Really Sick Discus!!! - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #1 of 5 (permalink) Old 02-21-2003, 04:07 AM Thread Starter
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About 3 weeks ago I purchased 3 discus fish and put them into a 30 gallon tank. (See tank specs.) I purchased 2 fish from 1 lfs, and the 3rd from another. The reason why I had to buy them from separate stores was, I had to make a school since they are only about the size of a silver dollar, and the original 2 were fighting. I didn’t learn about the need for at least 3 until AFTER I got the 1st 2 home.
I short, the 3rd fish I bought ended up being really sick. The 2nd day after purchase, he turned black, developed a white slim coat, and started to dart and brush against plants and the side of the tank. He infected one fish, and not the other. They stopped eating. I have now lost 1 fish, but NOT the one who originally had the infection. Here was my course of action:
I think it is internal parasites and a secondary infection brought on my stress…
Week 1:
-50% water change
-Upped temp to 88
(Lost first fish)
Week 2
-Kept temp at 88
-25% water change, removed carbon
-Paragon: every other day for 5 days, followed up with a 50% water change
Week 3 (started this Sunday 2/16/02)
One fish out of the 3 never showed signs of sickness, 1 died, so now there is only the original sick fish that has not shown signs of improvement. It is still black, all white and filmy, still darting into the plants, becoming very emaciated.
-Set up a hospital tank (water parameters same as tank, see tank specs), temp at 93 deg. Fahrenheit, 5 inch bubble wand, no décor or lights. (I know now that I should have quarantined in the first place)
-Aquarium Salt
-Malachite Green + Formalin
-Also treated 30 gallon tank with MG/F and left temp at 88F (poor plants!) as a precaution (No additional sick fish!!!! Yay!)

It is now 5 days into week 3, I just did a 50% water change on the hospital tank, and the fish is still alive, but no change. S/He is VERY emaciated, lethargic, still black. Top fin is not clamped so much as before, but defiantly no signs of improvement. I have not seen this fish eat in 3 weeks.

What should I do now??? Should I do another round of Paragon? Should I wait? Should I do garlic on the food? Should I lower the pH? I am at a loss, and I really want to save this poor fish, it is such a fighter.

Please, any advice would be great.
Thank you for reading my letter.

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Tank Specs.
30 gallon planted tank up about since last November. Set up specifically so I could house Discus.
Filter: HOT Magnum canister with peat granules, Tetra 30-60 gallon Whisper, one side with carbon media, the other side with Bio-Chem Zorb media to polish out black water
DIY CO2 injector, ran into canister for diffusion
Lights: 130W pc (2 X 65W 64K each), 12 hours on timed
Water: 90% RO/DI water, 10% tap drained over a bail of peat. Always prepared at least a week in advance. 30 % Water changes every Sunday. Water tests done on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Temp: 85 F
NH3/NH4 = 0
NO3 = >0.25
Ph = 6.0
Cl2= 0
KH = 5 GH=8
Fe = 0.5
K+ = 20
PO4 = 0.2
O2 = 8
CO2 = 16
Décor = live plants, drift wood, slate rock
Population = 1 Discus, (1 other Discus in hospital, only in the 30 gallon tank for 1 week) 3 serape tetra, 3 black neon tetra, 1 bubble bee goby, 4 black Kuli loaches, 2 panda Cory cats, 3 bronze Cory cats, 1 Chinese butterfly loach, 1 gold nugget pleco. All except the Discus have been in there for a long time, transferred over from a 20 gallon I have had for 2 years.
Diet: AM = Flake PM = Different protein every day, rotating blood worms, brine shrimp, and discus delight
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post #2 of 5 (permalink) Old 02-22-2003, 05:57 AM Thread Starter
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Alas, Typhoid Mary passed on today. I was very sad.

I am however, now very concerned that I am not going about keeping Discus very well. I have been reading a bunch of conflicting information from various Discus sites, mainly concerning water parameters and tanks.

I was under the impression that Discus were appropriate fish for a planted aquarium. Now I read that Discus need to be in a bare aquarium. Unfortunately, I have a lot of time and money invested into the plants, and am now accustomed to a planted tank. Based on this, are Discus not the right choice if I do not want a bare tank?

Also, due to my schedule, daily water changes are not an option. I could work out time for water changes 2 times a week, Wednesday and Sunday. Based on this, are Discus not the right choice?

Regarding my water, I have found out the evil person I was buying my so called RO water from was not maintaining his system, as you can tell by the KH to pH ratio. I found this out last Saturday after my reef tank crashed and I lost $500 worth of reef stock. There is the explanation for the odd water parms, and yes, I am taking the guy to small claims court.
Potentially this could have been the problem with the sick fish, but I thought that because it did not happen to all the fish, it must be illness. My lfs offers RO/DI, but has told me it is SO pure, that I need to add tap to it. This water is what I intend to start using this weekend on all my tanks. My tap water is so bad, you could not pay me to drink it, then alone suffer my fish to live in it. I will use a 90% RO/DI to 10% tap.
In regards to peat...I am confused. I have been told that peat is SOOOOO awesome for discus. I personally hate black water. I like to SEE my fish. I also know that Discus like low pH of about 6 - 6.8, and that filtering water over peat is a good natural way of doing this with out a potential bounce back when using chemicals and those repercussions.

I guess I just need a black and white answer....

Is a planted tank ok?
Are 2 water changes a week ok? And what % of a water change?
What water should I use? Peat or no peat?
How do I maintain with constant water changes ideal water parameters for Discus?

I am now afraid I am in over my head. Any clarification would be great.
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post #3 of 5 (permalink) Old 02-22-2003, 12:22 PM
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I wish I could help you with your discus.:sad: I really haven't a clue what thier needs are. But,Heres a place with lots of planted tank discus keepers.
I hope this helps. Good luck



75 gal heavily planted,50/50 Black beauty,Eco-complete substrate, Pressurised CO2 with solenoid, ph controller, AB Reactor 1000, 330 watts 9325K GE PC lighting,Ehiem Liquidoser, 2-Filstar xp3 canisters.
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post #4 of 5 (permalink) Old 02-22-2003, 12:55 PM
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The reason that Discus are considered a difficult fish to keep is that do not do well with changing environments(water parameters)
Buying Discus from LFS's is very difficult. Many of the LFS's here refuse to try to sell them due to fish loss.
Discus unlike most fish have very little slime coat which protects them from disease or (harsh water parameters). Many minerals in water can also harshly effect there health through that coating.
Copper and Iron are the 2 that they dislike the most. Its "skin" reacts badly to either and opens them to disease quickly.
Copper is used by many LFS's in small dosages in their tanks to ward off disease due to so many stressed fish being in their tanks.(Unavoidable) This is a common practice in many Fish Shops though they wont tell you that normally.
Also...the turnover of Discus at the LFS's is too quick to let them "acclimate" properly and you get stuck with the stressed out fish(that can appear healthy)

Just do the math...
Here is a LFS's Discus Life...
1) Discus are shipped from dealer out of "ideal" water. Shipping gives them there first stress source.
2) They are then put into LFS tank which lets face it , are normally far from ideal in water parameters for that sensitive a fish.(2nd stress source)
3) Discus are a very "shy" fish that do not do well with a lot of action around them. In the LFS, already stressing, they get stared at , glass tapped, and never truly get relaxed. (third stress source)
4.) They get net chased, bagged , tagged and now hit another water parameter change !(fourth stress source)
Another suggestion by Discus Pro's is to acclimate fish in a "lightless tank" for a few days to eliminate another stress source... some LFS's lights are on 24/7 to help advertise !

Now in the last 2 weeks of their life they are weakened and purchased and just fail.
There are only 2 ways to buy Discus...
1) Direct
You have now eliminated at least 3 or 4 or more sources of stress and the fish is going from "quality water" to " quality water" ( I hope) and done so in a 2 -3 day period(normally)
2) Discus Only Tanks at LFS (Large tanks)
When you see a particular Discus at the LFS that you are interested in buying... "reserve"(pay for) those fish and let them acclimate for a 3 week period minimum in "THAT" tank and be sure to match whatever water parameters "They" have in your tank when you are ready to take them home.

Discus are very easy to keep once you get through the first month but they are the "Hardest Fish" to initially buy.

That is why there is such a high cost to these fish is that there is a large loss due to transactions and they are simply protecting their investments...

Once you make it through the first month you have friends for life

Buying direct is also the only way to "guarantee" a solid breed... many of the discus at the LFS ( unless specialized shop) are "mongrel bred discus" and are never relly worth more then their personal appearence. Distributors rarely give true strains toi just anybody! Which aint all bad if you only want to raise them , but your fry , should you be so lucky to get , are harder to sell unless you have a solid set of bred parents and photos to back that claim up.

I hope this helps , sorry for your loss's

Expensive lessons...
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post #5 of 5 (permalink) Old 02-22-2003, 03:00 PM
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I'm not sure if someone already mentioned this, but 30 % weekly water changes is not very good for discus. I would reccomend at least 2 of the 30% changes a week, but it isn't uncommon to do 3 25% water changes a week for discus. Another good site for discus keeping is awforums


Tank in transition! 55 gallons, hard water.
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