Choosing Discus Tankmates

Choosing Discus Tank Mates

Picking the perfect tank mates is super easy. Why? Because there are not many to select from! Discus require plenty of space to swim about and claim as there own territory. Avoiding naturally territorial tank mates goes a long way to keeping happy and healthy Discus.

In this article we talk about what fish make the perfect tank mates for Discus and some not so obvious choices to avoid.

What Makes The Perfect Tank Mate?

If we ask this question from a Discus perspective the answer may sound something like, “A perfect tank mate is one that leaves me alone and doesn’t eat all my food.”

Almost all fish are aggressively territorial, I am not saying that they are all aggressive, but aggressively territorial. What I mean by that is most tropical fish will carve out a small section of the tank to claim as their own. For Discus this is not a good thing, especially because they tend to enjoy drifting through out the tank and hanging out where ever they choose.

What Fish Do Well With Discus?

Although most Discus have been bred in a controlled environment, long since removed from its natural origins, one must not forget them. Discus in the wild swim among many fish including a very colorful and harmless fish called Tetra!

Yes there are several varieties of Tetra’s and in my experience the best to be kept with Discus have been Cardinal and Lamp Eye Tetra’s. These two create stunning schools and keep a very low key type of presence in the tank. Most of the time, like the Discus they tend to drift from one side of the tank to the other. These Tetra’s are also not known to be veracious eaters and will not compete for food with your Discus.

One sure fire tank mate that never fails is the Cory Cat (aka Corydoras). Cory’s spend most of their time under the Discus radar in search of food between the gravel and under plants. When not looking for food they tend to settle in a spot and not move for some time, then before you know it they are scooting around again. Cory’s make great tank mates for Discus and help keep the tank a bit cleaner.

Fish To Avoid

Fish of similar or greater size than your Discus: Any fish that will compete aggressively with your Discus for food or space is no good. Any fish that will grow larger and more demanding than your Discus is no good. This includes flower horns, African cichlids, angelfish, oscars, etc…

Fish that are aggressive eaters: Most Discus will compete for food to a degree, but for your Discus to thrive it must be the largest and most fed fish in the tank.

Any sucker mouthed fish: Although I have never experienced it, “discus pros” claim that sucker fish will develop a taste for Discus slime. In my experience sucker mouthed fish usually get introduced into a tank to clean up algae. What ends up happening is they enjoy eating the Discus food and will stop eating algae. Occasionally becoming aggressive and territorial about the food and space in the tank.

Loaches: The only reason I mention loaches is because I introduced on into my planted Discus tank. I had a huge snail problem and loaches I read where supposed to be good at bringing snail numbers down. Loaches though turned out to be really aggressive eaters and got super fat! Once I decided to remove the loaches I practically had to remove all the plants and dismantle the tank in order to catch them. As it turns out the fat lazy loaches can dart around and swim fast when they have to. This cause a huge mess and stressed out my Discus. Just sayin…

High energy fish that zig zag everywhere: Danios are the perfect example of this as well as some larger Tetras and even Rasboras to an extent. What these fish enjoy doing is fin nipping, why exactly they enjoy this is unknown to me. Fin nipping can lead to fin loss and eventually infection to fish that are not used to being nipped, in this case Discus.

Questions For You

What tank mates have you found perfect for your Discus?

What tank mates have turned out to be a nightmare for you and your Discus?

What do you think makes the perfect tank mate?

16 thoughts on “Choosing Discus Tankmates”

    1. Hi Willie,

      Yes, perfectly fine to have live plants in your Discus aquarium.

      Look for wide leafed plants like the Amazon Sword that provide enough hiding area for Discus.


  1. I have 4 discus, and one of them is chasing the rest of them.
    I bought them around a week ago, should I change that one, or this is a regular behavior.

    1. Hi Naddaf,

      You don’t need to change that one .. It’s one of the regular behaviors of discus .. In my tank , there are 8 Disuses and they usually chased each other whenever they want and also while trying to get foods .. The one fact that I found is the active and healthy Discuses are chasing each other .. It’s just like their exercise of reducing stress like we human do walking , running , jumping , biking and so so excerises ..

      Don’t worry about that !!

    2. Well Nadaf, be careful. If that fish is constantly harassing the other fish, then remove it- only if this is a 24/7 thing.
      Otherwise, this is a normal Discus habit.

  2. hi my name is dmitri im only 12 and i live in trinidad so the water is already a good temp for discus but already have a 50 gallon tank with neons plecos angel goldfish and 2 discu wich i know no is a bad mix but one died on the first day and the other lasted a year but i plan on getting a discus tank i was wondering if you have any info on how much room a school of 6 discus will take up, well please answer ps can put a clown loach

    1. Hi dmitri,

      I’m also a Discus keeper and I lived in Rangoon , Burma .. So I’ve no suitable temperature and environment for Discus .. Besides I keep my Discus tank in my room which have air-conditioner .. It’s too cold for Discus .. But I used a medium aquarium heater .. Even I kept my Discus with this situation , my buddies are healthy and get bigger day after day .. The main fact that u must is , u should take 120x50x40 tank .. Discus would like the deep than the width unlike any other fishes .. Besides you should not keep your Discus alone .. They’d like to be with group at least 5 or 6 Discus ..

      Be success in your keeping of Discus !!

  3. oh and i forgot um since i live on a small island i need to get things like ph kits and brine shrimp nets away what will i need cause my mo is going to florida

  4. I have a school of Rummynose Tetras in my Discus tank of six Discus. The Rummynoses stay at the bottom 1/3 of the tank and the Discus utilize the top 2/3 of the tank. A great match!

  5. i have a 585ltr custom built planted discus aquarium i shone co2 for the plants and use fast growing vallis and rotala green and for foreground plants use java fern anubis ad java moss and sagittaria…. i have found over years that the main thing is to use oversized fitration (i have a huge external from all pond solutions which are very cheap £70) and no less than 8 discus this will stop them bullying ive tried 4-7 but always bullied, plus switch over to 100% ro water with added tropic marin to get proper clarity in the water plus will usually make the water ph 6.5 to 7 but you need to check your water hardness first as i live in hard water area. tank mates like your all pretty much sayin loaches tetra rams corys khuli loach shrimp if they can hide bristtlenoses. also dont use dark backgrounds or substrates if you have pigeon bloods as will bring out there scarring(peppering) and whatever people say it wont go back trust me i know ive got one from my old tank that had slate background and he looks like a freckly ginger lol

  6. I got 3 discus fish one of them is slightly bigger than the other two,will there be any problem in future..!!and which other fish shall i keep with them..!!

  7. Hi, I have a 56 gallon square deep Discus tank. It is fully planted with Natural plants. I have one full size adult Pigeon Blood, one full size adult Amazon and one medium to full size Amazon. I tried to put a small Snow Discus in and it was a disaster and they ended up stressing him out and he wouldn’t eat and eventually passed. I have tried to give them tank mates such as rummy nose but then my rummy nose got stressed out and ended up at the bottom of the tank all the time. I tried cory’s but my Discus didn’t like the Cory’s in there. My question is, I have this huge tank that I would really like to put something else in it but since it is so well established that is seems as though everything I put in it either stresses out my Discus or stresses out the tank mates I try to put in with them. Needless to say, I now have a 50 gallon tropical community out of necessity but I love it. I also have a 30 gallon Angelfish with two full size adult Angel’s and one full size adult Parrot Blood and four cory’s with two otto’s and the dynamic is great. Help with my Discus crisis would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

  8. Hi there, i own an African snakehead which, by the way, is surprisingly non aggressive, i am building a 450 liter tank two feet high and i was thinking at discus…
    i suppose not good tank mate?
    i love discus but i am really attached to the snake head and the two climbing perch i have.
    what are your suggestions?

  9. I have a 210 gal. Tank with 15 discus 9 cardinal tetras 3 rummy nose gold nugget pleco and a rubber lipped pleco it’s planted with driftwood and was wondering if having some flying foxes would be ok to help take care of some of the algae issues?

    1. Hi, Nitrates are sometimes behind algae issues in tanks with Discus. I read live plants help. A lot. I don’t like them. If you have an LED light fixture as I do, cutting back the # of hours with the light on helps. I cut back from 8 hrs a day to 4 and now have virtually no algae problem and the fish are probably happier with just ambient room light most of the time.

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