Discus fish (Symphysodon aequifasciatus) are also called discus cichlids. They are indigenous to the South American Amazon region and belong to the freshwater fish family.

What distinguishes the discus fish?

Discus fish owe their name to their almost circular and disc-shaped body. They are available in many bright colours and drawings. The blaze of colour as well as the striking appearance have earned it the nickname “King of the Amazon”. In freshwater aquariums they belong to the most attractive fish species, but they are not easy to keep. Although there are now numerous resistant breeds, only people with a special interest should get hold of this demanding fish.

  • colorful freshwater fish
  • demanding in attitude
  • only conditionally recommendable for beginners

The appearance of discus fish

The most conspicuous feature of the discus fishes, apart from their shape, are the bright colours and varied drawings. They are available in blue, yellow, red, white and many attractive intermediate tones and shades. An adult discus can reach in the optimum case the stately size of up to 20 cm. The average is around 15 cm. On the upper and lower side of the body long fins extend, while the rear and side fins are comparatively weakly developed. Healthy fish can be recognized by the clear red eyes, a pronounced appetite and well-filled fat deposits directly above the eyes.

Housing conditions

Discus fish are very demanding in terms of tank size, stocking and hygiene. The smallest fluctuations, overfeeding or introduced bacteria strains quickly get to the sensitive animals. If you are not yet so familiar with the fish and still want to keep discus fish, you should only keep fish from one and the same breed. Professionals, on the other hand, like to socialize the discus with other South American freshwater fish such as the butterfly cichlid or the red-capped tetra. A sufficiently large aquarium with plenty of movement and retreat possibilities is ideal for the sensitive discus. A group of 5 to 6 animals is the minimum stocking level. However, the discus thrives much better in swarms of 10 to 15 or more specimens.

Sex differences

With the discus-fish, the differences between the sexes are hardly to be recognized.

Water values for discus fish

The discus fish is extremely susceptible to fluctuations in water values. It needs sufficiently tempered, soft and optimally filtered water at all times. Furthermore, the water should be free of nitrite.

  • Water temperature: 26 – 32 °C
  • pH value: 5.0 – 7.0, optimum 6.5
  • Total hardness: under 10° dGH
  • Carbon hardness: 1.0 – 4.0°

Food and nutrition for discus fish

Healthy discus fish have a good appetite. Adult discus fish prefer to eat meaty food, but also eat vegetable food. They are fed 1 to 2 times daily. In the trade there is extra dry food for discus fish, which is perfectly tailored to their needs. The diet should also be enriched by sufficient live food. The discus fish especially like to take mosquito larvae, Artemia, water fleas or enchytrae. It is best to change the food regularly to avoid a one-sided diet.

The ideal aquarium for the discus fish

For the discus fish, a minimum size of 300 litres applies. For a fish, 50 litres, or even a little more, must be planned. So the minimum size is just right for the smallest group of 5 to 6 animals. Since discus perches feel most comfortable in large groups, enthusiasts may also invest in larger aquaria. The discus loves a varied aquarium with plenty of space for free swimming, but also sufficient retreat places. Plants such as the Amazon sword plant, the java fern or various species of anubias are suitable as vegetation. A rich decoration with stones or magrove wood offers enough hiding places. Soft sand or fine gravel serve as ground cover. The aquarium should stand quietly in the apartment and must not be exposed to vibrations under any circumstances. Discus fish are extremely jumpy and tend to have accidents.

For about 12 hours of daily lighting, a small night light should be available as a substitute for moonlight.

  • at least 300 litres
  • 50 to 60 litres per fish
  • preferably keep in large swarms
  • quiet location

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