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Pet Product News Editorial Blog:

May 25, 2012

The Well-Kept Discus

By Patrick Donston


A friend of mine from college came out for a visit recently. Like always, we recounted old times and caught up on what’s new in our lives. Our conversations always end up with what led to our meeting each other: talking about fish. During our last visit we discussed discus and the domesticated breed advancement over recent years.

The Far East has done outstanding work in discus domestication. Many discus experts believe the region has surpassed the Dutch and Germans in quality, variety and health. Grade “A” discus from this region are not cheap. Eye color, ray formations, lateral patterns are far superior with better health and less disease “breakdowns.”

Discus fish
We discussed the suppliers of less high-quality discus and concurred there aren’t many. What is available is usually through discus specialists or smaller importers. It is rare to find larger wholesalers of tropical ornamentals with these types of discus. The varieties they usually carry are more appealing to the price-conscious masses. These types are—in most cases—considered “B” or “C” quality by discus experts. Not that that is a bad thing; I have only questioned health issues of certain “B” or “C” discus. Our experience is marginal, as they definitely need higher husbandry standards within the facility and end-consumer.

Wild discus are found within upper tributaries of large rivers in South America. Naturally adapted to seasonally flooded areas, discus do not like vigorous water flow—unlike other tropical Amazon fish. Aquariums and/or systems should be of lighter water flow than you might use with tetras, barbs, minnows or Central American cichlids. Their natural habitat’s temperature is rather constant, around 80°F. I recommend heaters with discus displays, and monitored pH readings of neutral to slight acidity.

A misconception beginners have is that discus should always be kept in live planted aquariums. While nothing can be more beautiful, there may be disadvantages to this concept. Discus are more challenging than most other tropical fish. One reason is their affinity to catch and carry pathogens. Water condition barriers are tighter and must be maintained for optimal health. Pathogenic microbes must be kept lower than other ornamentals. It can be difficult to keep a planted display clean and pollutant free. Commercial breeders and operators keep their stock in bare bottom tanks so that debris is easily cleaned out. Reverse osmosis water is often used for pollutant reduction. Lastly, it is very difficult to treat sick fish in planted displays.

Well-kept discus may just set your shop apart from others, and definitely sends a positive message of “advanced fish care specialist.” I recommend taking a seriously look at where you purchase discus; do not look for inexpensive stock. Keep them at eye level displays that are well decorated. I do not recommend live planted tanks for your sellable stock, as it’s important to keep your gravel beds clean. I also do not recommend keeping discus in systems with other imported tropicals. Your success will be greater when kept in individual tank displays.

Good luck and good discus to you all.

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