Much has been written about the Discus, or Symphysodon aequifasciatus, its Latin name. The Discus has always been given a bad rap for being hard to raise and difficult to keep. Actually, these long-lived fishes are easy to keep as long as certain guidelines are followed.
Here, we discuss the different water parameters that MUST be followed if we are to insure that our Discus friends are kept happy and healthy.
Testing the Waters
Initially, you will need to test for chloramine and chlorine, pH, and alkalinity. If you are a city dweller, a lot of this information can be gotten from the city waterworks, and although a good idea to do so, I would not recommend that you rely exactly on this information. At anywhere from $275 to $425 for a breeding pair, an initial investment for a decent PH/TDS meter is well qualified. Currently at King Discus Hatchery, we use a Hanna Combo PH/TDS meter that measures in ppt (parts per trillion) for the most accurate reading of our tanks.
Determining the levels of pH and alkalinity in your base water is the first step in this process. Although some base water is quite good for the discus with little or no buffering, some water will need extensive conditioning before the first Discus can be introduced into the tank. Once you know the levels of PH and alkalinity, water chemistry tests should be conducted on a regular basis.
Test on a regular basis. When you are comfortable with this process, it is time to and add a few more tests to the battery of tests performed.
These tests will be for nitrite and nitrate, phosphate. In the planted tank, you will need to also test for iron and CO2. Test kits are very easy to use if instructions are followed to the letter. A particular number of drops of the testing reagent must always be accurate, following instructions on the test kit, or test results can be skewed. Test kits and probes available for the aquarium are quite inexpensive and easy to use, and can generally be bought at your local pet supply store, especially if they specialize in aquarium keeping.
Toxins in the Water Supply
Be aware that Chlorine or chloramine are routinely added to the water in many urban areas. Using a simple color test kit to determine the presence and concentration of either is very advisable. Removing these elements of chlorine or chloramine is a vital part of the process to properly condition your water. Conditioning is carefully adjusting the chemistry of the water to raise it to the parameters required for Discus keeping. Aging the water through carbon filtration (mechanical), aging the water, and proper aeration will be of benefit. Be aware, though, that aeration will not remove chloramine from your water. Chlorine can also be removed by adding prepared chlorine removers, but Nick Lockhart, the breeder for King Discus Hatchery, is not fond of using buffering agents. Constant water changes in the Discus tank will only leach these buffers, and then you are unsure of where your water chemistry is at. Nothing will harm the Discus more than wild fluctuations of PH. It is much more advisable to use reverse osmosis or deionization. We use RO, with a special Peat Moss filter to accomplish our parameters. The process of RO with fine tuned filtration of the RO water will remove virtually all toxins, but one must be aware that Discus cannot live in pure RO water, and steps must again be taken to insure proper levels of acidity/PH in the RO water. Chloramine is a combination of chlorine and ammonia, and some water companies need to use this for disinfection of the water supply.
If these simple tests are done on a regular basis, and care is taken to insure that there are no wild PH swings in the Discus tank, your success as a Discus breeder are much higher.
Alden Smith is a published author, and has been marketing on the internet for 7 years. His website, King Discus, is an active gathering place for discus breeders and lovers of discus fish.
His wife Betsy is the administrator of All The Best Recipes a site rich in online recipes and cookbooks.