Can Discus Fish Live Alone?

While a lot of aquarists dream of keeping discus fish, not many can afford it. The discus, who are the “king” of the aquarium, need royal treatment and are expensive to purchase. Resultantly, many people purchase only a single discus fish.

But the question is, can discus fish live alone? The discus fish have a non-aggressive nature and like to live in groups. Raise them in a group of 6 discus if you want them to grow well and to their full size.

People are dumbfounded by the beauty and colors of this fish. However, it does come with a heavy price, literally. Stay with us as we move on to explore the nature of this fish and if it can live alone.

Discussin’ Discus; Can a discus be kept alone? (Video)


The discus, one of the most beautiful known fish, are also known as the king of the freshwater aquarium. Mostly, because it needs a royal treatment. It is important to acknowledge that the high price of this fish has forced many fish lovers to purchase a single discus and keep it alone in the tank.

However, truth be told, while the discus fish can live alone, it is recommended that you keep it in a group of at least 6 discus fish. Not only will the fish thrive and live a long happy life, the group of colorful discus fish will be a real treat for the eye.

What is the Nature of Discus Fish?

The discus fish have a peaceful temperament and they are not aggressive. In fact, the discus fish are said to be shy. They will only thrive well in an aquarium with a group of discus fish and not quarrel at all. The discus fish should not be kept alone as they need company and living alone might stress them out, eventually leading to their death.

How Many Discus Fish Should be Kept Together?

Basically, the discus fish are known as a social group of 6. The fish belongs to the family of symphysodon and are quite friendly and social to other fish. Naturally, you will find them living in groups and not a single discus will be found living alone in the wild. Only during the breeding phase, a pair of discus fish separates from the group. They isolate themselves in order to give birth and protect their young. However, once the young are able to live on their own, the discus will rejoin the group.

Being a type of schooling fish, it is highly recommended that you keep discus fish in a community of 5 to 6 fish at least. You will notice that they grow well and lead a long, happy life this way.

On the other hand, if you keep discus alone in a tank, it may or may not live a long life. They will lose their appetite and become lethargic. As mentioned above, many people only purchase a single discus fish, thinking that they will gradually increase the number. While I hope this works out for them, I have seen many cases where it has not. The owner will lose his money and his precious fish as well. So, why take a chance? I highly recommend that you keep discus fish in a group of 6 or more.

What are the Tank Requirements for a Group of Discus Fish?

Now, we have established that discus fish should be kept in a group of 6 or more, let’s move on to the requirements of the tank. This is significant for the well being of the fish because a suffocated tank with not enough room to swim can also become a problem for the fish.

In the wild Amazon River, discus fish live in a pH range of 6 to 6.5. You need to replicate the same conditions in your aquarium as well. The water should be soft and only slightly acidic. It should be slightly warm with a temperature between 82 degrees and 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

Apart from these specifications, the discus fish will also need a similar environment to the one they encounter in the wild. Discus fish like to hide in plants and other objects in the water. Therefore, decorate your tank with beautiful plants, toys, and branches to give the discus fish a playful and enjoyable environment.

As far as the size of the tank is concerned, a general rule of thumb is to have a minimum of 50 gallons of water for a single discus fish. For every single addition to the tank, you need to have at least 5 more gallons of tank capacity. Even for the juvenile discus, you should increase the tank capacity in the same manner. Initially, the fry are only 2 inches long. However, as they grow, they can increase to a size of 10 inches. Therefore, keeping a bigger tank will prove beneficial for you once the fish grow to their full size.

For starters, we recommend that you keep a group 6 discus fish together.  For that, you need to maintain a tank of at least 80 gallons if you wish to decorate it as well. In case, you want to add other species of fish to the tank, you can add some tetras and other smaller fish. But then, keep a tank with a capacity of at least 100 gallons. Remember that it is never harmful to keep a big tank with extra space. On the other hand, a smaller tank with limited capacity can even prove to be fatal for your fish.

What are good tank mates for discus fish?

Discus fish belong to the Cichlid family. However, unlike their family members, they are quite peaceful and friendly. Since they like to stay in groups, it is important that you keep them in a community of at least 6 fish. While the discus itself is expensive, it doesn’t mean that its tank mates should be.

The discus fish generally require a bit higher temperature of water than other species of fish. Thus, you need to take care that you only add breeds that can sustain that temperature. While there are many fish that can live with discus, the following is a carefully curated list of the best tank mates for your discus fish:

  • Neon tetra
  • Ram cichlid
  • Clown loach
  • Rummy nose tetra
  • Congo tetra
  • Cardinal tetra
  • Different types of catfish

You can keep the above-mentioned fish with discus, but remember to consider the size of the tank as well. Looking at a tank that has beautifully colored fish can be pleasing to the eye but do not overburden the fish for your fascination. Always study the tank requirements of all species of fish that you are willing to keep before adding them to your community tank with discus.


The discus is a unique fish with a beautiful shape. It has been a fascination for many fish lovers and continues to be very popular. As the fish is expensive, many will just want to keep a single or a few discus fish. It is highly advised that you don’t do this because discus are schooling fish and prefer to stay in groups.

Therefore, a group is a must for this kind of fish. For starters, you can keep 6 fish together. However, if 6 discus fish seem to be an expensive option for you, go ahead with other tank mates that are compatible with discus. These fish should have a friendly nature and should be able to live in the same environment conditions that are suitable for the discus fish.

Related Questions

Why are discus fish so expensive? Discus fish are unique and majestic sea creatures that require a lot of maintenance and care. Expensive food, high quality of water and labor-intensive practices drive up the price of discus fish. Therefore, the sellers who raise this fish want to get a good price out of them. You might feel that this fish is out of your league, but once you purchase them, you will not regret it at all.

When and how often will the discus fish breed? It is difficult to identify the sex of this fish when it is young, so you need to wait before they mature. The female discus needs around a year before it attains maturity. On the other hand, the male will need a few more months after its first birthday. But when they begin to spawn, the discus fish will lay eggs weekly up till 14 or 15 weeks. This phase occurs only twice a year, so be prepared when this happens and make sure the baby discus sustain the initial stages as they will prove to become quite a reward afterward.

What should I feed my discus fish? Since these fish have a carnivorous nature, they love to eat meat. In the wild, their diet consists of shrimps, larvae, and other small fish. Try to maintain such a diet for your pet discus as well. Many stores have packets of bloodworms and frozen beef heart. Both of these items are a delight for discus fish.


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1 thought on “Can Discus Fish Live Alone?”

  1. My question is.
    I purchased a wild, I believe he’s of Asian breed. Right now he is huge. I purchased 6 discus, they were all together when I bought them, unfortunately I now only have 2. I have one in a separate tank because the big one, I think he is male, he can not tolerate any other discus in my 130 gal. tank, he is the happiest when no one else is there. He did have one which he tolerated but now unfortunately my beautiful orange one is gone. He can actually see me looking at him and immediately comes to my finger. I do my water changes like clock work and am so disappointed that my discus, I think passed away because of bulling. They were just to shy, and they were all the same size which I was told is very important when first buying them.
    I just had to get rid of my beautiful blue one this morning and now have a lone one is my 25 gal. Let me know if you would like a picture of my little bully. Any suggestions on how to get my poor little shy guy back into the 130 gal. Any suggestions would really be appreciated. Sorry didn’t catch your name.
    By the way he is living quite comfortably with other fish and he is the king of the tank.


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