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Breeding Questions

Q. What do designations such as F1, F2 mean when describing discus? 

A. This refers to the genetic makeup of the fish. I think F1 is the first generation produced by two wild fish mating. F2 would be their offspring, etc... 

Q. How many discus should I buy to have a good chance of getting a breeding pair? 

A. Between 6 and 8 should give you a good chance of getting a pair. Of course, remember that they'll get large and make sure you have the tank space for them. 

Q. I have a pair of discus with newly hatched discus fry that can't seem to find the parents to feed. What can I do? 

A. If they're a new "couple", give them a few chances to "get it right". First-time discus parents often don't figure out what to do for the first few spawns. They may not know what to do to "attract" the fry. I've heard that this happens more with pigeon blood discus than with some other strains because they don't darken up as much for the fry to see them. One thing that sometimes works is to put a small light over just one area of the tank to attract both the fry and parents to the same area. Another thing you could try is artificially raising the fry yourself, but it is a lot of work and they require constant attention. Jack Wattley describes how this is done in one of his books. 

Q. I have a pair of discus that spawn but always eat their eggs. What can I do? 

A. If they're a new "couple", give them a few chances to "get it right". First-time discus parents often don't figure out what to do for the first few spawns. If this doesn't work, then you might try putting a fine wire or plastic mesh around the spawning area, which will allow the parents to fan the eggs, but not get to them to eat them. Choose material that will be safe in an aquarium and is not sharp so the parents will not injure themselves if they try to get through it or around it. 

Q. I have a pair of discus that spawn but always eat their fry once the eggs hatch. What can I do? 

A. If they're a new "couple", give them a few chances to "get it right". First-time discus parents often don't figure out what to do for the first few spawns. If this doesn't work, you might try removing one parent and seeing if the other one will take care of the fry. If both parents are eating the fry your only real choice is to raise thr fry artificially, but this is a lot of work and they require constant attention. Jack Wattley describes how this is done in one of his books. 

Q. How long does it take for the eggs to hatch? 

A. Between 48 and 72 hours depending on who you ask and the water temperature. 

Q. how long between hatching and free swimming fry? 

A. Usually another 48 to 72 hours. 

Q. Should water changes be done between the time the eggs are laid and when they hatch? 

A. Yes, keep up your normal schedule of water changes. 

Q. How long do the fry feed on the slime coat of the parents? 

A. Fry should be removed from the parents after a couple of weeks, otherwise they can damage the skin of the parents faster than the slime coat can rejuvenate. 

Q. When can the fry take live baby brine shrimp)? 

A. About a week after becoming free-swimming. 

Q. At what age should the fry be separated from the parents? 

A. This depends on the behavior of the parents. If the parents are 'good parents' and everything else goes right, the fry will feed on the slime coat of the parents, and you'll want to remove the fry before they start damaging the skin of the parents. If the parents are not 'good' you may need to remove the fry when they become free swimming and raise them artificially. 

Q. How often will the parents spawn (with and without surviving fry)? 

A. In general, they can spawn about every 10 days. 

Water Quality questions 

Q. How often should I change the water in my Discus tank? 

A. Simple answer: as often as possible. There are a couple of things to watch out for, however. If you change a lot of water and suddenly one or more fish start acting strangely, then you may have a water poisoning problem and changing more water will make it worse. What to do in a case like this is filter with activated carbon (even if you don't normally use it). With luck, the carbon may take out whatever toxins are in the water. 

If you can store your water in a holding container and make sure it's conditioned and checked for quality before the water changes, that will lessen the chances of a toxicity problem, but not everyone can do this. 

There are as many different answers to the "how often" question as there are discus keepers. My personal recommendation is 25% a week MINIMUM. Many people change much more often. It also depends on how large the tank is and how many fish are in it. A large tank with a few fish will need less water changes than a small tank with too many fish. 

Q. What is the relationship between nitrite and nitrate. Do you need test kits for both? Nitrate is the final product of the nitrogen cycle, which goes from Ammonia->Nitrite->Nitrate. You should at least have a Nitrite test kit as Nitrite poisoning can be as deadly as ammonia poisoning. Of course, having an ammonia test kit is mandatory. A Nitrate test kit is also a good thing to have, because when your Nitrates get past an acceptable level, you need to perform a partial water change. However, there are other ways to tell when water changes are needed, so I consider a Nitrate test kit helpful but not mandatory. 

Probably the single biggest factor in discus keeping is water quality, so the more you can do to ensure your water is of the quality they require, the better. 

Q. What is the difference between buffering capacity and pH? 

A. pH is defined as the Power of Hydrogen atoms in the water. It is read on a scale from 0 (totally acid) to 14 (totally alkaline). Discus like somewhat acid water. I like to keep mine at around 6.5. I have heard some breeders recommend going as low as 5.5. 

Buffering capacity is the ability of water to resist changes in pH. Water with very low buffering capacity can experience rapid large pH changes, so this is something you'd naturally want to avoid. 

Q. Does baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) raise the pH or the buffering capacity or both? 

A. Both. It raises the buffering capacity and, as a side effect, also raises the pH. 

Q. What's the difference between baking soda (sodium bicarbonate, NaHCO3) and sodium hydrogen carbonate? 

A. They both act similarly as buffers. From my experience sodium bicarbonate raises pH as well. I don't know about sodium hydrogen carbonate. 

Q. Will adding acid buffer lower pH as well as providing buffering? 

A. Seachem's Acid Buffer claims to both lower the pH and buffer the water against further changes. 

Q. What about buffers that contain phospates? Why do some companies tout "phosphate-free" buffers? 

A. A large amount of phosphate in the water can increase algae growth. Therefore, it may be desirable to cut down on the amount of phospate you add to your water. 

Q. Is it safe to lower pH with vinegar? 

A. It shouldn't hurt the fish, but the generally accepted answer is not to use it because it may cause a large algal bloom. 

Q. What ammonia test kits will read correctly when using AmQuel? 

A. Kits based on Nessler reagents will not. Kits based on Salicylate reagents will. Kordon makes one. 

Q. Is it possible to have a high level of nitrites without having an ammonia spike first? Is this harmful? 

A. Yes, this is possible and the nitrite can be more deadly to the Discus than the ammonia. More details will follow. 


Q. I medicated my discus with Fluke-Tabs or other medicines. Now they are very shy and run from me instead of coming up to eat. Why? 

A. This is a common reaction after using Fluke-Tabs and other medications. The best thing to do is give them time, and they will usually be their "old selves" again in a couple of weeks or so. 

Q. My fish has tapeworms. How do I get rid of them? 

A. First choice is Droncit, a brand name for praziquantel. You'll probably have to get it from a veterinarian. It is not sold over the counter in the USA, though one member reports that a product called Drontal (a dog wormer), containing praziquantel, is available elsewhere. How to dose the fish is an issue here. I will try and get some dosages up here from books or from people who've used it. 

Second choice is Flubenol, which does not require a prescription, but your local fish store isn't likely to have it either. One source for Flubenol (at the time of this writing) is Florida Tropical Fish Farms. 

Third choice that some have had success with is Fluke-Tabs by Aquarium Products. Fluke-Tabs does claim on the package to get rid of tapeworms. Be careful with Fluke-Tabs. Do not use it at a stronger dosage than what is listed on the package. It's strong stuff and some have reported bad side effects such as headstanding. Other side effects may be that the red color in the eyes will fade, but this usually comes back in time. Headstanders caused by Fluke-Tabs usually also stop headstanding in time. 

One method I've used with Fluke-Tabs that helped, in my case, to avoid any side effects is the following (note that it may or may not work the same way for you): 
Treat ONCE as directed, wait about 3 days, do a fairly large water change (25-50%), then treat ONCE more. I have seen this method get some tapeworms out of the fish, but have had to repeat it a few weeks later, so I don't think it's as effective as Droncit (praziquantel), but Fluke-Tabs are much easier to get. Also, waiting 3 days and doing a water change in between treatments lessens the chance of the fish getting side effects from the Fluke-Tabs. 

Q. What is Flubenol and how do you get it? 

A. Flubenol is a trade name for a product containing a certain percentage of flubenzadole. One source for it (at the time of this writing) is Florida Tropical Fish Farms. Note that you will need to sign a document stating that the medication will be only used on fish. 

Q. What medications contain Formaldehyde and Malachite Green? 

A. "Contra Spot" by Tetra and "QuICK Cure" by Aquarium Products are two. I'm sure there are others. Make sure you aerate your tank well when using any product containing Formaldehyde, as it tends to deprive the water of oxygen. 

Discus Nutrition 

Q. My discus won't eat. What do I do? 

A. First, don't panic. Discus can go awhile without eating. I wouldn't recommend it but a healthy fish can go a few days without eating and not die. You may have to "coax" them to eat with some live food or blood- worms. Of course there are parasite risks with live food and bloodworms but better to have to treat for a case of parasites then end up with a starved fish. You should also think that if the fish is not eating, something may be wrong with it. It could have an intestinal parasite or other disorder already, and just not want to eat. Watch for signs of intestinal diseases, like stringy white feces. Also check your water parameters and do a partial water change. There could be something wrong with the water that is causing the fish not to eat. 

Q. My discus has lost interest in eating and has a bloated stomach. What can I do? 

A. Try Epsom Salts, 1 tablespoon/10 gallons. 

Q. Can discus be kept healthy with just flake food? 

A. Discus require a balanced diet, just like humans do. They may not eat the same things but they do require balance and variety in their diet. If your discus will eat flakes (and not all will) make sure you use vitamin enriched flakes such as Tetra's 5-Star. There are other products too, but make sure you get one with more than just vitamin C added. 

That being said, I have seen perfectly healthy discus raised from juveniles on nothing but Tetra Bits. I'm not going to say that will work for everyone, but I've seen it done. 

Tankmate Questions 

Q. What kind of companions can I have in a Discus tank? 

A. The book Discus In the Community Tank is a good reference for this. 

Corydoras catfish (C. Aeneus is one that seems to do well in the higher temperatures Discus like). 
Cardinal tetras are always a favorite and are sturdier than neons. 
Harlequin Rasboras (Rasbora Heteromorpha) seem to work fairly well. 
Various people say that Clown Loaches (Botia macracantha) work well with Discus, but beware that Clown Loaches can get BIG, up to 12 inches. Like Corydoras, Clown Loaches like company, so get two if you're going to keep them. 
One thing to watch out for is an old rule of fishkeeping, "If one fish will fit inside another's mouth, it will go in there". There have been cases where, upon adding Cardinals or other small fish to a Discus tank, the Discus, possibly either hungry or accustomed to live food, consider them a tasty snack. So feed your Discus well before adding small fish and keep in mind that this can happen. One way to avoid this is to start adding companions when the Discus are small, and they will be more likely to get used to them. Of course, follow all the standard aquarist rules for quarantining any new fish before adding them to your tank. 
Q. Can I keep Angelfish with Discus? 

A. There are some who claim to do this successfully, but more often than not I would say no. I don't do it myself, though I do keep both species separately. Reasons for not doing it is that Angelfish are voracious eaters and may keep the Discus from getting enough food, and Angelfish can be carriers of diseases that they seem to cope with much better than the Discus can. 

Q. I want to have a Pleco or other catfish in with my Discus to help keep the tank clean. What kind of catfish can I keep with Discus? 

A. If you keep suckermouth catfish such as Plecos with Discus, it is advisable to keep small ones such as Clown Plecos, Zebra Plecos, or Otocinclus. Larger suckermouth catfish such as some plecos can cause serious damage to the skin of the discus if they decide to latch on. Even Otocinclus, which remain small, have been known to attach to the sides of the Discus, so use caution with them. Some people have problems, some don't. 
See above for info on Corydoras catfish and Discus.

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