Symphysodon aequifasciata / Discus

Difficulty: Advanced

Discus are kind of a novelty fish, not recommended for beginners in the hobby but can be extremely rewarding for experienced and intermediate fish keepers. Discus are among the most beautiful fish available in the hobby even compared to saltwater fish but before you consider setting up a discus tank there are a few things to consider, which is not to say you shouldn’t keep them; quiet the opposite, with a bit of planning and research you can keep these beautiful fish. Discus are American cichlids like the Angelfish they are one of the less aggressive and calmer species (Discus are even more mellow than Angels!) and therefore should not be housed with aggressive tank mates like some of the other American cichlids, having said that due to their different feeding habits, behaviour and water parameters Discus should not be kept with Angelfish either. In fact you are probably better off keeping an species only tank due to their specific requirements and preference to shoal in groups.

Potential tank mates for Discus include: Cory CatfishGerman Blue RamsClown LoachesRummy Nose TetrasCardinal Tetras and Dwarf Cichlids*.

*This may have different levels of success depending on the fish.

Discus are pretty sensitive and delicate fish that require consistent water parameters in their preferred range, fluctuations can stress them out and lead to health problems. It is also very important to keep their tank and water clean which can be hard because of their messy habits. They are slow eaters and will often wait for their food to reach the substrate and forage for it giving you the headache of cleaning uneaten food. The truth is if you are happy with doing the work then you will feel fulfilled from looking after these fish but if you are busy all the time and rarely home or don’t fancy strict cleaning regimes then these are not the fish for you. Adequate space must also be provided as the adult fish get pretty big (25cm) and therefore the tank should be long and high due to the shape of the fish (consider a height of at least 60cm).discus-cichlid-908863_1920

Discus are quiet pricey too, I have seen them selling for between £35each for juveniles and up to £80each for Adults so to keep a group of them well you do the math. The good news is if you are willing to spend money on these fish then you will hopefully be extra motivated to look after them! Overall they require a lot of consideration and care and have even caused a headache for some advanced aquarists but there are things you can do to make keeping them easier:

  • Set up a Discus only tank. This way you will avoid any cross contamination and risk of individual fish not working out. If you must add tank mates go for some of the species mentioned above.
  • They like a live planted tank preferably with a mixture of tall plants and shorter ones to provide shelter. Use tank decoration to provide shelter also.
  • Majority of Discus are bred in Europe and Asia now and the 2 breeding lines should not be mixed together because of cross contamination. Only buy from a reliable seller who can tell you which breed they sell and stick to buying your Discus from that 1 shop.
  • When selecting your fish avoid any sick-looking fish and don’t buy any fish from that tank. Getting a good stock at first is important.
  • Don’t mix juvenile fish with adults as they will bully the smaller fish.
  • Maintain a strict cleaning schedule of 30% weekly water changes, cleaning the gravel and aquarium glass before doing the water change.
  • Test your tank water regularly to make sure parameters are stable. Stable PH levels around the required amount is very important.
  • Keep them in groups of no less than 5 to satisfy their shoaling behaviour. They feel safer in groups.



Size: 25cm/10inches // Temperature: 27C’-30C’ // Water Hardness: 10-15dGH

PH: 6-6.5 // Aquarium Size: 55ImperialGallons (250L) should be the least considered for a group of 5

Difficulty: Advanced