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post #46 of 128 (permalink) Old 03-28-2018, 02:43 AM
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Hello all,
DiscusPaul, first thank you for providing your guidance. I've grown several beautiful groups of Discus, mainly following the advice you have set forth on this forum. I got started about 5 years ago, and any time I run into something I don't know, I look to see if you've addressed it on the forum before I look anywhere else.

I would like to suggest a few concepts as they relate to the "deeper" reasons that discus require frequent water changes, as it is apparent that many out there are, at the least, curious. Before I begin, I would like to make it known that I am not simply guessing, as I have many years under my belt as a student of biology, both human and wildlife. Furthermore, I do not possess data (nor did a quick google search return any) revealing anything regarding discus cellular physiology explicitly and their ability to adapt. But, based on pages and pages of text regarding how organisms on this planet adapt, and years of delving into aquatic science, I believe the explanation to be thus:

Discus, as has been stated, come from a source of water that provides constant turnover. As such, there is a near infinite supply of needed gas exchange, nutrients, and waste removal (among other things) by nature that try as we might, we cannot imitate perfectly as aquarists. This by itself seems to make the necessitating reason for water changes apparent- because aquariums are closed systems (in most cases). We have to intervene to remove the waste. Otherwise, the organic/chemical dilution of the water becomes such that a discus cannot thrive. Again, I do not posses the cellular knowledge to tell you why the discus specifically does not thrive, but I feel confident that the process is likely akin to humans trying to breath at high altitude. Sure, there is oxygen at high altitude, but in concentrations our bodies are not accustomed to, along with higher concentrations of other gases. Sure, we can adapt to a certain degree with an increased hemoglobin/hematocrit, among other shifts, but only within a certain range. Insert any other metaphor here for trying to breath anything besides O2 or drinking things containing your own waste. Therefore, not enough O2=not enough ATP production for cellular energy=ultimate cellular demise (oversimplified but you get the point).
Now, to address the discus adapting from native water quality to the tap water that many of us keep them in. Ultimately, this ability to adapt can be blamed on natural selection. Whoever the first person was to try and keep a discus in a tank, I would assume had trouble doing so. I would also assume they had more success the more closely they tried to imitate the natural environment of the discus. Once that was a success, eventually, someone figured out how to get them to breed. When the fry hatched, I'm sure some perished, but the ones that survived obviously had a more tolerant genotype in regards to water quality, likely partially inherited from their parents. This went on for generations, along with chance mutations, with the survivors passing on their hardier genotype and so on, until we ended up with discus that could acclimate.
No, this does not explain how people successfully keep wild caught discus with tap water, but it is fair to say that discus still in the wild must possess some degree of physiologic adaptability, otherwise they would have become extinct years ago. Darwin's theory (while controversial to many) postulates that the longer a species survives, the more it adjusts to its climate and becomes more tolerant of what nature dishes out (or it ceases to exist). So, the longer discus exist in the wild, with fluctuating climate and conditions as they are today, the more tolerant the ones that propogate will become (in most cases).
I would not hesitate to apply these concepts to other species of fish as well. Of course, one may ask, why can some fish tolerate never having their water changed while discus (most of the time) cannot, despite the genetic adaptations? Well, again, we have to go back to the past, and its pretty simple- however they came to be (whether you believe in divine creation or primordial soup), each species was born of its own unique circumstances, therefore producing varying margins of genetic and physiologic tolerance in regards to pH, temperature, GH, KH, etc. through the process of natural selection and mutation.

Of course, this is fairly general and needs further testing. I don't have a bunch of discus lying around to dissect and see what may have contributed to their demise, nor do I have the funds or resources necessary to conduct longitudinal studies regarding how they execute glycolysis or the like. But, I hope the above information at least helps with everyone's understanding, and that those who are naturally inquisitive now have a bit more information to rely on regarding the "laws" of discus keeping.

Please feel free to add or correct if necessary.
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post #47 of 128 (permalink) Old 03-28-2018, 04:22 AM Thread Starter
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Very well laid out and also well said, & thoroughly explained in understandable layman terms, Submariner.

I'm very happy that you chimed in with your expertise, and it seems that your concept could very well have a lot of validity !

This could be the beginning of a scientific explanation as to big 'WHY', and I for one hope that it is.

Many thanks for your post.
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post #48 of 128 (permalink) Old 03-28-2018, 04:23 AM
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This is very good @Sub-Mariner and brings up an important point. There are many other fish endemic to the waters where discus are found that are just as temperamental and fragile to changing water parameters: pH fluctuations, bacterial load, temperature, etc... as the discus: geophagus, Uaru's, altum angels, satanapurca's, to name a few of the more well known choices. I have some rare, wild hyphessobrycon and phenocogrammus species that are even more demanding than my discus.

The idea that the discus has a "special" extra-ordinate demand for such particular conditions does not take into account the other freshwater fish that we keep that demand similar environmental conditions.

As far as discus, I have kept both domestic and wild, and while the domestics can take a bit more leeway- that give is a lot less than most would assume. Species adaption takes longer than a few generations, as Darwin made clear, our 100 years of playing with the genomes have not alleviated their demands for low- to nil bacterial load and a neutral pH in order to reproduce ( which is truly the measure of a fish that is well conditioned to its environment).

As far as scientific papers that will substantiate what breeders and experienced hobbyists have come to conclude through long association with these fish--- the research for aquarium fish, especially freshwater is not there. It is not a priority-- aquaculture is concerned with food fish, not ornamental. Unfortunately research is costly and funds go to areas of the greatest concern.

I do have access to scientific databases with the university I am affiliated with so I will make an effort to find some articles in the databases particular to discus that may shed some light on certain questions. One in particular that was earlier brought up: the mucus that the discus ( like the Uaru) exudes in the aquarium that has a growth inhibitor. Discus and Uaru are the only fish that exude this mucus in such a way, it has to do with the way the constant build-up of this mucus by these two species for reproduction/feeding of fry.

This I know has a scientific article ( peer-reviewed) to back up this assertion, I have read it. I just need to locate it again and will then post it.
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post #49 of 128 (permalink) Old 03-28-2018, 04:40 AM Thread Starter
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The last few posts have been very interesting to me and I hope something more 'meaty' comes of it in terms of explaining why discus require the care and attention that they do in order to be healthy & thrive.

Having said that, I initiated this thread to try helping out new/wannabe discus-keepers get started properly with these beautiful, personality-imbued fish, as well as care for their ongoing health-retaining needs in the home aquarium, and I
intend to continue doing so, as I have for the past number of years.
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post #50 of 128 (permalink) Old 03-28-2018, 05:05 PM
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Interesting thoughts. I'm glad we're able to continue this conversation along a bit more and keep Paul's thread going in a positive direction.


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Originally Posted by Sub-Mariner View Post
I do not posses the cellular knowledge to tell you why the discus specifically does not thrive but I feel confident that the process is likely akin to humans trying to breath at high altitude. Sure, there is oxygen at high altitude, but in concentrations our bodies are not accustomed to, along with higher concentrations of other gases. Sure, we can adapt to a certain degree with an increased hemoglobin/hematocrit, among other shifts, but only within a certain range. Insert any other metaphor here for trying to breath anything besides O2 or drinking things containing your own waste. Therefore, not enough O2=not enough ATP production for cellular energy=ultimate cellular demise (oversimplified but you get the point).
I wonder now if there is something physical different with discus, their gills, the size of gills vs body size etc., compared to some other species that makes them a bit more susceptible to these impurities and/or leaves them less able to pull oxygen from the water.

I also wonder if the skin of a discus is somehow different than other fish making them more susceptible for some reason. As far as I know Discus are the only fish to produce a slime coat for their young to feed off of. So do discus somehow "absorb" more from the water? (osmosis I suppose?)


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Originally Posted by Sub-Mariner View Post
Now, to address the discus adapting from native water quality to the tap water that many of us keep them in. Ultimately, this ability to adapt can be blamed on natural selection. Whoever the first person was to try and keep a discus in a tank, I would assume had trouble doing so. I would also assume they had more success the more closely they tried to imitate the natural environment of the discus. Once that was a success, eventually, someone figured out how to get them to breed. When the fry hatched, I'm sure some perished, but the ones that survived obviously had a more tolerant genotype in regards to water quality, likely partially inherited from their parents. This went on for generations, along with chance mutations, with the survivors passing on their hardier genotype and so on, until we ended up with discus that could acclimate.

Darwin's theory (while controversial to many) postulates that the longer a species survives, the more it adjusts to its climate and becomes more tolerant of what nature dishes out (or it ceases to exist). So, the longer discus exist in the wild, with fluctuating climate and conditions as they are today, the more tolerant the ones that propogate will become (in most cases).
The natural selection idea can likely be used to explain almost all the aquarium fish kept in the hobby today. It certainly makes sense why its easier now to keep discus than it was years ago. I wonder how long before the species continues to adapt and adjust to the conditions where most other hobby fish can be kept.


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Originally Posted by Discusluv View Post
This is very good @Sub-Mariner and brings up an important point. There are many other fish endemic to the waters where discus are found that are just as temperamental and fragile to changing water parameters: pH fluctuations, bacterial load, temperature, etc... as the discus: geophagus, Uaru's, altum angels, satanapurca's, to name a few of the more well known choices. I have some rare, wild hyphessobrycon and phenocogrammus species that are even more demanding than my discus.

The idea that the discus has a "special" extra-ordinate demand for such particular conditions does not take into account the other freshwater fish that we keep that demand similar environmental conditions.
There are definitely other fish that are considered sensitive; similar to discus. However, it seems most of these other species only have the "extreme" sensitivity when dealing with wild caught fish. F1 and so on seem to adapt much quicker. At least from things I've read as I have no personal experience with any of those particular species you mentioned.
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post #51 of 128 (permalink) Old 03-28-2018, 07:28 PM
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Iksdrinker,

I am not sure about your questions regarding gill size etc. without some research, but I would say that if it is accurate that a discus absorbs from the water in any other way than their gills, then they would be made more susceptible to physiologic problems simply due to their internal:external exposure ratio. Being, well, discus in shape, this increases the amount of body surface area exposed to the external environment. This means that at the least, they will be more susceptible to temperature changes and whatever implications those may bring. The same concept also holds true for humans- infants are more vulnerable to temperature swings, etc because of their size and the amount of external exposure they receive in relation to it. This changes as they grow and as such they become less sensitive to things like hypothermia.

Finally, while I find this conversation interesting, I do not want to hijack Discuspaul's thread any further. If you wish to continue on, please feel free to PM me or start a separate thread- perhaps one is needed specifically for Discus Anatomy and Physiology.
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post #52 of 128 (permalink) Old 03-28-2018, 08:52 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you Sub-Mariner for your thoughtfulness.
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post #53 of 128 (permalink) Old 03-29-2018, 04:54 PM
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Hi Paul,I contacted Exotic Discuis via email and this was there reply,Hi Edward,

Our discus are from top breeders in Malaysia. Were currently in the planning stage with our supplier for a big shipment to arrive in 3-4 week and should have the Red Ruby again then.

Please feel free to let us know at anytime if you have any questions.

Best Regards
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High Quantity Discus Is Our Specialty

They have the Red Pandas I want in stock so what do you think of this plan, getting two of The Pandas from them and two others I want from Chicago Discus.I realize the extra shipping but when you want something it usually costs.the only question I have is getting fish from two different places.Any real problem if quarantine procedures are in place...thanks
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post #54 of 128 (permalink) Old 03-29-2018, 04:57 PM
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It seem the trend in discus leans towards hybrids that have colors that differ greatly from their wild counterparts. If a hobbyist sourced wild-strain fish, they're limited to either wild-caught fish or fish that are crossed with a hybrid of some kind. I don't know that I have seen multi-generation captive bred wild strains- blue, brown, green, or heckel.

Is there a reason for this? Are hobbyists drawn to hybrids to such a degree that native-strain fish aren't desirable enough to breed as a staple in the hobby?

While I personally enjoy how far we can push coloration on fish, I am constantly drawn to the browns, blues, and blacks of native discus.
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post #55 of 128 (permalink) Old 03-29-2018, 06:06 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doogy262 View Post
Hi Paul,I contacted Exotic Discuis via email and this was there reply,Hi Edward,

Our discus are from top breeders in Malaysia. Were currently in the planning stage with our supplier for a big shipment to arrive in 3-4 week and should have the Red Ruby again then.

Please feel free to let us know at anytime if you have any questions.

Best Regards
Jeff
Exotic Discus LLC
High Quantity Discus Is Our Specialty

They have the Red Pandas I want in stock so what do you think of this plan, getting two of The Pandas from them and two others I want from Chicago Discus.I realize the extra shipping but when you want something it usually costs.the only question I have is getting fish from two different places.Any real problem if quarantine procedures are in place...thanks

It's a good sign that Exotic's discus breeder suppliers are from Malaysia - that's one of the foremost countries in the world by reputation for reliable breeders producing good to high quality discus.


Would be nice to know who the breeder is, but that shouldn't be necessary given the photos which show high quality.


Over the past 7-8 years I've bought nothing but Malaysian discus by a breeder named Forrest - one of the best known, most reliable breeder/exporters
of high quality fish worldwide.


Kenny's Discus in Daly City, Ca. (arguably the best retail discus supplier in all of the U.S.) imports Forrest discus from Malaysia.


No problem getting discus from 2 good quality sources, but to be completely safe you'd still need to do a proper quarantine before placing them together into the same tank. I can help you with that.
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post #56 of 128 (permalink) Old 03-29-2018, 06:20 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Leaky Filter View Post
It seem the trend in discus leans towards hybrids that have colors that differ greatly from their wild counterparts. If a hobbyist sourced wild-strain fish, they're limited to either wild-caught fish or fish that are crossed with a hybrid of some kind. I don't know that I have seen multi-generation captive bred wild strains- blue, brown, green, or heckel.

Is there a reason for this? Are hobbyists drawn to hybrids to such a degree that native-strain fish aren't desirable enough to breed as a staple in the hobby?

While I personally enjoy how far we can push coloration on fish, I am constantly drawn to the browns, blues, and blacks of native discus.

There are quite a few experienced discus-keepers & breeders that are drawn to keeping &/or breeding nothing but wild-caught discus. I know of several of them who do an excellent job, much prefer the wilds to domestic bred strains, hybrid or otherwise, and who have raised multi-generational offspring of wild-caught discus, e.g. F1's, F2's, etc.


I's not very common though because, well for one thing it's a lot more work breeding, and raising the young, generally speaking, than breeding & raising domestics; also prices for the wilds are usually significantly higher than for domestics, and availability as well as variety is generally quite low.

P.S. Another big reason I neglected to mention is that there are very few wild discus importers in North America who have been able to take the time & effort to develop reliable source connections in South America, and there are so few retail buyers around for them that it's difficult for them to be profitable.
I know of one wild discus importer located in Florida who recently had to close his doors cause he couldn't make a go of it.

Last edited by discuspaul; 03-29-2018 at 06:48 PM. Reason: Adding a P.S.
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post #57 of 128 (permalink) Old 03-29-2018, 06:31 PM Thread Starter
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For you hobbyists keeping discus in planted environments, or planning to do so, here's a neat approach I ran into here on TPT, that I believe would help discus-keepers to develop & maintain good water quality & conditions in their tanks:

https://www.plantedtank.net/forums/23...l#post10898793
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post #58 of 128 (permalink) Old 03-29-2018, 07:15 PM
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@discuspaul

Thanks for your answer. Obviously, multiple generations of captive raised fish create fish that are better suited for a captive environment through survivor vigor, for lack of better words. Is there a breeder who specializes in say, F3 or higher wild-strain fish or a breeder who has wild patterned fish that have been bred for multiple generations? Or, is this a situation where hundreds of generations of breeding are required to breed out the more difficult nature of wild fish?

It seems like there would be someone in a worldwide market who would do something like that. I remember reading some of Axelrod's books on discus and the hurdles those guys jumped through just to get a wild-caught fish to eat, let alone thrive and breed.
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post #59 of 128 (permalink) Old 03-29-2018, 07:58 PM Thread Starter
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@discuspaul

Thanks for your answer. Obviously, multiple generations of captive raised fish create fish that are better suited for a captive environment through survivor vigor, for lack of better words. Is there a breeder who specializes in say, F3 or higher wild-strain fish or a breeder who has wild patterned fish that have been bred for multiple generations? Or, is this a situation where hundreds of generations of breeding are required to breed out the more difficult nature of wild fish?

It seems like there would be someone in a worldwide market who would do something like that. I remember reading some of Axelrod's books on discus and the hurdles those guys jumped through just to get a wild-caught fish to eat, let alone thrive and breed.

I honestly don't know the answer to that, but I suspect that it would take several or more generations of wild discus spawns to become fully "domesticated", for lack of a better word, and as easy to manage as one can do with what the hobby calls domestic discus.
I'm sure it's been done, or being done somewhere, but the hobbyists I know that are breeding wilds are only into 2nd or 3rd generation - I'll have to ask them for answers as to how they feel the most recent spawns are behaving in terms of being more easily looked after than the original wild parents.
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post #60 of 128 (permalink) Old 03-30-2018, 05:42 AM
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Dashing around the tank at full speed on occasion is something I experienced myself quite a few years ago - cause unknown - and I eventually lost that fish when it jumped out of the tank.
That looks like "crazy discus syndrome", a neurological disease that exhibits this kind of symptoms. Normally is fatal, and I lost fishes because of it, but recently I had success to cure an adult wild aequifasciatus using long-term salt ar 5gr/l in a hospital for a week. It took 4 days to re-adapt the animal no normal salinity levels, but after that is does not exhibit any symptom and recovered completely.

Quote:
Quite honestly, I really don't think it has anything to do with the ferts, or any element within them.
My tank is planted and I use EI based liquid fertilization daily with a dosser. Never found any problem with it.

Cheers
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