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Secrets of Breeding Discus Fish

Secrets to Breeding Discus Fish

I have been a professional breeder of Discus fish for a while now. My family owned and operated an ornamental fish exporting company in Sri Lanka and were the pioneers in the industry for over 50 years. Not only did we breed and export Discus, we exported all varieties of fresh water, marine and brakkish water fish species across the world.

My initial foray into the serious aspect of fish breeding started by very simple and humble means when I was a mere kid who was fascinated by the colours and movements of the many varieties of fish you could find at aquariums those days. I remember standing with my face pressed against the glass showcase of many an aquarium day dreaming of taking all those lovely fish home.

My first fish tank was a simple 1 x 1 x 1/2 foot cement fish tank that my parents bought me when I was around 12. We had some family friends living in Kandy (which is the hill country of Sri Lanka) and they had a stream which flowed behind their home. If ever you saw me those days, it would be knee deep in very cold water trying to catch wild guppies that proliferated that stream, with my hands. I would then put them in jam jars with perforated lids to make sure they wouldn't jump out on the long journey back to my home in Colombo. The journey was usually long as we didn't have cars those days and relied on the busses that travelled usually crowded. I would protect my precious cargo with all my might and would be very glad when at last I could step off the shaking and over crowded bus. The final bit of the journey was a hurried walk to my home to offload my cargo to my cement tank which I had already setup before leaving to Kandy. Once the fish were in, I would sit for hours looking at them, feeding them, cleaning and arranging the tanks, adding rocks and hiding places and adding plants to make them as comfortable as possible.

I soon graduated from Guppies to Gold fish when I realized one day that i could get my parents to buy them for me at the wondrous thing called the aquarium!. By the age of 14, I had already had Guppies, Gold Fish, Platys, Sword Tails, Angels, Gouramis and Bettas. I had found a fish breeder near my home and my days were spent ogling at all the varieties of fish found in his many fish ponds behind his house.

At 18, while life's little distractions came in the form of girls and motor cycles, I had graduated to Oscars and my personal favourite: Piranhas! Yes, somebody had imported them and I pounced on them. I was a bit disappointed at the fact that they would hide in the corner of my now 6 x 2 x 2 foot cement tank when I fed them. I had expected them to tear away at the pieces of raw beef which i would put in but..no.. the little cowards hid away.. so I would leave them to eat and when I checked back later would find remnants of cleanly sliced beef. I soon got bored of keeping fish and decided to experiment with breeding them.

I didn't want to breed the easy to breed fish so I stuck to egg layers such as Bettas, Gouramis and Angels of which I had some, although not phenomenal, success in the first two and never was able to bring up the angel fry. Well life is strange and can take you on adventures far away from your hobbies until by some strange quirk of fate, you marry into a family whose main business was.. ornamental fish exports.. yay!!! This is my little story of how I ended up professionally breeding Discus for an export operation.

Discus Photo Gallery

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Discus Breeders - Daddy defending his youngDiscus Breeders - Mommy with youngDiscus Breeders - Baby Discus after being fed brine shrimpPowder BluesNew Strain - Red Centurion (based on pattern on gill plates)Pigeon Blood - RedsPigeon Blood - RedsDiscus in pairing out tanks - Turquoise GreensDiscus in pairing out tanks - Turquoise Greens
Discus Breeders - Daddy defending his young
Discus Breeders - Daddy defending his young
Discus Breeders - Mommy with young
Discus Breeders - Mommy with young
Discus Breeders - Baby Discus after being fed brine shrimp
Discus Breeders - Baby Discus after being fed brine shrimp
Powder Blues
Powder Blues
New Strain - Red Centurion (based on pattern on gill plates)
New Strain - Red Centurion (based on pattern on gill plates)
Pigeon Blood - Reds
Pigeon Blood - Reds
Pigeon Blood - Reds
Pigeon Blood - Reds
Discus in pairing out tanks - Turquoise Greens
Discus in pairing out tanks - Turquoise Greens
Discus in pairing out tanks - Turquoise Greens
Discus in pairing out tanks - Turquoise Greens

How it all started - Oh the agony

I used to go to purchase Discus from suppliers for orders because we didn't have a Discus breeding program in the business at the time. I soon realized that we were being subjected to low quality fish at high prices and I didn't like that very much. What's worse is that these low quality fish were being sent to our customers under our brand name which I was not very comfortable with at all with. I strongly believed that if we were to export any fish, that it should be our very own and not someone else's fish. After all, your brand is yours and your products should reflect that.

While I had dabbled in fish, I had never bred Discus before but I was getting very good at selecting the good from the bad during my many trips to the suppliers. After a business meeting one day where I addressed my concerns to the management team regarding the need to breed or own Discus, I remember how dejected I was when I was told that it was a specialized area and not everyone could do it. Some actually laughed at the idea and thought it was preposterous to even think that we could achieve an export quality worthy fish. As it turned out, this worked well for me as it was like showing red to a bull. I took a personal interested to the point of being hell bent to teach them a lesson of humble pie. I needed a place to peacefully do my work so I requested an old garage which I soon cleaned out. I moved in a 4 x 2 x 2 foot all glass tank and commandeered some Discus that were in a display tank (actually hijacked them). :)

The garage was dark and dirty and I had to single handedly clean out the entire thing. It took me 3 days to get rid of the junk in it but when I was done, I had a nice Discus breeding room. I put in some overhead fluorescent lights and covered the windows and entrance with black netting to control the amount of lighting coming in to the room. The netting also prevented sudden disturbances to the fish if people or vehicles went by.

And then I started my painstaking observations that started at 5 in the morning and continued till lunch time. I would observe fish behaviour such as their movements, their aggression towards each other, their feeding habits, their natural body colourings, their fins and general health conditions. This continued for one approximately a month and the thing i hated the most was getting bitten right royally by mosquitoes..

The initial tank setup

The tank was all glass and had a bare bottom. I placed a sponge filter which was around a foot tall and half a foot in circumference. I did this by building it myself as I couldn't find commercially available filters at the size I required. I left the bottom bare as I didn't want to clutter the bottom with substrates as well as the fact that I didn't want any food stuck on gravel etc. No plants as i didn't want any parasites hopping along into my tank via the plants. So basically its was glass tank, filter and fish..

I find that Discus generally thrive well by themselves in tanks void of any arrangements. This provides easy cleaning and maintenance and greatly reduces the possibilities of sickness. Natural logs and plants bought from aquarium stores generally are infested with cysts and encapsulated forms of parasites which can be released when immersed in your aquarium. A flat glass bottom void of any surface material helps keep the tank in easy maintenance mode. Siphoning after a feed becomes a breeze. No hassle no fuss!

However, if you are a hobbyist, then you would be looking to make your tank a display tank with other fish and aquarium décor. My advice here is to be careful of the type of décor you put in. Especially anything that can change your water quality such as certain types of aquarium gravel. Also, wash your driftwood in a strong solution of salt and then wash it with fresh water thoroughly before introducing it to your aquarium. You can dip your plants in a solution of iodine because this kills all the parasites and bacteria and even eggs of pests attached to plants. Again wash thoroughly with fresh water before plating in your aquarium. Do keep in mind that Iodine is harmful to fish so make sure you wash it all off.

Water temperature

After a while i noticed that my Discus were turning black and I was wondering why this was. It took me a while to figure it out but it struck me one day when I had my hand in the tank one morning... the water was cold.. Now Discus come from the tropics and one of the hottest regions is the Amazon.. I did a quick reference on the net and found that they did well in water above 27 degrees. So i added a heater which i kept at 28 degrees. While Sri lanka is also a tropical country, the temperature can drop to 24 or 25 in the nights when the tank is kept inside. What was happening was that while the tank was a healthy 27 to 28 degrees by day, by early morning when no one was around, the temp would go down to 25 degrees. So the thermostat was a very good addition and soon I saw them improve.

My Discus love temperatures above 28C. I keep a healthy 28C to 30C range and I find that this keeps their immune system strong. Temperatures above 30C are reserved for breeding stimulations and diseases management. I find that 30C to 32C helps the spawning process while 32C to 35C works to control diseases. Remember at higher temperatures extra oxygen must be supplied to prevent a lack of oxygen situation in your hospital tank. Always have a good working heater in your tank and a thermometer to ensure it isn’t malfunctioning. Every Discus tank should have a heater.

Aerating water to remove Chlorine
Aerating water to remove Chlorine

Water hardness and acidity

The next area I had to concentrate on was water hardness and acidity levels. I had two options when it came to the source of my water. The first was a spring well that never went dry which was located close to my Discus project. My initial observations revealed that most platies, mollies and swordtails thrived well in this water which told me that this would not work for my Discus. The reason being that these fish prefer more alkaline and harder water whereas Discus prefer less harder and acidic water. So I turned to the second source of water which was tap water.

My tests confirmed that tap water was in fact moderately hard and slightly acidic. For those who want an indepth yet easy to understand explantion of water parameters I highly recomened that you first read this excellent explanation of water parameters for tropical fish.

While tap water was perfect for my use, I had to make sure that it didn't contain any chlorine. I came up with a simple device to eradicate desolved chlorine which was to aerate the water before introducing it to the tank. The water was aerated for over 24 hours which allowed the desolved chlorine to evaporate leaving behind safe water to introduce to my tank.

Getting this right is of paramount importance. Discus need soft acidic water. Keep water PH between 5.5 to 6 but never beyond 6. Water needs to be clean of any pollutants such as uneaten food, waste, etc. You can manage this in a simple way by my method or you can use more sophisticated equipment like RO units and heavy duty filters.

Catappa Leaves
Catappa Leaves

pH of Water and how I controlled it naturally

While tap water is close to the 7 mark on the pH scale, I used various dried leaves including Catappa leaves to condition my Discus water. I liked the way the tannins discolored the water because it helped the Discus feel more safer than in clear glass tanks. Also, the leaching of organic compounds from the leaves swung the PH to acidic so I got the ideal water conditions. I tested the water regularly to ensure the pH was stable at around 6 to 6.5.

I use regular tap water which I filter with activated carbon over 24 hours to 36 hours. This process ensures that any chlorine in the water evaporates. The filter process also removes any residues coming from the water supply line. To this, I include an extract of special peat water using dried "Kottamba"also called "Cattapa" leaves and "Coconut" leaves, which I make over here to turn the water acidic. This has an added advantage of infusing essential trace minerals into the water. I highly recommend the use of this for breeders. This water is then used during my breeding tank cleaning sessions which happen five times a day. Remember I run a Discus hatchery so it needs the extra attention. The more the water changes, the more happy the fish are. The pairing off tanks get cleaned three times a day because they get fed thrice a day. The last feed of the day should allow enough time for the fish to digest so you do a siphon and partial water change before they go to sleep.

Remember to check your filters. These should be squeaky clean when washed with the exception of a certain portion of sponge which is rinsed and not completely cleaned. This will allow the good bacteria to propagate quickly. If not, it will take a while for the biological process to kick in and that will have a direct impact on your water quality as well.

Selecting Discus

Always buy Discus that are healthy. Don't kid your self here. That fish that sits in the corner might pull at your heartstrings but once you take it home, you will have enough problems trying to figure out what's wrong with it. Treating Discus, while possible, is somewhat of a strenuous process both for you as well as to the fish. There are treatments which require the introduction of chemicals such as formalin and believe me, its far better to be smart here.

Discus need to be in the shape of a Discus. They cannot take the shape of anything else. If you see a discus where the head to tail distance is more than the belly to top fin distance, that's a deformed fish. If you see one where the head is larger than the body, that's either a stunted or sick fish. If the eyes are larger in proportion to the head, that's a sign for a stunted fish as well. The fish should display its colours well and should never be dark. The skin should never be slimy.

Mating behaviour of Discus

When Discus start to pair out you will find them "dancing' around each other. The male tends to display himself in front of the female and swim around her. The female seams mesmerized by this display and seems to be in deep thought possibly weighing the compatibility between them. If she is interested, she will also dance a bit with the male. The male will generally be larger than the female in most cases.

The easiest way to differentiate male and female is body size in relation to the pair. The male is bigger and has a larger forehead. His fins will be very pointed while the female's fins will be shorter and rounded. There is a common consensus that if you draw and imaginary line from the dorsal and anal fin towards the back of the fish and if those lines intersect without going through the tail, then it's a male. However if one or both lines goes through the tail, then its a female.

The best way to know is to look at them when they are about to lay eggs. The female's ovipositor looks blunt and the male's organ is pointed. Having said all this, don't concern yourself too much with trying to sex them, especially at the early stages as it is near impossible until they become sexually mature. The best way to ensure you get a pair of Discus is if you put 8 adults in to a tank and let them pair out. You are guaranteed to get a pair. By the way, remember it is very bad to breed new adults as early breeding can stunt the growth of your fish. It will also inhibit the number of eggs you can get when compared to breeding mature adults.

Breeding Tank

Since my pair of Discus showed clear signs of breeding soon, I moved them to another tank. This was a 2 x 2 x 2 1/2 foot glass tank which I kept above eye level. It seems that they feel more comfortable when they are looking down at you than looking up at you. The tank had a sponge filter and a heater as well as the new addition of a breeding cone. Nowadays you can buy breeding cones from any aquarium supplier. As for me, I didn't have that luxury as they were not available in my country so I improvised. I used a 2 1/2 inch plastic gutter pipe which was weighted down and made to stand erect in the middle of the tank. Soon the pair were cleaning it and getting ready to lay.

Breeding Process

There are two ways to go here. One is the artificial hatchery process where the eggs are taken away from parents and grown and the other is where you allow the parents to bring up the fry. We will discuss the second method here as I found it very easy to breed my fish this way.

To begin with, I put 8 mature fish in a all glass 4'(L) x 2½(W)' x 2½'(H) (feet) tank and fed them well. I did the regular water changes and I let them be for a day or two to settle in the tank. Then, I added 3 breeding tubes into the tank in equal distances to each other. I pumped in an extract of my special peat water and I upped the temperature from 30C to 31C. During the next couple of days I could see the fish pairing out. They would pay special attention to the breeding tubes. Soon a dominant couple would form and chase the others away from the selected breeding tube. This was my signal to go in and separate the pair from the rest.

I placed the new pair in a all glass 2 (L) x 2 (W) x 2 ½'(H) (feet) which had a sponge filter and a breeding tube. The water in this tank was completely fresh and I did not use the old water. The reason being that I did not want any microscopic parasites or bacteria to come over. I wanted the breeding tank to be as fresh as possible. However, I did imitate the water quality and the temperature.

After a day or two the pair laid eggs which took about an hour or so to lay and fertilize. The eggs were laid on the breeding tube and the parents would fan over the eggs religiously. My feeding sessions didn't seam to bother them at all and they would sometimes attack the siphoning hose when I was cleaning the bottom off food. I added a solution of 1% Methylene Blue to make the water lightly blue where you still see the fish and the eggs. This was introduced to prevent fungus from attacking the eggs.

In about 2 to 2 ½ days, the eggs hatch and the fry start a semi wriggle on their breeding tube. The parents pick them up and spit them back to the group. At the point of hatching I have slowed down my feeding to twice a day so as not to disturb the fish.

In about 3 days the fry start to free swim and the parents now go into feed mode. Both parents will stand still while the fry will start to swarm around them and start to eat the mucus secreted by the parents. The fry will continue to eat the mucus but will also accept newly hatched brine shrimp when they have been free swimming for around 5 days. So on the 5th day, you introduce the brine shrimp. Feed them brine shrimp 5 times a day while gently siphoning off any residue at the bottom of the tank.

Your fry will grow quickly and when they are about 1 to 1 ½ centimeters in size, you can remove them from the parents tank and continue to feed them brine shrimp. Leaving them wit the parents any longer can be harmful to the parents as the fry can pull off more than the mucus from the side of the body of the parent.

Soon the fry will grow to a size where you can introduce the beef heart and your Discus will grow and grow and grow.. providing you keep up the good hard work which is so rewarding in the end when you see your baby Discus swimming with their proud parents.

Filteration

Under gravel filters are an absolute no. These will trap food and can contribute heavily to massive tank pollution and a profusion of Discus diseases. The ideal filters for a Discus tank are sponge filters connected to a spray bar. That way you do not make the water in the tank swirl unnecessarily as well. Most jet filters create a circular motion in a tank and Discus absolutely hate it. Remember, these fish come from the still waters of the Amazon. If they were meant to swim in strong currents, they would have more streamlined bodies, not ones that resemble a ship's sail.

Lighting

Discus appreciate normal aquarium lighting but I generally keep my breeders in a somewhat slightly darker room. For example, if your Discus breeding room has three lights, I would just switch on the two. The semi dark environment can help inexperienced parents to gain confidence. However, for a regular display tank, just go with the norm but remember to switch on and switch off lights at similar times. A rule of thumb is to try to imitate nature as close as possible.

Feeding

Feed is a crucial aspect of a Discus owner's life. I prefer to feed my fish 5 times a day. This should be in quantities that the fish will consume. Needless to say, I never overfeed. You will find yourself conjuring up various recipes to enhance colour, growth and overall health. My recommendation here is to stay away from live foods all together. I don't trust any form of frozen or live food because most parasites can lay dormant in these. I use beef heart stripped off its fat and minced down to a texture that will not dissolve in water readily. To this paste you can add vitamins, cod liver oil and my favorite, garlic!. All of this needs to be mixed and put into ice cube trays along with a setting of gelatin. Freeze just like an ice cube and add to tank at feeding time based on the number of fish.

Recipe for Beef Heart

01 heart (500grms) stripped off fat and minced

02 Teaspoons Cod Liver oil

02 teaspoons of powdered multi vitamin

02 large cloves of garlic pulped

100grms of dried shrimp powdered (enhances red colour)

04 table spoons of spirulina

Blend the above to a semi paste while keeping in mind not to make it too fine. We don't want it disintegrating in your aquarium when you feed it. To the above paste, add 02 packets of pre made gelatin and stir well to mix. Pour the content into ice cube trays and let it set in your freezer. Remember you may need to play around with the gelatin strength until you get it right. Ideally the cube of food should not dissolve quickly in the water. The fish should be able to tear out chunks.

Do not over feed as this will create instant pollution. After each feed, remember to siphon the bottom of the tank and top up with water. Hence the recommendation earlier to have a plain glass bottom. Remember to switch off aeration and filtration for the duration of the feed. Nothing will happen to your Discus. They will be too busy eating the beef heart. However, immediately after they have finished, which should take about 3 to 5 minutes, siphon off the bottom. Don't forget to siphon over the sponge in case some food has floated on top of the filter. Once you top up with good quality water, start your filtration and aeration process again.

Hikari Discus Bio Gold
Hikari Discus Bio Gold

Recommended Discus Food

Kamihata fish industry group has been making very good Discus food which I use as additional treats for my Discus. I specially use it on my growing Discuss as it brings out the colours and provides valuable nutrients for growing Discus.

This is an extract from their site which provides more details

1. Contains natural ingredients like krill and silkworm pupa which promotes ready acceptance by even the most finicky eaters.

2. Utilizes bio-chemically synthesized color enhancing carotenoids to help develop vivid, natural coloration without negatively impacting the bluish tones.

3. A balanced combination of premium, natural ingredients and lipids which promote desirable form with growth previously only available using live foods, but without the potential for parasite infestation or excessive odor and mess.

4. Laboratory tests proved the pellet size and slowly sinking characteristics make it the first choice of finicky eaters and juvenile or wild caught specimens. A pellet perfectly designed for the normal feeding action of discus.

5. Absorbs water quickly and becomes soft taking on a worm-like texture. Best of all it retains its shape.

What I most like about Hikari fish food is that it doesn't sink immediately so it gives the fish a chance to eat more of the food.

For more information on Hikari Gold for Discus, follow this link to the Kamihata website.

Discus with Hole in the head
Discus with Hole in the head

Discus Diseases

Common parasites that attack Discus are gill flukes, internal parasitic organisms, bacterial and fungal infestations and hole in the head. Each specific sickness has a remedy. My approach differs from a more reactive to a proactive approach. I prefer to prevent these diseases from cropping up by meticulous tank management and healthy feedings. The garlic in the feed helps sort out stomach related ailments including making it very inhospitable for stomach parasites. This is a tried and tested method which I found worked very well.

Never introduce new Discus directly to your main tank. Always have a quarantine tank where you will provide similar conditions just like your main tank. In this way, you make the transition more easier when it comes to introducing the new fish to your main aquarium.

Observe all new fish thoroughly before buying. Look closely at the fish's gills. Is the fish breathing hard (gill flukes).. are there tiny holes in the head (hole in the head).. is the head bigger than the body (stomach parasites).. long stringy fish droppings (stomach parasites), fish is dark in colour (something is not right).. Folded fins (something is not right)..

In all cases above, do not buy!.. its better to get good quality fish from a good aquarium supplier. Healthy Discus are always attentive, their fins are spread nicely, and they move gracefully about.

However, if you do end up with one of the many diseases that Discus can get, then the following may help you in saving your Discus.

Hole in the Head

Hole in the Head is quite a common disease in certain big cichlids, including the Discus fishes. Early treatment is very important since it becomes harder to cure the longer you allow it to progress - it can even be fatal. Even if the fish manages to heal after the treatment, the wound can leave permanent scaring. Treating the wound when it is small is therefore strongly recommended. One of the most commonly used methods of curing Hole in the Head disease in Discus is to increase the water temperature from 30 degrees C to 36 degrees C over a couple of days, and keep it at 36 C for 8-10 days. An increased water temperature must always be combined with increased aeration to keep the oxygen level up.

Heat treatment can be combined with orally administered Metronidazole (sold under the brand name Flagyl) once every three days, especially for severe cases. If you notice that the high water temperature is highly stressful for your Discus, you must lower it and seek other ways of curing the problem. You can for instance try using Metronidazole treatment only.

Remember Metro will breakdown if there is too much light or if temp is higher than 30C...

Dose 1 - The average case of 'white poos'.

This is where the Spironucleus has been spotted early i.e. the discus has demonstrated a change in behaviour - indicative of an S. vortens infestation; white poo may have been seen on 1 or 2 occasions (at the most - it is believed that by the time this jelly excreta has developed the population of S. vortens is already at considerable levels); and preferably S. vortens has been grossly identified using a compound light microscope.

- A 30% water change prior to dosing

- A temperature of 30C

- 250mg of metronidazole / 10gallons of aquarium water.

- After 8 hours 25% water change is performed followed by another 250mg of metronidazole / 10gallons of aquarium water.

- This cycle is repeated for three days

Note: mortar and pestle the tablet/s, add a drop of warm aquarium water and mix to thick paste; keep adding drops until you have a thinner paste; - you can then add more water, mix thoroughly and spread over the aquarium.

Dose 2 - Severe case or re-occurrence

This is where the Spironucleus has not been spotted early i.e. the discus has demonstrated a behavioural change indicative; white poo may have been seen on several occasions and the fish may in fact no longer be passing visible excreta; or this is a repetition of a previous case of S. vortens; again has been grossly identified using a compound light microscope.

- A 30% water change prior to dosing

- A temperature of 30C

- 400mg of metronidazole / 10gallons of aquarium water.

- After 8 hours 25% water change is performed followed by another 400mg of metronidazole / 10gallons of aquarium water.

- This cycle is repeated for three days

- The dose of metronidazole can be increased further than this, I have a personal preference of 500mg but greater care must be taken and careful observations are a must.

Dosage in food

Mixing:

The mixing of medicated food is of vital importance - the preferred method is to mortar and pestle the tablet, 'grind it with the end of a wooden rolling pin; then roll out the food, on some grease proof paper, so that it is thin and flat. Then sprinkle the powder thinly and evenly over the food and knead it in. The mix is then rolled up and placed into mixing bowel where it is very carefully mixed so that an even distribution of the drug is assured.

Dosage:

- The preferred dose is (Francis-Floyd & Reed, 1994; Yeng, 2001) i.e. 1gm of metronidazole to 100gm of Fred's beef heart mix or similar.

- Again I have increased this dose considerably where warranted When preparing a medicated mix, it is important to use appropriate amounts as there is a life expectancy once the drug has been added to the food.

- The medicated food, if stored should be frozen

Feeding the medicated food

- Some suggest that normal feeding 3x day for 3 days is the best way. A recommended alternative is small portions throughout the day, ensuring that all of the food is eaten i.e. it should not remain on the bottom after a minute or two. This can continue for up to 10 days

Food and its role in 'holes' and other symptoms

In regards to healing the 'holes' that are present on a discus, or even 'curing' a flagellate infestation - it is often stated that all an individual needs to do is to increase the 'dietary value' of the food being fed to the fish. The most common supplements include: vitamins C, D and B complex along with the minerals Calcium, Potassium and Phosphorus, plus additional trace elements. This is pretty difficult and pointless if the fish is not eating in the first place - though it is a great preventive measure, and good practice, for all manner of woes.

(Ref:Spironucleus - Hole In The Head & Head and Lateral Line Disease by Fred Goodall & Dougall Stewart)

Gill fluke

Gill flukes are unfortunately a common problem for Discus fish and are especially dangerous for Discus fry. Gill flukes are external parasites that destroy the gills and causes heavy breathing and erratic swimming. The infested fish can also become spastic or completely paralyzed and sink down to the bottom. It can be cured using formalin, but preventing it is naturally preferably. Since adult fish becomes less affected by gill flukes, infested parents will often be healthy enough to spawn. When they offspring have grown to about the size of a 10 cent coin, gill flukes transmitted by the parents will turn into a serious problem. Gill flukes can be prevented by moving the fry to their own aquarium as soon as they are big enough to eat something else than secretions from their parents. It is also important not to crowd fry aquariums.

Use Praziquantel to cure fluke infestations. The recommended dose of Praziquantel is 2 milligrams per liter of water. Simply mix the correct quantity based on the amount of water in your aquarium and add it to the aquarium. It does not affect filters but do not use activated carbon as this will remove the medicine from the water.

White Spot, Velvet and Costia

White Spot Disease (Ich), Velvet and Costia are not very common in Discus fish since the high water temperature in Discus aquariums creates an unfavorable environment for these malicious micro organisms. If your fish develops White Spot Disease, Velvet or Costia, the best course of action is to increase the water temperature to 34 degrees. Velvet is normally eradicated after 2-3 days of heat treatment and Costia will succumb within day four. White Spot Disease has to be treated for 10 days, since the Ich parasite that causes the white spots is susceptible to heat during its free-swimming life stage only.

Internal parasites

A Discus can harbor internal parasites without really being ill, but in some situations the parasites will start to grow exponentially and can then pose a serious threat to your fish. Common warning signs are emaciation and white feces. It can be hard to diagnose exactly which parasites that is responsible without performing an autopsy, but many different parasites are fortunately sensitive to Metronidazole (Flagyl) treatment. Increasing the water temperature and providing additional aeration is also recommended. If your Discus is still eating, you can prepare a solution of 200 ml water and 10 ml liquid Flagyl and soak its favorite food in it, e.g. live worms or larvae, for about one hour. Feed your Discus medicated food every 2-3 days for 10 days. If your Discus has stopped eating it is much harder to medicate it since you will have to force feed it using a syringe without the needle. Prepare a mixture of one part liquid Flagyl, two parts Liquid fry food and three parts water. The liquid fry food is there to prevent the fish from starving to death while you treat it. Add the mixture to a syringe and place your Discus on a wet towel. Use the syringe to force 2 ml down the fish's throat and wait for it to swallow before you return it to the aquarium. It will expel a lot of the mixture through its mouth and gills, but at least a bit of it will be swallowed. You need to feed your fish the medication twice a day until it starts to recover. Being exposed to this type of tr

Final words of wisdom

Keep it simple. Don't try to over complicate it. Pay special attention to water and feed quality. Make sure your approach is a preventive one. Do not introduce new fish directly to a group tank. Wash nets, siphon tubes and water pipes between tanks. Keep a hospital tank ready.

A healthy Discus tank is certainly a gorgeous sight to see. My favorite Discus come to me when I walk into the room. There is nothing more pleasurable than to be able to stick your face against the glass and see you favorite Discus look right back at you.

Well that's it for now. I'll be happy to answer any comments you may have on this topic so do let me know.

Happy Discus raising! Cheers!

New Guestbook Comments 13 comments

BeatMaker2020 4 years ago

Nice, very comprehensive guide. Discus are awesome!


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NigelHay 4 years ago Author

@BeatMaker2020: Hi.. thank you for your post. There is still much to add here. I will be updating this very soon so please do come back and have a look. :)


BeatMaker2020 4 years ago

@NigelHay: Wow, just read through this again - very cool story about your experience and a wealth of information, awesome job man! :)


muthuminithilaka 4 years ago

Great description, very useful information for a discus breeder, as a discus breeder I can agree with you 100%. I use kottamba leaves to condition the water , but I have never try coconut leaves, how do you use them and, for what purpose. I am from Maharagama, using municipal water itâs soft 30-60 ppm and 7.0 â 6.5 pH. I am breeding discus since 2005 as a hobby but now I am intend the commercial side.


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NigelHay 4 years ago Author

@muthuminithilaka: Hi Hi, thank you for your nice comments. As for your question, I use the dried coconut leaves which work the same as kottamba. You need to tie the leaves up into a ball with a mosquito net so that the decaying leaves don't fall into the tank. The size of the ball can be the size of a tennis ball. Keep it floating and soon you will see it ooze plant extract and tanins into the water. This creates similar conditions to adding peat extract. You can mix Kottamba leaves and coconut as well. I wish you the very best in your new business.


muthuminithilaka 4 years ago

@NigelHay: Thanks for your quick reply, i will try your new method and let you know, do you have any of your discus photos uploaded to net, if so pls. send the link. Thanks.


lyndon-berenger 3 years ago

Hey nice story, I rare discus as a hobby. Do you have leopard discus ? Do you sell ?


Andrew Weeraratne 23 months ago

Hi Nigel,

Great indepth article, specially the Kottan & Coconut leaves. Are you yet into Discus, based in Sri Lanka, if so, do you sell or could I consult you on matters pertaining to developing quality fish stock etc????


Sarfaraj 23 months ago

First off all thanks for described details of crucial fact.I want to try breeding ,but I am worried for regular hard maintaining procedure.


behzad 14 months ago

hey my ferends i am from in iran i dont no what is this ferst food for discus baby in the artificalt in larrva it is my ask tank u very moch

&exws me for my bad languij


rickey naidoo 2 months ago

Can you tell me why my discus parents eat eggs and fry.


rickey naidoo 4 weeks ago

My discus is spawning but eating eggs can u advice me if foster rearing


rickey naidoo 3 weeks ago

How can I artifically rear these fry and what can I feed them .

Always eating the eggs why .

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