Discus Love Clean Water

Discus Water Changes

Clean water is key to keeping happy and healthy Discus. This doesn’t have to do with your water chemistry or reverse osmosis filtration. Just simply a super clean tank with a constant exchange of new fresh clean water for your Discus.

Below we talk about several ways to keep your water clean and how to do it without fancy equipment like reverse osmosis filters.

Frequent Water Changes

One great myth is that you need to change water constantly for Discus. I am calling this out as a myth simply because so many successful breeders range in water changing routines. From as little as 25% three times a week to as much as 100% water changes twice daily!

If we focus on the underlying reason for the water change instead of the frequency you can appreciate the reason for the water change. It is not so much frequency but what the water change itself provides to your Discus over its life time. Clean stable water provides an almost stress free environment by removing waste build up and other harmful toxins.

How Much Water To Change

This is ultimately up to you and your abilities to carry out the water changes. The important thing is to first understand and accept the duties of the frequent water changes. Then do the best you can to provide clean balanced water to your Discus.

The commitment is more important than the volume of water changed. What I mean by this is if you can change 100% twice daily for a week then you give up for a month you cause more harm. If you simply commit to 25% three times a week and do this for several years you provide stable longevity to your Discus.

When To Do A Water Change

The timing of the water change is just as important as the frequency. Discus like all creatures accustom themselves to you and your patterns. Keep a steady pattern and the Discus will look forward to and be prepared for the water change. Provide an unstable and erratic pattern and your Discus may become skittish and bang around the tank during water changes.

What has worked best in the past for myself is to time water changes after a major feeding period. This helps in removing any built up waste and left over food that can lead to poor water quality.

Other Factors For Clean Water

Although Discus can be and have been kept in a variety of environments, you may have seen the bare tank. So what’s the deal with the graveless tanks? The idea behind this is to provide the most pristine environment for the Discus. Removing decorations that could cause injury. Removing gravel that would normally hide waste and uneaten food. Creating an environment that is as close to ideal as possible.

Now let me explain what I mean by ideal. Like an athlete who eats a balanced diet of carbs, proteins and fats. The athlete also drinks plenty of clean water and gets plenty of sleep after daily workouts. He/She may or may not enjoy the daily fiber intake or not staying out late at the party drinking beer. The environment the athlete creates and the diet consumed is to provide optimum results and health.

The graveless tanks or bare tanks are not ideal in the sense that it replicates the natural environment of the Discus, but in the sense of providing the ideal conditions for longevity, health and fullest growth potential.

Questions For You

How often do you do water changes?

Do you have a graveless or bare tank for you Discus?

What volume of water did you decide to change?

19 thoughts on “Discus Love Clean Water”

  1. Is there a specific reason why water changes are needed? If you have a filter in your tank, isn’t that enough? I know in my one fish tank I never change the water and I only add water when it evaporates, which is about every two-three weeks, and the fish have been fine and healthy for over two years.

  2. Thanks for the great question… It’s inspired a new article!

    Specifically speaking about Discus I would say water changes in general are done to promote health and growth.

    The short answer is: The cleaner the water and the tank, the better opportunity you give your Discus to live a long happy life with huge growth and of course eventually multiply.

    The longer answer is a bit more envolved and I will cover a few points and save the rest for an article later on.

    The term “water change” can be a bit deceiving as it includes vacuuming gravel and removing built up waste and uneaten food. All of these factors contribute to a less than pristine environment that goes to promote longevity and optimal health for Discus.

    Most Discus hobbyist feed heavier than usual foods such as beef heart and other formulated foods including homemade. This can quickly muck up the water leading to spikes in ammonia and other less than desirable conditions.

    I will have to track it down but I recall listening to Discus expert Jack Wattley at a conference speak about an experiment where he had two tanks. He split a batch of new born fry into the two tanks. Both tanks were fed the same diet and since they were all born from the same parents, conditions were almost identical except for one thing. In one tank 100% of the water was changed twice a day and in the other tank it was much less frequent and not 100% (it was a long time ago, and I will have to dig up the notes). Anyhow as time progressed the tank that received the 100% twice daily water changes contained fry (now juvenile size) much larger than the tank that did not receive frequent water changes.

    Hope this helps!

  3. I have a general ?? I just purchased 2 discus and want to know if it is normal for them to hover in the corner together??? the other fish in my tank…(tetras, guppies and bottom feeders) adjusted within a few hours… my discus’ seem to be not “feeling ” socialable, are they stressing? Their dorcal fins are laid back and they seem not to want to come out of the corner…Do I need to worry???

    1. Hello Liz,
      I have about 30 discuss in a 500 gallon tank.
      Its quite huge for 30 discuss.
      They were all happy moving around and scavaging around lookin pretty.
      it was when i decided to throw in a bunch of other tetra’s and god knows what else.
      all my discuss went and hid in a corner behind plants right away, and would only come out to eat, and hide back in.
      this continued for 2 months, i even lost about 5 discuss,
      each were about $75.
      I decided to remove all the other fish from tank and just leave discuss in.
      the moment I did this, all my discuss came back from hiding, and they swim around the tank just like before.
      so the reason for my discuss hidhing was that they do not prefer mixing with other fish well except angel’s.
      regarding water changes:-
      I have a 3 (200gallon fliter) under the tank which keep the water crystal clear, and I change only 20% every 15 days, and I do have a 3 inch thick gravel, which always remains clean,
      despite me overfeeding the fish.
      If you got a good powerful enough fliter, you do not need to worry about 100% water changes twice a day (geez).

  4. Hi Liz,

    Discus do well in groups (http://discusguide.com/discus-thrive-in-groups/) and its great to read you have 2 discus.

    Many factors go into shy and skittish behavior. The easiest way to ease your Discus in to the new tank is to lower stressful triggers such as:

    – Bright overhead lights
    – Constant face in the glass plus tapping on the tank
    – Not enough places to hide
    – To much foot traffic near tank
    – Trying to make it eat

    Discus fish are prey in the wild and years of instinctual behavior for survival kicks in when stressed. My suggestion would be to lay back a bit, maybe turn down the tank lights a bit and avoid showing off your new Discus to friends.

    One other thing, be mindful of sharp rocks or ornaments in your tank. Sometimes when doing maintenance cleaning, skittish Discus can freak out and slam into objects trying to swim away. This can lead to injury and death of your Discus.

    Enjoy your Discus but give them some space. If they came from a reputable source I have no doubt they will come around in a few days. They just need a bit more time to get used to their new home.

    Hope this helps!

  5. i have a problem. i just bought 9 discus, the water was perfect, but after 6 days and water changes it seems like it still contains nitrate. i have tried buying a bigger filter, put in live bacteria all in vain. luckily, all the discus look healthy nd are eating. what could be the problem????

    1. Hi Irene,

      What I would do is just wait and let the tank complete cycling. Continuing to alter the state of the water for better or worse, it keeps a solid base of bacteria to form that would handle excess nitrates and ammonia.

      Sounds like you are doing the right things so far. Just take your foot off the gas pedal a bit and slow down. Tank water can take a while to cycle especially with 9 Discus!


    2. – Irene

      Nitrate is likely existing already in your water source. Nitrate levels go up gradually with time. You prevent this by doing large water changes frequently. In regular freshwater tanks that do not have discus, nitrate is non toxic and does not bother the fish. I have read that discus are particularly sensitive, but I doubt low levels of nitrates will kill them. I see healthy fish tanks with levels over 100ppm and if its not a coral saltwater tank, its not an issue.Plants will breakdown some nitrate as it is a nutrient for them. Based on what I know about water chemistry, and I have taken aquaculture technician training complete with water chemistry labs,I would say they are probably fine with some nitrates and not to panic about it.

  6. So Im wanting to get into Discus. I have been a long time Aquatic specialist. First tank at 10. I have had fresh, brackish, and salt, and have never really had a problem with any tanks that I couldnt fix. I AM SCARED TO DEATH ABOUT Discus!! Am I crazy. Are they like salt or just as easy as fresh? I have a 125 that Im wanting to set up for discus. Besides the “equipment” tank, heater, lighting. ect. what should I look out for? Master aquatics/ beginner Discus…

  7. Hi Andy,

    Over thinking and over stressing yourself can lead to Discus death as well as your own! 🙂

    If you have done salt water then you have the chops to keep DIscus. It’s just a matter mastering the nuances and requirements of Discus.

    125 gallons would be a tremendous Discus tank. Just keep cleaning and water changes in mind. With that big of a tank there is many places for waste to build up. Also changing 20% of water daily on a 125 gallon is a huge difference from a 60 gallon.

    With Discus it’s all about consistency. Consistent water changes, quality food and stable environment.


  8. Question? I bought 2 Discus 1 week ago, for my 30 gal. tank, I feed them bloodworms in the morning, and sinking shrimp pellets at night (they love em). This is where my problem starts, they eat the bloodworms together, but fight over the shrimp pellets, they seem to be even fighters, (no dominate one yet). will they ever get along and eat peacefully together. or should I maybe get a tank separater.

    Thanking you in advance

  9. I have been reading the articles about water but what I want to know is how should I treat water for water changes. How long should I let the water sit in a container before I use it as a water change? I limited were I can let the water sit.

  10. I am keeping Discus fish for the very first time. I have a 80 gallon tank with 2 Discus only in it now.I have ordered for 3 more.I use a hang on power filter and clean the bottom of the gravel tank and do a 40% water change once a week and a 100% every 2 months.I feed them Wardley flake food,Aqua one discus bits and freeze dried blood worm and brine shrimp.I want to add Omega One fish food as well.My fish are doing great.I just hope it will continue so.What more can I do?.

  11. We purchased a home with a built in 200+ gallon aquarium. We first thought we would have it removed, only to find out it would be very expensive. The home was vacant for 8 months and a neighbor came every other day to feed the fish. Once a month the hired aquarium store came and cleaned the tank (although the neighbor feeding the fish thinks they did a bad job). We have now lived in the home for almost 3 months and the water has only been cleaned 2 times with a 40% water change. After reading everything I can find, I see the need for more frequent water changes and 100% changes. How does someone with a tank this large do this as frequently as suggested? Ironically, we now love the aquarium and would even like to get more discus to go with the 2 existing discus and other fish. I have also read that you should not have angel fish, cherry barbs, and other more aggressive fish. Our aquarium has both of the above mentioned fish. A 30 – 40 % water change takes about 3 hours for us. Help, we have to be more efficient with time, while providing healthy water and environment for our Discus.

  12. Donna, I had the same problem as far as time constraints doing water changes. I have a 29, 40, 75 and 125 gallon tank. Every Saturday I do major water changes on all my tanks.
    There are hoses that you can buy at your local pet store that are long enough to drain the water outside from your tank and you don’t need a bucket to put the water into then empty the bucket. There are also hoses that hook directly to your sink that you can put the water directly into your tank. You must pay close attention however to temperature and stay with the hose end that is going into the tank so you can put your water conditioner in. Using these hoses has saved me a lot of time when doing my water changes.

  13. hi i have 6 discuss in a 2foot tank but it was observerd by me that waterquality is not well fr the discus fishh… please suggest mee !

  14. I’m planning on keeping a couple Discus as well, and to make this really short and sweet. I do a 50% water change twice a week to keep the nitrates to virtually 0, in reality it’s more like 5-10ppm

    1. I have a 90 gal tank with 6 Discus 3 1/2 – 4 1/2 inches and 6 small 1 1/2 or less Sterbai Cory cats. I do 2-50% water changes a week vacuuming half the time and only leave the lights on 4 hours a day to keep the algae down. My Nitrates hover @ 30-40 PPM.. I started the tank in March. In the past-10 years ago I had a 180 and 55 gal-never had nitrate problem but also never had Discus. I feed the fish once a day using primarily flake food made for Discus. Started out using Discus Hans frozen food a few times a week and it makes the water a mess. They are growing and seem healthy with the flake food. Based on my experience, you’re going to have a hard time keeping nitrate at 5-10 PPM doing the same water changes after you add Discus. You didn’t give much info. Size of tank? What is in it? Live plants? I don’t use live plants but they help with nitrate according to other Aquarists. Good luck. Make sure your other fish are compatible. Discus like warm water 84-84* and my PH is 7.4 – I would be interested to hear how the nitrates react when you add Discus. Email me. My tap water runs 5-10PPM nitrates. I have used a product called “Special Blend” which claims to reduce need for water changes and reduce nitrates. Doesn’t work for me.

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