Getting ready for discus fish is something you want to make sure you do right. Discus fish are a bit needy and you need to make sure that you give them an appropriate environment.
If you’ve never owned these fish before you might not understand their needs yet. So learning about how to set the tank up properly will benefit you a lot.
Continue reading to learn everything you need to know about the discus fish tank setup. This will cover all of the basics so you can get the tank ready in your home.
You can have a positive experience caring for discus fish when you do things right. These fish can be great fun to own, and being prepared to care for them optimally will make a huge difference.
Wild discus fish can be found living in South America as well as Southeast Asia. You’ll often find these fish living in lowland rivers and flooded forests in the Amazon area.
They can only survive in places that have very clean water. So they can’t live in most of the waters in the Amazon areas.
The areas that these fish occupy are tropical forests that receive a lot of rain. They do best in the wild when living in bodies of water that have a continuous flow of clean freshwater.
These fish live in small groups in these clean bodies of water. You’ll find them hiding among vegetation, decaying wood, tree roots, and even types of aquatic grasses.
Do Discus Fish Need a Filter?
Yes, a filter is going to be an important thing to buy when setting the tank up. Without a filter the water would get dirty way too fast.
You need to buy a filter that is powerful enough to keep the tank clean. This won’t keep you from needing to clean the tank yourself, but it will make your life a bit easier.
Use a filter that will work for the fish tank size that you choose to buy. You’ll learn more about fish tank sizes later.
Note that these fish don’t do well in overly powerful currents. So you need to set the filter so it will only produce a moderate current.
Discus fish do better in slow-moving waters because fast-moving waters will cause them stress. Keep this in mind when choosing a filter for your tank.
Do They Need a Heater?
Since discus fish come from tropical areas they need the water to remain rather warm. The ideal temperature range for discus fish is between 82 degrees Fahrenheit and 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
Most enthusiasts recommend keeping the temperature steady at 85 degrees Fahrenheit. This is only possible if you use a heater in the fish tank.
Not using a heater in the tank would be rather dangerous. It’d be quite difficult to keep the water warm enough for the fish without a heater.
Also, not using a heater makes the water likely to experience temperature fluctuations. This will easily stress the discus fish and can lead to sickness.
So a heater is a must when you’re setting up a discus fish tank. Be sure to get a heater that is the right size for these fish.
How Big Should the Tank Be?
You don’t want to put discus fish in a tank that’s too small for them. Most types of discus fish grow to be rather large.
An average discus fish will grow to be between five and seven inches long. For this reason, you’ll need a larger tank for them.
Generally, you keep discus fish in groups as well. So you won’t just be keeping on discus in the tank.
Most enthusiasts recommend going with a 75-gallon fish tank or something larger. Depending on how many fish you want to keep you might even want to go with something that offers 100 gallons of space or more.
Remember to give these fish more than enough space. They get stressed when placed in cramped fish tanks and that’s not good for the health of the fish.
How Many Fish Should You Get?
The topic of how many fish you should put in one tank is debated all the time. There are people out there who say that keeping three to five of these fish in the tank will be acceptable.
This number of fish can fit in a 55-gallon fish tank well enough. However, many people say that six fish or more will be better.
If you wish to go with six fish or more, you’ll want to stick with a 75-gallon aquarium or something larger. So how many fish you should get will depend on how big your fish tank is.
Make sure you have room for a decent-sized fish tank before moving forward. If you only have room for small tanks, it’s not good to buy discus fish.
These fish simply do best in larger tanks. Also, you aren’t supposed to keep them alone or just in pairs.
The fish become stressed when kept in groups that are too small. So buy no fewer than three of these fish or you might encounter behavioral problems.
Do Discus Fish Need an Air Stone?
Keeping the oxygen levels high in the tank will be important. Since discus fish need to be kept in warm water, this is naturally going to have an impact on the oxygen levels.
Most people counter this by using air pumps and air stones in the tank. Air stones are highly recommended because they can help with oxygenation.
Some tank setups can make do without air stones, but it’s usually beneficial to use them. You’ll need some type of aerator or air pump when caring for these fish no matter what you choose.
Without enough oxygen in the tank, the fish will suffer. If you wish to keep discus fish alive and healthy in your tank it’s imperative to set things up properly.
Do They Need Light?
Light isn’t all that important to discus fish overall. You need very little light in the tank when caring for these fish.
You’ll find that strong lights will stress the discus fish. So you shouldn’t use anything more powerful than standard aquarium lighting.
Standard LED lighting is the best lighting to use in a discus fish tank. It’s also worth noting that people commonly use LED lights because they’re good enough to help plants grow.
Do Discus Fish Need Salt?
No, discus fish don’t need salt in the fish tank. Salt is sometimes used as a medical treatment for certain diseases, though.
Under normal circumstances, the fish won’t need salt. Salt is not found in the bodies of water where these fish live in nature.
These are freshwater tropical fish that don’t require salt to live in fish tanks. So you don’t need to worry about salinity when setting up your tank.
Sometimes you might use aquarium salt if your fish gets sick. However, you need to look up treatments for the fish based on the type of disease that the fish are dealing with.
Do They Need Plants?
It’s possible for discus fish to thrive in tanks without plants. Some people do keep these fish in tanks that don’t have much in them.
This isn’t considered to be the best situation for the fish, though. Discus fish like to be able to hide and they come from areas where they’re used to using plants as hiding spots.
Keeping plants in the tank will make the fish more comfortable. Discus fish are typically more comfortable in aquariums that have various plants and other hiding spots.
When picking out plants for discus fish tanks it’s important to pick plants that will do well in high water temperatures. Luckily, there are many amazing options that you can turn to.
Amazon sword plants, java ferns, anubias plants, and more can be utilized. Your discus fish will love it if there are many plants in the tank for them to enjoy.
Decorations and Hiding Spots
Plants will certainly help the discus fish to feel comfortable in the tank. It’s also wise to buy decorations and other hiding spots for the aquarium.
Buy little caves, driftwood, and other such objects that the fish can utilize. Discus fish like being able to hide and it makes them feel safer in the tank.
Discus fish will actually swim around more in the tank if they have more hiding spots. It fills them with confidence to know that they can hide if necessary.
You can make your tank look a lot nicer by adding these decorations as well. Choose whatever hiding spots and decorations will look nice in the tank and try to complement the plants that you choose.
Discus Fish Tank Maintenance
Maintaining a discus fish tank is going to take some effort. Once you have the tank set up properly, it’ll be necessary to pay close attention to the water parameters.
Discus fish need the water quality to remain pristine. They’re fish that will become stressed and get sick fast when forced to live in dirty water.
So you must clean the fish tank regularly to protect the fish. Using a good filter will help with this quite a bit.
It’s also imperative to do multiple water changes per week. These fish are so susceptible to problems with dirty water that you have to do water changes far more often than you do with most fish.
This is going to involve more work than caring for many other types of fish. If you’re not interested in caring for needy fish, it’d be best to purchase different fish entirely.
Discus fish require a lot of tank maintenance. If you neglect tank maintenance, the fish will likely get sick and perish.
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.