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Breeding Discus Part 8

Previously we went over how to artificially raise the fry. Now we will go over raising the fry naturally. Next we will go over growing out the baby discus.

Growing out fry requires very little work on your part. The parents do all of the work for you. Unfortunately, it is very common for the parents to eat the babies, so most breeders artificially raise the fry. There are advantages to naturally raising the fry over and above that it is much easier. Discus fry eat the slime off the parent’s side for the first 10 days to two weeks. This slime is very high in protein and contains antibodies that help the babies fight off disease. Naturally raised fry will grow much faster at first and will have more resistance to disease throughout their lives.

Once the fry become free swimming, they will instinctively go to the sides of the parents to feed. They will go back and forth, usually in groups between the male and female parents. They do not show a preference for father or mother. There is nothing more beautiful in the fish world than a pair of discus, in full spawning coloration, swimming with a school of small babies at their side.

Things you should remember. First, these babies will be very small and weak, so you will need to turn off all filtration, except for a sponge filter. The biggest mistake that you can make is to do a water change in this aquarium with water that is not EXACTLY the same temperature. Discus fry are extremely sensitive to temperature shock and will die if you do a water change with water that is more than a few degrees different in temperature. With that said, discus fry are also very sensitive to ammonia burn, [...]

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Breeding Discus Part 7

Previously we went over your options with raising the fry once they become free swimming. Now we will go over how to artificially raise the fry. Next we will go over raising the fry naturally.

The secrets to artificially raising the fry are what you have all been waiting for. This is where the few who have gotten to this point successfully will usually fail.

There are two keys to raising the fry artificially: Cleanliness is one, changing the water with water that is the same temperature is the other.

Step 1: Using a 1 gallon glass jar, fill it with the tank water the parents (& eggs) are in. Put the eggs, and what they were laid on, in the jar (quickly and calmly). Step 2: Place the jar in a small 5 gallon tank filled with water at 84f (50w heater is required). Also put a hydrosponge in the 5 gallon tank and turn it on. This will keep the jar warm and allow the tank to cycle. I always have filters in my 5 gals so they are cycled. Step 3: Add an airstone to the jar. Turn it on medium so that there is a good current in the jar (don’t blast the eggs though). Step 4: Add three drops of methylene blue. Three drops works well and allows you to observe the eggs. Step 5: Wait. They will begin hatching in two days. Step 6: Wait. They will start free swimming in three days. Step 7: As soon as they become free swimming, give them their first feeding. Use artificial plankton and rotifers (a.p.r.) used for feeding marine filter feeders. Add only a very small amount. Step 8: 4 hrs later remove the jar from the 5g tank and float a small Rubbermaid tub in [...]

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Breeding Discus Part 6

Previously we went over fry prior to them becoming free swimming. Now we will go over what to do after they become free swimming. Next we will go over fry after they become free swimming.

Now the hardest part of discus breeding starts. This is where the few have gotten to this point successfully will usually fail. You now have to make a critical decision. Do you let the discus raise their own fry naturally or do you artificially raise them. Both ways have their advantages and disadvantages. We will briefly discuss the advantages and disadvantages of both methods.

The main advantage to letting the Discus raise their own fry is that it is MUCH less work. Other than keeping the water ultra clean via water changes, as you will not be able to run any filters except a sponge filter, there is not much to be done different to what you normally do. The huge disadvantage is that the parents will eat the fry a majority of the time. They will do it very quickly, you will not know they are eating them and there is really nothing you can do to prevent it. There is one other advantage to naturally raising the fry that most people tend to forget. Fry that feed off the natural slime of their parents receive antibodies from their parents, thereby making them much more resistant to disease later in their life.

Conversely, the advantages and disadvantages to artificially raising the fry is just the opposite. There will be two to three weeks of caring for your fry every few hours, 24 hours a day. The positive side, your chances of getting the fry past this stage is greatly increased.

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Breeding Discus Part 5

Previously we went over Discus fertility. We will now go over the fry prior to them becoming free swimming. Next we will go over fry after they become free swimming.

This is the easiest part of spawning and is also one of the most fascinating.

After 48 to 72 hours, depending mainly on water temperature, the eggs will begin to hatch. Only the dark ones will hatch. They are dark because after about 36 hours, the eye starts to develop and will show through the egg sack. Most of the fry will stay attached to the surface where the eggs were laid via a small membrane on their head. A few will become detached and will fall to the bottom. At this point the fry will look like a small comma to the naked eye. Under magnification, they are quite ugly and will look like something straight out of a monster movie.

They will remain attached to the substrate for another 48 to 72 hours. There is not much to do at this point. They will have an egg sack and will live off of it during this entire time. There are only two real concerns. The first is the parents eating them. If you are going to artificially raise the fry, you will want to take the parents out. If you are not going to artificially raise the fry, you should cover them with a screen. The second concern is fungus. Adding Methylene Blue to the water will mostly solve this. If you are going to artificially raise them, and have taken the parents out of the tank, you should add aeration about one inch from the fry to keep the water moving around them. They will start to become free swimming about 2 to 3 days after hatching.

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Breeding Discus Part 4

We have previously gone over the problem of Discus eating their eggs while spawning, or shortly thereafter. We will now go over fertility. Next we will go over what happens once the eggs hatch, but before the fry are free swimming.

Fertility is an issue with Discus and will vary drastically between different pairs. Some pairs will be totally infertile; other pairs will be infertile at first and then will become fertile. On pairs that are fertile, the percentage of fertile eggs will range from just a few to, best case scenario, about 80% fertility.

There are three main causes of infertility in Discus. The first one is mechanical and is caused by the male not doing his job and fertilizing the eggs. The second and third are biological and are due to either the eggs or sperm being genetically or chemically infertile.

When Discus lay eggs, the male should follow the female on a fertilizing run as soon as she does an egg laying run. Some males only make the run after every two or three egg laying runs. It is my experience that these males tend to have a lower fertility rate. Some males will not fertilize at all. These tend to be the males that also are most aggressive on eating the eggs. There is very little you can do to change these males.

Some Discus are infertile due to water chemistry. To optimize fertility, water temps should be kept constant between 84 and 88 degrees. Ph should be kept constant at 6.5. Heavy filtration, if possible, is a big plus. I try and avoid doing water changes at this time.

Discus that are genetically infertile will never be fertile. Please note that keeping water temperatures above 96 degrees for over a week will usually result in [...]

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Breeding Discus Part 3

We will now go over what to expect after the eggs have been laid. This is where the frustration starts. The first two issues that you will be confronted with are eating of the eggs, especially by the male, and infertility. We will go over the eating of the eggs first. We will go over fertility in the next part of the series.

The number one problem, and the one you must get past, with breeding discus is the eating of the eggs by the parents. While both parents will eat the eggs, the male does it more often. This is often done as they spawn and there is very little you can do if this occurs while spawning. The female will make her egg-laying run and then the male, instead of following her with a fertilizing run, will follow her and eat the row of eggs. This behavior is most common in new pairs. A majority of new discus pairs will eat their eggs. Fortunately, they will often stop this behavior as they become a more mature spawning pair. If you get lucky and they do not eat their eggs when spawning, there is a good chance that they will eat them before they hatch. Fortunately, if you get this far, there is something you can do. You can, at this point, take the eggs out and artificially raise them or you can take a mesh screen (house soffit screen works very well) and fit it directly over the eggs. This will allow the discus to still blow on the eggs and bond with them, but will keep them from eating the eggs. Obviously, you will need to have planned for the spawning and will need to have created the screen prior to the actual spawn. If the eggs [...]

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Breeding Discus Part 2

The spawning process is the pinnacle of Discus keeping. This has always been my favorite part of Discus keeping and I still, 30 years after my first spawn, find it fascinating.

The first sign that your discus are getting ready to spawn will be their obsession with cleaning a rock, or filter tube or side of the aquarium. Once you see both of them doing this, spawning will usually follow within a day or two. You will also see them start doing the mating dance. They will swim towards each other at a slightly upward angle. Once they get next to each other, they will shimmer and then swim away from each other at a slightly lowered angle. The most spectacular aspect of the spawning will be the colors of your Discus. Whatever their color, it will become MUCH more intense and vibrant during spawning. This will be the prettiest you will ever see your Discus. They will also become aggressive toward other fish, including Discus, at this time. They will aggressively defend the breeding site from all intruders, including you.

At some point after your Discus start doing all of the above, they will actually lay the eggs. It will start with the female rubbing her belly, and her breeding tube, against the surface that they have cleaned. She will always lay in an upwards motion. The total length of the spawning run will be between ½ and three inches. She will lay between 1 and 12 eggs per spawning run. The male Discus will usually then follow directly behind her in the same basic motion spraying the eggs. You usually cannot see the actual cloud. The entire process can take between one and five hours.

This is when the fun is over and the frustration can start. The [...]

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Breeding Discus Part 1

The first thing you need to understand is that you are not in total control. If Discus do not want to pair off, there is nothing you can do about it. The only thing you can do is provide the right conditions so that it is more likely that they will pair off.

If you have a sexed pair and they are the only discus in the tank, it is likely, about a 70% chance, that they will eventually pair off if left together for a long period of time.

To hurry our potential young lovers along, we provide conditions that are conducive for fishy love. We put seven mature Discus in a 125 gallon tank and let them acclimate to it for two weeks. We then start doing some sudden changes in the tank conditions to stimulate courtship. Some of the changes we make are

Change the water temperature to 78 degrees for a few days and then bring it up to 88 degrees over about 12 hours and then leave it at 88 degrees for the remainder of a week. Let the tank get somewhat dirty, not doing the daily water changes for a few days and then doing a 80% water change. Feed them heavily for a few days and then stop feeding them for two days, followed by feeding them live food for three days. Do two 60% water changes four hours apart where the Ph goes from 6.5 to 7.0 at the first change and then from 7.0 to 7.5 at the second change.  Leave the tank dark for two full days and then turn the lights on for two full days.

If we have tried all of the above and after two months they still have not paired off, we switch out four of [...]

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Acclimation Instructions for Newly Shipped Fish

Unpacking Your Shipment

Your new fish should be kept in a separate, isolation tank for at least 2 weeks.

If you do not have a separate isolation tank, any other large container that is free of chemicals may be used. Make sure that you put a heater and aeration in the temporary tank. Remember, this is only temporary. The temporary isolation tank should be a bare bottom tank with nothing in it other than the aeration and a heater (no plants, snails, fake plants, gravel, driftwood, decorations or other fish).  After two weeks, When the fish are showing no signs of stress or disease, they can be moved to their permanent aquarium.


It is urgent that you unpack your fish as soon as possible. Float the bag in the isolation aquarium where they are going to stay. DO NOT open the bag at this time! You may find that you need to remove some of the aquarium water to prevent it from overflowing when the bags are placed in the aquarium. If necessary, remove some aquarium water into a clean plastic bucket or other food safe receptacle. Be sure the container for excess water does not have any reside from household cleaners or other potentially toxic chemicals, as you will use this water to refill the aquarium later.

Allow the bags to float for at least 45 minutes to allow temperatures to slowly equalize (longer if necessary). Open the fish bags only when you are ready to immediately put them into your aquarium. DO NOT put any water from your aquariums into the bags or vice-versa! Avoid netting as much as possible.  Gently pour off most of the water [...]

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Introduction: Columnaris (Flexibacter columnare) is a very common type of bacterial infection in Discus. It responds somewhat differently than other Bacterial Infections and is not limited to the skin, but affects the gills and sometimes it also infects the internal organs causing liver failure and sepsis. It is always associated with fish that are stressed. The most common causes of stress are shipping, overcrowding, low oxygen, handling injuries, poor water conditions (improper Ph, Hard Water and water that is to cold). Almost all fish have the disease in a dormant state. It will occur in fish that have their immune system weakened due to stress or that are exposed to high levels of the bacteria from other infected fish. As it is dormant and can become inflamed when stressed, it is EXTREMELY important to quarantine newly shipped fish in a sterile tank after the stress of shipping. If a healthy, but newly stressed fish from shipping is exposed to other fish in an established tank that does not have pristine water conditions, the whole tank can quickly become infected. Likewise, a healthy fish that it is exposed to an infected tank, even if it is largely dormant in some of the other fish, will quickly become infected.

Pathology: Columnaris usually starts as a bacterial infection of the skin. Within 12 hours, it will often move to infect the gills and within 24-48 hours it can infect the inner organs. Columnaris can become lethal as quickly as 18 hours and untreated it will be lethal in 50-90 percent of the fish within a week. The most common cause of death is infection of the gills, making it impossible for the infected fish to diffuse enough oxygen through the gill membranes. It is somewhat like the fish getting Pneumonia and suffocating. These [...]

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