Breeding Discus Fish

Discus fish are one of the most spectacular looking fish in the hobby. They have a majestic presence that is hypnotic. These beauties are also one of the most difficult fish to keep because of all the pampering they require. If you have mastered the ability to keep this animal healthy and vibrant for at least a couple of years, you may be ready to attempt breeding. The following points will guide you in this endeavor:

Finding a breeding pair

A reputable dealer would be able to provide you with a breeding pair that has already bonded, but it will cost you an arm and a leg. The alternative is to start with a dozen or so young adults about the size of a silver dollar and feed them a high protein diet three times a day for around 18 months. They will not breed until they are at least two years old. They will pair off on their own and defend a territory in the tank from the other fish. This is then the time to move the pair to a breeder tank.

The right size breeding tank

Some breeders advocate using a very small tank for the pair when breeding, while others advocate a more normal size tank with plenty of room. I believe a 30/40 gallon high to 75 gallon tank for an adult pair is the right choice.

Water quality, water quality, water quality!

If you have experience with this fish already, you are well aware of how critical water quality is. Nitrate and ammonia needs to be kept as close to zero has possible and DOC, (dissolved organic compounds) kept low as well. Water should be soft with a pH between 5.8 and 6.4. A high quality sponge filter with a dense pore structure and large surface area provides a superior biological filtration. A sponge filter can also be easily set with a slow flow rate which the adult Discus and fry prefer.


An effective way of acclimating the fish from the pairing tank to the breeder tank is to set up a small temporary holding tank, (ten or 20 gallons) that is filled with water from the pairing tank. With the fish inside the holding tank, slowly over a period of several hours replace the holding tank water with water from the new breeding tank. Once the water transfer is complete, simply move the fish into the breeding tank. It will take about thirty days for the fish to feel at home in the new tank before they can be encouraged to breed.


Fluctuating the temperature up and down between 82 and 88 degrees every couple of days while changing 10% of the water every day will trigger the female to lay her eggs. Once the eggs are laid, keep the temperature stable. The tank should have a piece of slate that is standing upright in the corner, or a PVC pipe for the eggs to be laid on. They may even use the sponge filter.

The parents care

Both parents must be kept with the fry for at least six weeks. The fry feed from the body slime of both parents and follow them closely. After about three weeks you can start feeding the fry live or frozen brine shrimp, and after four weeks a high grade fine flake. When the fry begin to spend most of their time exploring the tank away from their parents, the adults can be removed. The fry will be about the size of a dime within three months.