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Symphysodon aequifasciatus x discus - Discus


  • Symphysodon aequifasciatus x discus - Discus

    Photo thanks to watfish

    Photo thanks to Briztoon of Fishchick's stock - Wild blue discus

    Photo thanks to DiscusEden - alenquer

    Scientific name: Symphysodon aequifasciatus
    Common name: Discus
    AKA: S. haraldi. Also known by the variety names, e.g.: pigeonblood, alenquer, turquoise, red turq

    Country of origin:
    South America

    pH: 4.5 - 7.0 - commercial varieties ideally 6.4 - 6.8; wild 5.5
    Temperature: 28 - 30c
    Hardness: 0 - 3 GH
    Water flow: low
    Oxygenation: high (in warmer waters less oxygen is disolved, so more needs to be added, with an airstone, etc)

    Maximum size: 25cm (measured head to base of tail)

    Diet: Live, frozen, flake & pellet foods. Although traditionally discus are fed beefheart, there should be a vegetabe component to this, to prevent constipation.

    Bloodworms & brine shrimp are the typical live an frozen foods given. Although the fish (particularly fussy eaters) will often readily accept these, even if they are refusing other foods, they are nutritionally "fillers" and do not have much nutritional value for them at all or contribute to growth. Blackworms should be treated with caution with these fish - both as they can at times become stuck, but also because they are more often associated with parasites - if using, ensure they come from a "clean" source.

    Discus sometimes refuse food, particularly if stressed by a move, or being bullied. If this goes on for more than a few days, they can lose the habit of eating, and may starve to death. They can be encouraged to eat by a combination of live food and a garlic supplement (commercially available), which is said to encourage appetite.

    It can be taught to feed from your hands, and may follow you along the tank & watch you moving around the room once this has occurred. There are many, many reports of them recognising different people, hiding when strangers appear, but being affectionate with their owners (mine used to come to the surface and rub along my hands when I was cleaning the tank).

    Some people with a lot of experience can take an educated guess at differentiating sexes by looking at the fins and head shape, however the sure way to tell the gender of the fish is to look at the breeding tubes while they are spawning. The male's will be comparatively long (3-5mm) & thin, while the female's is short (1-3) & fat.

    The discus will clear a spot, usually vertical, then spawn on that surface, doing a shimmering dance in preparation. The female will swim up the area first, laying eggs on the surface, with the male following and releasing sperm.

    Both parents will care for the eggs for about 3 days. They are prone to fungal infection - the parents will eat those. Young parents in particular, and some fish just always do, eat all of the eggs. While spawning, the parents will not tolerate other fish, and will often shove the other fish out of a 2-3 square foot space in the tank. This should be taken into account when planning your tank.

    When the eggs hatch, both parents share responsibility for the next 2 weeks, feeding them from their mucous layer on their sides, which thickens when breeding. The fry are then encouraged to eat other food. Because of the physical level of care which the parents provide, they should not be allowed to spawn continually, as this will exhaust the pair.

    Feed fry on infusoria, then BBS.

    Tank companions: It can be kept with other peaceful fish - if kept with overly boisterous or active tankmates, particularly when feeding, they are not likely to cope. Appropriate tankmates include:
    Apistogramma trifasciata
    Bristlenose catfish - standard, peppermint, albino
    Carnegiella strigata - Marbled hatchet
    Corydoras sterbai - Sterba's Cory
    Dermogenys pusilla - Gold Halfbeaks
    Hemigrammus bleheri - Common rummy nose tetra
    Hemigrammus erythrozonus - Glowlight tetra
    Hemigrammus rhodostomus - True Rummy Nose Tetra
    Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi- Black Neon tetra
    Mikrogeophagus altispinosus - Bolivian ram
    Mikrogeophagus ramirezi - Blue ram/ Gold ram/ Neon blue ram
    Nannostomus mortenthaleri - Coral Red Pencilfish
    Nematobrycon palmeri - Emperor tetra
    Otocinclus - Otto
    Paracheirodon axelrodi - Cardinal tetra
    Parosphromeus Deissneri - Liquorice Gourami
    Petitella georgiae - False Rummy Nose Tetra
    Phenacogrammus interruptus - Congo tetra
    Pseudomugil gertrudae - Spotted Blue-eye
    Sphaerichthys osphromenoides - Chocolate Gourami
    Sturisoma aureum - Royal Whiptail Catfish
    Sturisoma panamense - Royal Twig Catfish
    Trigonostigma espei - False harlequin
    Trigonostigma hengeli - Glowlight rasbora
    Trigonostigma heteromorpha - Harlequin tetra
    -Check specific conditions on each of these fish to see if they will meld with your tank. Of course, other species of discus are also acceptable.
    Articles on most of these fish can be found in the articles section.

    Fish not to include in your mix are:
    Plecos (known to suck on the mucous/slime layer on discus, causing damage to the discus)
    Any nipping fish - serpae tetras, black widows, etc
    boisterous or aggressive fish - including angelfish.
    Angels are commonly seen in discus tanks, but between their aggressive behaviour at feeding time and the old-school belief that they carry diseases that they are immune to, but discus are not, it is just not a good idea to keep them together.

    It is a shoaling fish, and should be in a group of 6 or more. This is to reduce the risk of bullying in this cichlid species - which can be fatal. Alternately a confirmed breeding pair or a single fish can be kept - but they are happiest, boldest and healthiest in a group.

    As with all fish, it will eat anything it can fit in its mouth, and equally can be eaten by fish able to fit it in their mouth. It is a relatively slow swimming fish, and this should be taken into account when choosing tank companions, as it is vulnerable to having its fins nipped or having catfish sucker on the slime its sides.

    Although it is not common, even otocinclus have been known to do this on occasion - keeping them well fed can help to prevent this, but once it has started, the fish is unlikely to stop the behaviour, which damages the discus, leaving it open to illness, and the offending fish should be removed. Whiptail catfish to my knowledge are highly unlikely to attempt to sucker on discus.

    They have been successfully kept with chameleon or red cherry shrimp before in very well planted tanks (that provide cover for the shrimp), even though they are capable of eating them. The best chance of this working is to start with a large shrimp population, so they may be able to out-breed any losses sustained.

    Minimum of 40 litres per fish. A temporary breeding tank for 2 fish should be a minimum of 100 litres, preferably more.

    As they are cichlids, and should be in a group of 6 or more to minimise bullying (which can be fatal), they should be in at least a 5ft tank.

    It does best in a tank with heavy planting & low light, or alternately a bioscape with sand, driftwood and tannins. Although they look very good on dark substrates, light are preferable. Pigeonblood varieties in particular are prone to peppering (developing dark markings/ spots) when kept on darker substrates - these are a major fault, and not likely to reverse if the fish is moved to a more suitable environment.

    Plants which could be considered include (but are not limited to):
    Aponogeton crispus
    Aponogeton euryspermus - Red NT Lace plant
    Aponogeton tofus - Goyder River Lace Plant
    Blyxa japonica
    Echinodorus amazonicus
    Hygrophila difformis - Wisteria
    Microsorum pteropus - Java fern (and varients, including Windlov)
    Nymphaeas - lotuses
    Pogostemon stellatus - Pogo
    Vallisnerias - Vals

    It is often confused with:
    Symphysodon aequifasciatus (Brown/Blue discus)
    Symphysodon discus (Heckel)
    Symphysodon tarzoo (Red spotted Green) - rarely seen

    S. aequifasciatus (blue/brown) and S. discus will hybridise in captivity, but S. tarzoo will not cross with the other 2. There is therefore discussion about whether the 2 are seperate species at this stage (despite their different localities), or are in the process of becoming seperate species:
    Domestic strains of discus have arisen from crossing S. aequifasciatus and S. discus.

    As a result of this crossing, when many strains of discus become stressed, frightened or unwell they display vertical dark lines.

    Discus diseases:
    Include parasites, such as flukes & worms - regular prophylactic worming (every 6 months) is advised, alternating levamisole (BigL Pig & Poultry wormer, available from stock feed stores - other poultry wormers contain sugars which are harmful) and Praziquantal - found in many of the worming treatments sold in local fish stores (LFS).

    They are also prone to hex - a wasting disease, treated with metro, an antibiotic, and hole in the head - also treated with metro. Both of these illnesses are often fatal. If they are not treated quickly, invariably so. They can get the standard diseases as well.

    Prevention is always better than cure. Quarantining any new fish for at least 4 weeks can prevent illnesses being spread to others in your tank. UV filters could also be used to minimise the risk of disease spreading in the tank, however as mentioned, if quarantine & worming procedures are followed, this may be overkill.

    All Symphysodon spp. are legal imports to Australia as of 20/10/2013:

    The IUCN Red List reports Symphysodon spp. as not yet been assessed at 20/10/2013:

    It is very important not to release any aquarium specimens into our waterways. Any that are not sold or re-homed/ given away, can often be re-sold to aquarium stores. If they are homed in ponds, care should be taken that they cannot escape in run-off into our waterways. Even if fish are native & local they should not be moved from one waterway to another, as this can transfer disease. If they are not local fish, they can both spread disease and either out-compete or eat local fish, shrimp & plants, causing their demise.

    The price of discus has fallen considerably in recent years, however they are still not cheap fish. New strains will cost more, as will rarer or harder to breed strains. Quality fish will often cost more as well.

    Although it may seem cheaper to buy juveniles, this often turns out to be false economy. Juveniles need to be fed 4x a day, and need 80% water changes daily if they are to grow to their maximum size & shape, preventing stunting. Stunted fish have a proportionately larger eye and smaller body than normal or well-grown discus. When the cost of the food & water are taken into account, along with the much greater vulnerability of juveniles to disease, it is cheaper to buy adult or sub-adult fish. Buying a mix is strongly advised against, as the adults secrete a hormone which stunts the growth of other fish in the tank. If adults or sub-adults are bought, the shape of the fish is also known, and quality fish (either round or high-finned) can be bought.

    Although some people may argue this point, conventional wisdom states that a fully stocked cycled tank of adult discus should have 50% water changes 1-2x a week. This of course depends on nitrate levels.

    It is a good fish for people with some experience - beginners +2

    Relevant threads:
    Discus getting sucked on by sailfin gibbicep:

    Photos thanks to Ivo of many different strains:
    Turquoise strains:
    Spotted strains:
    Albino strains:


    Photo thanks to DiscusEden - brown

    Photo thanks to Watfish

    Photo thanks to DiscusEden
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