Fishkeeping is a beautiful hobby, and those who fall for it usually do so for a lifetime. It starts with a small aquarium, several plants and a school of small fish. Then the number of fish grows, new species are added, larger, more interesting, more complex. The aquarium gradually becomes larger, and usually it turns out one is not enough. The most important impetus for enlargement and expansion is the first success with breeding fish in a social aquarium.
I went through the same journey of developing this beautiful hobby. At a time when I was intensively looking for a new Altum Scalare (Angelfish), I met a breeder who kept discus fish and a new phase of my aquarium fish keeping began. I totally fell for the spell of the discus. It was magical to watch the majestic adult pairs of discus preparing to spawn, cleaning the spawning cone and then laying eggs.
It did not take long for my initial enthusiasm to turn into action…! I told myself “I will build my own small fish farm for keeping and breeding the discus.” But where to place it? Coincidently, the hot water pipes ran through the cellar in our apartment building, keeping the temperature at nearly 26 degrees Celsius. It would be great so I decided to put it there. The discus require a temperature between 28 – 30 degrees Celsius for successful breeding. This would be easily provided by indoor heating. Thus, I had a place so I started to build an aquarium stand. I carefully thought out everything, drew it and asked a friend to weld and treat it with zinc coating, which would ensure its stability even in a humid environment. The load capacity of the stand had to be sufficient for three rows of aquariums. The first two rows were for aquariums for adolescent and adult fish and were of dimensions 150 x 50 x 50 cm and 375 liters. A total of 4 aquariums. On top of that, spawning tanks located at the top of the hottest floor are 50 x 50 x 50 cm and 125 liters. Total 2,250 liters. That would be enough to begin with.
The stand was made and now it needed to be fitted with aquariums. I knew that a farm, even a small one, would require a lot of maintenance time. And that’s why I had a hole drilled in the bottom of all the larger aquariums, so I could place there a drain pipe for a quick water change. Regular and frequent water changes are one of the most important keys to successful discus breeding. It is essential to monitor the water quality and exchange about 30% of the water volume in the aquarium every 2 to 3 days, especially at the beginning of the installation of new aquariums, when the filters are not yet in use. After letting the filters run for some time, the water change interval can be extended up to a week, but that’s the maximum. The discus, living predominantly in the largest river in the world, the Amazon and its tributaries, is very susceptible to the content of fumes in aquarium water. Nitrogenous substances are the most common products of intensive keeping of discus but also of other aquarium fish. These are produced in the aquarium by bacterial decomposition of organic impurities, which are mainly fish excrements and unused food residues. Nitrogenous NO2 and NO3 nitrates are particularly important of nitrogenous compounds.
Now we come to another very important key to successful discus breeding. That is biological filtration. Beneficial bacteria that settle filters and filter media, break down fish excretions and other organic matter. There may be a problem with the accumulation of nitrogenous substances especially with freshly-based aquariums where beneficial bacteria have not been able to grow sufficiently yet. Especially nitrites are very dangerous because they can cause a reduction in fish immunity and poisoning, resulting in a rapid fish death even from very small concentration. The optimal prevention of these problems is again regular water changes, replenishment of beneficial bacteria and bacterial stems directly into the filter and at the same time into the water. Ideally, it should also be enriched with essential vitamins and ingredients enhancing fish resistance, immunity and stress reduction.
Discuses are challenging to breed but at the same time they are very hardy and can survive a long time even in an environment that doesn’t suit them very well. In which case, however, the fish are attacked by a number of diseases, especially parasites, intestinal worms, flagellates, etc. Appropriate environment, regular care, diligence and compliance with the main principles of breeding is the best prevention against these problems. Then the discuses will reward you with their beautiful appearance and intense growth.