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FAQs on Discus Systems

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

Breeding/paired Discus are best housed by themselves

Discus Tank Setup       2/20/19
Hi Team,
I have recently purchased a 50 gallon and have some discus and rosy barbs housed in the tank.
<Mmm; well these fishes really "like" different water quality: Warm, soft, acidic vs. cooler, harder, alkaline>
The tank has a driftwood and an artificial plant setup on one side of the tank and the rest of the tank being empty and bare bottomed.
<... not suitable for Symphysodon>

I observed that the discus prefer sitting behind the decorations and seldom come out for a swim.
<Expected here>
They all seems to be comfortable there. There is one pair of blue diamond which doesn't come out like the others for food as well.
<... I'd be concerned if they've been here for much time>
Is there something I am missing or that I need to do to make my discus make more use of the space rather then sitting in one corner.
<Yes... Read here re:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/discusfish.htm and the linked files above>
This is my first discus tank.
As of feeding, I am currently feeding them a mix of tetra bytes, Hikari gold and frozen Tubifex worm.
<... Only the latter will be taken by Discus. See WWM re feeding.... >
Look forward for your advise.
<You should investigate before buying livestock. Bob Fenner>
Thanks and regards,
Re: Discus Tank Setup

Hey Bob,
Thanks for getting back.
<Welcome Shriram>
From my understanding, I should probably be placing driftwood spread across the tank to mimic their natural environment, instead of at one corner of the tank.
<One aspect, yes... and plantings>
I usually switch on the tank light, let it run for a while and then place the food in the tank. The one discus pair I was telling about doesn't seem to come out when the light is switched on compared to others. I have seen them come out when the light is switched off.
Does this indicate anything in specific.
<Mate... you haven't read where I referred you>
Do you have any advise on creating a black water setup for the discus, does that help?
Thanks and regards,
Discus Tank Setup /Neale

Hi Team,
<Hello Shriram,>
I have recently purchased a 50 gallon and have some discus and rosy barbs housed in the tank.
<Discus can be contained in tanks this size, certainly as singletons or pairs. Groups will not thrive though. Too much risk of aggression because you need at least 6 specimens for them to get along as sexually mature adults. Furthermore, Rosy Barbs are subtropical fish. They won't last long at the 28-30 C needed for Discus.>
The tank has a driftwood and an artificial plant setup on one side of the tank and the rest of the tank being empty and bare bottomed.
<The bare bottom will reflect light, stressing Discus. Do use a thin layer of dark, lime-free sand or gravel. Even a few mm will do the trick while remaining easy to clean.>
I observed that the discus prefer sitting behind the decorations and seldom come out for a swim.
<I bet. See above.>
They all seems to be comfortable there. There is one pair of blue diamond which doesn't come out like the others for food as well. Is there something I am missing or that I need to do to make my discus make more use of the space rather then sitting in one corner.
<Do read above; Discus are not sociable in small groups, at least when sexually mature, and large groups (6+ specimens) will need more space. They are afraid of bright light, especially upwelling bright light, so a dark substrate and overhead share are both essential.>
This is my first discus tank.
<Plenty of websites and books; do bear in mind many accounts of Discus kept in small tanks without sand/gravel are breeding tanks, and used for mated pairs rather than communities like yours.>
As of feeding, I am currently feeding them a mix of tetra bytes, Hikari gold and frozen tubiflex worm.
<I'd probably avoid Tubifex. Too risky. Good quality flake and pellets are fine, alongside finely minced white fish fillet and seafood.>
Look forward for your advise.
Thanks and regards,
<Cheers, Neale.>

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.>

4ft tank with discus          3/30/15
Hi I have set up a 4ftx2ftx18 inch Juwel tank, and bought 12 3 1/2inch discus from China discus (lovely fish) they have settled in really well how big can I expect them to grow I feed them on frozen blood worm/brine shrimp etc would be grateful for your reply,
<That's about 75 imperial gallons. You should be fine with 6 adults in there, but I wouldn't keep more than that. Do bear in mind Discus are acutely sensitive to dissolved metabolites (ammonia, nitrite AND nitrate) and won't do well if they're overcrowded. Short term, rearing them for the next few months should work, but really, much above 10 cm/4 inches you'll find them pairing off and they will need much more spacious living quarters if you wanted to keep them all together in the one aquarium -- 75 gallons isn't enough for 12 adult Discus. Cheers, Neale.>
Re Discus

Hi thanks for quick reply, when I contacted Chen's discus to <sic> disgust about buying fish he assured me that 12 would be OK in the Juwel tank, and that it is 350 gallons the fish are doing well and feeding good
<Hmm... well, 4 x 2 x 1.5 ft is 12 cubic feet, right? According to my computer, 12 cubic feet is 74.7 Imperial gallons (1 cubic foot is a bit over 6 Imperial gallons). So by the measurements you gave me, 4 ft x 2 ft x 18 inches, that's a 75 Imperial gallon tank. Agreed? Now, there is a Juwel 350 aquarium, but it's 350 litres, or 77 Imperial gallons. Juwel do not make a 350-gallon aquarium. I think you've told Chen it's a 350 tank, and he's assumed you meant 350 gallons, but in fact it's 350 litres, a much
different aquarium! A dozen adult Discus in 350 litres is not a good idea!
As your teacher might have said at school, "go back and check your working out". I've no doubt your fish are fine now, but as they get bigger, you'll need to rehome them. Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>
Re Discus        3/31/15

Many thanks for your swift reply
<Glad to help.>
many I should get another tank and put half of them in there,
<A 350 litre aquarium would work for 5-6 adult Discus, provided you were very careful about water quality.>
good to know there's someone out there for advice,
<Lots to read about Discus on WWM! Cheers, Neale.>

Ozone and Discus     9/12/14
Hi WMM Team,
I have a freshwater question I would love your guidance on. I have an ozone unit / reactor which I am using on my FOWLR tank, but I was thinking it might better serve my 135G Freshwater Discus/Planted tank.
Reason being that Discus require a lot of water changes to keep them happy, I was wondering if the benefits of ozone clean water would be ideal for discus and would help cut down on the vast quantity of water changes that are required to keep them happy, active, and colorful?
<Careful ozone use can be beneficial with keeping Symphysodon... still a good idea to do regular (even daily) partial water changes to dilute metabolites though>
Surprisingly I haven't found much information on the web for this subject.
<Mmm; how to put this... the huge mass of information on the Net is deficient, much of it fallacious. There is a HUGE amount known re ozone, aquarium use... But in books, journals... NOT on the "junk" net for free>
Perhaps it's because ozone is more commonly used with saltwater, but given that I have the gear at the ready (including monitoring/automation to turn it off [though the Ozone unit I have probably doesn't produce enough to overdose using my reactor]) do you think it would be a good idea to use on my discus / planted tank, or do you foresee any issues?
<If kept within safe limits; no problems>
My LFS that sells a great deal of discus didn't see an issue, but also didn't have any experience with it.
<I agree with them>
I greatly appreciate your insight and hope this can provide ideas to others.
Best Regards,
<And you; Bob Fenner>

Keeping discus in 200l        1/18/14
Hi guys,
just want some advice.  I have a 48x15x18 tank (200l approx).  18" is the height.  I would like to keep discus.  I just wondered what would be the recommended number in a tank this size?  I'm asking long term preferably. 
I'd also like to keep a trio of Apistogramma - not sure which type yet - and a shoal of around 20 cardinals.  I also have an L204. 
The tank has a Tetratec ex1200 external filter.  Is this something that can be done?
Thank you for all your advice guys, you're always a help!
<200 litres (just under 55 US gal) is too small for a school of six Discus, which is the smallest safe sized group. So your options are basically a singleton or a mated pair. In a mixed species set-up, a singleton kept with some Apistogramma, a group of Corydoras sterbai, and a school of Rummynose Tetras or Cardinal Tetras could work very well. Modern farmed Discus are quite bold fish and don't need to be molly-coddled if kept with peaceful fish. I do know that some people keep 6-8 young Discus in 55 gallon tanks, but you'll be up against the wall as they mature because handling nitrate levels will be increasingly difficult. There'd also be very little scope for error if the filter stops working properly. So while it might be possible, I couldn't recommend it. Cheers, Neale.>

Planning for New Discus Tank     3/27/13
Hi Crew,
My new 80 gallon tank should arrive this Friday.  I am looking at housing Discus in a planted tank with a school of dither fish.  To prepare, I have been running my new Eheim 2217 in my established 68 gallon planted freshwater tank for the past week.  I have also been floating the new plants
(java fern and Amazon sword) that I plan on using.   The new sand and drift wood are soaking in old tank water from a water change.  I plan on starting the new tank with a school of dither fish most likely Cardinal tetras. 
Here are my questions:
1.       Is the Eheim 2217 enough filtration?
<Mmm, I'd add some other filtration here... perhaps a hang on power filter (box type)... for added mechanical (mainly) filtering, and surface disruption/aeration>
2.       Will the new tank cycle be jump-started enough to get the tetras right away?
<Should be; yes. I'd wait a few days to assure all gear is up/going though>
3.       How long do I need to wait before adding the Discus?
<A few weeks>
4.       Is five Discus the right number for this tank?
<About right. There may need to be some removal to elsewhere when pairing, reproductive behavior commences>
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Water softener for Discus 11/10/12
Hi crew,
I keep fish for a long time and consider myself as a knowledgeable hobbyist. About year ago, my friend came to me, he saw my tank and got obsessed with aquarium fishes. He has a well and his water is yellowish, with a lot of iron and other heavy metals. So he is using water softener. I told him that it is impossible to keep fish with water softener (his pH is 7.2, carbonate hardness is 1, and general hardness is 150 after water softener).
<Still high for "softened"; what type of softener is this?... I would encourage him to get/use a reverse osmosis device for his potable and petfish uses... adding a bit of buffer for the last>

 He did not listen. He bought 150 gallon tank, good filter, set water temperature to 86F and after cycling added 12 (twelve!) adult discus (about $150 each),
5 Bristlenose Plecos and 10 bleeding heart tetras. He did water change twice per week, but he never added any carbonate to the water.
<You state above that there is some in his "softened water">
I thought its complete waste of money and all fish is going to die. No. No deaths at all.
During the hurricane Sandy, he lost power and attached aquarium to generator, but was not able to change water and feed fishes for 9 days.
Anybody dies? No. After 9th day 2 different pairs of discus laid eggs.
Can you please explain, what is going on? Every single book and your website state that you can't use water softener.
<Depends on the "softener", what sort of recharge/exchange mechanism is employed, and the subsequent make-up of the softened water... As you state, the water here is not "totally" softened. Bob Fenner> 

Quick question, Discus water quality     10/8/12
I just had a quick question,
My water parameters are,
Nitrate- 40ppm
<I'd keep at 20 max; less w/ Symphysodon>
Nitrite - 0 ppm
GH - 250 ppm
KH- 20 ppm
Ph- 6.2
This is a discus tank, 120 gallon with 5 discus, temp. 82F
My question is what would be the best thing to get my GH down?
<Water changes, blends w/ RO>
I've been researching (couldn't find much in your website..) but it seems as though moss balls and driftwood will bring it down naturally,
<Not enough for long-term maintenance>
while using RO water 50/50 with tap water?
<Aye yes>
what do you suggest I do? I've already got one moss ball with an Anubis on it.
<As stated>
I'm sure that's not going to do much though considering the tank size.
<Changing half will halve the hardness...>
My discus don't seem to be too badly impacted, but I'm not too interested in losing any of these fish so I'd rather nip this problem in the rear before they are.
<They're very likely captive-produced, far more agreeable to harder, more alkaline water/s than wild-collected... Unless I were attempting to breed them, rear young, I wouldn't likely be doing much or anything to modify water quality other than regular good-percentage change outs (a couple, three times weekly), using NO3 accumulation as my guide>
<Welcome. Bob Fenner> 

discus substrate      10/2/12
First of all I would like to thank you for the prompt answers to the queries asked by me. I am a novice in discus keeping.
I have one tank which houses 4 discus.
I have one question regarding the substrate for discus. I have used black substrate for discus with a bog wood and fake plants. I would like to know whether black colour substrate is suitable for the discus or not or I would be obliged if you could suggest the colour for the substrate.
<Darker colors tend to bring out the colors in fishes, whereas light colors tend to wash them out, so black substrate should work well for the purpose of bringing out colors.>.
Thanks in advance
<welcome - Rick>

Substrate for discus     8/26/12
First of all I would like to thank you for answering my queries regarding discus. I have recently started keeping discus fish and I keep them in bare bottom tank. I would like to add substrate to my discus tank but I do not want to keep them in planted tank as my tank is not that bigger. I have read few articles on your site regarding discus but could not find my query on substrate, hence I am mailing u my query.
Q. Could you guide me as to which would be the best substrate for my tank.
& which colour would be best ?
 Thanks in advance, Amit
<Because Discus do not dig, it does not matter what sort of substrate you choose. Choose a dark-coloured substrate though because that will encourage the best colours (cichlids tend to fade in colour over light-coloured substrates unless there is plenty of overhead shade). Cheers, Neale.>

Planted Discus Tank    5/6/12
Hi Crew,
I have a 50 gallon community tank containing the following accessories & fishes.
Tank size - 100cm (l) x43cm (w) x 50cm (h)
1xInternal filter (RS 3310b)  1800ltr/hour
1x150 watt heater
1xAir pump with 24cm airstone
Substrate: Pool filtration gravel - 50 kg
Decorations - Plastic & Live Plants (2 no), Ornaments & Stones
3 x Silver Shark
<Much too big and active to keep with Discus.>
2 x Comets
<Goldfish? These won't be happy in the same conditions as Discus.>
5 x Rosy barb
<Subtropical and nippy; should not be kept with Discus.>
5 x White skirt tetra
<Nip at fins.>
3 x Pearl gourami
<Good with Discus.>
1 x Dwarf gourami
<Also good with Discus.>
3 x Molly
<Need hard, alkaline water; not compatible with Discus.>
2 x Cory Cat
<Unless Corydoras sterbai, not compatible with Discus -- all the other commonly traded Corydoras prefer cool water, 22-25 C.>
1 x Plecostomus
<Not a good idea with Discus -- some specimens "attack" the Discus, grazing on the mucous Discus produce on their bodies.>
I am planning to buy 3-5 discuss to be added to the above list.
<Get one Discus, a matched pair of Discus, or 6+ Discus. If you get 3, 4 or 5 Discus, I can almost guarantee they'll fight, and you'll end up with two.
The matched pair will bully all the others, stopping them from eating, so you'll have to remove the remaining Discus to another aquarium.>
My Queries in this regard are listed below:
1. Since the water turnover of my internal filter is 9 times per hour, will the discuss fish be able to stand the current of my internal filter?
<No. Discus like a gentle water current, around 4-6 times the volume of the tank per hour is adequate. Sponge filters are probably the idea for Discus aquaria, but an external canister filter with adjustable taps is good too.>
2. How can I reduce the water current (this filter does not come with a knob to reduce flow)?
<Then you probably can't. Sometimes turning the filter so it "squirts"
water out towards the glass can help. But if there's a strong water current even then, the Discus won't be happy.>
3. Which fishes stated above is not compatible with discuss fish?
<See above.>
4. Which variety of discuss fish is the most hardy and how many should I go for?
<Most of the farmed varieties are pretty robust, compared to wild Discus anyway, so it doesn't really matter. But I would tend to avoid obviously inbred forms (solid red, solid white, etc.) and go with ones that are basically similar to standard wild Discus, i.e., greenish-brown with bits of blue and red on them.>
5. All my live plants are being uprooted, which fish listed above is the culprit?
<Probably the Plecostomus and the Goldfish. The Plecostomus likes to burrow into the sediment, while the Goldfish view plants as food and simply eat them. Rosy Barbs sometimes eat delicate plants.>
<Most welcome, Neale.>

Optimum setup for Ocean Clear 354, cartridge filter, FW f' and Discus filtr.     1/5/12
We have a 75 gallon freshwater planted Discus tank.  The aquarium came with a sump setup but we opted to replace the sump with an Ocean Clear 354.
<Mmm, good filters (well designed/built) but a pain to keep clean... and of not much use in the way of bio-filtration. I strongly urge you to look into, switch to a lower pressure (and more energy saving) canister filter... My fave brand/maker: Eheim>
The tank was doing well for a few years before the change of filters.  We used the existing overflow plumbed to a Quiet One 4000
<Mmm, yes, the olde modified Grundfos product>
and then connected that to the Ocean Clear 354 and back to the existing return with a 18 inch spray bar with 1/4 holes spaced 1 inch apart (initially the holes were 1/8 inch but the turbulence was throwing sand all over).  Within two hours of the installation we noticed a Neon Tetra and a Bolivian Ram gasping for air at the surface and so we installed a sponge filter with a power head and air line.  All fish are now fine, however, we want to know if there is another way to introduce oxygen without sacrificing the plants preferably something quieter than a sponge filter.
<Mmm, about the best means is to position spray bar/s near the surface, to discharge along the long access (side to side) of the tank... such that a over/under gyre is set up... to introduce/circulate all water to the surface in time, and add surface agitation to increase surface area for gaseous exchange. Again... Please look into biological filtration... you don't mention providing such... and it IS needed here. Perhaps perusing our FAQs file on Discus systems; read here:
Thank you so much for your help.
<And do write back after reading if this isn't clear, complete. Cheers, Bob Fenner>
Re: Optimum setup for Ocean Clear 354   1/8/12

Hello Crew,
Sorry it took so long to respond(I had shoulder surgery yesterday)
You guys are great!
I was Wondering if adding an intake prefilter i.e. Poret foam and seeding it with a nitrifying  product such as Marineland Bio-Spira or Dr. Tim's instant nitrifying liquid would help until I am able to afford an Eheim filter?
<Mmm, not really a good idea to put any restriction on the intake side of centrifugal pumps... they're made to push, not pull>
Thanks again for such a great site!
<Welcome. BobF>

Perfect Discus water and value of trace elements     12/4/11
Hi Crew,
How are you?
<I'm well, thanks for asking.>
I am a discus hobbyist and discus professional from Calcutta, India. I am doing discus as a hobbyist for last 7 to 8 years. But now I have made a small hatchery to grow up discus from 1/2 cm to 1 cm size to wholesale.
<I see.>
I am facing some problem this days after install a filtration plant for the hatchery. The water come from a well there is no living creature in that well, water is crystal clear. No sediment come at the bucket.
Now I wish to tell about my filtration the water pass through SAND FILTER >
water stored in a PVC tank, where is a 2000 Watt heater and aeration to heat up and diseases free the water.
<Sounds fine.>
Ph approx 7.5 but using that water I am not getting satisfactory result in growth. Discus growth rate is very low.
<Is the nitrate level is low -- less than 20 mg/l? And of course, nitrite and ammonia must be 0. Water chemistry is not too critical for modern Discus, but you are aiming for soft water (less than 10 degrees dH, ideally less than 5 degrees dH) and that the pH is fairly low, 6.0-7.5.>
Though at one of my customer same batch discus growing at double speed.
<Could be genes. But assuming you all have similar fish, then water quality (especially nitrate with cichlid fry) and the number of meals (4, ideally 6 per day) is what makes a difference for the first few months of life.
Regular feeding, not overfeeding, is the key. Cichlids won't digest everything they eat, so making them "fat" with food at one meal per day is pointless. Instead, feed 4-6 small meals per day. Alongside the numerous meals, you have to do regular water changes, ideally daily. This keeps the nitrate low. The lower the nitrate, the better, and ideal is as close to 0 mg/l as practical.>
First of all I was thinking about feed, he feed goat heart mixture, but As I have no freeze I feed egg+spirulina powder+ AZoo discus vitamin + decapsulated brine shrimp + AZoo larva pellet mixture. though as per nuriense value my food is better than him but still the result is poor.
Then I get the info during this filtration process water getting very very soft and loosing all kind of trace elements and metals. That's why I thought growth rate is poor. My Q : how to add essential trace element in the water? What should be the percentage? Please suggest me the chemicals and percentage to add trace element for
<Frequency of meals more like the issue here. The foods you're offering all sound adequate.>
I have read at web Amazon water contain huge amount of Tannin, that's why the water is acidic and black like tea licker, Here in my place I can easily get tea leaves can I add some tea licker to make acidic water? Is it can down the ph? Please suggest me I am waiting for your response.
<No, tea isn't what you want. Tannins aren't a key issue when rearing farmed Discus. I wouldn't worry about them. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Brewing Water
Do you have a recipe for a DIY Discus Buffer? - 9/20/11

<Afraid not. It's a difficult and potentially dangerous mix to make because it uses weak acids. Get it wrong and you'll dissolve your fish! So this is one time you want to buy the ready-made stuff. Cheers, Neale.

re substrate, Using WWM    8/9/11
I have 7 discus approx 2 to 2.5 inch in size in a 25 gallon bare bottom tank. I know the tank is small. I am planning to add substrate to the tank. I would like to know which would be the ideal substrate for the tank. Whether discus are comfortable with any particular colour or it could be any.
<... learn to/use the search tool and indices. WWM is NOT a bb>
I am planning to add black substrate. Would that be fine also I am in the process of upgrading my tank.
<... read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/discussysfaqs.htm

Adjusting pH in a 220 gallon planted Discus Aquarium 7/19/11
First off, you have a great website with a plethora of excellent information for hobbyists and your information is very helpful!
<Glad you've enjoyed the site.>
I have a few questions I am hoping you could help me with. I will pose the questions first, then give you my background info:
1. How do I adjust the PH of my aquarium water from 7.4 to 6.5 without adding chemicals that would harm the plants or increase water hardness?
<You can't. Adjusting pH is putting the cart before the horse. It's crucial you understand this. Rainforest streams have an acidic pH *because* these waters have a low carbonate hardness, so decaying plant material is able to pull the pH downwards. In rainforest streams sheer volume prevents extreme pH drops in most circumstances, but in the confines of an aquarium you need to provide some sort of buffer that keeps the pH from dropping below, say, 6.5. This is best done using a commercial pH buffer. But note that these "pH down" products are designed to steady the pH *after* carbonate hardness has been lowered. So you need to lower the carbonate hardness first, and steady the pH second.>
2. What is the minimum GH/KH before I would run the risk of PH acid drop?
<Below a carbonate hardness of, say, 3 degrees KH, you will find pH will be unstable between water changes. So a different chemical is used to buffer the pH, typically phosphoric acid. This is the main ingredient in commercial pH buffers. Unfortunately, phosphoric acid creates phosphates under certain chemical conditions, and phosphates can trigger algal blooms.>
2. Will adding RO water into the mix of regular well water eventually bring down the PH?
<No. All lowering carbonate hardness will do is make water pH less stable.
If you have an initial carbonate hardness of 3 degrees KH, you may well start at pH 7.5, but a week later find the tank has a pH less than 7.>
3. What kind of algae eating fish could I use to control algae that wont be harmful to the discus or eat the plants? Algae is growing on the surface of the plants and it'd be nice if I could eliminate it. I've been thinking some kind of Pleco but not sure what kind.
<Plecs generally have no place in the Discus aquarium. Among other things, they are messy, they damage plants, and, in certain situations, they suck on the sides of Discus, causing them stress. Better choices are things like Hypancistrus, but these eat very little algae being more or less carnivorous in tastes. In any event, Plecs have minimal impact on algae, so instead you need to concentrate on getting the ecological balance right between plants, light intensity, and nutrient content of the water.>
For the background info, I have well water with a 14Gh and 9KH and a PH of 7.6.
<A bit hard for wild-caught Discus, but adequate for farmed species, particularly if you mixed about 50/50 with rainwater or RO water.>
I am using EcoComplete substrate for planted aquariums and my system is a 220 gallon wet dry and I have a UV unit inline. I recently purchased an RO unit and I've been adding RO water into the tank which has well water which has a PH of 6.4 in hopes of reducing the PH and the hardness.
<Carbonate hardness may go down, but that doesn't automatically pull down pH.>
The hardness is coming down as I add the RO water but the PH has changed very little (down to 7.4).
<As predicted; see above.>
What I would like to do is get the water to the proper PH/GH/KH for the discus in hopes of eventually getting them into breeding condition and to maximize their growth.
<Remember, pH is relatively unimportant, despite the fact beginners tend to obsess about it. On the other hand, general and carbonate hardness are both important, and in the case of Discus, should be somewhat low. Around 10 degrees dH, 5 degrees KH would be more than adequate for farmed Discus, even if the pH was around 7.5. Even better would be pure RO water turned into safe aquarium water through the use of commercial Discus buffering salt mix, e.g., Seachem Discus Buffer, to create the proper stable pH and mineral content.>
Any info you could provide would be most helpful. Thanks!!!
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Adjusting PH in a 220 gallon planted Discus Aquarium   8/4/11

Thanks for the information. It has been very helpful.
<Glad to help.>
I now have the tank 7.5 GH and 5KH. The PH is at 7.4.
<Sounds excellent.>
I do have the buffers to lower and stabilize the PH but I am reluctant to use them as the labels say not to use with live plants.
Will these buffers harm the plants?
<No idea. Never heard of this being a problem. Possibly worth calling/writing to the manufacturer or visiting their web site. In any case, your pH is fine now, and if you can keep the pH there between water changes, a buffer might not be necessary.>
Will the discus be able to successfully breed at this PH?
<Farmed types, yes.>
I would prefer not to use the buffers if I don't have to.
<Agreed, but the main thing is the pH is steady. If you have the pH drop or rise far from 7.4 across the week, you may have to use the buffer no matter what.>
Any advice would be most helpful.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Adjusting PH in a 220 gallon planted Discus Aquarium 8/5/11

<Hello again,>
I wrote Seachem about phosphate buffers and planted tanks and I am forwarding their response to you fyi with their permission:
Thank you for your question. While Neutral Regulator and Discus Buffer will not harm plants they may not be best suited for planted aquariums. While phosphate based buffers are great for most freshwater aquariums, when combined with fertilizers and high light typically found with planted aquariums, they can encourage algae growth. That is why Seachem developed Acid Buffer and Alkaline Buffer. These buffers do not contain any phosphates and are much better suited for planted aquariums. I have attached links to these two products so you can read more about them. If you decide to use the Neutral Regulator or Discus Buffer, just keep an eye on your water parameters and make sure you keep the organics down. I have known many people that kept beautiful planted tanks with phosphate based buffers but you do have to be careful. Any time there are excess phosphates and organics along with high light you can end up with a nasty algae bloom. Please let us know if you have any additional questions.
<Very interesting. Yes, there is a supposed connection between phosphate and algal blooms, but I'd have thought algae is more of a problem in tanks *without* plants than tanks with them. After all, in a well planted tank, the plants outcompete algae, and may even have some allelopathic effect. I've yet to see a serious algae problem in a balanced planted tank, even ones with very messy fish; but algae problems in tanks without plants are very common, even normal. In any case, an interesting argument worthy of consideration.>
Thanks for all your help....
<And thank you for this follow-up. Cheers, Neale.>

Reef to Amazon Biotope/Discus Conversion   7/13/11
Greetings Wet Web Media Crew,
After many years enjoying my 120 gal. reef, I've decided to move on to a new challenge. I've always wanted to try out a Discus tank and after many hours of reading on your site I am pleased to find that my home source water parameters are well suited to them, both soft and slightly acidic. I have cleaned all calcium deposits from the tank and filtration system (sump and wet/dry) and am interested in your thoughts on my stock selections. Tank temp will be targeted at 82 degrees Fahrenheit My goal is to populate the top, middle and bottom of the tank while still allowing the Discus the ability to compete for food successfully. I would start my stocking with 15 Black "Neon" Tetras which my research shows like the top of the tank.
Next come 15 Rummynose Tetras, which may prefer the lower to middle portions of the tank. I'm sure that these rules are more like guidelines and my fish may not stay in the zones indicated, but do you think the Rummynose will school with the Black Neons or will they stay separate?
<Likely a bit of both... more separately at first>
Next I would like to add 7 Bleeding Heart Tetras, 7 Hatchet Fish and 7 Corydoras Sterbai, with at least 7 juvenile Discus to be added last. The tank would have no plants in the substrate, but instead would be filled with driftwood and bogwood, with a cover of Amazon Frogbit floating on the top. I have already purchased 3M Colorquartz fine-grained substrate in black, which is very smooth and should work great with the Cory's.
Eventually I may add a Bristlenose catfish or two to help me scrape algae.
<I would add a few Ancistrus to this sized volume>
Filtration on the tank will be a wet/dry filter with two 1" supply lines draining from the Mega Flow overflows installed in the display. The wet/dry is located in the basement under the tank and will drain into a 29 or 40 gal sump, whichever I can find. I have two options for my return pump, I can run up to 1100 gph total from my Iwaki MD70 but I do not like to run any drain this close to capacity, which should be around 1200 total.
I would throttle this down to about 800gph I think. I could also run about 240 gph with a Pan World 50px-x, obviously a much gentler flow but I am concerned that I would not be turning the tank water enough at this rate. Do you have a recommendation here?
<To use the "throttle" as you suggest, gauge from the behavior of the Discus whether this is okay>
Do you think the stocking load is too heavy or could I add more Discus?
<I think you're right about right numbers-wise... IF/should two pair off you may need to move them elsewhere>
Will any of the Tetras mentioned school or shoal together or will they stay in their own distinct groups?
<Mostly the latter>
Finally, will the Discus be able to get fed with this many other species in the same tank?
<Yes; their food items will be larger in time>
I anxiously await your thoughts on the above and offer my gratitude for the countless hours of discovery provided by your website.
Best Regards,
Bart V
<And you, Bob Fenner>

discus query. Sys. temp.  -- 06/26/11
WWM Crew
First of all thanks a lot for answering my previous question. I am new to the discus fishkeeping. I have 5 discus fish with me.
<Don't be surprised if they start fighting when they get older. Generally, Discus are best kept in groups of 6 or more.>
They are of 2 to 2.5 inch size. I keep my temperature at 32 degrees. I am located in India where the ambient temperature of water is approx the same. So I had no alternative but to keep my thermostat at 32 deg. Will this in any way be harmful for my discus.
<Not in the short term. But it should be cooler at night, yes? So variations from about 28 C at night to 32 C in the day would be within their tolerance. Constantly keeping them at 32 C may or may not be harmful;
there's quite a bit of debate on this point.>
Can I continue keeping the same temp. I have also heard that discus do grow fast when kept in 30 degrees and above.
<Indeed, but the faster they grow, the more food they eat, and the more waste they produce. So it isn't necessarily helpful.>
Hope you will answer my question.
Thanks in advance.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Need information on discus (& Puntius demasoni requirements)   4/23/2011
WWM crew
<Hello Amit,>
I have a 25 gallon tank. I have kept 2 pairs of discus in it.
<Really, this tank is MUCH too small. How big are these Discus?>
I siphon of the faeces once in 3 days and remove 30 percent of water. I have a corner filter and also I use a powerfilter. I wanted to know whether I can keep demasoni barbs along with discus.
Are the demasoni compatible with discuss.
<No. Puntius demasoni comes from cool, fast-flowing hill streams in Kerala and nearby parts of India. The water in these habitats is quite cool, 15-25 C depending on the time of year.
Discus come from much warmer water with very weak water current. In other words, the complete opposite of what Puntius demasoni needs to do well.
Besides, your aquarium is too small for Discus, let alone Puntius demasoni! Get an aquarium at least 1.5 metres long, and then set up a big filter that can produce lots of water current. Keep at about 20 C, a bit colder in winter, a bit warmer in summer. Replicate a typical upland Indian Hillstream habitat with cool, well-oxygenated water. Keep in groups of at least 6 specimens otherwise it can be either nervous or aggressive (sometimes both). That's what Puntius demasoni needs to do well! Cheers, Neale.>

Calculations, Discus stkg.    2/20/11
Dear Crew,
You have a wonderful site. I'd like to thank you for all your time and energy.
<Glad you enjoy.>
I'm doing the planning for a 55 gallon tank now - South American, mostly small fish, looking to one day grow discus from babies to adolescents perhaps. The tank is too small to adequately house many adult discus, so half the fun is better than none. The tank itself is not ideal - smallish, tall, skinny and visible from both sides, but we have to work with what Providence gives us.
<Indeed, but do bear in mind that growing juvenile fish properly generally requires lots of food and low nitrate levels, things that are hard to do in community tanks. While what you want to do *could* work, you will find that if you don't keep nitrate levels low, and if filtration isn't up to the 3-4 small meals growing fish need per day, the growth rate of your Discus will be less than anticipated, and if fish don't grow quickly during their first months, they never reach full size as adults.>
My questions concern filtration : you give figures of 4 to 6 times water turnover per hour. But browsing around the web I find huge discrepancies between advertised water delivery and actual water delivery for various canister filters. Do you make your recommendations based on actual numbers or are they high for safety sake, knowing that the figures people will be working with are artificially low ?
<Pretty much. If you go by the numbers offered by a reputable filter manufacturer like Eheim or Fluval, you should find that a 220 gallon/hour filter keeps your 55 gallon tank nice and clean. In fact the reason why many aquarists like me stress the turnover approach is that it's a very generous estimate that makes allowances for things like how clogged the filter media is, or what types of filter media are used. Manufacturers tend to say their filters are suitable for tanks in some nominal size range, say, for up to 55 gallon tanks, without giving you any information on how filter performance will vary depending on the media used, how big the fish are, how much food goes into the tank, and so on. At 4 x the volume of the tank per hour you should have a filter able to provide useful amounts of circulation while keeping the water sufficiently clean, assuming the fish you're keeping are small and not too dirty. Higher turnover rates make allowances for fish that are messier, need more circulation, or simply prefer stronger water currents.>
Second, if we imagine that both options were set up perfectly, would you prefer a canister filter or a sump ?
<Both can work well. Each has its advantages.>
I am tending towards the sump because, although it seems messier, it also looks to be better for aeration
<Yes, because canister filters remove oxygen from the water. Sumps mix air with water as it comes down the chute, so generally don't affect oxygen concentration that way. The flip side is that water splashing down a chute drives off CO2, and that's not what you want in a planted tank with CO2 fertilisation.>
and to a lesser degree, water volume and the opportunity for some plant-filtration. Aquaponics, even ?
<Yes indeed, "vegetable filters" using bunches of fast-growing plants like Indian Fern under intense lighting can dramatically improve water quality by removing nitrate and phosphate.>
But in real life, would a good canister filter work just as well ?
<Yes. I've used both, and enjoy both. A good quality canister like an Eheim unit is something you install and then largely forget about, potentially going months between cleanings. They're easy to install, hide nicely in cabinets, and most have adjustable taps so you can change the flow rate up or down if you find your fish don't like the water current at full blast.>
They do look cleaner and I'd be limited to around twelve-fifteen gallons in the sump, which might make it not so worthwhile ?
<Why not try both? Canisters and sumps mix well together. Connect the canister's in and out hoses to the sump, and use the sump for biological filtration and the canister for mechanical filtration. Best of both worlds!>
Thanks for your help, I'll go back to reading the gallons and gallons of information you have now :)
<Hope this helps, Neale.>
Re: Calculations  2/24/11

Nothing to print, just a quick thank-you to Neale. Interesting suggestions, merci beaucoup :)
Jon B
<Glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Discus dilemma! Sys., substrate/pH issue 12/24/10
<Hello Rob!>
First of all many thanks for taking the time to provide this site, it's a fantastic repository of knowledge and it's been absolutely invaluable to my fishkeeping adventures.
Based on this I would very grateful for any advice you don't mind offering on a (long!) dilemma I am facing.
I have a 55 gallon long tank that has been set up for about eight months and which has successfully housed five juvenile 2"-4" discus (tank-bred S. aequifasciatus) and ten rummy nose tetras for about the last five months. There is a reasonable amount of bogwood in the tank interspersed with lots of Cabomba and other assorted plants with one corner kept clear and covered with Pistia stratiotes to provide a darker refuge spot for the discus. The plants are rooted in a 1.5" deep substrate of white 'river sand' and the whole tank is filtered with a very large 2200lph canister filter with large spray-bars set-up to minimise the current in the tank. The water parameters are: 0mg/l ammonia and 0mg/l nitrite (or there abouts), between 10mg/l and 30mg/l nitrate depending on how recently there has been a water change (which I try to do bi-weekly to keep it below 30mg/l)
<I'd do more often... or use other techniques to keep NO3 under 20 ppm max.>
and a KH usually around 6. The pH, until recently, was hovering around 6.8-7.0 and the discus were feeding and displaying themselves nicely.
Unfortunately some of the Cabomba wouldn't stay rooted in one of the corners of the tank and after replanting it a dozen times I decided to increase the depth of sand in that corner to provide the plant with more space to root in properly. Instead of taking the sensible option and driving the long distance to the specialty discus retailer I normally use I opted to buy a generic brand 'white aquarium sand' from my very LFS, a product the clerk assured me would be fine in a discus tank.
<Mmm, some types of such substrate are okay, others...>
About 24-36 hours after I replanted the Cabomba I noticed that my normally resplendent discus were huddling in their refuge spot, leaning and turning brown. I immediately did a water test and found to my horror that, while the other parameters were normal (slight rise in KH), the pH was now about 8.2!
I immediately started doing small water changes using RO water mixed with a small amount of dechlorinated tap water to help give the water some buffering capacity (the tap water here is very hard with pH 8.0+ and KH 6.0-8.0) in an attempt to lower the pH of the tank again.
<You'll have to remove the substrate>
Even after slowly changing a large volume of the water in the tank over the course of several days the pH kept climbing back to 8.0+, so I went back to the LFS that sold me the sand and the manager confirmed that the white sand I had been sold was in fact 'marine sand' (a fact which you think they might write on the packaging!) and so it seems any attempt to lower the pH of this tank is now entirely pointless until I break the whole set-up down and remove all the substrate.
<This is so>
Surprisingly enough the rummy noses have not been noticeably affected by the change in pH; although they did school a lot more tightly for a while so there was probably some stress.
<Good observation>
Unsurprisingly the discus were extremely stressed for about three or four days and lost most of their colour. Since then however the discus have calmed down and regained much of the colour they lost, and are feeding and displaying well again.
So my dilemma is this: do I break the tank down, start again with new substrate and quickly drop the pH of their water which will be a huge short-term shock to the discus (?),
<I would break the system down, or alternatively vacuum out the new (and some of the old if necessary) substrate... and return all the "sucked out" water... of the currently too-high pH... over time (weeks) of regular water changes, the hardness and pH will drop>
or, now that they have apparently
acclimatised to the new alkaline conditions, is it safer to leave them as they are? Internet opinions about discus and pH seem to be deeply divided on whether discus can live happily in high alkaline conditions, with one half claiming that any pH over 7.5 will kill discus overnight
<Perhaps wild-collected specimens>
and the other half claiming that tank-bred discus will live happily in anything 6.0-9.0 pH so long as the water parameters are stable.
<Captive-produced stock/s are much more resilient to such ranges>
The only other tank-space I have spare is in an unused ten gallon 'Nano' which I don't think would work very well even as a temporary solution.
I am planning on moving the discus in the next year or two into a very large 5x3x2' tank which is currently under construction (and given that the weight of water in this tank will be just under a tonne I'd rather not rush this construction either).
<Best to take your time>
I would also prefer these discus to
be at least 6" or so before they make the move to this new tank as I'm also planning on adding several other large adult discus as tank-mates.
With all these facts in mind what is the best course of action for the well-being of the fish?
<As stated above>
I'd obviously prefer not to break the tank down and further stress the fish if it is unnecessary. Will my discus prosper for a year or so in 8.2 pH water (with heavy filtration) now that they appear to have adjusted to the high pH, or do I need to get them back to a low pH fast?
<Slowly enough... and again, I'd remove the new/calcareous substrate>
Am I right in assuming that there is no way to lower the pH with the sand in place?
<Practically speaking, yes; there is no way... The gravel will dissolve, re-buffering the pH till it is all about dissolved>
I know very little about marine fish-keeping but the sand in question appears not to be aragonite as it is very fine and white and was very cheap to purchase so my guess is that it is a limestone-based brand (?). There was no information on the packet other than "Aquarium sand. For use in Aquaria"!
I apologise if this has been covered elsewhere but from my research I appear to be the first person stupid enough to poison their discus with marine sand.
Many thanks in advance,
<Do write back Rob if this isn't clear, complete. Cheers, Bob Fenner>
Re: Discus dilemma! Substrate issue    12/30/10

Hi Bob,
Many thanks for the advice. I have now removed all the sand and added a discus-friendly substrate (Red Sea 'Flora Base') that will allegedly buffer the pH to between 6.5 and 7.0 and absorb nitrate.
<Ahh, much better, mas mejor>
The pH is now dropping slowly with small water changes. The KH has dropped rapidly from 7 to 3, but seems to holding between 3 and 4 for the time being.
Once again many thanks for helping out.
Rob H
<A pleasure and honour to serve. BobF>

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 care, sys.   3/12/10
Thank you so much for the link you supplied. It has wonderful information!
<Glad you found it useful.>
I was also wondering about the role of peat in a discus aquarium. I don't know anything about it or what it's use/purpose.
<Peat is of limited value these days, but it was widely used in the hobby through to about the late 1970s. It serves two purposes. Firstly it softens water, to a certain degree. Secondly, it adds tannic acids that lower the pH. In neither of these regards is peat predictable, which is why it isn't much used anymore. It doesn't soften water very well, so things like RO filters and rainwater are much better. As for acidifying the water, commercial pH buffers are much more useful for this. On top of all this, peat isn't minded in a very sustainable manner, and ecologists generally argue that it shouldn't be extracted at all. So in short, it's not particularly useful and isn't ecologically sound to use anyway. Cheers, Neale.>

Discus help... sys., beh.    2/5/10
Hi there, (it would be great if Neale could get this!) I really need some help with my discus.
I have one discus in a 30 gallon tank, with nothing but gravel.
I have been on tons of sites and spoken to a good amount of breeders and they all suggest keeping discus in an empty tank.
<Yes. Breeders often maintain their fish in a different way to people keeping them as pets. There are pluses and minuses to the "no gravel" approach. On the plus side, removing gravel makes the tank easier to clean. This is important because eggs and fry are very sensitive to poor water quality, and gravel can also hide egg-eating animals like snails and flatworms. However, glass reflects light, and that terrifies most fish, including cichlids. Breeders keep their fish in dark rooms so this is less of an issue, but you can't keep them like that as pets in a living room or den. So if you're going to make the tank look pretty, gravel is a must. I'd also make a general point that breeders aren't necessarily keeping their fish in the best way in terms of psychology. Yes, the fish are breeding, but then farm animals breed and that doesn't mean they're enjoying the same quality of life they'd have in the wild. At least some breeders keep their fish primarily as "cash cows", constantly breeding fry they can rear and sell. I'm closer to the other kind of breeder who keeps their fish in nice, planted tanks most of the time, but will remove them to a breeding tank once a year if I feel like rearing some baby fish.>
Well, just a few minutes ago my fishy friend started freaking out for no apparent reason, striking himself on the glass sides of the tank and even jumping out of the water to strike the glass top!
<Discus will do this if alarmed. Adding floating plants such as Indian Fern will help a great deal.>
Now he is swimming at a 45° angle.
<Fish will adjust their swimming angle if light comes from the side of the tank rather than the top. In a nutshell, they use both gravity (which pulls from below) and light (which is normally right above them) to determine up and down. If you move the light to the side of the tank, they try to adjust themselves as a compromise.>
I called a fish store that prides itself on their expertise and they told me that it was because he has no where to hide, so he got spooked.
<Yes, certainly possible. It's important to remember wild Discus are fish that live among tree roots in the flooded forest. Their flat shape evolved so they can slot into gaps between those tree roots. Under aquarium conditions floating plants work almost as well, particularly if you add a few big bogwood roots and tall plastic plants into the mix.>
I am not sure that I believe this. His tank has been empty since we have had him (5 weeks) and he has had no problems before this, and he is located in a fairly busy room (not saying that we run all over and startle him).
<Not ideal.>
I have since placed a few objects in the tank to give him opportunity to hide and he avoids them completely.
<Discus don't use caves or really anything at the bottom of the tank. You need tall, vertical hiding places and above all shade at the top of the tank. Indian Fern is cheap and cheerful, but some folks find giant Vallisneria just as good.>
Some advice on this would be great! I need to know whether or not to keep him in an empty tank again or create some places to hide, and also what could have caused his temporary confusion?
<Depends what you're after. An empty tank may be okay for breeding in a dark, quiet fish room; a thickly planted, shady tank is essential in the house.>
But please do not just send me links, as I was highly disappointed the last time I wrote to this site looking for help and all I was sent was a bunch of links to pages that did not answer my questions.
<Well, not sure what you're referring to here, but do remember we're volunteers, so your "disappointment" should be balanced against the fact we're free!>
Thank you so much, Lena
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Discus -- 2/5/10
Hi there, and thanks for the advice. I am definitely going to add some plants and bogwood to his aquarium. He seems a lot happier today, and is eating again. Thanks again for the great advice, Lena
<Glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Regarding Discus  12/28/09
Dear Neale,
<Hello John,>
I have a 12inch dia. cylindrical aquarium (rather I want to use it as aquarium) which is of 2 feet height.
<Largely useless. Unfortunately for you, surface area is critical to fishkeeping, while depth is largely unimportant. You could perhaps keep half a dozen Guppies or similar, but even that would be far from ideal. As a general rule, avoid shapes other than rectangles, and always, always, ALWAYS prioritise length and back-to-back width.>
Which kind of fish is advised in this and how many?
<Wouldn't use this aquarium. Perhaps for plants and Cherry shrimps, but that's it. A very useless aquarium.>
I am passionate about aquariums..
<As am I!>
I have 3 other ..one is 4ftX2ftX2ft, the other one is 6ftX2ftX2ft and third one is 3ftX1.5ftX2ft None of these has discus. I have silver Arowana, Oscars, and then other cichlids....
<Nice fish.>
Can I keep discus by any chance in this new cylindrical one?
<Cheers, Neale.>

Discus... stkg., sys.  9/30/09
Hi, I'm interested in keeping discus in a 45 gallon corner aquarium.
<Not an ideal aquarium for these fish. For a start, they're quite big animals, some 20 cm/8 inches at most, and usually at least 15 cm/6 inches.
You also need *at minimum* six specimens if you want a group, otherwise bullying will very likely occur. For a group of six, you really need at least 55 gallons, and realistically 75 gallons.>
My questions are how many full grown adult discus can I keep?
<You could of course keep a pair, but not a group.>
What are suitable take mates?
<Almost anything peaceful that tolerates the very warm water conditions Discus require. The standard 28-30 C/82-86 F is far too warm for most community fish, including most tetras, Corydoras, barbs, etc. Only
exceptional species will tolerate such conditions permanently, classic examples being Cardinal tetras and Corydoras sterbai. Pearl and Moonlight Gouramis can also work well. In big tanks, Clown Loaches work well, but they get even bigger than the Discus and need to be kept in groups of 5+ specimens to be happy, so they're not ideal. Some dwarf cichlids may work, notably Mikrogeophagus ramirezi, but that's a delicate fish and the quality of the stock in the trade is very variable. I tend to recommend against this species, unless you can secure locally bred specimens. Angelfish should work, but in practise often become bullies, and there also appears to be a problem with Angels introducing certain diseases that Discus succumb to very readily.>
What are the best foods to feed them?
<The usual. A good quality flake or pellet to start with, augmented with wet-frozen bloodworms and mosquito larvae. Occasional offerings of cooked peas, live brine shrimp, and live daphnia will help avoid constipation.
Discus, like all cichlids, are prone to Hexamita infections, and a balanced, vitamin-rich diet seems to be a key to avoiding this.>
Thanks for all the help. Great site by the way.
<Kind of you to say so. Good luck, Neale.>

Discus, sys.   8/20/09
You guys are great.?
<Good question>
I really appreciate you answering my question about angelfish as quickly as you did.? Now I have a question about discus.? I just bought adult discus from someone that had them in a 150 gallon tank.? There are seven of them.? Two are about 6 inches, one 5 inch, and three about 4 inches.? Will they be okay in a 55 gallon tank for a few months??
<Not likely, no>
Thank you again.? Your website has helped me so much.
Shannon Bridges, CVR-CCR
<Too much likelihood of fighting, disease from stress... better to separate them into more than one system till the larger tank can be re-set up, or if there are pairs established to house them independently. Read here:
Bob Fenner>

plants (with Symphysodon and UG filters) 08/02/09
Dear crew I have a 125 gallon aquarium and seven discus. What kind of plants would work with discus. My water is soft, my ph is between 6.0 and 6.5 temp 84 degree. Any help will help a lot. I do not know what to buy. my bottom is gravel with undergravel filter. I also have a wet/dry too.
<It's your lucky day! Alesia Benedict has written a couple of articles on this exact topic!
I will make a general observation though: plants don't like undergravel filters. Or, more specifically, plants with roots do not like undergravel filters. The flow of water past their roots oxidises minerals making it
difficult for them to absorb the minerals they need. So, if you want plants with roots, skip the undergravel filter. Alternatively, if you must use an undergravel filter, try and stick with epiphytes (species that attach to
rocks, e.g., Anubias, Java fern, Java moss, Bolbitis) or else floating plants (e.g., Indian Fern, Amazon Frogbit, Salvinia). Between those two classes of plants, there's plenty of scope for a nice Discus tank, and I've seen some stunning tanks with a big chunks of bogwood, big Java ferns, and a dense canopy of floating plants on top. Your Discus will love tanks like these, since they need both open space and shade above them. Cheers, Neale.>

is a whisper 20 enough filtration for discus? 7/1/09
<Depends on the size of the aquarium. Look on the filter and/or its packaging; you're after a filtration rate at least 4 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. Let's assume you're keeping 6 Discus, the minimum number unless you're keeping a matched pair. For a 55 gallon tank, the filter would need to be rated at 4 x 55 = 220 gallons per hour, minimum. I'd honestly go for a bit more, but at the same time would use a spray bar so there's not too much turbulence in the water (Discus prefer slowly flowing rather than turbulent water). Cheers, Neale.>

90 gal Discus Tank  06/03/09
I have been reading your wonderful site over a few days now. I have seen slightly different scenario's with similar questions that I have but still not quite the same as mine. So I thought I would still ask to make sure I
am setting up my tank correctly.
I am setting up a 90 gallon tank. I am wanting to have 4-5 discus (starting with 2 inch size) and 2 bristle nose, 5 rummy noise, 3 angel fish, 3 zebra Cory's. I am looking to plant this tank as well. It will be bottled/treated water.
1. Will this assortment of fish work well together?
<Angels and Discus generally shouldn't be mixed; the tank-bred Angels frequently bring in diseases that Discus can't handle, and moreover Angels are so much more aggressive the Discus lose out. You also can't keep either 3 Angels or 5 Discus; at these numbers, mature pairs will fight with other specimens. Keep either two Angels, or six (or more) of them; similarly, keep either two Discus or six (or more) of them.>
2. I am looking to use a Eheim 2126 or 2128, which would be best? Would only one be enough? Especially for filtering the 90 gallons as well as maintaining the 85 degree water temp.
<The 2126 is rated at 250 gph and rated to 90 US gallons; the 2128 at 280 gph and rated to 160 US gallons. While we might argue over the filtration rate (I tend to recommend fairly high rates of turnover) built-in heaters are more finicky, and you don't want to have a heater that has to stay on all the time. So if forced to choose, I'd go for the 2128. But both should be good filters, and Eheim generally produce superb bits of kit. This said, I'd suggest that even allowing for the gentle flow of water Discus and to some degree Angels prefer, you want filtration around 4 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour, which is 4 x 90 = 360 gallons per hour. You may well find some other combination of filters works better.>
3. Do I need CO2 with the planted tank?
<Depends on the plants. In general, CO2 makes good planted tanks brilliant; it does not make failing tanks work. If you have a good, rich substrate and strong, plant-friendly lights, then most plants will thrive. Adding CO2 would be a nice optional extra, but far from essential.>
4. Do I need a spray bar?
<Probably yes; spray bars help spread out water current, so you can have high rates of turnover without the fish being blown about in a turbulent current.>
Thanks in advance!
<There is actually a pretty nifty article on planted Discus tanks, here:
Read and enjoy! Cheers, Neale.>

Discus aquarium (plants, lighting, filtration)   4/26/09
Hello everyone,
This is Ajay trying to get some advice for a planted discus aquarium.
<Hello Ajay,>
I have been in this hobby off and on for more than a decade.. so I have some experience but maybe not enough. I have kept planted discus tank in the past and have ended up with disasters too. This time around I would like to keep a 92 gallon corner tank ( I don't think my house could handle something bigger without getting overpowering). I would probably get a metal halide system as the size and depth might preclude others. I would aim for 2-3 watts per gallon. The ones being sold on eBay have a rating of about 15000K.
<Very high colour temperature for plants. The ideal is around 6500 K. Are these lights being sold specifically for use with aquaria? Units designed for general purposes, like lighting rooms, will have a different output compared to those designed for either corals (where around 10,000 K is considered optimal) or plants (which prefer around 6,500 K).>
I am not sure if there is any harm in a higher than 10000K spectrum. May be algae? or scare the discus fish?
<Well, algae will grow fastest when plants aren't happy. So provided you choose the right plants, and give them the amount (and type) of light they want, then algae won't be a problem. Fast-growing floating plants will help dramatically here, though you'll also have some tall plants like Vallisneria for the lower levels of the tank. Discus certainly don't need bright lights, and they're fish from gloomy, blackwater habitats. Shade is essential, either by using low levels of lighting, or else providing lots of shade via floating plants.>
For filtration there is something that I would like you guys to approve as I have no experience on this one. There is a rather new product called Hi-Q aquarium filtration system which promises minimal water changes ( my wet floor, my diy desecrated python system, my landlord, will all appreciate fewer water changes along with my time well spent).
<This has been argued again and again; regular water changes of 25% per week are important. No filter removes this requirement.>
It is basically a reverse UGF with a HOB filter to do the mechanical filtration. The innovative part is that they claim to have mastered the final frontier (for fresh water aquarium at least) i.e nitrate to nitrogen gas conversion along with doing a fine job of converting ammonia to nitrite to nitrate. It is relatively cheap-filter for my size aquarium is 150$ with the power filters included.
<Simply removing the nitrate doesn't fix the other problems with "old" water, e.g., acidification. The whole idea behind the Hi-Q filter system is flawed.>
I did a extensive search on the internet but there is a paucity of data regarding this system, only some anecdotal evidence.
I have used Eheim Ecco in the past and although it does a good job along with plants, cleaning it is a chore. If the above is not something you would recommend for a planted aquarium (the Hi-Q guys are almost certain it would be a great hit with me)
<I bet; they're selling you something. I'm not selling you anything.>
is there something else you would recommend for a easy to clean, quiet filtration system for an aquarium this size. I would probably end up with Eheim pro 3 version so that the cleaning can be minimized to 4-6 times a year. I have looked into Marineland tidepool and it appears promising but I have never kept a sump before, willing to try it though.
<An aquarium with a sump can be very easy to look after, and if you're happy to use one or more internal canister filters inside that sump to increase filtration, so much the better. Internal canister filters are very easy to clean and maintain, though they are less good value than external canister filters.>
I would keep low light loving plants with Amano style.
<Contradiction in terms. Amano-style depends on having fast-growing plants under strong light, usually with additional CO2 fertilisation. If you want a low-light selection of plants, those will be, by definition, slow growing plants. Such plants have no impact on algae, so while less work in some ways, your aquarium will have more algae on the rocks and plants. Your fish don't mind, so if keeping Discus appeals, then by all means, keep some low light plants (Crypts, Anubias, etc.) and just let the algae do its thing.>
Maybe crypts and Anubias nana- so I would need to get rid of ammonia and nitrite effectively as these do not soak up the waste quite so well.
<Doesn't work this way. Again, slow-growing plants have no impact on nitrate levels. By definition, plants that grow slowly need little nitrogen, hence they absorb little nitrate. It's fast growing plants that use up nitrogen, and that means lots of light, plus species such as Vallisneria, Cabomba, Hygrophila, etc. -- plants that need cropping back every week or two.>
I have spent a lot of time on you site and it is probably the most extensive site about aquariums. Thanks for the good work in helping fellow aquarists. This really is one of the better sites for an aquarist .
<Glad to help. Good luck, Neale.>

Setting Up A Discus Aquarium  1/3/09 I have a question regarding a discus set up I am thinking about. I have searched your site for answers, but could not quite get a spot on answer since all aquariums are different. I have a 46 gallon bow front aquarium that I want to put discus in. I want to use black gravel for my substrate, and moderate lighting of about 2 watts per gallon. I would plan on putting aquarium driftwood in after I have soaked it thoroughly for a few weeks. I have a deionization filter to filter source water and then use a reclaim treatment to put essential minerals back into the water. I want to aim for a pH of 6.5, a general hardness of about 2 or 3 and a temperature of around 84 degrees. Now I have learned that odd numbers are best for schooling discus in aquariums. I was thinking about 3 discus, but I think 5 would minimize aggression more. Would 5 be too much? <Eventually... for this volume, shaped tank, yes... particularly should a couple pair off... but if started smallish... this might be several months from now> I plan on getting a 75 gallon aquarium when they get larger. <Mmm, my usual admonition here... re roads to heck being paved with good intentions...> I am very strict with maintenance with my aquariums I have had before. I usually vacuum the gravel and do 25% percent water changes every two weeks, but understand that with discus I might need to do 25% every week. <Yes... I would plan on this protocol, and strictly adhere to it> I would greatly appreciate any input you may have. Thanks for all your help. <Welcome Jonathan. Bob Fenner>

Better to add or take away in discus tank?   9/6/08 Dear All (and special hi to Bob, my oracle in terms of my marine obsession!) <Ohmmm... the old unit of resistance, not the mantra!> For once, I need advice on a different tank to my marine - this time its my 40 gallon planted freshwater tank. Currently, it's an Amazon biotope with one angel fish (about to be rehomed after his mate died, he's off to join a shoal in a friends 4ft tank), a selection of tetras which are happy at higher temperature, and two discus smallish discus, one about 3.5", the second about 3". Originally the discus were in a small group of three, however one died within 6 months of a bacterial infection. Now the larger discus appears to chase the smaller round (not unexpected), <Correct> and is growing larger at the expense of the smaller animal. My original stocking plan was to have a small group of 5 discus to even out aggression, saving up to buy a larger tank (deeper, rather than longer), <Mmm, I'd go the opposite route> as I feel 5 fully grown discus would get oh-so-very-cramped in my current tank (and I'm a sucker for upgrading :D).... <A good trait> Would you suggest that it would be better to.. 1. rehome both discus, replace with a small group of 5 smaller fish to allow them to sort out their social hierarchy 2. rehome the smaller individual, adding a new group LARGER than the existing one, or 3. rehome neither fish, adding new individual (smaller) or 4. as 3., but adding larger individuals <A tough one... as there is too much variability in Symphysodon behavior... too likely the alpha fish will bully any/all new... I'd likely go with choice 1.> Sorry about the huge list of options! I've had these fish a fair while (they are both around 8 months in the tank, the tank itself is 5 years old and very stable) and want to do right by them. Many thanks for once again taking the time to read my ramblings, Carolyn <A pleasure. Bob Fenner>

New Discus/hard water (Neale?) 6/12/08 I seem to go in phases as to how much I 'need' the helpful advice of your Crew. I just got four 3"-4" Discus that are in a 65 gal tank (ordered online). I've read Discus FAQ's on your sight for days trying to learn more, I hope my question is simple. The confusion lies in that different volunteers have different answers to the same question. (Help me, Neale-I hope you get his). <I'm here!> I have hard water of 8 pH and KH is 14. <Oh.> Meaning it takes 14 drops of the KH solution (API liquid tests) to turn the water from blue to yellow. GH is high also, around 300 ppm. I mixed close to 50% RO water with my tap water and got a KH of 8, that's what the Discus are in right now. Does that sound right to have to mix THAT much RO water to tap water? <Sure. I keep my community tank at 50% hard water and 50% rainwater. A similar ratio here would work fine for your Discus.> Is there something I'm missing in my understanding? If this is the case I sense an RO unit in my near future. I don't feel comfortable keeping the Discus in my hard water even though the LFS does. <With Discus, the question is whether they're wild-caught or tank-bred. Wild Discus are very picky about water chemistry. But tank-bred fish far less so. What they care about is *steady* water quality and water chemistry; the precise pH and hardness isn't at all critical. If you have medium hard, neutral water, that's just fine for tank-bred Discus (in other words, around 8-12 degrees dH, 3-6 degrees KH pH 6.5-7.5).> I know fish don't 'feel' pH but they do feel the total dissolved solids. <Indeed. But what most species feel most strongly about is *changes* because the total dissolved solids are all about osmoregulation, i.e., how rapidly water seeps into their bodies and how difficult it is for them conserve salts. Once they've tweaked their osmoregulatory systems just so, if you change it, they spend a while off-balance until the reset their systems. The more you do this, the more stressful it is.> I religiously keep my Oscar tank nitrates below 5. I always said if it was good enough for Discus it's good enough for my Oscars :-) So I have no problem whatsoever in keeping Discus water quality perfect, that's a given with all my fish. It's the KH I'm concerned with. <The KH for Discus should ideally be 5 or less; because of the acidification problem, I'd not take it below 2 unless I had some very good reason to do so, and either way I'd monitor pH over a week to see if the addition of a buffering agent is called for.> I stupidly thought I understood all this but didn't realize I'd need 50% RO water (which is fine, I'll deal with it if I need to). <Tank-bred Discus are very adaptable, so don't fixate too strongly on the hardness, though I agree some softening would be a good thing. It's things like nitrates and pH fluctuations that cause the problems with Discus.> As a side note-I read Neale's comments about keeping a minimum of 6 Discus but I'd already ordered only 4. I plan on getting 2 more in the next few wks because of his comments. <If they're youngsters, they may be fine. But these are cichlids, and once mature become territorial. My impression from other hobbyists is "the more the better" if you want a group, with 6 being a safe number.> I am so sorry for bothering your generous crew with what's possibly a silly question. Mitzi <Happy to help! Neale.>

Re: New Discus/hard water (Neale?) 6/12/08 THANK you, Neale! I had every intention of collecting rainwater, my 55 gal drums are sitting awaiting the downpour we're supposed to get tonight :-) <Very good. There's some concern rainwater in urban areas close to factories might not be clean, but out in the suburbs or country you should be fine. Filtering through carbon is also recommended. To do that, stick some carbon in a filter of some sort, a bubble-up air filter is fine, dump in the water, and let it circulate for half an hour or so. Alternatively, pour the rainwater through carbon from one bucket to another. I don't bother with any of this, but in the interests of full disclosure, that's what you're *meant* to do.> I remember you mentioning rainwater in many FAQ's, otherwise I doubt it would've ever occurred to me. Not sure how I'm going to store the rainwater though... <Using rainwater is "old school" and how people kept and bred killifish and Discus before we had RO systems. While there's potentially a risk of pollutants, in practise I've yet to hear of anyone have problems with rainwater, especially when properly filtered through carbon and treated with conditioner.> I believe it will need aerated continuously, I'm not sure I can store it in sealed containers without it getting slimy. I'll find out! <My rainwater mostly sits outdoors in the butt or else in 5 gallon tubs (with lids) in the kitchen. Seems fine for many weeks either way. Yes, there's sometimes a bit of leaf litter in the outdoor butt, but heck, all that produces is the tannic acid we add using blackwater extract or peat!> Yes, these are tank-bred Discus. I sure didn't need the worries of wild caught Discus. <No one does.> Ok, it's sounding like I need around 60-75% RO water then, I can do it. <I'd honestly start with tap water for now, and see how you do. If they're feeding and fattening up nicely, problem solved. If you find their colours aren't what you'd like, or they seem slow to feed or lacking in sprightliness, then by all means gradually soften the water at each water change. But why create work for yourself right from the word 'go'?> I'm stubborn enough to move mountains, my problem is knowing which mountain to move. You've answered my questions fully and I appreciate you taking so much of your time with me. Lord, but you're wonderful. <How sweet!> Mitzi <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: New Discus/hard water (Neale?) 6/13/08 Ok, it's sounding like I need around 60-75% RO water then, I can do it. '<I'd honestly start with tap water for now, and see how you do. If they're feeding and fattening up nicely, problem solved. If you find their colours aren't what you'd like, or they seem slow to feed or lacking in sprightliness, then by all means gradually soften the water at each water change. But why create work for yourself right from the word 'go'?>" As far as the above comment-do I dare do that? These particular Discus although tank bred, were raised in 6.9 pH. I won't "kill" them by keeping them in my liquid rock...? I'm scared to do that.....although my trust of what you say overrides my fears, to be honest. I'll give it some serious thought, I'm just worried about making them sick. Thank you kindly, sir! Mitzi <Hi Mitzi, you mentioned initially that the fish are in local tap water and feeding happily. Taking that at face value, I'd simply install them in your home aquarium with local tap water and see how they go. The safest approach with most fish, and certainly tank-bred Discus, is to minimise changes in water chemistry between their holding tank and your home aquarium. See how that works out. You won't be putting the Discus at any risk. Over the next few weeks, see what happens re: appetite, colours, etc. You can then decide whether to soften the water or not. Cheers, Neale.>

Discus Need Pristine Water 5/9/08 Dear WetWebMedia Crew, <Hi Samer, Pufferpunk here> I have discus fish in a 1 and a half meter aquarium. <How many?> The pH is between 7.3 and 7.6. <Ammonia, nitrite, nitrate?> The problem is all my discus are breathing heavily. Two of them are sitting on their side and look very weak. Is there anything I can do to help them? <Yes, discus need pristine water conditions. 90% weekly water changes would not be considered too much.  Discus breeders do 100% water changes daily. You must start out by doing 25% water change 2x/day for a week & do 90% every week after that. Be sure to match the temperature (discus like it hot: 86 degrees) & use some sort of dechlorinator--Prime works well. This is considering that the tank is not overstocked & it was cycled before you stocked fish in there. See: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_2/cav2i2/discus/discus.htm ~PP> Thank you for all the help, Samer <PS, Please note the changes I made to your punctuation, capitalization & spelling & try to correct before sending in the future, as per: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/WWMAdminSubWebIndex/question_page.htm.>

I am emailing you regarding a problem that I have been having with my fresh water Discus tank.  3/23/08 First I will start with the details on my aquarium set up. It is a 30 gallon <Too small...> fish tank with plenty of live plant life, 2 Discus (1 of them expired because of my problem), 3 albino Danios, 3 white cloud tetras, 3 green tetras, 1 albino Corydoras cat fish, and 3 Otos (who were all fed twice daily with reasonable amounts of frozen foods). <Mmm, don't really eat such...> I do a 30% water change every week with treated tap water <Good> (I add plant nutrients, a pH lower, black water extract, and prime) <I would get/use an RO device...> in order to maintain proper water parameters. Regular water tests show that my water typically stays around 0 ppm of ammonia, 0 ppm of nitrite, around/below 20 ppm of nitrate, <Too much for Symphysodon> and a pH of 6.4. I used two back mounted power filters in order to keep the water circulating with a combination of filter floss, carbon, media for housing beneficial bacteria, and bags of media to chemically lower nitrates. <These can be problematical> This worked perfectly well on my tank for a while until one day I spoiled a water change where I planned on scrubbing down the glass and changing the water, but instead I ended up scrubbing off the glass, changing the water, and stirring up the gravel (which is a very fine substrate for my plants) by pouring in the water. White cloudy water followed this water change and nothing I could do would fix this. It was putting much stress on the inhabitants of my aquarium so while I was doing research I was doing 50% water changes daily which made the water less cloudy and the fish swam around like normal until the next morning when I had to do the water change again. Much research told me that the only thing it could be would be a bacterial bloom and after talking with my local discus breeder (Wattley Discus) <Hello to Jack> I put a cartridge filter on my fish tank that broke it down to something like 1 micron (this filter was a canister that was connected to a pump that was separate from the filter). I left this filter on my fish tank for 12 hours and the fish tank cleaned up right away, but the water was starting to turn cloudy again within 24 hours so I put this canister filter on my fish tank again and the water was polished right up all over again. I then invested my money into my own canister filter (a Fluval 205) which i fitted with biological filter media (little clay tabs), peat, zeolite, and the stock sponge media and I removed the other canister filter. Shortly thereafter my water started to cloud up however it was not as bad as before and my fish population did not seem as stressed as before. So, I added the Fluval water polishing media to my aquarium and the water did not clean up all that well. I was going away for a week the next day so as a last resort i took the other canister and put it on the output line of the Fluval and the water cleared up within the hour. Throughout this whole endeavor my water parameters were kept in check. I have done research that suggests that keeping the water polishing canister on line with the Fluval may not be a good idea because it will remove too many essential properties from the water. <This may be so> I have since disconnected one of the hang on filters from the back. I have the next week off so I would like to know what all I could/should do to my aquarium to keep it in check. <Mmm, mainly less... I would mix, store your make-up water for the week ahead of time, cut out the use of Prime (unnecessary then), get rid of the nitrate absorbing filtrant... and start saving for a larger system> Any help will be greatly appreciated. p.s. The only other information that I could see as relevant to this problem could be the lighting and the presence of an oxygen stone. The oxygen stone was putting the bubbles off right into one of the hang on filters and the bubbles were being broken down and dispersed throughout the entire tank. Also I have heavy lighting on the aquarium which consists of a stock head that has a light fit for plant growth and a high output fluorescent head with 2 actinic blue bulbs and 2 daylight bulbs.> Thank you, Josh Early. <Mmm, what you need is a bit more biology, less chemical use... Bob Fenner>

Re: Cloudy Water Discus Tank 3/26/08 I appreciate your quick response to my troubles, but this simply opens up more questions for me. <OK, Scott V. here this go round.> Is it necessary for me to cut out the prime from my water, or is it just a corner cutter to save money? <It is a matter of adding less to your water. All the additives are likely contributing to your problem, hence the urging to use RO water instead.> Also, how would I go about increasing the biological capacity of my filters and handle the nitrates by non-chemical means. <Increasing the biofiltration should not be an issue. Handling the nitrate should happen through your water changes, 30% a week is quite substantial. Yet but another reason for RO water, your make up water itself is likely high in nitrate.> Another thing you addressed is the size of my aquarium. What size should I take my fish tank to as a minimum and why? (as Wattley Discus seemed to find nothing wrong with my tank setup as long as I could keep my water parameters in check). <A 55 gallon would be fine. Discus get fairly large and are shy, skittish fish. The larger tank will help you with diluting pollutants (such as your nitrate issue) and prove better psychologically for the fish.> I also don't feel that you addressed my main issue of the cloudy water and what I should do about the external water polishing canister filter or if you did I completely missed it. <The canister treats the symptoms, not the problem. It sounds like your issues stem from your water and the additives to begin with, a larger system will certainly not hurt and will be necessary as the fish grow.> Any further response will be greatly appreciated. -Josh <Welcome, Scott V.> Re: Cloudy Water Discus Tank 3/29/08 Ok thank you for all of your help. <Very welcome.> I was doing the water quality from memory (since I was out of town at the time of my first email) and have since tested the water after a week of my absence and it came out to be 0 ppm of ammonia, 0 ppm of nitrite, and 0 ppm of nitrate. <Good to hear.> I eventually be investing in a bigger system, but my plan was to upgrade the tank as the fish started to reach adulthood or simply divide them based on pairs into smaller tanks and start fresh wit the 30 gallon. Your help is greatly appreciated. <Welcome, best regards, Scott V.>

Discus Fish!  Sys.    2/18/08 Good Afternoon Crew, First, Thank You for creating such an excellent site! <Thanks.> I have a few questions, mostly about setting up a Discus show tank. First, the tank I have in mind is the 'standard' "4 footer" 55 gallon tank. Most details are still in the planning stage, as I have nothing in the tank at the moment. Optimally, I would like 3 discuss (starting out w/ smaller sized, non-hormone added, captive bread stock) and a school of Cardinal Tetras (about a dozen or so, unless I can fit more). That would be it. <Discus can in theory at least eat Cardinals, but in reality this seems to be pretty rare.> These additions will all be placed in the tank after it has been sufficiently cycled for weeks, and the parameters are all at zero (or very, very close to zero for nitrates) ( for cycling, it will be "non fish".. I prefer BioSpira and the transfer of some media/water from other disease-free tanks). <Transferring water will do nothing about carrying across the bacteria. Transferring media, on the other hand, works very well, and negates the need for Bio Spira completely. You can remove up to 50% of the media from a mature filter and not cause water quality problems in the donor tank.> My questions are: 1. Is this too small an environment for Discus? I have been reading a lot, and, as always with this hobby, have read much conflicting advice, but believe this will be sufficient. <55 US gallons is at the low end for Discus. Discus can get big and they're also sensitive to water quality and pH fluctuations, so anything you can do to prevent this helps. Psychologically, Discus also like deep tanks with ample swimming room, particularly once they become mature and territorial. A bigger tank would be highly recommended.> 2. Should I add the school of Cardinals first (I believe this is the case) or second? (as in, after the Discus?) <Make no difference really. I suppose adding the Cardinals first would be better, in the sense that Discus don't like changes. But if you wanted to go the other way round, it wouldn't be the end of the world. Cardinals aren't dither fish so won't help the Discus settle in. For dither fish, Silver Hatchet fish work much better.> 3. What is the best substrate? Since I am not planning on live plants ( I know Discus prefer lower light levels, and I know they prefer wood/etc as opposed to live plants anyway) I think a non-silicate based sand will be OK. Or should I stick with a smooth rock base? <Anything easy to clean, and preferably dark in colour, e.g., black sand. The main thing is that the substrate be non *calcareous*.> 4. I plan on utilizing a large (15 gallon) bucket to house water that will be temperature matched, aerated, de-chlorinated, and allowed to sit for a period of days. Will weekly 8-10 gallon water changes be sufficient? <Discus need 50% water changes per week. Non-negotiable, really. They're just too sensitive to nitrate and acidification.> 5. Will it be OK to mix colors of Discus? As in 1 blue, 1 Marlboro Red, etc.? <Yes, though obviously for breeding purposes you will want to concentrate on a single strain. Moreover, schooling fish tend to look better when they're all the same. A mish-mash of stuff just looks like a mess. Finally, the inbred fancy Discus tend to be smaller and less hardy than the standard greens and blues, so there's a lot to be said for going with wild-type fish (as opposed to wild-caught fish, which are difficult to maintain).> Thank you again for all your help! Ed <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Discus Fish! Sys.   2/19/08 Neale, <Ed,> Thanks for the quick answer. Let's say I'm glad I'm still in the patient planning stages. As for a deeper tank, how about a bow-front style tank? Actually, as I write this, it's probably up to personal choice, as long as it's larger overall, and deeper, correct? <Depth is depth. At least 50 cm. The shape of the tank doesn't matter all that much, though obviously surface area is important.> How long would I be all right with my current tank if I choose to go that route? <Possibly indefinitely, but the issue is managing water quality and chemistry stability. Half a dozen juveniles will probably be fine in there, but once they're adults, I suspect you'll find things limiting.> For the fish, I actually like the striped-color (blue, green, etc) varieties better, and will definitely consider your suggestion for getting three of the same colors. <If you have a graphics program, try copying and pasting six different Discus varieties onto a black box, and then compare six of the same kind. You'll immediately notice the difference!> Those are two great points that I didn't consider. Another question I forgot to ask: Since Discus mainly stay towards the middle of the aquarium, will adding a powerhead that is directed horizontally across the very bottom of the tank (to help move water and to keep particles suspended in the water longer) help, or hurt them b/c they need lower current? <Provided water flow in the tank wasn't crazy-fast, it would be fine. But overall you're aiming for around 6 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour.> Taking your advice, I will plan on doing two -15 gallon water changes per week.. This should be 30 gallons total, which is (obviously) a bit more than 50%. <Indeed.> Again, Thanks for the help! Ed <Happy to help, Neale.>

Re: Discus Fish System  2/21/08 Thank you for pointing that out.. Next time I'll check the Daily FAQ's... Hopefully this e-mail problem will resolve itself.. As for a tank, if you had your choice (for 3 discus and a school of Cardinal Tetras) would you choose a 42 Gallon Bow or a 55 gallon standard? (The 42 is obviously less total gallonage, however it's taller and would provide more comfort for the Discus). Thanks for your help, again! Ed <Greetings. Location, location, location... sorry, I mean: capacity, capacity, capacity. Everything in fishkeeping is easier/better as volume goes up. There's no question that the 55 gallon tank would be better. You've got 25% more water for a start, but also a more favourable surface area which means more oxygen and CO2 exchange. I'm assuming the 55 gallon system is around 45 cm/18" deep, which is going to be ample for Discus. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Discus Fish System, Loricariid comp.  2/25/08 Neale/Crew of WWM, <Hello,> Thank you for the quick answer once again. I have two more questions: As far as the Discus go, I've read in many places that they aren't good to mix with, say, a common Pleco, because there's the possibility they will eat the slime coat off the discus. <Correct; doesn't always happen, but happens sufficiently often.> However, certain ones that stay on the smaller side and aren't too active would be okay. I really like the Gold-Nugget Plecos and have read they only get to be 5-6 inches or so. How would this work? <Baryancistrus sp. L018 could be okay, and does like quite warm water, which meshes nicely with what Symphysodon wants. But regardless: keep an eye on things, and act accordingly.> Second, I've been reading a lot about filtration (still...) and currently have a Penguin Bio Wheel filter.. rated for 30 gallons. Obviously this will not be sufficient for the 55 gallon alone. I have two choices I'm kicking back and forth: an Aqua Clear 50 HOB filter, for about $45, or an Eheim Ecco 2232 which is rated at 127 gph for a 35 gallon tank for $89. (or another brand/model...) Is the canister filter worth the extra money here? <Yes.> My concern is in regard to the build of nitrates (yes, I do realize they will build in all mech. filters and have to be changed). <Nitrate build-up in canister filters may well be an issue, but with proper maintenance it shouldn't happen. Actually, "your mileage may vary" -- I know people keeping very successful reef tanks that use canister filters they clean only once or twice a year! The benefit of canister filters is the generous water turnover and the option for useful selections of media. Hang-on-the-back filters come with these stupid "cartridge" modules that contain useless junk like carbon and zeolite. While great for the manufacturers and retailers, they're a waste of space for freshwater aquarists. What you want is a filter with empty modules into which you can put good-quality media like Siporax as well as filter wool that can be changed as often as required (which will be OFTEN in a planted tank.> Thanks a lot for the help! Eric <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Discus Fish System; filter options, and catfish -02/25/08 Good day, Thank you for the answer in regard to the Pleco and the filter. I will definitely keep an eye out for any harmful interactions. I did hear that the discus actually 'like' the slime coat-action? (Even though it's not good for them) Interesting.. <I doubt they actually like it. There's a whopping great fish scraping their skin off with big sharp teeth. About as much fun as having a ferret in your underpants I'd imagine.> As for the filter: the AquaClear 50 is rated at 200 gph, while the Ecco Canister is rated for 127 gph. I guess I'm confused as how the latter would be more flow? <In theory then the 200 gph filter would be better. But my experience of hang-on-the-back filters is that they are less good at cleaning solid wastes from the bottom of the tank. They're also less flexible in terms of media options, though that varies. In any case choose whichever you prefer, provided the 4x volume of the tank in turnover per hour is observed.> Is that because the canister is more efficient, or the design? <Canisters are more flexible in terms of options and accessories, but if you place one under the tank it actually is less efficient in terms of turnover than a hang-on filter at water level (because the canister now has to work against gravity).> The AquaClear also has different options for media, and I can use the pre-made 'bags' for pretty much anything. <The bags are often pretty rubbish. Anything pre-packaged does so to extract more money for less stuff. Nothing sold to consumers breaks this law.> I do think part of my hesitation (besides that which is listed above) is because I am familiar w/ the AquaClear, while I've never used a Canister before. <Almost all experienced freshwater aquarists migrate from hang-on filters and internal filters to external canister filters. They are just better value and more flexible. Of course, you're free to do whatever you want, so long as the basic rules are observed.> One last question (I promise): what about noise levels? I have read favorable things in regard to quality, longevity, etc. etc. about the Ecco (and entire Eheim line, for that matter) but there's not much in regard to how noisy it will be; in relation to the AquaClear. <Canister filters can be noisy if they get air bubbles inside them, but are generally silent when up and running properly.> Thanks again, E <Cheers, Neale.>

Water hardness, Discus    2/17/08 Hi. how are you? It's me again. I just wanted to know what is the approximate hardness for discus. Your articles said about 10 degrees GH. Is this the same as 10 degrees dh? Thank you for your help. <Please read this article before you do anything else: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwh2oquality.htm If you don't 100% understand water chemistry, then don't start adjusting the water chemistry in your aquarium. Instead, do a water test on your tap water, and then choose fish that are adapted to those conditions. If your local water is hard, then stick with hard water fish. In any event, there's no such thing as "10 degrees GH" which is why I'm warning you to be careful. I'm guessing you mean "10 degrees dH" which is sometimes referred to as the 'General Hardness', hence 'GH'. But the scale itself is in units dH, which stands for Deutsche Haerte, or 'German Hardness'. Discus vary in their optimal water hardness requirements. Wild-caught fish will need water that is quite soft, ideally 3-10 degrees dH. Tank-bred fish are less fussy, and will do well at up to 15 degrees dH, maybe even slightly more. But regardless of the water hardness, the Discus need water chemistry stability, and that means that you understand -- and can manage -- the Carbonate Hardness of the water (measured in degrees KH). Cheers, Neale.>

Adapting, FW, fish, water cond.s... e.g. Discus and hard water   2-9-08 Hi again. I just wanted to know, is it possible for a fish to adapt to a certain water condition? For example, a discus adapting to a slightly hard water. Thank you. <Up to a point, yes, fish will adapt to a range of water chemistry conditions. But the degree to which this is true depends profoundly on the species in question. Guppies won't adapt to soft/acid water, for example, even though they will do well in hard water, brackish water, and if acclimated carefully, even seawater. Wild-caught Discus simply must be kept in at least somewhat soft, slightly acidic water (i.e., pH 6-6.5, 3-5 degrees dH). Tank-bred Discus are a bit more amenable to harder water, and will do well at pH 7, 10 degrees dH. Given that Discus need much warmer water than most other tropical fish, and are also that bit more sensitive to bullying and nitrate poisoning, there's no point keeping Discus in a "community" setting, so you may as well set up the one tank just for them with precisely controlled water chemistry. Cheers, Neale.>

High ph and low alkalinity, Discus sys.    10/22/07 Hello, <Hi there> I am a long time aquarium keeper who has been quite lucky over the years and just let my tank be whatever way it balanced itself to be and have kept a general variety of fish without any problems or turmoil. That is until I decided that I want to keep discus. In talking to my LFS about doing this it was recommended that I change some things within my tank before purchasing discus otherwise I would just be wasting my money and their lives. <Let's see> All things recommended have been accomplished over the past year (not without much appreciated help from you guys I might add) except one. The main and most troubling change is "buffering-in" a lower pH. I have done everything you have recommended; I changed to RO water to solve the liquid rock tap water problem; I lowered my KH to 3dK; I incorporated several pieces of driftwood; I began religiously changing out 20% of the water in the tank every week; etc, but guess what? pH is still 7.4-7.6. <This may not be an issue... Are the Discus you keep tank-bred and raised (i.e. not wild-caught?)... If so, this pH range is likely fine> I did try phosphate buffers which did a great job of keeping my pH where I want it between 6.5 and 6.8, but caused an algae bloom, and dropped the KH to zero, so no more phosphates for me thanks. I have tried several other things to bring down the pH as well, including allowing the detritus to build up in the gravel <Mmm, not recommended> which just brought about a blue-green algae problem and I have tried non phosphate acid buffer which only chips away at the KH before disappearing and allowing the pH to rise back up. <Yes> So this is where I am and I hope that you can help. I use RO water and add back the minerals using Kent's RO right. I add 1.5 tsp to 15 gal, which results in a TDS reading of 170ppm on an electronic probe, and an undetectable reading on a calcium/magnesium GH titration test kit ( I don't know why GH is so low with this product, nor do I even know if I should be concerned with it since the TDS reading is high enough). I add KH by adding bicarb to attain a KH reading of 4dK. Then I use this water for my changes. <Mmm, depending on the make-up (GH, KH) of your source water, I'd likely give up the Kent's product and just add/blend some of this in with the RO> I have heard much on alkalinity and carbonates to buffer against a drop in pH, but what about buffering against a rise in pH? <Is a/the same concept... a buffer "holds" or resists change in both directions... depending on the "trend" in captive systems (most all are decidedly reductive, as in reduction/oxidation... OILRIG, "oxidation is losing, reduction is gaining...." electrons... Acids are proton donors, electron acceptors... basic (not a pun) chemistry... Tanks tend to "go acidic" with time... resultant from feeding, decomposition processes, crowding...> What "stable" chemicals, and acidity buffering tests etc can be employed in the fight against a rising pH? <First, the discovery of alkaline/alkalinity sources... Likely substrate here... perhaps more pre-eminently, the checking of your test gear as well....> I already have my KH as low as anyone would recommend. Thank you SL <Again, really... I would NOT be concerned with the mid 7's pH you state... IS fine, esp. if the Symphysodon have been captive-produced... I would suggest another 20% change of water (twice per week) to lower metabolites... Much more of a likely issue than pH effects. Do please read this excellent piece by NealeM here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwhardness.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Establishing Discus tank   9/20/07 <<Hi. Tom here.>> I would like to establish a discus only tank. <<An enviable project!>> A site online mentioned that it is better to intro other compatible fish first to establish a bio load. <<If the site is speaking of using other fish to cycle the tank, I'd be very reluctant to use any other information it provides. That practice had its 'sunset' at least a decade ago and 'fishless' cycling has been around the hobby for much longer than that. Now, in fairness, Discus are very sensitive to water conditions so it could be that the site you're referring to is recommending adding compatible fish AFTER the tank has cycled to try to minimize the impact on the Discus when they're introduced. Rather wishful thinking if this is the case since any additional fish will always affect the bio-load to one degree or another. (I highly doubt this is what they were getting at but I'm feeling generous this afternoon. :) )>> And that the discus should not be introduced for six weeks. <<That would depend totally on the results of water testing. Six weeks may be more than enough time or, it could just as easily be premature. I doubt there's a single member of this Crew who'd suggest a specific time frame without benefit of some specific information about the water conditions. Ideally, you would be testing regularly to monitor the rise and fall of ammonia/nitrites in the tank. When only nitrates are detectable, you're 'golden'.>> Is it possible to obtain the same effect by purchasing bacteria from the LFS? <<Yes, but I'll qualify that by saying that the product needs to be BIO-Spira from Marineland. Many off-the-shelf products are largely ineffective at cycling a tank quickly and some are outright wastes of your money.>> If so, how long should I wait to introduce the fish? <<No longer than 24 hours and better if within 8-10 hours when using BIO-Spira. The Nitrospira bacteria responsible for nitrifying nitrites are quite slow to reproduce -- dismally slow by bacterial standards -- and need a source of nitrites rather quickly to remain viable and propagate. The upside, however, is that the tank is about as 'instantly cycled' with the use of this product as you can reasonably ask for. However you choose to go about cycling your tank, using live fish for this purpose shouldn't even be considered an option. Potentially sacrificing life when there are quick, safe and effective methods to accomplish the same thing would be completely irresponsible and cruel. Now, my 'soapboxing' aside, I wish you the best of luck with your Discus tank. I'm sure you'll enjoy the results! Tom>>

Re: establishing Discus tank   7/21/07 Hi again, <<Greetings again.>> At the risk of sounding stupid, I need something clarified. After adding the bottled bacteria, can I introduce discus fish? <<Not a 'stupid' question at all. Yes, you can introduce the Discus after adding the bacteria. My apologies for not being clear on that point. Tom>>

Discus/ Maintenance, reading    9/11/07  Hello crew! I would like to thank you for taking the time once again to assist me with my discus issues. I just have a couple of questions to pose to you! Firstly, I have a 68 gallon discus planted tank, and was wondering if there is a more efficient way of conducting my weekly water changes. Currently, I empty the 2/3 of the tank, then have to refill with a watering can! <Yeeikes!> I have read that there is some sort of tool or apparatus that can be used to assist in such a task? <All sorts...> Something that attaches to the sink? <Mmm, is your tapwater the source here? If so there are basically "water bed" fill and drain kits sold... by Python Products, Lee's... and water bed companies/outlets that will get you this> With my growing hobby, which is becoming an obsession, I need to make my water changes as efficient as possible in order to get to cleaning all my tanks in one afternoon. Secondly, I was curious to know how one can construct a fish room. I have seen on various discus breeders websites, the idea of some how linking all the ( 20 odd???) tanks as one system? <Sure...> I was just interested to know how I would be able to construct a fish room, with say 9 or 10 tanks all linked on the same filtration system? Is it a job that requires a plumber, or can a couple of guys who are handy around the home make such a thing? Any help or direction would be really helpful. <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/AqBizSubWebIndex/cntfiltbiz.htm and the linked files above> Once more, thanks for your encouragement and guidance! Jarryd <For Discus... you likely will want to make, store treated water... heat it... and use a fluid-moving pump... Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/discussysfaqs.htm Bob Fenner>

Discus setup and R.O.; Tank Mates For Discus   8/26/07 Hello crew, Have put up posts on the public forums but no reply as yet and tbh would appreciate a fairly quick reply if possible. Since the volume output production of my R.O. unit is slow, a trickle, it is best at the moment for me to perform one 15 litre w/c per day which over the course of a week equals a 50% w/c on both tanks. This equates to a 7 - 8 % w/c each day. Is this low level change ok to do or are the benefits minimal? < This depends on where you water chemistry is now and where you want it to be. If you are trying to lower the pH then it probably won't do much good. If you are trying to lower to total dissolved solids then you should be fine.> I'm getting two huge tubs soon so I can just turn it on and walk away for a couple or few hours without having to tend to it all the time. Last of all, my father and I have decided to take the direction of our main display tank to a Discus setup. I have read Bob Fenner's article called "The cichlid fishes called Discus". I'm trying to find out if the temps for them would be too high for Syno cats, eupterus and nigriventris. Mr. Fenner gives an example of suitable fish companions for Discus, was wondering if there was a particular exact source (or your recommendation) for a few more species. I don't think I'll be able to get the pH low enough for cardinals. We appreciate that these fish need extra special care and fully intend to create as perfect and suitable environment for them as possible, low lighting, correct plants, right GH and KH etc. Many thanks team. Steve. < The Synodontis cats get big and are big eaters. I'm afraid that they would bully the discus away at feeding time. Look for tankmates that can tolerate the same water conditions and will leave the discus as the dominant species in the tank.-Chuck>

Plant Issues for discus tank   8/22/07 Hello everyone at WWM, My name's Peter Johnstone, I live in Melbourne Australia. Like many others, I've been (excitedly) reading for a couple months now after stumbling onto your site while looking for general aquarium advice. Your site is amazing and has helped increase my understanding immensely which is very much appreciated. I've got a few questions that I'll put together because I think they're probably related somehow. I've got a small, approx 90 L (22G) freshwater tropical tank which has been running very successfully for approx 4-5 years as a community tank with some basic plants. Here's the stats for my tank so far: Tapwater is very soft and ph neutral. Approx 90L, under filter, with only a gravel substrate approx 3-5cm thick 18W plant-grow single tube (6 weeks old), adequate heating. Temp is now 28-29 degree Celsius (changed from 24ish about 2 months ago) pH 6.4 ammonia 0 nitrite 0 nitrate 10/15 GH 5 KH 4 I have 7 cardinal tetras (? small amount of ich, non responsive to 2 weeks at 32degrees and Multicure but seem happy otherwise) 1 black ghost knight (growing healthily) 2 glass cat fish (very interactive) 1 pearl gourami (appears happy) 2 flying fox (doing their job) 2 bristle nose Am planning on getting 2, 3-5cm discus in the near future once I've got a hold on everything. I have the following plants with the attached problems. Any thoughts on the cause would be most appreciated. 4 various Anubias (edges of the leaves and new shoots being eaten/nipped off-added lettuce and zucchini which are eaten up daily with no changes to the plant state) 1 wisteria (happy) 2 Amazon swords (1 growing slowly, one has rotting roots which turn brown and translucent and rot off. Not sure why may be terminal) some small old java ferns (very very slow growing) java moss (not dying) stag horn java fern (new growth turns brown and dies within 1-2 days for no apparent reason. Tiny new shoots still sprouting occasionally) 1 Bolbitis fern (only the rhizome left after it turned very dark green/brown and rotted away, 2 days after being in the tank from the shop) 3 pieces of drift wood. Here's the history. I'm aware that under filters are not great for plants, however the tank was originally given to me as is, and I've been learning more along the way. The plants were doing very well up until the end of 2006, with essentially no algae, when I went away for 2 weeks and left the tank in the care of my housemates. On return I had lost almost all of my plants due to an unknown reason- no problems with the fish. I've been learning more about the tank in an effort to get some discus soon and so have the current plants and testing kits as stated above. Since the big die off, I've never been able to get the plants to grow well again and I'm not sure why because nothing else has changed. I have a few remnants of the java fern which have very slowly regrown a couple of leaves off the rhizome root over the past 6-9 months however I bought 2 great specimens a couple months ago, only to have them both start rotting from the bottom up within two days of them being in the tank. 1 week later they were gone- and no the roots weren't buried in the gravel. Why will the old plants regrow slowly, but new ones of the same species die off so quickly? the Bolbitis died off within 2 days too. Not sure if its rhizome will survive. I've lost every type of crypt that I've tried to house with the leaves becoming transparent and flaccid -> rotting off. The rest of my plants are o.k. but non thriving like they once did when I had multiple flowering anubias. I have started using fertilizer pellets and some liquid fertilizer to help add nutrients about 2 weeks ago. Is it possible to over fertilise, because I think I initially put in too many pellets as my water levels blew out to high ammonia, nitrate and nitrite levels and the ph dropped within 4 days, which is rare as my tank is always very stable. I removed much of the pellets, multiple water changes and all's back to normal with no fish fatalities thankfully. So here's the questions. As I'm looking towards getting discus, I've put the temperature up from approx 24 to 28 degrees in the last 2 months. Can this effect the plants I have or have attempted to have? My fish appear much more active and happy since the temp went up. All fish are growing nicely. Am I likely to get good plant growth with my setup or is it flawed from the beginning with the under filter, and if so, why was I able to get good growth for the first few years? Also, something is eating/nipping many of the anubias plant leaves and any new growth that does appear. I'm yet to witness the culprit after hrs of observation so I'm thinking it may be a nocturnal thing. I'm sure I have no hitchhiker snails. Any thoughts on who's to blame? Are products such as black water extract likely to be of benefit to me and can you suggest any others that may help. Any other thoughts/advice on the general setup would be most appreciated before I get the discus in. If all goes well for 6 months or so I'll probably invest in a nice 4*2*2 setup and redo everything properly, keeping the old tank for quarantine/breeding. Again, any help/advice you can offer is greatly appreciated. Thanks again for such a useful, entertaining and interesting site. Cheers. Pete J. <Hello Peter. Your problem is insufficient light coupled with the wrong water chemistry. Lighting for shade-tolerant plants needs to be upwards of 1.5 Watts per gallon, and for most everything else at least 2-3 Watts per gallon. So, Java ferns and Java moss will want no less than 33 W of light in your tank, and the Amazon swords 44 W upwards. This is non-negotiable: while plants can adapt to quite a lot of things, light is something they can't do without. The type of light used makes a big difference, too. Lights optimised for terrestrial plants (e.g., Gro Lux) don't work well in aquaria because the red light doesn't penetrate water well. Instead you need something around the 5500 to 6500 Kelvin colour temperature. To human eyes, this will seem blue-white. Adding reflectors to the lights is a low cost way of getting the best from them and highly recommended. Second, the water chemistry. Relatively few plants like soft water, and many are highly intolerant of it. A lot of aquatic plants get at least some of the carbon used for photosynthesis from dissolved bicarbonate salts. Aim for a water hardness around "medium hard" on the GH and KH scales for the best results with a broad range of plants. If this is out of the question, then carefully select plants that tolerate soft water. Amazon swords -- despite the name -- include many common species (such as E. bleheri) that don't like soft water. And very few plants come from water that is completely soft in the way aquarists mean it when keeping blackwater fish like discus. If you look at those blackwater habitats, there is virtually no aquatic vegetation at all. As for the damage to the plants, when the plant leaves start to decay, they can become attractive to Loricariid catfish that would otherwise ignore healthy plants. I agree with you that trying to get rooted plants (like Cryptocorynes and Amazon swords) growing in a tank with an undergravel filter is a waste of time. They won't ever do well. But epiphytic plants, like Java moss and Anubias, which should NEVER be planted in the substrate, should do fine. Since you have a mind for discus, and ideal water for them too, you may decide to forget about plants. Plants are NOT part of the discus habitat in the wild: dead wood is what they swim around and lay their eggs on. Hope this helps, Neale>

Discus Fish Tank. Water Changes In A Soft Water Discus Tank -- 07/25/07 Hello Crew, I am setting up a Discus/Planted tank. The tank is 60 gallons with a corner overflow, a 25 gallon sump, 2x175MH Lighting. I plan to let the tank run for at least a couple of weeks until the Co2 injection lowers and the pH to around 6.5 and the Water softening pillow has time to do it's thing. My question is: What is the best way to perform the water changes. I read that you do 80% changes a week. How could I do this with a sump and plant life in the tank? If I drain all that water with a python system, wouldn't the plant life be out of the water? If I use the python, connected directly to the faucet to fill back up the tank, wouldn't the temperature difference in the water shock the fish. I am confused by your stated method. I know you recommend putting Seachem's Prime before refilling but please clarify your recommended procedure. Thanks, Matt < You need to balance the needs of the discus with the needs of the plants. Breeding pairs of discus in small tanks require numerous massive water changes with clean warm acidic water to remain healthy. Plants on the other hand require some light and nutrients in their water to flourish. In you situation I would recommend that you fill your tank with treated tap water and use Bio-Spira to get the biological filtration going. Add easy to grow plants like crypts, Anubias and java fern with some driftwood. Forget the water softening pillows and the CO2. Use a Fluorite type of substrate for the plants. Use domestically raised discus instead of wild fish. Heat the tank to 82 F and try to get your discus to eat Spectrum Discus Pellets. The pillows simply replace the calcium in the water with sodium. They don't get rid of it. If you add CO2 to hard water the calcium in the water will bind with the CO2 making a calcium carbonate. This will make the CO2 unavailable to the plants. Once all the calcium is tied up you have no alkalinity or buffering capacity in the water. Additional CO2 will convert the water to carbonic acid and could dangerously drop the pH very quickly. The overflow will quickly agitate the water and dissipate most of the excess CO2 gas. The plants will help remove any nitrates from the water so weekly water changes of 25% will probably do unless your tank is very overcrowded with fish.-Chuck>

Converting from r/o water to tap water in my discus aquarium-BIG pH difference! -- 07/03/07 Hi guys. First, thank to all of you who have so graciously answered my previous questions. I have learned a LOT from reading on this website and from the experts here. <Welcome> I am very interested in converting from r/o water to tap water in my 55 gal discus aquarium. They need minerals, etc that they have not been getting from the r/o water, <Mmm, good... Yes... some... all depends on a few factors... What your source water is "made of", how "wild" to cultured your Discus are...> and I need to improve my water change method. Pouring r/o water into the tank by the gallon is really old now after 3 years in this hobby! I have had my discus for a year now, and all seem to be happy and healthy. For my first mixed water change, I used 3 gal treated tap water plus 20 gal r/o in my 55 gal aquarium. I treated the tap water with Seachem Prime and aerated it in a bucket overnight using an airstone that I already have. I tested the water before using it. Nitrate and nitrite were zero. Ammonia was also zero, but I understand that the Prime could have affected that test. Here is what concerned me about the tap water: the pH was high-it read as high as my test kit measures, 8.8. <Wow! Liquid rock!> The pH in my tank is somewhere between 5 and 6, I believe. I do not know WHAT the pH actually is. My SMS122 controller seems to have malfunctioned. Even after replacing the probe, the reading it gives is too low for the fish to be surviving, much less be doing well, according to Neale (thank you Neale for the information). After doing the water change this weekend, the reading on the controller went from 4.1 to 7.0. Hard to believe that 3 gal of tap water plus 20 gal r/o could move the pH like that. What do you think? <I think your previous water/system had almost no alkaline content... was likely very poorly (and dangerously) buffered... and that the change was in the right direction> Any recommendations or advice will be very gratefully received! I do not want to stress my fish during the transition. If you can recommend how to proceed from here, I would really appreciate it. What should I do about the pH and how slowly should I mix in the treated tap water? <I would continue with the changes in about the proportion you're doing them, and observe your Symphysodon carefully> I have read that treating the tap water with peat would soften it and lower the pH. I tried this early in my discus fishkeeping, and lost one small little guy the morning after adding a small amount of peat to the aquarium (may not have been related to the peat I guess). What I used was Scotts Sphagnum peat moss. The bag states 100% peat moss. I see no mention of any additives. <Mmm... don't always state... better to either buy "aquarium use" material or even just an "extract" product really...> My fish are great little buddies who have survived my novice care, equipment failures, and my mistakes for a year now! I want to keep it that way! Thanks again for any help. <I suspect the mixed tap and RO will serve you and your fishes well here. I would not be overly concerned with the resultant system pH if it is about neutral/sevenish. Bob Fenner>

Re: Bacterial Hemorrhagic Septicemia / fin and tail rot... Mmm, "Discus" H2O qual.  - 7/4/07 Bob, <SL> Here are the results: <Ah, good> To 15 Gal RO water I added 1 tsp of RO right which brought the TDS to 110PPM. Then added 1 tsp baking soda which brought the TDS to 180PPM. Then waited until next day to measure Ph and it was 7.2. <Right about right> The water is mixed in a large trash can with wheels and is aerated and heated. GH and KH readings are zero and 3 d respectfully. <Okay> What puzzles me is that the GH test kit shows zero dGH. <... is strange... the sodium bicarbonate and Kent product should elevate this... Would you try adding "quite" a bit to the test sample to see if this will register?> (I used 10ml water in the test tube instead of the usual 5ml to see if I could get a half reading and it still turns green on contact and stays green.) Is the calcium carbonate/magnesium test important as long as the TDS is within range? <Mmm... a bunch to say/state here... It "could" be important... The actual make-up of the dissolved solids can play havoc or heaven with plants, fishes, invertebrates... They all "Do" need alkaline earth materials/atoms (Ca, Mg...)> I test the TDS with a meter, so it measures all dissolved substances. Also, how do I lower the Ph back down to 6.8? <I REALLY would NOT do this... a pH of 7.2 (and how much alkalinity? Alkaline reserve? Needs to be tested if the pH is "sliding" quickly...) is fine... I assure you> I have been using the phosphate buffers to do it up until now, <I would NOT do this... the soluble phosphate can be problematical> but they are the major contributor to my high TDS readings, not to mention the hair algae if I let the nitrates hit 40PPM. <Ah, yes... As we state so often, do keep these under 20 ppm... the lower the better> Ultimately I want to keep discus, but until I can learn to stabilize soft/acidic water conditions, I am afraid I would just kill them. SL <Actually... Again, I have a good deal of confidence in your obvious intelligence and attention to detail... And a working knowledge of just how tough Symphysodon (except for the occasional wild-caught ones on the market) actually are. I consider that you are well ready to take on Discus culture. Bob Fenner> To the Discus Masters, sys.  -- 07/03/07 Heyyy everybody. (Ugh. Hello.> After years of salt water am going fresh. Discus that is. Well if that's possible. I want to set up a 29 gallon tank and I was wondering how I could stock it. I've read one discus is bad by itself and they are no good in pairs. Is this true.? Would three be overstocking??? Also, if possible, I would like to add tetras. Please email me back on what you suggest on stocking the tank with.? Thank you to everybody at this site, its helped me a lot and you better believe I do give a lot of referrals to you. <Tank-bred discus are surprisingly easy to look after. While you want to avoid very hard and alkaline water, they will adapt to pretty much anything up to slightly alkaline (pH 7.5) and moderately hard water (~10 dH) just fine. In fact there's a good argument for maintaining moderately hard water because of the resulting stability in water chemistry. Far, far more important is water quality. Large, regular water changes are the order of the day with discus. A 29 gallon tank is probably a bit small for anything other than a breeding pair. You really want something around the 55+ gallon mark to have a school of 6 specimens. Choosing tankmates for Discus isn't difficult though a lot of people prefer not to. Personally, I'd recommend hatchetfish for the surface (to act as dither fish) and Corydoras or better still Brochis spp. for the bottom. Many Loricariidae catfish work well (though I'd avoid Otocinclus because of their semi-parasitic behaviour). Because Discus need very high temperatures, avoid anything subtropical (like peppered Corydoras) or anything borderline-tropical (like red phantom tetras or White Cloud Mountain minnows). Some folks keep them with Clown loaches and pearl gouramis; although not authentic, the combo seems to work well. Just avoid anything potentially nippy (like Black Widow tetras) or aggressive (like angelfish or blue gouramis). Bob's written a great Discus primer here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/discusfish.htm .> :-) <Er, okay. Good bye. Neale.>

R/O Water and Discus 6/30/07 Hi crew! <Hi, Pufferpunk here> I have used only r/o water in my freshwater discus tank for a year now. <Not necessary. Most discus nowadays are tank bred, in regular tap water. I do 90% weekly water changes with tap water, conditioned with Seachem's Prime.> Although the fish appear to be fine, I realize that I have failed to add back in minerals and trace elements that the fish need. My choices appear to be either reconstitute the r/o water or convert to tap water and treat it prior to adding it to the aquarium. Therefore, I am interested in converting to tap water, very slowly of course. I will treat my tap water with Seachem Prime, <Aha! Took the words right out of my mouth!> as is recommended on this site and aerate it in a storage container for a couple of days using a powerhead. <Not necessary. I just drain, adjust the temp & fill, after adding Prime to the tank.> My question is this: how gradually would you recommend adding in the treated tap water? A guy at the LFS recommended 10-15% treated tap water to begin with, then increase tap water about that much w/each water change. In addition to increasing the TDS, <TDS has no effect on FW/SW fish, unless your tap water contains ammonia, nitrites or nitrates.><<What? No! RMF>> it should also effect the pH in the tank, which is less than 6 and has been for a while. I do not know exactly what the pH is because my SMS122 pH controller appears to have failed and my freshwater test kit only measures down to pH 6. If I do weekly water changes of approx 40% like I am currently doing, would this result in too much change too fast? Any advice will be gratefully received!! <I would start with 25% every other day for a week & then do at least 75% weekly after that.> I have purchased a Rubbermaid Brute 44gal trash can with top, and one of those cool dollies to roll it to my tank! I plan to pump the treated water into the tank using the powerhead. I am very excited about improving my water change method and giving my fish better water! <Make your improvements even easier by just using a Python to drain & fill right from the tap. Can't be much easier than that.> Thanks for all the great advice on this site!!! You guys are the best! <Hey, thanks a lot! We try...> P.S. Do you have any recommendations for the powerhead? I will only need to pump from the storage container into the aquarium, so I guess the head would be less than 5 feet. I plan to connect pvc pipe with a couple of elbows to the end of my hose so I can just hang it on the lip of the tank and let it fill. <Keep it simple! (Unless you are planning a reef tank in the future.)> Thanks again and I hope you all have a great Independence Day! <Happy 4th to you too! ~PP>

Planted Discus Tank, gear    6/24/07 Hi crew! First, allow me to thank all of the experts who participate in this website. It is a wonderful resource. Thank you all for sharing your knowledge and experience. <Welcome!> This is my first post to this website. I have spent numerous hours reading here, so please also excuse if my questions have been addressed elsewhere on your site. Also, please excuse the length and the variety of questions regarding both livestock and tank setup. I have attempted to give you enough information so that you won't have to ask a lot of questions before you can answer my questions. <Okay> My goal is to have a beautiful planted discus tank (thank you Alesia Benedict-you are an inspiration to me!) One year ago, I embarked on the adventure to accomplish exactly that. After researching discus for several months, I decided to take the plunge. I sold my other livestock to the LFS and ordered my discus. When I purchased them, I did not know how many would survive my novice care, and I probably purchased more than I should have for the size tank I have. I seem to have done fine keeping them for the past year-I agree that they are not as difficult to keep as some people believe. In this time, my fish have grown from about 2.5' to between 4.5-5' for the larger ones (I have 2 runts I guess-they are about 3' and have not grown noticeably in many months.) As far as the plants go however, I have not been successful with them. <Mmmm, wonder why?> I am currently planning to upgrade from my 55 gallon to a 90 gallon tank. My goals for this upgrade are: first, to give my fish more room in order to increase their comfort and hopefully allow them to grow larger. <Mmm, maybe you can/could keep the smaller tank going to try and boost the growth of the "runts"?> Second goal: to slowly add some plants that should thrive in the higher temperature and lower pH. Third goal: to add some Cardinal Tetras and maybe Bristlenose Plecos too, after the new tank has been up and running for a while and the discus are settled in. Is this too much stock for a 90 gal? <Nope> If not, how many Cardinals and Bristlenose would you recommend adding? <A dozen or more Cardinals... 4,5 Bristlenose> I am researching the items that will be needed for the new tank. Of course, I would like to use everything that I can from the old tank in order to save $. Any suggestions will be greatly appreciated! Here is my current setup: Tank: 55gal All-Glass Lighting: Coralife Freshwater Aqualight 48', 4x65W Power Compact Strip Light w/ Adjustable Mount Legs **want to add CoraLife AquaLight power center $39.99 @ BigAl's <This won't be much light on a 90... both it and the 55 are relatively deep> Filtration: Eheim Pro II 2026 Canister Filter **need more EHFISYNTH white filter pads (EH2616265) $8.79 for a box of 3 @ www.MarineDepot.com <A good unit... you may want to supplement/complement this with a large/r hang on power filter... Maybe a Hagen product> Heating: AquaMedic 250W Titanium Heater, AquaMedic BioTherm Temperature Controller **need to get 500W heater for new Aquariu-look at Finnex FNX500D-it has overheat protection feature $42.39 @ www.aquariumpros.com CO2: Milwaukee SMS122 pH Controller, Tygon Tubing, Swagelok B-SS4 Needle Valve, Double-Gage CO2 Regulator, M-Ventil Solenoid Valve, 5lb CO2 Cylinder, Eheim CO2 Diffuser Substrate: Fluorite *need to buy more for new tank: Eco Complete or Fluorite? <Both good products... I use Fluorite> Plants: I have tried a variety of FW plants with little success over time. Obviously, they were not good choices for the application Currently, I have only one plant that has managed to survive the tank conditions, a fairly large Anubias Barteri. <Mmm, do read on WWM, elsewhere re the use of soils in the gravel/substrate... a great boon here> Livestock: Eight discus, ranging in size from 3' to 4.5-5'. <Again, I'd move six...> Notes and questions about new setup: a) Lighting: I will be able to use my current lighting with the new tank. Both tanks are 48' long. <There is a need for more intensity...> b) Filtration: My current filter is rated up to 92 gallons; do you think it will provide sufficient filtration for the new tank or would you suggest upgrading the filter? <I would add to it as posted...> c) Heating: I will need to purchase a 500W heater for the new tank. I am looking at the Finnex FNX500D, which has overheat protection feature that shuts the heater off if tank temp reaches 92°. This sounds like a very good safety feature, especially considering my experience with the Won Brothers temperature controller. I have had two failures of the temperature sensor on the Won controller, and the last time this happened, the tank temperature soared to the mid 90's before I discovered it (my poor fish!) NO MORE WON BROTHERS! Does anybody have any experience with the Finnex controller? Any other suggestions? <Seem to be fine units> d)C02: I should be able to use all of my current equipment in the new tank. <Yes, agreed> e) Substrate: I will need to purchase more substrate for the new tank, which is 5' deeper than my current tank. I could (1) add more Fluorite to what I already have, or (2) mix my Fluorite with something else like Eco Complete, or (3) go to a completely different substrate. Any suggestions? <See WWM re... I'd add a soil to the lower layer...> It would be great if cleaning, moving plants, etc. in the new tank did not create a big cloud for the fish to have to try to breathe in, as it does now. <Can be "blind-potted" if this is your choice> And finally, regarding water quality for my discus: they have lived in R/O only water for a year now. <Mmm, need to have... Oh, I see you address this below> I am sorry to say that after all of my research I somehow overlooked the importance of adding back minerals and trace elements that the fish need. <embarrassed> Should I now begin treating the water to introduce trace minerals, etc? <Yes...> Do you recommend any particular products for this and would you just follow the manufacturers directions? <Likely just blending in some tap/source water> Aside from reconstituting the R/O water, I have read that it is desirable to "age" it before adding it to the aquarium, in order to increase oxygenation. How would one 'age' a large quantity of the conditioned water prior to adding it to the tank? <Leave in a designated trashcan or such, aerated, heated, near the tank for ease of movement> Thank you in advance for taking the time to read such a lengthy email. I look forward to your reply. Any information will be GREATLY appreciated! <Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>

Water Changes for Discus  5/10/07 <Hi Christa, Jeni/Pufferpunk here.> I have a stupid question, sorry to bother you but I am disabled and rarely get out, so I have to use this thing.   <LOL, I use this "thing" (the Internet) for all my research.> I have a 80gal tank with discus.  I recently purchased the fill/drain kit that hooks to the kitchen faucet.   <I couldn't live without the Python for water changes on my 9 tanks.  That includes my 90g discus tank.> How can I treat the water so that it doesn't hurt my fish? I use Aqua Safe and pH 6.5 on them.  I also use SeaChem discus buffer. Any help you can offer would be greatly appreciated. <I do 90% weekly water changes on my discus tank.  All I add is Seachem's Prime, before I fill the tank.  Buffers & pH adjusters are not necessary, as the majority of discus on the market today are not wild-caught.  They are bred in the same water that comes out of your tap.  ~PP>> Thanks, Christa Have a great Day!

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 params 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 params 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>

Plants for Discus and Angel Fish  -- 4/10/07 I have a 60gal freshwater aquarium with 2 Discus and 2 Angel fish in it I would like to know if I should use artificial plants or real plants... <Aquatic plants aren't part of the normal discus (or angelfish) habitat: these fish live in the "flooded forest" where nutrient poor waters wash around sunken wood and the trunks of huge trees. The fish live hidden among the wood, and when pairing off, guard bits of wood on which they lay their eggs. So by all means use real or plastic plants if you wish, but the fish don't care. They'd sooner have nice tall bits of real/artificial wood that they can explore, guard, or school around. Also bear in mind not all common aquarium plants enjoy soft/acid water. Vallisneria spiralis and the common Amazon sword Echinodorus bleheri for example both like neutral to basic, moderately hard water.> ...also if it is a good idea to  use volcanic rock in it as decor. <Volcanic rock -- if you mean artificial lava rock rather than actual pumice -- does acidify the water. This is the porous, reddish-brown "rock", right? While harmless enough in a tank with a basic pH and lots of hardness, in a soft water discus tank I'd personally be vary wary of using it. At least, not without trying a little first, and monitoring the pH for a few weeks before buying any more.> I do not want the fish to get hurt on the rock. <They shouldn't.> I would also like to know how many of these fish I can put in it if I was to add other fish and what kind of fish I can add with them and how many. <Discus, and to a slightly lesser degree angels, need good water quality. Understocking is the easiest way to get this. Also, once they mature, angels especially become very territorial, and will hold an area about 60-90 cm in diameter, vigorously pushing away any conspecifics. So while you can probably house half a dozen of either fish in a 60 gallon tank, the question is whether you want to and whether the fish will put up with that once mature. As for tankmates, both angels and discus appreciate slightly higher than average temperatures. Lace gouramis and moonlight gouramis can work well though both are a bit large. Clown loaches also work well, but again, rather large. Small tetras (e.g. Neons) become angelfish food so not recommended. Bleeding heart tetras, silver hatchetfish, African Glowlight tetras, and other non-nippy characins of this size would work well. Warm-water catfish include Brochis spp., Bristlenose plecs, and non-subtropical Corydoras (i.e., not bronze or peppered Corys). Very small Suckermouth cats, like Otocinclus spp., can attack the sides of these slow moving fish to eat the mucus, so avoid. Likewise aggressive loaches and cichlids will often terrorize them. All this said, discus are perhaps best kept alone, simply because it makes maintaining water quality good so much easier.> George <Cheers, Neale>

Discus In A Planted Tank   1/28/07 Hey there after lots of research and countless hours. My answer was still unclear. Now the question. do I need a CO2 system for a fish and heavily planted tank? < The plants will do better with some CO2 in the water. Some stem plants like frill usually need CO2 to thrive. Sword plants and Cryptocorynes usually don't require CO2.> Is this tank ready for discus? < Discus can live in a bare tank to one that is heavily planted. Discus do not like to be stressed. I would recommend that you wait until you tank is fairly well set up before adding discus. If you are going to add plants after they are in and established, then I would work in small areas over time so not to disturb the tank too much.> I am looking to make an Amazon biotope. < These are very pretty tanks, except that in the Amazon the warm acidic water is so poor in nutrients that there are very few aquatic plants.> Right now I am running a 75 gallon FW. The substrate is 135 lb.s. fluorite 4 in. thick all around and 6 medium driftwood pieces some plants 3 Amazon swords 2 canister filters Eheim pro  2128 thermo and Rena xp3. temp is about 30.6 C. or 85 F. < I think this is a little too warm but I know other discus keepers keep their tanks this warm.> pH.5.7 kH 3 gH 1,  Peat is being used in one filter for its added benefits. Fish 20 neon tetra 10 glow light tetra 5 rasboras 1 king tiger Pleco L 065 The tank is month old, I do 2 water changes a week with RO/DI water 30 gallon each time. I treat the RO water with equilibrium powder form Kent Zoe, Discus Trace < Sounds like a great tank. I would recommend adding Bio-Spira from Marineland to make sure your tank has all the biological bacteria established and you don't get any spikes.-Chuck> Discus and Tiger Barbs  1/20/07 <Hi Byron, Pufferpunk here> I have a lightly planted Juwel Record 70 (70litre = 18 gallons, I think).  I currently have 6 small tiger barbs which I recently introduced but I would really like to have 2 turquoise discus, 2 sunset dwarf gouramis, some Dalmatian mollies, maybe some swordtails, guppies and small Corydoras catfish. <Boy, your dreams are definitely bigger than your tank!> I will upgrade to a larger tank as they grow but my question is about the compatibility of these fish species.  Will I have to take the tiger barbs back, are they too 'nippy'? <Definitely.  Discus enjoy a nice, peaceful tank.>   If this is a complicated combination of species could you give me some options, as to which species I have mentioned will live together happily? <Stick with your above choices, without the discus.  They are extremely difficult fish to keep, needing huge weekly water changes (90%). A larger tank will be necessary to keep these fish happy.   As all these responses are posted in our FAQs, please capitalize "I", when used as a pronoun.  I have done this for you this time.  ~PP> Thank you, Byron Dunleavy.

Discus In Hot Water    1/5/07 Thank you Chuck, By increasing water temp to 82, did you mean 92?  I normally keep the temp at 86 but in the hospital tank I've got it set to about 92 - should I cool it? Michaela < At those water temps there is not much dissolved oxygen in the water and your fish will be stressed to get enough oxygen to breath. I would cool it down to 82 F.-Chuck>

Re: Attn: Jorie Re: Follow-up queries to planted discus aquarium topic   1/4/07 Hello and Happy New Year, Mike - Jorie from WWM here.  I was just curious how your newly planted discus tank was faring? My 29 gal. BW is currently at 1.004 SG (almost to 1.005 - I've been doing it very slowly for the plants' sake), and currently houses 1 juvie molly (female) and some ghost shrimp.  Thought I'd send you a picture just for fun...and would love to see how your tank is doing. You and I started our respective tank's "journeys" at about the same time, so I just wanted to see how things were going.  For me, knock on wood, all is well.  I've got 5 bumblebee gobies in a 10 gal. QT tank; as soon as the main tank's SG reaches 1.005, they will be transferred, and I will acquire either a pair of orange chromides or a figure 8 puffer for the QT - whichever I can locate first around here. I'd love to see, hear about your tank... Best regards, Jorie> Nitrates in a Discus tank.    12/26/06 Hi Crew, <Ari>     My discus grow-out tank is a 125 gallon w/ all-glass megasump model 4 below.  My nitrates are too high (can be over 40ppm depending on day of week) probably from lots of high-protein foods.  I do a lot of water changes, but wonder if I should adjust my setup to help deal with nitrates.   <A good idea>     It is a heavily planted tank with plenty of stem plants, swords and Glossostigma, Riccia, and java moss ground cover. Have pressurize co2, 500watts of lights on tank, reverse photoperiod an 50 watts below, 2-4 inches of Fluorite main tank with undergravel cable heater, about 4 inches of freshwater miracle mud in sump, I left bio-balls in the sump.  I also just added water lettuce and hyacinth to sump (read an article on this website suggesting this). <Mmm, these last two re really too cold-water plants to be used here... I'd try other tropical species, lighting here... on a differing, though over-lapping light cycle with the main tank>    I don't vacuum substrate because of ground cover plants.  Do you have any suggestions to help me lower nitrates besides cutting down feeding, and more specifically, do you think I should a) rip of ground cover so that I can siphon gravel better, <I would not> b) should I add more Fluorite, miracle mud, or another type of substrate and <I would do this> d) should I remove bio-balls?   <Yes...>     All advice is very much appreciated. - Very truly yours, Ari. <And in the meanwhile "kick up", increase the frequency, amount of water changed... daily if need be. Bob Fenner>

Planted Discus Tank... filtration/circulation 12/12/06 Hi Crew! <Mike> I'm in the process of setting up a moderately planted 100 gallon discus tank. <Some fun!> About the last bit of research I need to complete before adding water has to do with filtration. I'm planning on using canister filters for filtration, but am not quite sure how to balance the discus' preference for reasonably calm waters with their filtration needs and the plants needs for some current to facilitate biological processes. <Easy to do... using the spray bars for the returns... near the surface is best... at one end or both> My original thought was to use two Eheim Professional II, model 2126.  They are rated at 250 gallons/hour for a combined total of 500 gallons/hour. <I have two of these fine filters> Couple of questions: What is a reasonable water turnover rate given my somewhat contradictory considerations? <This, these will be fine... not as vigorous a movement per unit time as you might think, consider> Assuming no additional sources of current in the tank, would the two Eheims be too much?  Too little?     <IMO/E right about right> I really want to get this right from the onset and appreciate your assistance. Happy Holidays, Mike <And to you and yours. At the near-surface for the discharges... Bob Fenner> Discus in the smaller tank.  - 11/02/06 Dear WWM crew <Ben>   I have two small discus in my 125 ltr think that's around 28g. <Yes> I was going to add them into my large 450ltr tank but the highest I can raise the water temp is 26 and being the lowest of there heat tolerance do not think it would be wise to add to my current stocking of a goldie Plec, para Plec, peppermint Pleco, 2 limas and 4 Severums. Due to this am now thinking of adding them to my 125. if its possible what sort of tankmates could I add that can deal with 28 to 29 with the discus. <Some peaceful, smaller fishes... best from the same sort of environmental area/niche... soft, acidic water of high temp... Perhaps some small Callichthyid Cats, Characoids, dwarf Cichlids... but even by themselves this volume will be too small in a short while. Bob Fenner> Best Regards Ben

Planted Discus Aquarium  10/24/06 Greetings WWM Crew, <Hello there> I'm finishing up my last bit of research before setting up a planted discus aquarium and am hoping you might have a few minutes to comment on my proposed equipment/stocking levels. <I'll sure try! Have immersed myself in planted tank research over the past several weeks, as I just set up a 29 gal. planted tank that will soon be converted from FW to BW.> Aquarium:  100 gallon; glass; 18"w x 60"l x 25"t.  Back has been coated with a textured spray paint to create a darkish, granite-like appearance. <Sounds nice - will definitely minimize you having to see yucky algae!!> Filtration:  (2) Eheim Pro II with integrated heater, model 2126.  This will provide  a (nominal) 500 gph.  Filters to use standard Eheim recommended media plus granulated peat (to acidify and soften the water). <Filtration sounds sufficient and water quality should be fine after being run over the peat.> I like to double up on critical equipment such as filters and heaters for safety/reliability. <That's a great idea!> Cleaning filters in rotation also makes it easier to maintain the biological balance with a minimum of disturbance.  Does this sound appropriate/sufficient? <Absolutely! You've done excellent research and I honestly can't suggest anything better that what you propose!> Substrate:  Approximately 100 pounds of Fluorite which will provide about 2" of depth covered by 100 pounds of small grain (@ 1mm) gravel providing an additional 1" of depth. <My research has suggested that a minimum of 3" Fluorite or Eco-Complete is required for best plant health.  Just used a bit over 3" of the latter in my tank.  The two products are very similar, but I prefer the black color of the Eco-Complete to the reddish/rust-colored Fluorite.  Also, be aware that Fluorite requires *a lot* of rinsing to get all the dust off...Eco-Complete comes packed in H20 and doesn't need to be rinsed.  Just a matter of preference, though, as both are equivalent in quality, from what I've read/experienced.> Lighting:  Supplied by a power compact retro-fit assembly.  Contains (6) 55 watt straight pin bulbs arranged in 3 rows of 2.  The rows closest to the front and back of the aquarium are positioned closer to the ends of the tank than center.  The middle  row is offset closer to center.  The middle row is wired separately from the other two.  I intend to use this to create a dawn/dusk cycle before/after the other lights come on/off. <I'm trying to figure out the WPG per your description, but honestly can't quite picture where all these bulbs are.  In any case, you are likely providing 2.5-3 watts per gallon at a minimum - you should be able to do 'bright light" requiring plants.  Check out Peter Hiscock's Encyclopedia of Planted Aquaria for info. on all sorts of plants - great book!  Also, in my recent planted tank research, I've read that a "siesta schedule" for lighting can help minimize algae...one article I read suggested an 5 hours on, 2 hours off, then 5 on again schedule.  But, this was specifically addressing brackish tanks.  I have heard "siesta schedules" on freshwater tanks are beneficial also, but don't know exactly what time periods to propose to you.  This may also be covered in the Peter Hiscock book.  Otherwise, your plan sounds great and your tank will likely be beautiful!> An LED "lunar light" supplied by Drs. Foster and Smith will provide a post-dusk nightlight. <Very nice.> I'm considering using Coralife bulbs, (4) 6700k and (2) actinic (in the middle row).  This would provide an easier dawn/dusk transition than using all 6700Ks and a help to draw the eye in to the dimmer center of the tank (creating a sense of depth).  Thoughts? <You absolutely can use the 6,700k and/or actinic (blue) for freshwater plant growth.  I personally have been using 10,000k, just for a crisper effect.  Your point re: an easier "transition" is well taken, though, and makes perfect sense.  Again, I think this boils down to a personal choice based on aesthetics.> Target water temperature:  82-84 degrees <Although the discus likely *very* warm water, I'd suggest targeting more towards 82 (even 80 or 81) with the tetras and Corys...obviously, stability is most important, but you've got that covered with your equipment (and backup equipment!).> Water:  Out of the tap in the San Fernando Valley of Southern CA, water is both hard and alkaline - not great for my intended livestock, but I'm hoping that the peat and domestic-bred specimens will make this less of a concern. <You may want to look into a RO/DI unit (reverse osmosis/de-ionization unit).  Yes, the peat will soften your water, but with the RO/DI, you'll start with water with a neutral pH of 5.0. Easier to go up than down in many cases.  There are necessary elements to add back, and I know there are specific products for discus. I myself use a combination of Aquarium Pharmaceutical's Electro-Right and pH Adjust, but the latter brings my pH to 7.0 - I don't keep discus.  I can't recommend a particular discus water supplement, but I know they are out there.  Kent makes good quality products, as does Aquarium Pharmaceuticals, in my experience.> Fish:  I will most likely stock immature specimens, but please evaluate based on mature size.  Note:  I am not interested in breeding. Discus - 5 Cory cat (Corydoras nanus) - 5 Silvertip tetra (Hasemania nana) - 25 Cardinal tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi) - 50 If space permits, I would also consider adding a small school of hatchetfish such as Carnegiella strigata.  Thoughts? <The combination of fish is fine, but I wouldn't suggest quite so many tetras...even though they are small, 75 is a lot...> Plants:  A moderately dense variety of Echinodorus, Anubias, Cryptocoryne, Rotala species and java fern.  My thought is to position the Echinodorus, Anubias and Rotala under the brighter lights at the ends of the tank and place the crypts and java fern in the dimmer center.   <OK - as mentioned before, though, you have enough light to have some higher light requirement specimens.  See Peter Hiscock's book.  You could likely add some red-leaved plants, or even some filamentous leaved ones...> CO2:  I'd like to avoid having to supplement CO2, but am concerned that with the amount of light energy and iron in the Fluorite, CO2 may be the limiting factor for plant development.  Do you think I can do without it? <Again, I am not sure, only because I can't quite figure out how to calculate your WPG based on the set-up you describe.  I'd recommend asking the light manufacturer to help you determine the actual wattage per gallon...if it's 3.0 or over, you will almost certainly need a CO2 unit.  I myself have not used them, but am considering adding one (it's on my Xmas list!) If not, AquariumPlants.com has an attractive tank/regulator/pH monitor and probe package that looks pretty good.  In your experience is this a reputable firm? <YES! I love www.aquariumplants.com.  In fact, they put their telephone number on their webpage and I highly recommend calling and speaking to Mark, the owner - he is very friendly and knowledgeable.  He will undoubtedly recommend a CO2 unit (and, for what it's worth, I will likely be getting either this or a JBJ unit - need to research further), as he's suggested one for my barely 2.5 WPG tank.  See how it goes.  Also, there is a liquid carbon product by Excel Flourish - not as good as a CO2 unit, but better than nothing.  You could use this in the mean time.  If you find a ton of algae growing, then the answer will likely be injecting CO2...> How do the Milwaukee ph monitor/probes stack up to other similarly priced units? <Very good quality - we use and like these.> Last question:  It's a long shot, but would you happen to be able to refer me to a reputable LFS in Southern CA's San Fernando Valley?   I haven't been able to find one I consider reliable. <Sadly, that I can't help you with - I live in Chicagoland.  Two options - e-mail Bob Fenner or Sabrina Fullhart or the WWM Crew directly (use this same e-mail address, but just include an "attn" line) and/or take a look at the forums on www.wetwebmedia.com.  There's a lot of folks from CA, and this may have been addressed in the area entitled "LFSs" - if it hasn't, you are certainly welcome to create a new thread and ask!> Thanks very much for your input and for the site.  It is a fantastic resource I reference on a daily basis.  Please keep up the great work! <Thanks for the well-thought-out question - it is so wonderful to talk with knowledgeable, caring folks who have done their homework!> Regards, Mike Fodrea <Cheers to you - Jorie.> <P.S. If you end up getting the CO2 unit from www.aquariumplants.com, would you kindly let me know how you like it? I am very seriously considering getting the same unit myself, and would love your opinion, if you get one first! THANKS!!> Follow-up queries to planted discus aquarium topic  10/26/06 Jorie, <Mike> Thank you very much for your quick and helpful comments.  I sincerely appreciate your time and expertise. <My pleasure. It's always a treat to answer queries from people who care/have done research, etc.> My original email and your response are attached below.  A couple of follow up questions if I may...?   <Of course!> Thanks for the tip regarding substrate depth.  If I need to add more, is there any reason why I couldn't mix Fluorite and Eco-Complete? <You know, I think you could, *but* the Eco-Complete makes a point of marketing itself as containing two different sizes of substrate, and able to "stratify" itself in the aquarium.  I'm not sure if mixing Fluorite with it would alter this. (Plus, that could just be a marketing ploy - at least that's what my cynical side says!  The other concern (at least for me, with my OCD!) would be aesthetic...you'd have two completely different colors being mixed.  If you're OK with that (and who knows, to each his/her own - perhaps some like this?), I'd say go for it. The products are very similar in reality, so there shouldn't be too much of an issue there...> Am I correct is assuming the bacteria in the Eco-Complete would jump start the cycling process and preclude the need for a product such as Bio-Spira? <Well, I think that's the theory behind the entire Carib-Sea line of substrate, incl. the marine "live sand" bags.  To be honest, I've never bought this theory, though, and just continue to cycle the old-fashioned fishless way - right now, I'm just feeding my fishless, plant-only tank a couple of pellets each evening to establish the nitrogen cycle.> My estimates of WPG are in line with yours.  It is a somewhat odd configuration and I can understand the challenge in picturing it. Perhaps the following will clarify.  The solid lines represent the front and back of the tank and the dashed lines represent the bulbs. Does this alter your assessment regarding the tank being "bright light" plant eligible?

Lowering pH for Discus  9/25/06 Hello Guys, <Hi Eric, Pufferpunk here> Pls ignore the earlier email, have some typos. Thank you. <Thanks for the retype.> Need some help here: I have a 180G tank (with sump) and my PH was rather unstable. It kept on increasing and at one point, it was as high as 7.8-7.9. My tap water is hard pH 7.5. I only have ceramic rings and bio-balls (wet dry) for biological filtration (activated carbon too) and some wool for mechanical filtration in the sump. As far as I am aware, I do not have anything else that may cause the pH to go up. KH is 2.5 Ammonia is 0 Nitrite is < 0.3mg/l Nitrate parameter is <50. <Nitrites should always be 0, nitrates <20.> Anyway, was kind of worried about the high pH, so I went out and got myself a pH controller (+CO2 tank w/ solenoid valve). With that in place, I was able to drive down the PH to about 6.6 and maintain it at that range(+ - 0.1 PH swing). I think is rather all right for discus (correct me if I am wrong here). <Most of the discus available in the aquarium trade are tank-bread in tap water.  It's not necessary to adjust the pH lower than neutral.> When the pH controller activates the CO2 tank (via solenoid valve), it release the CO2 into the water and it is able to bring down pH by 0.1 to about 6.5 in 3minutes (through a DIY recirculated diffuser). It takes about 25minutes for the PH to shift back to 6.6 before the pH controller kicks in again. My question is whether the frequent PH swing is something I need to be worried off? <PH swing is more stressful then a higher, steady pH.  ~PP> PH Controller kicks in @ 6.6 Drives down PH to 6.5 in 3minutes Takes about 25 minutes for it to reach 6.6 And this cycle repeat itself again. <Seems unnecessary to me.  More large, frequent water changes with tap water (I do 80% weekly) should keep it steady.  ~PP> Thank you. Regards, Eric

Re: Small pH Fluctuations in Discus Tank  9/26/06 Hi PP, Thanks for the replies. I am aware that tank bred discus are probably used to higher PH values.  Anyway, I was just wondering if the frequent 0.1 pH (from 6.5-6.6) change is something you'd not recommend? <Since discus are kept at higher water temps around 85-92 degrees the addition of C02 might cause them to breathe harder, unless at night you are keeping an airstone running. Many people with planted tanks encounter problems with oxygen levels at night, running CO2. This is due to the fact when lights are on, plants are absorbing the C02 and when the lights are off the plants are absorbing oxygen and expelling C02 and the fish are gasping for air. Some people run an airstone at night to counteract this problem.   In answer to your question: a pH swing of 0.1, even frequently, is not harmful to Discus.  ~PP> Thank you. Regards, Eric

South American Tank  9/25/06 Hi   <Hi Nate, Pufferpunk here.>   I have a 75 gallon tank (48 x 18 x 18 inches) which I wish to turn into a South American tank.  Here are the proposed inhabitants:  2 pairs of Rams, two pairs of Apistogramma, 6 Cory cats, 3 otos, a school of cardinals (20-30).  I would also like to keep 3 discus. Questions:  I am planning on doing 15-20 gallon water changes weekly (or knowing me, more like once a week).   Is this enough for Discus?  If not, I'll go without Discus.  I'd like to keep a promise to do more water changes, but it just won't happen. <I'd forget about discus then.  Discus breeders do 100% WC daily.  I do 80% weekly.>    Oxygenation:  Do I need some air pumps to oxygenate the water? How many air pumps would you recommend? What size air pumps? <I don't use pumps/airstones.  The water flowing back into the tank, should agitate the surface enough for O2 exchange.>   Flow:  I will have two whisper 60 filters on the tank for filtration.  Should I add additional powerheads to give the fish some kind of current? <No, not necessary for these fish.  I add a canister to any tank over 50g, like an Eheim.  ~PP>    Thanks, Nate Terry

New aquarium set up, bright lights for Discus, plants...   9/26/06 Hi WWM Crew, What I want to create is a densely planted tank with livebearers or discus. I have a 72 gallon bowfront (about 22? deep) with an IceCap   660 lighting system  totaling to 440 watts of light (mounted about 5" from the waters surface). Is this too much light? <Mmm, for Discus, yes... unless you have a good deal of shading "cover" supplied by good plant growth, decor (e.g. driftwood and such)> Also, are URI 10K   bulbs the correct color for growing plants? <Are fine...> It seems that the 10K bulbs are the lowest color VHO bulbs that I can find. Should I swap out one or more bulbs with actinics, or are those entirely useless to plants? <Almost the latter> Could you make some recommendations for the types of plants   that would be suitable for this type of system. <Is posted on WWM...> I want to do the proper planning before I start this system so any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time. ~Chris <Please read starting here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/AquariumGardenSubWebIndex.html 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>

Transitioning a Discus Tank from Artificial to Live Plants   8/1/06 Hi, <Hello> I have a 120 gallon discus tank that I'd like to transition from artificial plants to live plants, and I'd love to know what you think and if you have any suggestions. Here are the details: Current setup: 120 gallon glass aquarium (60" x 26" x 18") 2 x Fluval 405 External Canister Filters 2 x 250W Visi-Therm Stealth Heaters Medium-size gravel (about 3mm in diameter) Artificial plants and driftwood 4 x 24" Marineland Eclipse T8 18W Fluorescents Temperature = 81 F (a little low for discus, I know, but I have Corys... do you still think I should raise it?) <I would not raise this temperature unless there was some "call" to do so... Disease, reproduction/breeding... Likely you have cultured livestock... can/does do fine at consistently lower-tropical thermal regimes> pH = 6.8 3 dGH, 3 dKH NH3 = 0 NO3 = 0 NO2 = 0 30% water changes twice a week, 50% water changes once a week 6 discus (3" and growing) 6 cardinal tetras 2 Corydoras axelrodi (I plan to get a few more Corys once the plants are in to keep these guys company) What I'd like to add: 4 x 24" Coralife Aqualife Single Compact Fluorescent Strip Lights: 6700K (260 W total)  (I would remove the current lighting) "Deluxe Fully-Automatic CO2 System" from Drs Foster & Smith Substrate: 1/2 sand, 1/2 Eco-Complete Driftwood from www.aquariumdriftwood.com Plants (Amazon biotope package from freshwateraquariumplants.com) - Alternanthera reineckii "Red" - Lilaeopsis novae zelandiae - Echinodorus osirus - Echinodorus tenellus - Mayaca fluviatilis - Myriophyllum elatinoides <Mmm, no... Doesn't do well in warm water: http://www.fnzas.org.nz/plant_survey/aquarium_plants/?user_plants=98&cHash=bfa1164e86> - Heteranthera zosteraefolia - Hydrocotyle leucocephala - Echinodorus latifolius <Mmm, a couple other plants will be near their upper thermal limit... I encourage you to review these individually> I know the gravel isn't great for plants (or the Corys, either), so I'd like to upgrade to a mixture of sand and Eco-Complete. The Eco-Complete appeals to me because it would involve less rinsing and it is packed in blackwater extract, which I think my discus would like. Would simply mixing the sand and Eco-Complete into the gravel be a bad idea? <Can be done... slowly... a few pounds per day> I think the visual effect might be pretty cool, and the gravel would help prevent the sand from packing in too tightly and creating anoxic areas. Not to mention that it would be much easier than removing all the gravel. Is the "Deluxe Fully-Automatic CO2 System" overkill for the plants I'd like to keep? <No. Very worthwhile> The system is expensive, but it would be nice to have good control over the pH. Without the automatic controller, I'd always be worrying about a pH crash since the water is relatively soft. Same for the lighting - is it too much? Or just enough? <Should be fine... the plants, fishes listed are adaptable to its output> Am I missing anything? Any other advice? Thanks for all your help, Danielle <Mmm, your set-up and maintenance listed are close to "picture perfect"... the transition will be a bit stressful for you and your livestock, but will result in greatly more enjoyment and vitality for both. Bob Fenner>

Discussing Discus... Systems, Feeding,    7/10/06 Hello fish keeping friends, <Hi Jarryd, Pufferpunk here> I currently have 6 discus: one brilliant turquoise, one red turquoise, one German purple, one blue pigeon, one pigeon snakeskin and one solid white metallic blue fin. <Sounds like my tank!> All are getting on well I would just like to make sure that I'm doing everything properly. The tank is 68 gallon planted, temp 28.5 degrees Celsius, all ammonia, nitrates, nitrites at zero, pH at 6.5. <I would give them at least 15g each.  I have 5 in my 90g.  I was told by the breeder I could keep 6 but 5 look comfortable in there.  Remember, they can grow as large as your hand.> My fishy friends get fed a high quality flake food called Nutrifin mixed with a discus formula from O.S.I. in the morning, then brine shrimp at about 3 in the afternoon and then a feeding of frozen blood worms and Mysis shrimp for tea. Does this feeding schedule seem ok in your opinion?? <3x/day is perfect.  Their metabolism is high due to the high temps.  I keep my temp at 84-86F degrees.  Brine shrimp aren't very nutritious--mostly water.  For my 3rd feeding I use freeze-dried plankton.> I carry out two 30% water changes per week, using ready made water heated to 30 degrees then pH adjusted. In terms of water changing is this too much??? <I do 70% weekly.  Here is some info on differences between several smaller WC compared to a single large WC: http://www.thepufferforum.com/articles/water/waterchangemath.html  I find no reason to adjust pH.  Especially if it goes back up after the adjustment product dissipates (unless you're running peat).  That fluctuation can be more harmful than good.  Tank-bred discus are used to any pH.> Thank you for your time, I also have one more query, I've noticed that some discus are more rounded and thicker than others?? Is this just part of their genetics??? <Could be...> And as discus mature do they fatten up and become more rounded????? <Not sure what you're asking--definately a "flat" fish.  Enjoy those discus, I find them quite friendly, beautiful & rewarding to keep!  ~PP>> Thank you so much for helping, Jarryd

Discus, Rummynose, Filtration, CO2 - 06/20/2006 Hi there, I was planning on setting up a 55 gallon planted discus tank with some Rummynose dithers. First off, could you tell me how many discus I could fit in there comfortably, <Ultimately, likely only one or two pairs.  However, until they pair off, you can "pack in" as many as the tank's biological filtration will realistically allow.  Discus, while still quite young and small, find great security in numbers.  If you plan to grow 'em up from bitty babies, start with a lot, and as they grow, pare them down - sell the ones you remove, and end up, in the end, with one or two pairs of adults.> as well as how many tetras? <Probably a dozen or two.> I plan on 130 watts of 6500K lighting with tons of plants, Glossostigma, Microsorium, Eleocharis, all covering the bottom, anchored on driftwood etc. What kind of CO2 system should I use? Nothing too fancy please, I have maybe 60 bucks to spend CO2 injection. <Might look into DIY methods on this budget, or consider used items.> Also, I was looking at the Rena XP2 for filtration. Is this a good choice? <I think so, yes.  I use and recommend the Eheim Professionel II models, but they are VERY pricey.  If you can find them used, as I did, you may find them more affordably - but the Rena will be fine, I believe.> The Eheim (drool) is waaaaaay out of my price range, except for the Ecco, which is even a bit on the hefty side of cheap. Any suggestions would be appreciated. <I also like some of the newer Fluvals.> Thanks again, Eddy <All the best to you,  -Sabrina>

Rocks For A Discus Tank  4/29/06 Thank you so much for all the information. I cannot wait to delve it.   I am a book junkie too! Hey- I made the decision based on your input to go ahead with compact  fluorescent lighting. I ordered a 96 watt strip. I would like to create a  ledge of sorts made out of the rock, and stagger the plants on it. I  thought it was quartzite since the guy who sold it to me said it was, but I have  since discovered he is an idiot, and it is sandstone. < Big difference between the two.> My question to you is this.  Do we know if sandstone will  alter the pH in any way or dissolve and ruin my filter? < Sandstone is a sedimentary rock. It is formed but sand particles being compressed and then cemented together by minerals like calcium. In an aquarium these minerals will dissolve into the water and increase the hardness and most likely the pH will rise above 7. Discus usually don't like hard water.-Chuck> My water  is  7.0  pH from the tap.  I have 4 inches of Eco-Complete,  and a big 18 inch hunk of bog wood in there now.  No fish yet.    Everything is still murky, I am assuming from the eco-complete, but it might be  the wood. < The tannins in the wood will turn the water a tea brown. Carbon and water changes will help clear it up. The color will prevent some of the light from reaching the plants and high light intensity plants may not do to well.-Chuck> I have had the filter running non-stop for 3 days. It's packed with  bio-max and carbon, and some old gunky carbon from my other tank to help  cycle.  Thanks for your time, once again. Yours truly, Karen

Plants In A Deep Discus Tank   4/26/06 I bought a 47 G column tank.  What sort  of lighting will I need  to grow plants. I want plants there for the health of the tank, if they have to  be a low light variety due to the depth of the tank so be it. The tank is 31 inches tall,  20 inches wide, and 18 inches  deep.  I bought this particular tank with Discus in mind. Can you help me? Thank you very much. Karen < This tank is very deep and may be difficult to get light to penetrate all the way down to the gravel. At a minimum use two florescent tubes(6500K). Go with low light plants like java fern, anubias, and Cryptocorynes. Stay away from additives such as black water extract that will darken the water and prevent light from reaching the plants. Low light plants are not very active but will help keep the take clean. Next would be to try compact florescent lights.-Chuck>

Re: Discus Planted Tank- Chuck! Using Metal Halide Lights In FW   4/26/06 I suppose a MH Pendant would be overkill?  It would work,  mechanically, because the tank is set up in my kitchen, and there happens to be  a big pot rack directly overhead where I could suspend the fixture.    Price isn't necessarily an object, since I still have blank checks.  :  ) Karen < With metal halide you would definitely have enough light. With this much light it becomes a more difficult tank to manage because of the potential to turn the tank very green with algae overnight. With intense lighting the plants are very active and will use up nutrients quickly. Fertilization will need to be balanced so to feed the plants and not the algae. I would recommend the book "Aquarium Plants" By Christel Kasselmann. Setting up you tank for live plants will be more involved than for the discus, but the combination of lush plants and beautiful discus is hard to beat.-Chuck> Discussing Discus issues  04/17/2006 Hi there! <Howdy>               I have been planning a planted discus aquarium for the last 6 months and have done all the reading and watching I believe I can. <Heee!> I have drawn sketches in order to aquascape the tank with plants so as not to mess around with anything once I place them in there. <Good technique> I'm at the stage now where I have a few unanswered questions: Is it necessary to have extra aeration in the tank or is the plants sufficient? <Mmm, well, necessary to have sufficient circulation to provide for gas exchange, oxygen solubility... day and especially night... can be provided in other ways than with "bubblers" though> What plants can you suggest for a 250L tank? <Posted on WWM> How many discus should i have? <Also posted> I want to have a lot of variety and colour, so what discus will give me this? In other words what collection of discus will give me colour and coexist happily? <... not a matter, issue of this> I am planning to house the discus with a ghost knife, 3 Corydoras cats, 3 Bristlenose cats, 2 dwarf cichlids. are these okay?? <Depending on species... yes> I am hoping you have time to assist me and thank you so very much Jarryd. P.S your website is great!!!) <Thank you. Enjoy using it a bit more. Bob Fenner>

Discus aquarium and Python water changing system    4/4/06 I have a 42 gallon octagon aquarium with 2 blue turquoise discus 12  neon tetras, and a Pleco of undetermined sort of about 3 inches long.  I  plan to add one more discus at a later date.  The two I presently have are  3-4 inches.  I have 80 watts of compact fluorescent lights, a Fluval 304  canister filter, a 100 watt heater, 3 inches of substrate, and many faux silk  plants.  I plan to switch to live plants soon, that is why I have so much  light.  The discus do not seem to have a problem with its  intensity.  My ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates are non-detectable at this  time.  Sometimes my nitrates run .10-.15. The water temperature  is 83 degrees F.  I do 20 percent water changes every week and vacuum  gravel as well.  My question is-- would it be detrimental to my aquarium to  use a Python water changing system run straight from my tap while simultaneously  using the a product that removes chloramines and chloride?   <Mmm, no... though I would run the water return "slow"... and slightly warmer in temperature than the tank> I am  fortunate that my tap ph is 7.7-7.8, which is the same reading as my tank  ph. <A bit high... but likely okay for "man made" Symphysodon (vs. wild-caught)>   This tap water would be slightly warmed so as not to cause a change in  the tanks current temperature.   I was told that use of  water heated by the home's water heater was a bad idea-- is this correct?. <In general this is fine... there are some concerns with gas saturation and metal contamination... at times/places>   My water heater is brand new and my house is only 10 years old. I am aware  that using a large water bucket with aged water is the best way to do water  changes, but I am having health problems and am unable to perform water changes  as I used to by bucket method for at least another 3 months during my  recovery. <I see... and agree... the Python method is better than delayed changes> Using the Python seems like a good idea, but Discus are delicate  and I would like your advise on exactly how delicate they are in regards to the  water changes.   Much thanks for your time, interest, and advice-  Andrea. <Thank you for writing, sharing. Bob Fenner>

RO/DI confusion - 1/18/06 I recently purchased a six stage RO/DI system. I hope to use the water for my freshwater(55gal-discus & angels)(20gal-planted community), nano-reef (20L-pair of false Percs and corals) and FOWLR(29gal-mono and green spotted puffer). <small tank for these fish... monos prefer to be in groups and GSPs are best kept alone> My questions are broken down into 1)mixing salt and 2) using RO/DI for freshwater tanks: 1) I have set up a reservoir to mix my salt. a ten gallon tank) The water is heated to 80 degrees. I have been running a powerhead with the aerating feature for 24 hours now. The pH tests at 7.6.(cheap Aquarium Pharmaceuticals test kit) (I trust that this will be fine after adding Instant Ocean and I will test with an Aquarium Systems kit before using) <No sense in testing the pH of newly produced RO/DI water.> The total Alkalinity measures 1 mEq/L. (Seachem test kit) Here is where I get confused. I have read through the site extensively regarding buffering RO water. <Should read zero.> Some articles on the site recommend adjusting pH and alkalinity before adding salt. Others claim that the salt mix contains enough buffers on their own. What do you suggest? <Ideally you would add the correct amount of buffer before adding salt... unless the salt is explicitly designed for RO/DI water. Of course, you will have to be adding the buffer after the salt for a while until you know how much to add.> 2) I also keep freshwater angels and discus. I would like to use the RO/DI water for these tanks. I am afraid of the low Alkalinity. I have not found any articles about buffering RO/DI water for these uses. (They may be out there, but my hours of searching the site has not found them.) What procedures do you recommend for buffering RO/DI for freshwater applications? <There should be a multitude of articles regarding buffering RO/DI for Discus. There are two possible methods: A) Cutting the RO/DI product with tap water to achieve the desired KH and GH, or B) replenishing the KH with a buffer (I use baking soda), and replenishing remaining minerals with a product such as Kent RO Right. You will need to "practice" adding these to spare water (and leaving the result to sit for a while) to learn how to make consistent water - it takes a while to get a feel for the correct amounts of these products, and too much / too little can be very damaging for the fish.> If there is a good article on the site, could you please send me a link as I have not found it yet. <search for "reverse osmosis" and "Discus" and possibly "reconstituting" on Google.> Thank you for taking the time to share your experience with me. <You're Welcome! Best regards from Shanghai, John> Steve

RO/DI confusion   1/17/06 I found an article on the web re: reconstituting RO. Here is a link if you have time. http://fins.actwin.com/aquatic-plants/month.9906/msg00208.html If not, the basic formula they suggest is: Chemical dose/ dose/ measurement 100 liters 50 gallons unit Epson's salt 3.5 6.5 quarter teaspoons calcium carbonate 6 11 600 mg tablets baking soda 4 8 quarter teaspoons potassium chloride 1.5 3 quarter teaspoons What do you think about this recipe for using 100% RO for my discus and angels? <Is a good, practical mix... I would try using about half the dosage here, and testing for what values you can to determine if the resultant water is "about" what you're looking for> If you would recommend trying it, where can I find calcium carbonate and potassium chloride? Thanks, Steve <Very likely a "health food store" will carry these in suitable quantities and finely ground enough to be practical for solubilizing. Otherwise, I'd search on the Net for folks re-packaging, selling small-enough supplies from an inorganic chemicals business. Bob Fenner> Starting With Discus  12/10/05 Yes, fist of all I just want to say thanks for all of your hard work on putting this page together. It has been a great source of reference for many years.  Ok, on with the question. I just bought a 75 gallon tank with the hopes of raising discus, but I don't know if I have the right set up. I am using a stealth heater two Filstar Rena canister filters xp2 and xp3. I am using medium and small gravel somewhere around 110 pounds in all. And a few fake plants and driftwood. Is this ok please let me know. Current fish in tank, 2 baby green severums, 2 Bala Sharks, 2 catfish Pictus and 1 Black Ghost knife 10 in. < There are two kinds of discus, wild and tank raised. Wild discus require clean, warm, soft, acidic water. Tank raised fish are much less demanding. Overall you need to keep the pH around 7, and the nitrates as low as possible. Give them good food and they like to be crowded. In the wild they are found in big schools so get a group to make them feel more comfortable.-Chuck>

Discus System - Sound Good? - 11/03/2005 Hi, I was just wondering if this tank set-up seems appropriate to you. Livestock: 5 Discus (Symphysodon aequifasciata) 10 Cardinal Tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi) 1 Zebra (Imperial) Pleco (Hypancistrus zebra) Plants: Dwarf Hairgrass (Eleocharis parvula) Red Ludwigia (Ludwigia mullertii) Ozelot Amazon Sword (Echinodorus x. 'Ozelot' Waterwheel (Aldrovanda vesiculosa) Creeping Ludwigia (Ludwigia repens) Java Fern (Microsorum pteropus) "Coffee Leaf" Anubias (Anubias barteri 'coffeefolia') Discus Varieties: Snow White Discus Millennium Gold Discus Alenquer Discus Royal Turquoise Discus Leopard Pigeon Discus Tank Specs: 48.5gal Tank Ebo-Jager Heater x2 Fluorescent Light Fluorite-Red Gravel Hagen Fluval 304 36" Aqua-Glo x2 <Could do with better lighting, but can probably get by with this. Otherwise, all good - though I would urge you to be sure to provide some smooth, flat rocks and caves for the Plec. Also be advised that if any of the discus pair off, you may need to separate them due to aggression from breeding - but that's an if/when. Wishing you well, -Sabrina>

How Many Discus in a Planted Tank  9/17/05 I'm planning on setting up a 29 gal planted discus tank with heater power   filter and gravel how many can I have and I would like to put 4-5 neon  tetras. Thank you four the help. <No more than two or three tops. More if you do lots of water changes.-Chuck> Discus setup? 8/6/05 Hey i was choosing between an African cichlid tank or a discus tank, i have chosen the discus tank and i was wondering how many discus i would be able to put in a 55 gallon aquarium along and any other tips on looking after them would be greatly appreciated  thanks >>You can start with 6-8 small fish in 55 gallons. I would suggest to get yourself a beginner's book on discus because there is so much information. The internet also has a few discus only discussion boards that are very helpful. Try http://www.simplydiscus.com/forum Good Luck, Oliver

Re: Night lighting question Sorry, one last thing about that I forgot to ask in the last e-mail. I know I could observe the fishes and draw some conclusions, but still... So I want to put red led lights of the exact same type in my 85 gallons FW discus tank (with a bunch of cardinals and a pair of rams). Red LEDs looks even brighter than blue. I read on the WWM that "most" fishes don't notice red light. Can I leave those red LEDs on in my Amazon biotope just like the blue LEDs in the reef tank? Thanks! Dominique <Should be fine. Bob Fenner>

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> 

Discus tank algae water (not plants, etc.) Dear Mr. Fenner: <Hello> I have had discus for 20years, and two years ago I started a new discus (pure) tank. In mid April this year the City of London changed its water supply, and ever since then my discus tank water is green with algae despite the fact I take down 3/4 of the tank weekly.  <A "way of the world" most everywhere I'm afraid> Of course my discus love this algae water, but it looks awful! My ph level is 6.8, no ammonia etc. My temperature is kept at 86 to 88 degrees F. They are fed three times a day with morning and evening feeding being frozen blood worms, and the noon feeding being dried blood worms and sinking tablets I have no live plants in the tank, but rather some plastic plants, driftwood and a ceramic bridge. I have 12 different size discus in a 72 gallon bow tank. My husband's tank is a 40 gallon community tank species, and I change the water exactly as I do my discus, and his tank is crystal clear all the time!  <Less feeding, more neutral pH, lower temperature... Your system is much more "vivacious" metabolically.> My feeding in his tank is flake food, shrimp pellets and cube dried Tubifex worm. What is my problem with the discus?  <Mmm, problem? Nothing. With the tank... a particular imbalance... you might try chemical filtrants... possibly lowering the pH... I would really like to see some live plant material here or in a companion system that is tied in with your discus... have live plants...> I am at my wits end with the constant water changing and no results. Most recently I took out all the decorations (nothing in the tank but the fish with the sand bottom), lowered the water temperature to 84 degrees F and kept the lights (fluorescent) off, but to no avail. Two days later the water was green again. Please help me solve this problem as all the aquarium shops in London have no answer. Thank you.  <Do you have tests for nitrate, phosphate content in your system water? A short term "fix" might be simply rigging up a small Ultraviolet Sterilizer (TMC's Vectron units are my choice here, in the UK) with some water flow diverted through the unit via a canister filter (an additional source of redress might be the canister with a sandwiched mass of peat in it) or small powerhead/internal pump. Let's keep chatting, discussing your situation, efforts till you're satisfied. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Discus Hi Bob: I think I have the problem in hand. I neglected to mention that I have two skylights in the house (6X2 feet) nearby the aquarium. What I have done is leave the lights off totally. Of course with the addition of the gravel there will be some cloudiness for awhile, but now there is no green in the water. Thanks again for all your help. <Sunlight is "good" if there is some use for it... again, I encourage you to try at least some live plant material in the system to utilize the insulation, available nutrients... maybe just some Watersprite, Ceratopteris... Have recently reviewed new catalogs by Dennerle and BioPlast (from last months Interzoo trade show in Germany)... and they had listings of several species of plants for Discus tanks. Bob Fenner> Sincerely Jane Renno

Back to the Discus Hi Bob: <Hello Jane> Thank you for your info. I read everything I could on adding plants to the aquarium, and all my sources said that you couldn't add plants with a sand base. <Usually not... with fine sand... there are several potential problems... or anaerobiosis and its malaffects, possible leaching of silicates...> So in anticipation of having to add plants I went to Aquarium Services (London, Ontario, Canada) and got some additional information. The chap there seemed to think that my filtration system and sand could be the culprit in my "green" water. <Yes, a very probably contributor> To make a long story shorter, I worked over five hours yesterday completely removing my sand, remaining driftwood. I put in gravel and decorated the tank with entirely new plants (artificial) and replaced the driftwood. He also suggested I should add a bio-chem Zorb pouch to the tank, which I did.  <Good suggestion> The filtration system I am using now is an Emperor double bio-wheel. I previously had used a powerhead with undergravel plate. In the event I have to replace the filtration system (if what I am trying doesn't work), what would you suggest?  <To add a canister filter in addition to the hang-on... If it's not too dear an Eheim model> It was hard cutting back on their food, particularly since these guys follow me from one end of the tank to the other when I go to different rooms.  <It's better for them> I'm sitting there eating a sandwich at lunch and they are just staring at me, like feed me too. They would be in the middle of the tank then swim to the side of the fridge and back again telling me they want their frozen blood worms. Believe me, these fish aren't stupid, and they do know their keeper!!! <Agreed> So I'm still feeding them 3X per day. but cutting back in the quantity at each feeding. <Ah, good> I have kept the lights off in their tank, and reduced the temperature to 82 degrees. The ph is 6.6 So far the water hasn't turned green, but it is far too early to tell if this will remain the case. <I suspect your problems are over. The green water condition might recur to a much smaller extent, but should be transient (days)> Again, thanks for your help, and please let me know what filtration system I should buy in the event this doesn't work (one I can get in Canada). Sincerely Jane <We shall be chatting, Bob Fenner>

Discus Situation Dear Bob: Thank you for your reply re my green algae in the discus tank. I think this web site is great, and I didn't know it existed until today.  <Glad we have found each other> I do all the tests for water quality, and everything is as it should be. When you said to lower the ph, how low would you go. I thought 6.6 was ideal. It has dropped on a few occasions to 6.0 and the discus were not happy campers. <The mid sixes is about what I would shoot for> When I had live plants years ago I found that they really fouled the water, and that's why I have just had the artificial. I was even thinking of getting rid of the plants altogether and using just driftwood and granite structures for decoration. A good or bad idea?  <Mmm, good question... Bad for practical reasons if you were principally a breeder of Symphysodon... But good to have break-up of the physical environment with "something/s" for their psychological benefit> I love the discus as I have had them for so many years, and find it very unusual that I would be encountering this problem after all this time. Too bad the fish like their little algae home (but I don't)!  <As you state, the water itself has changed... and once "green water" gets situated... it has insidious and incredible ways of modifying "its" environment to favor itself.> I will keep you posted. What you advise for the ph I will follow, and cut down their food to two feedings a day and experiment with that first before I make any more additions. Thanks for your help and I will let you know the progress in eliminating this green. <Very good. We'll see soon enough. Bob Fenner> Sincerely Jane

CO2 Injection (for live plants, Discus system) Greetings and thank you for your previous advice on the Eheim 2128 Pro II Thermofilter! And thank you for Wet Web Media and many hours of dedication to our passion! After forty years of fishkeeping we're setting up our first pot planted 60g Discus tank (months in the study, planning and acquisition of components; sparing virtually no expense) <Yikes! Am I too old for you to adopt?> and are debating the addition of a CO2 injection system with pH controller, solenoid, the works so to speak. I've been to many sites trying to decide if the CO2 system cost is valuable enough in controlling pH and helping our plants and livestock to justify the addition. <It is> Particularly in maintaining pH for Discus which we will be introducing several months down the road. If it will assist in providing a better environment for our future family of Discus I'll go for it! <You will not be disappointed> We will be running water into the RO storage unit and "firing" up the tank in the next two weeks. Your recommendation as to advisability of CO2 and manufacturers of good components would be most helpful. Wildriv, AKA Charlie DeLorme <Mmm, do "shop around" for advice from actual, recent users here. The various chatforums (ours: http://WetWebFotos.com/talk/) are invaluable for this. Compare features (e.g. better needle-valves, larger CO2... at least five pounds) makes, models and buy the better, bigger... they are worth it. Be chatting, Bob Fenner>

RO water and Discus I would like to used RO water in a Discus tank but know that the can not be used by it self. what needs to be added to the water. RGibson <use a water hardness test kit and add enough hard tap water or buffer to bring the water up to 20-60 ppm if you want to breed them or 60-100 ppm for general maintenance (safer when not breeding). Anthony Calfo>

Filter/Heater Selection Bob, I am in the beginning stages of setting up a 110 gallon tall. After 20 years of being out of the hobby, I must say it appears that filter technology has changed a bit. <Indeed!> The fish I am considering are Discuss like I had years ago. I am looking for recommendations on the filter system. I researched the Marineland Emperor 400 and am considering using 2 units to do the job. I have a friend that speaks highly of the Marineland Tide Pool 2. I like the idea of putting the heaters in the sump box. But, I am concerned about the pump flow rate of only 600GPH. Can you make a recommendation? I am open for criticism of all my thoughts. <I am not too concerned re the flow rate... and Discus themselves have changed, mostly improved greatly the last couple of decades... much more tolerant by and large of abnormal (not soft, acidic, very warm) water... and more accepting of prepared foods... The filtration mentioned should be fine. Do check into the various "Discus Forums" on the Net, some of the more recent excellent books, magazine columns on Symphysodon. Bob Fenner> Thank you, Ron Jarosinski

Soft Water, High pH Hi! <Howdy!> Regarding keeping a 100 gallon Discus Fish tank: My tap water measurements- pH 8.6 dh Total hardness 7.1 dh Alkalinity 2.1 dh <holy cow! way too high on the pH for the SA discus fish.!!! How involved would it be, and is it practical to try to bring the water parameters in line with what discus require, that is a much lower pH, keeping the water soft, but having enough of a buffer to keep the pH stable. <all with reason. And if you want to have the best color and even any prayer of them breeding... this pH must come down. Some buffer is good indeed for a stable pH, but 7dKHis just plain hard water and will significantly if not severely affect the fertility of your discus spawns. Eggs may still be lain... but the fertility will be awful. I used to own a 3,000 gallon discus hatchery in a region with similar medium hard water.> I know its all a juggling act, but at my modest skill level I can't evaluate the complexity of what may be involved. Is it as simple as lowering the pH with peat moss, or Muriatic acid or other product) and keeping a close eye on the pH?  <peat is stimulating for other reasons and recommended if you like or don't mind the tannins... but it is too tedious for water softening. Resist the use of acid (use only to tweak chemistry on occasion). Control softness and pH easily by learning to mix DI or RO in with your tap water to get a pH closer to or below 7.0 and a hardness closer to or below 100ppm> Is the buffering capacity of the water high enough to help maintain a stable, lower pH, or would I have to add a carbonate buffer to insure that it remains stable? Will determining this be a process of trial and error, and if so can you advise on the best way to go about it in a logical fashion. Thanks for any help you can give, Bill<as per above, my friend... best regards, Anthony>

Eheim Maintenance Hi, Regarding the Eheim Pro II filter model 2028. Many of the marine equipment vendor sites claim that you only have to clean this filter every 3 to 4 months. <Mmm, this can be so... I have two of these units on freshwater systems... and rarely open them> I was under the impression reading your site and others that the filter pads for mechanical filtration should be cleaned much more frequently (perhaps weekly). Is the Eheim really an exception to this advice?? <Not really an exception. Depending on the "job" you intend, have these canister filters set up to do... your particular needs/arrangements of feeding, foods, other filtration... they may only need to be cleaned very intermittently. The best practical advice is to try them and open them up, see if matter is accumulating on the media (on mine it does not much at all)> Would you recommend 2 Eheims, one for mechanical filtration and one for biological filtration( perhaps a wet/ dry model) in a 100 gallon discus tank? <I do recommend two... but would set them up the same (per the excellent media provided and) their packing instructions> My thinking is that the mechanical filter can be cleaned more frequently, and the filter used for bio filtration can be cleaned less frequently as per your sites suggestions. <As stated, I believe you will find as I have that these are so well designed and made that there is very little accumulation of matter on the mechanical media. I would work into a schedule in concert with your regular water changes, of opening one every other week for a while (to access how "dirty" the first media is) and the following interval the other one. Bob Fenner, who really likes these units> Thanks, Bill

RO water for Discus fish I am in the process of cycling an 80-gallon tank that will have discus fish and live plants in it.  This is my set-up:  Bio-balls for biological filtration, CAP-2200 pump, AquaClear 402 powerhead to circulate the water, carbon filter media, lighting system to be added soon, epoxy-coated gravel. No fish or plants have been added yet.  Tank has been running for about 1 week now.  I added all RO water (PH 6.5), treated it with dechlorinator, <Great to read of your study, cautious preparations... the dechlorinator is likely unnecessary... the R.O. device will/does remove sanitizer> and added a product called RO vital (product made by Marc Weiss to put back necessary elements to tank water that RO water doesn't have).  Overnight PH went to 7.6.  I believe PH increase was due to RO vital product. <You are correct. I would not use this product> Now I have to condition the water to bring PH back down to 6.5 range and keep it that way.  What is the best way to due this?  By the way my KH is 71.6ppm and GH is 73.7ppm. <Mmm, I would use a "simple" inorganic acid, likely sodium biphosphate (sold as "pH Down", other products) in this set of circumstances... And possibly... start to add live plants that you'd like... Do you intend to augment CO2? If so, I would start this up... the carbonic acid will nick away at the alkaline reserve which is the Weiss product... Bob Fenner>

RO water for Discus fish I was told to use these products to naturally condition my water and lower PH after using the RO vital product:  Instant Amazon and Ketapang vital (both Marc Weiss products). <... So? Someone sold you some things... These products are not held in high regard by most of the people here...> Tried their suggested dosages for new startups and PH is still 7.6.  I don't want to keep adding this stuff, but maybe I have to in order to get the PH right. <No> Do you know anything about these products? <Yes> Will they eventually work? <Not IMO/E... We can, maybe should start further back in this... do you have any of the popular Discus books? Access to Jack Wattley's columns in TFH Magazine? Time to read over what is posted re Symphysodon on the Net? You would do well to spend some time studying... and not buying...> They contain fulvic and humic acids and other natural vitamins, hormones, and trace elements. <... Have them tested by a quality assurance laboratory. These products are unnecessary, not-useful for your situation.> I was told that CO2 does lower the PH, but it wears off and fast. <... Depending on the "source" of the alkaline reserve, carbonic acid in solution can have a decided effect in lowering pH "point"... Please take a read through the water chemistry articles, FAQs posted on our root web: WetWebMedia.com> I would have tried the PH proper 6.5 or PH down, but company warned not to use these products in tanks with live plants because they rob plant life from iron and zinc and algae loves the phosphates. <Some validity to this argument, but far better to use it than not> My husband has suggested to try Muriatic acid which is simple and inexpensive. <No! Please have him e-chat with me... and NOT use 3M hydrochloric acid... very dangerous> I appreciate your insight and love your site (been on it over 2 hours reading and realizing that I am not the only one out there pulling their hair out with this "fish addiction!"). <Ahh, certainly not. Glad to have you amongst us. Let's keep conversing till you have firmly, confidently in mind what your choices are, and a basal understanding of underlying principles. Not to appear as an apologist, but there are many "phony" products in our trade (I am an old timer in the industry, as well as an earnest science and hobby type), and unfortunately the "nature of retail" that otherwise well-intentioned people sell some of these "magical elixirs"... Many labels are just outright fabrications... a little investigation shows this clearly. Take a read through the various chatforums, BB's (ours: http://wetwebfotos.com/talk/) re brands, manufacturers... and please cast your votes (buy) with knowledge of what you're getting. Bob Fenner>
RO water for Discus fish
Hi Bob, Thanks for your reply and honesty.  I have done much reading here and there about Discus fish and everyone appears to have their own opinion, and I tend to get more confused the more I read. <Then please keep delving... there are good reasons for the disparities... "Many roads..." being one of them... the fact that wild Discus versus tank-bred generations are wildly different...> I promise I will read the suggested items you have mentioned here.  Let's back track here for a moment.  I get this 80 gallon-tank and fill it with RO water.  What, in your expertise, do I need to add and do to this water to get it up and running for Discus.  My main concerns here are 1) replenishing the tank with the beneficial elements/minerals RO water no longer has for fish life and <Need to know "what" is in your source water that concerns/concerned you... I assure you, Discus breeders use tapwater in the twenty or so countries I've been to where have encountered their facilities. You may need to do "nothing" other than dechloraminate your water... or perhaps blend a little tap/mains water back in with the R.O... More, many more people cause themselves problems fooling with water chemistry than any other source of mortality captive aquatics.> 2) how to decrease PH if it rises above 6.8. <Again... depends on what type of Discus you intend to keep, what the source of alkalinity is... Talk with people in your vicinity who keep Symphysodon... I wouldn't worry about the near neutral pH water. Bob Fenner>

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 and Water changes Hello Bob, I have a 159 gallon (48"x24x32H) tank.  It has one overflow and I have a 54 gallon trickle filter. I have a mag 18 pump for the tank return. (can turn it down)   <I like strong flow, but this is a lot for this sized tank and especially so for discus fish> I am considering having 4 - 6 discus in this tank, with possibly a stingray (not sure about stingray yet)   <The tank simply isn't big enough for that many fishes. Max recommended stocking level would be four adult discus. They can easily reach 5-8" each as adults... some get even larger. Even with five discus... that would only be one large fish per 10 gallons... rather crowded if not cruel. The stingray is simply not even possible here (tank size)> My question is that if I were to keep the water parameters in real good shape (by a low bioload and good filter) why then does everyone tell me that I have to change 50% of the water out everyday 2 days??   <for starters... your desired mix is a high bio-load by any definition. These fish can reach adult size in 2 years. As empathetic aquarists that's not long at all to plan in advance for a healthy maturation to adult size. I realize the tank looks big when they are babies... but babies grow up <G>> Is this because of the growth inhibiting hormone that they give off? or is it because they'll get diseased?   <Discus are indeed very sensitive to water quality... much more so than most other fishes. Daily water changes is standard with breeders and wholesalers to maintain health. Every other day for a home tank is not unusual. Anything less than weekly is unlikely to help you succeed in the long run. Do read up more on discus care... they are wonderful fishes and so very beautiful... but they are labor intensive. More challenging than saltwater aquaria by far> I don't understand if the ammonia, nitrites, nitrates and PH are ok? <there simply is so much more to water quality... DOC levels, Redox, microbial populations. And all in the presence of higher temperatures that discus like can easily lead to serious complications> then why so many changes? <nature/needs of the beast> Thank you so much p.s. you've been a tremendous amount of help to me with my SW tanks. (along with your book) thanks again Lynn <best regards, Anthony Calfo>

Discus, Stingray, Water Changes Hello Bob, <Hello Lynn>    I have a 159 gallon (48"x24x32H) tank.  It has one overflow and I have a 54 gallon trickle filter. I have a mag 18 pump for the tank return. (can turn it down) <Good. A bit brisk>   I am considering having 4 - 6 discus in this tank, with possibly a stingray (not sure about stingray yet) <Have seen these Amazonians kept together... spectacular>   My question is that if I were to keep the water parameters in real good shape (by a low bioload and good filter) why then does everyone tell me that I have to change 50% of the water out everyday 2 days??  Is this because of the growth inhibiting hormone that they give off? or is it because they'll get diseased?  I don't understand if the ammonia, nitrites, nitrates and PH are ok? then why so many changes?   <Mmm, likely a few things, reasons for the large, regular water change suggestions. Many folks hold that Discus are quite sensitive to "metabolite build-up", their wastes mal-affecting them... so dilution is one route to counter this. Also, freshwater stingrays, though mostly sedentary, are relatively large, heavy animals that eat and eliminate, defecate a bunch... Both of these points are valid... and both can be countered in other ways: live plant use in the tank and/or sump/s, chemical filtrant (like Polyfilter, GAC/Granulated Activated Carbon) use... The good news here is that the fishes act as very good bio-indicators... you can see them "turning dark", becoming more oriented to the corners... if/when water quality is sliding. I encourage you (if you intend to go ahead with these fishes or just the Discus) to look into a largish Reverse Osmosis unit for making water... a means to store, heat it in anticipation of use (like in a Rubbermaid Brute (no, we don't own stock in the company) trash can and cover...) and place this near the tank for ease of changing> Thank you so much p.s. you've been a tremendous amount of help to me with my SW tanks. (along with your book) thanks again Lynn <Glad to find this to be so. Bob Fenner>

Questions about a Discus aquarium Hi crew !!  I have been looking and reading your site today for about 6 hours now. WOW !! <Me too!>   This is my second time writing you.  I have a lot of questions, (I'm sorry), that I would like to know about. <No worries>   You know, a lot of things we do only because that is what we were told, or that is how it's done they say. <Better to cultivate an "open mind", questioning premises until the base of their understanding is held> I would kind of like to know "why" we need to do some of these things to better understand how I need to do them or why I need to do them. <Okay> I would write them separately so that you could categorize them, but I wouldn't know where to start. <At the beginning... or the middle... what have you>   I hope you can help, and thank you in advance for your time and patience.  Ok, I just got set-up and running my new 220gal acrylic aquarium (72x24x30) with a wet/dry (36wx12dx16h) and dual overflows and returns with a dry box in-between them.  I now have a 60gal flat back hex that I have 4 Discus (about 4in each) and about 25 Rummy nose.  I am running a Eheim 2226 on the 60gal now and everything has been doing just fine for about  7 months now.  I use R/O DI water from a Kent Maxxima 50gpd and change about 15gal every week.  Here are my questions; 1) I read on your site (RE: Funky stuff in water for change), about using a water softener. The kind you would use for your house water.  You said, "they are useful for Discus and other fishes that prefer soft water and several times weekly water changes". Is this true? <Yes, but/and you do have "softened" water by way of your R.O. device> I was always told NOT to use water from my softener. <There is some concern re the effects of excess sodium exposure (from salt re-charged models of softeners)>   2) What is it that baking soda does and how does it help or hurt? <It (sodium bicarbonate) adds a modicum of hardness/alkalinity to water, raising pH to about 7.8 maximum. Useful as a "gentle" buffer in very soft water situations... like folks that use all R.O. or even distilled water... or that have source water that has little buffering capacity naturally. Can be abused, and make water too hard for some types of life (like Amazon Basin tetras, Discus that occur in soft water naturally)> 3) Is the DI on my R/O worthwhile and if not, is there something else that I could be using in place of the DI cartridge if I just took it out. <Mmm, worthwhile, yes, and I would use it if I had it, leave it out if not.> The DI cartridges never seem to last that long and if there really is no need for it that would be just fine. <Not much use for deionization in most cases, likely including your application.>   4) Substrate, what would be best for Discus? <Something "natural" though not overly soluble in the way of being calcareous... and darkish in color... preferred by Discus> I bought Red Flint sand & gravel for the new tank and was wondering if it was the best thing for the Discus. <It's fine> Also I was wondering how hard it would be to keep clean.  I vacuum my regular gravel now when I do my water changes in my 60gal, but was just thinking that the sand might get sucked-up if I try to do it the same way. <Nope... more technique than anything here>   5) Lighting. I have two sets of Coralife 2 lamp electronic ballasts. Do you think this is enough or too much light for Discus? <Not on the sixty I hope. Or if so, with plant cover blocking the bulk of the light> If they are ok, then what are your thought on bulbs?  I can run 36 or 48 inch bulbs but do you have a preference on the bulbs themselves like a 50/50 or color max? <More personal preference than functional consideration>   I want it bright enough to see them (I have black acrylic back), but not so bright that it scares them to hide all day. 6) Refugium. What is this? <A living sump... a container joined with a main/display system with water either pumped to or from that allows for increased volume, dilution of wastes, separating livestock, culturing foods, using reverse daylight photoperiod for evening out diurnal changes like pH...> I keep reading about it on here and not quite sure what it is.  7) My wet/dry and overflows. I have been reading with much interest about the Durso piping. It seems fine for marine tanks I guess, but I feel the need to have the pre-filters on. Without them I'm not "cleaning" the water.  Also I like how easy they are to clean, just pull the sponges out and rinse and put back in. <No worries> I also drilled two holes in the back for a Eheim 2226 to run on the tank as well. It will be the old one from my 60gal once I can get all the fish out and into my 220gal. Which brings me to another question sorry. 8) I plan to run the Eheim for two reasons. One, to help filter the water and two, to run my 40watt UV through it. Do you think I should keep it set up as is with the Ehfimech and Ehfisubstrat or take it out and make it more of a polishing filter, I like my water crystal clear). <I would leave the media in that you have now> I do have a Hot Magnum filter that I use too with the paper filter. Do you think it would be a good idea to hang it on the wet/dry and let it run there? <Am not such a fan of this product... uses too much power, has too little filter capacity> 9) Should I leave the UV off till it's cycled? <Mmm, no. I'd leave running> If so, when can I turn it on then?  10) Heaters.  I have a Jalli 800watt titanium for my 220gal that is in the wet/dry.  Is this a ok size and type for this tank?  I have only used Ebo-Jaegers before and have three 250watts now that I could use instead. <I prefer to have two heaters and really like the Ebo Jager line> I just didn't want to be playing around with two or three heaters so they were all working together. <Put at least one in the main tank> 11) Plants.  I am not really planning on having many live plants.  I have a very hard time keeping them alive with the high heat of a Discus tank. I do have about 12 Anubias now in my 60gal that I would like to put in the 220gal.  They seem to be the only thing I can keep alive.  For right now anyway, I am not interested in CO2 or anything like that.  All I want to see are my Discus for the most part, but at the same time, I want the tank to look pleasing to the eye and to the Discus too. Is there any real need for live plants? <Can be used here or no. Are useful in the ways of being utilitarian and beautiful. There are some species that occur where Discus are collected. Please read through our Planted Aquarium subweb on WetWebMedia.com> Besides I was told that I really couldn't keep live plants in this tank because of having the wet/dry unless I put a CO2 on it. <Mmm, the mixing/agitation of water with air does drive off a good deal of the carbon dioxide, but you can have both> 12) last question.  I sure hope that all of this is not boring you. <No> I was wondering if I could put all of my fish that are in my 60gal now, into my new 220gal all at the same time "IF" I was to put my Eheim on the 220gal that is now running on my 60gal? <Should be fine> I would of course keep the wet/dry running along with the Eheim.  Wouldn't it be ok?  It would still have the same bio load as it did in the 60gal, but could also start "seeding" my wet/dry at the same time.  It would be nothing to take it off of the 60 and put it on the 220.  The 220 is all ready for it and waiting.  If you don't think that would work, what do you think about putting my 25 Rummy nose in the 220 to start it cycling? <Also okay> I really don't want to go out and get some fish that I have no intentions on keeping.  It wouldn't be fair to them but at the same time, I don't want to lose my 25 Rummy nose either.  What to do....what to do !!  Please help.  Whatever you say is what I shall do with these problems and questions.  Thank you again for your kindness, knowledge, (and patience). Tony <Keep thinking, planning, enjoying. Bob Fenner>
Re: Discus aquarium
Hi all, I have just found your site and have been looking over it for hours now and find it very well thought out.  Now I would like to ask a few questions that I have been trying to find out and have yet to do so.  Here goes.....First I would like to tell you a little about what I have going on here.  I now have a 60gal Discus tank with 4 Discus and about 20 rummy nose. <Mmm, you know or will that you're going to need a larger system with this stock> It is not really planted but I do have about 10 Anubias in it. I am running an Eheim 2226, an Angstrom 15watt UV and a hot mag to keep the water clear. I do about 15 to 20 gal water change every week.  I have a Kent Maxxima R/O, DI. with a 90 gal storage tank that I put two air stones in and a 300watt heater to keep the temp at 88. I put Kent R/O right in and also mix about 4 gallons of tap water to help bring up the kH, dH and ph to about 6.8 ph, kH - 2, GH - 2. <Sounds very nice> Every so often I do get an acid fall and I must keep a sharp eye on it at all times. <I would measure dKH, and add at least a bit of sodium bicarbonate/baking soda to the new/make-up water, or a more "complete" commercially produced buffering agent> Also, I just bought a 220gal acrylic with overflows and a wet/dry filter with 2 Rio 2500 pumps and an Emperor Aquatics 40 watt UV along with a Jalli 800watt Titanium heater. This hole acrylic and overflows thing is all very new to me. I wanted glass, but it was hard to find one in the size I needed. I am also planning to run my Eheim 2226 on it too.  I had two holes drilled out in the back so that I can run the Eheim without seeing any of the hoses.  Also I am planning to run the UV through the Eheim. After I get the new tank "cycled" and get all of my Discus in it I will get rid of the 60gal to my friend so that he can give a try with Discus too. Ok, now that you have a ruff background, maybe you can answer a couple simple questions.  How can I make the overflows quieter? <Have you heard/seen so-called "Durso" types of piping? A "Tee" made at the junction of the down spout likely will silence this plumbing. You can see/read about such issues on the "marine plumbing FAQs" on WWM, starting here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/pbfaqsmar.htm and onward through the series (linked, in blue, at top)> The wet/dry is very quiet but the water flowing over  the overflows is making a lot of noise.  Also any help with what can be done with my water would surely help. My tap water is, Kh-6, Gh-8, Ph-8. Of course my R/O is a lot lower, Kh-0, Gh-0 and Ph-6 or less. <As stated above, I would add some bicarbonate (if not a carbonate and bicarb. based) product, or blend in some (try ten percent, increase to twenty...) of the raw tapwater for alkaline reserve> I would like to be able to use water with the least amount of chemicals as possible. I did get Kent ph-stable to raise my kH to try and help with the acid falls, but have not tried it yet. Also, what are your thoughts on gravel? Have you heard of Red Flint Sand & Gravel, filter & abrasive sand? <Yes, beautiful, can be functional> I love how it looked at the pet shop but am just a little concerned with any silicates or just by being too small.  I don't want the Discus to "choke" or anything. <They won't... where they come from there is very fine sand on the bottom> I was just thinking of going bare bottom, but I would like some color in it. <Me too... and Discus seem to do better with a substrate> I have had aquariums for about 30 years now, but just got into Discus in the last 2-3 years. I have always wanted them but kept hearing how hard they are to keep. <Used to be "quite hard"... now much easier... and WELL worth it!> I have done sooooo much reading on them that it seems like everybody has their own way of keeping them. The old, "it works for me" thing. I am sorry for this being so long, but I just wanted to give some background. I love these fish and now that I have everything going so well in my 60gal, I'm getting scared to transfer them to the new 220gal after it cycles. Any kind of advice, or criticism, would gladly be taken on any of this.  Thank you in advance for your help.  I'm sure I will be writing back again soon, but I will make it a lot shorter. <Looks like you have a good handle and responsive, open mind to the situation here. Bob Fenner>

Discus in High Octagonal Tank Setup? Hi Guys I have a new high octagonal tank (52cm Diameter & 130cm Tall). I equate this to approx. 180L (or 47Gal - though you could confirm this for me. Math has never been my strong point). <Math was never my best subject either and try as I might, I can't find a link to a calculator that does volume on octagon tanks! I do think you're a bit off though; the actual tank volume should be a bit higher than you figured. Don't hold me to that though!> I am looking at acquiring an Eheim Pro II series or Fluval 404 Canister filter for this tank. Also an air pump with an air stone. I would like to stock this tank with Discus Fish. Would this style & volume of tank be suitable for Discus fish?? I have read that it is not good to have just one discus and that you should have at least 4 of these in a tank. So with that in mind do you think my tank would be suitable?? <As long as you go with no more than 4 you'll probably be OK. According to www.fishbase.org Discus come from deeper water so they shouldn't be bothered by the taller and narrower shape of this tank.> If this type of fish is not suitable could you recommend types fish that would be? <There are a lot of possibilities here. For the most part you'll want to stick with fish that don't get much larger than about 4 inches or so. But with the height of this tank you could do a neat display featuring fish from top, middle, and lower water columns.> Cheers, Jeff from Brisbane, Australia

Filtering with Peat Moss I'm thinking about filtering through peat in my planted Discus aquarium.<have heard/seen this done before> I understand that it will bring down the pH and KH, which would be very desirable in Discus aquarium.<yes, can> I also understand that peat contains many trace elements needed by plants and Discuses, which is also good.<agreed> I'm wondering though, doesn't peat (Hagen brand, granules) contain phosphates, like certain brands of carbon?<yes, "Initially, for the first two months, some soils will release a significant amount of nutrients such as nitrates, ammonia, phosphates and iron." I will give you the link to where I found this info.  http://www.easyfishkeeping.com/tropicalfish/succesfulplants.htm  hope this information helps, IanB> Thank you, Luke Planted aquarium I'm wondering, are there any plants that can take temperatures around 28-30C ? (Discus tank)<Do check this link out http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/AquariumGardenSubWebIndex.html , IanB> Thank you, Luke

Discus Questions Two more questions, sorry guys.. :-) - I'll be adding some rocks to my Discus tank with plants... what type of rocks are ok, besides Lava rock? - I've noticed a few white spots on my Discuses, that look like Ich. Instead of medicating, I wonder if Ich will be killed with temp up to 32C plus added aquarium salt at 1tablespoon/5gal?<Formalin baths and salt in a bare-bottomed QT tank. You cannot medicate the main tank. Keep the fish in a QT tank for a month. Use a Bare bottomed QT aquarium, with daily siphoning of tank bottom to reduce parasites and larvae, good luck my friend with these somewhat challenging species of fish (always have been a fave of mine), IanB> Thank you, Luke
Re: discus questions
Two more questions, sorry guys.. :-) - I'll be adding some rocks to my Discus tank with plants... what type of rocks are ok, besides Lava rock?<I would just use Lava Rock...looks good in discus aquariums, could also use slate rock (or whatever its called-also looks neat in these type of aquariums> Thank you, Luke

Discus, peat and carbon Hi Guys, <Hello Adam> I am about to setup my first discus tank! I hear peat is a good thing to add in the filter system. <Can be, yes... as a "natural" source of pH, alkalinity adjustment, addn. of tannins, flavins...> But, as with most things, there is a down side - the yellow colour it turns the water. If I use carbon as well will I get rid of the colour AND the other good stuff as well. If so then the carbon will defeat the purpose. <Mmm, only to some extent. Fine to use both> Some people suggest that peat leaches ammonia and phosphates. Is this true? <Not "good" peats (non-alkaline treated, well-decomposed, "darker" types), that have been properly prepared (lightly boiled, left to cool)> Also, if I do use peat how long should I use it before replacing? <A month or so is about right. Best to place in (Dacron polyester) bags that you can easily place, remove... twixt mechanical filter media... as in in-between "fiber" in a corner, outside power or canister filter> Some suggest only a day or two and others about a month! I tend to think that more regular changes would be best otherwise the peat will act as a bio filter (I'm assuming that is a bad thing ... is it?). <Really best to "just experiment" here. For your type of source water, substrate in the system, other interactive effects, to see what "goes on" over time> I know that the fish don't mind the yellow colour of the water but I do and I want to have my cake and eat it too. Are there any additives that you recommend in place of peat. <A few "black water tonics" (e.g. those by Tetra, Dupla, others) that are "extracts" from peat> Thanks for having such a great site. Cheers, Adam Langman Australia <Thank you for being part of it. Bob Fenner>

Planted discus tank: questions 7/13/03 Knowledgeable planted tank and discus friends, <cheers, my friend> Thanks in advance for your help.   <always welcome :) > I am planning a planted discus tank and have been reading/researching over the past few weeks.  I'd appreciate a critique of my plans, which are outlined below.   While an experienced aquarist, I am new to both planted tanks and discus. After my summary I will list several specific questions I am unclear on. I currently have a 55g goldfish tank that has been set up 6 years with a wet/dry filter for biological filtration.  I will move to goldfish elsewhere and was hoping to preserve the rich biological culture in the wet/dry and transfer it to its new discus inhabitants. (Any caveats here?) <Hmmm... not much save for the admonition to raise the temperature slowly from your goldfish temps up to the anticipated discus temps (84-86F) very slowly (week or more) so as to not stress the biological filter> I plan a planted tank starting with 4 young discus (for show, not breeding), a school of 15-20 cardinal tetras, a few Otocinclus cats and Julie Cory cats.    <be certain to QT all strictly for 4 weeks before adding to display... many can be carriers do common discus diseases for being held in central filtration by the big wholesalers> I plan an inch of EcoComplete Amazon "Black Water" as substrate, a few large pieces of driftwood for tannic acid and both rooted and floating plants (to keep the light subdued).    <all very nice/natural> I was thinking of using peat in my filter to keep the water soft and acid (6 - 6.5), <agreed... Hagen brand Peat Plates and the like> and a HOT Magnum filter for mechanical and chemical filtration.  Two 150w heaters will keep the temp at 82 degrees.   <somewhat of the low end for discus ideally... but may be necessary for the catfish to be mixed in> I will vacuum the substrate for a 10% water change weekly.   <and larger WC's in the future as the discus grow. Really larger or more frequent water changes will be necessary. Discus are sensitive to water quality> I expect to feed mostly prepared discus food with occasional frozen brine shrimp, dried Tubifex worms or other treats.   <skip the brine shrimp altogether (hollow food). Frozen glass worms and frozen bloodworms should be factored in heavily> Specific questions:   a.. The tank is currently lit with two 48" 40w standard fluorescent tubes; I know discus need subdued lighting, but also know a planted tank should have more light than this.  What do you recommend? <discus do not need very subdued lighting... just not blazing. If you have any hopes of keeping plants (which will also provide the shade for the fishes)... you will need 3-4 40 watt bulbs minimum>   b.. Where do you get peat?  I've read about it's value, however have not run across it offered online or in catalogs.  Is using something like Discus Essential, Instant Amazon, Amazon Rain or Discus Buffer a replacement for peat? <you can use black water extract by Tetra if you like... else get the actual peat plates from Hagen brand>   c.. What types of plants are most conducive to these water conditions? <we could talk/write for quite some time on this subject. Entire books have been written on it. Do seek some good references on Discus. Swordplants, Crypts and Anubias will likely grace your tank>   d.. How does EcoComplete compare with fluorite, laterite or other plant substrates?  Is an inch enough? <I'm honestly not sure... let me defer you to the message boards and books for an intelligent consensus on this question>   e.. Will the CO2 level be sufficient with this fish load, or must I augment it with a CO2 system? <depends on how heavily planted you want the display... likely necessary if you want fantastic plant growth>   f.. Do you recommend plant nutrients? Suggestions? <yes... but modestly. Too easily abused. Liquid is as good as tablet (aquatic plants absorb through leaves and stems...not just roots>   g.. Is 10% )weekly enough of a water change? <not at all... likely needs to be closer to 25%. I owned a small discus hatchery (2-3K discus on hand) and favored much larger water changes for optimal health and growth>   h.. Can/should I keep the micron filter sleeve of the HOT Magnum on continuously?   I.. Should I keep the activated carbon on continuously? <not is using peat... just weekly for 24-48 hours will be fine... just before changing peat or adding extract>   j.. Will adding a few m/f guppies be an ongoing source of live food for the discus? <a bad idea IMO. They are not natural or necessary>   k.. Can the tank support more discus, especially if I stay conservative on other fish? <not recommended... the rule is 1 per 10 gallons max. You are almost there now with 4 after you factor displacement/other fishes>   l.. Are there any differentiating aspects of different breeds/colors of discus re: hardiness, temperament, etc? <stick with cultured versus would for hardiness/adaptability>   m.. Other fish I'd consider adding once the system in going: pearl Gourami, male dwarf Gourami, Blue Ram cichlid.  Comments? <only the ram is appropriate/natural IMO> Thank you very much for your input...Jeff <best regards, Anthony>

Stocking Discus Hi <Hello.> Please can you help <I can sure try.> I live in Scotland where my tap water has a ph of 7.5, I filter though Irish peat moss and get a ph of 6.8; I have a Trigon 190 tank running internal filter and a Fluval 104 <Umm, 190 *what*?  Gallons (US? UK?) ?  Liters?  Something else?> I have 8 Corys and 26 tetras how many discus can I stock at 3 1/2 in my tank? <3 1/2 what?  Inches?  Centimeters?  Well, *current* size of the discus is rather irrelevant, as it's best to stock according to what the adult size of the fish will be - but, uhm, tank size *is* crucial, as I'm sure you're aware.  Let us know your tank size (gallons (US, UK), liters, dimensions, or however you like it), and we'll be better equipped to help you out.  -Sabrina> thanks Ian

Discus and water parameters Hello, <Hi!  Sabrina here this lunch hour, finding fun things to occupy myself with> I am setting up a new plant tank that will eventually hold Discus fish.  My tank is a 90 gal. All-glass tank with Eheim 2026 filter, under gravel heater.  Substrate is play sand to cover heating cables, about .5 inch of boiled peat moss, 50lb. of red flint gravel mixed with Laterite and 100lb. of red flint gravel on top. <Sounds wonderful.  If I were a plant, I'd enjoy it in there.> I planted it last week and so far it looks great.  My question is with my water.  Out of the tap it is has about 1200 PPM hardness and a PH about 8.3.   <Zowie.  Well, if it makes you feel any better, my tap spews a pH of 9.2, but a GH and KH both of almost zero.  Very frustrating.> I have a Reverse Osmosis drinking water system and have installed a 40 gal. holding tank with float valve for fish tank water.  So far I am using 75% R.O. water and 25% tap water which gives me a hardness of about 160 PPM although PH is still above 8.  So to bring the PH down I have used 1.5 teaspoons of "Seachem Acid Buffer"  per 20 gal. of water.  This gets my PH to about 6.8 then once in the tank I have a CO2 injection system which monitors and controls PH to about 6.5.   <Sounds wonderful.> Once in the tank however my hardness goes back up to about 360 PPM.  Is this caused by the "Seachem Acid Buffer"? <Quite possibly, yes.> I would really like to end up with PH 6.5 and hardness about 200 PPM for the Discus.  Any suggestions? <Well, first off, unless the discus are wild, pH and hardness really aren't that crucial any more.  I know a discus breeder that keeps, breeds, and raises his discus in a pH of slightly over 8.0.  It's far more important that the pH remains stable than anything.  I would definitely stop with the acid buffer if you're really bent on keeping the hardness down, and instead, keep a lot of bogwood in your water holding bucket, and/or filter with peat.  This will stain the water a rich tea color, but you may already be experiencing that with the peat in your substrate.  Frankly, I like the stain of the tannins in my water, so to me, it's desirable, but I do know that some folks don't like that.  I've heard that the stain can be removed by filtering with carbon, but I don't know from firsthand experience.> Thanks!  Kurt

Discus Hiya, thanks beforehand if you can help us. <Sure thing!> We are wanting to set up a discus and angelfish tank, with the possibility of some tetras. Have got a 75gal tank, about 3ft in length,2ft tall and 1 1/2ft width. With a Eheim 2026 pro 2 for filtration, not set up yet!   <Sounds like fun!> We have tested our water after having left it for a week, aerating and heated, in a bucket. We have a ph of spot on 7, which is not acid enough for discus. <Unless you're set on getting wild discus, 7.0 is absolutely fine.  Try to get them from a reliable local breeder, and you're even better off.  Just like common angelfish, discus have been bred in captivity for so long that they are quite able to tolerate a much wider range of pH and hardness than their wild brethren.> And the GH is way high for them at 300ppm. <That IS pretty darn high - but again, get 'em from a local breeder, and you should be okay.> Everything else tests fine.  Is it practical for us to think about keeping discus? <Yes, absolutely!> We have read many pages of your brill website. On subjects of peat and RO etc... Not really fully understanding how difficult each will be. We have looked into the expense of RO units and would consider if necessary, the hardness is too great for our current 40 gal community tank also. <RO is definitely worth looking into, if you can afford it.> Is other methods of using peat and carbon etc.. an easy enough task. <Frankly, I lower the extremely high pH (8.4-9.2) of my tapwater with peat and bogwood alone, bringing it to about 7.0, then further with CO2 addition.  Very simple - I keep lots of peat in my filter (I use Sunshine brand from the garden store, just make sure there are no mildewcides or other poisons), and I keep a filter bag full of peat and a chunk of bogwood in my water mixing bucket, where I let the water age for about a week before using it for water changes.  I like the brown stain of the tannins, so I do not remove this with carbon.> Would just greatly appreciate  your opinion on where to go from here, with it only been a single 75 gal tank. We would both like discus because off their eye-catching size really, our community tank has lots of smaller fishes.   <I don't see any reason for you not to go for it.> We like the Oscars also but believe the dimensions and size of this tank is not a realistic home for them. <Agreed, wholeheartedly.> Would like a planted tank ideally, most plants also require soft water don't they? <Not necessarily.  Most hardy plants will do well for you.  Do please consider injecting CO2, either with a pressurized system (if funds allow) or a DIY yeast system.> Always told its not a hard water area, but its about 19 dGH. <I'd stay away from horribly delicate plants, but you've got a whole array of plants to choose from that should do alright for you.  You might want to consider using peat, but I don't think it's a terrible necessity, just a happy extra, in your case.  Wishing you well, and have fun with your new tank,  -Sabrina>

We Rock - and Liquid Rock Hi, you guys rock. <Hello.  Thanks.> I have a problem with my freshwater tank.  I have a 110 gallon tank my ph in the tank is 8.2 alkalinity is off the charts <Sounds only too familiar.> We have a water softener (well water is 55grains 1ppm iron) and has a pH of 7.2 again with the alkalinity off the charts <Is your household water softener a DI unit, or the type that uses salt pellets/pillows?  This latter type is not a good idea to use for aquarium water, due to accumulated chloride ions....> our R.O. unit has a ph of 6.2 and with a reading of 30 for the alkalinity <That's certainly a great deal better.  Perhaps not perfect, but far better.>  I would recommend using the RO unit without the water softener at all (unless, as above, the water softener is a DI unit).> I want to keep discus and my live plants a struggling <Get your discus from a local breeder, and discuss your pH with him/her before purchasing.  Most captive bred discus, just like captive bred angelfish, can tolerate (yea, even thrive) in a very broad range of pH and alkalinity.  There are breeders in my area that do not augment the local pH and alkalinity, and have their discus breeding very happily in a ph of 8.5.  I think that's a bit extreme, but they're pushing out more baby discus than you can shake a stick at, and all the broodstock are very, very healthy.  If you are still unhappy with your pH/alk, though, perhaps try using peat to lower it.  I use Sunshine peat, from the garden store - just be sure there are no mildewcides/pesticides.  This will stain your water a rich tea color, but the plants and discus would probably enjoy that.  I know my plants do - and so do I, to be honest.  I understand the stain can be removed with activated carbon, but, not wanting to remove it, I've never tried.> Thank you very much <Sure thing.  Hope all goes well for you.  -Sabrina>

Plant and Discus aquarium set up I have a 65  gallon planted gallon aquarium but I have been looking at a 72 gallon corner aquarium. My current substrate is fluorite and small gravel. I have a Eheim 2026 filter system and provide water in my tank through a holding tank of RO water. I have a glass canopy with a 36" 120w, 110v compact light  and a 36" double tube 75w, 120v. I recently started adding Seachem CO2 Flourish Excel to my tank and overdosed with a loss of all of my fish including 4 clown loaches that I had kept for 7 years. I have restocked and have 2 questions. One relates to the fish I have and whether they are appropriate for each other. The other has to do with the size tank I am considering. <Hopefully I will be able to answer your questions.>   I currently have 4 Clown Loaches, 4 Peacock Gudgeons, 1 Bushy Nosed Pleco, 2 Werneri, 3 Otocinclus and 3 Discus. Is this too many fish for a 72 gallon corner aquarium? <Quite the mix of fish, my one big concern is that Lamprologus Werneri like hard alkaline water where as discus must have softer conditions.  Also Werneri like to be kept in groups of around 5 (one male, the remaining are females).  It might be a bit to many fish, especially as the discus mature, they tend to get quite large.> Also does the system I have described seem adequate for these fish? <I have seen discus kept in corner tanks and they didn't seem to be bothered by the shape.  As for the filtration it seems good.> I plan to purchase a CO2 injector if I can find one that is very easily maintained. I think I saw an automatic one somewhere. Do you have any suggestions? <I do not use a CO2 injector currently, though I have in the past.  There have been some recent innovations in the field of planted aquarium tanks, so I think my old system is poorly out of date.  I would suggest looking through our FAQ section here at WetWebMedia  Start here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/plttkgear.htm  I'm sure you will find something of use for you there, and it will be a good starting off point.> Have corner tanks been successful? <Yes, corner tanks have been successful for many different fish, though, it's a bit difficult with the territorial species.  Some of the nicest marine tanks I have seen are corner set-ups.  I had a small tropical corner tank in my office that I thought was very impressive.  They offer a nice depth, and can fill in any sort of unusable corner.> I would love to go to a 90 but I don't think I have room. Thanks for your help. <90 gallon tanks are very nice, but, if you don't have the room then you shouldn't feel bad.  As it stands now, I imagine your tank should work fine.  Good luck. -Magnus>

Let Me Heal Ya! Or Let Me Show You the Light I have a 150 XH , it is 48 long 24 front to back and 30 inches deep. I am considering putting a planted tank with Discus in it .What would be the best lighting to get good plant growth at 30 inches deep?  < See if you can find some 48 inch florescent light fixtures from the local hardware store that will fit on your tank. Make sure that they have electronic ballasts. I would put two fixtures on this tank with twin bulbs. Your tank is pretty deep so it will take some light to penetrate to the bottom. I prefer ZooMed bulbs. I would use Fluorite from SeaChem as a substrate after it has been well washed. This combination should be enough for you to keep some nice Amazon sword plants.>  Do you have a good online vendor to buy Discus from?  < There use to be many discus breeders from all over the country that specialized in all kinds of discus. Unfortunately many of them quit because discus in the orient became so cheap that it was easier to buy these imports than to go through all the trouble of raising their own. If you like the fancy domesticated discus then I would look at aquabid.com and see if you can find anybody close to sell you some discus. If you really want the real thing and get some outstanding wild discus then you need to look at Oliver Lucanus 's website at Belowwater.com. Great fish but he is located in Canada and getting fish from him can be problem. -Chuck>  Thomas Giddens

Regarding discus and high pH Hey crew! It seems there have been some problems with emails and such as its been about a week with no response,  so let's give it another go. < Actually many of the crew have been on vacation but some of us are back at it.> First off, I didn't know much of anything on discus until I stumbled upon this tank, at which point I went crazy reading on the internet for as much information as possible. Ok, so at my LFS where I work I found an extremely neglected planted tank(75g) which house two discus. When I first got hold of it there had been zero maintenance done to it in around half a year from what they tell me. The discus were in horrible condition, hunger strike, shredded fins, nasty water, and a tank full of terrestrial plants, like water lilies, submerged inside of it and decaying left and right. After testing the water on the tank the readings were: temp 84F, zero ammonia/nitrites/nitrates, but the pH was ~7.6. My initial line of thinking was to do whatever I could to lower that pH down to less than seven. So I did a 30% water change using ~7.3 water (R/O @ 7.6 with pH-down). Within an hour of this change it was back up to 7.6, so thinking about it, I feel it might be too difficult to lower and maintain this water in acidity without removing the fish and using some heavy chemicals on it to lower the pH. (CO2 injector is out of the question as per my boss.) Here is what is in the tank now, One ~6in discus, one ~2in discus, and a 6in African knife. Coupled with the source well water being at around 7.6 also, how much of a priority should I place at lowering the pH on this tank? < None! Discus are pretty tough cichlids an can handle a pretty wide range of water conditions. Although the current pH is close to the top of that range I would concentrate on some other things first.> as I figure the buffering capacity on this tank is rather large and I'd be placing a lot of stress on the discus as I try to exhaust it. The substrate is around half an inch of gravel and fluorite. Since I found out about this tank I did a bunch of water changes trying to siphon out the crap in the gravel and with regular "pruning" of dead leaves and such I've been able to get the dominate discus to flare his fins almost all the time now, where as before it was never. The little discus is now eating again and sometimes explores the tank. All I know to feed them are frozen cubes of "discus food" containing beef heart krill and other stuff that kind of dissolves (makes me wonder how old it is ), but I've still never seen the dominate one eat, any suggestions at coaxing or alternate food? < Try live food such as Tubifex /black worms, brine shrimp or live washed earthworms.> Also, I am now doing the ordering for the plants so shortly I will get some real ones (swords/java fern/ crypto wendtii) Ok so after much rambling. Should I spend the time to get the pH lower or will they be fine as they are? < You need to get the tank squared away first. The much needed maintenance that you are performing is good for everybody concerned. When you clean the filter you can add some carbon to remove that yellow brown colored water. This will improve the light intensity of the water. The light bulbs are probably way past their prime so if you are serious about plants then they will need to be changed. Since you only have 1/2 inch of gravel in the tank your not going to get much established in there anyway. Vacuum a portion of the gravel every time you do a water change. Don't do it all at once because it may harm the bacteria in the gravel.> and what are some feeding options besides beef heart? < NEVER! NEVER! NEVER! Feed beef heart to your fish!!!!! Way too much fat. Never feed any type of mammalian protein to your fish. Try some frozen Mysis shrimp or spectrum pellet food. Brine shrimp flake with some Spirulina will be very good for them too.> ghost shrimp? < This is better, but usually any type of bait is poorly taken care of any is pretty much void of nutrients by the time your fish eat it.> This is the best tank for them as I can control it entirely now, and their alternatives are air powered rows of 20 gallon tanks. Also it opts them for the largest swimming space. They are definitely doing better, I just would like a little help on this subject. Thanks again as always < Keep up the good work.-Chuck> Jared

Discus demise After 30 years of fishkeeping, fresh and reef, I just had my first almost total tank wipeout and am still puzzled.  The tank is a two year old planted 100G that has been very stable with three large discus, two large angels, a pair of pearl Gouramis, a Pleco and some tetras.  I did my usual 30G water change Thursday, adjusting the temp and pH, dechlorinating before adding the water. <Yikes... municipal waters are dangerously inconsistent in quality... contrary to what many folks believe. I STRONGLY encourage people to store, aerate their "change water" for a good week (or more) ahead of use, to liberate excess sanitizer (particularly chloramines and their derivatives...)>   This is a many year routine that has always kept the fish happy.  An hour later I noticed that the Aquaclear filter wasn't working.  I couldn't get it working so I installed a new Magnum 350 I had available for emergencies.  This took a few hours but the fish looked just fine.  The next morning every one looked great and fed well.  Nine hours later I came home from work and the water was cloudy and every fish except the Pleco and the Gouramis was dead.  The filter was working, the pH was 6.8 as usual. Nitrates were zero as usual.  Ammonia registered at 0.1, but I think that was probably a result of the deaths, not a cause. <I agree> I don't have a nitrite kit anymore.  Temp was 84.  The Magnum was filled with rinsed new Black Diamond carbon only.  A day, and one more 30% water change later the Pleco and Gourami look fine and the water is still somewhat cloudy. What did I do? <Don't actually think it was something you did... might be a "cascading event"... with the water change causing a check in nitrification, contributing to the demise of one fish, that in turn causing real trouble at such high temperature, small volume considering how much life was in it... resulting in the wipe-out. Notable that the fishes most likely to survive a loss of dissolved oxygen (the Pleco and Gourami) did so...> I am heartbroken over the loss of my beautiful discus and angels and it's worse not knowing why I lost them.  I only briefly rinsed the new filter before using it.  Could there have been something toxic on it? <Possible, but doubtful. I have "toured" facilities (Marineland, Tetra...) and their production, packaging... facilities are paragons of excellence in prevention of contamination. I am much more inclined to consider an anomalous poisoning event... like the tapwater (you can get/use chlorine, chloramine test kits... use these to avoid periodic "pulsing", addition of sanitizer in source water), or ammoniated cleaner getting into the system, even "over-spray" of pesticide from outdoors (e.g. someone in the neighborhood spraying for termites), but most likely the tap and/or cascade scenario stated> I think most of the biologic filtration was from the many plants so I don't think I could have disrupted it that badly with the filter change, though I suppose that's another possibility. <Yes>   Is 0.1 ammonia high enough to kill the fish? <Not of and by itself... but you might have "caught" the concentration on its way down, decreasing from somewhere higher... as you know this material can be quite transient> If so why not the Gouramis and Pleco?  Those angels were tough as nails, about 8 years old (from a previous tank). <As stated, the overall largest difference metabolically between these two and the cichlids is their capacity for aerial respiration>   One other thought is that I added 50cc of Flourish Excel as I hadn't added it in over a month and the instructions say 5cc per 10 gal.  I have heard of  fish deaths with that product, but I assume not when used as directed. <I concur here as well> Any ideas you have would be greatly appreciated.  I feel bad about my fish and don't want to restock until I know what's wrong. Johara <Thank you for writing, sharing. I cannot with 100% confidence state what the root cause/s of your mortalities was, but do have strong suspicions. I encourage you to leave the tank running w/o fish for a few weeks, give yourself some time to grieve, reflect, consider your options, and then slowly re-stock. Bob Fenner>
Re: discus demise
Thanks for the thoughtful response.  I think your thought that there could have been a "pulse" in chloramines is a good possibility.  I almost always use double or triple the recommended Amquel dose, but as I was about out this time I only put in the recommended amount - could have been bad timing. <Yes... years back, when the EPA was phasing out chlorine use there used to be "some dillies", wholesalers with automated water change systems losing most everything... Your water district will have records of the titer of chloramines they added, recorded (the water departments collect samples, mainly from water hydrants... to ascertain that "enough" sanitizer is getting to distal parts of their service... I know of occasions where more than 30 (thirty) times a "regular" dose has been added.> I have decided not to replace the discus and go back to a community tank again, choosing fish that will be happy with the water parameters I get without adjustment.  In my case that is a little unusual, the tap water comes out at a pH close to 9.0, and settles out at 8.5 or so after aeration and Amquel treatment. <Wowzah! Ours (Southern California) is often in the high 7's, low 8's right out of the tap...> I have done a few more 10-20% water changes without adjusting pH to see where the tank settles.  It seems to stay about 7.5 in the AM to 7.8 later in the day.  Before you suggest African cichlids, let me say that both KH and GH are less than 1.0. <Neat, I wonder what your overall water chemistry is like. This you can get from your supplier of water as well>   I use Equilibrium and Na bicarb to keep the tank KH/GH up to 3.0 or so to avoid quick pH shifts.  I don't really understand what water treatment is resulting in very soft but alkaline water but that's what I've got. <Happens>   Letting it sit a week does not change the pH by the way.  I believe rainbows are supposed to do well in those conditions.  Any other ideas? <There are many. I encourage you to stick with the theme you have in mind... and seek out fishes, non-fish livestock from the same biotopes as the Rainbows. Such data can be gleaned through the use of fishbase.org... looking up the Rainbows, getting their source/location and doing a search by region for others...> Thanks again for taking the time to hear and comment on my sad story. Johara <Thank you. Bob Fenner>

South American Discus Tank Hi, My dream tank is to have a South American tank with several discus, a large shoal of tetras and a few other dwarf cichlids. I have a 75 gallon tank which has been set up for several months now. However, the water here is not like the Amazon-pH of 8.3 out of the tap. I have diluted the tap with some RO water, but even so the hardness is at KH of ~179 ppm and GH of ~250ppm. The pH is above 7.6 and appears to be rising. I realize that the current pH and hardness levels are probably well beyond what a cardinal can survive in. <You'd be better off either mixing in some water that wasn't so hard and alkaline... or better still, starting with reverse osmosis water (the cheapest, simplest, easiest means) and adding a bit of this water to it for mineral> Now having said that, it seems like I have three options: Use primarily RO water. However, the RO water must have some sort of buffer. I am considering using tap water and I don't mind experimenting with various ratios.  I plan on mixing the RO and tap water in a bucket and testing it until I get a good pH/hardness. Will the water remain at those levels, or will the pH fluctuate for the next few days/weeks? <Oh, I see you have thought this through... the bit of tap water will likely serve as sufficient buffer, with regular water changes...> My second option is to use peat moss-will this have a positive impact on the GH and/or KH? <Yes> If I place a small bag of peat moss in the filter (about the size of my fist) how often will I have to change it out? <Mmm, about once a month... to half that. Depends on the type of peat... it will be "exhausted" in terms of its potential beneficial effect in about this amount of time> Third option: go with a schooling tetra that is compatible with discus. I would like a fish that forms a nice tight school. Would Neons, glowlights or bloodfin tetras work. <All would be fine... I prefer Cardinals over Neons myself> Thanks a ton for your great informational website. Nate <Thank you for being part of it. Bob Fenner>  

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