Discus (Symphysodon aequifasciatus, Symphysodon discus, Symphysodon) Fish Species Profile & Care Guide
Discus are colourful, pretty and charismatic tank inhabitants. They are highly considered within the fish keeping hobby due to their intense colouring and elegant shape.
Unlike many other cichlid species, Discus are peaceful and highly social, and they do not predate on other fish. Discus are a schooling fish and prefer to be housed in groups of six or more, but may not fare very well if kept as an individual. You can keep several together alongside other peaceful tropical fish. They are slow feeders and need tankmates with a similar temperament.
Discus needs a higher level of care than other aquarium fish. The Discus are susceptible to typical fish ailments, especially if their water is stale and of low quality and oxygenation. They tend to be vulnerable to illness when stressed, usually caused by not providing ample hiding places. For these reasons, they are not recommended for the beginner aquarist.
You can house Discus with many any other fish species as long as they require the same water conditions. They do not get on well with larger aggressive fish or smaller fin nipping species.
Discus is regarded as part of the Cichlid family and is characterised into three species. Symphysodon Discus which includes the Red Discus or Heckel Discus, Symphysodon Tarzoo which is the Green Discus and Symphysodon Aequifasciatus which contains the blue Discus and the brown Discus.
Discus fish are known for their disc shape appearance. Some variations are more round or triangular shaped than others, but all are thin and flat looking. They have rounded anal and dorsal fins that add to their overall body shape, as well as pronounced caudal and pelvic fins.
There are many colour varieties of this fish, possibly due to natural hybridisation, although most Discus available today are tank bred varieties. Through selective breeding, a wide variety of body colours are available, and these include greens, bright blues, reds, browns and yellows, as well as different body patterns such as spots, streaks and vertical or horizontal bars.
|Scientific Name||Symphysodon aequifasciatus, Symphysodon discus, Symphysodon|
|Other Names||Green Discus, Red Discus, Blue Discus, Brown Discus, Red Spotted Green Discus, Tefe Discus, Heckel Discus|
|Aquarium Level||All Levels|
|Difficulty||Beginner - Intermediate|
|Best kept as||Groups 6+|
|Lifespan||up to 10 years|
|Maximum Size||up to 25 cm|
|Temperature||75 - 90 ℉ (23.9 - 32.2 ℃)|
|PH||4.5 - 7.5|
Origins of the Discus
Discus are native to Brazil, Peru, Venezuela, and Columbia in South America.
They inhabit Flood plains of the Amazon, where a periodic inundation and drought can change the level of the water as it rises along a shallow flood plain. This pulse provides much more space for growth, breeding and best of all, feeding.
They can be found in still or slow-moving waters along the banks where they hide in holes and crevices in the water flow amongst tangled roots and branches, where their wide body is protected from the current. In these areas, the riverbed is soft sediment and shaded.
The three different species of Discus originate from other areas of the amazon these are as follows.
The Symphysodon aequifasciatus originates in the central Amazon region, often from the Putumayo River in northern Peru, and from Brazil near Santarem and the lake of Tefe.
The Symphysodon discus is native to South America, originating from Brazil in the Rio Trombetas and the Rio Negro, North of the Amazon and from the Rio Abacaxis South of the Amazon.
You can find the Symphysodon haraldi in the lower Amazon region.
Other Cichlids of interest
Discus are carnivorous and will generally enjoy a wide variety of all kinds of live and frozen foods such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, chopped beef heart, and white worms. On a rare occasion, tank bred Discus will sometimes accept flake or pellet food.
Whatever your fish choose to have, make sure they are high in quality and nutrition and that you provide a broad spectrum of different foods.
Even though these fish are carnivorous, they may also enjoy eating small quantities of vegetable-based foods. You should offer these every so often if your particular fish wants them.
Make sure you keep in mind that these fish are slow feeders, so make sure you give them plenty of food, especially if they are living with boisterous and hungry tankmates.
Breeding the Discus
Discus fish are challenging to breed, and they will readily cross-breed with other discus variants. This makes it very interesting and rewarding.
They have particular requirements for breeding. Spawning and rearing of fry are more successful in harder water, but for fertilisation and egg development, they require very soft, slightly acidic and warm water.
Plants, driftwood, rocks, and ornamentation are a must in the aquarium so the Discus can attach their eggs onto the surfaces. Alternatively, you can use a spawning cone, this provides an ideal place for them to lay their eggs, and then you can put a wire or mesh covering over the eggs to stop them from being eaten.
When the discus spawn, they will lay eggs every week for around twelve to fifteen weeks. This happens twice a year and can be induced with careful adjustment of feeding, temperature and water conditions.
Discus partner for life and will hopefully continue to mate for years ahead.
The female will lay anything up to 400 eggs. These will be tiny, mildly opaque spheres. The Discus will take care of the eggs by constantly fanning them for aeration and will even pick off and consume the unfertilised eggs to reduce the risk of a disease spreading to healthy eggs.
The eggs will start to hatch around 60 hours after they have been laid. The fry will then begin to consume a special mucus on the skin of the parents then a couple of days after that the fry will become free-swimming.
The fry can stay with their parents for a lengthy period. However, in captivity, the young can become very aggressive and begin to remove scales from their mother, so it is advisable to remove the parents from the aquarium after about a week for their protection.
Once you have removed the parents, you should start to feed the fry commercial foods.