View Full Version : Need some Pro recommendations on Equipment

07-12-2008, 05:08 PM
Hello all, newbee in the usa midwest here looking for some equipment recommendations. I had a Discus tank 30 some years ago when it was all guess work. Success was rare for any length of time and the books were mostly wrong from what I see doing some research today. There is a lot of information out there now, probably good and bad.

I have decided I would like to do a large viewing tank 150 gal with 10 - 12 fish and also have another 20 - 23 gal for / growing / breeding / quarantine tank. This would be the tank I start with to grow the fish for the display tank.

My question here is what equipment would you recommend for these setups.
I am completely out of the loop on what are good tanks, filters, heaters, lighting, water treatment, vacuums items needed to make water changes easy and any thing else you can think of. Including the newest Discus Bible.
Also places to purchase from, internet or other.

I am starting with absolutely no equipment and I know going cheap is a mistake so,

If you were staring from scratch what brands, models, equipment and other items would you recommend to purchase.
I'm sure with all of the experience here there are things that are a must have and those to stay away from.

any help or direction would be appreciated.

07-12-2008, 05:22 PM
I can help you where I can.

Heater=Visitherm Stealth
Filter=canister, I am particular to Eheim, but Fluval is also a good brand. For the larger tank go with either an Eheim 2260 or Fluval FX5. I personally have a 2260 and love it.
Tank=Doesn't really make a difference. They are all the same at that size. I would go with glass instead of acrylic. Just don't like how acrylic scratches.
Vacuum=I just use a standard vacuum, but some people swear by the Python products. I find them unnecessary.
Lighting=unless planted, stock lighting will be fine.

Best place I have found to order from online is Bigalsonline.com. I appreciate the best prices, outstanding customer service, and very fast shipping from them consistently.

07-12-2008, 11:54 PM
Here is my list of equipment for youself. Mine is very similar to Gm's.

Heater = Visitherm Stealth These are awesome heaters. Injected plastic so very hard to break, i've been using these for years on all of my tanks.

Filter = You want a canister filter, hands down. Eheim are considered the top brand, I have never owned one so I can't give a opinion. Fluval are very highly recommended, again I haven't tried them. I use Rena Filstar canisters and really like them. With as large a tank as you are doing I think the Fluval FX5 is what you are going to want to do with.

Tank = I would say glass unless you are placing the tank on a floor that isn't concrete where weight will become an issue. Even then acrylic will only be moderately less heavy than glass as the majority of the weight will be from the water which you will have regardless. Add in a stand and equipment and the difference isn't huge.

Vacuum = As Gm I use the standar gravel vac but some people swear by pythons. I have a bathroom 10 feet away so it's not hassle for me to lug around buckets. Since you are starting from scratch I would recommend getting some clean 5 gallon buckets that haven't had soap or cleaners used in them if you didn't already know that.

Lighting = Same as what GM said

The best place i've found is about 95% of the time bigals. You can sometime find better deals at other places but not usually. I've used bigals for years and they are always provide great service. Good luck in your endeavor!

07-13-2008, 12:13 AM
Heaters: I love my Jagers. They have a proven track record of years and years. There are many hobbyists who bought their Ebo Jagers 2 decades ago and they are still using them today. A little calibration is usually necessary but after that you are off to the races, I'd go for a pair of them in a 150.

Filter: Currently I am running an Eheim 2215 on my 46gal with a breeding pair of Discus in it and they seem to enjoy it. It creates a nice gentle flow for them and at the same time does a great job of filtering. For a 150 I would go with something like the 2260 as GM suggested, they are designed for the large volume tanks and they handle them well.

Tank: For a 150 you can still go glass because it's not too heavy, and with the amount of cleaning you will have to do, it is less likely to suffer scratches. All Glass Aquariums makes a nice tank but I personally feel that the Oceanic tanks are the Cadillacs of aquariums. Oceanic's tanks are built solid with great bracing to help ensure the tank holds together. I have had 2 of their large tanks and love them.

Vacuum: Nothing but a Python for a tank that large, you will hate yourself for trying the bucket brigade on a 150gal tank.

Lighting: Stock lighting is going to be plenty unless you are planning on plants, even then I wouldn't recommend anything more than a couple of normal output fluorescent bulbs. Discus prefer the lower light levels and will venture out more in subdued lighting. I had mine under a 4x96w Power Compact fixture in my 125 for a while and they only came out on a rare occasion or they hung out under the shade of the Red Rubin Swords and the other shading plants.

Good luck with them, they are a great fish and thanks to now discoveries they can now be kept for the full extent of their expected 10 year lifespan and attain their full length of 8-10". IMO there is not much that beats the grace and beauty of a 10" Discus swimming through a large tank.

07-14-2008, 03:04 PM
I'm looking into the above,
Thanks for all of the recommendations!

07-14-2008, 03:39 PM
I agree with most of what these guys are saying, but instead of a canister, I would personally go with a good sized sump. The reason being is that you can set yourself up with a nice automatic water changer, I would also plumb the two tanks together, this way when you go to move fish from one tank to the other there is no differnce in water quaility, chemistry, and the such. From my understanding the discus need to have VERY clean water to grow never mind breed, so adding in an auto changer is the smartest thing to do. Then you just need to vac your gravel every 2 weeks to once a month.

07-14-2008, 03:58 PM
Good idea fishead but with one problem, the gravel will need to be vac'd more than just every 2 weeks to 1 month, it needs to be done weekly. I siphoned off any waste on the bottom on a daily basis when I was raising my young Discus, letting that waste sit there for 2 weeks can lead to problems with Discus.

07-14-2008, 04:09 PM
I have a Fluval FX5 on my 150. It keeps it crystal clear and clean, even with the current stock of goldfish. I have a few air stones and a 300gph powerhead for extra flow.

I positioned Stealth heaters in the path of the output when I had tropical fish in there. This way the water is heater in the high flow area of the output.

I HIGHLY recommend sand. There is a whole article on it in my blog, please read it.

I think a planted tank is the best option. Others like to go bare bottom so they can easily clean extra food after feedings. I think a school of cories is a more natural method of doing this, and on sand you can still vacuum if you prefer that method since the sand keeps the debris on top (and with enough flow the debris will keep moving until it reaches the filters, which is when they do their job).

My personal experience has been that the best source of discus is from the LFS. Ones that have been pampered and spoiled in a breeder's tanks their whole life are not as hardy and may not do as well in your tank as they did in the breeder's. My best ones have been the ones I bought at my work (a LFS). This includes the two that have paried off and are attempting to breed (still eating all the eggs shortly after laying them, which is common). Many have good luck with finding a good local breeder, and if you do and the prices are no more than at the LFS I cannot say they won't be better than the ones you have available at your LFS. But I personally would not buy from private breeders. When they are taken care of THAT well, they get used to it. So unless you do at least as well, they won't. Many people start off with LFS discus that do well and they want to upgrade to 'higher quality' discus (defined as high quality by someone, somewhere, at some point in time) but when they do their care level requirements exceed what the keeper is providing. Many breeders do water changes ranging from every other day to multiple times each day (and these are usually massive water changes, 75-90%). Most working people can't do this and have any sort of a life outside of their fish. This is when the discus that have been commercially bred, went to the wholesaler, then to the LFS, and are still healty and colorful are in my opinioin and experience a better option (and at the LFS I work at: cheaper).

Are you wanting other fish in the tank? I would recommend cardinal tetras, sterbai cories, and many others. There are definitely a lot of good options.

07-14-2008, 08:13 PM
When I do the big tank 150 gal this fall ( I'm going to build a atificial monochromatic smooth river shale stone foam background ) it is going to be about 10 discus & a bunch of Cardinal tetras, maybe a ground feeder for cleanup. Keeping it very mono shale and driftwood colors will allow the fish colors to pop.

07-14-2008, 08:24 PM
You can do weekly gravel washes if you need to even with an auto water changer. The water will be absolutly perfect though by doing it that way.
I would love to see pictures of you making your background. I always find DIY projects intresting.

07-15-2008, 04:11 PM

Wow you are a wealth of information, Blog and all.
Let me ask you this since you recommend buying Discus from your local fish store instead of breeders.
I live in St Louis and have 2 pretty good long established fish stores in Beldts & Aqua-world that handles discus, both have been around for 30+ years & deal in both fresh & salt. I think Beldts handles Wattleys and Aq only buys from another breeder whom I need to find out about.
KC Discus http://www.geocities.com/kc_discus/
Is also only a few hour drive away so many options.

I'm setting up my growing tank in the next 2 weeks or so as I'm gathering equipment.

My question:
Once I establish my tank you don't see a problem of going to different sources ( all which will undoubtably have different water )
And selecting individual fish to add to my tank, without quarantine?
If so how do you introduce them to the tank.

I would like to get 6 or 7 3" in this 55 gal growing tank as I find specimens of interest over a months time. I can't understand how people can buy site unseen fish as I am very critical and selective.

Thanks for the help

07-15-2008, 05:30 PM
forgot to ask this,
Should I put 2 Visi-Therm Stealth Heater 200W heaters in my 55 gal in case of a heater failure or should I use a smaller wattage or just 1 heater.

07-15-2008, 08:51 PM
The safest bet is to take the total wattage needed and split it between two heaters, or have each heater slightly over half the power needed for the tank. This way they can't overheat the tank alone and the other will cut off if one stays on.

If you don't have any in the main tank they can go in there. But if you are wanting to get them all together in the 55 before they are introduced to the main tank, that is a good idea too. Once you have discus in the main tank I would definitely use the 55 as quarantine/hospital.

I am also very picky about my fish. I would never buy one because someone else decided it looks good. Many 'wrong' or 'low' quality fish are actually my favorites. The ones with patterning than is not 'ideal'. I like the 'Wabi-sabi' ones that according to someone else's standards are not good enough.

The ones I got from my work came in looking good, settled in well (that tank is amazing, I think they like the 5.0 pH in there), and started growing. That is when I bought them. Most likely you won't be able to wait this long to get the ones you like.

Make sure you ask about the water change schedule they are doing and make sure you can match it and stick with it. The last thing you want is so drop a lot of money on them beause they do great there only to find out your water isn't good enough.

Two different sources is fine. Just make sure they are settled in and eating well before you buy them.

I personally would start them all off on New Life Spectrum's Thera+A for the garlic in it. This will help take care of any internal parasites they may have, something they are very prone to. You can keep them on this or switch to another NLS. I personally would definitely stick with NLS, but if you want to use other foods too I would at least make NLS their staple and most of the diet.

07-15-2008, 09:16 PM
Thanks again

I'm not looking for show fish or anything, just what i see as beautiful, like you that may be different from what a breeder thinks and it maybe a few different types.

I only will have the one 55 gal to start with. Any fish I get will need to go into that tank. I would like to get the 6 fish I want to start with within a month or 2 of each other so I will be adding fish here and there until I find 6 3 inchers I really like.

I assume that acclimating them is the normal way?
bring there water to aquarium temp by floating, then add a 50% increase to the water with aquarium water and after an hour or so introduce to the tank?
Is that correct?

I work from my home so water change won't be an issue unless I would get lazy, Not likely considering. New Life Spectrum's Thera+A is in my plans for sure!

07-15-2008, 09:37 PM
Personally I prefer to drip acclimate my fish. It is a great way to slowly bring all the parameters to the same levels. That usually takes the same amount of time but is less stressful. With the drip acclimation method, the amount of water introduced at a time is very slow thus there is no sudden influx of water with different parameters. IMO it is just a much gentler way to acclimate them.

07-15-2008, 10:44 PM
Agreed. For things like discus, rays, certain plecos, even certain tetras (like cardinals) drip acclimation is a great idea. I personally do it a little differently than most. I dump them into a bucket and get a siphon going with an air tube. Most people adjust the air tube so that it drips, but I leave it full open. This goes faster but I feel that letting it slowly drip takes too long, meaning the temp in the water in the bucket drops and as the water slowly moves through the air tube it also cools there too. With my method it goes faster but since it is constant small adjustments instead of a few big jumps they seem to take to it just fine. It also prevents the unheated bucket from cooling too much in relation to the tank.

To truly acclimate fish to different chemistry takes days, not minutes. So this gives them an idea of what is about to come, but no method truly acclimates them. Temperature is the biggest issue.

07-16-2008, 12:15 AM
A much better system than what I described. I'm in on the drip method.
Let me throw this into the mix.


From everything I have read, 84 degrees seems to be the ideal temperature for a growing tank.
So say I have my tank at 84 with a few fish in it and I buy a fish from a store that is keeping its fish at 80.
I question the fact this long time establishment has it's discus at 80 to begin with and maybe should be avoided due to this, but what if the temp difference is different by 3 or more degrees, all methods described will still be a significant change in temp for the little guy. Do you just make the transition change longer or do you avoid the situation altogether?

07-16-2008, 12:21 AM
That would be fine to get them. The drip/siphon method is made exactly to adapt them to this difference. Also keep in mind that it is a lot less stressful to go toward ideal than away from it.

07-16-2008, 02:07 AM
That would be fine to get them. The drip/siphon method is made exactly to adapt them to this difference. Also keep in mind that it is a lot less stressful to go toward ideal than away from it.

Wow, that sounds like something spock on star trek would say.
less stressful to go toward ideal than away from it.

And i agree!


07-16-2008, 02:14 AM
That's funny. Haven't thought of it that way.

It was obvious to me, and my experience supports it. I make huge jumps in pH towards ideal at work all the time.

07-16-2008, 04:23 PM
I also need a recommendation for a complete water testing kit that checks
carbonate hardness / alkalinity

07-16-2008, 04:31 PM
Depends on what level of quality you are looking for. Many people use the API test kits. Personally I prefer the Sera test kits. They are a little more pricey and a little extra work in some cases, but they are extremely accurate. Definitely worth the extra few bucks.

07-16-2008, 11:14 PM
Just so it is out there, in almost all cases it is better to leace hardness and pH where they are at (unless they are extremes) and keep them stable than to try and adjust them to ideal. Stability in the parameters is more important that the exact numbers. If the water quality is very high (nitrates are low) and the parameters are stable, you are good to go.

I use Hagen and API/APH. Both have master test kits like you are looking for.

07-17-2008, 03:24 PM
[QUOTE=Fishguy2727]The safest bet is to take the total wattage needed and split it between two heaters, or have each heater slightly over half the power needed for the tank. This way they can't overheat the tank alone and the other will cut off if one stays on.

Ok so i'm on the boarder line here, 55 gal Aquarium Visi-Therm Stealth Heaters come in

100 w for 30 gal

150 w for 45 gal

200 w for 55 gal

Is 2 100's enough or would you go 2 150's

Also for a 150 -170 gallon tank what do you do?

Use multiiple heaters like 4 150 w heaters?


07-17-2008, 08:30 PM
For the small price different I would do 2 150 watt stealths for the 55. This way you have two 150s in case you need them later for something else. They are not much more expensive.

For the 150 I would use two of the largest, 250 watt, stealths. That's what I had and they did the job. With such a large tank the watts/gallon is lower because it will take so long for the temperature to drop with that much water.

07-19-2008, 10:57 PM

What size New Life Spectrum thera +A
to discus 2 - 3 inch and at what size fish do you move up in size.


07-20-2008, 01:47 AM
The 1mm sinking Thera+A should be good until they are larger. The next step up in the Thera+A Formula is 3mm and they need to be able to eat it whole, so they will be almost full grown before they can take that.

Check out the article on bowl feeding in my blog. I have found it to be a great way to feed, especially when switching foods.

07-20-2008, 03:06 AM
I read the article and it makes total sense.
I will be practicing it for sure.
Thank You!