Discus fish are among the most beautiful fish that you’ll ever own. Many fish owners have fallen in love with these fish due to how stunning they are.
The aesthetic appeal of these fish makes them rather sought-after. People want to own discus fish, but they’re not exactly easy to care for.
These fish have a reputation for being a bit fragile. If you’re not careful, the discus fish can easily get stressed and wind up dying in the tank.
To care for this fish the right way it’s important to learn as much as you can about their needs. Below, you’ll get all of the information that you need to care for discus fish well as a beginner.
Before buying discus fish, it’s good to know a little about their behavior. These fish are rather shy and they’re known to hide in the fish tank.
This happens a lot when the fish are first introduced to the tank. You might notice the fish hiding often during their first week in the tank.
If the water parameters are right and you’re keeping the fish in an appropriately-sized group they should get a bit more adventurous as time passes. Eventually, you’ll see them swimming around in groups and being a bit more active.
Discus fish are fairly docile fish, though. This is notable because they’re carnivorous.
Don’t expect these fish to be overly active or aggressive. They’re timid fish that like to hang out in groups and feel more comfortable when there are hiding spots in the tank.
Discus fish are tropical fish, and that means that they need the water temperature to stay high. If you can’t keep the water warm enough these fish are going to get stressed.
Stress can easily kill discus fish since they’re a bit fragile. So paying close attention to the temperature of the water is a must.
The ideal temperature range for these fish is between 82 degrees Fahrenheit and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Most enthusiasts recommend keeping the tank’s temperature set to 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
This should ensure that your fish will be very comfortable and healthy. Use a good heater that will keep the temperature from fluctuating in the tank.
Of course, the temperature of the water is just one aspect of keeping the water safe for these fish. The other water parameters matter just as much.
When caring for discus fish you must monitor the water parameters very carefully. Failure to do so can cause the fish to become stressed and die.
These fish are very particular about the water conditions that they like. So you need to be a proactive fish owner and keep checking things.
Below, you’ll get information about the water parameters and water conditions that these fish prefer. Do your best to keep things in line so the fish can remain healthy in your tank.
Do Discus Like Moving Water?
It’s best to mimic the natural habitat of discus fish to keep them comfortable. Discus fish come from waters that are rather slow-moving.
So they’re fine being exposed to moving water so long as it’s slow-moving water. When you expose them to fast currents it’s going to cause them significant stress.
This can create a bit of a problem because you need to keep the water very clean for these fish. Some people buy overpowered filters that make the current in the tank too much for the discus fish to bear.
You must avoid doing this since it’ll cause problems. Be sure to use a filter that isn’t going to cause the current to be too strong.
Sometimes you can adjust the flow settings to make things more appropriate for your discus fish. It is important to have a good filter, but you must be careful about water flow.
It’s also worth noting that under-gravel filters won’t be appropriate for discus fish. So never choose those when you’re buying the equipment to set up the tank.
Getting the pH balance right in the tank is imperative. If the pH balance is off a bit it’ll negatively impact your fish.
Discus fish need the pH balance to stay between 6.0 and 7.0 in the tank. You must test the water regularly using pH balance testing kits.
If things are off a bit you can make adjustments to get the tank back to normal. Paying close attention matters because discus fish will get stressed easily.
To keep the pH balance in the right range, focus on keeping the water clean. This means regular tank maintenance and multiple water changes each week.
Getting the water hardness right in the tank is important as well. For discus tanks, it’s best for the carbonate hardness (KH) to stay between five and eight.
The general water hardness should be between 1 and 4 dKH. You can test the water hardness regularly to ensure that everything is fine.
Getting the TDS right in the discus fish tank is important as well. It’s best to ensure that the TDS in the tank remains lower than 300 ppm.
Most experts say that you should try to keep it between 200 and 300 ppm. Do your best to monitor this to keep things in order and protect your discus fish.
Water quality is of the utmost importance. So you need to avoid letting nitrate, nitrite, and ammonia levels spike in the tank. Generally, you don’t want nitrate levels to exceed 25 mg/L since that could be dangerous for your fish.
Ideally, you want to keep the ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite levels close to zero. To do this, focus on keeping the water very clean.
Discus fish are delicate and they can die if the water gets too dirty. So you must do regular tank maintenance to give the fish the best shot at remaining healthy.
Regular water changes will be a huge part of keeping the nitrate levels in check. Most discus fish owners do multiple water changes per week to keep the fish safe.
It’s also imperative to clean the tank and avoid allowing debris to stick around in the tank. Remove excess food and other types of organic debris when you see it in the tank.
How to Acclimate Discus Fish
Acclimating a discus fish can help it to survive and have a good experience when being introduced to a new tank. The best way to do this is to float the bag for a while to let the water temperature slowly adjust to that of the main tank.
Float the bag for ten minutes or so with the lights off. Some people just put the fish in the aquarium at this point, but others choose to add aquarium water to the bag slowly.
If you want to do this, add one cup of aquarium water to the bag at a time. Do this two or three times and then release the fish into the aquarium.
Turn the lights off for twenty-four hours at this point and give the fish time to get used to its new home. It’s best to have hiding spots in the tank so the fish will feel more comfortable.
The next day, you should be able to start feeding the fish normally. They might be shy at first, but they will warm up to the new tank within a week.
Do a water change and make sure to keep up with tank maintenance. Focus on keeping the water quality high and your discus fish should acclimate to the tank well.
Do Discus Fish Sleep?
Yes, discus fish are known to sleep from time to time. Much like humans, discus fish are going to need to rest every so often.
During the night, you might notice that your discus fish will stop moving. It might just float around in its normal swimming position while sleeping.
Sometimes discus fish will turn on their sides to sleep as well. This is far less common, but it is something that can occur.
When discus fish are sleeping they might lose their color a little bit. Don’t be concerned if you see this happening because it’s perfectly normal.
These fish rest during the night and are generally more active during the day. So if you see the fish sleeping don’t worry since it’s normal behavior for them.
Of course, it’s wise to pay attention to the fish to look for signs of illness. If something seems to be wrong with the fish it’s best to diagnose the problem right away.
Feeding Discus Fish
Feeding discus fish is a bit different than you might expect. These fish are carnivorous, but you have to approach feeding them a bit differently than you would some carnivorous fish.
You see, discus fish have rather tiny mouths. Their mouths are so small that feeding them some traditional foods that other carnivorous fish enjoy won’t be possible.
It’s important to feed them food that is small enough for them to eat. If you ever notice your discus fish eating food and spitting it out, that’s a sign that what you’re giving them is too large.
Luckily, there are plenty of good options that discus fish will enjoy. One of the best foods to give these fish will be bloodworms.
Many people buy frozen bloodworms to give to discus fish. The discus fish will easily be able to gobble the worms up and they contain the protein that these fish need to thrive.
Other meaty food options include brine shrimp, micro worms, and blackworms. You could also choose to feed the discus fish prepared foods that you can buy from aquarium stores such as discus granules.
Adult discus fish should be fed twice per day while juvenile discus fish need to be fed three times per day. Do your best to give these fish an optimal diet and they’ll have an easier time remaining healthy.
How Many Discus Fish Need to Be Kept Together?
It’s important to know that discus fish can’t be kept alone. These are schooling fish that are used to living in groups.
Discus fish must be kept in groups of three to five, at the very least. Three discus fish can do okay in a fish tank, but it’s better to keep more of them than this.
Many people say that six or more discus fish will be the right number. You can do fine keeping three to five of these fish in a tank, but going with six or more will be superior.
Make sure that you have a large enough tank for the number of fish that you choose. When keeping discus fish in large enough numbers, they will be more comfortable in the tank.
Discus fish are shy by nature, but they will swim around more and be more interesting to observe when kept in appropriately-sized groups. So it’s in your best interest to buy enough of these fish to keep them happy.
If you don’t have room in your tank for more than one or two discus fish it’s likely not wise to proceed. This will only stress the fish and you won’t have a positive experience.
Best Tank Size
Getting the tank size right for these fish is important. If you try to put these fish in a tank that’s too small it’ll only lead to them having problems.
Remember that discus fish are delicate and that can become stressed easily. They don’t like being put in cramped environments.
Do your best to choose a fish tank that’s more than large enough for the fish. Remember that you need a tank size that will fit a minimum of three discus fish.
A 30-gallon fish tank will work fine for three discus fish. Since these fish can grow large and many people like to keep them in larger groups, you might want to purchase a much bigger tank.
It’s normal for discus fish enthusiasts to purchase 75-gallon fish tanks. A tank of this size would be great for these fish since it would give them plenty of room.
Keep in mind that fish tanks that are bigger are a bit easier to keep clean as well. Smaller fish tanks get dirty faster and you know that water quality is of the utmost importance when it comes to caring for these fish.
So do your best to keep the needs of the fish in mind. Going with a bigger tank is always going to be a better option.
Also, it’s not unusual for these fish to be kept in community tanks. They can do well in community fish tanks, but you need to give them enough space.
Go with an even larger tank than normal when setting up a community tank. You want every fish in the tank to have enough space to thrive.
Remember to research the compatibility of the fish before proceeding as well. You need to choose discus fish tank mates carefully.
Now you have a much better idea of what it takes to care for these fish. Discus fish are a bit needy, but you can get good results caring for them.
The most important thing to focus on is getting the water parameters right. You need to keep the water clean and regularly test the water to ensure that the pH balance is where it needs to be.
Multiple water changes per week will be necessary to keep the fish safe. This can be a lot of tank maintenance work, but it’s something you sign up for when buying discus fish.
Discus fish are easy enough to feed so long as you remember that they have small mouths. Feed them prepared foods such as discus granules or small meaty foods such as brine shrimp or bloodworms.
Put these fish in an aquarium that is more than big enough for them. Remember that they need to be kept in groups since they’re schooling fish.
So long as you keep all of this in mind, it’ll be easy to achieve good results. Enjoy caring for your discus fish.
Jeff has always enjoyed having pets, but as a child, he was drawn to his family’s fish tank. Being able to maintain a small ecosystem and observe the behaviors and interactions in the underwater world peaked his interest early on and has kept him hooked until this day. On Avid Aquarist, Jeff shares everything he’s learned about helping aquatic life survive and thrive in a home aquarium.