Discus Fish 101 – Discus Common Questions


Many people out there either aquarists or not just hear about Discus fish and willing to have more information about the fish so they can enjoy their hobby of keeping a beautiful colorful fish like the Discus (The King Of Aquarium), so since there are plenty of questions related to Discus fish which no clear or satisfying answers are found on the internet, I decided to answer all those questions in one post and making it as (Discus fish 101) to help other beginners and fish keeping lovers about this amazing fish.

Table of Contents

What is a Discus fish?

Symphysodon aequifasciatus are a breed of cichlids, commonly known as Discus. They are native to the Amazon river in South America and due to their unique shape and colors, they are popular as freshwater aquarium fish, hence Asia became the major industrial breeder.

What does a Discus look like?

A Discus fish have a nice-looking unique condensed disc shape with many color combinations ranging from solid colors to a combination of 2 or more colors with striation, Discus colors are many due to the combinations of the designs and colors they come with.

Are Discus cichlids?

Yes, Discus is part of the cichlids family which contains more than 1300 different types of species ranging from vegetarians to carnivores.

Can Discus live with cichlids?

Yes, Discus can live with cichlids since it is part of the cichlid family BUT, this depends on the species of the cichlids since there are more than 1300 different fish ranging from vegetarians to carnivores. However, many hobbyists do not mix their Discus with a lot of other species.

Are discus fish saltwater or freshwater?

Discus are freshwater species native to South America, Amazon River. They are sensitive to the water quality hence they require strict proper tank water parameters that replicates its original habitat.

Are discus fish tropical?

Yes, Discus fish are considered tropical as well as freshwater because tropical refers to the overall temperature of the water is warm, while freshwater refers to the water salinity. Discus fish nowadays like to thrive in planted aquariums that replicate their original habitat.

Can Discus live in hard water?

Wild Discus that lives in nature and Asian bred Discus they both like to live in soft water like in nature, on the other hand, European bred Discus are happy living and bred in harder water, that’s why when you decide to buy Discus fish you have to buy from one breeder source either Asian or European.

Are Discus wild? Where do Discus fish live in the wild?

Discus originally are wild since they came from the wild from the floodplain lakes of the Amazon river in Brazil, but for several decades now, they are being bred in artificial lakes or tanks from different countries like Europe, Asia, America… etc.

Are Discus nocturnal?

No, Discus fish are not considered as nocturnal and they live during the day time when night comes, they sleep till morning as their normal daily life routine.

Do Discus fish need light?

Discus fish need a very little light (dimmed light) for several hours during the day time, and this due to the fact that they come from tropical water, so you better make sure you provide a dimmed light into your Discus aquarium for 6 to 7 hours a day so you won’t have excessive algae growth in your tank.

Do Discus need hiding places?

Yes, they do, and the reason why is that Discus fish are in general so peaceful, shy and sensitive cichlids, sometimes they feel afraid, being bullied by other fishes or being ill so they like to hide in a dark corner or a hidden place behind plants or other tank objects.

Are Discus territorial?

Yes, Discus fish are territorial, they tend to spend some time to acclimatize in a new aquarium, and when they are in a group, some of them will try to dominate the tank over the rest of them to claim a territory, and that’s why it is very normal to see Discus fish are fighting for some days.

Where are Discus fish from?

Discus fish come originally from the mixed tropical river of Brazil, they come into two Symphysodon fish species that is part of the cichlid fish family, those two species are S. Discus and S. Aequifasciata.

Are Discus fish for beginners?

Discus fish keeping is not for beginners, however, if you are an average aquarist, then it is easy for you to maintain healthy Discus tank requirements and habits since nowadays Discus in the market are captive bred so they are easier to keep than wild-caught ones.

Are Discus fish hard to take care of, or hard to keep?

It all depends on you as an aquarist, you can make Discus caring hard or easy, you need to follow basic criteria to make Discus fish happy, like keeping Discus in groups in a chemically clean warm water that you maintain weekly.

Do Discus have teeth?

No, Discus do not have teeth, rather they do have grinders in their jaws, Discus fish are not known as predators and many other small or juvenile species fishes normally thrive with them in the same aquarium.

Are Discus fish omnivores?

Yes, Discus fish are omnivores, in nature, they eat worms and small crustaceans as well as eating detritus and plant material, so for your Discus fish, the food ingredients that you can feed them with can have types of Flakes, Shrimp Pellets, Tropical Granules, Algae Rounds, blood worms..etc.

What does a discus fish eat?

Discus fish are omnivores species, so in normal cases, they can eat Spirulina flakes, Aqueon Tropical Flakes, Color Flakes, Tropical Granules, Shrimp Pellets, Algae Rounds, blood worms, hence in nature they eat small crustaceans and worms, you could feed Discus green bees in certain treatment cases like treating bloating or dropsy.

Can Discus fish live in tap water?

Yes, Discus fish can live in tap water with water conditioner added or better in RO water (reverse osmosis water), basically Discus are bred in soft water then raised in tap water, this is a very common practice that discus used to but maintaining the perfect water parameter is a must.

Will Discus eat plants?

Yes, Discus fish eat plants or plant materials in the wild since it is a omnivores species, Discus eat also worms, crustaceans, and insects as well. But if the question related to Discus in home aquariums, normally they do not eat or destroy the tank natural plants since you are feeding them a proper diet daily.

Do Discus eat shrimp?

Yes, Discus eat shrimps, shrimps and especially the small ones like the dwarf shrimps are a favorite food to Discus, so better not to put Discus fish and shrimps in the same tank if you are looking to clean your tank from algae then better to add instead snails to the same tank.

Can Discus be kept in a community tank?

Yes, Discus can be kept in a community tank with certain conditions, like they need to be a group of at least 5 to 6 Discus of similar size, the Discus tank mates should be like small tetras or other compatible species with Discus fish, and of course, 5 to 6 Discus in one tank that means the tank size should be an average of 60 US gallons.

Can a Discus fish live alone? Can I keep 1 discus?

No, it is advised to keep one Discus neither alone in the tank or in a community tank, Discus is a very sensitive fish and they thrive only in a group of them together, keeping 1 Discus in your tank should cause stress to it and eventually lead her to death.

Should Discus be kept in pairs?

Yes and No, Discus fish are sensitive fish and require to be in a group of at least 5 to 6 Discus in order to thrive, but in case of a couple of Discus have shown signs of pairing, so better to transfer them into a separate tank temporarily as pair for the purpose of breeding.

How many Discus fish should be kept together?

5 to 6 Discus should be kept together as they are a schooling fish and require to be in a group, so the smallest tank size for the Discus should be 50 to 60 US gallons since the ideal tank size calculated by 1 Discus in every 10 US gallons, however, they prefer larger tanks in order to thrive and grow.

NOTE: You may check my other article on how to build your first Discus tank by a 17 step by step detailed guide with my recommendations.

Are Discus schooling fish?

Yes, Discus is a schooling fish, Discus fish like to live in a group of minimum 5 to 6 of the same species and swim together in a big tank, they grow and thrive in big tanks together either a tank of only Discus species or a community tank of Discus and other compatible species.

Are Discus peaceful fish?

Yes, Discus are peaceful and have a shy temperament that’s why they thrive better in a group of at least 5 to 6 Discus, they are so sensitive species and require special care, Discus should be kept with only compatible other species in case of a community tank.

Are Discus aggressive fish?

No, Discus fish are not aggressive rather so peaceful, while Discus is part of the cichlid family which are known to have some aggressive tendencies in the family, but Discus is one of the shiest, peaceful, and sensitive fish among the rest of the cichlid which they can live peacefully with other compatible species in one tank.

Are Discus fish easy to get ill?

Yes, Discus fish can get ill easily due to the fact that Discus are so sensitive fish species and require special care and attention from the aquarist. With regularly proper maintained water conditions and warm temperatures, you could have a long live healthy beautiful Discus.

Are Discus fish bottom feeders?

Yes, Discus are considered as part of bottom feeders’ fish, for example, they eat the pallets from the bottom of the tank, and they also eat the flakes while floating on the water surface.

How long do Discus fish live in a tank?

8 to 15 years Discus will live in a tank with good nutrition and with proper maintaining and care, an aquarist needs to replicate the Discus wild nature water parameters and maintaining that is a key for a long healthy lively Discus.

How long can discus fish go without eating?

2-3 weeks is the average period in which large Discus of 4 inches in size (10 cm) and bigger can go without eating, older and larger Discus can even survive for a longer time without eating for 1-2 months. Smaller Discus can live up to 5-7 days without feeding.

How big can a Discus fish grow?

Discus fish can grow up to 8 inches (20 cm) in diameter within a time period of 2 to 2.5 years where they reach their adult size, hence Discus can live up to 15 years when kept in proper water conditions and special care.

How long does it take for Discus to grow full size?

2-2.5 years is how long a Discus require to grow in full size of 7-8” (20 cm) in diameter, however, Discus takes 3 months to grow around 2-2.5” (6 cm), and 3-4” (10 cm) within 6 months and 5.5” (14 cm) in a year.

Yes, Discus and angelfish are both cichlids and related, both come from the same area and live in the same environment and water parameters, angelfish sometimes are more aggressive than Discus that’s why some aquarist do not advice to put them in the same tank and some do not have issues with that.

Why Discus are expensive?

Discus fish are expensive due to the fact that their breeding and raising require intensive labor and experienced fish keeping practices, also the bigger the Discus size is, the more expensive it is. Normally a 2-year old Discus is the most expensive one. Another factor is the Discus species quality breeding in terms of Discus look and feel, the cleaner, brighter colors with better shape, the more expensive.

Are Discus worth it?

Yes, Discus fish totally worth keeping at home aquariums or at offices, Discus fish are beautiful in shape and its variety of colors making it so special and pleasant to the eye. Its non-cheap prices along with its low supply and high demand increase its value with the aquarists.

Discus Fish 102 Guide For Beginners

Check the version 2 of this article for step 1 beginners questions:


This is me Firas Sameer, the founder of DiscusRescue.com, I am an aquarist guy with a passion and love for Discus fishes, I am learning every day with my hobby at home and sharing the things I am learning from my experience with you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts