Lately there have been a lot of small discus on the market and while they can present an inexpensive way to get into the discus hobby their care can be a challenge for even the best of aquarists. Small discus (I'm talking 2" and smaller here) have very specific needs that if not met can result in their rather rapid demise however if the correct parameters are provided raising them can be a very rewarding experience. I hope to address some of the basic care requirements in this post. This is a summary of the questions that I am asked most frequently. If you are reading this and can think of any additional questions please let me know and I will add my recommendations to the list.
#1 Start with good stock. If you start with unhealthy fish it doesn't matter how well cared for they are it is going to be a struggle to keep them alive. Things to look for when buying small discus... they should be active and eat instantly when offered food. Colours should be light (not black). When you view the fish head on it should be thick bodied, not paper thin. The fins should be fully erect, not clamped. Eyes should be clear and well proportioned not too large looking compared to the body size. Large eyes are a sign of stunting.
#2 Be willing to do daily water changes. This is the real key to success. A daily water change of at least 90%. I like to start by using a cloth to wipe down the surfaces inside the aquarium I then drain all the water I can, rinse the filter media in the old water, and then refill the tank with water of the same temperature. Add only water conditioner to the new water, no other chemicals or additives.
#3 Tank size: I like to aim for a stocking density of around 1-2 gallons per discus. Keeping them densely stocked helps them feel safe which in turn results in better appetites and more outgoing personalities. It also helps to spread out aggression. I also find that covering the back and sides of the aquarium with light coloured paper helps the discus to feel comfortable.
#4 Water Parameters: The most important thing is to keep the water conditions stable. For that reason I recommend using dechlorinated tap water and not making any adjustments. It doesn't matter if the PH is 6.0 and soft or 8.0 and hard or anywhere in between. The discus will do equally well regardless of PH and hardness. The temperature should be high, between 86F-88F is ideal.
#5 Lighting: Light should be provided 24/7.
#6 Filtration: Good aeration is key, an air stone connected to an air pump will help keep the oxygen level high. I generally like to avoid filters like sponge filters because they trap dirt and are hard to get completely clean. A hang on back filter or corner filter filled with ceramic media is much easier to clean and will provide a place for beneficial bacteria to live.
#7 No substrate: You need to keep the tank very clean and it just isn't possible to do that with gravel in the tank. A bare bottom tank is essential for small discus.
#8 Feeding: A high protein food will provide good growth, Australian Freeze Dried Black Worms are ideal at 66% protein and discus will eagerly accept them. They should be fed as many times as possible throughout the day with the minimum number of feedings being three. There is no upper limit on the number of feedings you give them.
#9 Don't mix them with other fish.
#10 Take steps to prevent Gas Bubble Disease when doing water changes. More details can be found here: https://www.bcaquaria.com/forum/canad...prevent-25972/
Today I had the pleasure of meeting "Fish rookie" who's story is a common one. He is new to discus, has tried once to keep a group of little ones and they didn't do well. We have exchanged PM's over the past week and he has now set-up a tank following the above recommendations. As of today his tank has been stocked with 6 quarter size discus from my own breeding program. He has kindly agreed to post some photos in this thread and provide details on what he is doing with his set up. I would like to send a huge thank-you to Fish rookie for agreeing to share his experience so that others may also learn from it! Make sure to check back in the next day or two for his update.