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Maximum size : 25 cm

Discus - Symphysodon aequifasciatus, Symphysodon discus, Symphysodon : Complete Fish Profile & Care Guide

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Discus fish, (Symphysodon) are stunning and captivating additions to any aquarium. With their vibrant colours and graceful appearance, Discus fish are highly sought after in the fish-keeping hobby. Discus fish are unique compared to other cichlid species as they are peaceful, highly social, and do not prey on other fish. To thrive, Discus should be kept in groups of six or more, as they are schooling fish. They require tankmates with a similar temperament and slow feeding habits. Discus fish require more care than other aquarium fish due to their susceptibility to common fish ailments and stress-related illnesses, which can result from the lack of hiding places or poor water conditions. Thus, they are not recommended for novice aquarists. Discus fish can coexist with other fish species that require the same water conditions. However, they are not compatible with larger aggressive fish or smaller fin-nipping species. Discus fish belong to the cichlid family and comprise three species: Symphysodon Tarzoo (Green Discus), Symphysodon Aequifasciatus (Blue and Brown Discus), and the Red Discus or Heckel Discus. They have a unique body shape, which is thin and flat, with pronounced caudal and pelvic fins and rounded dorsal and anal fins. Discus fish come in a variety of colours and patterns, including greens, bright blues, reds, browns, and yellows, with different patterns such as spots, streaks, and vertical or horizontal bars. These varieties are often a result of natural hybridisation or selective breeding in captivity.

Discus Photos

Sexual Dimorphism

Determining the sex of the Discus fish can be quite challenging, as there are no distinctive, external physical differences between males and females. However, there are some subtle indicators that can assist in differentiating between the sexes. Typically, male Discus fish tend to be slightly larger than their female counterparts and may exhibit more pointed dorsal fins, thicker lips, and more pointed papillae during the breeding season. Conversely, female Discus fish tend to be smaller in size and exhibit a more rounded dorsal fin and a more rounded body shape. By paying close attention to these subtle differences, one may be able to discern the sex of these captivating creatures.

Quick Facts

Scientific NameSymphysodon aequifasciatus, Symphysodon discus, Symphysodon
Year Described1840
Other NamesBrown Discus, Red Spotted Green Discus, Green Discus, Red Discus, Blue Discus, Tefe Discus, Heckel Discus
OriginsBrazil Peru Venezuela Colombia
Max Size25 cm
Aquarium LevelAll Levels
DifficultyBeginner - Intermediate
Best kept asGroups 6+
Lifespanup to 10 years

Water Parameters

Water TypeFreshwater
PH4.5 - 7.5
75 - 90
23.9 - 32.2

Natural Habitat

The Discus fish is a fascinating species native to Brazil, Peru, Venezuela, and Colombia in South America. They are inhabitants of the Amazon flood plains, where periodic inundations and droughts result in changing water levels that provide more space for growth, breeding, and feeding, making it an ideal environment for these creatures to thrive. Discus fish can be found in still or slow-moving waters along the riverbanks, where they hide in crevices and holes in the water flow amidst tangled roots and branches, providing protection from the current. These areas usually feature soft sediment riverbeds and plenty of shade. Interestingly, the three different species of Discus fish originate from various areas of the Amazon. For example, the Symphysodon aequifasciatus is native to the central Amazon region, often from the Putumayo River in northern Peru and from Brazil near Santarem and the Tefe lake. The Symphysodon discus hails from Brazil in the Rio Trombetas and the Rio Negro, north of the Amazon, as well as the Rio Abacaxis south of the Amazon. On the other hand, the Symphysodon haraldi is typically found in the lower Amazon region. Discus fish are captivating creatures with an intricate natural history, and their ability to thrive in unique environments makes them a beloved species in the aquarium hobby.


Breeding Discus fish is a challenging yet highly rewarding endeavor. However, it is important to note that they can readily cross-breed with other Discus variants, making the process even more intriguing. To breed Discus fish successfully, one must provide specific environmental conditions. Harder water is ideal for spawning and rearing the fry, while very soft, slightly acidic, and warm water is required for fertilization and egg development. To facilitate breeding, it is essential to provide plants, driftwood, rocks, or other suitable surfaces where the Discus can attach their eggs. Alternatively, a spawning cone can be utilized, and the eggs can be covered with wire or mesh to protect them from being eaten. Discus fish are monogamous and will partner for life, continuing to mate for years ahead. When they spawn, they will lay eggs every week for around twelve to fifteen weeks, twice a year, with careful adjustment of feeding, temperature, and water conditions. The female Discus fish will lay up to 400 tiny, mildly opaque spheres, and the parents will take care of the eggs by continuously fanning them for aeration. They may also consume the unfertilized eggs to prevent disease from spreading to healthy eggs. The eggs will hatch approximately 60 hours after they are laid, and the fry will begin to consume a special mucus on the parents' skin before becoming free-swimming a few days later. While the fry can stay with their parents for an extended period, they may become aggressive in captivity and begin to remove scales from their mother. Thus, it is advisable to remove the parents from the aquarium after about a week to protect them. Once the parents are removed, commercial foods can be fed to the fry.

Diet & feeding

The Discus fish is a carnivorous species that typically enjoys a diverse array of live and frozen foods, such as brine shrimp, bloodworm, chopped beef heart, and white worms. However, on rare occasions, tank-bred Discus may accept flake or pellet food. It is essential to provide high-quality, nutritious foods and offer a broad spectrum of different options to cater to your fish's preferences. Although they are primarily carnivorous, Discus fish may also enjoy small quantities of vegetable-based foods. Thus, it is advisable to offer these occasionally, depending on the individual fish's feeding habits. Discus fish are slow feeders, so it is crucial to provide them with plenty of food, particularly if they are housed with boisterous or hungry tankmates. By offering a diverse and nutritious diet, you can ensure your Discus fish remain healthy, active, and vibrant in your aquarium.

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