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How to Keep the Perfect Discus Aquarium

by Rahim Mohamed 06 Jun 2024

Discus fish, native to the rivers of South America, thrive in soft, acidic water. While raising them in captivity, it's crucial to replicate these water conditions and maintain a stable environment. Here's a comprehensive guide to setting up and maintaining the perfect Discus aquarium:

Water Conditions

  • pH Level: Aim for a pH range of 5.0-7.0. Farm-raised Discus are more adaptable to a wider range.
  • Hardness: Keep total hardness between 1-4°dKH.
  • Temperature: Maintain water temperature between 82-84°F (28-29°C).
  • Ammonia and Nitrite: Discus are sensitive to ammonia and nitrite, which should be kept at 0 ppm.

Setting Up the Aquarium

  • Tank Size: For 4-5 adult Discus, a minimum of 50 gallons is recommended. The rule of thumb is 10 gallons per full-grown Discus.
  • Filtration: Use canister filters or hang-on-back filters for optimal water conditions. Avoid under-gravel filters.
  • Heater: Use a reliable and accurate heater to maintain a constant temperature. Backup heaters are advisable.
  • Thermometer: Regularly monitor the tank temperature to ensure it remains stable.

Water Preparation and Maintenance

  • Frequent Water Changes: Regular water changes are crucial. Use a separate holding tank to prepare water, matching the pH, hardness, and temperature to the main tank.
  • Reverse Osmosis (RO) Unit: Use an RO unit to remove hardness and toxins from tap water. This helps create ideal water conditions.
  • pH Stability: Add buffers such as Discus Buffer and Neutral Regulator to maintain a stable pH below 7.0.
  • Water Testing: Use a digital pH monitor and test kits to regularly check water parameters.

Aquarium Layout

  • Substrate and Plants: While many Discus keepers prefer a bare-bottom tank, you can add a thin substrate and select plants like Amazon Sword, Anubias nana, Water Sprite, and Java Ferns. Use a planted aquarium substrate like Flourite if you choose to grow plants.
  • Decorations: Minimal decorations and hiding spots can help reduce stress for the Discus. Driftwood and large rocks are good choices.

Filtration and Aeration

  • Mechanical and Biological Filtration: Ensure efficient filtration without creating strong currents, as Discus prefer slow-moving water.
  • Sponge Pre-filter: Place a sponge pre-filter on the canister filter intake to prevent loss of young Discus.


  • Moderate Lighting: Discus prefer moderate lighting. If you have plants, provide 2-5 watts per gallon depending on plant species. Avoid over-lighting.


  • Diet: Feed a varied diet including frozen bloodworms, brine shrimp, and high-quality flake or pellet food. Feed small amounts 2-3 times a day instead of one large meal.

Tank Mates

  • Compatible Species: Choose peaceful, non-aggressive tank mates like Cardinal Tetras or Neon Tetras. Avoid aggressive or fast-moving fish.

Emergency and Backup

  • Backup Equipment: Keep spare heaters and pumps on hand to handle equipment failures.
  • Observation: Regularly observe your Discus for signs of stress or illness and take immediate action if needed.

By following these guidelines, you can create a thriving environment for your Discus fish, ensuring they remain healthy, vibrant, and a focal point of your aquarium. Regular maintenance and close monitoring of water conditions are key to their long-term well-being.

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