Keeping Discus Fish: Set up and Placment
When setting up your discus fish aquarium, you should be keeping in mind the natural habitat of the discus (see PART 1 – ALL ABOUT DISCUS, Habitat). In your tank you want warm water, some natural plants, and a variety of rocks. Discus fish are accustomed to soft water with a pH level in acidic ranges. You will want to:
- Adjust the pH of your water: The discus fish likes water with a pH between 6 and 7.
- Regulate the aquarium temperature: The best temperature for your discus aquarium is 84 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit (26 degrees to 31 degrees Celsius).
- Give the discus some room to move: A 40 gallon tank is probably the smallest tank size for discus fish. They do not tolerate water quality that changes a lot. A smaller body of water is more susceptible to pH fluctuations, so the larger the tank you have, the better. Your fish will also grow, which will require more room.
- Clean non-toxic water: Your tank water should have low levels of chloramines (ammonia and chlorine). Many areas in the world contain varying levels of chloramines in their drinking water, so test and treat your water to make sure it is non-toxic to your discus fish.
If you have very hard water with a high pH, you might need to blend softened water with your tap water to achieve the best water for your discus. In software water, it is easier to adjust the pH level to a range that will make your discus happy. A reverse osmosis filter is a great way to soften your water for your discus tank. Most cities add chloramines to the water to disinfect it. Both are toxic to discus. These chemicals be removed from your tap water by filtration.
You want to place your fish tank on a solid, level base in a quiet area of your room away from direct sunlight. You want to allow at least twenty gallons of water for medium/large discus and thirty or more gallons for very large specimens. Larger volumes of water are better for stability in your population. It helps you to reduce aggression and to give you leeway if you have an accident like a power outage, overfeeding, or toxic event. While it is possible to keep smaller discus in smaller volumes of water, it is not recommended.
You will want to keep your tank away from windows, drafty doorways, and high-traffic areas. Discus fish do not like sudden movements, so you should place your aquarium so they can see you coming. You should also block out any extra light. You can block out unnecessary light by painting a dark blue or black coating (using a water-based latex paint), on the bottom, back and even the sides of the tank.
Make Sure You Can View Your Fish!
Discus fish are very aware of what goes on around them. Because of this, they are one of the most endearing fish to keep. Some of the things you can expect from your discus include:
- They are energetic, reactive, and interactive.
- They will react to people who are near their tank and even movements on TV.
- They will watch you cross the room.
- They will eat out of your hand.
Discus fish are known as “the king of aquarium” tropical fish. While discus fish babies can be voracious at feeding time, adult discus fish are usually more relaxed and graceful unless they are frightened. Adult discus fish are slow eaters.
Discus fish exhibit unique parental behavior. Both parents take an active role in raising their young.
Discus fish are a schooling fish and they prefer to be in a group with other discus. A lone discus should not be placed into a community tank that contains other types of fish. The fish might survive, but it will not be happy. When in a group, a pecking order forms with the most dominate fish leading the group. Usually the largest fish is the dominant fish. This fish will be the first to eat and the first to pair off.
All these reasons make the discus a fascinating fish to watch so make sure you can easily watch your discus!