Discus Fish Care (Symphysodon) Tips

discus fish

Last updated on July 15th, 2022 at 06:36 am

The discus fish (Symphysodon) is a freshwater tropical fish that originates from the Amazon Basin in South America. It belongs to the family Cichlidae and the order Perciformes, which also includes perch, trout, and bass. The scientific name of the discus fish comes from two Greek words, symphysis which means growing together, and odous which means tooth or to bite – alluding to the fish’s large teeth and the way it eats its prey.

The discus fish is one of the most popular and sought-after aquarium fish in the world, and one of the most challenging to keep healthy and thriving in captivity.

They are native to Central and South America and can be found in freshwater lakes, rivers, and streams at elevations up to 8,000 feet. The discus fish thrives in water that ranges from 78 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit, with a pH between 6.5 and 7.5, which makes it fairly easy to care for in your home aquarium!

They are ornamental tropical freshwater aquarium fish belonging to the family Cichlidae, one of the most popular and sought-after fish among aquarists today. They are native to South America and can reach up to 7 inches in length and weigh up to 1 pound or more depending on their age, genetics, diet, etc.

They are among the most beautiful species of freshwater fish available to hobbyist, but they are also among the most challenging.

Here’s everything you need to know about discus fish care, including information on their unique physiology, preferred environment, diet, breeding, and more!

Origin and descriptions

discus fish

Discus fish originates from South America. Their natural habitats include rivers, streams, ponds, lakes, and other freshwater environments. They are popular aquarium fish due to their size. They grow up to 9 inches (23 cm) long and weigh around one pound. In a tank environment, they can live approximately 10 years.

As with most tropical fish species, discus fish thrive in warm water environments that are well-maintained by an experienced aquarist who uses an appropriate filter system. Once you’ve learned how to care for your discus fish, you will be rewarded with several generations of offspring because they tend to reproduce quickly.

Plus, if you set up a nice environment for them, you can enjoy watching them swimming around your tank for hours! If you want some tips on how to properly care for your pet discus fish and raise healthy young ones, then you are on the right page here.

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Species profile

The discus fish belong to the family Cichlidae, which is one of six families within Cichlomorpha. There are approximately 20 genera of cichlids in South America alone. With so many species, that means there is a wide range of sizes, shapes, and colors for you to explore when deciding on your next pet fish.

The average size for a fully grown discus starts at about 4.8 inches. But it can get much bigger than that, up to 9 inches in length! When looking into getting a pet Discus, we recommend spending some time looking at pictures of them online as well as talking with people who own them to determine if it’s a good fit for you.

That being said, they are incredibly active and interesting fish to watch…we just wouldn’t recommend trying to keep one in an office cubicle or small tank!


Discus fish are native to South America where they live in swamps, lakes, ponds, and rivers. They do well in heavily planted tanks but will also do well with more open areas. In their natural habitat, they will spend most of their time on or near submerged branches or roots so providing these structures can increase their activity level.

They do best with a water temperature between 78-82 degrees Fahrenheit. The pH should be kept between 6.0-7.2. When you set up your discus tank, it is important to use dechlorinated tap water. You can treat with Aquarisol to remove the chlorine if you want, however, it is not required for freshwater setups.

Another benefit of setting up discus fish tanks is that you get instant results when treating for disease or problems because, usually, discus fish goes downhill very quickly if there is something wrong.

Discus fish size

Although discus fish are relatively small, they can get pretty big. The average discus fish size is 4.8 to 6 inches (12.3-15.2 cm) long when fully grown, but some of them grow up to 9 inches (23) in length. Their size varies greatly depending on genetics, care, and a variety of other factors.

Discus fish tank size

Because they love to be in schools of at least 3, the minimum recommended tank size for your discus fish is 50 gallons (189 liters), although bigger tanks are better, this will mean they will have enough space they desire, and there will be a less drastic change in water conditions.

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Tank requirements

Discus fish need plenty of room to swim. Because they are sensitive to water temperature changes, it’s best to keep your fish in a tank that is at least 50 gallons. Many owners also choose an acrylic tank with rounded corners for easy access. The ideal temperature for discus fish is 78-82 degrees Fahrenheit (26-28 degrees Celsius), but you should be prepared to buy a chiller if your home doesn’t stay cool enough.

Additionally, discus fish requires strong filtration because they produce more waste than other tropical fish. It’s important to have a good filter to avoid poisoning your pet with harmful ammonia and nitrites; some great choices include canister filters or wet/dry filters.

Also, make sure you replace your aquarium water frequently, discus fish prefer very clean conditions, and always follow these tips for safe transportation.

Do not use chemicals like formalin or methylene blue in your tank as they may harm your fish!

Finally, do research on substrate and decorations before filling up your tank; although live plants are possible, most people recommend silk or plastic ones due to potential health risks associated with certain plant species. Live plants aren’t suggested because some may release toxins into freshwater systems that could harm your fish.

Discus fish tank mates

Discus fish can live with a variety of fishes, some of which include:

Read more about the discus fish tank mates here

Discus fish breeding

discus fish

Although popular with pet store owners, discus fish are a complicated species to breed successfully. Many hobbyists prefer purchasing their fish instead of attempting to breed them at home.

When it comes to breeding discus fish, you’ll want to make sure your tank is adequate for their needs. Their minimum tank size should be at least a 50-gallon tank (189 Liters), but they will do much better in larger tanks. Tanks need to be very well filtered, with water that is clean enough for people to drink being ideal.

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Water temperature during spawning can reach up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius), so you’ll also want a heater set up, at either end of your tank to provide both consistent temperatures and increased oxygen levels.

It can take weeks before eggs are even laid; expect eggs to last around five days before hatching. Once hatched, newly-hatched baby discus fish may eat brine shrimp or zooplankton. They require extra feedings daily until they become juveniles in approximately two months—adults live between 5–10 years.

Always get them checked out by an expert if symptoms like rapid breathing or gasping occur.

Are they aggressive or peaceful?

Discus fish are not aggressive. They like a peaceful environment, so you do not have to worry about them hurting other fish. But as cichlids, they can be aggressive towards each other when trying to pair off and spawn.

Discus fish care

discus fish

Discus fish, native to South America, are tropical freshwater fish known for their brilliant colors. However, care is needed to keep these beautiful fish healthy in an aquarium. In general, discus fish prefer temperatures between 79 and 83 degrees Fahrenheit (26-28 degrees C).

Water quality should be maintained with a gravel substrate that contains some rocks (about 1/3 of a tank) which will provide additional habitats for biofilm production and other microorganisms. Small gravel sizes should be used since larger gravels will affect water flow which could lead to poor oxygen levels causing stress or even death in your discus fish.

Because they live in fast-moving rivers, they require large amounts of oxygen in the water, so strong water movement through biological filtration is vital for them. If you do not have filtration that does not create enough current, such as under-gravel filters or powerheads on stands, you may need to increase the current by using multiple units.

Discus fish food

Discus fish prefer to eat a variety of foods, but, in general, should be fed three times a day with meaty food (live or frozen), including crustaceans such as krill and shrimp. Discus fish can also be fed dried foods, such as worms and insects, but they shouldn’t be given these exclusively.

Be careful not to overfeed discus fish; they are easily prone to overeating because of their bottom-feeding habits. You may find that feeding your discus five or six small meals per day will produce a healthier fish.

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A good schedule is one meal at noon, one at dusk, and two smaller meals in between. Some discus fish keepers choose instead to feed every four hours throughout each day, again spaced out so that each meal is small.

Discus fish lifespan

Discus fish lifespan is about 10 years but it can be longer or shorter depending on how you take care of them. For good healthy discus, you should provide the right habitat in order for them to live longer than normal.

Parasites and diseases

discus fish

Infections are common in fish, so don’t be surprised if your discus fish gets sick at some point. The most common infections affecting discus fish are caused by parasites such as flukes or flatworms, skin diseases (ichthyobodoiosis), bacterial infections such as fin rot, head and lateral line disease, columnaris disease, fungal infections such as cottonmouth or velvet, gill damage such as hole-in-the-head disease.

Discus are delicate creatures that require frequent care. They’re prone to disease, so you’ll want to employ a few preventative measures. First, maintain quality water; they can sense changes in their environment, so test your water daily for pH levels and nitrate concentrations. If either of the two rises above healthy levels, change a quarter of your tank’s water twice a week until you reach normal ranges.

Second, invest in anti-parasitic medication, like Jungle Anti-Parasite Treatment. Third, keep an eye out for parasites—they’re often easy to spot as white blotches on a discus fish’s gills or scales.

Finally, be sure to quarantine new discus before adding them to your community tank—they are very sensitive and should never be exposed to other exotic species before being introduced slowly into your own community aquarium habitat.

Do discus fish make good pets?

Yes. Because of their peaceful nature and ease of care, they are good beginner pet that can do very well in community aquariums.