Discus Fish – Care, Breeding, Tank Mates & Full Details!

Discus fish, affectionately known as the “King of the Aquarium,” is a marvel of the underwater world. Their distinct round, flat shape, akin to a discus, hence their name, is a notable feature that sets them apart from other fish species.

They typically range from 4.8 to 6.0 inches in length, but under optimal conditions, some specimens have been known to grow up to 9 inches.

The discus fish (Symphysodon) is a freshwater cichlid, gaining its common name from its distinctly flattened body shape. As opposed to many other cichlids, discus are sociable, prefer to live in groups, and often display shyness around other species.

Despite the challenges of maintaining discus, especially in a mixed-species tank, their radiant appearance and astonishing color-changing abilities make them a prize possession for many fish enthusiasts.

Discus was first discovered by Dr. Johann Jacob Heckel in 1840. Discus’s usually live in groups in the wild because of its highly social nature. Discus fish are often shy and peaceful in nature.

Table of Contents

Quick Stats About Discus Fish

Scientific name: Symphysodon aequifasciatus (blue discus or brown discus), S. discus (red discus or heckle discus), S. tarzoo (green discus)
Common names Discus fish, pompadour fish, king of the aquarium
Distribution: Amazon river basin, South America
Size: 4.6–8 inches
Life expectancy: 10–15 years in captivity
Color: Wild discus fish are red, blue, or green, and other colors. Patterned hybrids exist in captivity
Diet: Omnivore
Temperament: Intelligent, peaceful, shy
Minimum tank size: 10 gallons per fish, or over 55 gallons for a group of six fish
Temperature: 82–88°F (28–31°C)
pH: 6.0–7.0
Hardness: Soft water, 2–8 dGH
Care level: Challenging, requires a higher temperature than many other species
Breeding: Mouthbrooders

Appearance of Discus Fish

They are renowned for their vibrant, jewel-like colors that make them a living spectacle in any aquarium. Discus fish come in a dazzling array of shades, from bold blues, radiant reds, and gorgeous greens to a spectrum of patterned hybrids.

Their intense coloration and complex patterns, combined with a typical size of 4.8–6.0 inches, make them an irresistible attraction in any aquarium.

Notably, the Heckel discus sports pale yellow stripes, including a striking one through the eye, while the brown discus flaunts nine vertical stripes.

The blue and green discus variants are adorned with red dots, adding an extra layer of charm to their aesthetics.

Discus changes color according to their environment and other factors, such as mood and health status. It’s a fascinating aspect that makes them a dynamic addition to your tank.

Though they may share some resemblance with angelfish, discus lack the extended fins that are characteristic of the former.

In essence, their stunning appearance, calm demeanor, and ability to change color make them a favorite among aquarium enthusiasts.

The Natural Habitat of Discus Fish

Discus fish hail from the serene slow-moving rivers and tranquil lakes of the Amazon basin, specifically around the lowland areas where there is an abundance of fallen trees and branches.

This natural environment provides plenty of hiding spots and contributes to their preference for well-structured and stable settings when in captivity.

In the wild, they inhabit warm, soft, acidic waters with a high mineral content, a factor that directly impacts their care in an aquarium setting.

The natural setting of discus fish is rich with aquatic insects, invertebrates, and plankton, which form the primary diet of these fish in the wild.

This dietary preference influences the choice of food offered to them in a captive environment.

Types of Discus Fish

Discus fish are prized for their diversity in coloration and patterns. Breeding and selection over the years have led to a wide array of discus fish types. Let’s delve into some of the most popular ones:

Blue Discus

Blue Discus, as the name suggests, exhibit various shades of blue. Their spectacular coloration ranges from light sky blue to deep cobalt, often with contrasting patterns.

Red Discus

Red Discus are famous for their vibrant red hues. Some varieties may exhibit a blend of red and other colors like orange and yellow, creating a fiery palette.

Spotted Discus

Spotted Discus come with unique dotted patterns across their bodies. They can come in a variety of colors, but their defining feature is their beautiful spots.

Striped Discus

Striped Discus, also known as Pigeon Blood Discus, stand out with their distinctive striped or marbled patterns. They often feature a mix of colors, adding to their visual appeal.

Wild Discus

Wild Discus are the closest to the original species found in the Amazon. They have a more subdued coloration compared to their captive-bred counterparts, typically featuring brown or green tones with patterned stripes.

Each type of Discus fish has its unique charm and personality. Regardless of the variety you choose, these elegant creatures will undoubtedly add a splash of color and life to your aquarium.

Origin and Distribution of Discus Fish

Discus fish are natives of South America, primarily dwelling in the Amazon River basin. The three major variants of discus fish, namely the blue, green, and red discus, are distributed across different regions of the Amazon.

The blue discus finds its home in the eastern Amazon basin, the green discus in the western Amazon basin, and the red discus in the Rio Negro area.

These enchanting species have captivated aquarists worldwide, and their demand has led to their distribution far beyond their native South American waters.

Today, they are found in aquariums around the world, from the United States and Europe to Asia and beyond.

However, it’s important to note that their specific needs make them more suited to seasoned fish keepers than beginners.

Growth, Size and Lifespan of Discus Fish

Discus fish display an impressive growth rate, given their proper care and a suitable environment.

They typically reach their full size — between 4.8 to 6 inches — within the first year to eighteen months of their life. With optimal care, some specimens can even grow up to 9 inches in length.

The size of a discus fish can be influenced by several factors, including diet, tank conditions, and overall health.

A well-balanced diet rich in protein and essential nutrients, combined with pristine tank conditions, contributes to their healthy growth and development.

In terms of lifespan, discus fish are long-lived compared to many other aquarium species.

They typically live for up to 10 years, but with exceptional care, some have been known to reach 15 years of age.

This longevity, combined with their stunning beauty and peaceful nature, makes them a treasured pet for aquarists who are prepared to meet their specific needs.

The key to maximizing the lifespan of a discus fish lies in its care regimen.

Maintaining a clean tank with appropriate water parameters, providing a nutrient-rich diet, and managing stress levels by minimizing sudden changes in the environment are crucial aspects of discus fish care.

Discus Fish Behavior and Temperament

Regarded for their peaceful and social disposition, Discus are truly an anomaly among cichlids.

While they can be a bit shy at first, these fish are known to form strong bonds with their owners and often display a level of intelligence not commonly found in other aquarium species.

In the aquarium, Discus prefers to live in groups and exhibit schooling behavior, often swimming in unison.

This behavior not only promotes a sense of community but also contributes to their mental well-being. They tend to be non-aggressive but can be territorial during the breeding season.

Understanding these facets of their behavior and temperament is crucial for creating an optimal environment for Discus.

Discus Fish Tank Setup

Creating the perfect environment for your discus is crucial for their health and happiness. The tank setup for discus goes beyond just filling a container with water.

It entails understanding and mimicking their natural habitat to provide the best conditions possible.

From the tank size and water parameters to the type of substrate and decorations, every detail contributes to their overall well-being.

This guide will walk you through every aspect of setting up a perfect tank for your discus.

Tank Size

The recommended minimum tank size for Discus fish is 55 gallons for a group of six. These fish need ample swimming space due to their size and group behavior.

Each additional Discus fish would require an extra 10 gallons of water to maintain a comfortable environment.


Choosing the right substrate for a Discus fish tank is essential. As these fish prefer to sift through the substrate in search of food, sand or fine gravel is the best choice.

Not only does it mimic their natural habitat, but it also prevents potential injuries that coarser substrates can cause.

Decorations and Hiding Spots

Incorporate natural decorations like driftwood, rocks, and aquatic plants to replicate the Discus fish’s native environment.

Provide ample hiding spots using caves or densely planted areas, as these give the fish a sense of security and reduce stress.

Water Parameters

Discus fish thrive in warm, soft, and slightly acidic water. Maintain a water temperature between 82-88°F, pH levels from 6.0 to 7.0, and hardness between 1-8 dGH.

Consistency is key; sudden fluctuations can stress the fish and lead to health problems.

Filtration and Aeration

A robust filtration system is paramount to maintain water quality as Discus are sensitive to water conditions.

The filter should effectively remove waste, leftover food, and toxins while also promoting water circulation.

Aeration is equally important as it ensures an adequate oxygen supply for your Discus.


Discus fish don’t have specific lighting requirements, but a moderate level of lighting is ideal.

It not only shows off their vibrant colors but also helps maintain a healthy day-night cycle. Avoid intense lighting as it can stress the fish and cause algae blooms in the tank.

Tank Mates

When choosing tank mates for Discus fish, pick non-aggressive species that thrive in similar water conditions.

Cardinal Tetras, Neon Tetras, and Corydoras Catfish make excellent tank mates. Avoid keeping Discus with fin-nipping species or ones that are too active, as they can stress your Discus fish.


Discus fish are omnivores and require a varied diet for optimal health.

High-quality cichlid pellets can be the staple of their diet, supplemented with frozen or live foods such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, and daphnia.

Feed them small portions several times a day for best results. Remember, overfeeding can lead to water pollution and health issues in your Discus.

Discus Fish Tank Maintenance

Ensuring a clean and healthy environment for your Discus fish is key to their well-being.

A well-maintained tank not only allows your fish to thrive but also showcases their vibrant colors and graceful movements.

Here are some essential steps for maintaining a Discus fish tank:

Regular Water Changes

Water changes are vital for maintaining the water quality in a Discus tank. It is recommended to change about 25-50% of the tank water weekly.

This helps remove waste products and toxins that accumulate over time and could potentially harm your fish.

During water changes, use a siphon to vacuum the substrate, removing leftover food and waste.

Replace the water with fresh, dechlorinated water that matches the temperature and pH of the tank to avoid stressing your Discusfish.

Cleaning the Tank and Decorations

Over time, algae and waste can accumulate on the tank walls and decorations.

Gently scrubbing the tank’s interior with an algae scrubber or a soft cloth during water changes can help keep the view clear.

Decorations such as rocks, driftwood, and artificial plants should also be cleaned to prevent the buildup of harmful substances.

Remove these items for cleaning, using a soft brush and warm water. Avoid using soaps or chemicals, as they can be harmful to your Discus fish.

Filter Maintenance

A filter plays a crucial role in maintaining the water quality in your Discus tank, removing waste and toxins while circulating the water.

Regular filter maintenance is, therefore, essential.

Rinse or replace the filter media as per the manufacturer’s instructions to ensure efficient filtration.

However, remember not to clean all the media at once or use chlorinated water as it can kill the beneficial bacteria that help in breaking down waste.

Monitor Fish Health

Regularly observing your Discus-fish is an essential part of tank maintenance. Look for changes in behavior, eating habits, or appearance, as these can be signs of stress or illness.

Check for signs of common fish diseases, such as ich, fin rot, or internal parasites.

If you notice any signs of illness, it is crucial to take immediate action.

Quarantine the affected fish if necessary and seek advice from a veterinarian or experienced aquarist.

Remember, maintaining a clean tank, providing a balanced diet, and promptly addressing any health concerns can help ensure your Discus fish lead a healthy and vibrant life.

Discus Fish Diet and Feeding

The diet of Discus fish is a key factor that contributes to their health and vibrancy. These fish are omnivores, meaning they eat both plant and animal matter.

However, they tend to prefer protein-rich foods.

Here’s a detailed look at what to include in a Discus fish diet:

Variety is Key

Just like humans, Discus fish thrive on a varied diet.

It’s essential to offer them a mix of the following:

  • Dry Foods: High-quality pellets and flake foods specially formulated for Discus can be a staple in their diet. They are packed with essential nutrients and are readily available in pet stores.

  • Frozen Foods: Frozen bloodworms, brine shrimp, and daphnia provide a good source of protein. They should be thawed before feeding.

  • Live Foods: Live foods, such as bloodworms and brine shrimp, can be a real treat for Discus fish. However, they must be sourced from reliable suppliers to avoid introducing diseases into the tank.

  • Vegetables: Discus fish also benefit from plant matter. Boiled spinach, peas, and zucchini can be included in their diet occasionally.

Feeding Frequency and Quantity

Discus fish should be fed 2-3 times a day, providing only as much food as they can consume in 3-5 minutes.

Overfeeding can lead to water pollution and health issues, so it’s important to monitor their eating habits and adjust accordingly.

Discus Fish Tank Mates and Tank Mates to Avoid

Choosing the right tank mates for your Discus fish is important to maintain a peaceful and harmonious aquarium environment.

Here’s a list of suitable and unsuitable tank mates for your Discus fish:

Suitable Discus Fish Tank Mates:

Discus fish prefer calm and peaceful companions.

Here are some species that make good tank mates:

  1. Cardinal Tetras: These colorful, peaceful fish are great companions for Discus fish. They share similar water requirements and their small size makes them unlikely to compete with Discus for food.

  2. Rummy Nose Tetras: Rummy-Nose Tetras are calm, schooling fish that add movement and color to the tank without disturbing the Discus.

  3. Corydoras Catfish: These bottom-dwellers are peaceful and active, helping to keep the tank clean by eating leftover food.

  4. German Blue Rams: These peaceful cichlids get along well with Discus and add a burst of color to the tank.

  5. Dwarf Gouramis: These tranquil and colorful fish make good companions for DiscusFish.

Tank Mates to Avoid:

Avoid keeping Discus fish with aggressive or overly active species. These can stress the Discus and lead to health issues.

Here are some species to avoid:

  1. Oscars: These large, aggressive cichlids can stress and even harm your discus.

  2. Bettas: Known for their aggression, Bettas can intimidate and harass Discus.

  3. Jack Dempseys: These robust cichlids are territorial and can outcompete Discus for food and space.

  4. Tiger Barbs: Known for their fin-nipping behavior, Tiger Barbs can cause stress and physical harm to DiscusFish.

  5. Goldfish: Goldfish prefer cooler temperatures than Discus and have different dietary requirements, making them unsuitable tank mates.

Remember, when introducing new tank mates, monitor the tank closely to ensure all inhabitants are getting along.

It’s also crucial to ensure the tank is large enough to accommodate all species comfortably.

Breeding Discus Fish and Fry Care

Breeding DiscusFish is a rewarding experience, but it requires careful planning and meticulous care.

The process is detailed and time-consuming but can be broken down into manageable steps.

Let’s walk through them:

Setting the Stage for Breeding

Discus fish breed readily in captivity, but you’ll need to set up a conducive environment:

  • Pairing Up: Discus fish choose their own mates. It’s best to start with a group of young fish and let them pair off naturally.

  • Breeding Tank: Set up a separate tank for the breeding pair. A 20-gallon tank works well. It should have bare bottom for easy cleaning and a flat vertical surface for egg laying.

  • Water Conditions: Maintain warm temperatures (around 82-86°F) and soft, slightly acidic water (pH 6.0-6.5). Regular water changes are crucial.

Spawning and Hatching

Once the pair is established and comfortable, they will start to spawn:

  • Egg Laying: The female will lay hundreds of eggs on the vertical surface, which the male will then fertilize. The parents will guard the eggs aggressively.

  • Hatching: The eggs will hatch in about 48-60 hours. The parents continue to guard the fry, which feed off their parents’ mucus for the first few days.

Fry Care

Proper care of the fry is crucial to their survival:

  • Feeding: Once the fry start swimming freely, begin feeding them with newly hatched brine shrimp or a high-quality fry food.

  • Water Changes: Frequent water changes are crucial to keep the fry healthy. Aim for small changes daily.

  • Growth Monitoring: Keep a close eye on the fry’s growth. Any signs of slow growth or disease should be addressed immediately.

Signs of Stress in Discus Fish

Stress can have detrimental effects on the health and wellbeing of Discus fish.

Here are some signs of stress to watch for:

Behavioral Changes

  • Hiding: Discus are generally sociable. If they are constantly hiding or avoiding their tank mates, this could be a sign of stress.

  • Loss of Appetite: Refusing to eat or eating less than usual can indicate stress or illness.

  • Erratic Swimming: If your Discus fish is darting around the tank or swimming erratically, it may be feeling stressed.

Physical Symptoms

  • Color Changes: Stress can cause Discus to lose their vibrant colors, turning dull or dark.

  • Clamped Fins: If the fins are kept close to the body rather than fanned out, this can be a sign of stress.

  • Rapid Breathing: Faster than normal breathing or gasping at the water’s surface can indicate stress.

If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to identify and address the cause of the stress promptly.

This could be anything from poor water quality, unsuitable tank mates, or an unsuitable diet.

Remember, a happy and healthy Discus fish is a vibrant and active one!

Common Health Issues and Treatments for Discus Fish

Just like any other living beings, Discus can encounter health issues.

Understanding these problems can help you take quick action and ensure your fish stay healthy.

Discus Plague

The Discus Plague is a serious disease that can quickly wipe out your entire tank. Symptoms include loss of appetite, rapid color loss, and lethargy.

Unfortunately, there’s no surefire treatment for this disease, but maintaining optimal water conditions and quarantining affected fish can help prevent it from spreading.

Parasitic Infections

Parasites like Ich and Flukes can affect Discus, causing symptoms like white spots, excessive scratching, and clamped fins.

Treatments include medications like Malachite Green for Ich and Praziquantel for Flukes.

Bacterial Infections

Discus fish can suffer from bacterial infections, leading to symptoms like red streaks, ulcers, or bloating.

Antibacterial medications, available at pet stores, are the best course of action for such infections.

Additional Tips for a Healthy Aquarium

Maintaining a healthy aquarium environment is key to preventing health issues in Discus:

  • Regular Water Changes: This helps to maintain the water quality and remove toxins.

  • Check Water Parameters: Regularly monitor the temperature, pH, and hardness of your tank’s water.

  • Avoid Overcrowding: Overcrowding can lead to stress and disease. Provide enough space for each fish.

  • Balanced Diet: Feed your Discus a balanced diet of high-quality flakes, pellets, and occasional treats like brine shrimp.

Should You Get a Discus Fish for Your Aquarium?

Discus fish are a stunning addition to any freshwater aquarium. However, they require a high level of care and are best suited for experienced aquarists.

If you’re willing to invest the time and effort, Discus can provide a rewarding and captivating aquarium experience.

Conservation Status

Discus fish are not considered endangered or threatened. However, wild populations may face threats due to habitat loss and pollution. ‘

If you choose to keep Discus, consider sourcing them from reputable breeders who follow sustainable practices.

This helps support the overall health and survival of this beautiful species.

Availability & Pricing

Discus is widely available in pet stores, fish expos, and online platforms. The price can range based on factors like size, coloration, and rarity of the breed.

A young Discus fish might cost around $30 to $50, while mature or rare types could be upwards of $100 or more.

It’s essential to purchase from reputable sources to ensure the fish’s health and sustainability of the species.

Frequently Asked Questions About Discus Fish

Q1: Are Discus Fish Hard to Keep?

Answer: Discus fish require a higher level of care compared to some other aquarium fish. They need specific water conditions and a balanced diet. However, with proper knowledge and regular care, they can thrive in home aquariums.

Q2: Can Discus Fish Live Alone?

Answer: Discus-fish are social creatures and prefer to live in groups. Keeping a single Discus might lead to stress and poor health.

Q3: How Long Can Discus Fish Live?

Answer: With proper care, Discus can live up to 10 years, sometimes even longer.

Q4: How Big Can Discus Fish Get?

Answer: On average, Discus fish can grow up to 8-10 inches in size.

Q5: Can Discus Fish Live with Other Fish?

Answer: Yes, DiscusFish can live with other peaceful fish that thrive in similar water conditions. Some good tank mates include tetras, gouramis, and angelfish.


Discusfish, with their vibrant colors and unique shape, can make a captivating centerpiece in a freshwater aquarium.

They require specific care, but with the right conditions and maintenance, they can thrive and bring much enjoyment.

It’s essential to source these fish responsibly and be prepared to meet their needs. With the right commitment, keeping Discus fish can be a rewarding and enriching experience.