The beautiful discus fish

King of the Aquarium

Striking and majestic, the “King of the Aquarium” gets its nickname for being a strong presence in any aquarium.  Known scientifically as symphysodon, the discus fish acquired its more common name from its flat, disk-like shape. With wavy markings, vibrant hues, and horizontal or vertical stripes, this fish can easily steal anyone’s attention.

In the Wild

The discus fish is native to the waters of the Amazon river and its tributaries. Typically, in the wild, this freshwater fish’s habitat consists of riverbeds where there is soft sediment, fallen trees, and protection from strong currents as their wide bodies can easily be swept away.

Discus fish tend to be very peaceful and social since they usually swim in schools. When mating, adults discus fish will secrete a substance much like mucus onto their skin, which provides nutrition for their growing young. They have also demonstrated co-parenting habits as parents will take turns feeding their offspring.

Adult discus fish can grow up to 10” long and live up to 15 years. However, typically, this freshwater fish will only live for 10 years. Both male and females have the same markings and are roughly the same size. In the wild, they usually prey on insects, smaller fish, and crustaceans.

In the Tank

In aquariums, the discus fish is one of the most difficult fish to keep alive. Their survival in a tank depends on strict water maintenance and filtration. Water in their natural habitat is acidic, which can be hard to match and maintain in an aquarium.

Discus fish schools of just 5 need more than a 50 gallon tank to swim in. These large tanks need to maintain a temperature of around 80-88 degrees Fahrenheit as well.

Being omnivores, these fish also have a strict dietary needs. Live food like brine shrimp, mosquito larvae, and blood worms as well as algae pellets or spirulina area necessary in their diet. Their diet will determine how vibrant their colors are.

For advanced aquarists only?

Because discus fish require a lot of maintenance, their addition to your tank could be difficult. However, as more and more discus fish are bred in captivity, they are becoming more resilient in aquarium environments, so if your heart is set on adding in the “King of the Aquarium,” just remember to be vigilant.

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