants(such as Java moss or wisteria) can be kept to remove
the nitrates. Bright lights are used 24 hours a day to encourage fast
plant growth that soak up all the excess nitrate. In theory this can
remove the need for water changes.

Discus
are sensitive to high dissolved solids in the water. Reverse osmosis
may not remove all harmful substances such as heavy metals. In that
case activated carbon which can be used inside the mechanical filter
as an extra layer will remove those trace substances. Often a change
of behaviour can be noticed in the discus after carbon filtration.
Skittish behaviour stops and the discus become more relaxed.

Substrate
and plants in a discus aquarium

Substrate
+ plants
discus

x

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