The Discus Fish Fry Care Ultimate Guide

By Nadine Oraby | 2020 Update

Discus, originating from Amazon river, are very loving and soft-natured fish. They receive much popularity due to their majestic colours and unique patterns. Although, these delicate creatures are quite adorable, they are highly sensitive to drastic changes.

Hence, when it comes to raising Discus fry, one must have a cautious eye. A Discus goes through several processes in its life from breeding, hatching of eggs, separation from the parents, to adulthood. Therefore, it requires immense care and some preventative measures to increase its survival.
However, there is also great pleasure in helping out these cute little creatures from their birth until they’re able to reproduce their own kind.

Breeding

Fry care begins with breeding care and preparations. Only healthy and happy Discus ish will be able to fill your tank with healthy fry.
First and foremost, you need a healthy breeding pair of Discus. This can be done in two ways:

  • If you are in a hurry of filling your tank up with fry, you can directly buy a proven breeding pair. This basically means that the pair has successfully spawned earlier, and their eggs have hatched (This ensures that the pair consists of compatible male and female.) These are usually a bit expensive, especially if they are of rare colour variations, but can be immediately shifted to a breeding tank.
  • Otherwise, you can raise a group of juvenile Discus to adulthood and let them select their pairs naturally, when they mature. This option may demand a great deal of time and effort but it’s definitely worth the experience.

The Discus fish pair up in quite an interesting way. They conduct pre-spawn rituals which can be quite a sight to behold! Some of the Discus fish may begin to openly shimmy or shake, indicating that they’re ready to breed. They may get a bit aggressive, cornering a specific tank-mate to get its attention.

Some pairs tend to strengthen their bond by the Bowing Method. The two Discus swim towards each other, and just when they’re about to touch, they bow gracefully. Then they swim past each other.

They may continue to do this for quite a few days. In some cases, the pairing Discus will show darker vertical stripes very prominently, either all across the body or towards the centre.

Some mating pairs of Discus may start with Vertical Surface Cleaning. During this, they peck at a specific area in the tank or on a vertical object like filter tube. They basically try to remove algae and other substances, to make the surface more adhesive which in turn, will help their future eggs to attach more easily. In an attempt to protect that specific area, they may become aggressive towards other tank-mates. In such a case, shifting the breeding pair into a separate tank becomes necessary.

Tank conditions

Next up, you need to arrange a spacious breeding tank which is also known as “spawning tank”. Bear in mind that every discus needs 10 gallons of water, so if you have a group of 5 discus, you’ll need a 50-gallon tank. It should be equipped with a sponge filter, a heater, and a breeding cone. Since breeding tanks do not require much light, it is up to you whether you add a light or not. If you do add one, dim it down with a cardboard or something else so that it does not lead to a temperature rise. Too much of light can prove to be counter-productive.

The water parameters of a breeding tank should be well maintained, too. Generally, water should be kept clean and with a pH of 6-7. The best way to achieve both the conditions is to install a Reverse Osmosis Filter. It removes all the harmful particles and chemicals and lowers the hardness of tap water. It is important to lower the hardness of water as hard water may prevent the eggs from fertilizing. It may interact with the outer surface of the Discus egg, causing it to calcify which may lead to the suffocation of the embryo. Under certain circumstances, it may even prevent the eggs from fertilizing.

Ideally, water’s temperature should range from 82°F to 86°F and pH fluctuations should be avoided

Feed Care (Video)

Discus fish are not picky eaters and are capable of feeding on a variety of food. You may feed them with flakes, pellets, and frozen or live food. Just make sure the diet you provide them with contains all vital nutrients.

If you choose dry food for your fish, supplement it with live food like blood worms. These will provide the breeding fish with proteins and essential vitamins and minerals. Other live foods include black worms, white worms and frozen or live brine shrimps.

To ensure the well-being of the fry that are to come, you must make sure that the breeding pair is completely healthy and is free from all diseases. Fish that have caught fin rot, ick, fungal infections or any other disease, should not be allowed to breed; same applies in the case of extraordinarily thin fish.

The new environment of the Breeding tank, and the process of breeding itself, can be quite stressful for the Discus fish. Therefore, they should be very well-fed, preferably with their favourite foods, before they are shifted to breeding tanks. Ideally, the size of the selected Discus fish should range from 5.5 to 6 inches or more.

Pregnant Discus

It is difficult to tell whether a Discus fish is pregnant by its physical appearance only. Being a substrate brooder, a pregnant Discus fish will develop a slight bulge, and its colour might brighten a little.

However, the male and female Discus will display a number of noticeable behavioural changes. They will start cleaning a flat surface to lay their eggs on. The female might become aggressive if she is unable to find an appropriate place to lay eggs. This can cause stress which is extremely unhealthy for the developing fry and the parent Discus. Therefore, an appropriate place should be arranged for this purpose before the Discus are shifted to the breeding tank.

Since male Discus are monogamous, they will swim along with their pregnant female. It strengthens their bond, and will make it easier for you to identify your female Discus’s pregnancy.

Egg care

The Discus fish lays eggs every week for up to fifteen weeks. This cycle occurs twice a year but can be altered with adjustments in feeding, temperature, water conditions or even relevant medications.

The amount of eggs laid varies greatly. However, it is usually around a couple of dozen to a couple of hundred. It depends on the amount of experience of the breeding pair and the size of the female Discus. A larger female Discus will be able to lay more eggs.

Discus can lay eggs on cones, pot surfaces, or any other specific area that it has prepared for this purpose. The eggs will be small and mildly opaque spherical structures. If the eggs remain transparent and no babies are born, then either you have two females who have laid eggs together or the male Discus is too young to be able to fertilize the eggs.

If the eggs turn white, then you need to fix the water in your aquarium as it would be too fresh and harsh for the eggs. The water can be fixed by adding a water purifier each time the water is changed. The eggs will hatch in about 2 to 3 days.  If they do not hatch, remove them to prevent the spread of any disease.

At this stage, you can either separate the eggs from the parents to artificially raise the fry or you can let the parents raise their fry.

Discus parenting

Discus Fish are great parents. They take immense care of their eggs as well as the young fry. They work diligently to ensure the survival of their offspring at this fragile stage. For that reason, letting the Discus raise their fry is much better than raising the fry artificially.

Once the eggs have been laid and fertilized, the Discus will constantly fan them with their fins for aeration and to promote circulation. Fanning also helps to safeguard the eggs from the attack of any bacteria or fungus. You must add methylene blue to the tank with the help of a dropper, especially if you are raising the eggs artificially. To eliminate the spread of any disease, the parenting Discus will even consume the unfertilized eggs and will guard the fertilized batch very defensively.

After the eggs hatch, the young fry will remain attached to the egg site for some time. Initially, they will instinctively feed on the secretion delivered from their mother. After about 48 hours, they will be able to swim about freely and will start growing rapidly.

Now this is a very crucial time for both parent Discus as well as the fry. Any possible disturbance in tank environment or water conditions should be avoided. It may cause the parent Discus to get stressed. As a result, they may eat their eggs/fry. To stop this immediately, lower the water temperature to 27°C. This will lower the metabolic rate of the adult Discus and increase their protective instincts towards the eggs at the same time. If this doesn’t help as well, then consider moving the young fish or the eggs to a separate tank and raising them artificially.

Also, the fry should be protected from the other adult Discus fish in the tank. When the fry are able to wriggle and swim about on their own, the adults may try to eat them.

Fry Care essentials

  • Feeding habits:
    In early stages, a baby discus would tend to eat the scales of their parents which is a natural process and will certainly harm the parent Discus. However, as they grow older their food requirement will increase and you will have to feed them four to five times a day. This feed must be in small portions or else the fry might develop over eating problems. The most suitable food for the baby discus fish is brine shrimp. Discus fish are widely known for their love for beef heart and the adults can be given big pieces of it. The fry may find it hard to swallow, hence the beef heart should be liquefied in a blender before feeding.
  • Temperature & water parameters:
    Discus fish are usually sensitive to drastic changes in water temperature and parameters. Especially when it comes to taking care of fry, one must be extremely cautious about the fluctuations. Sudden drop or increase in water pH value or temperature can cause stress to the baby fish and may result in death of the weaklings. The water must be kept clean and filtered in order to ensure healthy growth of baby Discus. Another factor that affects its health is the presence of total dissolved solids, hence water change must be done regularly. Fry can be kept in planted tanks but it is to be made sure that at night, there is considerable oxygen supply, or else they may die due to depletion.
  •  Tank mates:
    Discus fish are good-natured and peace-loving species . They aren’t known to be aggressive except females after or during their breeding season. They are schooling fish and like to remain in groups of 6. Hence if your baby Discus has tank mates of its own species, then it is unlikely to become a victim of bullying or getting involved in fights. The fry will probably grow in a mentally safe environment with no potential threat. Though, if you still want to keep your baby Discus among other species, make sure you let some of the other Discus around too. Some other fish with which it is compatible are Corydoras Strebai, Hatchet fish, Rummynose Tetra, and different catfishes.
  • Diseases:
    A fry doesn’t yet have a strong enough defense mechanism to fight the deadly diseases caused by poor tank conditions and overcrowding. Diseases like Rapid breathing, flicking, loss of balance, swollen abdomen or eyes, ick etc can be transmitted to other fry easily, thus affecting the whole group which might prove disastrous. To prevent such unpleasant occurrences, one must conduct a 25-50% water change of the tank weekly, ensure that the fry are not in a group of more than 6, and provide them with a nutritious diet.

When to shift your fry back?

It is advisable to shift them back once your fry are able to eat commercial food like brine shrimp or beef heart. The fry must be older than 1 week , more preferably 2 to 3 weeks, when shifting back. If the baby Discus is shifted back before it is at least 2.5 weeks old, it may again start to feed off the parent’s scales and their mucus secretion which will result in depletion of health in the parent Discus.

Related questions

How to achieve the desired colour in Discus offspring? Discus fish are present in a variety of colours and patterns, thus, when attempting to achieve a desired colour, one must be ready to face a few failures. The first step is to decide what colour you want. If you desire a single colour or one specific prominent colour in Discus, then you need to breed the same colour parents. Although this will guarantee high chances of obtaining your desired colour, there still can be exceptions. If you desire a mixture of colours in your Discus, then you’ll have to research about possibilities and conduct a few breeding experiments. To ensure best results, the adult Discus selected for breeding must display its colour vibrantly as dull Discus indicate illness. Bear in mind that stunted or deformed Discus must also be avoided while selecting your breeding pair.

What are mix breeds in Discus offspring and are they always healthy?Mix-breeds are of two types; first type is when two Discus of different backgrounds are bred, for example a wild Discus and a tank bred discus. The results are often devastating as the mix-breed fry is unhealthy. The sudden mixture of two different adaptations may lead to a weak baby fry. The second type is when a Discus and some other species is bred. The results might be highly successful if both the fish are compatible such as catfish and are tank bred. The mix-breeds of the second type are usually healthy and the baby fish survives.

How long do Discus fish live for? Generally, the Discus fish have a lifespan of 9-10 years (may grow up to 9 inches) if kept in ideal situations. Lack of care and attention can reduce its life span to a great extent. Certain “care” measures may as well prove to be harmful for the Discus fish. These include, high temperatures. High temperatures increase the metabolic rate of the Discus, and although they seem to be very healthy and active, it reduces its lifespan to a great extent.

How to distinguish males from females? There are a number of ways to distinguish between male and female Discus. The males are said to have dull colour but are more patterned than the females. Males are larger than females in size. Male Discus have thicker features like forehead and lips than females. Their dorsal fins also differ with the males having a pointed fin and females having a rounded and shorter one. Females also have a broader, rounder, and larger breeding tube. Whereas, the male has a smaller and sharper one.

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