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Thread: Daniel's First Discus Tank

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    Default Daniel's First Discus Tank

    Hi All,

    My name is Daniel, and in this thread I'll document my first attempt at keeping discus. I've been inspired to do this by Shan and his extensive journal found here:

    Shan's First Discus Journey

    I've really appreciated the level of detail Shan has included, and I've also really appreciated that he hasn't left anything out, good or bad. I've learned a lot from that thread, and from the many people who have responded to it.

    I have also been reading this forum somewhat obsessively over the last 4 months, when the idea of keeping discus started. Like, I suspect, many other families, my family has gotten into fish keeping during the pandemic and the lockdown/stay-at-home orders so many of us have been forced to endure. This is the second time in my life I've gotten into fish-keeping. The first was almost 30 years ago, when I kept angelfish and gouramis, and once kept a Peter's elephantnose for a little while. Back then, I saw my first discus in my LFS. They were quite beautiful, but I was scared off of keeping them because "they are too hard" as I heard over and over again. Well, this time I started thinking about discus again, and was almost getting scared off of them again, when disaster struck. Well, not exactly disaster, but despite our best efforts, COVID-19 made it into my household. To make a long story short, my kids never had any symptoms, my wife was fatigued for a few weeks, and I got pneumonia that never got bad enough to require hospitalization, but that also hasn't gone away yet. My pneumonia symptoms started in January. Anyway, one of the things they gave me to try to treat the inflammation caused by COVID was a lovely drug called dexamethasone. I was more or less awake for 10 days, anxious almost the entire time, unable to focus on a book or a movie or even a stupid sitcom, so I had a lot of time on my hands. The thing that saved me from (almost literally) going crazy? YouTube videos of discus fishtanks. And some other videos as well, documenting how to keep discus, videos of people's setups for managing large water changes, that sort of thing. So after I came off that horrid drug, I resolved to get a large fishtank and keep discus. And in this thread I'm going to document getting there, getting my first discus, and once I have them I'll try to document how each week goes. In addition to Shan (@Shan_Evolved), I want to thank Willie (@Willie) and Tom (@Iminit) for answering my initial questions and for steering me towards starting with a 75 gallon tank, rather than the 210 I planned to start with.

    So, let's start at the beginning.

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    Default Re: Daniel's First Discus Tank

    What did I need to keep discus? Well, a tank obviously. I purchased a 210 gallon tank (currently residing well protected in my garage), but after some good advice from Willie & Tom in a different thread, I picked up a 75 gallon tank when Petco had a 50% off sale. The tank would also need a stand. My wife and I found the commercially available stands to be either ugly, or too expensive, so we decided that I would build the stand(s). See, I had already agreed to build her a stand for the 50 gallon lowboy aquarium she had acquired to house her axolotl. This tank has a 4 ft x 2 ft footprint, but is only 10 inches high. Seemed like a perfect tank to practice my stand building skills on since the full tank wouldn't weigh that much, meaning my mistakes (if I made any) here would be less costly than on, say, a 210 gallon tank, where everything would need to be as perfect and perfectly level as I could possibly make it. So on Feb 28 I started. Here's a few pics of it in progress:

    IMG_0894.jpg

    IMG_0902.jpg

    IMG_0918.jpg

    And the finished product:
    63822066257__BBD9D7C4-1DC2-4ACB-914C-6F52FDF4DAC2.jpg

    There's an axolotl in there somewhere.

    This stand was finished and put in place on March 23. It was time to start the stand for the 75 gallon. Using what I learned from the 50 gallon lowboy stand, I expected the build to take much less time. More on that next time.

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    Default Re: Daniel's First Discus Tank

    Good luck Daniel! The stand came out really great! I started with Discus a little over a year ago when I impulsively purchased 3 little runts from my LFS.. All the store told me was that they needed a lot of water changes and higher temps... that was it - and they sent me on my way.. I brought them home, plopped them into a heavily planted 40 gallon breeder with substrate. Within 3 weeks they were all dead and I was absolutely devastated. Came here to the forum and realized all of the mistakes I had made. The number 1 mistake being, that I purchased low quality, unhealthy fish from my LFS. I studied this forum for months (as you did) because I wasn't giving up! I purchased a 125 gallon and started cycling it while I was studying the forum. After the tank was cycled, I purchased 15 beautiful Stendker discus from Discus Hans.. OH MY GOD... the difference in quality was amazing - these fish took my breath away! They were clearly so much healthier than the LFS fish that I had purchased. I'm sure that you've read this - but one of the most important things you can do is purchase fish from a quality breeder - the bigger the fish, the better. My first few months with Hans' fish, I learned what worked and what didn't work. I initially started with 2 HOB's and 4 sponge filters as my main filtration.. with feeding these fish 4x per day, I quickly realized that the filtration that I had just wasn't cutting it. I upgraded to a Fluval FX6 and I loved it.... I eventually also added an FX4 onto that tank as well. In the beginning, I'd kind of freak out over every little thing.. If one of my fish didn't eat during feeding time, it would send me into instant panic... "Why aren't they eating?", "Are they sick already?", "What have I done wrong?"... and then I'd proceed to make unnecessary adjustments to the tank which did end up stressing most of the fish out. I learned a lot from this first batch of Discus from Hans and I've made many mistakes... but the important part there is that I learned hands on... (I learn best that way)... My best advice - buy from a quality breeder, keep your water as clean as possible, and don't freak out over every little thing.... Sit back, relax and enjoy them!

    Not sure if you've ever taken a look at my thread - I think it's called "Amanda's Discus Journey", but you'll be able to see first hand how panicky I was over everything.. It's honestly embarrassing now that I read back through it but hey, I had a lot of help from a lot of great people who have certainly helped me grow as a Discus keeper - and I'm grateful for them!

    ~Amanda
    Last edited by Acerrato; 04-07-2021 at 07:15 PM.
    We have found much of heaven and have been rocketed into a fourth dimension of existence

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    Silver Member Iminit's Avatar
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    Default Re: Daniel's First Discus Tank

    Great looking stand!! If your not already you’ve got a future in cabinet making!! Love the doors!! As Amanda say quality discus are what you need. And medicine is something to look into. Next is a qt tank. Even for the 75 you’ll want something to move a sick fish into. Good luck!!

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    Default Re: Daniel's First Discus Tank

    Amanda - Thanks, I was pleased with how the tank stand turned out. I am planning on ordering from Discus Hans once my 75G is cycled. I'm going to try to avoid overreacting when something appears to be going wrong, and just observe and treat when it looks to become necessary. And have an ample supply of aquarium salt on hand. As to your thread, I may have read it. I read a whole bunch of threads here initially, and now they're all a bit jumbled in my head.

    Tom - Thanks, I actually did work for a cabinetry shop for a couple years back when I was 19-20 years old. I'm grateful for the skills I learned, but I find it a much better hobby than career. As to the doors, I'll let you in on a little secret. Home Depot sells unfinished doors. I lack the necessary tools for making frame & panel doors so I ordered them unfinished and then just put on the finish to match the rest of the stand. I will definitely have a QT tank, which I think needs to be at least 20 gallons? My wife and I have a 10 gallon that we've used for a quarantine and hospital tank, but frankly we hate it. Any small change to the bioload and you end up in a mini cycle.

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    Default Re: Daniel's First Discus Tank

    A 20-gal tank is a lot more flexible since you can use it for quarantine several discus and for medication. For medication, you can just drop the water level halfway and save 50% on medication. It'll also help the heater bring up the water temperature. I found a 20 Extra High on Craig's List. It has the footprint of a 10-gal tank, just twice as high. When I quarantine, I fill it to the top. When I medicate, I fill it halfway to cut my medication cost in half.
    At my age, everything is irritating.

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    Default Re: Daniel's First Discus Tank

    Welcome Daniel!

    Thank you for sharing your story. Unfortunate how dexamethasone really boned you. Can't imagine how difficult it must have been to go through. Staying awake and being unable to focus with a unhealthy dose of anxiety is rough. We're glad you got through it! Glad your wife and kids are okay.

    Also very nice work with the stand and plan. You have the perfect mixture of awe and work ethic to truly appreciate the beauty that is discus. You are in for a ride. Mine are now finally becoming adults and they are stunning. I cannot wait to show everyone my tank once it's fully cycled and my discus in their light.

    Also I gotta say that lowboy 50 looks sleek af. I would love to have a tank like that. Super unique .
    Amateur discuskeeper, Professional doofus

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    Default Re: Daniel's First Discus Tank

    Nice stand and a well thought out plan! I'm particularly impressed that you took the time to read and learn from Shan's thread, as well as others. It shows real interest in learning and being successful in this hobby and that's what this forum is all about!!

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    Default Re: Daniel's First Discus Tank

    Willie - Thanks, that's a good idea. Now to be on the lookout for a cheap 20.

    Shan - Yeah, the lowboy is pretty cool. It's a nice tank for keeping the axolotl in, since they don't need a lot of vertical space, but seem to appreciate some horizontal space for exploring.

    Brian - I'm a bit of an obsessive reader and gatherer of knowledge. Since I have so little experience myself with discus, I'm trying to learn from other people's experiences as best I can.

    So, to continue the story, I started on the stand for the 75 on March 27. I decided to go with a slightly different look than I did with the axolotl tank, which has more of a tabletop look to it. I had some issues with that table top portion not being level and requiring a couple of screws through the top to get it to be level. Good thing there's a tank sitting on top of it so no one can see the screw holes! So rather than a hardwood top, I went with a plywood top with a lip around it. Here's a few pics of the construction:

    IMG_0943.jpg

    IMG_0944.jpg

    And here it is finished and placed (the doors are still on order, and will be installed once I receive them & get them finished)
    IMG_0953.jpg

    After that I got to work filling it with water & getting the filtration set up. For filtration I'm running a Seachem Tidal 110 plus two Hydro Sponge IVs. There's also a Hygger HG-925 heater on it, and a light from Current USA. Some of the lighting features feel a bit gimmicky (especially the speakers that play ambient sounds), but I do like being able to have the moonlight setting on at night, since the room where the tank is gets very dark, and I understand discus don't like being in the complete dark. Here's the tank with water & everything hooked up to it.

    IMG_0962.jpg

    I'm in the middle of cycling the tank now, on day 6. I've been using Dr Tim's ammonium chloride. Currently the filtration is producing some nitrites and nitrates, but still has significant amounts of ammonia. I'd guess I'm 2-3 weeks out from being fully cycled? But, like Shan mentioned in his thread, I won't add fish until the biofilter can eat through roughly 4ppm of ammonia in 24 hours or less.

    Of course, this gives me plenty of time to plan out how I'm going to manage 50% water changes daily. The more observant will have noticed a 40 gallon breeder tank inside the stand. This is to be my holding tank. I'm using the python water change system (no way I want to deal with 5 gallon buckets to haul out dirty water & bring in clean). My original plan was to hook the python to my bathroom sink to fill the tank up after a water change. However, I have had a super hard time finding a faucet that will fit the python and the many adapters I've purchased. The faucet (Moen Caldwell for anyone who's interested) seems to have an aerator size that no one makes an adapter for. I'm sure I could go to a plumbing store and figure it out, but I haven't yet. Since the python only fits on my outside spigot, and since the water comes out of that spigot at 60 degrees, I need a place to heat the water up to the 86-88 degrees required before it goes into the tank. I don't have room in my house for a holding tank anywhere, so... 40 gallon breeder under the stand. Again the tank was 50% off from Petco, so felt like a bargain. My plan is to use a regular siphon hose to clean up food and waste from the tank bottom, then use a pump to pump out the remaining water volume to do an approximate 50% water change. Then to refill I'll use the same pump to pump the water from the 40 to the 75. After that I refill the 40 from my outside spigot for the next day's water change. This approach will not be sustainable once the 210 gallon tank is up, but I have bought myself some time to figure out the bathroom faucet issue. I also hate hate hate getting under those small cabinets and doing plumbing work, so any chance I get to push out the inevitable day's worth of cursing and busted knuckles I'll take. Ultimately though, I will have to address large water changes for the 210.

    I think that brings us up to date on where I am. Just have to get the tank cycled, and then order discus from Hans.

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    Silver Member Iminit's Avatar
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    Default Re: Daniel's First Discus Tank

    Looking good!! I’m not a fan of current lighting. As you stated they are gimmicky and very expensive for what your getting. At a third of the price hygger 957 is a fully programable light that you can run 24/7 with blue at night. Vivagrow are cheaper still and 24/7. Controlled with a remote.

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    Default Re: Daniel's First Discus Tank

    Quote Originally Posted by karmicwheel View Post
    I'm using the python water change system (no way I want to deal with 5 gallon buckets to haul out dirty water & bring in clean). My original plan was to hook the python to my bathroom sink to fill the tank up after a water change. However, I have had a super hard time finding a faucet that will fit the python and the many adapters I've purchased. The faucet (Moen Caldwell for anyone who's interested) seems to have an aerator size that no one makes an adapter for. I'm sure I could go to a plumbing store and figure it out, but I haven't yet. Since the python only fits on my outside spigot, and since the water comes out of that spigot at 60 degrees, I need a place to heat the water up to the 86-88 degrees required before it goes into the tank. I don't have room in my house for a holding tank anywhere, so... 40 gallon breeder under the stand. Again the tank was 50% off from Petco, so felt like a bargain. My plan is to use a regular siphon hose to clean up food and waste from the tank bottom, then use a pump to pump out the remaining water volume to do an approximate 50% water change. Then to refill I'll use the same pump to pump the water from the 40 to the 75. After that I refill the 40 from my outside spigot for the next day's water change. This approach will not be sustainable once the 210 gallon tank is up, but I have bought myself some time to figure out the bathroom faucet issue. I also hate hate hate getting under those small cabinets and doing plumbing work, so any chance I get to push out the inevitable day's worth of cursing and busted knuckles I'll take. Ultimately though, I will have to address large water changes for the 210.

    I think that brings us up to date on where I am. Just have to get the tank cycled, and then order discus from Hans.
    Are you planning on using your 40B as a water aging tank? I would not recommend using the python. It wasted water for no reason. Finding a hose adapter is a pain in the a$$ too.

    You can use a simple garden hose, of which many adapters are found that can plug into your showerhead or even a sink - use that to directly fill up the 40B.

    Get a pump ($20) on amazon, and use that to move out of the main tank, and then move it below to the 40B to move water into the main tank.


    Also, for lighting. All discus, and any fish really, need is a simple night light somewhere in the room to give a bit of lighting. A cheap $5 light that is super dim works fine. I do believe constant blue light does not help the discus sleep properly eventually (dont quote me).

    Just my 50c
    Last edited by Shan_Evolved; 04-08-2021 at 01:16 PM.
    Amateur discuskeeper, Professional doofus

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    Default Re: Daniel's First Discus Tank

    Shan - yes, the 40G will effectively be a water aging tank. In my case it's more a heating tank, since I don't need to age the water. My parameters are stable here.

    As for the python, I have one already. I won't be using the siphon into my sink while running the water feature. I agree that it seems quite a waste of water. And I'll be using enough water as it is. I have a pump already (Hygger 660 GPH model) that I'll use for the bulk of the water moving. Then the python hooked up to my outside spigot to refill, and the siphon attachment (into a bucket) for cleaning the detritus out of the tank. I got the python mostly so I could hook it up to my sink faucet for refilling, but so far I've been stymied by the size of the aerator.

    As for the light, it's configurable so I can change the color spectrum and intensity, so I'll stick with it for now. Probably won't use that brand on the 210 when I set it up.

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    Silver Member Iminit's Avatar
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    Default Re: Daniel's First Discus Tank

    The hygger can change the color and spectrum. You can also do this on a time limit adjusting differently for 24hrs. The vivagrow is like the current. I have all 3. Hygger is the newest and so far the best.

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    Registered Member Shan_Evolved's Avatar
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    Default Re: Daniel's First Discus Tank

    Well awesome.

    If you dont have microbubbles and your water doesn't need to age, you are good to go man! Cant wait to see
    Amateur discuskeeper, Professional doofus

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    Default Re: Daniel's First Discus Tank

    Shan - I've got a question for you. You're doing a fishless cycle on your 125G, right? At some point during the use of ammonia to start the cycle, do you have to do a water change? I'm on day 7, and my readings are 2.0-4.0 ppm ammonia, 2.0 ppm nitrite, and 40 ppm nitrate. When the current amount of ammonia is processed, there will be an awful lot of nitrates in my tank, so I'm assuming I have to do a big water change, but the instructions I have for using ammonia assume that the tank will be fully cycled within 9 days, which clearly it won't be.

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