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FAQs on Discus Disease: Environmental 

FAQs on Discus Disease: Discus Disease 1, Discus Disease 2, Discus Disease 3,
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Diagnosis, Nutritional, Social, Infectious, Parasitic, Trauma, Treatments  

Related Articles: Plants + Discus = Wow! by Alesia Benedict, Planted Aquariums: Plants and Discus: What They Need To Thrive  By Alesia Benedict, Discus Divas, Glitz, Glam and Lots of Demands by Alesia Benedict, Juraparoids, Neotropical Cichlids, African Cichlids, Dwarf South American Cichlids, Asian Cichlids, Cichlid Fishes in General

Related FAQs: Discus 1, Discus 2, Discus Identification, Discus Selection, Discus Compatibility, Discus Behavior, Discus Systems, Discus Feeding, Discus Reproduction, Cichlids of the World, Cichlid Systems, Cichlid Identification, Cichlid Behavior, Cichlid Compatibility, Cichlid Selection, Cichlid Feeding, Cichlid DiseaseCichlid Reproduction,

Discus, particularly wild/collected vs. captive produced, demand CLEAN, nutrient free water... NO ammonia, NO nitrite and little Nitrate (less than 10 ppm for sure)

Discus just not 'happy' :(     11/13/17
Hi Crew,
<Greetings Liese>
Apologies for the tale of woe, but the more forums I check for 'advice' the more confused I get, so I hope you guys might be able to untangle the reasons for my Discus being generally 'off'. So, I have a 60 gallon (280 litre) tank with, as of the last few weeks, 4 adult Stendker discus (had 5 for the last 3 years but recently one died, perhaps all part of the same issue here?).
<Maybe; let's see your data>
I do 3 partial water changes a week (overall works out about 30-35% a week), using aged tap water, treated with Prime and warmed before adding. I used to do larger water changes (20% 3 times a week) using water directly from the tap (I did use Prime and warm water too!) but when my fish first started to look unhappy I was advised to age it for 24 hours, so now storage issues mean I can only change 35-40 litres at a time.
<Storing the new water for a week (or even more) is advised>
Water parameters currently and for many months are: ammonia and nitrite zero, nitrate somewhere between 10 and 20ppm,
<Well; I should mention, so I am... even cultured Discus don't like NO3.
I'd have you read on WWM re methods of reducing, keeping this metabolite under 10 ppm>
pH 7, temperature 83F. I have also had the water checked at the local fish store just in case my test kits were wrong, but no problems there. Water out of the tap is pretty soft. I feed a mix of beef heart, flake, pellet food.
<Mmm; I made MANY pounds of beef heart mix for my Symphysodon decades back, but this component has largely fallen out of favour>

So, compared to a few months ago, my fish are all so much darker in colour, almost black at times, I can see strands of slime coat coming off a couple of them, and they're not eating with as much gusto as previously :(
<Something wrong here. I suspect, as usual, first and foremost, issue/s with the environment>

At various points over the last few months I've treated for Hex, internal bacterial infection, worms, flukes,
<? All these fish have been in captivity for years? Where would pathogens be introduced here?>
trying to eliminate obvious issues first, but nothing has made any noticeable difference so I have to assume that there is another reason for their stress/symptoms? I know 6 is the magic Discus number, but my 5 were always OK and I was reluctant to upset the status quo since I know my tank is only 'just' big enough for 6.
<I would not add more to a sixty gallon>
I will get another couple if you think that will help, but I'd really like to get to the bottom of the current issue before throwing more fish into the unhappy mix. Since getting my discus 3 years ago, I added a shoal of 10 Corydoras sterbai about 6-8 months ago who are doing really well, breeding regularly (very cute babies!) and zooming around on the tank bottom.
<Ahh, a good sign... at least conditions suit them. Am curious as to your water temperature; as C. sterbai is a cooler water species (typically 70-77 F) and Discus warmer>>
So, this has now got me thinking. Could all the Cory 'action' on the bottom of the tank be upsetting my Discus?
<Doubtful, but a remote possible influence>
I'd say there is a pretty 'normal' amount of aggression between my discus generally, although recently the biggest one has been chasing two of the others around. Maybe now there are only 4 the hierarchy is being re-established?
<I think you'd see over aggression here if this were so>
I'd really appreciate your advice as I'm at a point now where I don't know what to do for the best. I have no space in my house for a bigger tank so can't go down that route (I would if I could!), but it upsets me to see my once-beautiful Discus shadows of their former selves :(
Thanks in advance,
<If it were my system; I'd try to systematically reason out the source of the trouble via elimination, manipulation of one variable at a time. Do you use chemical filtrants? Near the top of my trials, I'd use a pad of PolyFilter, and/or a unit of ChemiPure in your filter/flow path, and see (it should be obvious w/in a few days) if improved water quality is an/the issue here; next... I'd raise the temperature a few degrees F.
Please do report back with your further observations. Bob Fenner>
Re: Discus just not 'happy' :(    12/5/17

Hi Bob,
An update on the Discus, wish it was good news. So, despite Polyfilter, an increased water temperature and water changes to get nitrates well below 10ppm, I got up this morning to find the blackest of my Discus had died. It had seemed to perk up a bit the last couple of days and was showing its stress bars rather than being completely black. Then last night it was hovering close to the water surface.
<Darkness, poor body orientation... are very bad signs>
I turned up the aeration but obviously that didn’t help. No water change yesterday so I can’t even blame that. So, of the 3 I have left, I now have one who’s swimming slightly head down. Seems ok otherwise, eating and out and about. I’m not treating for anything, although I do have swim bladder medication on standby. It’s definitely not constipated. Sorry for yet another ramble, at the moment I feel like banging my head on a brick wall! I’ll keep up the water changes and see how these 3 get on. On the plus side, they’re not aggressive towards each other....best wishes. Liese
<Without knowing what, if anything, is amiss here; am wont to suggest a change. IF they were mine, I might try adding a "black water tonic/extract" in the hope of positively influencing water quality here. There are a few such products, or you can make one yourself from a peat product. Bob Fenner>

water change over done; incl. Discus sys. f'  /Bob's go      12/17/16
Hi Crew & Merry Christmas!
<And to you and yours Elaine!>
My tank has been running for about three years. It has been in the current configuration and stocking for six months. I think I over did it with water changes.
<I see your statements below, and do agree. Nowayears water quality is a dicey, changeable proposition. Best, as gone over (READ) here:
TO: pre-make up the change water and STORE for a few days, a week ahead if this is the interval for maintenance
In an effort to make water changes easier, I changed from the bucket method (40% three times a week) to a hose connected to directly to the tap and thinking that more is always better, I changed my normal 40% water change to 80%.

Then because a water change out is almost always the answer to any issues. I did anther 80% water change using the hose. All my discus
<Eeyikes! Symphysodon, even the much more tolerant to change modern cultured specimens, are sensitive to water quality vacillation, parameters outside bounds>

started flashing, turning dark and labored breathing. Since nothing but my water change method had changed in this tank for 6 months I targeted the water change method as the issue. After lots of research, I have determined that by using the hose directly from the tap into the tank without aeration I mostly likely caused three issues (1) a micro bubbles probably compounded by the current colder temps, (2) rapid pH shift because of the increased percentage of water changed at once, (3) ammonia/nitrite issue because my tap water's high ammonia, nitrate and nitrite levels <Aye ya... got to convince you to get/use a large (Rubbermaid Brute is a fave) dedicated trash can and lid, heater, circulating pump (that you can
use to deliver the new water as well as stir it about)... for water changes, NOT use direct tap/mains>
and by putting it directly into the tank the Prime couldn't work fast enough to treat the water in the tank.
Tank Information
80 US gallon
Temp 84 deg F
8 discus 3 to 3.5 inches (domestic tank bred)
6 rummy nose tetra (12 were added about 6 months ago)
6 sarbi <Sterba?> Cory cats
1 bristle nose Pleco
1 large 4 year old angel fish (favorite hobby is picking off the tetras)
Sand substrate
Moderately planted - swords and crypts
Drift wood
2 Eheim 2217 Filters
Air Stone - running at night
Feed 2 times a day - rotation of flake, frozen blood worms, sera discus
pellets, frozen baby brine
Untreated Tap
<The above two matters are switched around>
Steps Taken
Daily water 40% water changes using buckets - for 4 days
Turned air stone on full time
Increased temp to 87 deg F
Added 2 table spoons aquarium salt with each water change
4 of the discus have fully recovered, they are eating and their color has returned. 4 are still hanging in the back of the tank, hiding in the plants, not eating and two of these are still very dark. I'm not sure what my next steps should be.
Thank you,
<Perhaps Santa is bringing you the above gear... and an RO device for Xmas!? Bob Fenner; sending/handing off to Neale>
water change over done /Neale's go      12/17/16

Hi Crew & Merry Christmas!
My tank has been running for about three years. It has been in the current configuration and stocking for six months. I think I over did it with water changes. In an effort to make water changes easier, I changed from the bucket method (40% three times a week) to a hose connected to directly to the tap and thinking that more is always better, I changed my normal 40% water change to 80%. Then because a water change out is almost always the answer to any issues. I did anther 80% water change using the hose. All my discus started flashing, turning dark and labored breathing. Since
nothing but my water change method had changed in this tank for 6 months I targeted the water change method as the issue. After lots of research, I have determined that by using the hose directly from the tap into the tank without aeration I mostly likely caused three issues (1) a micro bubbles probably compounded by the current colder temps, (2) rapid pH shift because of the increased percentage of water changed at once, (3) ammonia/nitrite issue because my tap water's high ammonia, nitrate and nitrite levels and by putting it directly into the tank the Prime couldn't work fast enough to
treat the water in the tank.
Tank Information
80 US gallon
Temp 84 deg F
8 discus 3 to 3.5 inches (domestic tank bred)
6 rummy nose tetra (12 were added about 6 months ago)
6 sarbi Cory cats
<Sterbai? As in Corydoras sterbai? An excellent companion for Discus.>
1 bristle nose Pleco
1 large 4 year old angel fish (favorite hobby is picking off the tetras)
<Ah yes, this is what they do, as I have warned aquarists, many times; these cichlids *are* predators. Not necessarily good companions for Discus though; somewhat different water chemistry requirements (white vs. blackwater) and certainly more pushy. Altum Angels might be okay though.
Would beware of introducing diseases from Angels to Discus; Angels do seem resistant/immune to some pathogens that Discus are not.>
Sand substrate
Moderately planted - swords and crypts
Drift wood
2 Eheim 2217 Filters
<Excellent filters.>
Air Stone - running at night
<Interesting, but logical.>
Feed 2 times a day - rotation of flake, frozen blood worms, sera discus pellets, frozen baby brine
Untreated Tap
<Are you saying there's 0 ammonia in the tank, but 0.6 mg/l in the tap water?>
<If you mean the tank has 0.25 mg/l nitrite, whereas the tap water has 0.4 mg/l, I'd still be wary of this; even trace nitrite *is* a stress factor, more so in acidic pH conditions than alkaline -- the opposite of ammonia, which is less toxic in acidic conditions.>
Steps Taken
Daily water 40% water changes using buckets - for 4 days
Turned air stone on full time
Increased temp to 87 deg F
Added 2 table spoons aquarium salt with each water change
4 of the discus have fully recovered, they are eating and their color has returned. 4 are still hanging in the back of the tank, hiding in the plants, not eating and two of these are still very dark. I'm not sure what my next steps should be.
<Well, I'd stop feeding altogether until nitrite is zero. I'd be focusing on biological filtration here, given ammonia is zero but nitrite is above zero. Check water flow, check the media, and if necessary give one of the filters a thorough clean this weekend, and the other the same next weekend (I'd not do both at the same time). Rinse media in buckets of tank water,
rather than tap water, so the filter media bacteria aren't stressed in any way. But do squeeze sponges until the water runs through them as clear as you can. Optimise water flow rate: the maximum flow with the minimum turbulence. This might mean using spray bars, reverse flow undergravel filters or something else to distribute current evenly. Review stocking
density, feeding frequency, and remove any decaying organic matter.>
Thank you,
<Cheers, Neale.>

discus has always been sick    5/15/12
hi I bought 4 discus five months ago and one was hiding and black coloured I only took it  because I felt sorry for it and thought he would do better if it was in my aquarium .it has grown slightly in this time as I ensure that I drop food where it  is hiding. I have spent days searching for advice but not spotted anything suitable for my problem
It would flash it colours at times when the mood took it, but now its colour has gone white all over its body, the fins have just a touch of blue in them but very little, its fins are erect
<Discus only behave normally (and show bright colours) when they are "happy", by which I mean they are [a] kept in the right environmental conditions and [b] kept with the right tankmates. Let's be clear about how demanding Discus are. These aren't community fish! They are best kept ALONE, and no-one should think about adding tankmates before keeping them on their own for a good six months first. Just keeping Discus happy is difficult, so adding tankmates makes life more difficult that it needs to be. Secondly, they are fairly demanding in terms of water chemistry and water quality. They must have soft water, or at least, not hard water. By that I mean something like 2-12 degrees dH, pH 6-7 for the standard farmed varieties. Water quality needs to be excellent: 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and less than 20 mg/l nitrate. Actually, virtually all cichlids need similarly good water quality, and virtually all cichlids will sicken if kept exposed to nitrate levels above 20 mg/l (as is often the case with tap water in urban/suburban areas, and almost always the case in Southern England where I live).>
all ph etc .etc are spot on
<Meaning what? I really do need your numbers here, not your interpretations. See above for what they should be.>
and the other 5 discus, 3 clown loaches and two dwarf gouramis are in wonderful condition,
<I hope this aquarium is huge! Clown Loaches pump out massive amounts of waste, and unless we're talking 200 Imperial gallons/900 litres, it's unlikely you can provide good water quality for BOTH the Clown Loaches and the Discus.>
all fed 4-5 times a day, partial water change 20+ % 1-2 times weekly temp 29c
<Would dial this down to 28 C outside of wanting to breed them.>
I have never seen any excrement from any of the fish but with what they eat there must be lots coming out.
in a 4ft tank 189 litres 42 uk gallons the two red Turks are  now double its size and nearly adults.
<Much too small for all these fish. Do be aware that only a *mated* pair of Discus will cohabit. Otherwise, keep a singleton or a group of six. In groups of 2-5 specimens, Discus usually end up with one bully and the rest being bullied. You may not see the bullying (some of it is chemical) but you'll surely see one dominant fish and the others staying smaller, eating less, and displaying their stress colours, typically darker with vertical bands.>
its a peaceful tank for having discus in it.
heavy planted and oxygenated ( aerated ). spend most of my nights searching for signs of what sexes I have in there, there are two other blue discus in there but they have grown a bigger size should I take it out to my other tank 6 ft which has Mollies and Guppies in it ( for maturing of water purpose? nothing new in there  thanks for any advice given , sorry no photo
<Mollies and Guppies need fundamentally different water chemistry to Discus. I do need the water chemistry values to say something specific about these systems, and their usefulness for Discus.>
regards Laurie
<Do believe stress, incorrect care are likely to blame here. Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: discus has always been sick    5/16/12

hello Neale
this little fish was purchased from a tank with 50 or more discus and was the only one that was not happy and hungry. I  kept discus years ago and with out any problems. I apologize for not sending you the water parameters but since they were within all specifications it did not seem to matter Again Sorry  Poor excuse I know..
Temp. 27  now was kept high to induce breeding ( hopefully)
<I see.>
GH 30
<Very high! Much too high for Discus.>
KH 0
<Too low. Would be surprised if the pH is stable. Are you using a pH buffer?>
Ph 6 with peat
<I would not adjust pH using peat. How do you know the pH is stable? Plus, below pH 6, filter bacteria stop working.>
No2 oo5
<Do you mean 0.5? Do believe your biological filtration is borderline… filter bacteria work better above 6.5, and ideally you shouldn't allow the pH to go below 7 unless there's a damn good reason. Discus will be fine at pH 7, provided the hardness isn't excessive, say, 5-10 degree dH.>
No3 10
I find it annoying how most people use different measurements ( ppm ,etc ) very confusing for a lay person ( My problem, Suck it up as they say.)
<Well, not for me to say… I do prefer the simpler units -- degrees dH or KH for hardness. But so long as you know what them mean qualitatively, i.e., "soft", "hard", and shades in between, that's fine! Likewise, with nitrite, nitrate and ammonia, so long as you know what's good and what's bad, use whatever you want.>
The fish is looking fine today, with as usual, fins extended (showing much more colour on the fins and white on the facial bones only now) and in the mid to high water table
I have been cycling my new tank for two months now so with the baby guppies in there for a change of diet It now gets ox heart, fish flakes, frozen brine shrimp, dried food, raw prawns, and blood worms.
I keep looking out for the old strains of discus but all we seem to get here in Aus. is the modern strains without any bars on their sides ( although I do have a old style brown one which I love dearly   don't recall where I got him from ,probably just a throwback to the wild varieties
I am still hopeful of this sick one getting its health back to increase the numbers of breeding fish, never had any success before but the numbers 3 or 4 probably was to blame for it
<Could be. Getting groups of six does seem to be the magic number for getting stable schools of Discus, and from those six, there's a good chance of at least one of each sex.>
On another thing ( while I've got you) how many breeding discus can my 6 ft tank  63.40 UK gallons take.?
<A group of six will be fine in there… but a matched pair of breeding cichlids, even Discus, could take over that tank. You might be okay if their "nest" is at one end of the tank. But if their nest is in the middle … it could be trouble for the other Discus!>
Again you guys are wonderful
Many thanks and kisses
<Glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>

discus problem... STILL NOT READING   5/6/11
I am located in India. I have a 4 juvenile discus housed in a 20 gallon tank. I do 40 percent water changes after every 3 days. I siphon off the feces also. All my water parameters are normal.
<Need actual values (numbers)... for what is tested>
The temp of water during summer is 31-32 degrees.
Recently one of my discus is swimming erratically and sometimes upside down or lying flat in the corner or either hiding. He is also refusing to eat.
<Very bad signs, symptoms. Have you read where you've repeatedly been referred to on WWM?>
Can you let me know the reason behind this and also suggest me an appropriate treatment for my discus.
<Likely environmental... Again, and hopefully for the last time, READ on WWM re Symphysodon:
http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/discusfish.htm and the linked files above. B>
Thanks in advance

Question... FW, Discus sys. issues... overcrowded, metabolite build-up...    8/20/10
<Hi Max! Melinda here tonight!>
I have read your F.Q but I need help for the following.
I have 75l freshwater fish tank with 13 Discus, 2 Angels & 1 Betta.
<Is this tank 75 liters, as in less than 20 gallons? Or am I not understanding correctly?>
I use conditioned tap water 7.6 ph, Ammonia: 0.25, Nitrite: 0.25 & Nitrate around 80.00 ( I have not been able to bring it down ).
<The Nitrate is a problem, but the Ammonia and Nitrite worry me more: for some reason (likely overstocking, if my above guess on the volume of the tank is correct), this tank isn't cycling. Please read here:
I add salt with every water change.
<How much are you adding? Salt can be used to detoxify Nitrate if you're adding it in the correct amounts with water changes. Please read here:
Otherwise, I'm not sure what the salt is for.>
Recently I am losing only Discus. They start being in the corners, develop fin damage, white patches on the body & not feeding & eventually die...
<Various issues due to water quality/overstocking.>
I even had one dead with hole(scare) in the head & another one suddenly lost balance & it was up-side-down for two days until it died. One of them has darkened in colour.
The rest of Discus seems to be o.k. with no visible signs of illness but they are not active like any other Discus.
<Your fish are in bad shape. Is this tank really only 75 liters? The fish can't possibly be full-grown, if so, they literally wouldn't be able to
move. In any case, your problems likely lie in the numbers you gave me above for Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate. The tank is overstocked, and your maintenance may also be lacking... please read here on maintenance:
Please help me urgently...
<Max, there's certainly something wrong with your system, and it's causing your fish to fall ill. That "something" is the water they live in. This can be due to a number of issues, including the following: fail to cycle properly in the first place, overstocking, overfeeding, lack of proper filtration, and/or lack of proper maintenance. I think most of these are covered in the links above, but here is a link on filtration:
In addition, what cannot be ruled out at this point is that your source water is introducing Nitrate into the system. Do test your source water to help gain clues as to what could be causing poor water quality. However, with this stocking list, I wouldn't doubt that your Nitrate would be as high as it is, even if you do regular maintenance.>
with regards
<I hope this helps, Max. Please do write back if you have further questions after reading.
--Melinda><<Well done Melinda. BobF>>

Re: DISCUS AND AMMONIA SPIKE AFTERMATH... induced Discus prob.s, hypochondria... reading  2/1/08 Hi , thanks for your response <... where is the prev. corr.?> to my ammonia issue I bought the AmQuel + and that has resolved the ammonia( chloramine in my tap water at H20 changes), can I use this everyday at water changes the bottle says to wait 24 hours between applications and since I need to do wc everyday is it ok. <Can be used daily, continuously if necessary> Second question is I noticed that one of my discus has two small white spots on his caudal fin, treated with combo formalin and malachite green per directions for three days (whole tank) <!? VERY toxic... I would NOT place formalin in a biological system> with wc of 20% each day, also the carbon was removed. <Likely all your biological filtration/nitrifiers have been wiped out> However on the second day of treatment I noticed that the fish looked like they had Finrot and on two of them they appeared to have swollen abdomens, as well as red around the nose area. <Effects of formalin poisoning and nitrogenous waste exposure...> I did a 65% wc and replaced the carbon. My nitrites spiked to 0.3mg/l and the ph was at 7.8 which is normally 7.6. I should mention that the tank was setup in late Sept. and was cycled properly (AQUACLEAR 110) but I live in an area where we are experiencing more frequent power outages and I am not always at home so the time the filter is down is not always noted. I have a 75 gal, with two filters a BioWheel 330 and a AquaClear 110 the latter was the original and it was the one that I turned off (fear of media had become anaerobic) after an outage of 4 hours in late Dec. <Likely so> which meant the BioWheel was only cycled for about 3 weeks and on its own. I Have since put some filter media in from a well established tank on Tues. of this week can't find BioSpira even on the Marineland site says error when click to buy. Could this and the combo of the ammonia (that is in tap water) spike caused this problem in my tank with my fish. <Yes> Could it be a bacterial infection. <Is this a question?> This is all the symptoms that my fish are displaying dark colored, clamped fins, as of today they don't look swollen in the abdomen, Finrot looks a little better gave 1 treatment of parasite clear tank buddies by jungle active ingred. ( Praziquantel, Diflubenzuron, Metronidazole and Acriflavine) <... for?> and redness around their nose area. What to do next I haven't done anymore Rx only added salt <? On Symphysodon? A poor idea> and have kept lights off and feeding sparingly they haven't seemed to have lost their appetite at all. Thanks in advance. <Uhh, I'd stop pouring in medications (you're killing these animals with same) and invest your money and time in educating yourself... There are quite a few good Discus books about, and some useful information on the Net re the genus. Ours: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/discusfish.htm  and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>  

Wild discus problem  10/2/07 I have kept a 33 gallon tank with 3 discus, 2 black ghost knives 3 Panchax killifish and 1 black spotted catfish for over 3 years. I fed them a variety of foods because my wild discus had a lot of holes in his head. Last month, I added two snakeskin discus in there and they all got along well. Then the trouble started with the smallest discus not eating. He wasn't the one being bullied ,the wild one was. Soon he passed away. The tank was very clean and all but soon my wild discus stopped eating too. All my discus are the same size (11.5cm). I've moved the wild discus into a 20 gallon with a bio wheel and some water plants to see if it gets better. I've been trying to feed him beef heart, Whiteworms, Mysis shrimp, brine shrimp and bloodworms but he refuses them all and just hides in the corner. I would like to know what's wrong because I would hate to see it die. <Well, for a start your tank is massively overstocked. Apteronotus albifrons gets to something like 50 cm in length and mature specimens at least (like most electric fish) are intolerant of their own kind under home aquarium conditions. So you simply can't keep two of them in one tank, and even one specimen of this fish needs a big tank (150-200 cm long). You don't say anything about water chemistry or water quality. But just to be clear: wild-caught Discus are EXTREMELY sensitive to environmental conditions. Comparing them to tank-bred Discus is comparing chalk with cheese. Utterly different. Tank-bred Discus are basically easy to keep provided they are kept warm (28-30 C) and in not-too-hard (<10 dH), acidic to neutral (pH 6-7) water. Wild-caught Discus want all that and MORE: spotlessly clean water with next to no nitrate, dim lighting conditions, and no aggressive tankmates. You also need to be able to select healthy wild-caught fish to begin with; get a sick one, and you've wasted your money. When shopping for wild Discus, I consider going along with an experienced Discus-keeper part of the package. The holes in the head of the fish that died were symptoms (more than likely) of Hole-in-the-Head, a protozoan infection intimately connected with water quality. So before going further, make sure your nitrate levels are below 20 mg/l, and ideally zero. Quarantine all wild-caught fish before putting them into a community system, and assume that any commercially spawned fish are potential sources of infection. In other words, don't mix wild and tank-bred Discus. Do read Bob's excellent review of "Discus Basics" here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/discusfish.htm .
As he says, lack of appetite is usually associated with poor environmental conditions. So check those, and act accordingly. Cheers, Neale>

Re: wild discus problem -- 11/20/07
After reading your reply about my wild discus problem, I decided to get rid of the nitrates in my tank. I moved out the ghost knives, catfish and killifish from the tank to a 20 gallon. <I hope I don't need to tell you the ghost Knifefish (Apteronotus albifrons, presumably) are far too large for a 20 gallon tank. While they may grow slowly, they do grow, and each one is going to need a 55 gallon tank -- at least -- at some point in the near future.> I also moved back in the wild discus to the 33 gallon with the other 3 discus. I also bought more water plants and Nitrazorb. <Nitrazorb can work, but in my experience it is more of a "polisher" than a nitrate "cleaner". In other words, what it does is help remove traces of nitrate from water with low nitrate concentration to start with. When used in a nitrate-ridden system (because of heavy stocking, or high nitrates in the tap water supply) it tends to get overwhelmed unless you spend a fortune on the stuff. It is much more cost effective to use pure water of some sort and then add the minerals Discus need. The cheap option is to use rainwater (what I do) while the convenient option is to use a reverse-osmosis (RO) filter to purify your tap water. We have a brand spanking new article about Soft Water Aquaria here at WWM; have a read of it. I'm sure you'll find it useful, because a soft water tank is basically the only way to keep wild Discus. The article is here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwsoftness.htm > For feeding I feed a block of bloodworms and glassworms a day. <For Discus, this may well be too much. Discus have evolved to live in nutrient-poor waters where food is scarce. With wild-caught fish especially, you have to walk a tightrope between providing enough food to keep them healthy, while not adding so much the water quality is compromised. With wet-frozen foods, a lot of the "cube" doesn't get eaten (the juices surrounding the bloodworms for example). These are sources of nitrate. So you need to make sure your feeding regimen is such that every scrap of food that goes into the tank is eaten, and nothing gets sucked into the filter.> The nitrate is 160, and the nitrite is 0. <Yeah, your nitrate level is way too high for wild Discus. Even for tank-bred fish this likely on the dangerous side. You're aiming for not more than 50 mg/l for tank-bred Discus, and less than 20 mg/l for wild fish. I think you'll find an RO filter or rainwater collection system on your Christmas list.> I even changed the water 3 days in a row. To my dismay my nitrate was still 160+. <Almost certainly your tap water has high nitrates to begin with. Here in England, it isn't uncommon for urban water supply to have 50 mg/l nitrate right out the tap. As a result, in a busy aquarium or one stocked with messy fish, like Goldfish or Cichlids, it's hard to get the nitrate level below 75-100 mg/l. With rainwater or RO, on other hand, it's easy.> The wild discus is still not eating and my parents are mad because I used to much money. <I bet! Collecting rainwater is dirt cheap and also very "green", so buy buying a water butt to store rainwater you're actually doing something responsible. If your water supply is metered, i.e., you pay by the amount you use, then you will quickly save money in the long term.> Am I overfeeding ? <Quite possibly. Halve the rations, and feed only every other day. See what happens. Fish almost never starve to death. They need a fraction of the food you might think. An adult Discus can probably get by on half a dozen bloodworms per day.> Am I doing something wrong or am I looking at the wrong cause for my wild discus not eating? <Water quality *is* the issue. Read the article linked above, and then read Bob's primer on keeping Discus (it's linked at the end of that article). The review your system. And differences between what we're talking about in those articles and what you have at home are likely at the heart of the problem. Discus aren't difficult fish once their demands are met -- but they are demanding!> Thank you for your help. <Happy to help. Neale>

Discus dying after water changes  6/28/07 Hi Crew, <Hi Eric, MacL here with you tonight.> You have answered some questions about this tank in the past and they have been very helpful. A quick recap: 72 gallon planted fw tank 26 cardinal tetras 2 Otos Numerous Malaysian trumpet and other snails ( Originally ) 3 Discus, app. 3" The tank has been running with current inhabitants since last fall. pH - 6.8, 0 ammonia, nitrites, nitrates. Temp runs at 80 (I need a second heater to combat the a/c), all fish quarantined prior to introduction. Feeding consists of TetraMin flakes, Spirulina (for the Otos and snails), tetra color bits, and various frozen cubes ( thawed first ). Filter is an Aquaclear 110 running a sponge, carbon and peat. Water changes are approximately 25% weekly, more if I have the time. Everything was running fine for the last six months - even the cardinals are large, plump and active with no losses. My problem concerns the discus - which were bought from local breeders (and raised in local tap water). I had lost one to bullying from the other two a few months back, but the remaining two were doing well and I planned on adding a couple of more after I move in the summer. <Just a quick word of caution here. Full grown discus are approximately plate sized and your tank is going to be very full when they get totally grown.> Unfortunately, I lost both (first last month, second one today) remaining discus. Each one died after a water change (or at least within a couple of days but symptoms appeared same day) leading me to believe that caused it. Since I don't have space in my current home to store water (in a container big enough for my needs), I add water directly from the tap using a Python tube. I first adjust the temperature so it is close to the tank, and as I add the water I also add dechlorinator ( I am not sure f I have chlorine or chloramines in the water but I will find out. Regardless the dechlorinator says it takes care of both). <You have to watch those dechlorinators that say that because sometimes they only take care of the chlorine in the water and not both. By splitting the chloramines up they think they are taken care of.> This has worked for me until now, and I haven't lost any of the Otos or cardinal tetras, which I took as a good sign since I know they are very delicate. <Definitely the cardinals are. And you are right you'd think if it was the chlorines it would bother them as well.> After doing these changes, though, I noticed that one of the discus over the next few hours turned very dark, listless, and gasping at the surface. <Major red flag when they turn dark. That's a very unhappy discus.> If it wasn't at the surface, it would just float around. At first I didn't think it had anything to do with the WC since only one was affected. It died the next day. Now, a month later, the same thing happened to my second discus. <For me several things come to mind. So I need to ask you some questions. First, Do you know the ph of your tap water? If it is drastically high and the ph of your tank water you could be seriously messing with your discus when the water first goes in. Second, How old are your ph test kits? I'm really surprised that with peat in your water your ph is as high as it is. Honestly it should be lower if you are running peat in the water. A lower ph is fine for the discus and for the cardinals. If it is the ph then it wouldn't effect the cardinals nearly as much as the discus. In my experience they seem to adjust to ph changes with ease once they are good and healthy. Whereas a discus, again in my experience, once they get stressed can go very quickly. Thirdly, when you do your water change are you rinsing out your sponge? This could also be where your problem is. I used an AquaClear filter and I cut the sponge in half, so one water change I could rinse out one half and the second I could rinse out the other half but I always kept some of the beneficial bacteria in the sponges. Also do you change your carbon every time? Or rinse it as well?> Do you think it is from my water changing technique? If so, what can you recommend? Please note that I wont have the facilities to store more than 5 or 10 gallons of water until I move at the end of the summer. <Nothing wrong with doing smaller water changes with stored water that is correctly set to the proper ph and doing them more frequently if possible. I know that lots of people might disagree with this but I prefer to keep my tank as stable as possible and I found that with Discus doing large water changes just plain messed with the tanks.> I currently have four juvenile discus in quarantine and don't want to add them until the problem is solved. <How are you doing their water changes? Good luck Eric, MacL> Thanks again, Eric
Re: Discus dying after water changes -- 07/01/07
Dear MacL, <Hiya Eric> Thanks for your quick response. To answer your questions: How do I know if the dechlorinator actually takes care of chloramines? What is the proper way to treat water for chloramines? <Well the tricky part is that some removers that say they take care of chloramines often will only break the chloramine apart and leave the remnant of whatever it doesn't touch in there. For instance, if it breaks apart the chloramine it might leave the ammonia in the tank. OR it might take out the ammonia and leave the chlorine. Honestly the safest way is to go to a good pet store and get a brand that says it removes all of the above, I've used prime myself for years but lots of good products out there.> ( I am writing to the NYC water board to ascertain whether they add chloramines). <You should be able to find the answer to this online as well, on the cities website.> The pH of the tap water tends to run close to 7.0, slightly above or below at times. One of my pH test kits is about two or more years old but the other is a year old and they both give the same results so I am not too concerned. <HMMMMMMMM> The reason that I added peat was because when I redid this tank as a planted tank last year, I added Tahitian Black Moon Sand. <Honestly I have used that product many times in fresh and salt and have never had it affect the ph. What else do you have in the tank? Anything like shells?> The manufacturer claims that it doesn't affect the pH, but it did cause mine to rise above 7.4, so I added the peat as a buffer. I also usually added Seachem acid buffer but haven't done that for a few months because a.) my pH started to stabilize and I wanted to see if the buffer was still needed to maintain it, and b.) I thought that perhaps adding the buffer to the tank as I was adding fresh water might have caused a sharp drop in the tank pH and killed my first discus. <I did consider that a possibility with the deaths of both of your discus because of their behavior.> I am not as diligent with my filter material as I perhaps should be. I change it not more frequently then monthly and sometimes less so. I try not to change all media at once, and I do the same thing as you with my sponge. I did change the carbon with my last WC because it was way overdue but I did not change the rest. I also rinsed the intake sponge (it helps keep plants from getting sucked in and provides some more surface area while at it for bacteria). <I really think that you had some kind of ph shift. That's why I suggested that you do the smaller and more frequent water changes. I would recommend two five gallon buckets that you adjust the water to the proper ph before hand so you don't have any changes with your discus. They really don't seem to be as delicate as they once were but they are still not easy fish to keep. And I'm really concerned about the fact that you have peat added and your ph is still so high. When I added peat to my discus tanks I went down to pHs of 5.> The new discus were placed in a quarantine tank that has been running for a while. I did need to add a bucketful of water, but it was dechlorinated first (the tank is 10 gallons so its not a problem) and I added BioSpira to kick start the cycle (Does that stuff expire?). <There are expiration dates on the packaging I believe.> I plan on keeping them in there for at least two or three weeks and hope to have this problem solved before then. I think I will try to do more frequent, but less voluminous, water changes. Do you think that I would still need to store/dechlorinate that water or can I add it directly to the tank along with dechlorinator (lets say 10% WC )? <Safest is to add it before hand although most are instantaneous.> What dechlorinator do you recommend? The breeder recommended Dechloreez but I never heard of it. <I've never heard of dechloreez either. If it was me and I was doing this with Discus I would try to figure out what the heck is going on before I moved the new fish over. Based on their actions I feel like it was either ph shifting dramatically or it was chlorine and ammonia. I promise I am not trying to insult you but does your ph test kit test low? Does it go to low ph's? I think your new plan of action should take care of the problems for you. If you do it slower with less water change you shouldn't have any problems with the big dramatic shifts. Good luck Eric, let me know how it goes.> Thanks again,  

Hole in the Head on Discus/plant questions  4/17/04 Hi Crew, <Hi Eric , Pufferpunk here> Thanks for your past help and running a great site. <You're very welcome!> I am hoping you can give me some advice with this issue. I have a 72 gallon FW heavily planted tank housing 26 cardinal tetras, 1 Ram, 2 Otos, and 3 captive bred discus (about 3' lengthwise). All were added over the space of a few months, quarantined and prophylactically treated (I have to look up the protocol if you it is needed) for 2-4 weeks. The filter is a Aquaclear 110 running with Zeolite, peat moss in pantyhose, carbon and sponge. <I don't think this is enough filtration for that tank.  On tanks larger than 50g, I would add a canister like an Eheim.> Everything is changed about once a month and the sponge is cut in half so only half is changed at a time. The heater is not on since the ambient temp plus heat from the lamps (220w PC run for 2 bulbs on 12 hrs/ the other two only on for 6) keeps the water between 76 and 78 deg F (cooler end at night). <Discus need to be kept at much higher temps: 84-86 degrees.> There are a bunch of Malaysian trumpet snails and some type of small snail that looks more typical and hitchhiked on plants (I don't mind since they leave my plants alone as long as I drop in some Spirulina every now and then).  I usually try to do a 20-25% water change every two weeks but with a new baby its hard. <Discus need 90% weekly water changes.  Discus breeders do 100% daily!> Since the tank is lightly stocked and heavily planted the parameters stay good anyways. My latest param.s are (nighttime) -- pH 6.6, total Ammonia -- 0, KH -- 3 dKH, 6 dGH, nitrates -- 0, nitrites -0, phosphates 1 mg/L. I dose Seachem Excel and Flourish once a week and add Seachem Acid buffer at water changes (tap water here is soft, but the Tahitian Moon sand contrary to their statements raised my pH and hardness). <Parameters sound good but there are things we can't test for in our tanks.  Tank-raised discus don't need all those pH lowering additives.  They are born into normal tap water.  I use none of this & only add Prime during water changes.  Carbon really isn't necessary either.  I wonder if you are getting pH swings?>   Now here are my questions: One of discus (they were purchased in early December and quarantined for 3-4 weeks) has developed what I think is Hole in the Head. At first it looked like an enlarged nare but now I see that it has enlarged further and deepened. It doesn't exhibit any other signs or symptoms that I am aware of. It eats fine (I feed a mixture of live blackworms, fruit flies, flakes, frozen assortment, which is thawed under running water first) and pellets and still keeps its rank in the pecking order. I have read on your site and others that some think that HITH is caused by poor water quality and others think it is a bacterial infection (I believe that it is probably a combination, no?). <Actually a parasite.  Poor water conditions lower a fish's immune system, making it more susceptible to disease.> I have read all kinds of treatment suggestions from Maracyn to Melafix (which I doubt has any value). <I swear by Melafix for minor bacterial problems, scratches, small wounds & frayed fins.  Definitely helps quicken the healing, along with stronger meds for worse problems.  HITH is a parasite--flagellate protozoa, called Hexamita.  Treatment: Adding a chemical to kill the Hexamita (Flubendazole, eSHa - Hexamita, Waterlife - OCTOZIN, Seachem - Metronidazole CLOUT, Fluke-Tabs, Aquatronics - Hex-a-mit, etc.) and secondary bacterial infection (Melafix).> I just did a water change and pruned out a bunch of overgrown Java moss and shook out some of the rest and a bunch of sediment came out but my param.s were fine before the water change so I don't know if that is the problem. Anyway, my dilemma is do I just sit and watch right now? <Could get worse.> Do I quarantine and treat? <I'd treat the whole tank.  Parasites can be contagious.  Anti-parasitic meds & Melafix will not harm your biological filtration.> I am afraid of stressing the fish out but on the other hand, I can't treat the whole tank and anyways none of the other fish are exhibiting any problems. Do I add some kind of vitamin supplement to its food (I saw that recommended here)? If so, how and what do I add? <I soak all my fish's foods (even live blackworms) with Zoe vitamins. A lot of folks believe this parasite comes from feeding live foods, especially live worms.  I have been feeding live worms to all my fish for years but I  check the batch at the LFS, before it's bagged up.  If there are a lot of dead worms, I don't buy them.  I rinse well in a brine shrimp net, add 1/4" water & a few flakes, along with some drops of vitamins & let sit overnight in the refrigerator.  The next day, I pour into the net again & throw out any dead worms on the bottom of the container.  I do this daily.> I really put a lot into this tank and the fish and everything looks beautiful. It is my first attempt at discus and I would hate to lose this fish. I am looking forward to your advice. <There is nothing more beautiful & peaceful than a planted discus tank.  ~PP> Sincerely, Eric New York City
Adding to one of yesterday's answers, Discus hlth., sys.    4/19/07
Hello there Crew, <Nicole> I hope you don't mind, but I feel compelled to add to an answer. It's "Hole in the Head on Discus/plant questions  4/17/04" which was answered very adeptly by Pufferpunk. <Please do> For Eric's discus, perhaps he could try medicated flakes such as those offered by flguppiesplus? Here's a link to flakes containing Metronidazole: http://flguppiesplus.safeshopper.com/256/cat256.htm?5 <Thank you for this lead, link> I also wondered why Eric would have Zeolite for chemical filtration in his tank, instead of activated carbon or a carbon resin blend. <Me too> Probably unrelated to the HLLE his discus are experiencing, but I would still switch out that Zeolite for a bag of Chemi-Pure, if it were my setup. My thoughts on Zeolite, Ammo Chips, etc. were that these interfered with the nitrifying bacteria - however, I notice some folks use these instead of, or along with, carbon. Your thoughts? Thanks for listening! Nicole <I am in agreement. Thank you for sharing. I do hope Eric will see this... and do know that many others will over many years, and that your effort will help them and their livestock. Bob Fenner>

Strange Discus illness... nutr., algal/env...?   2/27/07 Hello <Hi there> I have a 75gallon Discus tank. I have it fairly heavily planted, with Co2 injection and a PH controller. I also have 260watts of compact fluorescent lighting. I change the water once a week, about 15 to 25% each time and once a month I do a more in depth cleaning and 30% - 40% water change. I have only had these fish in the tank for about two months now. The tank itself has been running for about 6 months or more now. I did a 25 or 30% water change yesterday afternoon, and trimmed some planted that had some bad algae growth and cleaned the Fluval filter pads and trays. <All sounds good thus far... but the algae...> Then fed the fish about an hour later. Everyone was fine when I went to bed last night. I woke up this morning, and found one of my larger discus floating upside down in the corner. When I looked in at him he moved back out of the corner and got upright, and then swam down to the bottom with the others. Then I realized he was swollen or bulging around is stomach area, and had difficulty swimming, and once floated rig ht to the top of the tank. When I left for work, he was back in the corner, but right side up this time. <Mmmm> I have no idea what this could be or how I caused this. I did recently started feed live black worms, as I have one smaller discus in there that won't eat anything but live food and small amounts of flake foods. All the discus eat the worms. <Usually... with gusto!> Yesterday though, I did have a problem with the worms, but it didn't seem to be an issue. I took the out of the fridge, and found that they had gotten frozen solid. I thought they were dead for sure. But I rinsed them with cold water a few times, and the ice melted away slowly, and to my surprise the worms were in fact alive and moving. so I rinsed them a few more times and let them sit. they looked totally normal and healthy, so I fed them to my discus and my angels and rams in another tank. The other tank is doing just fine, and so are all the other discus, including the one that doesn't eat much. Any ideas what this is and how I can treat the discus and hopefully not lose him? more tank info incase its needed... PH - 6.80 Ammonia - 0ppm Nitrite - 0ppm Nitrate - 0ppm to 5ppm GH - about 6 KH - about 3 or 4 <This all looks good as well> I have eco complete as my substrate with a very small amount of gravel on the top of that mainly for color. Filtration is a Fluval 405 filter, with one tray full of bio media, another with zeolite and peat, and another with lava grains. also have co2 injection on a PH controller and 260watts of light. The only thing I am not using is RO water. I do plan to use this ASAP, as soon as I can afford one. <Mmm, depends on whatever else may be in your tap... but the measures you give are fine... esp. for tank-bred specimens (vs. wild-caught)> Thanks for any help you may offer!!!! <Mmm... well, I suspect the blackworms... as you appear to as well... Maybe the one fish "got a tummy-ache" from these being "not quite right"... But more so, I am wondering re the algae that you mention on the plants... there are a few types that are quite toxic to aquatic life... in particular in new/er set-ups... I do encourage you to add a bit of GAC (granulated activated carbon) in a Dacron bag... in your canister filter, AND I do encourage you to add something more/else in the way of filtration... another canister or hang-on power filter... You need more, redundant bio-filtration here... Bob Fenner>

FW, high pH... Discus... No useful info.   9/22/06 Hi  We have a couple of Solid Blue breeders,  our PH has risen to 7.7, <?> one of the breeders has gone dark, sits in the corner, breaths heavy.  I didn't think he would still be here on Monday let alone today (not looking to good)  We have tried to get the PH down, <How...?> but no joy.  Can you suggest anything I have been doing 25% water changes each day. Thanks Julie <Mmm... are you familiar with Alkalinity/Alkaline reserve? Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwph,alk.htm and the linked files above... Would be worthwhile to have test kits, measures for kH, GH... to go along with such expensive fish. It may be that your source water needs to be filtered... perhaps Reverse Osmosis... and then blended with some original water for "some" mineral content... Bob Fenner>

Troubles With New Discus  1/1/06 Hello again, Crew, How have the Holidays been? < So far, so good.> Ours have been stressful. We've had a group of 6 discus (3--1" fish, 2--2", and 1--2.5") in quarantine since the Thursday before Christmas. The QT was setup 1.5 wks earlier with water from the display and bio-media that we keep in our main 150gal tank for just such a purpose. It is a 20gal w/2" gravel and UG filter and a "reverse wet dry" (4"PVC filled with bioballs, capped and drilled, with an airstone inside allowing bubbles to rise through the bioballs). Wednesday I was checking my water and noticed that the ammonia was getting up to 1ppm, so I did a 50% wc and added some GAC. I checked my water on Thursday and the NH3 was up to 2 ppm so I did a 60% wc, took out the plant bulbs that I'd put in on Monday, JIC, and went about my way. Later that day I noticed that the discus just didn't seem happy, so I checked again and my NH3 had jumped to about 3ppm. I couldn't figure out what had happened, but the trend was troubling. I checked the main system and everything was zero, including nitrates, so I decided it was better to put them in the display than to kill them with ammonia. We moved them in the afternoon and noticed that the lonely discus in the main tank was being quite stingy with food. We decided a change of scenery might do him good, so did a 40%wc, put him in an internal refugium (clear 'critter cage' faced on it's side to allow flow and view, w/o aggression) and rearranged the decorations. In the process my UGJ came out from under the sand so I just pulled it from the system...wasn't good for the discus anyway, too much current. This all lasted until about 11:30pm. The fish looked like crud this morning, but livened up for feeding, except the largest of the bunch. His feeding reflex seemed very weak and he seemed to miss everything he went for...he hit just below every piece of food, only getting like one out of 10 attempts. This afternoon everyone still looked unhappy so I turned off the MH and they are only lit by a 27w 6500K CFL in the middle of the tank. Just now I noticed that the largest was still looking unhappy and has quite a few "holes" around his head and jaw, probably about 8-12 that I can count. After seeing that I looked at everyone and they all seem to have very pronounced lateral lines, though no-one else shows holes in their head and he is the only one with a reduced feeding response. I feed a variety of flake, mostly Tetra and OSI, and frozen bloodworms and supplement every other day with vitamins. My first thought is Hexamita, but I've only seen very advanced cases at pet stores and am unsure. The main tank is still at 0 on everything and the QT's ammonia is down to about .5ppm NH3. What should I do? Branon. < The stress from all the movement and new fish is taking its toll. Continue to check the ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. The ammonia and nitrites should be zero. The nitrates should be under 20 ppm for discus. The lower the better. I would vacuum the gravel and clean the filter while doing a 50% water change. Discus actually like some current in their tank. Once the tank conditions are straightened out you should see some improvement. Things like Blackwater Extract and pieces of wood in the tank help calm the fish down by adding tannins to the water and slightly darkening it.-Chuck
Discus Still Recovering  1/1/06
Chuck, good to hear from you again. I let the [once] lonely discus out of his makeshift 'refugium' and he was much more content to play nicely. The largest of the new fish is also improving--I'm going to call him "biggy" since he's the biggest of the new group. He wasn't attempting to eat yesterday or this morning, but as soon as the resident discus came out he was much improved. The holes in his head haven't changed. I'm treating one feeding per day with Metronidazole, JIK. Everyone has perked up a bit. I noticed quite a bit of "pestering" from the Yo-Yo loaches. Have you ever heard of them being a problem? < Yes , many of the larger loaches can be very aggressive.> Ours are about 3" long and are excellent scavengers. However, I did notice that they will chase and pester the discus about once every 5 minutes on average...sometimes worse than others. I'm wondering if this is why everyone's still darker than they should be? < Stress is a big factor when it come to disease. Being chased every 5 minutes is stressful.> I'm going to lure them into the 'refugium' and see if this helps the discus some. I'm also thinking of getting some Corydoras or clown loaches to give them something else to pester? < Go with the Corydoras.> 'Biggy' is actively pursuing food but still misses almost everything he aims for...can you think of any reason why? < Deformity, disease could have affected the skull and muscle tissue around the eyes and he is having trouble focusing.> He's almost three inches so he's been eating well for a while now. He's also been doing this since he was shipped to us, so I don't think it's anything that could have happened here. Do you think this is something that'll fade out? < If the eyes are clear then probably nothing you can do.> Is there anything that could contribute/help this condition/situation? < Keep the water clean and hopefully things will improve.-Chuck> I'm planning on putting him into the QT tank once the NH3 has improved. Any help would be appreciated. Branon.

Discus In Distress - 09/01/2005 Hi Kindly help 40 gallon tank with 4 tiger barbs 4 angles and 2 discus. <Too many large cichlids for this tank; also, tiger barbs are notoriously aggressive fin-nippers, I would fear for the fins of the angels and discus.> PH test normal .temp 28°C <Ammonia, nitrite, nitrate?  Be testing for these as well, maintain ammonia and nitrite at ZERO, and nitrate below 20ppm.> When a new cobalt blue discus was added it has changed its colour to black, fins clamped, body has sunk in size, eating very low, and breathing very heavy.   <Quite possibly Hexamita, treatable with Metronidazole in food.  Please note that this can easily spread to your other discus and your angels.  Consider using a quarantine tank for new fish in the future.> Regards,  Saji <Wishing you and your discus well,  -Sabrina>

Sick Discus 8/18/05 Hey Guys... <Hi Courtney> I need help:(  <I'll certainly try...> I have had a turquoise for about 3 weeks now and just got 2 more a week and a half ago.  I have 3 plants in my aquarium and keep my water temp. around 82 degrees.  <I would raise this for discus to 85-90, slowly over a period of several days.> Last night my discus began swimming frantically around the tank, running into EVERYTHING!!!  <Extreme stress response I'll bet.> It seemed as though he was blind.  <Are your lights extremely bright?> Today he his very lethargic and just lets the current in the tank take him around and he is often on his side, still running into things.  He is also very dark.  <Very dark = very stressed.> One of my new discus just started also running into things, acts as if it is blind as well, but is very still active and good color.  <Discus have a tendency to bolt wildly when stressed, especially when they are young.> My Nitrate level is 0-10, Nitrite level is 0, KH is180, and pH is between 7.8 and 8.2.  I bought some pH down and put the recommended dose in to bring the level down.  <pH down is not an effective solution in the long run.  Your pH will never stay down with your kH that high (kH is a measure of the water's capacity to buffer, or keep pH stable).  Best solution IME is to use a chunk of peat (the kind meant for aquariums) in your filter and remove your activated carbon.  This will soften the water, plus release tannins which will make the discus feel more at home by staining the water a light tea colour.  If you don't like the darkened water (it's really not unpleasant), just put a new activated carbon in your filter to remove the tannins.> These are such beautiful (and might I say expensive) fish and do not want to lose them.  <Understandably...they are beautiful creatures.> I have 3 zebra danios, 3 angel fish, a red flame gourami, Plecostomus, and about 5 apple snails in the tank with them.  <Your plants will be snail food, probably sooner rather than later.> I have a 30 gal. tank.  <Will need to upgrade to 50 gallon + within a year or two.> My other discus is a blue diamond.  Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!!! <Try peat in the filter.  I have found it to be the key to happy and bold discus.  Also, you should consider mixing in some RO/DI water when you do your water changes (about 3-5 gallons 2-3 times per week should do it though some like to change a little daily for discus).  This will help drop your pH slowly without shocking the fish.  Good luck!> Thanks so much, <No problem, thank you.> Courtney <--Glenn>

Discus in a New Tank Greetings.. I have a 75 gallon Freshwater tank with 4 Discus and a one 4 inch Sliver Arowana. The tank has been running 3 months. 1st Issue - 3 of my Discus have recently developed white film over eyes. What is this and how do I fix? < Erythromycin. Do a 30% water change, vacuum the gravel and clean all your filters. Treat for the problem as per the directions on the package. After treatment then run carbon to remove any excess medication. When the medication is clear then add Bio-Spira from Marineland to reestablish the good bacteria needed to break down the fish waste.> 2nd Issue - I purchased a H.O.T magnum filter and placed Eheim Subtrat for biological filtration but particles from the media quickly filled the tank making it cloudy. I washed the media thoroughly (Well I thought I did). Was this a good idea, and how do I fix for best efficiency? <Eheim has lots of different media and usually run at a much slower flow rate than the magnum. When I was filter media or gravel I usually get a sieve from a local dollar store and run my media through it until it runs clear. As long as you have the foam sleeve on the outside almost anything will work on the inside.> #3rd Issue - I am currently running a Emperor 400 Power filter & Fluval Canister 304. Is this sufficient & how often should I clean the Fluval (I have not cleaned as yet - 3 Months). Thank you for your assistance with these matters. From 3 Month Old Fish Owner =). < I would still clean them every other week. On the even numbered weeks, like the second and forth, I would clean the Emperor. On the odd numbered weeks I would clean the Fluval. By leaving a dirty filter you will be building up nitrates which may have contributed to your discus problem. With discus the lower the better.-Chuck> 

Fish poisoned with algicide/clarifying agent Hi there. I used a product called Accu-clear in my tank, which was going green with an algae bloom. It had 2 of my breeding discus in it. Both discus instantly got sick and one to the point where it was lying on the bottom of the tank and gasping for air. Can you help me and give me some information on what I can do to help this fish? <Change the water IMMEDIATELY... as much as you have good water (about the same chemistry, temperature) on hand. Increase aeration... Bob Fenner>

Royal Blue Discus, FW Algae Control, Seastars, Aiptasia Control... I just discovered your web site yesterday and have spent more time on it than I care to admit.  I am truly impressed, great web site. keep up the good work.  I wish tools like this were available in 1965 when I first started (whoops, did I just give away my age?). <It'll be our little secret.> I have two royal blue discus in a 60 gallon setup (about a year old and adult size), PH - 6.4, temp - 85 degrees, with weekly water changes using only distilled water.  Usually no problems and everything is great, but whenever they get stressed (like when the Santa Ana winds start blowing the house down) they get small white patches along their lateral line (larger and thicker than ich) and throughout their body.  If I use Hex-A-Mit they go away within a couple of days and everything is back to normal.  Does this sound parasitic or fungal (I assume it isn't the beginning of hole-in-the-head because they disappear too fast)? <Does not sound like HLLE, most likely stress related.  Using un buffered distilled water can cause unstable water conditions.  if the hardness of this tank is below 40ppm and the pH is below 6.7)... then these discus could easily be suffering from acidosis (too low pH, too fast).> Also, any way to control the algae?  The aquarium is planted  (using two 40 watt Trichromatics on 12 hours a day) and the older leaves on the Echinodorus get algae on them.  I tried mystery snails, but they just keep eating up the leaves on my lotus and Aponogetons. <A bunch of ways, mainly nutrient control. http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwalgcontrol.htm > One last question.  Are there any safe sea stars for a reef tank?  Is there any way to kill those little annoying anemones?  I purchased a peppermint shrimp to control them but he's having too much fun eating other things (okay, two last questions. thanks and keep up the good work). <Yes there are "reef safe" stars, see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/seastars.htm I would go with the peppermint shrimp approach.  The Copper-band Butterfly is a known Aiptasia eater, but will most likely die once all the Aiptasia is gone.  Best Regards, Gage http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/inverts/cnidaria/anthozoa/aiptasia/aiptasia.htm >

pH shock-- curable? I did something very stupid just over a week ago-- I introduced an old piece of mahogany driftwood I had into my discus tank. I had used the driftwood years ago in another discus tank, and it provided a good buffering pillow. I was about to introduce two new discus and also thought they'd like the shelter it provided, as the three discus already present had pretty much staked out their favorite spots around their piece of driftwood. Darned if the new/old driftwood didn't leach scarily-large amounts of nitrate into the water (which I didn't even think to check because everything else-- ammonia, nitrite, PH all tested fine), and drive the carbonate hardness down to near zero-- and, of course, cause an acid fall-- from 7.0 to 6.2 between Friday afternoon and Sunday night. Well, I've pulled out that hunk of driftwood and carefully and slowly corrected the water conditions (PH back to 7.0, carbonate hardness 50 ppm, general hardness 80 ppm or 4.5 dh, no detectable nitrites or ammonia, nitrates still high at 50 ppm but much better than the 110 they were!) and the discus are now looking a lot less stressed, as long as I don't walk up to the tank, since they now connect me with Big Scary water changes instead of yummy food. Their fins are barely clamped and are spread full much of the time, body colour a bit dull but not dark anymore, eyes better-- still a bit dull, but the red colour's back But nobody's eaten a thing for six days. And they're still not at all frisky. They mostly hang about their old pieces of driftwood Obviously, they endured PH shock. Can they recover? Can I help them recover? <More than nitrate was released by the wood... I would make a large (25%) water change (with pre-conditioned water) today, maybe another tomorrow... and place some activated carbon (several ounces) in your filter flow path. Do your discus have favorite food items? I would try these. Bob Fenner> Judy Waytiuk

Am I cycling again? More than that! Hi-- you guys are life-savers. Your site is such a help, I can't tell you. <thanks kindly... sorry for the delay in response. Catching up with e-mail> But I need a bit of specific steerage, I think-- or maybe just a hand-holding to tell me I'm doing okay now... I have a long-established, planted 50 gallon discus tank which had three part-grown fish. I added two and four tiny ones (I know-- when they reach adulthood, I will be overcrowded-- but I'm not expecting them to all  make it. And if they do, I know a fish guy who will gladly adopt). <Yikes... there are two huge flaws in this strategy. Discus (like many FW fishes) give off growth-inhibiting hormones that stunt the growth of smaller/weaker individuals. Unless you are doing daily water changes, these smaller specimens you have added don't have a prayer of growing. Now, as far as you statement that you don't expect all to survive... I am dumbstruck as to why not?! I would like to think you keep all fishes well enough to have every confidence they will survive> My problem: I had an acid crash which I think was precipitated by a huge drop in my carbonate hardness, simultaneous with the addition  of the two new guys. <I hope this was not from using untempered RO/DO or Distilled water. Never to be done... always buffer a bit. Even for Blackwater Amazonian species (which you do not have)> Though I stabilized the Ph as carefully as I could, one of my old discus and one of the new ones died. I did 25% water changes every couple of days over the last week, and bought two more new guys to replace the lamented dead-- who happened to be the two biggest ones in the tank. Everyone now looks fine-- spread fins, bright eyes, good color, active schooling, happy exploration around the tank in group missions. But one of the new darlings, on close inspection at home under good light, turns out to have gray skin-- that fungal infection. <its not a fungal infection. Fungal infections are extremely rare in fishes. Protozoan infections from unquarantined discus are very common and contagious, however. I have to say, my friend... I am torn here between wanting to help you on one hand, and wanting to berate you on the other for your reckless disregard for life. Even on base terms of financial investment... why would anybody take a disease-prone family of fishes (Discus) and add new undersized ones into a tank with an unfair advantage... unquarantined(!)... and only days after kin had died? Even though you explain the deaths as pH related... what of the increased risk of disease with the stressed survivors? I am truly saddened to hear of the whole affair. You need a lot more patience and information to keep discus... perhaps fishes at large.> I treated that this morning with Jungle's Fungus Eliminator. <a good medication, but ineffective here... and what's worse is that you treated the main tank! Not only was this medication a waste of money, but this antibiotic has killed a portion of your biological filter> Everyone still seems happy, though, <relative to...?> with the exception of the ravenous babies, they're picking at food very lightly. I'm removing it with a wide pipette as best I can when it gets left (easy with a piece of Discus delight, not so easy with wandering frozen bloodworms). My nitrates, which had been over 110 (as high as the kit tests) <actually... you have staggering nitrate levels... likely from a lack of water changes (which also mitigates acidosis like the pH crash you've experienced). Nitrate on a test kit needs to be multiplied by 4.4 to get the actual nitrate levels (Nitrate ion versus nitrate as nitrogen). So even if your tank was known to be at only 110ppm on the test kit... your actual nitrate is around 500ppm (possibly much higher). This level is obscene and quite indicative of water quality> when the acid fall happened, are now, with the water changes and the use of Nitra-Sorb in my box filter (Tetratec 300)  somewhere between 20 and 40. <yes... water changes please> But my carbonate hardness still wants to keep switching down, testing daily at 30 or 35 although I am carefully adding KH booster in the recommended amounts. And my Ph, which I am trying to sketch down to 6.5, wants to stay at 7.0 even though I am adding daily Ph Adjust down in the recommended amount. The fish all came from 7.0 or higher, but really, I know they'll be much better off with the lower P, if I can just get it to settle down around 6.5. Nitrites and ammonia both tested at zero until this evening, when I got trace ammonia and light nitrite readings. <that would be the medications used in the display (and not a proper QT) killing nitrifying faculties> I added some Cycle, <a waste of money IMO> assuming my biological filter's been sorely depleted by all the water changes. <Ahhh...no. Water changes have absolutely no impact on nitrifying bacteria unless you are throwing away bio-media. These faculties are benthic and not touched by the dilution of tank water> So. Is the tank in a cycle stage again (if so, fine. I'll just watch it like a hawk and do gentle, frequent water changes. <simple damage from meds> But how do I get the carbonate hardness to behave and the Ph to reduce slowly? <a better test kit and a better buffer would be my advice> And should I put in Ammo Lock 2 if the ammonia sketches up any further by morning? <just a water change please> A major water change is, due to the Fungus Eliminator, out as an option until Friday a.m.-- <I'm not sure why it would be out of the question? This drug (like most) has a life in aquarium water of less than 12 hours (actually about 4-6 hours in this case). Hence the reason for daily and twice daily dosing of most meds. You water change will not phase efficacy after 6 hours of the dose> but then, the aquarium's biological filtration isn't going to much care for yet another big water change, is it? Judy Waytiuk <I'm thinking that you would benefit tremendously from attendance of a good local aquarium society. Some better books at least. The sheer number of misinformed choices and perceptions that you've recited tells me that you may not be getting accurate advice from your local fish store or other counsel. The help you need is far bigger than a single e-mailed reply. Let me apologize for the disappointment and dry wit above, but I am truly saddened to hear the choices you made and the rationale (assumptive) behind them. Please take my advice and spare some lives and your labor: don't by another fish until you've bought some better books and read them. And then still don't buy another fish until you've bought a simple QT tank to put all potential new fishes in first for 4 weeks (no exceptions). Read more in the wetwebmedia.com archives about protocol for quarantine. Best regards, Anthony>

Discus pH shock/Columnaris Bob, I have a 75-gallon tank, containing nine 2" to 5" discus, several pairs of various Amazonian dwarf cichlids, a few Cory cats, a 7" diameter Guyana stingray (humerosa), and several other small dither fishes. All were doing well together, besides the stingray occasionally eating one of the smaller fishes, until I recently ordered online four (of the nine) young 2" to 3" discus, which quickly developed Columnaris.  I do at least a 25% water change twice a week. I use a Fluval 304 and an AquaClear 500 for filtration. I have about 15 plants (mostly swords and Anubias), which I supplement with a small CO2 system. I must have taken my previously good, stable water conditions for granted, for a day after adding the new discus I tested my pH: it was about 5 (the test didn't go any lower). The ammonia and nitrites remained at zero, while the nitrates hovered around .12 mg/L. The first night using 7.4 pH tap water, conditioned of course for chlorine and whatnot, I managed to raise the pH up to 6. The next day the older, larger discus also developed Columnaris; I've heard it can be quite contagious to other tankmates, or perhaps they developed it on their own as a result of pH shock. I believe that my original mistake was not correctly measuring the proper amount of discus buffer (to lower pH), which sent my normal 6.5 pH plummeting. For the first five days I treated the tank with tetracycline/hydrochloride, but the fish showed little recovery and one of the new ones died (a red spot green). I don't think they liked sitting in the dark all day and night long, due to tetracycline being photo sensitive, so after three treatments-I believe it was 200 mg (1 pill) for every 5 gallons (I added about 13-15 pills every 1.5 to 2 days) I switched to using erythromycin, particularly Maracyn. They are all eating frozen bloodworms, which I provide them a feast twice a day (the stingray is a bottomless pit that I refer to as a vacuum cleaner).  After two days of treatment using erythromycin three of the discus seem much better, and I know they appreciate the light. The rest still look pretty ragged. My pH is back at a stable 6.5, and I've added more Epsom salt than I normally use and also aeration to aid in their respiration.  I'm wondering how long Columnaris typically lasts, and when I can expect my discus to fully recover. I also am curious about the 5-day treatment Maracyn recommends, particularly whether I should do partial water changes between daily treatments. Surprisingly the stingray could care less about the medicated water and is his same mischievous self. The other fish also appear unaffected. . . . I'd like to know your opinion of my set-up and my predicament. I hope I provided enough information.  < You first mistake was in not quarantining your new discus. If they had been placed in a small clean aquarium the medicating would have cheaper and more effective. The erythromycin is a good choice for this disease, but the water changes help your fish recover. In about a week you fish should be better. Watch out for ammonia spikes because the medication may affect the good bacteria that breaks down the fish waste into less toxic nitrites and nitrates.-Chuck>
Re: Discus pH shock/Columnaris
Thanks, Chuck. One more thing: After treating my tank with tetracycline for 5 days and erythromycin for another 8 days two of my eight remaining discus that had already seemed on the road to full recovery are now resting at the bottom of the tank. Their colors have darkened only slightly, and they don't appear to have anything new wrong with them.  Are there complications for extended use of erythromycin? I've removed the medication, but they've now stopped eating (they were eating during the medication). Also I've been adding salt at a rate of about 1 tablespoon per 5 gallons, maybe even a little more, which I heard may aid in their recovery. This has gone on for a couple months. Could the salt be the reason why the discus are behaving strangely? Something's up, my pH is 6.8, ammonia 0, nitrite 0, nitrate .6 mg/L. I don't know what the hardness is. I have some plants in the tank as well, which seem fine. Do the fish simply need to rest for a couple days? I've had discus refuse food for weeks and then act normal like nothing ever happened. Any ideas? (Tank specs: 8 discus, 1 stingray, 6 Irian Jaya red rainbowfish, several bottom feeders, 100 lbs. of sand, 2 96-watt power compacts, 15 plants, CO2 yeast thingy [not cylinder], no aeration, except current from AquaClear 500 and Fluval 304).  Adam Michels < Nothing brings discus back faster than water changes. I would do water changes as often as I could with soft acidic water. Offer a variety of foods and clean the filter often. They should be back at it in no time.-Chuck>

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