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Inglefield, In. 47618
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812-868-8631

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ROCKY MOUNTAIN DISCUS FISH CARE

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Discus Fish Care

DISCUS FISH AQUARIUM SETUP AND CARE

The discus fish aquarium can be very rewarding and provides fun and satisfaction when the areas of discus fish care are properly planned. Discus fish will recognize and inter act with you. This sets them apart from the tropical fish that just swim, eat and hide. Discus can be observed watching movement on television and they will watch you cross the room. Discus fish are very aware of what goes on around them. Discus fish will quickly endear themselves to you. They will recognize you and eagerly rush to greet you and discus fish will eat out your hand. This personable behavior of discus fish is a main reason hobbyists become so infatuated with them. As you get to know these marvelous creatures and their ways, a full blown love affair will develop.

Discus fish are considered king of all aquarium tropical fish and rightfully so. While discus fish youngsters may eat like pigs at feeding time, this behavior changes as they mature. Mature adult discus fish move deliberately and gracefully unless frightened. Adult discus fish take their time eating, as if to savor the moment. They are looking good and seem to know it. Discus fish exhibit unique parental behavior as they raise their fry (babies) much differently than most tropical fish. Both parents take an active role in raising their young. This page will give you some guidelines in setting up the discus fish aquarium. Within each area there is a wide range of options. Is the aquarium to be a family show tank? Is the discus aquarium to be used for breeding? It is wise to first determine exactly what you want to achieve with your discus aquarium.

It does not have to be a costly venture to properly setup your new discus fish aquarium and provide proper discus care. It will require an investment of time to properly maintain your discus aquarium. You should investigate the parameters of your local tap water. If the tap water in your area is very hard with a high ph, you may want to use softened water to blend with your tap water in order to achieve desirable water for the discus. The softer water will be easier to adjust the ph to the desired range for the discus fish. An excellent method of softening tap water for use in the discus aquarium is the use of a reverse osmosis filter. In many areas of the US local tap water supplies are fine for keeping discus. However, most cities add chloramines to the water to disinfect it. This is a blend of ammonia and chlorine. Both are toxic to discus. They can be removed from the tap water by filtration or use of a dechlorinating water conditioner. Discus are a schooling fish and should be kept in groups. Resist the impulse to add a lone discus to a community tank stocked with various types of fish. A lone discus added to a community setting may survive, but will not be happy. In choosing a stocking density, allow a minimum of 5 gallons per discus.

The Discus Habitat

The natural discus habitat is shallow streams, creeks and small lakes running off the Amazon River and it's tributaries. The wild discus live among submerged tree roots, close to shore. Nature has provided the discus with black horizontal bars which are ideal for blending in with root systems. The natural discus habitat has warm, soft water in the acidic ph ranges. There are variations within these parameters, determined by location. Some areas have clear water, some white water and some have black water. The black water areas are due to tannins and organics in the water, primarily from leaves falling into the water. This gives rise to the numerous black water tonics found on the market. Most of these are peat based. Unless your are setting up a discus biotope with wild discus caught in black water areas, this additive in not necessary in providing proper discus fish care. The ideal water parameters for proper care of the discus aquarium is medium hardness, slightly acidic ph values with the temperature between 84 and 86 degrees.

SETTING UP AND CYCLING THE DISCUS FISH AQUARIUM

Discus fish like to school with other discus in a group. Discus fish will form a "pecking order" with the most dominate fish leading the group. The dominate  discus fish is usually the largest, the first to eat and the first to pair off. Obtain the largest size aquarium possible to allow ample room for the group of discus. Calculate the estimated weight of the aquarium at 8 pounds per gallon of water. To this add the weight of the aquarium itself, including any gravel or substrate to be used. The substrate will displace some water, but this gives you an idea of the weight of the aquarium. Obtain a suitable stand for the weight of the aquarium. Some aquarium manufacturers offer 20 year warranties or longer with a stipulation the tank sits on their brand of stand. When the aquarium is set up and all equipment is operating, it is not quite ready for the addition of discus fish. This is where patience is required.

Consideration should be given to the type of filter you wish to use in your discus aquarium. For an explanation of aquarium filter types and how to set them up for best results in the discus aquarium:

Discus Fish Aquarium Filtration.

The aquarium filter must "cycle" or become "established" with nitrifying bacteria before it is ready for discus fish. This process is called nitrification. For information on nitrification in the discus aquarium filter:
Discus Fish Aquarium Nitrification

This is the process of establishing colonies of nitrifying bacteria in the aquarium filter. The nitrifying bacteria consume the fish wastes as a food source. These filter bacteria eat ammonia and nitrites. Many good products are on the market to speed up the nitrification process. If an aged filter or filter media is added to the new aquarium, fish may be introduced immediately. With an understanding of the nitrification process in the discus aquarium, a decision must be made on which method to employ to achieve nitrification in the discus aquarium filter. For an explanation of the different methods used to cycle the discus aquarium filter: Cycling The Discus Aquarium Filter.

ADDING DISCUS FISH TO THE AQUARIUM

It is important to add fish to the aquarium shortly upon completion of the nitrogen cycle in the filter. The rule of thumb for stocking density is to allow at least 5 gallons per discus. If the filter is cycled and fish will not be added for awhile, it is important to feed the filter bacteria. The filter bacteria need oxygen and a food source. The mature filter can be kept alive by feeding ammonia every two days at a rate of .5 ppm. Many experienced hobbyists, as a precaution, quarantine any new fish before adding them to a fully setup aquarium full of discus fish. If a quarantine tank is used for new discus arrivals it should have a very strong biological filter. This is to ensure adequate filtration to prevent ammonia or nitrite spikes which will harm the discus. High levels of ammonia or nitrites can kill discus fish. Air driven sponge filters are good filters to use in a discus quarantine tank. The tank should not be too small. If an air driven sponge filter is kept in the main discus aquarium, a quarantine tank can be quickly set up using aged water from the main tank along with the established filter. The tank can be cleaned and taken down when not in use. Should a problem arise in the main discus aquarium it is best to treat the main tank. If you purchase discus fish from a pet shop to add to your discus aquarium, they should be placed in a quarantine tank for observation and possible treatment. Shops have a lot of fish coming and going which increases this need. Problems arise with discus health from introduction of fish carrying a pathogen or parasite and from the stress created due to aquarium maintenance neglect.

Discus fish like clean water and a quality diet. Plants used in the discus aquarium should be thoroughly washed with a safe aquarium plant disinfectant. This can remove snails and bacteria on the plants. Snails can quickly over run an aquarium and snail removing chemicals are harsh on discus. A decline in water quality will lead to stress in discus fish, which can lead to health problems. Clean water, at the proper temperature is important. Clean water should have zero ammonia and nitrite levels. Elevated nitrate levels indicate a need for water changes. In some areas, nitrate is present in the tap water. Overfeeding can increase nitrate levels. High nitrate levels inhibit growth and color development in discus. New discus fish arrivals may have scratches or torn fins. Adding non iodized salt at a rate of one tablespoon per 20 gallons will promote rapid healing. Salt has many uses at various doses. The salt should not remain in the aquarium over an extended period. Unlike mollies or goldfish, discus do not require or like water containing salt.
New discus arrivals that were shipped have spent several hours in a dark box. Avoid opening the box under bright lights. Discus eyes are designed for vision in murky waters and bright lights can irritate them. Opening a dark box in bright lights will irritate their eyes and in an effort to escape the light the discus may lie down. I recommend leaving the aquarium lights off for 4 or 5 hours after introducing new discus to the aquarium This allows time for the discus to adjust their eyes.
My discus fish are pampered and well fed. I recommend a light feeding of frozen bloodworms after the new discus arrivals have been in the aquarium for 6 hours. They will be hungry so avoid the temptation to overfeed. Frozen bloodworms are a favorite with my discus fish. If my discus are fed frozen bloodworms the first few days after arrival, they will settle in and bond with you quickly. Other discus breeders may offer different advice for their discus fish.

Discus Fish Care in Water Changes

Water changes on the discus aquarium are an important aspect of proper discus fish care. Water changes must be done on a regular basis to ensure a healthy discus aquarium. Discus thrive in clean water conditions. For information on discus aquarium water changes:

Water Changes on Discus Fish Aquariums

Discus Fish Care in Discus Fish Nutrition

Discus fish are grazers and this must be considered in formulation a discus fish nutrition program. Wild discus are constantly foraging for food. The discus fish diet should offer a variety of nutritional foods. They have small stomachs designed to hold small amounts of food. Overfeeding can be a problem with discus fish. With their laterally compressed bodies and the swim bladder located on top of the stomach, discus do not tolerate overeating. A slight case of constipation can have serious consequences in discus fish. Feeding dry foods that hydrate in the stomach cause serious problems. We use Omega One Flakefood which has whole salmon as the main ingredient and does not cause problems. The discus fish show good growth and color development with Omega One included in the diet.
We prefer Hikari brand frozen foods as they are vitamin fortified and sterilized to kill any parasites, their eggs or pathogens. We also use beef heart food and frozen brine shrimp. The beef heart recipe for making discus food is included on the discus fish nutrition page. For information on discus fish nutrition:
Discus Fish Nutrition

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