Discus Fish: The Most Beautiful of All Freshwater Species

The discus fish integrates the family of cichlids, which in turn are part of the order of the Perciformes. The name of discus fish finds its meaning in the form so characteristic of these fish. Catalogued by many aquarists as the most beautiful of all freshwater species. In good conditions of feeding and environment, the discus fish can live about twelve years.

There are more than 2,000 freshwater fish species in the world and among them is the most beautiful of all the discus. Discus has a long lifespan and can live up to 40 years if cared for properly. They also grow very large, with some reaching 18 inches in length! In addition, they have an iridescent sheen that gives them their namesake “disc” appearance. This makes it easy to identify them from other types of fish like goldfish or trout which don’t have this characteristic shine. The easiest way to tell their sex is by looking at their belly, females have a slight indentation on theirs while males will be smooth as glass.

Discus Fish

Characteristics of Discus Fish

At first glance, we can observe that discus fish are animals with flattened bodies and a round shape. The Discus common fish is a species of freshwater fish native to the Amazon River. The genus Symphysodon is composed of him and by Discus of Heckel. Both are very similar. Both physically and in their behaviour. The body of Discus is tall with a very rounded shape.

Its dorsal and anal fins cover the entire upper and lower part of the fish, reaching the caudal fin. The latter is shovel-shaped and serves to propel itself along with the pectoral fins. The dorsal and anal fins are elongated and triangular. The Discus can vary the intensity of their stripes and their color depending on their emotional state and their health. In a “normal” state the first strip that crosses the eye and the one at the base of the tail is very visible, but the others are blurry.

When the fish are angry or aggressive, their stripes are a deep black color and are visible. Also, their colors are more intense, especially in the head. A sick Discus becomes dark, almost black. On the other hand, if they feel dominated their colors become dull and pale. At the time of reproduction, the colors are very dark and intense. On the other hand, the coloration of the skin is another of the distinctive features of this species, with a chromatic range that usually ranges from dark blue or yellow, to pure white or intense red.

It also highlights the characteristic red color of his eyes. When they feed their young they become almost black, except for a few varieties. In the adult stage, discus fish can reach 20 cm in length. Regarding sexual dimorphism, distinguishing the female from the male specimen is somewhat complicated and requires good experience. Except perhaps in the breeding season, where the genital papilla of males has a pointed shape and in females, it is a typing round.


The discus is a calm fish, often even shy, but they are very territorial fish like most cichlids. Therefore it is important to keep these fish in groups of at least five individuals, to “channel” and mitigate this territorial and hierarchical behavior. They are not aggressive fish, but there is a hierarchy in which there will be a dominant one over others.

As a rule, this is usually a male, although sometimes we can appreciate that the power falls on a couple. Many times to gain dominance, the specimens are pursued for short periods. It is therefore advisable to place hiding places and objects such as vegetation and decorative objects so that they feel perfect. But as we say the “struggles” for superiority are rapid, and the dominant once established its superiority, no longer harasses the weaker specimens. The confrontations are something transitory.


The reproduction of the Discus is simple if the breeders plan it. The breeders just have to buy 5 or 6 Discus youngsters of about 5 cm and let them grow together. In a few months of 6 to 9 months, couples will be formed and will have the opportunity to spawn and raise their young. It is difficult to pair up with two adult fish purchased at random.


This species is native to the South American region that today occupies Brazil and Peru. The discus fish are common in the Amazon river basins and lakes without much activity. The habitat is also composed of warm temperatures, typical of this tropical area. During times of flooding, the river drags vegetation into its waters, creating a large amount of organic material that will decompose over time.

This event determines the variables to which the disk fish is accustomed, such as, for example, an acid-type pH between 4 and 6 and a water hardness that is practically zero. In this last aspect, the degree of acidity of the water in the natural environment favors the little presence of bacteria and parasites that can infect the discus fish. Hence the importance of maintaining the proper parameters in our aquarium, given the obvious vulnerability of these species.


The key in this aspect is undoubtedly the balance that the breeder can sustain in the diet of the discus fish. And the ability to combine living foods, such as mosquito larvae or brine shrimp, with scales, tubifex, and some vegetables. Among the experienced breeders, the homemade porridge is used as food, composed of liver and heart of chicken, egg, banana, carrots, etc.

As for the frequency of feeding, it is recommended that it be twice a day. Always in small portions, breeders should keep in mind that fish are more likely to die from overfeeding. In addition, the breeder must ensure that the diet contains proteins and vitamins. This is so necessary for the proper development of the discus fish. You may also like to read Corydoras Catfish.


Disco fish need large volumes of water. This species needs around 100 litres in the aquarium. And breeders must add another forty litres for each specimen they incorporate. The temperature must be maintained above 26 degrees, and control that they are under a pH below 7. To change the water, it will be enough to renew 20% of it with a weekly frequency. Gravel should be placed at the bottom of the tank. So that the fish does not get confused with the reflection of the glass.


Are discus fish easy to keep?

Discus fish can be a great addition to any aquarium, but they do require some special care. They are sensitive to water quality and need very clean, warm water with a pH level of 5.8-6.2. They are also social fish, so it is best to keep them in groups of at least five or more.

How many discus fish should be kept together?

The number of discus fish that should be kept together depends on the size of the aquarium. Generally, it is recommended to keep one discus fish per 10 gallons of water. If you have a larger tank, you can keep more than one discus fish. However, it is important to monitor the behavior of the discus fish and make sure they are not fighting with each other or competing for food.

How long do discus fish live?

Discus fish, also known as Symphysodon, typically live for 5-10 years in captivity when properly cared for. However, they can live longer if they are given optimal living conditions. When kept in an aquarium with the correct water parameters, temperature and pH levels, as well as a healthy diet of live or frozen foods, discus fish can reach up to 15 years of age.

What fish can Discus live with?

Discus fish are a type of cichlid, and they are best kept in tanks with other peaceful fish. Good tank mates for discus include angelfish, tetras, and rasboras. As long as the tank is large enough to accommodate all of the fish, these species can live peacefully together.


The most recommended is to buy fish discs in three or more specimens. So that the leader can exert pressure on more than one fish. When the breeder decides to incorporate it into the aquarium, he must ensure that he does not choose newcomers to the store. Who may still be in a state of stress? Never choose dark-body fish, make sure that the eyes correspond to the proportions of the body and that it is as round as possible.

So if you’re in the market for a new pet fish, we recommend discus. They are beautiful and come with many benefits such as their long lifespan and ability to grow very large! The easiest way to tell their sex is by looking at their belly because females have a slight indentation on theirs while males do not. We hope this guide has helped you decide whether or not the discussion is right for you – good luck!

As a reference: Wikipedia

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