Discus Cichlids: Facts, Lifespan, Care, Feeding, & Breeding

Discus cichlids are among one of the most frequently cultivated species of cichlids. They belong to the symphysodon family.

There are four basic types: heckle, green discus, blue discus, and the brown discus. The blue and brown discus are the only naturally occurring color variation in nature.

The discus fish, also sometimes referred to as the “king of the Amazon “originally originate in Amazon river systems such as along the Rio Solimoes and the Rio Putumayo.

Blue Diamond Discus Fish Schooling Source

Discus Fish Lifespan & Size

Discus grow rapidly as first and reach sexual maturity at the age of 9 to 12 months, at this age they are already half to two-thirds their final size. After the first year, the speed at which they grow decreases, and they will be fully developed after 2 to 2.5 years of age.

The difference between males and females is shown during the mating season. The males will have a more acute genital papilla in the front of the rear fin.

Note: The oldest recorded cichlid was 17 years old, in captivity, they often live 5 to 7 years of age.

Discus Cichlids Behavior

The Discus fish are schooling fish and do better in groups of at least 6, except during breeding. They are relatively peaceful and can be put together with other breeds of fish.

Blue Diamond Discus Cichlids Closeup Source

However, the fish should be approximately the same size.The aquarium high should preferably not be less than 20” (50cm), it is also advisable that there are lots of hiding places such as roots and large plants for the fish not to be stressed and be similar to their natural habitation.  The discus also prefers lighting between 8 hours to a maximum of 10 hours.


In nature discus mainly feed on insect larvae and kinky bugs for captivity. For your fish to stay healthy, it is important to give them a varied and notorious diet.

Providing a proper diet will help prevent diseases and create better water quality. There are

ready to eat frozen food and granulates specifically formulated for discus instead of generic fish food.

Since discus has a short digestion and intestinal tract, it is important to feed them small portions several times a day. They need to be fed two to three times a day and up to five times a day when they are small and still growing.

Additionally, discus inefficiently digests some food varieties. it is important to give high-quality food to significantly reduce the potential for bad water quality and improve overall water quality.

Discus Fish Care

For your fish to be comfortable, a suitable environment is crucial. The aquarium needs to be at least 50 gallons (190 L), and there should be a group of at least four or five fish. An adequate filter with regular changing of the filter is necessary. A weekly change of at least 25% of the water will remove harmful substances and reduce fish stress.

The most important water parameters are temperature, pH, ammonium, nitrite, nitrate and water hardness. Checking water levels regularly is essential for the health of the fish.


The lighting of your aquarium is also an important criterion, discus fish have light sensitive eye sight and do not prefer too much light. In the wild, they live in tributaries of the Amazon hiding between roots and plant life. Thus, this can be done with the use of daylight simulating fluorescent tubes for 8 to 10 hours a day. A timer switch is another important addition as it will simulate a regular day-night rhythm.


Discus prefers water temperatures of 80-86F (27-30°C). Therefore, a rod heater is a suitable heat source. It is beneficial to use two small heaters instead of one larger rod on each end of the tank, they will spread heat more evenly throughout the aquarium.


As already discussed, this fish requires sufficient hiding places to remain stress-free. When choosing vegetation for your aquarium, it is important to purchase plants that prefer water temperatures around 80-86F (27-30°C). Preferred plants would be the anubias, burhead, vallisneria, cryptocoryne and microsorum.

Discus Fish Hiding Behind Plants Source

In addition to these plants, frogbite make excellent plants for dampening the light of the fluorescent tube lighting and make the aquarium more like their natural environment. Tree roots are also a good addition and would also add to hiding spots and help with light damping.

Discus Fish Schooling by Branches Source

Discus Fish Breeding

The female regularly spawns on plants or other hard secure places. The young fish will hatch within 48 hours and will swim freely after 3 to 5 days. Both parents will care for their offspring and be protective of them.

Discus Cichlids Caring For Fry Fish Source
Small Discus Fish Around Their Mother Source