Cultivating a thriving freshwater aquarium can be a wonderful experience but successfully breeding your aquarium fish is even better. Discus fish are a species of cichlid and they are widely known as one of the most colorful species of freshwater fishes. These fish are easily identified by their round, disc-like bodies and their brilliant colors and unique patterns. Simply put, they are one of the most beautiful species of aquarium fish to keep and one of the most interesting to breed as well.
If you enjoy discus fish, you might consider learning how to breed them. Discus fish are a somewhat sensitive breed to keep in the home aquarium so, if you plan to breed them, there are a few preparations you may need to make. Before you attempt to breed your discus fish, take the time to learn how to select a breeding pair, how to prepare the breeding tank and how to care for the fry after your discus fish have spawned. You will learn all of this information and more in the following article.
Selecting a Breeding Pair
If money is not a problem for you, you may be able to purchase a breeding pair of discus fish. In most cases, however, your best bet is to start with a group of six or more juvenile discus fish and to raise them together. Because discus fish are difficult to sex while they are still young, you may need to wait until the fish mature and they may naturally pair off on their own. Female discus fish reach sexual maturity at 12 months of age, while males take a few months more to mature. Once your fish reach sexual maturity, watch for a pair to become territorial about a certain area of the tank. If this pair of discus fish begins defending their territory against other fish, or if they begin pecking at the glass, it could be a sign that they are ready to spawn.
Another option for finding a breeding pair of discus fish is to purchase one male and several females and then to wait for a pair to form. Again, this can be tricky because discus fish are difficult to sex. If you purchase your fish from an experienced discus breeder, however, you may not have a problem. Just make sure you get some sort of guarantee that the fish you buy are of the right sex so you do not end up wasting your money if the breeder makes a mistake. Once you have established that you have a breeding pair in your tank it is important to remove the other fish from the tank or to transfer the pair to the breeding tank in preparation for spawning.
Preparing the Breeding Tank
A breeding tank for discus fish should be about 25 or 30 gallons in capacity and, ideally, it should be tall rather than wide. When setting up your breeding tank it is a good idea to leave the bottom bare – this will make it much easier for you to clean the tank. To keep your tank clean, install a sponge filter
or two in the tank. Sponge filters are a good source of mechanical and biological filtration but they will not produce suction strong enough to put eggs or newly hatched fry in danger. In addition to installing a filter in your breeding tank, you should also install an aquarium heater to maintain a stable tank temperature between 82 and 88F. This temperature range is a few degrees higher than the normal recommended range for discus fish and it should help to stimulate your discus pair to spawn.
Though you should keep the bottom of the tank bare, you can decorate the tank sparsely with a few broad-leafed plants, pieces of driftwood or flat rocks to serve as spawning surfaces. Discus fish tend to lay their eggs on broad, flat surfaces so you need to make sure you have several options available in your breeding tank. If you do not provide plats, rocks, or other spawning surfaces, your discus fish may simply deposit their eggs on the wall of the tank. In order to keep your breeding tank clean, it is important to perform daily water changes of 10% to 15% in addition to weekly 50% water changes. You should also perform weekly water tests in order to monitor and maintain a stable pH
in the tank. The ideal water conditions for a breeding tank for discus fish are warm, soft, and slightly acidic.
Spawning Discus Fish
Once you’ve set up the breeding tank it is important to provide your discus fish with a healthy, varied diet of live, frozen and freeze-dried foods. These foods will condition your breeding pair, preparing them for spawning. In addition to conditioning your fish, you should also watch for them to begin preparing a spawning site – the pair will clean a particular area of the tank and the male of the pair will begin to guard it. If you haven’t already removed other fish from the breeding tank, you definitely need to do it when your discus fish start to display this behavior. If you leave other fish in the tank once spawning occurs, your discus fish could become antagonistic toward the other fish, causing them bodily harm in protecting their eggs.
When your discus fish spawn, they may start by laying just a few eggs in the prepared breeding site and the male will fertilize them immediately after they have been deposited. As the spawning progresses, the female may begin to deposit larger groups of eggs and she will take over the guarding of the spawning site while the male fertilizes the eggs. Following spawning, the discus fish will guard their eggs, fanning the water around them with their fins to prevent the growth of fungus. The eggs should hatch within 50 and 60 hours after spawning and the fry will take a few days to develop before they become free swimming. The free-swimming fry will then begin to follow their parents around the tank, feeding off of the layer of mucus that forms on the bodies of the adult discus fish.
Your discus fish fry should be kept in the tank with their parents for between 10 and 14 days after hatching before being separated and raised to maturity. After separating the fry from their parents, raise the fry on a diet of newly hatched brine shrimp until they become large enough to accept micro worms or chopped bloodworms. The more you feed the fry, the more quickly they will grow. Once the fry grow to about the size of a dime they should be separated into multiple tanks to continue growing – when the fry reach the size of a half dollar they can be sold or added to the community tank. Just make sure that whatever tank you add your discus fish to that there is enough space for them to grow and that there will be no problems with other fish being too aggressive.
The discus fish is not only one of the most beautiful freshwater species in the world, but it can be a joy and a challenge to breed in the home aquarium. If you are serious about breeding your discus fish, you need to take the time to learn the basics about their breeding requirements before you begin. After establishing a breeding pair and setting up a breeding tank you can add your discus fish and let them do the rest.