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Discus - Research and questions

Discussion in 'Fish for Planted Tanks' started by Gerryd, Nov 15, 2008.

  1. Gerryd

    Gerryd Plant Guru Team
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    Hi all,

    I recently gave my Bosemani rainbows away to a friend with a 220, and am THINKING about adding some discus to my tank.

    I want to do some research first, and there seems hundreds of experts on Discus. :)

    So, can you folks recommend any good books, forums, web sites, magazines, etc that you have found to be solid? Like this site would be great.......

    I am happy to purchase a good discus book or two, even if I don't get them now, to add to my library.

    Also, any links to good vendors would be great. I see tons of places selling what appear to be very nice fish, at least per the pics, but have not dealt with any of them before.

    A few questions please.

    1. Will 6 (8 max?) fish be too many for a 180 (72x23x24) assuming someday they get some size as they mature? I would get juveniles of the same type and grow them out together, with the hope(?) that two (or more) may pair off.

    Tankmates would be:

    85-150 cardinals
    18-24 various small corydoras
    12-18 dwarf cichlids that are substrate fish. Mostly peaceful and they don't bother anyone. I can remove these if they will be an issue. I can put them in another tank..........They don't spend a lot of time in the same areas as the discus I think.

    2. Can they do well in a tank with c02 injection, EI, 50% wkly WC, etc? I see folks do it, but not sure if there are other things they are doing, of which I am unaware.

    3. My temp is a bit under 86F. Too warm for them? Is 80F too low? Just getting a good range.

    4. Can they take prepared foods, or must they have the hand-fed, 4x daily feedings of some live food with immediate gravel vac, that I have read about?

    Thanks much as always.
     
  2. nelumbo74

    nelumbo74 Junior Poster

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    That's a perfect size tank for 6-8 discus. They'll do fine with CO2 injection. In fact, that will make them feel more at home. Don't worry too much about what you read about discus being difficult fish, unless you want to keep wild-caught fish. The hybrids that are for sale have been bred for several generations, and aren't difficult to keep. However, the wild-caught require very special attention. In my years of keeping discus, the only thing I have noticed is that if the temp drops below 80, they become very, very susceptible to ich. Therefore, your tank temp is perfect for them.

    You might want to start here: Jack Wattley-Discus. Jack is the foremost expert on discus, and you can read his article each month in TFH magazine.

    I feed mine once a day, mostly Tetra Cichlid flakes, but occasionally frozen bloodworms, and they thrive and spawn.

    edit: I just noticed you're from South FL. Jack Wattley is located there as well, so you can probably go pick up fish. That's an excellent opportunity.
     
  3. Gerryd

    Gerryd Plant Guru Team
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    Thanks for the reply.

    Jack W was one of the ones that I was using for research. I am about an hour or so away from him (I think) and would love to select and bring them home rather than awaiting shipping......

    Yes, wild-caught is not vital for me, as long as they are healthy and colorful, that is fine.

    Thanks for the info.
     
  4. VaughnH

    VaughnH Lifetime Charter Member
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    I have no experience with discus, but I understand you have to play classical music during their dinner time or they get upset stomachs.;) And, they require only Black Angus beefheart.
     
  5. nelumbo74

    nelumbo74 Junior Poster

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    Ha! They used to be that temperamental, and some "experts" today stand by that. That's why I stayed away from them for so long. However, I learned they are just as easy as angelfish, except they are more sensitive to low temps and/or temp fluctuations. They also are very personable, and act more like puppies after a few months.
     
  6. nelumbo74

    nelumbo74 Junior Poster

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    I agree that would be preferable. I've emailed his shop a few times, and they are very responsive and helpful. Good luck!
     
  7. tedr108

    tedr108 Lifetime Charter Member
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    Gerry,

    The biggest possible problem I see is your water hardness. In the cardinal thread, you said it was medium hard to hard. My friend who keeps discus uses strictly RO water and re-mineralizes it -- he keeps the hardness down to like 3 or 4 ... very soft. He also adds some "Discus Essentials" and a phosphate buffer to keep pH in the mid 6s. Please note, however, that my friend lives in LA near me ... we are talking liquid rock for water (30-40GH). It may be that RO is unnecessary for you. He drops a frozen blood worm cube in his tank 3 times per day. That's a little high maintenance for me as 2 of my 3 feedings per day come from a fish feeder on all of my tanks.

    I feel that many discus keepers do a lot of things that are unnecessary. The things they do, do not hurt anything, but all of that stuff still takes your time.

    Personally, I think your best bet is to talk to Jack Wattley, like nelumbo74 recommended. He will know his discus better than anybody, though he might not know much about EI or planted tanks. If you give him your parameters, pH (including fluctuations), hardness, temp, etc, you'll probably get more information from him in about 10 minutes than you would from reading a book.

    The basics for discus that I have read (and this may not be accurate for the hybrids):

    1) soft water
    2) low pH (mid 6s) that is stable (fluctuations are bad)
    3) warm temps -- 85 to 86
    4) clean water (breeders do tons of water changes, although I've heard that part of that is because discus put out a hormone that will limit their growth if it becomes concentrated -- not sure if that is true)

    I've actually been thinking about trying some discus in a non-CO2 tank. I would have to have a very light fish load because I still wouldn't want to do water changes. I just (impulsively) bought 4 tank-raised german blue rams and put them in my non-CO2 29G with my cardinals, panda corys and pencil fish. They are all doing great. Unfortunately, the rams have only been fed live and frozen blood worms, and I haven't been able to break that habit. You may have the same situation with discus. I enjoy feeding live and frozen foods when I'm home, but it's nice if my fish can get by on dry food when necessary.
     
  8. Panda

    Panda Guru Class Expert

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    Jack Wattley writes at TFH Magazine - monthly- TFH Magazine :: The World's Aquarium Magazine Since 1952


    I have bought 3 discus at this site and love it:
    Discus Farm-Sunrise Tropicals USA


    I keep 7 discus, biggest one is 5.5 inches on my 90 gallons

    I saw pictures of your tank and said to myself that it would be an awesome tank with discus


    I do CO2 injection- more than 5 bps and no problems ( pH drops around 6 ) I do not dose every day for EI, more like every other day and do a 40-50 gallons WC every two weeks using RO water ( around 5 gallons of tap water are added )
    3. My temp is a bit under 86F. Too warm for them? Is 80F too low? Just getting a good range. not sure about this, I don't use a heather but here in PR is always around 80-90 plus the lights keep the water warm. If you can do a weekly WC would be great

    Food:

    they can be a little picky about food but once they get use to it they will follow you everywhere. Even when you clean the glass or doing something near the tank they will be close to you.
    I give mine frozen bloodworms, frozen omega 3 brine shrimp, tetra color granules and New! Beefheart Plus Tropical Flake

    lots of people say that discus are the hardest fish...sure is hard to see a $60-100 die but to be honest I haven't loss one in more than 10 months while my guppies and crystal red shrimp are saying good bye. As with any fish : good water parameters. good luck with them and if you can drive to Wattley's you are lucky !!
     
  9. nelumbo74

    nelumbo74 Junior Poster

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    RO water is not necessary. Again, the hybrids have been bred for generations and are accustomed to all sorts of water hardness with the exception of very, very hard water. Jack Wattley most likely keeps his in very soft RO water, so if you bought fish from him, they would require acclimation. I think they would acclimate well to your setup though.

    In the winter, my water supply comes from a fairly hard reservoir off the Tennessee River, and I just do a weekly 1/3 water change. My fish, although they didn't come from Jack, don't seem phased at all.

    Do you have a LFS that might sell discus? You might want to start with some fish that have been acclimated to a municipal water supply.
     
  10. Panda

    Panda Guru Class Expert

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    I agree in some part with you. At a LFS they have discus at around 7.5, maybe even more !!
    But I prefer RO and mix it with tap
     
  11. shane

    shane Lifetime Charter Member
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    If you get young discus, it is better to not have soft water. Soft water is when the discus are mature.

    I like feeding my discus Hikari Blood Worms. I don't think there is a discus alive that doesn't love these.

    If you get them small and want them big, you have to feed them ALOT. I feed 3 times per day. I bought my discus from Sunrise Tropicals at about 2-3". They are now about 7 inches. Take a look at the website.
     
  12. Gerryd

    Gerryd Plant Guru Team
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    Hey all,

    Many thanks for the replies and links! I just sent Jack an e-mail and will post any replies in summary. Good idea from all to contact him.

    Vaughn,

    Yes, I had heard that as well, which is the reason for the post lol Only classic they get is 'classic rock' lol. Some Roy Orbison is the closest I can come to classical music, due to his voice.

    Panda,

    Isn't that too many fish for a 90 gal? I was thinking 1 less fish for twice the size tank! I mean they can get big right? Shane mentions 7" fish, which are a LOT bigger than my cardinals lol Do you have any other fish in there? My mind boggles at the thought of a 7" cardinal, no less a shoal of several hundred of them!

    Ted,

    Yes, I also heard about the hormone thing, and will ask Jack about that. I can increase my WC to twice a week if that helps with any issues.

    I am not sure anymore that soft water is a 'hard' requirement if you'll forgive the pun. The fish would 'like' it more I think, but I also think 'modern' discus, bred domestically, will have more tolerance over a wider range of water parameters.

    I also asked about picking them up directly and hope they can accomodate. I also mentioned a facility tour (if possible)......:)

    I am drawn to the following fish on this page, but all are beautiful!

    Striated Turquoise
    Striated Red
    Leopards

    Jack Wattley-Discus Price List

    Thanks again for the help!
     
  13. tedr108

    tedr108 Lifetime Charter Member
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    Good choices on the discus types. :)
     
  14. nelumbo74

    nelumbo74 Junior Poster

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    Yeah, good choices. I'm sure JW's people will be very accommodating. As for hormones, I have never heard about them producing a hormone. However, some foreign breeders treat their fish with hormones to increase their color and size. These fish should be avoided. That's why you will see some breeders' ads that say their fish are hormone-free. Keep in mind that they also stop growing once they become sexually active, so that's why it's good to give them a very large tank. Discus are not indeterminate growers like other tropical fish. The larger the tank, the larger they will grow.
     
  15. Gerryd

    Gerryd Plant Guru Team
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    Yes, I think the leapords may be the ones....but I reserve final choice for the possibility that I can pick them while I am down there.........

    I am tempted to mix 3-4 of two types, but I think a small group of conspecifcs wll look nicer and offer a better chance for pair bonding.

    Yes, I know that growth hormones are used by some breeders and will ask about it as well.

    So, sexually mature at what age? Yours have spawned in their tank? Is it a community? Details please????

    I expect size also depends as stated on care and feeding, but also on the amount of space each has. I think stuffing 12-16 in my tank would be okay short term for the juvies, but would be disastrous in the longer term.........

    Is why 6-8 max is my number in mind.

    Another thing is they should know the exact age of the fish, so I can go from there.

    If I go with them, a bio-canister is definitely in the plans...........
     
  16. nelumbo74

    nelumbo74 Junior Poster

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    JW does not use hormones. His fish are nothing but top quality. I have never owned any of his fish, but I know people who have, and I've seen what good quality they are.

    It's hard to say what their actual age is when they become sexually mature. I buy them at a 3" size and they can start spawning about 6 months later. Sometimes sooner. I've kept them in tanks as small as a 45g to a 120g. I never feed more than once a day, and that is mostly Tetra cichlid flakes, but occasionally frozen bloodworms. The ones in the 120 got to about 8". They were kept with different types of pencilfish. In both size tanks, the discus spawned, but the ones in the 45g never got bigger than about 5.5". None of the spawns ever hatched, which is fine by me, I don't really care much about breeding fish.
     
  17. Gerryd

    Gerryd Plant Guru Team
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    They didn't eat any of the pencils? That is good news, as pencils are on my list if possible..

    How aggressive are they at chasing small guppy or similar fry for food?

    Also, are they active swimmers?

    I have read advice to scape for a central mound type that they can use to swim laps, as opposed to a end to end tank run.

    I have plenty of open space in front of tank and center, with back and sides pretty dense..... foreground plants are growing in now.........
    that was scaping for the rainbows who loved end to end display and spawning dashes and games of tag.......

    I feed live blackworms at least twice a week plus various flake food and some prepared people food (srambled eggs and roasted chicken).

    Good to know they can do well on prepared foods........

    Thanks again.
     
  18. Panda

    Panda Guru Class Expert

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    "Panda,

    Isn't that too many fish for a 90 gal? I was thinking 1 less fish for twice the size tank! I mean they can get big right? Shane mentions 7" fish, which are a LOT bigger than my cardinals lol Do you have any other fish in there? My mind boggles at the thought of a 7" cardinal, no less a shoal of several hundred of them! "


    yes I think I have many discus... it's like an obsession !!

    I use to have some of them on a 30 gallon but they weren't growing...at least that was my observation, so they ended up in the 90 g

    If you visit Wattley please post your experience ( and tell me about a strain called red panda )
     
  19. Gerryd

    Gerryd Plant Guru Team
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    Panda,

    I am just concerned that you have too many large fish in the one tank that's all.

    Have as many as you like lol

    Yes, I wouldn't think a 30 gal is a good long term home for such a fish. Eventual size means a lot. Is why I want a smaller group.......

    You have to think they will live at least 3-5 years (or more?) with good care, so I would rather have a few less fish, but in better health.

    I have to think that no matter the size tank we are always undersized compared to almost any body of water.....

    Have you had good success with yours? What types do you have in the 90?

    BTW, you can highlight the reply from someone else and then hit the quote button above. That will show differently in your reply and you won't have to put quotes around it. Like this:

     
  20. Panda

    Panda Guru Class Expert

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    cool ! thanks

    I think they can live more than that but I'm not sure...I have been keeping discus for 3-4 years

    2 of them are from a local breeder , 2 JW leopards and the other 3 are from sunrise tropicals: yellow diamond, super red melon( the one on my picture profile) and rose red
    I just wish i had a bigger tank to keep'em... i think that because of the number of discus for a 90 g tank they won't grow much more than 5 -6 inches...if I am lucky

    anyways they are very cool !
     
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