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You are here: myPetSmart.com > Pet Care Library > Articles > Discus



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Traits & behavior

Instead of plants, these fish eat aquatic crustaceans, worms and aquatic insect larvae.

Middle swimmers
You will see your discus swimming in the middle of your aquarium.

That means they like to swim in groups of three or more of the same species.

High temperature needs
Discus are best kept in a single species aquarium because their temperature needs are much higher than most other species can stand.

Things to remember

Adding fish
Whether you're just starting your aquarium or introducing new fish into your tank, don't forget to add only 1-3 at a time.

Safety & cleanliness
Please remember that all pets may bite or scratch, and may transmit disease to humans. Keep your pet's home clean and wash your hands before and after handling your pet or cleaning his home. Infants, young children, pregnant women, people with compromised immune systems, and the infirm or elderly are at greater risk of infections and should use caution when in contact with the pet or its habitat. Consult your doctor for more information.


Staple diet
Choose a diet that includes frozen, freeze-dried or live bloodworms, mosquito larvae, earthworms, white worms and shrimp meat. Always remember to thaw frozen foods before feeding. They often accept flake foods, but this should not be the main component of their diet.

Specialty foods
To boost your discus? color and overall health, supplement their diet with spirulina, a nutritious type of algae.

Beef heart or commercial foods containing beef heart or other high-protein supplements can be fed occasionally.

Frequent feedings
For optimum health, discus should be fed as much food as they will consume in 1-3 minutes, twice a day. You can alternate between regular staple diet feedings and 2-4 meals per week of a treat or specialty food.


Signs your discus are healthy:

  • Eating vigorously
  • Clear eyes, smooth, clean skin and fins free from any lesions or inconsistent colorations
  • Calm, steady gill movements

Things to watch for:

  • Lying on bottom of aquarium
  • Poor growth or weight loss
  • Inflamed gills, skin or fins
  • Fins clamped to sides
  • Scraping body on rocks

If you notice any of the signs described above, check your aquarium water quality and consult a PetSmart Aquatics Specialist.


Discus need a large aquarium where they can swim as a school. Minimum aquarium size should be 29 gallons. A good rule of thumb is one gallon of water for every one inch of full-grown fish.

These fish prefer fine gravel or sand substrate on the bottom of the aquarium. Decorate their aquarium with plants and a few rocks, but be sure it does not obstruct a large, open swimming area in the center of the aquarium.

Fish compatibility
Discus can share their aquarium with other heat-loving, soft-water fish such as swordtails, angelfish and dwarf South American cichlids. However, they will do best in an aquarium by themselves.

Because your discus like diffused light, we suggest placing a layer of floating plants in the aquarium.

Water changes
For discus to thrive, strict attention to water quality is a must. It is recommended that 10% of your aquarium water be changed per week. At the very least, 25% of your aquarium water should be changed per month.

Water temperature
Water temperatures should range between 82-86° F. Use an aquarium heater to maintain water temperature. Please note, this is warmer than the preferred temperature for most other tropical fish.

Aquarium placement
Place your aquarium in a low-traffic area, away from direct sunlight and drafts.

Aquarium stand
An aquarium stand will safely support the weight of your filled aquarium.

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