Feeding Discus

Discussion in 'Discus' started by Warren, Dec 7, 2006.

  1. Warren
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    Warren Noob

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    I am a firm believer in growing out in BB and moving into Show Tank as young adults or when they have reached a size I'm happy with. In a BB you can feed them like pigs while keeping the water quality near perfect. I was wondering though what amount and frequency everyone feeds their discus in their planted tank to balance water quality and keeping their discus fat and happy. I assume W/C regimine may also be closely related to this question. For those that have planted tanks w/o discus, do you adjust your regimine greatly for the Discus vs non-Discus tanks? Do you make adjustments in the types of food you feed in a planted vs. BB tank.

    Regards

    Warren
     
  2. Len
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    Len Algae harvester

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  3. Dirk B
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    Dirk B Aquascaper

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    Hi Warren,

    I have kept discus since 1987, so I think that I can give you a bit of advice on your question. As you say, you can feed discus like pigs in a bare bottom tank, but this cannot be done in the same fashion in a planted tank. Discus require large amounts of food and high quality food as you seem to know. This is because discus require high temperatures (29 C minimum) and as a result they have a very high metabolic rate and require a high energy intake. In a BB tank, after feeding you just simply siphon off the mess and replace with suitable water. At the same time effectively you perform the required water changes whereby you can keep the nitrate levels low which is essential in discus keeping. In addition, discus want soft water, i.e. water with low levels of dissolved ions in particular calcium and magnesium, and so you can adjust your water with RO water to keep the levels of these elements suitably low.

    To a large extent, this is in conflict with a planted tank. A planted tank requires plant nutrients in correct amounts and ratios which means you have to add this to the water, and macro elements such as calcium and magnesium must be added to the water if they are not already present in your tap water. If you keep discus in such a tank, you must still do your water changes to remove nitrate build up, but you need to add the plant nutrients every time you do a water change. The waste that is produced by discus, also creates a problem in a planted tank in that it is problematic to remove. You must siphon it off and this is labour intensive, there is no doubt about this.

    As a result of these conflicts, many discus tanks are planted with large background plants, many with bogwood, but with very few fine foreground plants. This would then allow you to clean the gravel and do regular water changes a lot more easily than with a heavily planted tank. You should also consider using fine gravel, I find that fine swimming pool gravel works very well, as the waste cannot fall in between the cavities between a course gravel. You should also consider keeping some catfish which will help you with the cleaning, such as Ancistrus, which clean up left over food and clean the glass as well. The choice of catfish is however critical, as Plecostomus will compete with discus for food, whilst some of the Ancistrus again cannot cope with the higher temperatures.

    After these many years of discus keeping, my personal opinion, and please note that this is my personal opinion, is that I will not try to keep discus in a planted aquarium again, I will only keep them in BB tanks as the management that they require, can be done much more easily in such a tank and I am not prepared to battle with the labour of keeping them in a planted tank.

    Kind regards,

    Dirk Bellstedt
     
  4. Alec
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    Alec Noob

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    Just like Dirk, I've tried several times   (three) with some determination to keep discus in planted tanks. After all, who wants a bare tank in a living room?
    Each time I soon came face to face with the realities of raising young discus to adulthood. They need a lot of feeding, eg at 5cm perhaps 5 times a day with small amounts, slackening off to twice a day when fully grown.
    The fact is that a discus should be a good adult size at 12 months, and that means lots of feeding. So each time I ended up removing the gravel and plants and wondering why I hadn't learned the lesson properly the first time out! There was just no other way to keep the tank hygiene up to the high standard that discus need to do really well.

    I have known someone raise young fish to a good size in a planted tank, and he did it with a shoal of bronze corydoras that became really big and fat. Eventually he had to break it down, and the mess in the gravel was just unbelievable. He said he'd never try it again.

    However, having said all that, keeping adults might be a little easier in a large planted tank. They don't need quite the same amount of food as youngsters especially if the objective is just to keep them ticking over and provide an ornament.
    There used to be a shop in London called The Highgate Aquarist run by a guy called Eberhard Schultze. He specialized almost entirely in discus. In the front room of his shop he had a huge ornamental planted tank (for those days). I can't remember the dimensions, must have been something like 240cm x 60 x 60, something like that.
    In it he had a good number of heckel and either blue or turquoise discus of adult size. There was also a shoal of what must have been over 200 cardinal tetras. I saw the tank myself when I went one day to buy a batch of young wild-caught heckels from him.
    It was really spectacular. But so far as I know the fish never did any breeding, it was purely for show.

    If just a mated pair of adults was kept, that could be very carefully hand-fed in an open area, that might also be a possibility.

    But if it's a matter of raising very expensive young fish to become top class adults, personally I wouldn't try it that way.

    Alec
     
  5. Alec
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    Alec Noob

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