How Hard Is It To Take Care of Discus Fish?

Author: Kari | Reviewed by: Nancy George | August 15, 2023
aquarium fish, discus, discus fish
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Photo by savannah rohleder discus fish

Discus cichlids are beautiful, freshwater, tropical fish that many new pet owners think are difficult to care for. However, this is really a myth, and discus fish are generally easy to care for when owners are educated on how to set up their tanks properly.

How-Hard-Is-It-To-Take Care Of Discus Fish

What Size Tank Do You Need for Discus Fish?

The simple answer is 10 gallons of fresh water per one discus fish. So, with three discus fish, you need a tank of at least 30 gallons. However, keep in mind that any other community fish or aquatic animals you add to your habitat will require their own space, and it’s always better to size up than down when it comes to any fish tank.

Discus fish also seem to live happier and healthier in tanks that are taller rather than wider, and they do well when surrounded by other fish of their own kind. That being said, you can have one or two discus living in a smaller tank by themselves, but it will actually save you cleaning time by having more discus in a larger tank. Smaller tanks tend to get dirty quicker and need more frequent water changes, while larger tanks require less water changes.

Tetra 29-Gallon Glass Aquarium

For two discus cichlids, this aquarium is the perfect size since it offers an extra nine gallons of space for the pair. This basic tank is made from tempered glass and has an open top for you to fit with your own hood, light or heater, as you see fit for your fish.

Coralife LED BioCube Aquarium Kit

For a discus tank with high-tech features, check out this aquarium kit by Coralife. This kit comes with a 32-gallon tank, submersible water pump and customizable filtration chamber so that you can add your own filter to your setup. Another great feature of this tank is its lighted hood that runs on a 24-hour timer to provide day and night light channels for your fish.

Discus Fish Pair

Savannah Rohleder on Pixabay

What Do I Need for a Discus Tank?

Once you have a tank for your discus fish, you’ll need to fill it with decorations, sand and rocks. The decorating is really up to you as a pet owner, as discus fish aren’t picky about the furniture in their tanks.

Discus fish do need a specific water temperature and pH level, which requires extra equipment. You’ll want a tank water heater to keep the temperature between 82 and 85-degrees Fahrenheit, as well as a steady supply of fresh, filtered water to add to the tank at a pH level of 6 to 7. You can use water from a reverse osmosis filter to get this type of pH balance or you can treat regular tap water with chemicals founds in the aquatic section of most pet stores.

Discus Tank Decorations

The colors of discus fish really shine when the lighting of their tank shines with just the right intensity. You can add a light strip, like the TETRA GloFish 6-inch LED Aquarium Light, to the hood of your cichlids' tank to make their colors more vibrant, especially if your current tank does not have a light or has too dull of a light for your fish.

While it isn't always necessary for the discus fish, adding decorations to your cichlids' tank can make it more visually appealing to you as their caretaker. One simple addition you can make is with an aquarium background, which is a thin, decorative sheet that can be attached to the back wall of your tank and can hide any cords or wiring behind your tank. This aquarium background by Seaview is reversible and comes in a large size that is meant to be cut to the size of your tank's walls.

What Is the Best Filter for a Discus Tank?

Discus are messy eaters and they make their tanks very dirty, very quickly. A lot of discus owners believe the only way to clean up after them is by daily water changes, but that isn’t necessary with an effective filter system.

The ideal type of filter for discus is a hang on the back (HOB) filter. It’s also suggested that you choose a filter that runs for a tank one size larger than the one you will use it in. For example, if you have your discus in a 55-gallon tank, consider using a filter designed to clean a 100-gallon tank.

When you have the right tank setup, it’s pretty simple to take care of discus fish.

large aquarium

Tetra Whisper Aquarium Filter

For most discus fish tanks, this aquarium filter by Tetra is perfect because it can be fitted for tanks of 10, 20, 30, 45 or 60 gallons. For three or more discus fish, the 45-gallon filter will work best since it is designed to take care of a maximum of four large fish at a time. This filter also uses a patented sound-dampening system that eliminates all filter noises, and it is easy to take care of since cleaning just requires the changing of a filter cartridge.

Fluval Aquarium Underwater Filter

Another great filter for discus fish is this underwater filter that can be used in both freshwater or saltwater environments. While it comes in a range of sizes, the 24–40 and 34–65-gallon sizes will work best for discus fish in pairs or groups of up to five. Highlights of this filter system include two types of foam filters, which can trap large debris, as well as small bacteria, and an attachable spray bar that prevents harsh currents of water from exiting the filter.

SunSun HW-304B Aquarium UV Sterilizer Canister Filter

For fish tanks holding a maximum of 150 gallons, this filter is the ultimate system to use when you want to filter debris, bacteria and chemicals from the water of your discus tank. This filter, unlike many others, is made to be placed outside of the tank, and it has four separate removable filtration trays. It also has a built-in UV light sterilizer, a drip-free shut-off tap and an aerating spray bar that is placed within the tank.

About the Author

savannah rohleder discus fish


Kari is a long-time pet lover and owner. She has experience raising cats, dogs, rabbits, and aquatic life. Whenever she's not writing, she's probably baking homemade dog treats or camping with her family and their own four-legged friends![...] Author Details

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