Things you should know about Discus Fish:
11) Many Discus Fish do not show their full colors as juveniles and will not until they are mature adults.
12) Discus Fish can grow to 9 inches and will live up to 10 years.
13) Different colors and patterns can be kept together and will freely breed together.
14) While Discus Fish do not technically school and will do fine by themselves, we recommend that they be kept in groups of at least three.
15) Do not create excessive current in your tank. Your Discus Fish will need an area of slow moving water.
Gallons per inch of Discus fish: 2 for 2", 3.25 for 3", 5 for 4", 7.25 for 5", 9 for 6"
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. After two weeks, When the fish are showing no signs of stress or disease, they can be moved to their permanent aquarium. CHANGE 40% OF THE WATER DAILY FOR THE FIRST WEEK AND THEN EVERY OTHER DAY FOR THE SECOND WEEK.
It is urgent that you unpack your fish as soon as possible. Float the container in the isolation aquarium where they are going to stay. DO NOT open the container at this time! You may find that you need to remove some of the aquarium water to prevent it from overflowing when the containers 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 containers to float for 10 to 20 minutes to allow temperatures to slowly equalize (longer if necessary). Open the fish containers only when you are ready to immediately put them into your aquarium. DO NOT put any water from your aquariums into the containers or vice-versa! Avoid netting as much as possible. Gently pour off most of the water from the container thru a net. Then release the fish from the container directly into the aquarium. Another good method uses a smooth plastic spaghetti strainer with small holes. Gently scoop or release the fish into the receptacle, drain the water and place the fish immediately into the aquarium. Large specimens can often be simply hand placed into the aquarium. If these methods are not applicable, place a large net over the top of a clean bucket with enough water to cover approximately a third of the bottom of the net. Open the bag and carefully pour some of the fish into the net and immediately place them directly into the aquarium. Try to avoid a net full of fish as they will ball up in the net, and the ones underneath can be damaged from compression and friction. Remember that water from the container may react with the water from the aquarium, and could be very harmful. Never mix container and aquarium water!
Sometimes during shipping, fish lie at the bottom of the container and appear dead. “Playing opossum” is a common animal stress behavior. Carbon dioxide also acts to tranquilize the fish. Even if the fish look like they are mostly dead, put them into an aquarium as outlined above. Leave the aquarium lights off to further reduce stress, and leave them alone. You will be amazed how clean water and stress reduction help!
Like other animals, fish produce carbon dioxide as they breathe. When carbon dioxide is dissolved in water, an acid is formed, lowering the pH of the water just like in a carbonated beverage. Fish also produce ammonia, which can be very damaging. Ammonia is present in water as NH3 or as NH4+, or as a combination of these forms. The toxic form of ammonia is NH3. The proportion of NH3 versus NH4+ is dependent on pH. The lower the pH, the lower the amount of NH3, and the greater the proportion of the less damaging NH4+. In the wild, freshwater fish naturally experience wide changes in pH.
One of the reasons fish are able to be shipped long distances in closed containers is because the pH in the shipping water drops, making the ammonia non-toxic. The carbon dioxide acts as a tranquilizer. The moment the container is opened, and exposed to the outside air, carbon dioxide escapes, the pH of the water immediately begins to rise, and ammonia becomes deadly. Fish tissue damage will then occur very quickly. NEVER add water from a shipping container into your aquarium, as you do not want all that harmful ammonia in your aquarium. NEVER add water from your aquarium into the shipping container. Acclimate the temperature by floating the container in the aquarium water, and then immediately open the container and release the fish into the aquarium, minimizing the introduction of the container water.
****VERY IMPORTANT*** ***PLEASE BE PATIENT**** YOUR DISCUS WILL NOT SHOW THEIR FULL COLORATION FOR SEVERAL DAYS !! THEY WILL START TO GET THEIR COLORATION IN A FEW DAYS AND SHOULD HAVE THE FULL COLORATION FOR THEIR AGE WITHIN ONE MONTH. MOST DISCUS DO NOT SHOW THEIR FULL AND FINAL COLORATION AS JUVENILES AND WILL NOT UNTIL THEY ARE MATURE ADULTS (AROUND 5"). DISCUS WILL OFTEN LAY ON THEIR SIDES FOR A FEW HOURS, OR EVEN SOMETIMES A COUPLE OF DAYS, AFTER THE STRESS OF SHIPPING. CHECK THEIR GILLS FOR AT LEAST 5 MINUTES TO MAKE SURE THEY ARE NOT BREATHING BEFORE GIVING UP ON THEM! DO NOT FEED YOUR DISCUS FOR 24 HOURS AFTER YOU RECEIVE THEM. DO NOT PUT ANY BRIGHT LIGHTS ON THEM FOR THE FIRST DAY.
There are all kinds of theories and ideas on how to sex discus. Here are the facts.
Juvenile discus cannot be sexed accurately without surgical examination. That's it, bottom line, end of story.
Here are the differences in male and female mature discus that can be used with some degree of success.
1) Male discus often have an elongated and pointed dorsal fin. If the discus has a elongated, pointed fin, it is almost always a male. Depending on the strain, many males do not have an elongated, pointed dorsal fin. The elongation usually does not show up until they are about six inches, well after they are sexually mature.
2) The breeding tube on the female is larger than the male and is farther forward from the caudal fin. This can be used reliably, if you have done it many times and you take the discus out of the water and examine it under a magnifying glass. It is best to sedate the discus before attempting this.
3) Males lips are slightly larger than the females. This is a very difficult means of sexing discus, but can be used with success on some strains. I have particular success using this technique with wild caught discus.
Myth. The dominate discus is the male. UNTRUE, the female is quite often dominate and I have had many males killed by an over aggressive female. The only time that the male is consistently more dominate is when they are spawning. By that time they have laid eggs and there is no question of the sexes.
Myth. The female is thicker as she is carrying eggs. While this may be true to a VERY small degree, it CANNOT be used reliably to sex discus. Some of my skinniest discus are my best producers. After a successful spawn, a female would naturally be skinnier, but she would be no less a female. So if you are looking at a discus and do not have the correct spawning history, using this method would be worthless.
Discus Fish Diseases:
Bacterial Skin Infections: Bacterial skin infections are the most common disease affecting discus. If you keep discus as a hobby, your discus will most likely be exposed to an infection at some time. Bacterial skin infections are often associated with discus that get to cold. There is some evidence that it can actually come from humans with a cold or flu, but this relationship has not been conclusively established.
Discus infected with bacterial skin infections show a wide range of symptoms and not all symptoms present themselves every time. The most common sign is a milky white coating appears on the skin of the discus and is often patchy. Discus suffering from bacterial skin infections will usually show at least a little interest in eating, though often they do not actually swallow any food. Discus with external bacterial infections will usually have an increased respiration rates and they will usually clump together in the corners of the tank. They often get darker, depending on the color strain of discus, and will often clamp their fins.
BACTERIAL SKIN INFECTIONS ARE EXTREMELY CONTAGIOUS, SO QUARANTINE THE EFFECTED FISH IMMEDIATELY. With that said, by the time the discus shows signs of the infection, your other discus will often already be infected.
If caught early, bacterial skin infections can usually be treated with success. The first line of defense is to start doing daily 50% water changes. If nothing else is done, this often will be enough to get most of your discus through to recovery. Your discus, if infected with a bacterial skin infection, will usually show some temporary signs of improvement after each water change. We also recommend treatment with Nitrofurazone at 50 mg per gallon of water for 24 hours once a week for two weeks (three times - once immediately, once after one week and again after two weeks). Lastly, start immediate UV filtration and keep the filtration continuous until two weeks after the symptoms disappear. If you stop UV filtration to quickly, the infection will often reappear. WE STRONGLY RECOMMEND THAT ALL SERIOUS DISCUS ENTHUSIAST KEEP A UV FILTER AVAILABLE. We use constant UV filtration in all of our discus tanks.
If caught early, and with proper treatment, bacterial skin infections are rarely fatal. If untreated it will spread to your other discus and will kill many of them. Be prepared for an infection in advance, as you will probably have to deal with one sooner or later, and immediate treatment is very important. Also keep in mind that secondary diseases such as Hexamitia are often associated with bacterial skin infections.
Hexamitia - Hexamitia is an internal stomach and intestinal parasite (Protozoa) that is the most common internal disease in Discus. The symptoms of this disease are often confused with those of Hole in the Head Disease as these two diseases are often present at the same time in a fish. They are, however, two separate diseases that each needs to be treated. Today we will only be going over true Hexamita and we will go over Hole in the Head Disease in a future Newsletter.
Discus with Hexamitia can definitively be diagnosed if they have a white stringy feces. Other symptoms of Hexamitia are the Discus eating very little, especially in the latter stages of the disease. They will become emaciated (very thin) and their head bones will become apparent in the end stages of the disease. The fish will often become darker than normal.
Since the disease is internal it is necessary to medicate internally. The easiest way to do this is to mix 1% Metronidazole in fish food (25g food for one 250mg Metronidazole) and feed it to the fish. Feeding sparsely with untreated food before feeding the medicated food can help guarantee that the fish eats the medicated food. It is also recommended to medicate the water as well by adding 12 mg Metronidazole per liter aquarium water to make the treatment more effective. Repeat the water treatment every other day until you have treated the water three times. If after three weeks the feces does not return to brown, we recommend that you repeat the treatment regimen.
Hexamitia is most commonly contracted by eating frozen or live Blood Worms. Freezing does not kill the parasite. For that reason, we do not recommend feeding Discus frozen Blood Worms. Rather we recommend Freeze Dried Blood Worms.
Untreated, Discus infected with Hexamita will usually die. With treatment, you can increase the likelihood that your Discus will survive to about 50%.
Hexamitia can be contracted by other Discus in the same tank. This will happen is other fish eat the feces of the infected fish, as Discus often will. For this reason, we strongly suggest that you move the infected fish into a hospital tank for the entire duration of the treatment. As the feces will get into your gravel and the Hexamitia will stay alive in your gravel. We recommend you sterilize any tank that has contained a fish with Hexamitia by taking all live fish and plants out and filling the tank with untreated chlorinated water for 48 hours. You can then de-chlorinate the water and return the fish.
Discus Disease aka Discus Plague ? We will cover a different disease each month for the next several months. This month we start out with the worst, scariest and most difficult. Discus disease was first identified in 1986 in northern Europe. This was about the same time as the Cherbonyl Nuclear accident and some experts believe that they are directly related. It soon spread to Asia and then to North America. While Discus Disease was extremly common 15 years ago, it has almost completely been eradicated in Discus today by selective breeding to promote immunity to the disease. Putting two fish together that are perfectly healthy, but from different hatcheries, will sometimes trigger the disease. Hence, it can lay dormant in healthy fish. This disease also affects Angelfish and some other South American cichlids. All discus are susceptible, but Wild Discus seem to have some immunity. Also, discus that are raised from fry by you, in your water, are usually immune. Lastly, once a fish has been infected and recovers, they are mostly immune thereafter (I have seen rare examples of a reoccurrence). The main symptoms of discus disease are a darkening of the skin tone (some strains like White Diamonds do not show this indication), listlessness, clumping in groups in the corners of the aquarium, not eating and slowly wasting away. These symptoms are nearly identical to a bacterial skin infection with less excess milky mucous production being the main difference. Always treat as if they have both. The total duration of the disease is usually 10 days but can last up to five weeks if there are secondary infections. In that time, they will either die or slowly recover. No one knows for sure what causes Discus Disease. It is the most contagious disease that I have ever experienced. It can infect through water cross contamination and water vapor in the air. If one fish has it, chances are all fish in the same room or nearby rooms will catch it. This disease has put many discus importers out of business. It will stay dormant for months and can reinfect new fish that are introduced months later. The only sure way to eradicate it is to kill all of your fish and sterilize every nook and cranny of your house using ammonia. The best guess is that it is a virus to which the discus are extremely allergic. To date, no pathogen has been positively identified. There is no known medication which will have a significant impact on it. The best treatment is to isolate any infected fish IMMEDIATELY and treat them for secondary infection such as bacterial skin infection. Doing daily 50% water changes does help reduce the time of the infection. UV Sterilization is by far and away the best line of defense and will drastically speed up the recovery time with far fewer losses. A tank that has heavy UV filtration with 1 micron heavy flow sediment filtration is nearly immune. About 30% of the fish which contract it will die and the remaining 70% will fully recover.
Hope this helps.
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