Symphysodon, colloquially known as discus, is a genus of cichlids native to the Amazon river basin in South America. Due to their distinctive shape, behavior, and bright colors and patterns, discus are popular as freshwater aquarium fish, and their aquaculture in several countries in Asia is a major industry. They are sometimes referred to as pompadour fish.
Discus are members of the Family Cichlidae and are sometimes referred to as “King of the Aquarium” because of their majestic beauty and regal colors. At least three species have been described, although debate continues over the validity of several assigned scientific names. Wild caught discus can be challenging to keep, due to their specialized water chemistry and dietary needs, however, most discus sold today are captive bred and are much easier to keep. That said, they are not for beginners for a variety of reasons. Through selective breeding, numerous color varieties are available and more continue to be developed. For care and maintenance purposes, the information presented here can also be used for wild caught P. scalare and P. altum angelfish, as well as Uaru.
Discus in the Aquarium
Discus grow to be quite large and require an aquarium of 75 gallons or larger when full grown. Tall aquariums are best to accommodate their body shape. Water movement should be gentle, and décor should include large broadleaf plants and driftwood that is arranged vertically to simulate downed branches and trees. A few floating plants can also be added to provide shaded areas and cover. Substrate should be sand or fine to medium grade, smooth-surfaced gravel as discus like to forage along the bottom for food.
In nature, discus eat a considerable amount of plant material and detritus, but also forage along the bottom looking for worms and small crustaceans. They are omnivores and will thrive on Tropical Flakes, Color Flakes, Spirulina flakes, Tropical Granules, Algae Rounds and Shrimp Pellets. Frozen and live foods should also be fed as treats or to help induce spawning. Some hobbyists and breeders feed their discus beef heart, and while it is not harmful, it is certainly not a natural food for discus. For best results, rotate their diet daily and feed only what they can consume in 2 to 3 minutes, once or twice a day.