I’m looking for a well-balanced food for
my discus, and I am finding among all the
foods that are commercially available a
large variability as to their protein content.
I’ve seen on the container labels amounts
of protein as low as 25 percent and as high
as 51 percent.
What is the correct amount of protein
content for my discus?
National City, California
You have good reason to be confused; however,
many of the tropical fish food labels probably
were showing protein amounts for fishes other
than discus. You could have a food for tropicals
that has a protein content as high as 75 percent
but is poorly balanced and lacking in the
necessary amino acids, so a food with the protein
reading of 51 percent that is perfectly balanced
would certainly be superior.
Protein plays a major role in the diet of discus,
and a steady supply is necessary at all times in
the life of the fish. But discus, being omnivorous
feeders, need green plants in their diets as well. I
feed discus a flake food that includes the correct
amounts of greens in their formulas.
If you plan to make your own formula you
might want to include one of the many Japanese
foods intended for human consumption that can
be found in some markets, such as squid, raw
tuna, clams, and perhaps chlorella microalgae.
Nearly every food that I suggest for discus is
food that I myself eat nearly all the time. In fact,
you can sprinkle the chlorella or spirulina on
your own food and add it to the discus food at
the same time!
We have on our property a 12-foot by
12-foot ( 3.7-meter by 3.7-meter) indoor
space that I plan to convert into a room
to not only maintain my discus but also, I
hope, to have them pair off. My discus are
six months old. Because of my location I
will need some kind of artificial heating
during the winter months.
Will you please give me an idea or two
as to how I can succeed in this venture?
Thank you very much.
I’ve written and spoken on several occasions
about my ideas for building or remodeling a
room for maintaining discus, so I’ll give you
the same information with adjustments for the
different heating requirements. First, what kind
of insulation does the room have? I’m certain
that Tulsa isn’t like Fargo, North Dakota, but
you will have to concern yourself with the Tulsa
Is it possible to lower the room ceiling by
installing 2-inch (5-cm) thick Styrofoam sheets,
thus trapping or locking in the temperature you
want to maintain in the room? Styrofoam with a
2-inch (5-cm) thickness will be very effective for
this if it is correctly attached to the walls.
As to heating the room, do you plan to use
electric room heaters? Here in the US, electric
space heaters cannot exceed 1,500 watts, so if
you plan to “go electric” you must be certain
that your electrical wiring can handle the load.
My recommendation is to employ propane gas,
not electric, for your room heating. Propane gas
is not at all cheap in price, but it is considerably
less expensive than electric power at present.
One gas heater in the room will be much better
than electric room heaters and perhaps better
than any individual tank heaters in each tank.
And what happens if you have an extended
electric power failure? With propane gas, any
electric power failure in your area will cause you
no problems in your discus room.
My 14 discus are now about six months
old. I know their age is correct, but they
have almost lost any normal growth over
the past six weeks. I feed them as you have
recommended, quality flake food twice
daily, and I make a water change of about
25 percent once a week. The discus are in
a 35-gallon (140-liter) tank, and the water
temperature is 83ºF ( 29.5ºC). The tank
Jack Wattley is worldwide the most
recognized name in discus breeding.
Breeder, judge, collector, scholar, Jack is
the foundation on which modern discus
keeping has been built. He has been
sharing his experience and knowledge—
and the discus he breeds—with aquarists
throughout the world for decades, and just
one of his many awards was his recent
Lifetime Achievement award from the
ACA. Long past the age at which most
people retire, he still serves as ambassador
of discus and goodwill across the planet.