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Symphysodon aequifasciatus - (Pellegrin, 1904)

Golden Pigeon Discus trio. JJPhoto.dk


Stately and with an unmistakably regal bearing, the discus has long been known as "King of the Freshwater Aquarium." When kept properly, in schools of 6 to 8 fish, in a planted tank, discus can provide a level of beauty and interest that many find irresistible.

They are not fish for beginners, however, and they demand good water conditions, a tank of at least 55 gallons (209 L), and above-average care and feeding. (One rule of thumb is at least 10 gal (38 L) per adult discus.)

The best prospects for most aquarists are medium-size fish rather than small juveniles or large "show" specimens that may not adapt well to a new aquarium.

Family: Cichlidae

Other common name(s):

Native range:

Habitat: In the wild, it is often found in quiet protected areas near the shores of creeks, streams, and lakes, usually hovering among roots or in rocky areas offering shelter.

Maximum height: 13.7 cm (5 in)

Minimum aquarium size: 209 L (55 gal)

Water: Freshwater 28 °C (82 °F) - 30 °C (86 °F)

General swimming level: Mid-level.


Omnivore. Feed high-quality dry, frozen, or freeze-dried rations with a smörgåsbord of ingredients (shrimp, krill, Spirulina, algae, fish roe, color enhancers, vitamins, etc,). Various prepared discus rations are available. High-quality cichlid foods and even marine fish foods with color enhancers such as canthaxanthin can be offered in rotation.

Some breeders also feed bloodworms (frozen or freeze-dried), live white worms, and beef heart, although the latter is shunned by others.

Feed at least twice and preferable three times each day.

Aquarium Compatibility

Discus enthusiasts often keep them in discus-only systems. They do not do well in busy community aquariums and must never be exposed to aggressive tankmates. Plecostomus, for example, are too rambunctious to be housed with discus.

Good companion species include: Cardinal Tetras, Corydoras catfish, Otocinclus suckermouth catfish, Serpae Tetras, Neon Tetras, Harlequin Rasboras, Dwarf Gouramis.

Special Care

Many discus keepers advocate regular water changes (e.g. 25% twice weekly), along with weekly testing of ammonia and pH. Be sure replacement water is aged (not straight from the tap or well) and that it matches the temperature and pH of the tank water.
Discus Water Parameters

  • Temperature: 82-86 F (28-30 C)
  • pH: 6.5 to 7.2
  • Water Hardness: 75 to 100


Discus breeding is a fascinating pursuit, with both parents providing care and feeding (the fry are nourished by a mucus secreted on the parent's sides).

A sexually mature, well-fed pair kept in its own 40-gallon (151 L) and conditioned on rich foods such as bloodworms will often spawn readily.

  • Hatching time: 48 hours.
  • Free-swimming fry 72 hours later.
  • Offer newly hatched brine shrimp starting at day 5 after they become free-swimming.
  • Separate from parents in 2-3 weeks.
  • Feed young discus at least 5 times daily, being very careful to maintain high water quality.
Image credit: JJ