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CICHLIDS

By Rhett Butler

Discus Fish - Genus Symphysodon

Discus were first introduced in the 1920's and are now regarded as one of the most beautiful of all aquarium fish. They are colorful and difficult and difficult to care for, but nevertheless, their popularity is constantly rising.
PD: All discus have the typical almost circular, discus-shape. They have strong lateral compression and large anal and dorsal fins. The Discus has a steep forehead and a small mouth. The iris of the eye is usually blood-red in color. The body and fin color and pattern varies greatly of the species, habitat, and diet. For instance, the red tones are enhanced when the fish is fed brine shrimp. In the vast Amazon basin, separate populations have developed and originally created the differential of color and markings.
HAB: Discus are found in calm parts of small, blackwater rivers, lakes, and deep pools. They are usually found in small groups around submerged, fallen trees; decaying wood and vegetation; and aquatic grasses. Discus tend to stay in shaded areas during the day. The water is usually very clean with little or no pollutants. Discus are widely distributed throughout the Amazon Basin. The water in the natural habitat of Discus is acidic, around a pH of 6.0-6.5; and is very soft, 0-3 dH. Discus are found in warm water with a temperature of 77-84F (25-29C).
In Southeast Asia, Discus are raised in soft to medium hard, alkaline water (3-9 dH, pH 7.0-8.0) with temperatures ranging from 81-91F (27-33C).
TANK: Discus prefer large, roomy, tall tanks of at least 40" (101 cm) long, and 20" (50 cm) high. The water should be clean and relatively bacteria free. The tank should be arranged in dark colors and floating plants should be used to diffuse the light. Discus may remain hidden all day if bright light is used. Driftwood, roots, driftwood, and heavy vegetation should be used to provide hiding places. Open swimming areas should be created. A good filter for removing wastes is essential in Discus care. Partial regular water changes are recommended to keep the Discus in top health. They are very sensitive to pollutants, especially nitrates and nitrites. Discus do best in peat-filtered water.
WATER: As a general rule, Discus should be kept in water with similar conditions to their natural habitat. However, many Discus are raised in captivity and their range of water conditions is more varied. Most Discus can tolerate water with a pH of 5.0-7.5 and a water hardness of 0-8 dH. The water should be kept warm, 77-86F (25-30C).
SB: Discus are calm, timid fish who like to be kept in small groups of 6-8 fish. There is much debate to whether discus should be kept in community tanks or in species tanks. Since Discus coexist with other fish in nature, they can be kept with other peaceful fish. Discus feel more comfortable if combined with small schooling fish such as characins. When the discus see the characins in the open, they are likely to come out, sensing that they are safe to swim. Adult Discus may eat small fish if not brought up with small fish. Take care when combining Discus with greedy feeders such as Angelfish, and Discus may not be able to compete.
SC: Catfish (Loricarids, Corydoras ), characins (tetras, hatchetfish, pencilfish), cichlids ( Apistogramma , Uaru ).
FOOD: Provide a large variety of live, dry, and frozen foods. Try to feed Discus as many nutritional foods as possible such as fortified flake foods, water insects, and brine shrimp. Some Discus are very picky eaters and will only take live foods like Tubifex , bloodworms, mosquito larvae, and beef heart. These foods are not especially healthy and should only be used sparingly. Tubifex worms usually come from polluted waterways and thus must be kept clean or the Discus may develop hole-in-the-head disease. Foods formulated for discus are available.
SEX: The distinguishing of the male and female is difficult. Adult males may develop a small lump on their foreheads, but this difference is not always reliable. During the spawning season, the shape of the genital papillae serves as the best difference. It is round in female and pointed in males, although this difference is also difficult to detect.
B: The best way to breed Discus is too raise a group of 6-8 fish and watch to see them pair off at about 4" (10 cm). If a pair begins pecking of the glass sides of the tank, it is ready to spawn. Remove this pair into a clean tank with a pH of about 6.5, a water hardness of 1-3 dH, and a warm water temperature of 82-88F (28-31C). The pair should be provided with a vertical spawning medium, such as a large plastic tube, a large rock, or a piece of slate. This surface will be carefully cleaned by the pair. The female fans and guards the 100-200 eggs, while the male guards the area. The eggs hatch in 2-3 days and the parents aide the hatching fry by gently nibbling on the egg casings. The fry are then moved by the parents to a different area where they are attached by sticky filaments to this new site. After 4-5 days more, the fry attach themselves to the flanks of the parents. The fry feed on a milky secretion produced by gland cells in the parents skin. After about 10 days the fry should be removed from the parents, or else the may overgraze and damage the parent's skin. They should then be fed on Artemia nauplii. Alternatively, discus larvae can be reared on commercial products if they are removed just after hatching. Regular water changes are essential for the survival of the young. The fry grow quickly and develop the discus-shape in 3-4 months.
In Southeast Asia, Discus are bred in medium hard, alkaline water. Breeders keep young in buckets and perform complete water changes 2-4 times daily.
BP: Breeding is difficult.
R: Two species make up the Discus group, S. discus and S. aequifaciatus . There are two sub-species of the first; S. discus discus and S. discus willischwartzi , and three sub-species of the latter; S. aequifaciatus aequifaciatus , S. aequifaciatus axelrodi , and S. aequifaciatus haraldi . Many crosses have been produced and new selectively bred variations have been developed. Discus are wild-caught in the Amazon basin at night by using strong light to mesmerize the fish. The area is then encircled with netting and slowly drawn closer, with all obstructions such as wood being removed. Species of Discus are now considered endangered in some areas. There are numerous Discus forms which have been developed by selective breeding.
DC: Discus are challenging fish to care for, but are well worth the effort. They must have a variety of foods including live, and are sensitive to disease and poor water conditions.

Green Discus [Pictures]
Symphysodon aequifaciatus aequifaciatus
SYN: None
PD: The disc-shaped body has nine dark vertical bands which fade with age. The head and upper parts of the body are veined with turquoise to blue markings. The body color is yellowish-brown and the lower parts of the body are red spotted. The anal and dorsal fins are turquoise with red markings.
SIZE: To 6" (15 cm)
SS: Other Discus species- S. aequifaciatus axelrodi , S. aequifaciatus haraldi , and S. discus
HAB: South America; found in the Santarm area, Lake Tef, and the Purus and Tef rivers
S: bottom, middle
TANK: The tank should be at least 40" (101 cm) long and 20" (50 cm) tall with a capacity exceeding 45 gallons (170 L). See the general description of discus for more requirements.
WATER: pH 5-7 (6.5), 0-5 dH (3), 79-88F (26-31C)
SB: A calm peaceful fish, see the general of discus for more information.
SC: See Discus description.
FOOD: Live: insect larvae; mosquito larvae, bloodworms; aquatic insects; flying insects; crustaceans; Daphnia , Cyclops, Artemia , brine shrimp; carefully washed Tubifex worms; pellets; formulated Discus foods.
SEX: The distinguishing of the male and female is difficult. Adult males may develop a small lump on their foreheads, but this difference is not always reliable. During the spawning season, the shape of the genital papillae serves as the best difference. It is round in female and pointed in males, although this difference is also difficult to detect.
B: Brown Discus breed like other discus species. See the general description of discus.
BP: 8. Breeding of the Green Discus is, like all discus, considered difficult.
R: There are many different color variations of the Green Discus. "Royal Green" Discus have dark vertical bands, while the "Peruvian Green" variation has more red spots than other variants. A popular variation, "Tef Green" has distinct green vertical stripes.
DC: 7. The Green Discus requires a varied diet that includes live/frozen foods. The water must be well-maintained and monitored as this species is sensitive to water pollutants.

Brown Discus [Pictures]
Symphysodon aequifaciatus axelrodi
SYN: None
PD: The Brown Discus has the typical rounded discus shape. The coloration ranges, but for the most part the body is yellow-brown with nine vertical stripes. These stripes can be very distinct or can be faded or missing. The intensity of the stripes depends on the age and strain of the fish. Various iridescent spots and stripes cover the body. The dorsal and anal fins are blue-green to red in color, while the caudal fin is clear. The pelvic fins are long and slender and the pectoral fins are transparent.
SIZE: To 6" (15 cm)
SS: Other Discus species- S. aequifaciatus aequifaciatus, S. aequifaciatus haraldi, and S. discus
HAB: South America; found around Belem and Manaus, in the Purus and Urubu rivers.
S: bottom, middle
TANK: The tank should be at least 40" (100 cm) long and 20" (50 cm) tall with a capacity of at least 45 gallons (170 L). See the general description of discus for more requirements.
WATER: The water should be soft to medium hard with a hardness of 0-8 dH (5). pH 5-7.5 (6.7), 79-88F (26-31C)
SB: A calm peaceful fish, see the general of discus for more information
SC: See Discus description.
FOOD: Live: insect larvae; mosquito larvae, bloodworms; aquatic insects; flying insects; crustaceans; Daphnia, Cyclops , brine shrimp; carefully washed Tubifex worms; pellets; formulated Discus foods.
SEX: The distinguishing of the male and female is difficult. Adult males may develop a small lump on their foreheads, but this difference is not always reliable. During the spawning season, the shape of the genital papillae serves as the best difference. It is round in female and pointed in males, although this difference is also difficult to detect.
B: Brown Discus breed like other discus species. See the general description of discus.
BP: 8. Breeding of the Brown Discus is, like all discus, considered difficult.
R: The Brown Discus is a sub-species of the Green Discus. Many Brown Discus are imported from Southeast Asia, and have a redder hue than wild-caught specimen. The Brown discus is considered one of the easier discus species to care for.
DC: 7. A sensitive fish that requires frequent partial water changes. The Brown Discus is sensitive to changes in water chemistry and even trace amounts of water pollutants. Like all Discus, this species must be fed a varied diet with limited feedings of carefully washed Tubifex worms-as these often cause problems.

Blue Discus, Turquoise Discus, Royal Blue Discus [Pictures]
Symphysodon aequifaciatus haraldi
SYN: None
PD: The disc-shaped body has nine dark vertical bands which fade with age. The body color is yellowish-brown to light turquoise. The dorsal and anal fins are deep blue with a red iridescence. The head and upper parts are veined with turquoise markings.
SIZE: To 6" (15 cm)
SS: Other Discus species- S. aequifaciatus aequifaciatus, S. aequifaciatus axelrodi, and S. discus
HAB: South America; found in the Leticia and Benjamin Constant area, in the Purus River.
S: bottom, middle
TANK: The tank should be at least 40" (100 cm) long and 20" (50 cm) tall with a volume of 45 gallons (170 L). See the general description of discus for more requirements.
WATER: pH 5-7 (6.5), 0-6 dH (3), 79-88F (26-31C)
SB: A calm peaceful fish, see the general of discus for more information
SC: See Discus description.
FOOD: Live: insect larvae; mosquito larvae, bloodworms; aquatic insects; Back swimmers; flying insects; crustaceans; Daphnia, Cyclops , brine shrimp; carefully washed Tubifex worms; pellets; formulated Discus foods.
SEX: The distinguishing of the male and female is difficult. Adult males may develop a small lump on their foreheads, but this difference is not always reliable. During the spawning season, the shape of the genital papillae serves as the best difference. It is round in female and pointed in males, although this difference is also difficult to detect.
B: Blue Discus breed like other discus species. See the general description of discus.
BP: 8. Breeding of the Blue Discus is, like all discus, considered difficult.
R: There are many different color variations of the Blue Discus. "Royal Blue" Discus have distinct blue lines, while the "Red Royal Blue" variation has red and blue markings.
DC: 7. A sensitive cichlid.

Discus, Heckle Discus, Pompadour Fish [Pictures]
Symphysodon discus
SYN: None
PD: The Heckle Discus is rounder than S. aequifaciatus species . The general body coloration is red with turquoise veins running throughout the body. The fins are the same color as the body, while the caudal and pectoral fins are transparent. When this fish is young, its body coloration is a dull brown.
SIZE: To 8" (20 cm)
SS: Other Discus species- S. aequifaciatus aequifaciatus, S. aequifaciatus axelrodi , S. aequifaciatus haraldi, and S. discus willischwartzi
HAB: South America; found in the Amazon, Madeira, Negro, Purus, and Xingu Rivers
S: bottom, middle
TANK: The tank should be at least 48" (122 cm) long and 20" (50 cm) tall with a capacity of 60 gallons (227 L). The tank should be lightly planted. See the general description of discus for more requirements.
WATER: pH 5.5-6.5 (6.0), 0-3 dH (1), 81-90F (27-32C)
SB: A calm peaceful fish, see the general of discus for more information
SC: See Discus description.
FOOD: Live: insect larvae; mosquito larvae, bloodworms; aquatic insects; Back swimmers; flying insects; crustaceans; Daphnia, Cyclops , brine shrimp; carefully washed Tubifex worms; pellets; formulated Discus foods.
SEX: The distinguishing of the male and female is difficult. Adult males may develop a small lump on their foreheads, but this difference is not always reliable. During the spawning season, the shape of the genital papillae serves as the best difference. It is round in female and pointed in males, although this difference is also difficult to detect.
B: The Heckle Discus is very difficult to breed, harder than other Discus species. The water must be changed regularly. Breeding usually occurs in water with a pH of 6.0-6.4, with a water hardness of 0-2 dH, and a warm water temperature of 84-90F (29-32C). See general description for young rearing.
BP: 9. Breeding of the Heckle Discus is considered very difficult.
R: There are two common strains of the Heckle Discus, the Pineapple Discus ( S. discus willischwartzi ) and the Red Discus. The Pineapple has faded pastel colors. The Red Discus has a dominant red body color with turquoise veining covering the entire body. The Red Discus is regarded as one of the most beautiful Discus Fish. The Heckle Discus is considerably more difficult to care for than S. aequifaciatus species.
DC: 9. Many experienced aquariasts and experts define success as keeping a Heckle Discus alive and healthy for over a year. The Heckle Discus is sensitive to changes in water conditions and water pollutants, thus leaving it susceptible to disease.

Waroo, Triangle Cichlid, Chocolate Cichlid [Pictures]
Uaru amphiacanthoides
SYN: Acara amphiacanthoides, Uaru imperialis, U. obscurus
PD: An oval-shaped cichlid with a laterally compressed body. The fins are fairly erect and large, and the caudal fin is fan-shaped. Body color is usually slate gray to silver, and the belly and throat regions may be pinkish. A large black area on the lower-parts of the midsection is visible. Above this region is a fine dotted line which extends from the gill cover to the rear area of the body. A black spot at the caudal peduncle is characteristic of this species. The iris of the eye is amber-gold to red in color and the rear half the eye is surrounded by a black marking. The fins are slate gray in color. Juveniles have different coloring with gray upper-parts and dark gray lower parts. he body is marked with turquoise spots, as are the fins.
SIZE: To 12" (30 cm)
SS: Severum ( Heros severus ), Parrot Cichlid ( Hoplarchus psittacus ), Discus ( Symphysodon ), Uaru fernandezyepezi of Venezuela and the Tocantins and Xingu rivers.
HAB: Waroo are found in calm parts of small, blackwater rivers, lakes, and deep pools. They are usually found in small groups around submerged, fallen trees; decaying wood and vegetation; and aquatic grasses. Waroo tend to stay in shaded areas during the day. The water is usually very clean with little or no pollutants. The Waroo can be found in parts of the Amazon River in Guyana. The water in the natural habitat of the Waroo is acidic, around a pH of 5.7-6.5; and is soft, 0-6 dH. Waroo are found in warm water with a temperature of 79-86F (26-30C).
S: bottom, middle
TANK: A tank measuring 48" (122 cm) with a capacity of 70 gallons (265 L) is suggested. The tank should be arranged in dark colors and have a cover of floating pants. Driftwood and plant thickets should be provided for hiding places. A cave or rocky area should be provided for a possible spawning site. Use fine gravel or a sand bottom. The Waroo does best in peat filtered water.
WATER: The Waroo requires warm water with a temperature between 79-86F (26-30C), a pH of 5.5-7.3 (6.7), and a water hardness of 0-12 dH (5).
SB: A large, peaceful cichlid that can be kept in small groups. During the spawning season, pairs form a nuclear family. At this time, males often quarrel. The Waroo is found with Discus and Angelfish in nature. Combine with other peaceful fish.
SC: Catfish (Loricarids, Corydoras ), characins (tetras, hatchetfish, pencilfish), cichlids ( Apistogramma , Heros, Mesonauta, Discus, Angelfish).
FOOD: Vegetable foods, possibly flakes, Live; Tubifex, Artemia , glassworms, bloodworms, mosquito larvae; beef heart. The Waroo should have a well-balanced diet with lots of variety in food.
SEX: Too difficult to distinguish outside of spawning. Just prior to spawning, the genital papilla of the male is pointed while the genital papilla of the female is blunt.
B: A difficult fish to breed. Breeding has been accomplished in water with a temperature of 82-86F (28-30C), a pH around 6.0, and a water hardness of 2-4 dH. The eggs, numbering about 300, are laid in a cave or other dark, hidden area. Both parents guard the eggs which hatch in 30-36 hours. The young - like Discus - feed on a milk-like secretion produced by the skin of both parents. After a period of 9-12 days, the fry should be removed so as not to "overfeed" on the parents' secretion. At that time, start feeding with small live foods (roftiers, small nauplii). The fry are very delicate and difficult to rear.
BP: 9. The Waroo is an extremely challenging fish to breed and even if one has a successful brood, the young are difficult to rear.
R: The Waroo is arguably the most difficult cichlid, widely available to the hobby, to care for. Frequent partial water changes are necessary for this fish to do well. The Waroo is very sensitive to water conditions and pollutants.
DC: 8. The Waroo is a challenging, but interesting addition to an expert aquariast's tank. A variety of live foods must be provided for this peaceful cichlid, which is also sensitive to water conditions.