The discus, Symphysodon spp., has been popular...

The discus, Symphysodon spp., has been popular among aquarium enthusiasts. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over the last few days, there are some things I’ve learned are absolute requirements for keeping discus.  The first thing, and probably the most important, is to have a quarantine/hospital tank.  Period.  There’s no way around this and if you don’t use one you are destined for difficulties.

The second most-important thing I’ve learned is – YOU MUST AGE YOUR WATER.  Again, there’s no way around this.  If you don’t have an R/O (reverse osmosis) unit or your tank is too large to reasonably purchase R/O water, you must age it.  If you go about doing the regular 50% water changes as recommended for these wonderful fish, and you don’t use R/O or age your water, you will most likely kill your livestock…  Here’s why.

Like a lot of people, I live in a large city (over 2 million) and our water is balls deep in chlorine and chloramine.  I tested the water out-of-the-tap using my API master kit, and the pH was so ridiculous, it surpassed the readout range for the high-range pH test.  It took a double dose (10 gallon treatment for 5 gallons of water) of pH reducer to even make the change in pH register on the test kit.  The pH kit maxes out at 8.8 –  It’s insane.

The pH of the aged water in my aquarium sits at about 7.2, which means there’s an overnight reduction in pH by AT LEAST 1.6 points.  I’ve found information that suggests hobbyists keep their discus in pH that ranges from 6.0 to 8.0 and they do fine.  But even if you keep a higher pH, the constant fluctuation due to regular water changes will kill… or lead to weakened immune systems and the subsequent disease will kill.  Either way, it’s lethal.

Water Colour

Water Colour (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

If you’re like me, the prospect of aging water seemed overwhelming.  With a 90 gallon tank, it seemed ridiculous to have 45 gallons of water just lying around my apartment.  I had decided it would come down to purchasing a 45 gallon fish tank simply to age my water, or keep 9, 5-gallon buckets laying around.  Both ideas seemed absurd, but since I already have the discus there didn’t seem to be much choice… until I called Midwest Reefs.

The guy on the phone recommended a large, watertight trash can.  It was pure freaking genius.  I got in my car and went to my nearest walmart and bought a 35 gallon Rubbermaid trash can.  Boom.  Water aging container.

With an aging container it’s much much easier to add treatments for chlorine, chloramine, salts, and whatever else you might need.  Stick a bubblestone in it, let it sit for 24 hours to release the chemicals from any municipal water treatments, and to allow the pH to drop to it’s natural state.  Then add your pH adjustments (if any), and add to the tank.  If your fish require a water temp higher than most room temperatures (such as discus), you’ll certainly want to add a water heater to the aging container.

Now, on to the disease with which I’m currently struggling. . . . .

Discus

Discus (Photo credit: niomix2008)

Here’s a word you need to add to your fish tank vocabulary,  “PraziPro”.  It comes highly recommended by discus enthusiasts, and covers the gamut of discus parasitic issues like, flukes, tapeworm, flatworms and turbellarians.  It’s a little pricey, but in the end it’s much cheaper than replacing your discus, (same thing goes for the hospital/quarantine tank).  Make sure you read the instructions oh so thoroughly.  That’s the third most-important thing.  Always read the directions thoroughly.  This stuff is supposed to make magic happen in about a week. . . I’ll start treatment tomorrow.  It requires a large water change before treatment, and my new water is currently aging in my handy trash bucket.  If this treatment doesn’t cure what ails him, I’ll probably end up euthanizing it.  I hate taking a life (even that of a fish), but it comes down to one simple rule… the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.  It will be much cheaper to replace one discus, than to replace all four when they too become infected.

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