Discus Fish not Swimming – What to do?

As beloved as Discus fish species is for the aquarium lovers, it usually gives you a hard time by not swimming. Looking into it, you will find out that this species requires a well-adapted aquarium due to its particular constitution to function properly.

So, why my Discus fish is not swimming? It could happen due to various reasons from the temperature of the aquarium to the hardness and pH of water, along with the decoration and vegetation of their habitat. Everything in the aquarium must be perfectly adjusted.

To make sure that your Discus fish is taken care of in the perfect manner to ensure it doesn’t go into the ‘not-swimming’ phase, read our guide and look after it accordingly.

Aquarium Conditions

As already mentioned, Discus requires well-adapted aquarium due to its particular constitution to function properly. The aquarium should have the least capacity of 300 liters for the discus fish. The pH of the water must be 6, and the general hardness index (dGh) must be 5. In other words, the water must be soft. The temperature of the aquarium must be steady at 28º C (82.5º F). Since the fish required these well-adapted surroundings, the change water for your tank becomes crucial.

For instance, if your tank water is pH 6.2 and 84.5º F while your tap water is pH 7.5 and 80º F, you may use conditioner and driftwood to bring the temperature and pH to the desired level in a matter of time, but there will still be no consistency. Consistency is as important as water quality, temperature, and chemistry. So, it is important to season the change water before putting it in the tank so that your fish doesn’t suffer from fluctuations and gets the consistency it is accustomed to.

In a nutshell, Discus fish is prone to getting sick if it doesn’t get the environment and habitat that it is adapted to. So, to avoid it from getting sick and not swim, ensure that the water quality, chemistry, and consistency don’t fluctuate.

Aquarium Decoration

Natives of the Amazon River, Discus fish, are the inhabitants of the murky backwaters that are slow. Since these waters are also inhabited by the piranhas in huge numbers, Discus fish inhabit around dense aquatic vegetation to keep themselves safe for their sharp teeth. Reconstructing similar habitat in your aquarium with appropriate plants would be a perfect idea.

Bring in floating plants and ferns like Pistia and Salvinia on the aquarium surface; these will help to soften the light from fluorescent sources, which are disagreeable for the Discus fish if too harsh. For the bottom of the aquarium go for plants like burheads (Echinodorus), dwarf ambulia (Limnophila sessiliflora), or Anubias.

Line the aquarium with small pebbles which will serve as a substitute for the small pebbles that are smooth as they get rubbed by the water currents. However, ensure that there is still enough space left in the aquarium to swim around after all the decoration freely.

Along with these decoration ideas, keep their tank in the shade and avoid harsh lights and a lot of activity around so that they feel like swimming around instead of feeling jumpy and going into hiding and not swimming. Also, their body is designed to swim through foliage. In the wild, they are found hiding under plants, rocks, logs, etc. supplying them plenty of such places to hide will also make the tank more adaptable for them.

Dominance in Discus Fish

This species is usually aggressive towards its kind. In a group of Discus fish, there will always be a dominant one who would love to occupy its territory. An aquarium with 300-liter capacity can hold three discus fish. But this small number uses creates a risk: if there are a dominant female and a dominant male, the third one will find it really stressing and may even die due to it.

For that matter, it is usually recommended to have at least four to five discus fish in a tank; this will help in easing the pressure on the non-dominant fish. As a result, they would not stress and go into hiding or stop swimming but would swim around and be more active.

Avoid Stressing Discus

Another issue that may make your discus fish sick and not swim is stress. There are various factors that can cause stress from transportation to noise to sharp lights to dramatic temperature changes and even vibrations as it is a very reactive fish species.

You must ensure to provide the discus with peaceful surrounding and a well-adapted aquarium so that it doesn’t get stressed. Also, if you find your fish to be under stress, it is recommended to give them some special vitamins that help them to cope with the stress.

Related Questions

Why is my fish sick and how to avoid additional illness? 80 to 90% of diseases in the captive fish are caused due to stress. So, you can avoid any additional sickness by preventing stress. Stress weakens the immune system of the fish which makes them prone to disease. Since diseases and pathogens are always presents in tanks, a strong immune system of a healthy fish will help it be safe and prevent illness.

What are some of the common stressor for the captive fish? Some of the common stressors for captive fish include:

  • Compromised water quality: measurable ammonia and nitrites.
  • Unsteady water temperature.
  • Incompatible tank mates.
  • Too many fish for a given tank capacity.
  • Wrong water pH or temperature for a given species.
  • pH and temperature fluctuations.
  • Insufficient oxygen in tank water.
  • Inappropriate fish nutrition

How to avoid diseases in the first place? NEVER buy a sick fish from a store and introduce it in your tank. Look for signs while buying the fish. If you find any disease symptoms or signs, don’t buy it. Because it is always better to be safe than sorry.

With these pointers in check, it should now be easier for you to provide a friendlier and less stressful environment for your discus fish to enable them to continue swimming in the aquarium they are in.


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