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Are Discus Hard to Care For? [What You Must know]

Discus fish are some of the most beautiful aquarium fish I have ever come across. The vibrant colors are just incredible. I am always amazed when I see these fish. The shape of their bodies create interest in itself. These fish are interestingly a disc shape. One thing you will hear about in aquarium hobby circles is the rumor that discus are not easy to care for. Is this true though?

Are Discus hard to care for? No! Discus fish are not hard to care for. You must know the special requirements a Discus has to ensure it has a long and healthy life. Once you know what water parameters and foods Discus require, you will have success caring for them.

Honestly, if you have ever been to a local fish store and Discus come up as a topic, most people assume they are hard to take care of. I find it is this way with saltwater fish as well. If you don’t know how to do something then you might assume it is hard to do because of your lack of knowledge and confidence. I would like to show you how easy it is to care for these beautiful fish so maybe one day you can have them in your aquarium. Let’s dive in.

Are Discus Fish Tropical or Marine?

First of all, you should know what kind of tank to keep them in, either fresh or saltwater.

Discus are tropical fish originating from the Amazon River basin. You can find them where the rivers merge and in water of different clarities. Discus might be found in brackish water occasionally, however, these fish are definitely a freshwater tropical fish.

What Temperature do Discus Fish Like?

The freshwater temperature to keep a tank with Discus would be in the range of 82 degrees Fahrenheit and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. There are some Discus that will prefer even warmer waters, however, the majority will do fine in this range.

A great idea is to ask the fish store owner you are purchasing the Discus from what temperature they keep the fish at. If a store is spending the time to bring in expensive Discus to sell, they will most likely have a firm understanding of what it takes to care for these fish.

What PH Level is the Best for Discus?

The temperature is very important but I might argue that having the PH ‘bang on’ is what will give you the greatest success caring for Discus. Discus live best in a slightly acidic environment where the PH ranges from 6 to 7.

Water that is the right temperature and is soft and calm will make the best home. I wouldn’t recommend using regular tap water, even if you condition it. Having a reverse osmosis water system so you have a continual supply of clean water is essential in my books.

Some hobbyists will argue that treating tap water with chemicals will suffice. My response to that would be why add more chemicals to the water if you don’t have to? Spend the money you would have spent on chemicals on an RO filtration system or just buy 5 gallon jugs of the water and never have to worry if your water is safe or not?  RO systems aren’t even that expensive anymore. Here is one on Amazon that would be more than sufficient for your aquariums and drinking water. RO System.

If you want to learn more about PH in your aquarium I have a thorough article on the subject. Please check it out. PH in your aquarium.

What is the Best Food for Discus Fish?

When researching this, I found a bit of conflicting information on the internet. I think because Discus can be found in heavily planted basins in the Amazon, some assume they eat a diet including a lot of plants. They might eat some plants and it would only be healthy for them if they did include plants in their diets.

The fact is though, that Discus are carnivorous and will require some meat to be healthy.

There are foods specifically manufactured for Discus so choosing is easy. Keep in mind you should always provide a variety of foods so the fish get a variety of nutrients. This ensures a healthy and vibrant tank.

Offer blood worms, brine shrimp and beef hearts to your discus as well as the manufactured for discus foods. These foods can be purchased in flakes, pellets and freeze dried.

For example, these Discus flakes on Amazon can be fed to young or older fish or if you just have older fish these Discus pellets are an excellent choice. If you have Discus frye, you could crush the pellets/granules a bit to ensure they are bite size for the smaller fish.

How Much and How Often Should I Feed my Discus?

Discus might be called high maintenance just for their feeding routine. It’s amazing how often these fish eat considering they really don’t get that big.

As with any fish you own, never feed them more than they can eat at any one time. The food will sit on the bottom of the tank, decomposing, raising ammonia and then nitrite levels. It’s just not good for your tank.

Discus need to be fed often on a daily basis. Frye should be fed upwards of 10 times a day. This will take some trial and error on your part. When feeding, make sure all the fish are eating towards the end of the day. If you find only one or two fish are eating and the rest are not then cut back on the amount of feedings.

As your Discus grow they will accept less feedings but will eat larger amounts at each feeding.

An adult Discus will still eat two to three times a day. I prefer to feed my fish no more than two times a day to accommodate my own schedule. You might find your schedule is different. Or you could purchase an automatic feeder to help you out. I don’t use an automatic feeder and have heard mixed reviews on them. They do sell though and I am sure some people love them.

What do Discus Eat in the Wild?

In the wild Discus will forage and graze all day long, consuming small amounts of food. Primarily, their diet will consist of insects and very small invertebrates. Discus will eat some plant life, however, live food will attract their attention for the win.

As you can see with Discus foraging all day long that is why in the previous section I mentioned that you need to feed the fish multiple times throughout the day. This will match the fish’s natural feeding pattern.

How Many Gallons Does a Discus Need?

With most fish, there is a general rule of thumb that you can have one inch of fish per gallon of water. In the case of the Discus, the general rule of thumb is 10 gallons of water per Discus fish.

I would even recommend, if you can, try to keep them in a high tank. Discus seem to do much better with a high aquarium versus standard height tanks.


To summarize, you now know that the two things most important when it comes to caring for Discus fish is the water condition, what and when you feed the fish and the size of the aquarium.

Discus are finicky when it comes to water conditions and food. The food is important yet the water is even more important. If water conditions are not just right, your Discus won’t survive even if they have a full belly.

When selecting an aquarium, make sure there is approximately 10 gallons per Discus and if you can, a higher built aquarium will be much more appreciated by the fish.

Remember these things and caring for your fish will be a breeze!

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