Caring for Red Discus: A Comprehensive Guide
Red Discus are beautiful and captivating aquarium fish, but they require special care to thrive. Here’s a comprehensive guide covering their diet, behavior, cohabitation, breeding, aquarium setup, and interesting facts.
Feeding Red Discus
Proper nutrition is crucial for the health and coloration of Red Discus:
- Carnivorous Diet: Red Discus are primarily carnivorous and prefer live or frozen prey. Feed them twice a day and vary their diet to promote health and growth.
- Temperature Impact: Keep in mind that higher water temperatures increase the nutritional needs of Red Discus because they consume more energy. Young Red Discus have higher food requirements, so ensure they receive abundant and varied food.
- Distribution of Food: Always ensure that each Red Discus has access to its food, as dominant individuals may dominate and starve others if not monitored.
Behavior of Red Discus
Understanding the behavior of Red Discus is important for their well-being:
- Shy and Fearful: Despite their size, Red Discus are naturally shy and prefer to stay near roots or hiding places to feel secure. They are generally peaceful towards other fish.
- Territorial and Hierarchical: Red Discus exhibit territorial and hierarchical behaviors within a group. Dominance hierarchies may be observed among individuals. Red Discus are social animals and thrive in shoals.
- Stress Sensitivity: Red Discus can become stressed easily. Sudden changes in their environment or water parameters can lead to stress. Darkening of colors can be an indicator of stress.
Cohabitation with Red Discus
Selecting suitable tankmates is essential for Red Discus:
- Shy Fish Preferred: Due to their shyness, avoid bright or active fish species as tankmates. Choose fish that occupy the middle or bottom areas of the aquarium. Suitable tankmates include Red Neon Tetras, Penguin Tetras, Otocinclus, or bottom-dwelling fish like Corydoras. Be cautious when considering shrimp as tankmates.
Breeding Red Discus
Breeding Red Discus is a challenging but fascinating endeavor:
- Pair Selection: Red Discus are not monogamous, so you can choose the fish you want for breeding. Young Red Discus may take up to a year to reach sexual maturity.
- Breeding Aquarium: Prepare a dedicated breeding tank with stable water parameters: temperature above 27°C or 80°F, KH less than 5, nitrates less than 3 mg/l, and conductivity at 150/250 microsiemens. Use osmosis water to achieve these parameters.
- Spawning Support: Provide a spawning cone or a smooth, inclined surface for breeding. Ensure water parameters match those in the main aquarium. Isolate the breeding pair in this tank.
- Breeding Process: The female deposits eggs, and the male fertilizes them. Both parents protect and ventilate the eggs. After hatching, fry feed on nutritious mucus secreted by their parents. Later, feed them with freshly hatched Artemia nauplii and specialized fry food.
- Water Parameter Maintenance: Maintain stable water parameters and cleanliness during fry growth to maximize their chances of survival.
Setting Up the Red Discus Aquarium
Creating the right environment is essential for the well-being of Red Discus:
- Tank Volume: A minimum tank volume of 350 liters (77 imp gallons / 90 US gallons) is required for Red Discus. Maintain the temperature at 28°C or 82°F, pH at 6/6.5, and hardness at 5 for optimal health.
- Plantation and Decor: Incorporate floating plants such as Salvinia or Pistia to provide shading for your Red Discus. Use small rounded stones and Anubias at the bottom. Include large roots for hiding places, which will reduce stress in these shy fish.
- Filtration and Water Changes: Ensure adequate filtration (2 to 3 times the tank volume per hour) to maintain water quality. Regular water changes (15 to 20% twice a week) with water matching the tank’s parameters are essential.
Interesting Facts about Red Discus
- Temperature Sensitivity: Red Discus are particularly susceptible to diseases at temperatures below 26°C or 79°F.
- Intestinal Worms: Red Discus are prone to intestinal worms, which can cause symptoms like thinness, loss of appetite, swollen belly, white, filamentous stools, and a hollow above the eyes. Worming them preventively every three months with medications like Prescoli or Fluvermal can help.
- Size at Purchase: Commercially purchased Red Discus are typically 6 to 10 centimeters (2 to 4 inches). At this size, they are still young and growing, requiring careful attention to their diet and care.
- Varieties: There are three species of Discus: Symphysodon Discus, Symphysodon Aequifasciatus (with at least 4 dark bands on the body, divided into three subspecies), and Symphysodon Tarzoo (slightly smaller with red dots on the anal fin and body).
Caring for Red Discus requires dedication and a deep understanding of their specific needs. With the right care, they can thrive, displaying their stunning colors and behaviors in your aquarium.