How To Acclimate New Discus

Acclimating new Discus to your tank is a very important step. Not taking the time to do it properly can cause irreparable damage to your Discus, even death.

This article covers some easy to follow techniques to get your new Discus started happily in their new home.

Float The Bag (Don’t Do This)

The most common way your local fish store will tell you to acclimate 99.9% of all your fish is to “Float The Bag” the fish came in. In short here is what this does:

  • Heat transfer so bag water and tank water match up
  • Allows for a quick hello for tank mates
  • Gives your Discus time to lay on its side, note this is not a good thing

Floating The Bag has only one positive and that is the heat transfer between bag water and tank water. The chemistry of the water will still be a shock to your Discus when it is introduced into the tank. So how can we take care of this? Lets read on…

The Bucket Method

I LOVE BUCKETS! There, I said it, it had to be said. You can never have to many buckets, ever. This is why.

When you purchase a new Discus you can take your bucket with you. Fill the bucket one quarter of the way full with water from the breeder or fish store. Enough to cover your Discus without the bucket weighing a ton. Place a lid on the bucket to keep the Discus from jumping out. Buckets are not transparent so the Discus gets a nice calm place to relax on its journey to your home. And finally the best reason that buckets are great, acclimation!

Here is what you need:

  • A spare heater
  • A plastic cup to transfer water
  • Possibly a mop or towel, in case of spills
  • A timer
  • A fishnet

Here is how you do it:

  • Place the bucket containing the Discus near the tank that will become its new home
  • Place the spare heater in the bucket and set it to match the temperature in the tank
  • Using your cup, transfer a full cup of tank water into the bucket
  • Set the timer about ten minutes
  • When the timer goes off, add another full cup of tank water to your bucket
  • When the bucket is about half full, or still light enough to lift, stop!
  • You can now either pour in the contents of the bucket into your tank, removing water as needed to lift the bucket or using a net scoop the new Discus out and place it in the new tank

Acclimating Discus via buckets is much more beneficial than the “Float The Bag” method. It allows for the transitional acclimation of water and its variation in chemistry. In other words, it makes switching from the old water to the new water easier.

Questions For You?

Do you have a different way of acclimating your Discus?

Do you own a bucket for your Discus?

What is the strangest container you have used to transport your Discus?

19 thoughts on “How To Acclimate New Discus”

  1. You said carry a bucket to pick up the discuss and fill it with water, where does this water come from – i.e. regular tap? If they are delivered, what do you do with the water in the bag? Do you attach it to the tank and do the same as with the bucket or what? Preparing to buy discuss and don’t want to waste my money.

  2. Hi Willie,

    Great questions! Fill the buckets a quarter full with water from the breeder or fish store. If they are delivered it might be a little tougher. Here is what we would do. Pour the bag water and Discus into the bucket. When we order Discus it is on a larger scale and have plenty of bag water. If you do not have enough water in the bucket to at least cover the Discus. Introduce a bit of tank water into the bucket to allow some room to breath.


  3. Hi everyone!

    I was told that when you buy the fish you shouldn’t use a hard recipient as a bucket because the movement would bang them against the surface, something that would be softer on a plastic bag, anyway in the plastic bag you can put some oxigen so the fish won’t suffocate, what do you think?

  4. Hi Shafi,

    Do NOT use a heater in the car! Simply put a lid on the bucket and wrap it with blankets or towels to keep the water warm on the ride home.

    For really long trips you can purchase heat packs at outdoor or sports stores. Activate the packs and place on the outside of the bucket then wrap with towels to keep the bucket warm.


  5. Hi Camicov,

    For shipping in airplanes and such I agree bags work best. For transporting from the local fish store or breeder I still like my buckets.

    They are safe and re-usable so no more plastic bags to the landfills. Plus unless you drive like a crazy person you will not knock your Discus around.

    If they do get spooked they will not get out of a bucket with a lid on it.

    If they get spooked in a bag and they puncture it (this has happened to me many times) then water leaks out and its a race to make it home before the fish dies.

    In my experience buckets work best.


  6. hi!
    i just purchased my 3 first discus! they are the prettiest fish i have ever seen.
    i have a question though in the article above it said that it is bad if the fish lie on their side. why is this so?
    and another question two of my discus are fighting quite a bit, even though they are male and female. what can i do to stop that?
    thx a lot
    timmy 🙂

  7. Hi Timmy,

    When Discus are on their sides it usually means death or sickness. In reference to the article above, Discus will try to right themselves to a vertical position. If stuck this way in a plastic bag it can tossle around causing damage to itself and puncturing the bag.

    Fighting is natural especially when purchasing in three’s. Read this:


    I see the logic in using buckets…helpul in a key procedure! I am a bit taken back when I read. “pour into tank!” I am looking for cautious words like, “gently, slowly, on a rock,” etc. Pouring water into a tank has long since been considerd a sure way to explode your glass walls out – unles suggestions of caution are stated. Netting is far safer.

  9. Hello

    Is 4 discus juvies enough in my makeshift tank (square plastic container) dimesion is 12″ x 10″ x 10″. size of the fishes is mostly at 1″ to 1-1/2″. Barebottom, 100 w heater and sponge filter.

  10. Hey,

    Just wanted to say about the cups – its actually much easier and more gradual if you use airline tubing.

    Tie a knot in some airline tubing, and start a siphon from the aquarium to the bucket. You can use some ridgid tubing to create a hook that sits in the aquarium. For added control of the speed of the drip you can use a small airline valve. This way you don’t have to set any timer. Just come back to the bucket in a while, and if its getting full, dump some out, or if you feel the discus are ready, move to tank.

    Cups are a waste of time, and they add water less gradually.

  11. Also,

    I would not recommend pouring the acclimation water into the tank – its likely got ammonia, stress hormones, etc etc. Better to gently net out the discus, and release.

  12. I m new for discus, now i’ve planed to buy some discuss for my 150 g tank, its empty now. which one i should buy and how many to began? and food please let me know the brand/company. not possible to disclose here please use my email. Thanks in advance.

  13. I’m sure alot of people are probably familiar with the “drip acclimation” method. For those that aren’t it’s a simple and very effective way of introducing new discus to any aquarium (provided water parameters are acceptable of course) It’s just like the cup/bucket method only instead of using a cup and timer you use a length of airline tubing and SLOWLY syphon the tank water into the bucket containing the discus. Ideally the bucket should hold around 6 liters of water plus the water that the discus arrived in. Once the bucket is mostly full (should be about 20 minutes or so) the fish will then be acclimated to the new tank water and may then be netted into the tank. I use this method on every new discus I aquire and have found it to be effective for acclimating single fish as well as entire groups at once.

  14. i have a 6ft tank and would like to stock it with discus. i have had discus before but after reading this great forum find i don,t know much. My question is how do i quarentine a dozen fish as i was hoping to stock the tank all at once

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