Discus—this beautifully patterned freshwater fish in a greenery-filled aquarium is an appealing sight. With its large, disc-shaped body and its availability in a rainbow of colors, this species of the Cichlid family is a favorite for many fish keepers. But what about its behavior with other fish species? Is the discus fish a social breed?
Well, the discus fish is demanding and even expert aquarists find it challenging to keep up with its extreme housing, water, and breeding requirements. The fish also requires a regular clean up and water change—more than other aquarium fish available in the market. Moreover, fish keepers often have a hard time deciding on the best tank mates for these fish.
Generally, discus is a timid type of fish and prefers staying with their own kind. However, this does not mean you should keep them single and we recommend that you keep them in a group of five or six other discus for companionship and security as well.
My favorite Discus tank mates (Video)
The ideal tank mates for discus fish
Native to the Amazon River, the discus prefers warm water with temperatures between 82 and 88-degrees Fahrenheit. if you plan to house other species of fish along with the discus, it is necessary that you choose those that can also survive in similar water parameters.
Discus fish are slow moving schooling fish and when looking for tank mates, select the ones that are slow moving as well. Your discus will not be happy with other fish if they are super-fast and disturb the serenity of the discus. They should also not be of an aggressive nature, have a habit of nipping, or compete with the discus for food.
The size of the companion fish also matters as the large-sized fish are capable of eating smaller ones.
So, what other types of fish can you successfully keep with a discus? Let us take a look at some awesome tank mates for this aesthetically appealing fish.
Cardinal tetras are one of the best companions for a discus. Firstly, they are simply beautiful to look at and blend in well with the exotic colored discus fish. They are also adaptable to the warm water conditions that the discus prefers and require moderate care from the aquarists.
The tetras are calm and peaceful. They swim back and forth in the aquarium without bothering their tank mates and adjust instantly in the environment provided.
Additionally, the cardinal tetras are dither fish. This means that they are capable of reducing timidity and even aggression in their tank mates by promoting a sense of tranquility. In fact, if you have a shy discus that is often found hiding in the corners of the aquarium, put in a school of cardinal tetras to enhance its socializing behavior.
Another good companion for the discus is the Ancistrus, more commonly known as the bristlenose pleco or the bushynose pleco. It is a master of disguise and can grow up to 5 or 6 inches.
One of the main reasons to keep bristlenose along with the discus is because of its ability to keep algae down. Yes, the ancistrus is a hardworking fish and can do a fantastic job of keeping the tank clean—as per the need of the discus. However, it is important that you feed it a variety of food along with the algae to meet its nutritional requirements.
The ancistrus are peaceful fish and are usually found grazing at the bottom of the tank. They get along well with their tank mates and prefer freshwater with aerated current. They are very hardy and are a great fish for beginners, besides being suitable companions for the discus.
Another freshwater species that gets well along with the discus is the corydoras catfish. Similar to the discus, they also prefer warm water between 74-80 degrees Fahrenheit. They are easy to care for and require very less maintenance. They are also bottom feeders so on most occasions, they don’t bother the discus in any way.
Moreover, the small fish are great helpers. Just like the ancistrus, they also help clean the water of the aquarium by eating all the leftover food from the bottom of the tank.
Interestingly, the corydoras catfish prefers to stay in groups of four. So if you are planning to make them companions of your discus, make sure to purchase a set of four and invest in a large aquarium.
The cute clown loaches are another good friend for your discus. Just like the others in this list, the clown loaches are also bottom feeders and don’t interfere with the main inhabitants of the tank. They are also classified as ‘cleaners’ and eat up leftover food particles as well as the snails that form in the bottom of the tank, keeping the aquarium clean.
Clown loaches prefer darkness and usually look for places to hide when there are a lot of bright lights; just like the discus. So, make sure you provide these peaceful fish with lots of hiding areas and covers to rest during the daytime.
Since clown loaches are large and can grow up to one foot, make sure you have a large tank and only invest in one or two clown loaches with a group of discus fish to avoid competition for food.
Care level for the clown loaches is moderate.
The vibrant rainbow fish are peaceful, yet active and get along well with the non-aggressive but timid species of discus. They are small in size but require plenty of swimming space and enjoy being in a large aquarium with lots of greenery and gravel substrate.
Their water requirements are similar to that of discus and they will thrive when provided temperatures between 76 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit.
The rainbow fish are also shoalers and should be kept in a group of five or six. They enjoy a combination diet of both vegetable matter and meat along with commercial-based flakes and pellets.
German Blue Rams
As the name suggests, the German blue rams are renowned for their distinctive blue coloring. They are a peaceful species and belong to the family of cichlids, just like the discus. Although, they are suitable tank mates for the discus, but if you happen to have an aggressive fish in your tank, separate it before adding the German blue ram.
The small fish like privacy and if you happen to house them along with the discus, provide it with lots of hiding spaces in the form of greenery, caves, and pots. Lack of hiding areas can cause the German blue ram to stress and suffer.
The discus and the German blue ram have similar water requirements. They enjoy warm water between the temperature of 78–85 degrees Fahrenheit with pH level between 6 and 7. However, when you add them to the tank, make sure to cycle the tank, as they do not do well in a freshwater aquarium.
As omnivores, they feed on both plant matter and animal food.
Rummy Nose Tetras
Another peaceful addition to your discus tank is the rummy nose tetra. The beautiful silver fish with red coloring around its nose enjoys swimming back and forth in the tank without bothering anyone.
It is a favorite amongst many fish keepers for its delicate appearance. The fish prefers warm water, similar to the preference of discus, and lives happily with other tank mates as long as they don’t show aggressive behavior.
One feature to remember about the rummy nose tetras is that they are very sensitive to water changes. If you decide to keep the rummy nose tetras, keep a water measurement kit on hand and test the water on regular basis.
Additionally, the rummy nose tetras are a schooling fish so always keep them in a group.
The rosy tetras is another species of the tetra family that requires minimal maintenance from aquarists. Their beautiful coloring blends well with other tank mates which makes them a great addition to any well-planted aquarium.
They are peaceful creatures and enjoy clean, warm water. The water should be soft and you should ensure that plenty of driftwood is available to replicate their natural habitat.
The rosy tetras possess a shy nature and fish keepers usually avoid putting them with aggressive fish. Nevertheless, a group of discus with the same personality is suitable as tank-mates for them and you will find them living in harmony together when adequate food supply is provided.
The harlequin or the red rasbora is another undemanding fish that can live in tranquility with other similar-natured fish including discus. However, the tank mates for harlequin should not be aggressive or predators. Avoid putting them with large fish as well who may become attracted to their striking, metallic color and make a meal out of them.
These copper-red colored beauties are true freshwater fish and enjoy soft and acidic parameters in their habitat. Dense vegetation, subdued lighting, and lots of space to swim freely are also essential for these fish.
Additionally, the rasbora is unfussy when it comes to food. They usually accept everything but make sure you provide an adequate amount of flakes in their diet along with frozen and live foods to meet their nutritional requirements.
Peacock Gudgeon Fish
Take a look at the peacock gudgeon and you will immediately understand why it got its name. This species boasts a beautiful variety of colors, similar to that of peacock feathers.
Originating from New Guinea, the peacock gudgeon fish are very peaceful and very undemanding in nature. They don’t ruffle any feathers with anyone and are happy swimming on their own when given adequate food supply and healthy water conditions.
One of the drawbacks of keeping the peacock gudgeon is its susceptibility to different diseases which can potentially infect the complete tank. Most fish keepers attribute this susceptibility of the peacock gudgeon fish to the long shipment that it has to endure while being shipped from Southeast Asia. This long journey causes a lot of stress to this fish which is the reason why it can easily fall ill.
The peacock gudgeon’s fondness for live food instead of dry pallets also contributes to its ailment. Buying tank-bred fish from a reputed breeder is the best way to avoid these illnesses and ensure longevity of the peacock gudgeon.
Dwarf Gourami or Pearl Gourami
Although, most kinds of gouramis go well with the discus, we advise you to keep the dwarf and pearl kind as they have been proven to show better compatibility.
Both of these fish from the gourami family are hardy and require minimal maintenance. They are peaceful and adaptable to different water conditions. However, it is best to keep them in water temperatures between 74 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit.
They enjoy densely planted aquariums. Feeding is also not an issue with the gourami as they happily consume a variety of diets including flakes, live, and frozen foods.
Similar to discus, the apisto agassizi are also natives of the Amazon River. They are one of the most popular aquarium fish for their vibrant coloring and low maintenance.
The agassizi appreciate warm water with pH levels between five and seven. Hardness of the water is preferred between 2 and 12 KH. The aquarium habitat should also mimic their native homeland with dense plants, a fine gravel substrate, and plenty of open swimming spaces.
They usually get along well with the discus and rarely quarrel over food or territorial space.
One way to tell if they are happy with the environment you provide them is by looking at their coloring. The agassizi change their color depending on their mood so you can easily tell if they are feeling happy, sad, or distressed.
The pentazona barb is often called the five-banded barb for the five dark bands that run across its body.
The fish prefers staying in an aquarium that is well planted with plenty of rocks and driftwood. The water should be warm, soft, and slightly acidic—similar to the preference of the discus. Make sure to leave enough space unoccupied as the pentazona barb enjoys swimming freely around the aquarium.
They make suitable companions for the discus as they are well behaved just like the latter and usually don’t fight with their tank mates for food. However, make sure that you provide the pentazona with adequate supply of food that contains a combination of meat, vegetables, commercial flakes and pellets.
When housing the pentazona barb, remember that they usually travel in groups of six so invest in a large-sized tank that will give sufficient space to both the discus and the five-banded barb.
Long Fin Red White Cloud
This easy-to-care for fish survives well with other peaceful natured fish including discus. They are an ideal choice for beginner aquarists for their hardy personality and adaptability to different water conditions.
When kept in a group of eight or more, the long fin red white cloud fish will become more active and colorful.
They are omnivores and enjoy a meal that includes a variety of flake foods, vegetable matter, and freeze-dried bloodworms.
Glow light Tetras
The glowlight tetra boasts a bright neon red strip along their body that shines when the lights of the aquarium are dimmed.
These types of fish are easy to care for and thrive when provided with great quality water not exceeding 77 degrees Fahrenheit. This can cause some concerns for you since 77 degrees Fahrenheit is not a recommended water temperature for discus fish (although they can easily survive it.)
Glow light tetras are small and leave plenty of space for their discus tank mates. They are not fussy eaters and will eat any fish food that you feed them. However, make sure that the food portions are small.
These fish enjoy being in groups of six or seven. If you plan to house them with or without discus fish, always remember to buy them in bulk and avoid keeping them alone.
Discus tank mates to avoid
While we have several peaceful fish that get along well with the discus, many other breeds do not.
If you have not been able to guess yet; discus fish are not fighters and rarely show aggressive nature. They don’t like to fight and move slowly around their habitat in search of food. They also enjoy their peace and tranquility and fish that are popular for their aggressive nature and quarrels are not suitable companions for the discus.
Some of the not-so-peaceful fish include:
- Female bettas
- African cichlids
Besides the aggressive ones, the fish that are not able to live in warm-water conditions should not be housed with the discus. Warm and cold water can’t coexist so fish that have preference for different water temperature cannot live together.
Discus breeding pair
Remember, if you are planning to breed a discus pair, separate them from the community tank. The discus breeds for life and the couple might become territorial when exposed to other fish.
Additionally, the discus lays egg and there is a potential danger to the fry as well as the eggs from other tank mates.
What is your favorite tank mate for the discus besides the above mentioned? How is your experience with the discus and its housing requirements? Let us know in the comments below.
Can a discus fish jump out of the tank? Surprisingly, yes! A discus is a sensitive species of fish and can become spooked from sudden noise, changes in light, and fluctuating water conditions. Keeping the tank covered at all times is the best way to prevent them from escaping.
How much water change is required for a discus aquarium? As a general rule of thumb, around 25-50% water change every week is necessary for your discus to thrive. However, if you have a full house of messy eaters like discus, more frequent water changes may also be required.
How to determine the gender of your discus fish? Before purchasing your discus, it is best to inquire the seller about the sex of your fish. However, in most cases, it is nearly impossible to distinguish between a male or a female discus until they are over four inches in size. Once they grow more than 4 inches in length, take a look at their dorsal fin. If the fin is rounded on the corners, it is probably a female fish while male discus boasts pointed dorsal fins.
- How Many Discus Fish in 3, 10,15,20,25 or 30-Gallon Tanks?
- Beginner’s Guide to Getting Started with Discus Fish
- Are Discus Fish Aggressive?