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Inglefield, In. 47618

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Discus Fish Aquarium Filtration

Most types of aquarium filters on the market can be used in discus fish aquarium filtration. However, they may be poorly suited for use in discus fish aquarium filtration right out of the box. Manufacturers try to provide aquarium filters that will work in a variety of situations. The key to success  in  properly configuring a particular filter for discus aquarium use is understanding discus fish aquarium filtration requirements. Aquarium filters are generally classified under three categories. These classifications are based on the function of the aquarium filter.

The first category of aquarium filters is chemical filtration, which involves the use of carbon, resins or other chemicals. Because these chemicals act as a magnet, holding impurities in the system that water changes would eliminate, we do not recommend or use this type of discus fish aquarium filtration. The chemicals can become unstable and leach impurities back into the discus fish aquarium water.

A second form of aquarium filtration is mechanical filtration, which involves collecting particulates for removal later. Usually a pad is used to trap debris and is rinsed periodically. Again, tank maintenance and water changes take care of this in the discus fish aquarium.

The third type of filter category is the most important in any aquarium, especially the discus fish aquarium. It is termed biological filtration. Most types of filters can be properly configured to provide good biological filtration for the discus aquarium. The key is to set it up the discus fish filtration for optimum performance. A very porous biological filter media material should be used in discus fish filtration. This biological filter media allows lots of good nitrifying bacteria to colonize it and remove toxins and impurities. For information on nitrification in the discus fish aquarium:

Discus Fish Aquarium Nitrification.

Some types of discus fish aquarium filtration oxygenate the water better than others. Discus fish water should have good levels of dissolved oxygen. It is a good idea to take this into consideration when choosing a filter for your discus fish aquarium. For example, bio wheel filters such as the Emperor by Marineland®, do a really good job of oxygenation the discus water. Also this type of discus fish aquarium filtration  has removable baskets for adding biological filter media (bio media). Sponge filters are great for the discus fish aquarium filtration. Care must be taken with sponge filters to not disturb the nitrifying bacteria when cleaning. Aquarium water must be used and the sponge filters cannot be cleaned too often or the nitrifying bacteria will be disrupted. A combination of sponge filters and bio wheel filters with added biological filter media are an excellent choice for discus fish aquarium filtration

Under Gravel Filter

For a long time the under gravel filter was the most popular type of filtration found in aquariums. It is still popular today in some areas. This type of filter is not a good choice for the discus fish aquarium. The area under the filter plates builds up a thick layer of decomposing material which creates high bacteria levels. Ongoing nitrate levels can be a problem. The gravel can not be adequately cleaned without disrupting the nitrifying bacteria. The bacteria coat the gravel surface but do not penetrate into the hard interior. Placing gravel in the discus fish aquarium without filter plates under it allows for aggressive cleaning of the gravel to remove debris.

Canister filter, Fluidized Bed Filter

These filters are closed systems and create a load on the oxygen demand of the discus fish aquarium. In other words, these filters compete with the discus fish for the oxygen in the water. During a power outage these filters can create deadly toxins in a very short time. This is because they are closed and oxygen deficient. These filters will always consume more oxygen than created by spray bar returns. One major canister filter manufacturer has addressed this issue with the design of a wet-dry type canister filter. If you run a canister filter as your discus fish filtration it would be prudent to have strong aeration in the aquarium to keep an adequate level of dissolved oxygen in the water.

Hang on Power Filter

These filters provide excellent results in discus fish aquaria if properly configured. They should be filled with biological media. Some power filters provide a media of sponge or plastic grids. It is best to replace that with the proper bio media. Plastic is not an ideal media for filter bacteria. Some sponge material is too course for adequate colonization of nitrifying bacteria.

Wet Dry Filter(Trickle Filter)

These filters are frequently used in marine and reef aquaria. They provide excellent degassing of CO2 and oxygenation. However, to become an effective filter for discus aquaria, bio media should be placed in the wet submerged portion of the filter under the plastic bio balls. The media used should be porous and designed as biological filter media. The best media is sold for use in canister filters. The water should pass through the filter a minimum of 3-4 times per hour.

Ozone, UV Sterilizer, Oxygen Column, Oxydator, Denitrator, Algae Scrubber, Low Voltage Water Purifier, Tonics, Chemicals:
There are many products available which are unnecessary and could in some instances pose a potential for problems. Do not assume a product is good for discus simply because a discus image is on the label. Products that may be good in some areas of aquatics may not necessarily be useful in the discus aquarium.  UV STERILIZERS are unnecessary  for discus fish aquariums. They are useful in controlling green water in ponds. They do not assist in keeping the discus healthy. Any bacteria on the discus would never go through the sterilizer.

If a supplier tells you certain products are a must have item that is necessary for the discus aquarium then surely they would have those items in operation on their discus aquariums. Guess what- they don't.


Discus fish have large eyes designed to see in dark murky water. Unlike predatory fish, which have eyes looking forward to chase prey, discus have eyes set to the side of the head. This allows discus to see things coming from the side. The discus fish has large eyes that allow vision in murky water with subdued lighting. In the wild, tannin stained water reduces sunlight. Overhanging tree branches further contribute to this. As a result, the wild discus fish are not living in waters with lots of natural sunlight. Avoid high intensity lighting as the discus fish will not like it. If you are setting up a planted discus fish aquarium, a full spectrum light bulb should be sufficient. These are available at your hardware store or aquarium shop.


Discus fish are a warm water species of  tropical fish and need the correct water temperature in the aquarium. The ideal temperature for the discus fish aquarium is 84 to 86 degrees. It is safer to use two smaller heaters as opposed to one large one. The heater should be completely submersible. A heater with external temperature control is convenient. However, care must be used. When the control fails, these heaters can literally cook the fish. If using a heater with an external control, touch the control regularly to determine if it is getting hot. The external control should not feel hot to the touch and can be an early warning sign of problems.
Attach the discus fish aquarium heater horizontally along the back wall, near the bottom. It should not be in a vertical up and down direction. The heater should never be viewed by the female discus fish as a suitable site for future spawning. The ovipositor tube could get burned resulting in a build up of scar tissue. This, in turn, could lead to an obstruction and inability for the discus female to lay eggs. This condition is referred to as "egg bound". The eggs cannot pass through the scar tissue blocked tube. They remain inside the discus fish. They can resorb back into the body, but more often than not will decay and lead to a fatal infection in the discus.

Regular aquarium maintenance is vital to the health and well being of the discus fish. This includes regularly cleaning the inside walls of the aquarium. A long handle scrub brush should be used. If the aquarium is acrylic, special brushes are available that will not scratch the delicate surface. The exterior of the discus fish aquarium should be kept clean. Air lines and heater cords should be wiped clean on a regular basis. Power filters should be cleaned occasionally. When cleaning a power filter, place the bio media in a container of aquarium water. This keeps the beneficial bacteria alive and cleans it. A long flexible brush is useful in cleaning inside the intake tubes of filters. The impeller can be removed from power filters and cleaned. A toothbrush is handy for this. To make a good all around cleaning solution add one cup of vinegar to a half gallon of water. This will remove mineral deposits from tank trim and glass as well as cleaning power filters with the bio media removed. Sponge filters should not be cleaned too often. Avoid using tap water to clean any biological media including sponges. The chlorine will kill the bacteria and the raw tap water will shock the bacteria. Over cleaning can disrupt the nitrifying bacteria in the biological media of the discus aquarium filter, resulting in ammonia and nitrite toxicity problems.

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