Minimum Tank Sizes for Discus Fish

In nature, many discus fish inhabit the Amazon.
In nature, many discus fish inhabit the Amazon. (Image: NASA/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Discus fish are family Cichlidae creatures that hail originally from South America. In their natural habitat, these cichlids typically live in rivers that are full of water that is soft and slightly acidic. Outside of thise rivers, you'll find a lot of discus fish living in aquariums, too. They tend to possess meek and low-key basic dispositions.

Minimum Tank Size

Mature discus fish often achieve lengths of around 6 inches. They require tanks that can comfortable accommodate their length -- generally, 35 gallons or more. Not only is the amount of water the aquarium can handle imperative, so is the height. As a group, discus fish flourish in tanks with lots of vertical space.

Cramped Quarters

Cramped quarters in tanks are not conducive to the optimal well-being and health of discus fish -- or any other kinds of fish, for that matter. If you have a tank that accommodates 50 gallons of water, for instance, never, ever allow more than 12 members of this species to take up residence in it, no matter what. Remember, however, that if you refresh the water a lot, your tank generally can manage higher numbers of fish.

Hiding Spots

No matter how spacious your tank might be, a lot of hiding spots are never a bad idea for discus fish. Hiding spots can function as comforting havens, especially in times of fierce behavior. A lot of discus battles are centered around the quest for dominance, especially among youngsters. Like all cichlids, discus fish are occasional prone to territorial patterns. Some plants that often work well in tanks of discus fish include water sprites, Amazon sword plants and Java ferns -- all plants that can succeed in both raised H20 temperatures and softer water. Never select plants for aquariums at random, as all fish and water types have their own specific needs. It is not unheard of, though, for aquariums with discus fish to be completely devoid of plants. Stones and logs also can be appropriate hiding areas for them.

Other Tank Considerations

Since schooling is a way of life for discus fish, they have to have the company of their own kind. Keep them in groups of four to six specimens. They thrive in species tanks because of their own elevated water temperature demands, which are drastically different to those of many others. In some cases, however, they can also do well with different types of fish, as long as the specific fish also appreciate heat -- think clown loaches (Chromobotia macracanthus) and cardinal tetras (Paracheirodon axelrodi). Angelfish are a big no-no for them, as they are susceptible to parasites that can prove deadly to discus fish -- not good at all.

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