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symphysodon discus
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Discus Fish for Sale Online for Aquarists

discus fish care

Offering Symphysodon aequifasciatus and dozens of Discus strains for sale daily.

 
Blue diamond discus photo by SoheleeSymphysodon, is colloquial synonym for discus, and a genus of cichlids native to the Amazon river basin. Due to their distinctive shape and bright colors, discus are very popular as freshwater aquarium fish, and their aquaculture in several countries in Asia is a major industry. Discus are sometimes referred to as pompadour fish and also their classic moniker the King of the Aquarium. 
    
Discus fish are a great addition to the home aquarium; they add color and regal character to your tank. Discus fish generally stay in the center of the aquarium, and due to their size and color makes them the center piece earning them the distinct title, “King of the Aquarium”. Today discus fish are cultivated in discus fish hatcheries and discus fish farms around the world, with Southeast Asia and China being the leaders in developing new strains and overall production. I would even speculate and say at the very least, that 8 of every 10 discus fish sold in North America come from these regions of the world. There are tank raised quality discus fish and new colors strains being introduced on a regular basis, keeping the hobby alive and exciting.
 
 

Species

 There are currently three recognized species in this genus:
 
Symphysodon aequifasciatus Pellegrin, 1904 (Blue discus)
 
Symphysodon discus Heckel, 1840 (Red discus or Heckel discus) 
 
Symphysodon tarzoo E. Lyons, 1959
 
 

Taxonomy 

Symphysodon discus are fish from the genus Symphysodon, which currently includes S. aequifasciatus, S. discus, and S. tarzoo. However, another review of the genus published in August 2007 suggested that the genus held these three species: S. aequifasciatus (the green discus), S. haraldi (the blue, brown, common discus), and S. discus (the Heckel discus). Further arguments have been made that S. tarzoo was not described in accordance with International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature or ICZN rules and thus should be considered invalid and replaced with S. haraldi currently considered a synonym of S. aequifasciatus by FishBase.
  

Captive strain 

Other (sub) species have been proposed, but morphometric data (unlike in Pterophyllum, the freshwater angelfish) varies as much between individuals from one location as across the whole range of all discus fish species. S. tarzoo was described in 1959 and applies to the red-spotted western population. S. aequifasciatus and S. discus, meanwhile, seem to hybridize frequently in the wild or have diverged recently, as they lack mitochondrial DNA lineage sorting but differ in color pattern and have dissimilar chromosomal translocation patterns. S. discus occurs mainly in the Rio Negro. Whether S. haraldi is indeed distinct from S. aequifasciatus remains to be determined; if valid it is widespread but it might just be a color morph. 
  

Red turquoise discus

Like cichlids from the genus Pterophyllum, all Symphysodon species have a laterally compressed body shape. In contrast to Pterophyllum, however, extended finnage is absent giving Symphysodon a more rounded shape. It is this body shape from which their common name, "discus", is derived. The sides of the fish are frequently patterned in shades of green, red, brown, and blue. The height and length of the grown fish are both about 20–25 cm (8–10 in). However in 2013 a new body shape of discus has been introduced called Sharkfin or Longfin Boomerang Discus. Clearly this is the result of inline breeding efforts producing a long fin variant of discus. The impact of this new creation remains to be seen. Another cichlid not related to discus but common to the hobby are Oscars this very same thing occurred with the introduction on long fin Oscars and veil tail Oscars. 
  

Reproduction and sexual dimorphism 

There is no real sexual dimorphism for this fish but queues like color and genital papilla help with discerning the sex. In breeding form varieties, solid red discus (red melon, red cover) females are generally redder than males. Another characteristic of Symphysodon species is their care for the larvae. As for most cichlids, brood care is highly developed with both the parents caring for the young. Additionally, adult discus produce a secretion or slime through their skin, which the larvae or fry live off during their first few days of free-swimming. This behavior has also been observed for Uaru species. However, when bred in captivity the larvae will tend to live off their parents secretion for up to 2 weeks.
 

Discus strains 

The contention is that discus fish do not see color and therefore if a green discus fish spawns with a yellow discus fish the pair will do their best to raise their brood of fry. They are not monogamous, meaning that they do not find a mate for life and stay with that same mate. Discus fish breed with other discus fish and it is therefore easy once one has determined male or female to interbreed them for different and unique color variation. This is one reason there are so many new colors available today and why new strains are always evolving.
 
There has been an incredible amount of inline breeding in the tropical fish hobby which has produced “man-made” colors or strains of fish. While these fish may not be natural looking their vivid colors and patterns have facilitated a market for this. We have seen this with Guppies, Bettas, Angelfish, Flowerhorns, African cichlids like peacocks and many others. The colors and potential can be endless only dictated by effort and imagination. To really appreciate this wander over to Pinterest and begin to look at the vivid colors of discus fish available and interesting names their being called. 
 

Distribution and habitat 

Symphysodon species inhabit the margins of floodplain lakes and rivers in the Amazon Basin of lowland Amazonia, where it is part of the highly diverse Neotropical fish fauna. The three species of Symphysodon have different geographic distributions. S. aequifasciatus occurs in the Rio Solimoes, Rio Amazonas and the Rio Putumayo-I in Brazil, Colombia and Peru. In contrast the distribution of S. discus appears to be limited to the lower reaches of the Abacaxis, Rio Negro and Trombetas rivers. S. tarzoo occurs upstream of Manaus in the western Amazon. 
 

Diet and Feeding

Discus fish are omnivorous South America cichlids, which mean they will eat both plants and meat. And feeding them is the easiest part of keeping discus fish because they are omnivores. Discus fundamentally can be maintained and properly cared for provided the correct diet is provided and adhered to. With proper discus fish care, a balanced diet consisting of Spirulina flake and Omega one flake with an assortment of meaty foods such as brine shrimp, live or frozen and frozen bloodworms, will keep your discus fish healthy and happy. These are all great foods to feed your discus and can be purchased here from our discus food section. Live brine shrimp is also a treat they would enjoy on occasion, their natural instinct is to chase live foods and they provide good roughage in their diet. Other prepared foods enjoyed are Tetra Color Tropical Granules. Other live or frozen foods enjoyed are Mosquito Larvae, Daphnia, White Worms, Mysis Shrimp, Live Black Worms and Chopped up Red Worms. It is important not to over feed discus fish and pollute your tank. While they will scavenge plant detritus and other matter from the tank, because of the risk of nitrite, it is important that the tank be kept very clean and mostly free of detritus.
 

Temperature and Water Requirements

Discus are tropical fish that originate from the Amazon River basin and as such their tank must be kept like their natural habitat, so the water must be very warm. In keeping discus fish successfully one needs to address their environmental requirements. In addition, they prefer slightly soft and slightly acidic water; a pH of 6.5 to 7.0 is ideal and tank temperature should be 84 degrees. Discus fish do best in temperatures of between 83 to 88 degrees; adult discus fish tolerate the cooler temps while the younger fish do better in the warmer waters and their pH can be kept in a range of 6.5 to 7.5. If you don’t plan on breeding discus, you still must monitor water conditions frequently to ensure the health of your fish.
 
Discus fish cannot tolerate ammonia or nitrites in the tank can be toxic to fish, so the water must be well filtered and the tank kept clean so that nitrate levels do not build up. You should monitor the ammonia and nitrite levels and keep the tank clean and well filtered. Live plants also will help filter and keep the ammonia and nitrite levels down; discus cannot tolerate either of these.
 
Pro tip: Perhaps the biggest secret to success is that they like a warm aquarium, 83 to 88 degrees are ideal.
 

Tank Size and Requirements 

Discus fish require a lot of room, and they prefer to live with other discus fish, so buy a large tank to hold them all. The exact size is dependent upon the size and number of discus fish you plan to have. The tank should be well planted to provide the discus fish with places to hide and to help oxidize ammonia and other toxins from the water. Keeping live plants adds beauty and helps with filtration. Alternatively plastic plants are ok because they provide hiding places and add to the aquascaping beauty. A substrate of light colored sand or gravel will be sufficient for your discus fish.
 
Before putting discus fish in a tank, it should be well cycled and plant life should be established or artificial plant should be in place. One important piece of discus fish information to note is like all tropical fish, ammonia or nitrites in the tank can be toxic to fish. You should monitor the ammonia and nitrite levels and keep the tank clean and well filtered. As stated live plants will help filter the ammonia and nitrite as well.
 
Because they can grow 5” and up the tank should be large enough to house a school of 6 to 15 discus as they are schooling fish and act peaceful in groups. The bigger the school the more comfortable and social they will be. And the size is dependent upon the size and number of discus fish you plan to have.
 
A 29-gallon tank is the smallest size that will accommodate discus fish, and you can put 4 to 6 discus in a tank that size. The discus fish need plenty of room to swim, and there should be a number of plants for them to hide in. This will accommodate several of the smaller varieties of discus fish, or a few pairs of the larger sized ones. Discus fish are schooling fish so the bigger the school the more comfortable and social they will be.
 
A tank of 29 to 50 gallons are two great size tanks to grow discus fish in, you can keep between 6 and 15 adult discus in this size aquarium. Larger tanks like 75 to 100 gallon tanks will, of course, hold more. This size also includes room for other smaller fish to add to the mix, Corydoras catfish, tetra’s, and loaches for bottom feeders. You will need a large tank, with the exact size dependent upon the size and number of discus fish you plan to have.
 
They do not tolerate noise well or disruptions to their tank, and they also do not like their tank to be meddled with frequently as it agitates them. Any plants in the tank should require minimal maintenance so that you can avoid disturbing the discus. You can be very successful with keeping discus fish in an aquarium if you maintain a proper discus fish tank for them.
 
Pro tip: Tank size is dependent upon the size and number of discus fish you plan to have.
 

Plants 

Live or plastic plants are great additions for landscaping and providing hiding areas for the discus. They will eat both plants and meat, so you can feed them a variety of foods that will provide them with the nutrients they need. The live plants will help filter the ammonia and nitrite as well.
 
Discus fish need plenty of room to swim, and there should be a number of plants for them to hide in. They also like plants in their aquarium so that they can hide when they feel the need to. Plants also keep the ammonia and nitrite levels down; discus cannot tolerate either of these. Discus do not like noise or disruptions to their tank. Any plants in the tank should require minimal maintenance so that you can avoid disturbing the discus. Before putting discus fish in a tank, it should be well cycled and plant life should be established or artificial plant should be in place.
 
Plants will help keep the water oxygenated and keep down the levels of nitrites and ammonia in the water. Discus fish enjoy having plants to hide in, particularly if they are breeding. Your discus will be happiest with plants that require little maintenance on your part, as the fish can become agitated if you are frequently invading their habitat. Since your discus fish tank will have warmer water in comparison with aquariums used to raise other types of fish, you must choose plants that will thrive in warm water. Java ferns and Amazon Swords both grow well in warm water tanks, as do plants in the Echinodorus family. A few tall, thin plants will help create a nice landscape for your fish.
 

Lighting and Noise

Another important aspect of discus fish care is lighting. Their natural habitat provides them with murky water, so they do not like bright lighting. They also do not like noise and they can become agitated if there are loud sounds around them. Because the higher temperature of the water decreases the amount of oxygen produced, it is important that the tank receive adequate lighting for about ten hours per day so that the plants will be able to undergo photosynthesis and produce oxygen. However, your discus fish tank shouldn’t be set directly in bright sunlight because the discus fish do not like it and because it can promote the growth of algae in the tank. Fluorescent lighting, especially compact, will provide plenty of light, and you could consider using color filters as well.
 

Tank Mates

Discus fish do well in a group with other discus fish, and they are non-aggressive. They will cohabitate peacefully with most any fish, but for their safety, you should only add other non-aggressive fish that are smaller than the discus fish to their tank. A 50 gallon aquarium will hold a school of up to 15 adult discus fish provided you do 25% water changes once or twice a week. This size also includes room for other smaller fish to add to the mix, Corydoras catfish, tetra’s, and loaches for bottom feeders.
 

Discus Disease

Discus fish are beautiful, vividly colored fish that are a great addition to an aquarium. Keepers of discus fish are well aware that their water must be kept clean and at specific parameters for temperature, and pH levels. In addition to their sensitivity to their habitat, they are also delicate in nature, making them more susceptible to disease than hardier species of fish. There are a number of both internal and external discus fish diseases to be aware of if you are keeping discus fish. I will touch on the external diseases which are more devastating to all tropical fish keeping. While there are a number of diseases which impact tropical fish there are several worth noting as it relates to discus fish. The most prevalent discus diseases include Fungal and Bacterial Infections, Protozoan Disease also known as Discus Plague and White Spot Disease. For recommendations and to order discus mediation and treatments check out our medication section.
 
Pro tip: When medicating, lowing the PH will increase the potency of all medication which is helpful to cure the discus fish quickly.
 

Water changes 

Every hobbyist is tasked with water changes because it’s essential for healthy fish. Removing fish waste and uneaten foods is critical. The question for discus is how much and when? It seems that the more water changes performed the happier discus fish are. This aids them in growing quicker and spawning. Small daily water changes of 15% may be necessary and helpful with normal feedings. At a minimum a 20% weekly water change is standard maintenance. To facilitate maximizing growth in discus a 50% water change daily in not uncommon. Remember clean warm water equals happy healthy discus.
 
Breeding discus occurs in the same fashion as other South American substratum spawners. A pair of discus will prepare a place to lay their eggs which is usually a vertical spawning location. An example would be a clay spawning cone or piece of slate or even the side of the aquarium wall. Essentially the female with lay eggs progressively and the male fertilizes them until she is finished depositing her eggs to a hard surface.
 
Discus eggs hatch on the third day after laying which is standard. And two additional days later they become free-swimming after the wrigglers stage. This part is breath taking, to see a cloud of discus fry swarming around their parents. The fry will feed off the skin of their parents. Adult discus produce a skin slime which provides special nourishment for the fry during this time.
 
Many breeders swear by starting their discus fry on freshly hatched brine shrimp at this time as they will eagerly eat them. Once the fry are conditioned to take the brine shrimp and it won’t take long very long you can separate them from the parents. This allows for the fry to grow and to ripen the pair to spawn again. To read about the caveats of breeding discus click here.
 
 

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