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9 Ways to Spot Healthy Discus Fish


Let's face facts, Discus fish are an investment in time and money. That's why it's critically important to be able to spot healthy fish. Unless you are lucky enough to know a breeder who will sell you a bag of quarter sized fry, you are shelling out some bucks, hopefully for healthy discus. Before you go shopping when you see discus for sale, you will need to know what to look for.

healthy discus fish

Developing an eye for finding healthy Discus requires paying attention to a few key details. In this article, I break down nine tips you can easily keep in mind the next time you head out to buy Discus.

Just in case you do get a sick discus, read our discus disease, symptoms and treatment guide to help you find the right treatment and how to treat your sick discus fish...

And if you have a short memory, like me... Print this page and take it with you...

AVOID Wedged Shaped Discus

Discus fish body should be round shaped, hence the name Discus. If the Discus body looks more like an ice cream cone instead of a round plate then avoid it. Bad genetics could be to blame or stunted growth does to poor diet or water quality can cause odd shaped Discus.

AVOID Discus with Pinched Stomach

A Discus fish with a stomach or abdomen area that literally looks like it's been pinched or crushed in is a very bad sign. This could mean the Discus fish is emaciated because it is either sick or not being fed properly, both lead to stunted growth and possibly death. The last thing you want to do is introduce a sickly fish into your aquarium.

AVOID Discus with Bloated Stomach

A Discus fish with a bloated stomach could indicate a few things. First, the obvious is that it might be a piggy and loves to eat. That's great and you have to know the breeder to really be sure. If Discus fish eat voraciously and are kept in clean water, they are going to grow huge. Unfortunately, if the Discus fish is being fed poor quality food, it could lead to an intestinal blockage that can lead to bloated stomachs. This can sometimes be resolve with aquarium salt to help the Discus fish pass blockages, but most of the time it ends in death. Lastly, a bloated stomach could be a sign of worm infestation, this is really bad.

AVOID Discus with Large Eyes

Discus fish should have eyes smaller in proportion to their overall body size. If you see Discus fish that have large eyes on small bodies, this could be a sign of stunted growth due to poor water quality, poor food quality or other health issues. There is nothing you can do about this, once the damage is done, that's it.

AVOID Discus with Cloudy or Dark Eyes

Discus fish should have clear eyes. Dark and or cloudy eyes can be a sign of poor health or stress. Cloudy eyes can also be a sign of infection or disease, some can be handled with medication. Why would you want to go through all of that? Look for clear small eyes, if you don't see it, move on.

AVOID Discus with Clamped Fins

Discus fish fins are beautiful and some have can extend beyond their bodies similar to veil tale fish. Fins should be clear, sometimes containing color and should be spread out and erect. If you see Discus fish with clamped down fins, that can be a sign of either stress or sickness. Torn fins or cloudy fins are also to be avoided as these are signs of an unhealthy and unhappy Discus fish.

AVOID Discus with Dark Bodies

Discus fish have been bred in various color variations, body color should be vibrant and bright. If you see a Discus fish with a dark or almost black body, avoid it. In some cases when Discus fish are flashing colors in confrontation or to attract a mate, they may become a little darker temporarily. Also, Discus fish that are raising fry on their backs can get a little darker while they raise their fry. That is not what we are looking for here. Dark or black colored Discus that are not carrying fry is either stressed or sick.

AVOID Skittish Discus

A strong healthy Discus fish should approach the glass of the tank when a hand is placed near the tank. Approaching the tank glass is a sign of a happy Discus with a good appetite and little to no stress. Skittish Discus can become easily stressed out or cause themselves serious injury by bumping around the fish tank when getting scared. Injury, of course, can lead to infection and if not treated, the death of your Discus fish. Sometimes buying Discus fish raised locally by a hobbyist becomes comfortable with humans. Versus Discus fish raised in a farm system, packaged in small plastic bags, shipped for 10+ hours on a plane, thrown into a holding tank, repacked when you buy them and then finally making into your tank. You get the picture, really take a time to know where your Discus fish is coming from, they are an investment of your time and money!

AVOID Discus with Long Stringy Waste

Discus fish can sometimes fall victim to internal parasites, largely due to ingesting tapeworm eggs through poor quality food or they waste of other infected fish. When Discus are suffering from tapeworms they usually have white or long stringy waste. If you see Discus like this, do not buy them, other fish could be affected as well and you would be setting yourself up for a disappointment and a long battle to rid your Discus of internal parasites.

Final thoughts...

For me, the site of a large tank filled with colorful round Discus fish is amazing. The nine or so tips above should help you avoid heartache and help you select healthy quality Discus fish and avoid unhealthy and or diseased fish.

If you have any more suggestions post them below in the comments. If I think of any more tips, I will post them here as well, at which point, I will have to re-title this post I suppose...

Anyhow, I hope these tips serve you well and I look forward to any pictures you may have your new Discus fish. Feel free to post your pictures in our Tropical Fish forum.

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