Guides - Breeding Discus Fish.
Breeding Discus fish is a challenge in anyone's books.
The most important factors are the time and financial restraints. The necessary funds must be made available to buy quality equipment and breeding stock. Can you also spend the necessary time for the daily water changes and a feeding regime of up to six times per day, ensuring an optimal growth rate of the fry?
If you can honestly answer "Yes" to the above then lets move on!
Water Quality for Breeding Discus Fish.
Without a doubt the best water for breeding Discus is that produced by a reverse osmosis unit. No serious breeder should be without one. Make sure that the filter canisters and membrane are not passed their best. The best units have three pods, containing a pre filter, a carbon block cartridge and a CBR2 metalex cartridge.
Use 100% ro water remineralized to a level of between 1 to 2 degrees general hardness with Kent Ro Right. Obviously ammonia, nitrite and nitrate should be nil if the unit is functioning properly. As the water is un-stable at such a low general hardness, a twenty percent water change in the breeding tank is carried out on a daily basis one hour after the last feed. All reverse osmosis water should be aerated and heated to the same temperature as the breeding tank before use.
Some breeders prefer to add a percentage of tap water to their reverse osmosis water in order to buffer it to the desired level. Although this is a cheaper method it still may leave the Discus fish swimming in diluted heavy metals, chlorine, chloramine, pesticides, and nitrates etc.
Discus Fish Spawning.
After the Discus fish pair have finished cleaning their chosen spawning surface, egg laying commences.
Even though a spawning surface is provided, Discus fish will sometimes spawn on an alternative surface such as filter uplifts or even the glass. Batches of eggs laid on the tank bottom normally yield low hatch rates due to bacteria levels.
Spawning may be triggered by one or a combination of the following:. Lowering and increasing water temperature, pH and water levels. A large water change sometimes also has the desired effect, with water slightly cooler to that in the Discus breeding tank.
By all means watch the activity from a distance, but try not to distract the parents from the job in hand! Taking photos with a flash may distract the Discus pair and result in the eggs being eaten.
Discus fish fry, depending on water temperature, will normally become free swimming after five days. At this time it is imperative that the young Discus fry find the flanks of the parents, otherwise they will perish. Discus fish are one of the few members of the cichlid family that feed their fry by producing a nutritious slime coating. The fry can grow quickly if the parents produce sufficient mucus to feed the batch. At this time the parents may become darkened by the production of the mucus. This isn't to be confused with ill health!
The Discus fish fry may swim from one parent to another grazing off their flanks. Sometimes a dispute may break out between the parents over who will have control of the young. If things continue to get nasty, it is advisable to remove one of the parents or divided the tank with a piece of egg crate allowing the Discus fry to swim freely between the two.
Raising Discus Fish Fry.
If the parents are seen to be ignoring the fry and are cleaning a surface in preparation for spawning, now is the time to separate them. The longer the Discus fish fry are left with their parents the more chance there is off them being cross infected with parasites from the parents. It is not uncommon to have a few fry dying daily through gill flukes or internal parasites picked up from the parents. This seems to be a common occurrence around four weeks old.
There are varying methods for removing the Discus fry. If using a net make sure that is very fine and soft so as not to damage the delicate fry. Some Discus fish breeders prefer to remove the fry with a syphon or food baster. Another method commonly used is to take a rectangular vessel, submerging it at one of the tank, then gently nudging the parents out of the way, scoop up the Discus fry. This is my personally preferred method which I think minimizes damage to the baby Discus fish.
The parents will invariably be a bit mythed for a short while and hunt around for their offspring. The Discus fry are transferred to a 24x15x12 tank in the early stages. This makes it easier for the fry to find the newly hatched brine shrimp without the food being scattered over a large volume of water. I normally transfer ten gallons of water from the tank along with the fry and top up slowly with reconstituted RO water over the course of two days. The tank is furnished with nothing more than an air operated sponge filter.
Discus fish fry are extremely vunerable to fluctuations in water quality. Water changes must be of a comparable temperature and pH. Adding water of a widely different pH will burn their tiny gills and result in losses. I use large water butts to store Ro water in, adding a heater stat set at 86 Fahrenheit and the water aerated with an air stone. Two hours after feeding, uneaten food and droppings should be carefully siphoned out. A length of Ro unit tubing does the job splendidly. Care must be taken not to suck up the fry. Always check the bucket before the water goes South! The water level is then topped up with the pre prepared Reverse Osmosis unit water.
The Discus fish are fed newly hatched brine shrimp and ZM 100 for the first two to three weeks depending on the growth rate of the fry. I then prefer to use a mortle and pestle to finely grind a mixture of Tetra Prima and medicated pellets which replaces the ZM 100. The baby Discus fish are also fed a liquidated beef heart / shrimp mixture, fortified with vitamins, spirulina and garlic. The garlic stimulates feeding and also serves to keep parasites at bay.
Culling of Discus fish fry should be routinely done at weekly intervals. No one like this unsavoury task but it is part and parcel of fish breeding. The runts of the batch and those with incomplete finagle and body deformities should be humanely destroyed.
Take no prisoners at this stage, arrow shaped fry and runts will never amount to anything. Anything borderline is better not given the benefit of the doubt! This will give the remaining Discus fish the best chance of survival.
After the third week, the reverse osmosis water in the Discus fry raising tank is raised at a rate of two degrees general hardness per week. Young Discus fish are better kept in harder water, assimilating the minerals for faster growth. Discus fish fry will grow at different rates. Now the logistical nightmare begins! T
he Discus fry need to be separated by size into several tanks. In typical cichlid fashion, there will be more dominant fish in the shoal who drive others away from the shoal.
Those of you who may be attracted to breeding Discus fish for the monetary value, bare in mind that after paying for electricity, water, foods, equipment and consumables, there may be not much more left than to treat yourself to a couple of beers from the fruits of your labour!
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