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With water changes you will remove toxic waste very effectively. You can't make a aquarium work without water changes, so you must do this to get rid of feces, nitrite, nitrate etc.
These types of filters are motor driven filters that both Eheim and Fluval make, just to name two. Even the canister filter that you have outside the tank is a mechanical filter, but it can also be used as biological filters depending of the filter material you are using. This filter has a strong flow rate, so these are best to filter away big particles in the water and feces before they have been dissolved into the water. But this kind of filter will not take away the dissolved ammonia in the water, nor filter away the bacteria and microalgae. But these filters are a good compliment to the biological filter if you use both methods. It is very important that these filters are cleaned weekly so the waste products will not be dissolved into the water and make a bigger mess than they already do.
How to clean the filters will come in the end.
A filter that is both good and cheap when it comes to biological filtration is the sponge filter. The "good" bacteria grows on the sponge and are living on the waste products that are in the water like ammonia. If you don't have a biological filtration in your tank, think about it one more time and get a sponge filter. Even canister filters can be used as biological filters, but then you have to put a sponge on the intake tube so the big particles will not enter the filter media. Every aquarium tank needs a biological filter.
To get as good a filtration as possible, a combination of an canister filter and a sponge filter is most useful. The canister filter will work as a semi-biological filter and the sponge filter will work like a biological filter. It is also important that the waste food and feces not end up in the filter since it can spoil the bacteria culture in the filter media. So every time you change the water you take the feces away. If you are using a canister filter with a pre-filter or a sponge at the intake, this will have to be cleaned weekly, and biological filter media should be cleaned sparingly since the bacteria culture can be hurt. All filters must be cleaned in tank water instead of tap water because if the tap water contains chlorine or chloramine this will kill the "good" bacteria culture in the filter material. Then you have to start over with the tank cycle again.
Even with a good, functional filtration system, the unwanted bacteria will never go away so you will need to do regular water changes also. In my 250 liter aquarium with 5 discus I change 50% of the water 2 - 3 times a week. It might sound like a bit much but since I use frozen food almost always, left-overs and feces which lay too long in water with temperatures of 29 - 30 °C, will rot and spoil the water.
Regular water changes are essential for keeping discus in good health and to keep the youngsters growing. The easiest way to change water is to use a hose and some buckets. After you have removed the water you can't just fill up the tank with tap water again, you have to make the water suitable for the discus. The best way to do this is to have a separate holding tank or an old aquarium to prepare the water. The front goal is to remove the chlorine, chloramine the chlorine, which is easy to get rid of: ventilate the water for 24 hours with an air stone, if the water has chloramine instead, you have to get rid of the chlorine first and then use a filter to get rid of the dissolved ammonia (this is to be done if you do not have proper commercial chemicals to treat the water). During this time you lower the pH to desired level. The water in the holding tank heats up to the same temp as the tank, and if all the water parameters are ok you can safely fill the tank again with the prepared water.
The holding tank shall be so big that you can make a quick 90% water change in your discus tank if something goes wrong or if you have used medication. With this water preparation you will also be sure that the pH level isn't jumping up and down because that not good for the fishes. The fish will also be less stressed since the water has the same water parameter as the show tank.
To lower the pH you can use either chemical products or the peat that the pet store offers, or buy peat at a garden shop. The use of peat is the cheapest method, but you have to be careful when you buy peat from a garden shop since you have to be sure that there is no fertilizer or chemicals added to it. Buy only natural peat. I have been using peat from garden shops for two years now with great success.
If the water is hard you can use an Reverse Osmosis to soften the water and also lower the pH, but here in Sweden the water is very soft so you wouldn't need it.
Some standard levels on the water that is proper for discus:
These are just standard levels on the water parameters and the Swedish water is suitable if you ventilate the water for 24 hours and lower the pH before you use it.
- pH 5.0 - 7.0
- Total Hardness 1 - 4 °dGH
- Temperature 28 - 30 °C
There are two other benefits if you keep the pH below 7.0 and that is that the "good" bacteria benefits on the "evil" bacteria cost, the other is that the waste products like nitrite, nitrate and other products turns to ammonia if the pH is over 7.0 and below 7.0 the ammonia turns to ammonium that is less toxic. And as everyone knows, ammonia is very toxic and not good for your health.
Every time you change your water, all of the feces and left-overs will be taken away, and its better to change 10% of the water each day instead of a 50% change every week. I change 50% of the water in my tank 3 times a week and my discus are healthy and also spawn.
If you want to keep your discus healthy change at least 50% of the water two times a week and keep the temperature at 29 °C.
The food you give to your discus is also important. It should be nutritious and also contain vitamins. The food that is available in pet shops is fine but you should feed special formulas made for discus. There are lots of general dry foods available also, but use the specialty foods made for discus like Tetra Bits and Sera's Discus Flakes (I prefer this food since it hasn't any artificial colorants added). Besides the dry food you can use frozen food like Whattley's Discus Formula or Discus Quick. You can also make your own beef heart mix for your discus. There are many different recipes on the Internet. The frozen food is good for their growth and is very nutritious.
I do all my frozen food and compliment this with dry food.
The discus are very greedy for the first 15 - 20 minutes during feeding, after that they just pick at the food and do not really eat. Therefore is it very important that you don't feed them too much so the left-overs can get rotten, and in turn, spoil the water. Be careful when you are using the frozen food since it is very easy to spoil the water with it. If you are using the Tetra Bits, the feces will be intense red, this disappears when you start to use a different food.
When you have decided that you will start with discus, take your time do not rush off to the nearest pet shop and buy those being offered. You should check other places as well and compare the health of the fish between the different pet shops. You can also order by mail from some of the discus breeders that are online, but keep in mind that the transport should not be over 24 hours door to door. If you see ads in the local paper make a call and visit the place. Most people that breed discus are very serious, and they will answer all your questions, but there can be some problems at the pet store since the salesman may not know a great deal about the species. If you can bring a friend with you that has the knowledge of keeping discus, it will be a big help for you.
If you have the space, the time and the desire to breed discus you should get 6-10 fishes that are about 9-10 months old. At this age the discus start to be sexually mature and start pairing off. Another thing: you shouldn't buy just the biggest ones, because if you have bad luck they will all be male. Another thing you can't do is to see the sex until they spawn, then you see that the male has a shorter and more pointed sexual organ, and the female has a longer and more rounded sexual organ. These things you see just before the spawn and immediately following the act.
What kind of discus you buy is up to you, it really doesn't matter since almost all discus today are from breeders and if they are in good health is it a joy to watch them in your own discus tank. The only thing that matters today is the price for them. As a beginner, it is best to start with the cheap ones until you have learned the basics, and after that you can get into the more expensive varieties.
This article is for those who want to, or just have started with this wonderful hobby. The article is built from own experience with the discus, along with reading from books and other media such as the Internet. I think the development in the hobby has developed over these years and will keep on doing so in the future. As I am writing this article I got one breeding pair and hope to get some more in the future.
I can only wish for those who start with this hobby, GOOD LUCK !
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