View Full Version : How to tell when Discus are pairing

04-23-2003, 09:28 PM
Hey thought is mit help some of you guys answer some question about when and how you now you have a pair

by Karen Sabolcik

This has long been a question since one purchases their first discus. I too could be found staring at my tanks wondering if I have a pair. There is a way to tell if a discus is interested in pairing or have paired but have yet to spawn. Just like any living thing (even plants with their bloosoms) they must attract another to be able to reproduce. Lets see what them discus are up to.

The first thing I am going to stress, is try to observe your discus every day. This article is to give only a few examples of how they may act and certainly does not "tell all"as each discus is different.

Discus mature more by age then size. One may have a discus that is small yet old enough to breed. Some may even breed at a small size but some may not as there may be no mate willing to take on a small discus.

When you have a tankful of young adults usually around the age of one year on, you may notice different behavior then when they were young. Territories may establish, some may never choose a set territory, etc. They no longer seem to want to school for the most part. They have reached maturity. If your discus are fertile and of great health, this territory episoded may progress to further things. However, some discus that do pair may have never established territories until after they are in heat. But we will get to that later on.

When you see a discus that has become dominant over a certain territory and will not allow others near this site, watch it carefully. It may stray from the site while it is feeding time, but soon will even spot another fish near the site even if it is on the other side of the tank. It will then decide to chase the other away from that area. This is a dominant fish at that given time. Dominance changes all the time.

One day, this discus may decide it is time to look for a mate. It may wonder away from the site trying to mingle or it may wait for the future mate to come near the territory. Again, it depends on the setup and the individual fish. Most of the time, the one who is looking, stays near the territory it has chosen. Discus seem to use the site as part of their "come and get me" poses.

Lets say now, the fish is getting serious and wants to breed in the near future. Here we observe this fish acting funny when a particular discus swims by the domane but chases the others away. When a discus is trying to attract, it will alot of times put it's head upwards, flair it's fins (or half close them), curve it's body a little bit and may sway it's body gently though not all the time. It will sometimes look as if it is in the spawning position against the site (this is what I call the "Spawning pose"). The eyes seem to get brighter at this point. Also, some discus will swim up to a potential mate in this pose. But when it is aligned head to tail (it will stay head up until it is aligned) with the other discus, it will immediately bow it's head in a downward postion while flickicking it's fins while flairing them (the dorsal and caudal tail the most). The fish need not to be twitching it's body when doing this.

Sometimes the bow is not complete and only the head up position is observed. Either this fish is not getting a response, was not aligned to the other fish properly or this pose was mistaken for a threat pose.

The other discus this one is trying to pair with, may not be ready to pair or may not like the discus making the offer. There will then be no repsonse given. If no response is given, The one wanting to pair, may attempt the bow several times from days to weeks, He may even get aggressive with the non-responsive discus. After a bow, he may swat his tail at the fish, and even bite the flanks near the stomach or head. He may also bite the tail or push/bite the stomach of the other fish. After this, he may try to "bow" again.

I have seen a discus persistently go after a female while in competeion with another male. Both were stealing the breeding site when the other swam away to get the female they were after. They both did the "spawning pose". These males were ready to spawn. The female had ignored the more dominant male as he resorted to swatting her with his tail, biting her sides and pushing her with his mouth. He was trying to get her in the mood or intimidate her into pairing.

The other one however, she bowed back to but the bow was halfhearted and not dramatic and there was no fin flicking. This action was determined to be a " hey, lets be friends and not fight" bow as some females and males do it to the same sex when there is a long dispute between them.

Soon, she started to hang out near the site the males fought over but stayed closer to the aggressive male's area. She however did not face him and continued to ignore his bows. This male kept up his persistance to win her affection by do the "mating bow, the "spawning pose", etc. to get her in the mood. At this point, he stopped biting her. This went on for a couple of days.

She was noticed one morning, bowing back to him in a dramatic fashion.. It was the mating dance! They then both looked at the site carefully examining every surface. Soon, they chased away any fish that was near the breeding cone including the other male. This female did not want to pair until she had enough roe to spawn. Perhaps the biting on the male's part helped her trigger that production. Yet they would not breed in the community.

Once put into their own tank, the male decided to chase her around and intimidate her again. This went on for a week. She would swim very fast away from him like he was a threat. The move had gotten her out of the "mood". On the 7th day, I go down to feed them to notice eggs on the heater. There was no prior notice of them cleaning that heater.

Most discus clean the site together all day. A couple of hours before the lights go out, they then spawn. That is why it is important to keep the lighting schedule the same every day.

This pair have been a pair ever since. The other male that had lost was being courted in the community tank by two females. He had ignored them because of his attraction to the female he fought over.

Soon, this male and the rest of the community were transferred into a 125 gallon tank from the 55 gallon they were in. It was noticed about two months later, the two females were still bowing (courting) him in the dramatic usual fashion and he was only uninterestingly bowing to one (friendship bow) but doing the mating bow to the other. A week went by. He and the female he liked were protecting a territory together. No longer was the other female allowed near them. They were put into their own tank, and they spawned 4 days later.

I also have seen discus in the community that seemed as though were not interested in spawning. No one had chosen a set site to defend. They all got along together.

One night, when I was giving the last feeding, I caught two spawning! It was a surprise to say the least. I looked back on the many video tapes I had of this tank to see if I missed the pairing. Towards the time this happened, It was caught on film the male looking at a site but not real interested. He hung around this area a bit, but also wondered around the tank with the rest. He never really chased any away from the territory as the wood was in the back of the tank surrounded by plants and was not a "traveled" area. It was on tape with the female swimming up to him an no behavior was displayed on either party. She just stayed next to him for a while then swam away. When they were spawning however, they were doing the mating dance (and the twitching of coarse).

There are some discus that are very subtle when they pair. Some do not pair until they are in heat. Some pair a while before they spawn. And some are real dramatic when looking for a mate. I believe the less territory to be found and the more males in a tank, the more dramatic efforts can be seen. I listed these three stories to show you how diverse pairing can be, but there are some similarities also.

There are some discus that will not spawn unless in a community situation with other discus or fish. I also have had some that will pair and refuse to spawn in a community.

The main part of this article is this... Watch your discus as much as you can so you will know something is up when they are acting different. If you can point out each discus and tell a personality story in detail of each, you are a great observer and things like pairing may not go un-noticed in your house. Look for attitude and body movement changes that are not the normal for this fish or have changed when they matured. Examples are the mating bow, spawning pose, twitching of the head that is very fast like a nervous twitch ( the head does not move from side to side alot), etc.

Here is a list of the poses and dances :

1. Mating bow :

Fish may swim up to another with head up, body may be slightly curved, may flick it's fins and align itself head to tail with another fish and immediately "bow" with it's fins flaired and flicking. It may pause a bit waiting for a response. When in the head up postition just before the bow, it may half close it's fins but immediately flair them and flick the dorsal and caudal fins when bowing.

2. spawning pose :

One fish while trying to attract another fish may put itself against the site it chose, with head up, fins flaired and body slightly curved. It will not attack the fish it is doing this to. If the potential mate is wanted, this fish may then go into a "mating bow" dance.

3. site cleaning

after they had paired and both fish are in heat (twitching), They will clean one or two sites continuosly together. Their mouths may even get swollen from the cleaning.

That about wraps it up. Good luck with your discus and I hope you will get the enjoyment of seeing the fish you raised someday spawn. :)