Discus Thrive In Groups

Discus Thrive In Groups

Buying your first Discus can be a hefty expense if you are used to paying less than $5 for your Tropical Fish. Most Discus that come from good breeders and are healthy will sell from $25 for small and up to several hundred dollars for larger size Discus.

In this article we will talk about how many Discus to buy and why. Plus how having to buy Discus in groups is a myth.

Buying Just One Discus

That’s how I got started, just one Discus. It was a cobalt blue and it lived for at least five years. It thrived despite it being the only Discus in the tank for some time. Its tank mates consisted of mostly tetras and a few cory’s.

The key to success with keeping only one Discus in my experience is provided plenty of hiding places. My tank at that time was a heavily planted tank with huge amazon sword plants. Come to think of it I really miss that planted tank. The point is that during feeding times or through out the day the Discus felt comfortable swimming up front without hiding. When the Discus wanted to hide it had several densely planted places to easily do so.

Plants are much better than ornaments or decoration for hiding. Primarily because they are soft and if your Discus is skittish it will not receive a wound from bumping into a plant. A giant castle or huge rock will on the other hand cause some serious damage to your Discus if it should decide to swim away and hide.

Buy Two Or Three

By humanizing Discus cause the most harm. What I mean is people tend to think that a pet would do better with a “buddy” or “buddies” and what they end up with is a disaster. Discus for some strange reason rarely do well in two’s or three’s. What happens is natural instinct takes over and a pecking order must and always will happen.

Let’s take the two Discus example, in my experience what ends up happening is the stronger of the two will dominate the other. When feeding time comes you will experience one Discus in the corner and the other enjoying a fantastic meal. If the Discus should have a tiny morsel of food fall within reach and try to eat it, the stronger Discus will swim across the tank to attack and peck the weaker one. It’s a sad situation and what ends up happening is the weaker Discus eventually dies of hunger or injury.

The three Discus scenario is similar to the two Discus scenario. The difference is now the crap begins to roll down hill. An alpha emerges from the group and will peck the other two into submission. Then between the two that are submissive, one will dominate and peck the other. So you end up with an alpha, a second tier alpha and the lowest on the totem pole (sucks to be this guy). Similar to the scenario above the most picked on dies first of starvation or injury and once that Discus is gone the scenario above plays out.

Buy Six Or More

Buying a school of Discus makes a tremendous amount of sense. I know that it means spending a bit more, but you may get a great deal in the process. By purchasing a school of Discus you will in most cases be purchasing young or juvenile Discus that are still used to having tank mates. Naturally competitive for food a pecking order will exist but it will not be as amplified because of the number Discus.

Sure some will get picked on more than others and there will always be the runt. That is called natural selection and will occur in most if not all cases. But what is accomplished in keeping a school of Discus is no one fish gets hammered daily because there are simply to many. Once they grow into adults you will need to make sure you tank can accommodate several large adults or begin to pair them off into 29 gallon tanks for breeding.

When Two Make Sense

Keeping two Discus in one tank obviously makes sense when they have decided they want to become parents and raise some fry for you. But even when this happens occasionally one parent will reject the other once the fry hatch or go free swimming. The cure for this is to remove on parent until the fry are sufficiently old enough to fend for themselves. The parents at this point, having no fry will usually spawn again and be happy together until the new batch of eggs hatch and the cycle begins again.

Questions For You

How many Discus do you keep in your tank?

What color/type was your first Discus?

How long has your oldest Discus lived?

12 thoughts on “Discus Thrive In Groups”

  1. im getting a 75 gallon this week. i have 3 discus in a 46 gallon with some tank mates. i want to get more discus when i set up my 75 gallon. should i interduse the new with the new tank when i put my fish in 75 gallon. or will it be ok to put in new after the 75 up and running?



  2. Hey Cory,

    If it were me, I would wait until the 75 gallon tank was established and cycled before introducing Discus. Even though I would be very eager to go and buy some awesome Discus it is best to cycle the tank with fish that wont hurt the pocket book as much if they do not survive the tank cycling. So in short… I would wait on buying new Discus for the 75 gallon and cycle the tank first.

    I would then move the Discus from the 46 gallon tank into the 75 gallon “cycled” tank and leave the 46 gallon as a quarantine tank. This way when new Discus are purchased they would go in the old 46 gallon where you could keep an eye on them for sickness, parasites, etc… If in a month or two they show no signs of sickness I would then introduce the new Discus into the 75 gallon tank.

    For the second question about the GH… GH is only one property of a several that keep water balanced. Costly and deadly mistakes are made when trying to adjust one property without understanding how that adjustment affects the others. Unless you are ready to break out a piece of paper or and excel spreadsheet to do some calculations I would suggest to keep it simple.

    Ask your breeder or Discus supplier what their water parameters are and take a look at yours. The goal is to make a smooth as possible transition, if needed, from your Discus old home to its new home. Discus will adjust to your water so long as you make the transition slowly.

    I like doing this by having a 5 gallon bucket with me when I purchase Discus. I then ask the breeder or seller to fill the bucket half way with their water. The Discus are placed in this water and when they arrive at home, every 15 to 30 minutes I remove some water from the bucket and introduce water from the tank. This way the acclimation to the new water is a transition versus a shock.


  3. If I were to invest in a breeding pair in a community planted 75 gallon tank (well maintained and established) would that make sense? I want discus feel that 6 would be too much for this size of tank. So a breeding pair is my ownly option.

    Will this work for me?

  4. Hi Greg,

    Even the most established of pairs can have their bond broken when introduced to a new environment. Not saying this is what is going to happen to you, just saying it happens.

    Unless I was setting up a breeding tank I would not buy a breeding pair for a community tank. Mostly because other fish in the tank would eat the fry. And if I was not protective of the fry and wanting to raise them to juvenile or adult stage, why pay the price for a pair?

    If it were me I would purchase six or eight young juvenile Discus and raise them up to adult stage. I might get a pair to form over time as they became adults. And of course I could sell off the other adults for much more $$$.

    Both will work, just know that you will be paying a premium for two adult Discus that may or may not raise fry again.

    Hope this helps,

  5. Hello,

    I was wondering if four or five Discus would be enough? I have a 55 gallon, I will be purchasing Discus at least 2.5 inches in size.

  6. my tank is 18”X18″36″ is that a suitable size for discus and if yes how many could i keep in it once they are fully grow. my kh is very low and my ph is below 7

  7. I have a 55 gallon corner shaped tank (pie shaped) how many discus can I keep in there with a medium sized piece of drift wood, 7 black tetra, and a medium size angel fish (smaller than a juvenile discus)?

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