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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Well I'm getting close to setting up a Discus planted tank, but before diving in I want to get as much info as I possibly can. This tank would be replacing my 1.5 year old high light(4.7WPG) 55 gallons tank. "48x18"x20" I was thinking of replacing it with a 120gallons 48"x24"x24. It will be nice to have a lot of depth as this was always my biggest complaint with the 55.

The plan is to swap over a lot of the equipment from the 55. The 48"Corralife lighting (260watts) would be used to give me 2.2 WPG. I would also swap over my Eheim 2028 and my pressured CO2 and controller. The heaters will be replaced with in-line heaters so that they are out of sight.

What plants to use I'm not 100% sure yet, but I know that I don't want it wall to wall plants. I think I want a strong hardscape with large rock arrangement and vertically orientated driftwood. Covered with some moss? maybe ferns? I just want the Discus to have a lot of space. I also want to try to minimize the amount of fast growing stem plants (at least in the long run). I hope to use slower growing plants so that I am not in the tank constantly trimming and scaring the fish. I want to mainly stick with plants that are South American, but I may cheat and put some crypts in there too. Perhaps Balanse and Wendii. Anyone have any tips on setting up this tank? Links to similar tanks and to more info on this subject is also appreciated.

thank you!

Jeff
 

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Make sure and leave plenty of open space in the foreground. I have found that discus like to hunt and pick along the substrate for food, and with carpet plants, they are unable to reach it.
 

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I would suggest you at least have alook at this tank- designed 100% for discus and their needs. http://www.aquariumdesigngroup.com/portfolio/content/Aquariums/Live Plant Aquariums/lp1zS-c.jpg
Goto www.aquariumdesigngroup.com clicK on PORTFOLIO> AQUARIUMS> LIVE PLANT TANKS- the tank I'm referring to is the first series in that gallery. Ther's several pics of the tank.

I highly recommend an open (consider a brighter sand) foreground for 2 reasons. One, it allows a place for food to settle so the fish may easily graze and even "blow" into the substrate to more easily get the food into their mouths. Two, by choosing a bright sand, the discus will display their colors much better. With regular forground choices or using a natural/dark gravel, the fish will actually try and blend-in by maintaining darker color. also many of the best foods for keeping discus in a plant tank will settle between the larger granules of most gravels. With bighter sands, they will camouflage to the lightness and again, show much better color most all the time. Also, white sand is actually closer to the substrate found in the discus' natural habitat. In fact, in most areas where discus are found, the bottom is pretty much white sand.

For plants, Echinidorus species are by far the best choice to comprise most of the layout. They are exceedingly hardy/easy to grow, so you can really focus on caring for your fish- which is important when keeping discus. Swords tolerate very high temps. (84F +) without issue and by combining various types you can create a nice, natural stteing for the discus. As well they offer a welcome retreat for when the discus become freightened or need a break- which they often do.

All the above I learned from Heiko Bleher (world famous discus collector/biotope expert, etc.) who personally advised me on keeping discus in plant tanks and relating the aquarium to the natural habitat of the fish. That is why I titled that tank "Heiko's Lesson".
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 · (Edited)
Great advice so far folks. That's very helpful. That link to the discus site has a lot of info. Looks like I have some homework to do!! jsenske: All those tanks in the gallery are breathtaking. I can't imagine anything so beautiful, but there it is. WOW.=P~

The plan is to have an open substrate as I know that the discus need space to pick food up. I want the substrate like in jsenske tank. I like the light color and the fish apparently will too. My concern would be using the right type of sand. I need something that is inert and something that isn't too fine because I'm concerned that it will compact cause problems. What are you using jsenske?

I also was thinking of transferring the ECCO complete/ Flourite 50/50 mix that I have in my 55. It would probably yield at least a 1.5-2" layer in the new tank and then put 2-3" white sand layer over that. This will give the tank a good jump start on the bio filtration and besides it's full of all kinds of goodies that the plants will love. Sound like a good idea?

Now please don't laugh at my drawing skills, but heres a sketch of how I am thinking of arranging the tank. What do you all think?

 

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well, my opinion would be not to add the old substrate and cap it with sand. The sand will eventually settle down and mix with the eco/flourite mix, looking unsughtly. Also, if you are going with a bare foreground it would be "wasteful" to use the eco and flourite under the sand. I would put all the substrate in the back, separate the back from the front with rocks and other hardscape and use straight sand in the front. This will also let you stir up the sand foreground more so that it stays clean and fresh looking. You can find many photos and descriptions about using sand foregrounds and how to separate the front from the back. Amamo does it frequently. HTH:)
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Thanks Dennis. That's my concern with the sand- it mixing with the layer below. It's actually easier and probably cheaper just to use all sand, but I wonder if the root feeders would suffer? I like that idea of of sectioning off the sand with the Flourite though. I can have the flourite/ecco in the left corner where most of the plants will be and do all sand in the front and right side. Hmmm...
 

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I had a big discus tank
Url: http://www.pbase.com/edvet/image/28833708

I used an sand/gravel mixture (mostly sand) and the swords grew easily. Just don't make the layer very thick otherwise it tends to get impacted and anaerobic. If you want other plants than swords the you need to consider an other mixture or divide the bottom.
You need to establish a priority first: do I want an a) discus tank with plants or an b) planted tank with discus and go from there.
a): lower light, sand bottom, higher temp, Discus comes first, large biological filter which consumes nitrates
b): high light, more course bottom with added minerals, perhaps heating cable, plants have priority, nitrate rich water with added feeding, CO2 added with light filtering.

Ed
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Well I think the discus should come first; however I buy into the idea that what is good for the plants is good for the fish. So by giving the plants everything they need and getting them to grow well I think that it would be beneficial for the whole tank? Discus included. I think that I can strike a compromise that both the fish and plants will enjoy. I'm thinking keeping the temp at 83F instead of 86F. I'm only going to run 2.2 WPG instead of say 3.5WPG. I'm sticking to more robust plants. I have a nice 22" tall Ozelot sword that I'm planning on transfering over. Maybe plant 1 or 2 Amazon swords- something tall green and leafy. I'll probably move the Anubia coffiefolia over too- attach it to some of the wood in the midground. I'm thinking to also plant some of the cypts I have too. I also want a grassy type plant that will be planted around the rock arrangment, but someting taller than hairgrass and something that doesn't get as "turf" looking like your front lawn or something. Maybe Sagittara subulata? I want the discus to be able to graze in that type of grass going after food on the bottom if they need to.

It seems that the biggest thing with discus is their ability to create quite a bit of Nitrate. I hope to control this by only having 4 juvinile Fish and not feeding any live or frozen foods that can spoil the water quickly. Instead I hope to raise them on a high quality dry food to help maintain lower Nitrate levels as well as keeping the water changes to 1 per week like I do currently on my planted tank. If this is do-able I am not sure, but I'm not looking for the biggest Discus or getting the most from a spawn or even breeding them at all. I just want some healthy average fish.
 

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If you feed the 4 discus well, I estimate you will do better with 50% water change twice per week, not once per week. I would keep an eye on nitrate closely initially, do a 50% wc when NO3 get above 10ppm. I actually feed frozen bloodworms exclusively through two feeding cones. The discus can have a buffet for an hour or two. I feel it is actully cleaner than dry food, which disintegrate too quickly in water.
 

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Aside from what Jeff and others have said about light substrates and open space I'd like to add that you really should get adult fish. Trying to grow juvenile discus out in a planted tank is pretty much a losing venture. The little ones require so much rich food to put on weight and grow that your tank water will be *heavily* "fertilized". I found it to be almost uncontrollable without an insane amount of work.

If/when I do another planted tank with discus I will either get adult fish, or more likely get juveniles and grow them out in a separate tank for 8-12 months before adding them to the tank. Those months without the discus in the tank will be just the right amount of time for the tank to mature and be really settled when the discus are finally added.

I've said it before and will say it again, IMO "Heiko's Lesson" is the perfect planted discus tank. Taking lessons from that will help you out a great deal in the future.

Best,
Phil
 

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I strongly second what Phil says about the adult fish- "young" adults will be best for a smaller tank like a 55gal., but definitely a fish that does not "need" to grow much more. I would avoid very mature, large adult/older fish- I mean you don't want monster-size fish in that size tank, obviously- but a nice 4-5 inch body gets in the range for sure.

As for feeding just bloodworms- from my experience that is not the best long-term diet to keep fish nice and girthy- really healthy. Most breeders avoid them big time. The fish get easily spoiled on bloodworms and won't take to a diet switch easily at all. I have had to really get this right because with me the client feeds the fish but also of course they have PAID for the fish - often hundreds of dollars- and they expect them to live and thrive for a long time. Also I have had to find foods that meet the needs of the fish with absolute minimal impact on water quality. I can tell you after years of trial and error the hands-down best food to feed discus in a planted tank is HAI-FENG "EVER NATURE" DISCUS FOOD. It is a dry food that is the ideal size for the fishes' mouth, it is very clean, floats slighty and sinks slowly, and is a nice bright orangey color so it is highly visible to the fish when it settles on the bight sand bottom (easy grazing). It is packed with protein, highly nutritious, and fish on this diet have done 10 times better than any fish I fed only bloodworms (which was my mainstay diet for a long time before I discovered the HAI-FENG). It was also originally recommended to me by Gabriel Posada of Jack Wattley Discus Hatchery- 'nuff said there alone.
 

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I can tell you after years of trial and error the hands-down best food to feed discus in a planted tank is HAI-FENG "EVER NATURE" DISCUS FOOD.
Not to steal thread.....

Where does one find this food. I did a search and cannot seem to find any US based mail order retailers.
 

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I'm not sure who would offer it. I have been getting it direct from the US distributor in California but I get like a case at a time. Try a Google search for it. Maybe the distributor can hook you up or point you in the right direction. Maybe I'll start offering it also.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Hi phil,

Thanks for the advice. I think I agree, although like Jeff says it better not to have very mature adults either. I will probably end up getting some young adults (4to 5") from a local breeder. Not sure what type I want yet, but definitely not ones that are too "flashy" although it is pretty amazing what these breeders are developing.

As far as how many to get I'm not sure now. I'm thinking more is better since they will develop a school and display a more natural appearance and behavior, but at what point is too many if I don't want to change water every day? Once again this is a 120 gallon tank. Maybe 30 gal per discus? I'm really hoping that to only have to change 50% every week. Maybe up it to one discus per 60 gallons, but then I'm down to only a pair and maybe one will pick on the other?

Thanks for the suggestion on the food Jeff. I have never heard of it, but I looked it up.

Here are the nutritional facts if anyone is interested:
INGREDIENTS
Fish Protein, White fish meal, Yolk meal, Wheat Germ, Dried yeast, Wheat flour, Soybean meal, Soybean protein, Shrimp paste, Antarctic Shrimps, Protease, Organic minerals, 16 vitamins, and natural color.

GUARANTEED ANALYSIS

Max. Crude Ash -------- 15%Max. Crude Fiber -------- 4%Min. Crude Protein -------- 48%Min. Crude Fat ---------- 4%Max. Sodium Chloride ----- 2%Max. Moisture ---------- 8%

I am currently using New Life Spectrum pellet food for my community fish and I see that they offer a Discus food as well. Just to compare:

Ingredients
Krill Meal, Fish Meal, Wheat Flour, Amino Acids, Algae Meal, Soybean Meal, Fish Oil, Beta Carotene, Spirulina, Vitamins A, D3, B12, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folic Acid, Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine HCL, Thiamin, Biotin, Vitamin E, C, Choline Chloride, Cobalt Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Ethylenediamine Dihydroiodide, Ethoxyquin. Guaranteed AnalysisProteinmin. 35.0%Fatmin. 5.0%Fibermax. 5.0%Moisturemax. 10.0%Ashmax. 9.0%

Has anyone had any experience with Feeding the New Life Spectrum foods to Discus. I like that it has less ash myself and a bit more fiber. The only thing that jumps out at me is the food Jeff recommends has a lot more protein- although new life also has a "grow formula" with 50% protein. It also uses Krill meal. Is this better?

Jeff
 

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Jeff,

You could easily have a school of 5 young adult fish in your 120, but I wouldn't go any higher than that. Truthfully, I wouldn't get any fewer either. Even though they're big cichlids, discus are still a schooling fish and need company. 5 is just the right amount for schooling while maintaining enough fish in the group to allow for aggression/social order fighting. A word of experience, one of your fish *will* become the lowest on the pecking chain and will get runted, don't freak out too much, it's the way the fish are.

As long as they're all getting food you'll be just fine. If the fish are the size you want them to be for the rest of their lives when you get them, go ahead and put them on their regular diet and feed 2x daily.

Best of luck, a planted discus tank can be one of the most enjoyable things and awesome sights in aquaristics.

Best,
Phil
 

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Hi, all of you,

this is Heiko Bleher and I read the thread about the decoration of the discus aquarium and I am very happy that you Phil referred to my orginal biotope aquarium decorations.

Yes, I am doing it now since 2001, across Europe and just came back from Greece, were I gave 5 long seminars, also on that subject. Suddenly I am asked from all over the world, and many magazines, to inform more about Authentic Nature Biotope Decorations in aquaria. People getting very much concious abou natural habitat and start to realize, that if we give the fish their correct environment - down to the detail of each part of their decoration - they feel immediately well and in most cases I have done this, they started to spawn right away...

Please have a look at my new website
www.aquapress-bleher.com
and click under Heiko Bleher's Biotopes and you will find quite a few authentic biotope decorations with each detail explained (just click after the biotope on ...read more). I am sure all planta and fish loves fnd some useful information, and if anyone wants to have further information, do not hesitate to contact me and/or write in this great forum.

All the very best,

always

Heiko
 
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