Discus with odd tank mates
Well, I have a densely planted (real plants) 65 gallon tank that has housed the same fish happily for about a year now. Everyone tells me I should not have these fish together, but they seem happy and the only issue I ever have is those *()&^*&% snails.
So, the tank has bright lights but because of the plants and driftwood does offer a lot of dark hiding places.
It houses 2 Discus (gender unknown), 2 Angels (gender unknown), a pair of Rainbows, 3 Corys, 4 Emerald Bronchis, 2 Siamese algae eaters (gender unknown, the real ones), and an assortment of some 12 Glofish (Danios).
The Discus swim together and the Angels swim together. Both species spend some time deep in the plants so they are "invisible", but they do spend the majority of the time swimming in the "clearing" or weaving in and out of tall, skinny plant leaves, in full sight and in the light. The Glofish don't look so restless in the planted aquarium - they look more like little colorful fruit among the plants as they dive in and out of sight.
Everyone is peaceful, except for the Siamese who chase each other on occasion. At other times they swim near each other.
So, I know Discus and Angels are usually not good company, and the little Glofish can drive them bonkers. But - it works for me for a long time now.
I assume it's the planting that makes it work.
I just love watching the graceful Discus and the Angels weave their way through the tank in tandem. I feed a variety of things and it seems that everyone has their preferences, but everyone loves the Spectrum tablets, brine shrimp and sea weed.
I just wanted to share because so many have told me I have to have Discus in a bare tank. This tank is anything but bare, and I think the many plants make them happy. And that makes me happy. It's a bit more work as the plants constantly need trimming, but I trim while I change the water and it's no big deal to me.
Only discus tanks I know are bare are breeding tanks. Got some video? I'm getting curious.
No video. I'll try take some pictures but am lousy with a camera, and the tank is a bow front which makes it more difficult. I'll wait til this evening to try, when I try in the daytime the deck outside gets mirrored in the tank and you can't see anything. I think my cell phone may take videos, not sure, I never take pics with it. I hope to post something tomorrow.
I was told if I didn't just keep one discus, I needed to keep six in an empty tank. 6 in an empty tank would look very sad to me, I like an aquarium to look like a piece of nature...
I see no issues with a planted tank for discus. I have seen too many successful discus tanks with plants, and given the benefit of live plants on water quality, there can't be a problem. I guess the reason so many advocate bare tanks is that it is easier to maintain water quality when less stuff is going in (thinking of the plant nutrients, if any) and when there is less "natural" processes occurring. And as talldutchie mentioned, if one intends to breed the discus commercially, bare tanks do work better, or at any rate, all the breeders say they do. Low-tech or natural planted method tanks are better than high-tech with discus and angels simply because of the lower light and less fiddling with this and that.
I do have concerns with your stocking though, notwithstanding it may seem to be working. Discus and angelfish should never be in pairs, unless they are a bonded male/female pair. Both fish have a natural tendancy to live in groups with a definite hierarchy within the group. You cannot get away from this, it is in the fish genes, so to speak. Why two or three fish of either may manage in the same tank is something we don't understand, but it is the exception not the norm. And things may change down the road, as the fish mature.
Angelfish and discus should not be housed together. The main reason for this, according to Jack Wattley, is that angels are more domineering especially at feeding times, and they shyer discus may not get their necessary nutrition even if they do eat. And bullying angelfish can stress out the discus. Again, this does sometimes work, but it is not recommended. And as other members on this forum may be tempted by this or that, one has to be careful to point out the risks.
Active fish like danio should not be included with sedate discus and angelfish. However, here again, what isn't advisable can sometimes work, or seem to. We don't know what allomones these various fish are releasing and how the other fish are reading these chemical signals; stress is always unseen until it becomes severe.
Byron Hosking, BMus, MA
Vancouver, BC, Canada
Something we all need to remember: The fish you've acquired was quite happy not being owned by you, minding its own business. If you’re going to take it under your wing then you’re responsible for it. Every aspect of its life is under your control, from water quality and temperature to swimming space. [Nathan Hill in PFK]
Well, the way they seem to have figured it out now for like 6 months, one of the discus rules the tank, both discus rule the angels, one angel rules the second. I say that because of the pecking order at feeding time. Now, the discus like to feed on the bottom, while the angels like to feed on the top, and I make allowances for that when feeding, so they actually do not compete except with brine shrimp. Then the pecking order comes into play. The brine shrimp are just an occasional treat, no one depends on them.
When I first put them in the tank, they came at the same time, the discus were quarter size and the angels just dimes, they were really small. Everyone else was already in there. And it was the way you said, the little angels did mess with the big discus, but only as far as swimming alongside a lot and getting between them. They also seemed to want to feed off the discus (like discus babies would) but always were told off. This stopped after about one month, one of the discus told them off by chasing them to the other end of the tank. At that point the angels stuck together like glue and have ever since. There was also a time when one of the discus harassed the other. Mostly the dominant one claimed the front, bright part of the tank and the submissive one spent more time in the plants. This settled after a couple of weeks and they now swim in unison most times.
So now the 4 of them swim in pairs, and quite often even as foursome and it is all very peaceful. I think I just had the luxury of spending much time watching and so didn't panic when they were establishing themselves. No one got hurt, no one went hungry, and they did figure it out themselves.
I think the main disadvantage of the planted tank is that it makes it harder to catch specific fish. Luckily this has only happened once with a sick glofish. It's a pain, but it can be done. The glofish and the discus/angels barely ever encounter each other, the glofish tend to zoom around the tops of the plants while the discus/angels swim in the middle. The cory/bronchis of course swim on the bottom, and the rainbows/SAE are all over the place.
I am not going to recommend anyone else try this, I was given both the discus and the angels while still deciding what I wanted in the tank and gave it a shot for that reason. Always had a spare 30 gallon tank ready for any fish I might have to remove. And I had the time and patience to wait out to see how it would work itself out, as well as watching to make sure everyone ate and no one got hurt. Plants also make it possible to feed individuals as needed as they are shielded from view of the others... No one fish can control the others in the tank really, too many places to get and stay out of view while still moving around and having a life. I think that is key, in nature they can just hurry up and swim away when they feel harassed. They can do that in my tank, too.
The plants are not a problem for Discus. The problem is the other fish. Discus are shy, skittish fish and don't want wild swimmers in the tank with them. The other fish are also susceptible to disease and you do not want far more expensive Discus subject to becoming infected by cheap fish that can be replaced for $3-5. Discus also has totally different requirements than any of those other fish. They like tank temps in the 90's and that's too warm for all the others. Discus should be kept in species only tanks or perhaps with some cardinal tetra's or bristlenose pleco's.
Siamese should also be kept as singles because they fight and chase each other.
Discus do not need to be kept in a bare bottom tank but they are kept that way as young 'ems because they need very clean, daily water changes.
Last edited by Lady Hobbs; 09-23-2013 at 10:52 PM.
Water temp is 82, and I was told that was fine. The Discus have grown by leaps and bounds and colored in beautifully, as have the Angels. The other fish seem happy with the temps also.
Someone forgot to tell my Discus that they are shy or that they like dark places - they do rule the tank, and they spend way more time in the bright light than in the dark areas. They come to check out my hand if I stick it in there.
The tank is opposite my living room couch, and I often spend many hours there reading. So I am very aware of everybody's movements. Often I get so mesmerized by watching that I don't get any reading done.
Water changes - I do a lot of these. Every 2 or 3 days, half the water gets changed and any plant leaves showing old age get pruned. That way I pre-empt any plant decay, and the plants like fresh water too, they do consume any trace minerals and like them replenished.
The Siamese do chase each other periodically, but it is generally no more than once the length of the tank before one of them disappears and the other goes about his business. The chase is over in seconds. More often they will be seen cleaning plant leaves within close view of each other. They have never fought, probably because one just disappears and they are not ever forced to face each other. They seem oblivious to all the other fish.
Actually, each of the species in there seems oblivious to all the others. The Discus though will chase the Corys away from the food, so I now feed them on opposite ends of the tank.
I realize that I will need to break things up should the Discus or the Angels get in the mood for breeding. So far only the Corys mate. The Discus and Angels just swim in tandem - and it looks so beautiful. I can't imagine keeping either species in a smaller tank than the 65, it would seriously cramp their style.
It sure can be hard to predict the behavior and personality of fish. Sometimes they can act completely different from what all the experts have researched and published. After all, most fish don't read these profiles in as much detail as we do ! However, as you have already stated, it is a good idea to keep a close eye on things in case that changes.
Other than behaviorally, there are other concerns about the different types of fish. One of them is the preferred temperature. Discus (from what I have read) need temps around 82 to 84 F while the rest of your fish do best in temps of less than 80F. Higher temps then what they typically do best in can have long term effects on their health. This could even take as long as a year or two before you may notice it. Just a concern to watch out for
If you take your time to do the research FIRST, you can successfully set-up and keep ANY type of aquarium with ease.
"Not using a quarantine tank is like playing Russian roulette. Nobody wins the game, some people just get to play longer than others." - Anthony Calfo
Fishless Cycle Cycling with Fish Marine Aquarium Info
Let's not forget many of what we know about these combinations are rule of thumb.
Angels and discus are a potentially volatile mix, especially when the hormones get flowing. However having plenty of cover to break up sight lines will help a lot. There are tanks where this combo has been made to work but there's also plenty when it failed quite spectacularly. Possibly the fact that these two species are in undersized groups is what has made it work. And let's not forget, if a discus isn't happy it will show it.
Still, I reserve my final judgement until I've seen it.
Danios are hardy and adaptable creatures. Personally I wonder if these high temperatures will reduce their lifespan. Again, tricky to be sure with this information.
It's not the setup I would have picked but if OP says it works I'll take his/her word for it until I've seen the evidence.
Here are some pics. Like I said, I am a lousy photographer. As you see, neither me nor the fish can ever see everyone all at once. These were taken immediately after a water change and in a hurry so the fish are not in the locations where they tend to be when business is as normal. I can try to get some more pics tonight if you like.
You may be right about the Danios - I lost two a year ago immediately after putting them in the tank, although this was before the discus/angels were added and the temp was at 78. I brought the temp up slowly when the big guys arrived. I lost another Danio not long ago. The Danios were full size when I bought them maybe a year and a half ago, so I don't know how old they are. The ones I lost - each had a different way of getting ill and no other fish were ever affected.