Discus fish are great to own, but they’re not fish that are recommended for beginners. They can be somewhat fragile and many people have a hard time keeping them healthy.
That isn’t to say that you’ll have a hard time if you’re willing to put in the effort, though. Even so, things can go wrong and you should know that these fish are susceptible to certain diseases.
One of the most troublesome diseases that discus fish might contract is known as velvet disease. Fish that get this disease could wind up perishing if you don’t take action.
Below, you’ll learn about velvet disease in discus fish. The information will help you to understand what to look out for as well as what you can do to help your fish.
What Is Velvet Disease?
Velvet disease is a type of parasitic infection. It’s caused by a round or oval-shaped parasite known as Oodinium.
This parasite can attack many types of fish, but it seems to bother discus fish and other types of ornamental fish a lot more. There are certain things that make discus fish more likely to contract this disease.
Poor water quality is the number one cause of velvet disease. When the water quality is poor it creates an environment where the parasite can thrive while also suppressing the immune system of the discus fish.
Problems with the water temperature and significant stress can also cause this disease. Ultimately, it’s caused by the parasite, but it’s these situations that allow the parasite to stick around in the tank.
Fish that contract velvet disease will have spots appear on their bodies. These spots will have a gray or gray-yellow appearance.
Sometimes this disease is referred to as “rust” or “gold rust disease” because of the way that the spots look. Either way, you should know that this is a serious issue that can kill your fish.
What Are the Symptoms of Velvet Disease?
There are certain symptoms of velvet disease that you should look out for. The first symptom involves the spots that appear on the body.
You’ve already learned that the spots can take on a gray or gray-yellow appearance. They might look a bit like rust on the fish.
As the infection progresses you will notice that the body of the fish will change. It’ll start developing excessive amounts of mucus and this will give the fish an opaque appearance.
You might see some skin ulcers on the fish and it will likely have clamped fins. It’s normal for fish to be weak and lethargic when they’re sick.
Sometimes the fish will have a tough time breathing as well. You might notice rapid breathing and sometimes this can even kill the fish outright.
The fish will lose its appetite and will stop eating much at all. In some cases, the fish will not eat anything at all.
When looking at the gill tissue, you’ll see that it will look unhealthy and rotted. As the infection continues, it’ll even cause the skin to start to peel off of the fish.
This condition can easily kill the fish, but it’s important to treat it as soon as possible to turn things around.
How to Treat It
Treating velvet disease is not something that should be put off. If you don’t catch things early enough it’s likely that your discus fish will simply die.
If you catch things fast, you can treat this condition in a few ways. To start, it’s best to do a partial water change of 50%.
You’re also going to want to clean the tank thoroughly. Test the tank using a pH balance testing kit to see if any levels need to be adjusted.
Solve water parameter issues and then raise the temperature in the tank. You want the water to be warmer to help the fish recover and inhibit the parasites.
Keep the water temperature at 86 degrees Fahrenheit for a day. You should also dim the lights in the room or on the tank.
Adding aquarium salt to the tank can help to treat the fish. Add one tablespoon of aquarium salt for every 40 gallons of water.
There are different medicines that are known to help treat this disease as well. Protozin is a common option that many people turn to, but you can also ask an exotic veterinarian for advice if you feel that you need it.
Consider using common bacterial infection treatments that you can find at pet stores. You should be able to turn things around if you follow this advice and keep the tank very clean.
How to Prevent It
Preventing velvet disease is the best course of action. You don’t want your discus fish to get sick in the first place.
To start, you should focus on maintaining excellent water quality. You need to do water changes in the tank multiple times per week.
Discus fish are so sensitive that they can’t put up with water that is just a bit too dirty. So you need to do regular water changes to help them stay healthy.
Clean the tank often enough and be sure to use a filter that’s powerful enough. Also, put the discus fish in a tank that is more than big enough for them.
Each discus fish will need ten gallons of space in the tank. Having a larger tank makes it that much easier to keep the tank clean.
Aside from this, you want to be careful to use a reliable heater. Temperature fluctuations can stress the fish and will make them more susceptible to illnesses.
Always quarantine new fish and aquatic plants for a week before putting them in the tank. You can get away with quarantining plants for five days, but many people do it for a week just to be safe.
Feed your discus fish high-quality foods to maintain health. Don’t overfeed them and be sure to stick to a regular feeding schedule.
Never overcrowd the tank because this will stress the fish. Remember that stress makes these fish more susceptible to diseases such as velvet disease.
You should have a much better understanding of velvet disease now. This is a dangerous condition that can kill your fish if you choose to do nothing.
The important thing is to try to catch this issue before it gets too bad. Catching it early allows you to start treatment right away.
You can also work to prevent velvet disease from impacting your fish in the first place. This means keeping the tank clean and paying close attention to the water parameters.
Ensure that you’re keeping the fish in a big enough tank and avoid problems with stress. If you handle the basics well, it’s easy enough to prevent this condition from becoming an issue in your tank.
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.