Some Discus Basics
There are 5 different kinds of Discus, unless you go and buy wild Discus, the ones in the hobby are all hybrids. There are only 2 species (a third is being argued) of Discus with 5 subspecies. Symphysodon discus, and S. aequifasciata are the 2 species. The subspecies are as follows:
Symphysodon discus discus - Red Discus
Symphysodon discus willischwartzi - Pineapple Discus
Symphysodon aequifasciata aequifasciata - Green Discus
Symphysodon aequifasciata axelrodi -Brown Discus
Symphysodon aequifasciata haraldi - Blue Discus
The different color strains in the hobby are simply specific mixes of these different colors. For example, S. discus discus and S. aequifasciata haraldi are the 2 colors used in the creation of the Red Turquoise Discus. Many of the strains are not simple combinations of the 2 but are rather results of a few generations of breeding.
Caring for these captive bred specimens is much much easier than caring for their wild cousins. The captive bred discus are much more tollerant of higher pH values and are also slightly more tollerant of lower water quality. That said, Discus owners should still aim to keep them in a pH in the low 6's and should endevour to do large frequent water changes in order to provide the optimal water conditions. If Discus are not given clean water with a proper diet, they are easily stunted.
The diet for Discus should include a high quality pellet food such as New Life Spectrum, Sera or Hikari pellets. Many breeders also feed their Discus Tetra Color bits. While they are not my personal preference, many do find them to be adequate. Young Discus need to be fed often, some recommend upwards of 6 feedings a day consisiting of pellet food, brine shrimp, and beefheart. Jack Wattley (leading Discus breeder in the world for many years) actually recommends against feeding bloodworms to young Discus due to the tough skin on bloodworms. Many people still feed them with no apparent side effects.
Finally, if you are planning to add these fish to an already stocked tank, then I'd recommend getting fish that have already attained a length of at least 5". It is very difficult to grow Discus to a length of 8-10" in a stocked, planted tank with substrate. The reason being, water quality can't be kept as good as it is in a bare bottom tank. The argument that is often given at this point is that the nitrate levels can still be maintained, however it is not the nitrates that are the issue, it is the particles that are afloat in the water. It is not mearly a case of keeping the water parameters low, it is a case of keeping the water very clean. The cleaner the water, the healthier your fish (provided you give them a proper diet).
Following the above, you can have healthy vibrant Discus. While it sounds difficult, it really isnt', it is simply more work. Discus are not necessarily more difficult to keep, they are just more work to keep and for this reason they are not recommend for the beginner aquarist.
Last edited by ILuvMyGoldBarb; 06-28-2008 at 03:00 AM.