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Thread: Setting up a new discus tank, criticism welcomed!

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    Default Setting up a new discus tank, criticism welcomed!

    Hi Everyone,

    First, thank you so much for taking the time to read this post and perhaps give me feedback. Iím setting up a discus tank and would love it if folks could tell me what they think Iím missing or need to do differently. (Iíve had several freshwater tanks over the years so this isnít my first go at fishkeeping.)

    Setup (picture attached):
    -90 gallon tall (48x24x18) tank;
    -No substrate
    -Several pieces of driftwood and a few rocks with two types of java ferns and two types of anubias attached. (Held on by flourish glue with rubber bands for support that will come off soon.)
    -I have a root-type driftwood, which is really three pieces glued together with flourish glue, that I hang from the center piece of the tank with fishing line.
    -My water out of the tap is 7.6ish. The tank is 7.4-7.5.
    -The tank is on the North side of the house without direct sunlight and I live in temperate Seattle so I donít think there will be any big swings in external temperate that canít be controlled easily by the tank equipment.

    Equipment:
    -Air pump and stone
    -Submersible heater with external temperature control. Currently itís set to 81 but Iím planning on having it at 83-84 when the discus come.
    -Lighting is a Finnex planted light set to mimic day/night cycle.
    -Filter 1 is an Eheim 2217 with carbon removed.
    -Filter 2 is a Fluval 406 with some modifications. I removed the carbon and replaced with Purigen and Matrix. I also attached a pre-filter sponge to the intake.
    -Filter 1ís intake is in the top third of the tank and filter two is in the bottom third. I thought that since I have two filters Iíd spread out the strata covered. Both outputs are on the ends of the tank so the water is pushed towards the middle where the intakes are.

    Maintenance:
    So Iím going to be realistic about what I expect to do for maintenance. I expect Iíll do 1, a week using my python system. Iíd like to say Iíd do it twice a week but if I do it wonít be regularly. Iím also hiring an aquarium maintenance company to come in biweekly. Iíve got Prime and then Safe to condition the water but I wonít be aging the water before I refill. Iíve got Discus Trace and stability to add as well.

    I have an Eheim vac that Iíve used several times on the bottom in between water changes. It helps a little bit but the suction is not impressive. It gets leftover food but nothing heavier.

    Tank thus far:
    I tried to do a fishless cycle with Stability and decomposing food starting in early-June and while I had ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates show up and then go down none of the numbers got as high as I was expecting. Iíve of course added water conditioner every time I add water.

    After three weeks I added 12 rummy nose tetras and 6 albino corys. Both of these are on the small size right now, not that any will get that big. Iím considering adding a bristlenose pleco at some point but Iím still undecided on that one.

    Iím measuring my water daily and since I added fish and my levels went up but Iím monitoring closely and no one seems stressed. Today my ammonia is .25 (was .50 yesterday before a 15% water change), nitrites 0, nitrates between 0-5. I assume that this is a little cycle since I had such a small one before and have added bio load. Also, it seemed like a lot of the bacteria was collecting on my hanging driftwood, looked a little like a gelatinous, whiteish blob, and I washed that off.

    Discus:
    Iíd love your thoughts about the number of fish. Iím thinking six discus, roughly the same size, which Iíll add all at once in an attempt to minimize bullying. With the decorations and tank mates as well as my expectations about maintenance this feels like the max I should add and I wouldnít want less than 6. It seems that people suggest even numbers, like 6 or 8, and 8 would be too many.

    Iím hoping to buy my discus from Kenny and Iím getting his monthly emails and thinking carefully about which to get. Iíll be in touch with him soon I hope. My plan is to add the discus in the middle/end of September. Itís a particularly busy time of the year for work right now, and my job often involves overnight travel, so Iím waiting until Iíll be around the house more to monitor them. Plus, this gives more time for the tank to be established and stable.

    Iíd like to order my six fish around 4.5-5 inches. It seems that by this size they are hardier. A word of note, I am a super emotional fish keeper/pet owner, I cry when fish die and am insanely anxious if anyone is sick. Does this seem like the right size considering? Iím hoping to stock once and keep all the fish I get for as long as they live (what is a discus lifespan by the way?) and while money is of course a concern the amount I spend is secondary to having happy, healthy fish.

    Iím hoping for a mix of colors and patterns, but no white, my little corys can help with that niche. At the moment Iím thinking Golden Lollipop, Royal Ruby Red, and Blue Scorpion for my mostly solids and Tiger Turquoise, Leopard Snakeskin, and Super Checkerboard Pigeon for my patterns.

    Sorry this is such an epicly long post. I SO appreciate your feedback, thank you for taking the time.

    -Erin
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    Default Re: Setting up a new discus tank, criticism welcomed!

    Hi Erin,
    Your set up, your equipment, number of discus, sound perfect. Your tank is beautiful. I thought, wow this person really did their homework. Then I read your “realistic” maintenance schedule. I don’t think you will be able to get away with 1/wk water change for Discus. There’s no sugar coating it. You will need to seriously increase your wc schedule to stay out of the sickness and disease section of this forum.
    I didn’t know this basic fact when I started and found this site while trying to save my discus. I increased my wc drastically and most survived my inexperience, but they were stunted, little football shaped discus and their high growth period was over.
    You are starting with good stock from Kenny. My hope is when you get your beauties from Kenny, you will fall in love with these exquisite fish and want them to reach their full potential. I was glad I didn’t know in advance or I probably wouldn’t have started with discus to begin with and I would’ve missed out on these beautiful, personable, entertaining fish. They never get tiring. They are nosy about what you are doing. They are quirky.
    In my case, I started with brand new stock from Kenny, asked a million questions here and read as much as my brain could hold. It’s been almost 2 yrs and I love these fish like no other. I have a 125 gal and with my python, wc’s are quick and easy. I learned the hard way and hope this helps you. I hope you find that wc are not as time consuming as you might think. With my python, I can do a 75-80% wc in my 125 gal PDQ and watch my fish get giddy with it.
    Also, you might want to make sure there are no sharp pointy little branches in your beautiful driftwood pieces. Where did you get that piece? Its so nice! Welcome to SD btw. You came to the right place.
    Patty
    If the discus are happy, Iím happy

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    Default Re: Setting up a new discus tank, criticism welcomed!

    You're certainly on the right track, but as Patty cautioned, your 5" discus (don't get anything smaller - preferably larger) may not do well with only 1 wc/week, no matter how large.

    And suggest you do the proper quarantine when you get the discus. Isolate the discus in another tank for a week or so to ensure they're eating ok & comfortable, then add 1 of the discus to your main tank with all the tank-mates & observe for several weeks - if everything ok after that time, add the other discus to the main tank.
    May seem like overkill to you, but cross-contamination from tank-mates to discus can occur.

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    Administrator and MVP Dec.2015 Second Hand Pat's Avatar
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    Default Re: Setting up a new discus tank, criticism welcomed!

    Hi Erin and welcome to Simply. I think you have a good plan moving forward but like Patty mentioned I feel you need to rethink your water change schedule. It is really best to start with a little too much starting out especially since you have not keep discus before. Starting with larger fish will help. Also we stress quarantine here. You will have fish in the tank prior to the discus. Do you have a QT you can house the discus in when you first get them?
    Pat
    Your discus are talking to you....are you listening

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    Default Re: Setting up a new discus tank, criticism welcomed!

    Hello Patty, Paul, and Pat,

    Thank you, thank you for reading and responding! I really appreciate your thoughts.

    I hear you about the water change schedule, thank you for being honest. After reading your replies I got myself a submersible pump to put in the tank when I do changes. I like my python but my closest sink doesn't drain that fast so having the water running to drain has caused problems. Also, when I put more water in, I've needed to bother my significant other to hold the end of the python in the tank when I first start it so the pressure doesn't cause the end to fly up and throw water all over my living room floor. (And he wants as little to do with fish maintenance as possible.) I found a hook designed for the python that might help with this.

    I'm going to practice water changes with my new gear so it's a smoother process and then I'll do it more often. I'll work on this over the next month and if I don't get better and don't think I'll do more water changes I won't get the discus. With that said, I really want discus and hearing from the three of you so clearly about the wcs I feel I can step up my plan dramatically. Thank you for being so candid.

    Paul and Patty, the QT is more of a problem though. I don't have another tank set up and would REALLY rather not. If my tank is established and stable and my tank mates look healthy can I add my discus directly? I've watched several videos of people unpacking from Kenny and slowly acclimating the discus before adding to their main tank so I've got some tips about making that process as smooth as possible, i.e. keeping the lights off, adding a quarter of a cup every 15 minutes over several hours, etc. Also, I bought stress guard which I've used when I introduced my RNTs and corys and was also planning to use when the discus arrived. Short of having the QT is there anything I could do to mitigate concerns? I bought paraguard to have on hand. (I'm like a SeaChem fan girl at this point.)

    Again P,P,P, I really appreciate your responses, thank you thank you! If I'm being ridiculous about the QT please feel free to tell me.

    Patty, I'm glad you like the driftwood. I'm lucky enough to have two LFS near me that I like and are run by good people. The driftwood, or really the three pieces glued together, came from Aquarium Zen, http://www.aquariumzen.net/. It's a beautiful store, they seem to specialize in aquascaping. I've purchased my plants there as well though my little low maintenance ones are a poor representation of their stuff. I wouldn't say any of the edges are sharp but they are pokey. Do you think I should take it out and sand it? Also, thanks for your nice note about the homework, I've definitely spent some significant time reading up on what I can do to have the happiest fish.

    Paul, thanks for your note about the size. Is there a threshold for too big or is just getting the largest fish I can a good approach?

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    Default Re: Setting up a new discus tank, criticism welcomed!

    My rule of thumb of buying discus is to buy the biggest you can afford.
    5" is a good size to start imo, but bigger the better.

    WC once a week will barely keep the discus alive.
    If they are healthy batch, then they might not get sick here and there,
    but I don't think it would be good for their growth.

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    Default Re: Setting up a new discus tank, criticism welcomed!

    Thanks so much for the input, Cyrus!

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    Default Re: Setting up a new discus tank, criticism welcomed!

    Hi Erin,
    Iím glad you are all in with discus. You wonít regret it. As far as pokey ends on your piece of driftwood, I sanded mine and looked it over trying to imagine where one might get poked in the eye if startled. I snipped and sanded those.
    As far as quarantine is concerned, hereís the problem: Discus fish are kept in pristine water. They havenít been exposed to the bacteria and critters other fish have developed immunity to.
    I had the same problem in my 75gal. 6 cories and 12 rummy nose wouldnít take much room. Hereís what I would do. I hope others will add their opinions.
    I would set up a 10/20 gal tank with a cheap sponge filter. I would move your cories and rummyís there. I would put a 10% bleach in your 90 gal and sterilize everything. Run it overnight. Drain, fill, let it run overnight, fill and drain again. Then double dose with prime. That is, instead of dosing for 90 gal-dose for 180 gal. I may have repeated this process once more but I was scared of the whole bleach thing.
    Then you are starting with a sterilized tank for your new discus. Ask Kenny to send you a seeded sponge for your new tank. When your new fish arrive, you will have to pick a hero fish. That would be the one you could live without. Not an easy choice, especially with Kennyís fish...That fish goes in the twenty gal with all the possible problems that could be living there. Keep an eye on your hero. If he is fine in 6 weeks, you can add him and others to the 90 gal.
    This way you donít risk losing all your fish, but rather just one. I canít tell you how many people have had illness/death from ignoring this crucial step. To get off to a start like that is devastating as you can imagine. Itís a lot of work, but the silver cloud is you will also have a hospital tank if/when the need should arrive in the future.
    Iíve done a lot of ďfirstsĒ here on SD and these people guided me through it all. My experience here has made me a better overall fish keeper. I still have a lot to learn, like recognizing a problem quickly enough. Thatís one reason the hero fish idea is essential, not to mention the money invested, worry, etc. when I started the SD recommended way, I had no problems. A search on message board on proper quarantine will show you what happens when you donít quarantine.
    If thereís an easier way. I donít know it. Hopefully others will chime in.
    Patty
    Last edited by Pices; 07-09-2018 at 08:44 AM.
    If the discus are happy, Iím happy

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    Default Re: Setting up a new discus tank, criticism welcomed!

    There's no way around not doing a quarantine - if you don't do it, you run a real risk - you MAY be ok - it's your call, Erin.
    There are several reasons why it's best - easiest and safest - to place discus in a clean new tank set-up before adding any tank-mates, this following a proper QT by adding a sacrificial discus to another tank containing the newly-acquired tank-mates.

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    Default Re: Setting up a new discus tank, criticism welcomed!

    Hi Patty and Paul,

    Thanks so much for your thoughts and encouragement. I'm going to do some research on setting up a quarantine tank. I've got a 40 gallon downstairs I can dedicate. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction, really I appreciate you taking the time!!

    Thanks,
    Erin

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    Default Re: Setting up a new discus tank, criticism welcomed!

    Hi Erin and welcome .
    I agree with all of the above comments on more WCs especially for a begginer discus keeper and for performing the QT routine before introducing your discus to your current stock .

    I will also add that maybe it is better to put both outlets(upper corner ) and inlets(down corner right above the bottom )on one side of the tank to create mild circular water movement through the whole tank. Having prefilter sponges or floss materials on the inlets its also advisable with discus because they do not tolerate accumulation of poop and food rotting in you canister materials.
    I'm also a bit scared of that sharp lava stone put straight on the bare glass , it can cause you troubles during siphoning and WCs .
    Good luck Erin .

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    Default Re: Setting up a new discus tank, criticism welcomed!

    Filip’s advice is excellent. Pre filters on canister filters are IMO the best thing that happened to discus keepers! It’s so much easier to clean those once a week (some do it more often). Another trick I learned here (it may have even been from Filip) is to unplug the canister when you feed your discus. I set a 15 minute timer on my microwave so I wouldn’t forget to turn them back on. Less crud going into the filter equals healthier happier fish. Aren’t these people here the best? They taught me all I know.
    Patty
    If the discus are happy, Iím happy

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    Default Re: Setting up a new discus tank, criticism welcomed!

    Thanks so much Patty and Flip. I had one pre-filter on and it went so well I added another. I agree, bit help! Thanks also for the tip about positioning!

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