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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello! I have been an aquarium enthusiast for some years but am finally going to try discus and I love a planted tank. Can someone help me out as to (what) substrate is recommended to grow the best plants and keep the discus also at their most comfortable pH levels? Years ago I had some kind of (guppy grass)? I loved it for fine leaves and I planted it like little shrubs and it was lovely. Not sure what it was maybe some kind of stargrass? anyway I am getting off the topic. I would like to try 6 discus in a 75 gal. Do I mix soils, clays, and or sands or how? I thought I might get some ADA aqua Amazonia if this is the best shot at it. I read it lowers the pH or makes water softer but I am looking for some expert helps mainly so I can hopefully avoid some pitfalls/ mistakes and save grief or loss of dollars in bad choices etc . with that. Thanks much.
Llewellyn
 

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With discus, all of your focus and attention should be on the fish, while the plants should only play a very secondary role.
To be successful keeping discus, the primary need is to maintain the highest water quality & conditions that you can. In a planted set-up, the substrate becomes very important in doing that - the substrate has to be of a nature that allows you to keep the tank as squeaky clean as possible. And the best substrate to do that with, bar none ime, is definitely pool filter sand.
Many plants that can handle the higher discus temp of say, 82 F, do quite well in PFS with the use of root tab ferts alone.
For certain, do avoid dirted substrates, and any gravels.

BTW Llewellyn, pH level is of no particular importance in keeping discus, so long as it's relatively stable & kept that way.
Domestic discus can do quite well in pH ranging anywhere on the scale from 5.5 to 8.5
 

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Hi Llewellyn,trust me on this,listen to Paul,just two months ago i wanted my first discus tank and was ready to make a lot of mistakes before talking to him including using eco complete and to high of temperature.I now have pool filter sand with root tabs and have been growing swords,vals,crypts and blyxa with no problem.The pfs is easy to clean and gives a light substrate to help prevent peppering and I keep it at 82 and have had no issues.Be sure to find a good breeder and get all your fish from them.Good luck.Where are you located as he may be able to point you to a good breeder.
 

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Thanks for the vote of confidence, Doogy.

And yes, Llewellyn, Doogy brings up a very important point - getting good quality discus from a known experienced, reliable & reputable source is arguably #1 on the list of priorities to being successful with discus-keeping.
Do let me know where you're located, and I'll direct you to the best source(s) nearest you.

Meantime, please have a read through my 6 Cardinal Rules for Discus:


D-I-S-C-U-S - 6 CARDINAL RULES FOR NEWBIES TO FOLLOW

First I'd just like to mention once again that discus are hardier than many people think, and are not difficult to keep, so long as one is prepared to accept and adhere to a few key practices that will provide the best chances of success with discus.

This listing is recorded more or less in order of importance:

1) - D - Do your homework well before delving into discus. Read and research all you can beforehand. Googling will certainly help, as well as spending a good deal of time reading the posts and threads on the simplydiscus.com forum, particularly the stickies in the 'Discus Basics for Beginners' section, which will provide you with much of the material you need to digest.

2) - I - Investigate and learn of the best sources to get your discus stock. Find those breeders &/or importers that are long time, well-experienced, responsible, reputable, and known to supply high quality, healthy, and well-shaped discus. Buy your discus from one of these sources in order to insure that you get off on the best footing possible.
This is the single, most important factor in succeeding with discus.
The simplydiscus.com forum has a sponsors section which lists a good number of high quality discus suppliers in North America. Check it out.

3) - S - Set up and plan to follow a strict regular routine of fresh water changes, tank wipe-downs and cleansing, vacuuming of wastes, and regular filter and media cleaning, changes, replacements, and maintenance. Be fully prepared for the kind of commitment it takes to produce and maintain the highest water quality and conditions that you can.

4) - C - Carefully consider the type of tank set up you start with. Make sure the tank size is ample enough to start with 5 or 6 discus. Don't be tempted to begin with a tank of less than 55 or 60 gallons, and don't try to justify going smaller by just getting 1, 2, 3, or 4 discus for cost or other reasons.
Wait till you have sufficient resources to get a proper-sized tank, and the suitable size and number of fish to insure continuing good health and harmonious discus sociability.
Do not start with small, undersized, very juvenile fish which have not yet developed a more mature immune system, are more demanding to raise properly, and much more prone to health problems and other issues. Get fish of at least 3.0" in size, preferably larger.

5) - U - Undertake to start off with a bare bottom tank, unless you're getting fully adult fish and have previous good experience with fish-keeping generally, and maintaining a planted tank in particular. If you must have some decor, limit yourself to a very thin sand substrate layer, and perhaps a piece of driftwood with just a couple of small plants attached, or one or two potted plants.
Once you gain several months' of experience getting to know your discus' traits & behavior, and your discus get larger, then you may proceed to an aqua-scaped environment, to possibly include some other species of compatible discus tank-mates. Feed a varied diet, several times a day, and learn which foods will achieve a nutritious diet, by researching.

6) - S - Simplify. Keep things as simple as you can to start. Don't complicate your start with discus, at least at first, by placing them in a heavily planted environment, using CO2 and a strict fertilization regime. Make sure your tank is fully cycled before adding the fish, and don't be tempted to alter or change the pH of your water, or modify your water conditions and parameters by using chemicals of any kind. No need to use RO water or adopt any other procedures that would tend to complicate what should be a simple start to your discus launch. If you plan on eventually having a community tank set-up, carefully research the species of other fish you'd like to keep with the discus, to insure they are able to withstand the higher discus temp of at least 82 F, and that they are fully compatible with discus.
And do a complete and proper quarantine before adding any such tank-mates to your discus tank.

Follow these 'rules', and there's little doubt you will succeed with discus !
 

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Paul - what are your thoughts on keeping discus in a tank with Aquasoil (after the ammonia has been cycled out)?

I have never used that substrate, or that type of substrate, in my over 50 years of fish-keeping, so it's difficult for me to answer your question with any degree of confidence.

However, based on the (rather vague) description of its composition, I would tend to think it is like many other substrates which could potentially encourage the development & harboring of undesirable forms of bacteria - a taboo for keeping discus successfully.
I have the sense it would be difficult to keep very clean and I also suspect it could produce a larger level of nitrates than discus are comfortable with, (i.e. under 10 ppm).
Sounds great for plants, but not for discus.
Regrettably, it's generally the substrate that plays the largest role in preventing discus-keepers from maintaining ideal water quality & conditions - and which is often the cause of health issues developing in discus which are kept in sub-standard water quality.


And for what it's worth, I know of hundreds of discus-keepers who house their discus in planted set-ups, and have not heard of a single one using that type of substrate - I think that says something too.
Forgive this lengthy reply - just wanted to be as helpful as I could.

I'm inclined to repeat here what I've always said to many new discus-keepers:

If you want to have discus, and are adamant about wanting to keep them in a planted tank, but you also don't want to take any unnecessary risks keeping them healthy so as not lose a lot of $$$, then use nothing but pool filer sand as substrate.
 

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Tons of good info already stated, just wanted to reiterate that the size of the discus is extremely important.

I wouldn't try raising discus in a planted tank (unless a minimally planted tank with daily water changes) at all for the reasons mentioned above. If you really want discus in a planted tank, either grow them out in a BB tank, or go straight for adult fish that have already done most of their growing.

Once grown it can be much easier and you have much more flexibility with substrate, plant mass, etc. Good luck.
 

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Tons of good info already stated, just wanted to reiterate that the size of the discus is extremely important.

I wouldn't try raising discus in a planted tank (unless a minimally planted tank with daily water changes) at all for the reasons mentioned above. If you really want discus in a planted tank, either grow them out in a BB tank, or go straight for adult fish that have already done most of their growing.

Once grown it can be much easier and you have much more flexibility with substrate, plant mass, etc. Good luck.

Certainly agree.
Keeping only adult discus in a planted tank does give you some flexibility, since adults, with much better developed immune systems than younger fish, are more tolerant/forgiving of less than ideal water quality.
 

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Hi Paul,
Yes I do know that the important thing in this tank set up is about the fish and they must be my first consideration. I am so glad you are steering me in the right direction. I had a few discus years back and never knew much about tanks or correct procedures but this time I want to do as much (correct) as possible. Does the Pool sand come in different size granules? I am not at all familiar with this product. How much would I need for a 75 gal. tank. How does one do a lot of cleaning and yet now disturb the roots of the plant materials? Thanks much for your helps. I am excited to get my tank going. I keep a nice planted tank years ago with cardinals and mixed collection of tropical fish but this time really want to succeed with Discus. Thanks ~ Llewellyn

Bump: Paul,

What is PFS with the use of root tab ferts alone. I have not heard of this one. I also have two digital meters, one for pH, reading and the other for TDS. I have used the pH meter for my orchid collection but never really got into understanding TDS at all. Anyway that is another can of worms. I find it interesting that you say it isn't so important what the pH is but that the water is consistent. I haven't taken a read out for a long time here and forgot even what my pH from the tap is but our source water comes from a large lake north of us and my friend in Florida told me I had better water here in ND ( for my orchids ) than she had in FL. I want to learn as much as I can on the right steps. I did get an Aqueon water changer and thought I could both empty and fill from the tap. A fish store across the state said she even used her warm water ( to keep the fish tank temps from sudden changes) from the tap and that surprised me as I thought it would contain harmful salts. Much to learn here. Llewellyn

Hi Doogy,

I have read the importance of getting fish from one supplier only and that they not be from mixed lots. I am in western ND so I have no idea where I will find my fish but will likely have to have them shipped in by Fedex or something like that as we don't have very many Quality Aquarium stores anywhere near us. Fargo has some nice stores but that is 4 hours (one way) away. I haven't decided for sure on which strain of discus I would like either but have a few favorites. I also do not want a mix of colors but a 'school' of one color so to speak as I think that looks more closer to nature and perhaps others like a red, blue, yellow and variety etc but my aesthetic is more toward some kind of uniformity, albeit a little individuality in color and pattern is fine, well you know what I mean. Llewellyn

Paul,
Where do I best purchase Pool Filter (PFS) sand? I will definitely go this route and make it easy on myself. Sounds like a best simple plan. I've never shopped for this one. thanks
Llewellyn
 

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To Llewellyn:
Pool filter sand is best obtained from a pool or spa supply store, but perhaps there is not one of these located near you in North Dakota.
Some big box stores carry true PFS, and others may try to sell you sand which is not PFS, but staff who don't know any better may tell you it is - so be careful what you buy if you get it at a big box store.
Generally speaking PFS is inert, quartz-based silica sand of # 20, or # 30 grade density. Anything higher than # 30 grade is too fine, and may compact easily ( tending to encourage the development of toxic anaerobic gas pockets), not to mention that it will also tend to get siphoned out when using a common aquarium vacuum tool to clean your substrate. Many sands sold are 'play type' fine sands that are light enough in weight to float up into the water column when disturbed, and may get into filters & clog them up. PFS does not have these negative qualities.
In a discus tank, my recommendation is to layer the sand no more than 1/2" in depth in the open, non-planted areas at the front of the tank, and no more than approx. 2" at the rear in the planted areas. The latter should mitigate the risks of gas pockets developing.

PFS comes in 50 lb. bags, usually costing around $10. to $15. - 1 bag may be enough for your 75 gal tank, but you may want to get 2 bags, in order to have a good amount left over to replenish sand that gets dirtied over time. I usually siphon off the top 10% to 15% layer of sand every 4 or 5 months & replace it with new sand.
You clean the sand when you do your wcs by moving an aquarium vacuum tool slowly, approx. 1" over the sand - it may pick up some sand into the vac tool up to an inch or so but it's weight will cause the granules to drop back down out of the vac.

The nearest high quality discus supplier to you is Chicago Discus ( contact Miranda or Josie) - see link below.

https://chicagodiscus.com/
They will airship or provide overnite truck delivery, with live delivery guaranteed. You cant do much better than Chicago Discus in all the U.S. - their rep is top notch.

BTW - not to worry about TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) - Discus can handle of fairly wide range of KH or GH levels so don't concern yourself with this aspect.

Let me know if I can be of further help at any time.

P.S. - If you intend to keep a planted tank, my best advice is do not buy discus any smaller in size than approx. 4.5" or larger - as with younger fish (with less developed immune systems) the risks are high of raising stunted fish, or poorly-shaped, or unhealthy specimens - only adult or near adult should be kept in a planted tank by novices. If your wallet doesn't allow to get that size of fish, then raise smaller ones in the tank, bare-bottom, for a few months until they get to near adult size before planting the tank.
 

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I am just starting with plants but have been keeping discus for a few years. All good advice here! I would actually argue for starting with 6 small (2.5") discus from a reputable seller. If you have a spare 20-40gallon tank (and we all do right?) you could then grow them out in the water you have. Lots of big water changes are easy in a smaller bare-bottom tank.

I suggest this for one reason- watching small discus grow to be big, colorful discus is one the most satisfying experiences I have had in 40+ years in the hobby. You owe it to yourself to enjoy this!

Also, I have not heard of pool sand (like I said, new here). I have been keeping my discus with dark substrate and have not seen the "peppering". Is Eco-complete really a problem?
 

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I am just starting with plants but have been keeping discus for a few years. All good advice here! I would actually argue for starting with 6 small (2.5") discus from a reputable seller. If you have a spare 20-40gallon tank (and we all do right?) you could then grow them out in the water you have. Lots of big water changes are easy in a smaller bare-bottom tank.

I suggest this for one reason- watching small discus grow to be big, colorful discus is one the most satisfying experiences I have had in 40+ years in the hobby. You owe it to yourself to enjoy this!

Also, I have not heard of pool sand (like I said, new here). I have been keeping my discus with dark substrate and have not seen the "peppering". Is Eco-complete really a problem?

I do agree that watching small discus grow into large beautiful fish is a very satisfying experience - but imo it's one best left for hobbyists who have first gained some degree of knowledge & experience keeping discus.
I'm generally a cautious sort and believe that taking the path of least risk is the best approach for novices to discus. I say this because growing out small young discus if a very iffy proposition, requiring an unfailing commitment to large daily wcs in a bare-bottom tank for many months, along with multiple daily feedings, to avoid the high risk of producing stunted, poorly-shaped, or unhealthy fish. 2.5" fish are merely babies with undeveloped immune systems who are readily prone to health issues - which is why I don't recommend that novices to discus start out with this size of fish.


Not wishing to be critical of your suggestion Paaron - I'm simply providing my point of view.


And to answer your question - no, there is nothing particularly wrong with Eco-Complete, for those aquarists with previous experience in keeping both discus and planted tanks.
However, it's not the ideal substrate in which a discus newbie can best maintain high water quality & squeaky clean tank conditions, again to minimize risks of failure when starting out with discus for the first time.


If I seem overly cautious, it's because I've seen too many aquarists innocently launch themselves into discus-keeping without knowledge of the potential drawbacks of discus' intolerance of poor water quality, and lose big $$$ in the process when their fish succumb to health issues mainly due to stress over time.


As to Pool Filter Sand, for those interested but who cannot find the right product at a pool supply or big box store, here's a link to good PFS available by order from amazon.com. It's costlier than what may be found at a pool supply store, but still relatively inexpensive as a substrate.
Amazon.com : Pool Filter Sand #20 Grade Silica Sand - 50 lbs. : Patio, Lawn & Garden
 

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Doogy, do you know what grade density that PFS is ?

It's no doubt a good product - about the same price as PFS obtained @ a pool supply store, and less than 1/2 the price of the Fairmount AquaQuartz sand that I linked. And it is pure white, which can be hard to find at many pool supply shops.

And yes too, Chicago Discus' fish are top of the line quality.
 

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Doogy, do you know what grade density that PFS is ?

It's no doubt a good product - about the same price as PFS obtained @ a pool supply store, and less than 1/2 the price of the Fairmount AquaQuartz sand that I linked. And it is pure white, which can be hard to find at many pool supply shops.

And yes too, Chicago Discus' fish are top of the line quality.
Hi again Paul all I could find on it was this ,if your still on could you check my latest post in general thanks

Physical Properties:
Effective Size - .49 mm, .65 mm or .80 mm. (Other sizes available on request)
pH Value - 6.5
Hardness (Moh's Scale) - 7.0
For more information about our Po
 

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Hi again Paul all I could find on it was this ,if your still on could you check my latest post in general thanks

Physical Properties:
Effective Size - .49 mm, .65 mm or .80 mm. (Other sizes available on request)
pH Value - 6.5
Hardness (Moh's Scale) - 7.0
For more information about our Po

I've posted on your other thread.


I see your PFS comes in 3 sizes - I'll have to try & relate the mm size to what I believe to be # 20 grade density granules, but it won't be easy for me - I'm not very good at that kind of eyeball 'guestimating' - LOL
(Offhand though, I would think that .80mm would be the #20 grade granule size).
But you don't know which size you have, or do you ?
 

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I've posted on your other thread.


I see your PFS comes in 3 sizes - I'll have to try & relate the mm size to what I believe to be # 20 grade density granules, but it won't be easy for me - I'm not very good at that kind of eyeball 'guestimating' - LOL
(Offhand though, I would think that .80mm would be the #20 grade granule size).
But you don't know which size you have, or do you ?
No don't remember what size...
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Now I wonder what size of PFS I bought as well. I already tossed the bag out and mine is also very fine
stuff. I didn't realize their was three sizes in this better grade I bought. I got mine on line but when I
look up the same sight I think it is #20 grade or .45 .55 mm.
Llewellyn
 

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Paul,
1. Any chance you know a good discus breeder near new York City? I live in the Bronx, just north of Manhattan. Westchester or Queeens (Flushing), northern new Jersey, even Brooklyn, all within one hour drive.
2. I have heard that Stendker Discus are really top notch. This web site is for a place in Baltimore that sells them.
Discus Hans USA - World Class Discus Fish
It is a three-hour drive.
Is it possible it is worth driving there?
3. Can discus really be shipped overnight and arrive in good condition?
4. My final question is how I plan to set up my tank.... I have about 15 years of experience. Mostly freshwater, Discus for about a year. then marine for about 1-1/2 years. Here is my plan please tell me your thoughts. I will be setting up a 55 gallon long. 48" long, 13" deep X 21' high
A. Pool filter sand and plant tank moderately.... keep only plants, with LED for plants (I think brand name starts with word "Coral"- I have been told excellent lighting)..
B. only low water level... water spray plants twice daily... and allow growth one month so plants get reasonably-well rooted. Small air pump and bubbler to circulate water.
C. Fill tank completely. Add Seachem Tidal 55.
D. one week later start a Fluval 306.
E. One week later add 6 cardinal tetras.
E. Two weeks later add four or five 2.5 inch discus
F. 2-3 weeks later add 2 or 3 cory cats and one pleco
G. One week later add 2 - 4 blue rams
H. Maybe, maybe add some swordtails down the road.
I. Plan to keep tank around 80 degrees.
J. One 200 watt heater. and One 75 watt heater.
k. Reason for these appliances? the fluval and the 200 Watt heater will be plugged into a backup power supply. That should be fine for up to 20-30 mins (depending on the battery backup I buy).
The Seachem (which draws only 6 watts) and the 75 watt heater will be connected to a second battery backup power supply. The idea being that if power goes out longer, the seachem HOB filer and the 75 Watt heater might function for as long as four hours on the backup power supply.

Your thoughts Paul?
Thanks!
Sheldon
 
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