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Secrets of breeding discus: preparing an aquarium, water, manufacturers


Hekkel discus breeding is a rarity. Aquarists have always considered the Heckel discus (Symphysodon discus Heckel, 1840) to be a prestigious fish, and breeding these discuses and getting fry from a wild pair of heckels is undoubtedly the greatest, but extremely rare event: there have been isolated cases of their successful breeding in captivity in the world.

Stable breeding discus no heckels have yet been achieved. In any case, such information did not come across to me either in the literature, including periodical, or from conversations with many foreign discus distributors.

Photo of a pair of Hekkel discus

The problems are apparently connected with the extreme living conditions of these discus species in nature: in their habitats they are extremely mild (electrical conductivity rarely exceeds 10 μS / cm) and acidic (pH

4.0) water, which, undoubtedly, affects the specificity of the feed base of heckels (according to the information of H. Bleer and other researchers, the basis of the diet of these discus is plant components). Maintaining such water parameters stably in the aquarium, avoiding the collapse of the pH to values ​​below 4.0, with the almost complete absence of carbonate buffer, is an extremely difficult task.

The biggest problem in breeding Haeckel's discus is to achieve spawning of the females (apart from the water parameters, their diet readiness is probably influenced by the specificity of the diet), since the males are more plastic in terms of the quality of spawning water. Therefore, successful spawning of male heckel with S.aequifasciatus females is observed much more often, but they are not commonplace.

In the aquariums of Russian discusters, hekkels are a rather rare fish, and this is largely due to the lack of active attempts to breed these discuses in our country. For purposeful work on breeding heckels (both “clean” pairs and mixed ones), it is necessary to have a sufficiently large number of these discus in one farm. If there are few of them (at least a dozen), then the positive results in breeding discus can be attributed, to a large extent, to luck. She also “smiled” at us in SKAT.


Last year, we made serious attempts to spawn heckel discus. To do this, a dozen specimens were dropped from a two-ton aquarium with ordinary tap water and placed in two
400-liter containers (a smaller volume facilitates the manipulation of water parameters, which we intended to use to activate spawning), combining them with several instances of the royal blue discus F1 (among which were active females that had previously participated in spawning). We understood that the amount of hekels we had was unlikely to be enough to form a “clean” pair, and we counted on the possibility of forming mixed ones.

In the same aquariums, several mangrove snags were placed. Gradually reducing the "hardness" of water to a specific conductivity of 50-60 μS / cm, we brought its pH to 5.0 (placing peat in the filters), suggesting that a further decrease in the rate of active reaction will occur due to the nitrification process in the biofilter. Thanks to peat, the water in the aquariums acquired an amber color, which was facilitated by driftwood, which contributed to its saturation with humic acids and tannins.

The need for regular replacement of old water with appropriate parameters in these aquariums required special water treatment, for which we used another 400-liter container, in which we also placed new mangrove driftwood and installed a peat-filled filter.

Two weeks later, after we adjusted the water parameters to the desired, the discus began to demonstrate the activity (rivalry, “bowing”, etc.) that is usually observed when forming pairs for breeding.

Soon there was a situation when one of the females of the royal blue discus, already “raising” the early fry with a relative of its lineage, clearly liked two heckels, which, in our opinion, looked like males (the rest of the heckles looked more like females). Between them began serious "showdown", which got to other discus. Then we separated the fish, leaving in the same aquarium two male heckels with two royal blue females. The rest was transferred to another capacity. But, unfortunately, in this embodiment, activity ceased.

Photo teens discus

At this time, we had a spawning female of the Kuriper discus (a wild brown red discus) with a male of red turkis (Red Silk). After receiving two litters from this pair, before the next spawning of the discus we separated the producers by dropping the female into the aquarium to the male heckels (having previously removed the less active female of the royal blue discus). Thus, in the same aquarium, two alleged male Haeckel discus and two one hundred percent females, the Kuriper and the Royal Blue, began to swim. In fact, two pairs were immediately identified, they occupied their territories and inextricably kept together.

The most active was the couple with the female “Curiepera” (no more than 10 days passed after her last spawning), amicably driving away the other two discus. Males were especially zealous in rivalry - at the time of skirmishes they acquired a brighter color, and their heads turned dark blue, resembling blue-headed heckels. The female “Creepers” often shook her head, “bowed” to her male and sometimes began to clean the snag.

Everything talked about soon discus spawning. But this moment did not come, and soon the marriage activity completely disappeared. After waiting almost seven months to no avail, we decided to leave this couple together and try to stimulate them.

For this purpose, the temperature was raised to 3 ° C (before that, the fish were kept at 29-30 ° C), the intensity of feeding and water changes were reduced. Two weeks later, they began to generously feed the couple and gradually lower the temperature (bringing it to 28 ° C), accompanied by massive changes of water (from 30 to 50% at a time, over several days).

The first spawning of discus

The first discus spawning took place a week later with the following parameters: T = 28 ° C, specific conductivity -40 μS / cm, pH

4.8. Caviar was laid on a snag and eaten on the third day. The masonry was in an uncomfortable place to observe its development, but it seemed to me that among the eggs there were normally developing ones.

The next spawning (with the same water parameters) occurred 11 days later, in fact, to the same place. But on the second day, caviar was also eaten by producers.

Male activity was not noticeable at both breeding discus, but nevertheless he “applied” to the clutch several times. It seemed that success was not far, but spawning suddenly stopped. At the same time, the couple behaved quite actively, but to no avail.

Over the next month and a half, we continued to simulate natural cycles, alternating without fattening at high temperatures and occasional water changes with periods of abundant nutrition with decreasing temperature and intense changes. There was still no result. Then we decided to plant a second heckel, supposedly a male, in a pair. And skirmishes immediately began - the old-timers amicably drove off the newcomer, who was trying to get closer to the zone they protected.

Photo of a pair of discus with fry

Towards the end of the third day, keeping a new Hekkel with a couple seemed to me unsafe for his health, and I dropped him back. Probably this situation, which caused the couple to compete actively with the competitor, was the last straw in stimulating mating activity, since the next day a successful spawning took place.

The female actively laid eggs on a clay cone, which was placed in the aquarium a few days ago. Her partner only occasionally approached the masonry, but constantly kept close to the scene. But, as it turned out, he reacted to his duties with full responsibility: the episodicity of his approaches to caviar was more than compensated by high productivity, which resulted in almost 100 percent fertilization.

Further, everything happened as usual: the couple hatching the larva several times transferred from place to place. Parents guarded the masonry in turn - together, without squabbling and fighting for the “right of honor”.

At the same time, brocade pterigoplichtis about 10 cm long, which perfectly ensured cleanliness in the aquarium, picking up the rest of the feed and cleaning the driftwood, had no chance of approaching the eggs and then the larvae. On the sixth day, the fry swam, immediately “sitting” on their parents. Subsequently, they held tightly together, and the large volume of the aquarium was not an obstacle in this. We turned off the night lighting, but from the moment of spawning and until the parents left this capacity, we left a “night lamp” - a dim lamp located 3.5 m from the aquarium.

The pair with the fry was mainly in the driftwood area, but sometimes swam across the entire tank. From time to time, parents “passed” all the fry to each other, and sometimes at the same time “carried” offspring.
On the sixth day, we gradually began to introduce artemia nauplii into the water, gradually increasing doses and reducing the intervals between them. At the same time, they started collecting mud, adding water of a similar composition.

Preparation of water according to all the rules

Back to the water. Considering that our water is not free, I immediately refused to install osmosis - I did not want to pay for the fact that two-thirds merge into the sewers. And I found a way out - a cation exchange-anianite filter.

After 4 days, taking the water counts, he was pleased - nothing has changed. At lunch of the same day, he landed a couple. The fish settled quickly, noticed the cone, immediately began to revolve around it, and in the evening they laid eggs. At night he left a dim light so that only silhouettes of fish were visible.

Fry discus

On days 9–11, fry of the discus reached a size of about 1 cm (almost round in shape). They often moved away from their parents, eating on their own, but at the slightest fear they instantly surrounded them with a dense heap.

On day 14, we separated the couple from the offspring, placing at the disposal of the kids the entire 400-liter capacity. The temperature was raised to 31 ° C (before that it was kept at a spawning level), gradually increasing water changes already to the softened tap water. On the 18th day, in addition to the Artemia nauplii, they began to gradually give the youngsters ice cream mixes, crustacean artemia and small bloodworms. By this time, the discus had reached a size of 15-17 mm, and by three months their average length was 5.5-7 cm.

By the time this article was written, the fry of the discus were 4 months old, but it is not yet clear how they will be painted in adulthood.

Photo of a pair of discus with fry

At 1.5 months, the strip passing through the eye began to blacken intensively. By 2-2.5 months, from the vertical bands constantly present on the body, the wider fifth (typically heckel), sixth and seventh began to stand out more distinctly.

At the age of 3.5 months, some fry showed weak turquoise stripes in the head area.
In the same pair, in another 250-liter aquarium, two months later, another spawning took place. But the caviar was eaten after the second day they looked after the clutch. Perhaps the reason for this was flash photography in a nearby aquarium.

The rare spawning of this pair is probably related to the age of the fish. At the time of the first spawning, the female was already about 3.5-4 years old, and the male about 5 years old. Now they are still active, and we do not give up hope of receiving new fry from this pair.

It may seem to someone that I have unnecessarily detailed the stages of working with the heckel. But I hope that our generally positive experience will be tried by other discus breeders, thus removing the privileged status of this wonderful fish. And then hekkels - one of the most beautiful and unusual discus - will constantly be present in the aquariums of Russian lovers. Good luck everyone!

Journal Aquarium 2009 №2

Comments on this article:

Comments added by:Ilya
Date of: 2018-05-18

It is difficult to breed discus, but you have to try. I will go to the birdie the other day and buy a couple of discus for breeding.

Comments added by:Andrey Marinin from Volgograd
Date of: 2019-05-07

Thank you so much. Everything described is very interesting and very important. If it weren’t for your article, I would have bought 6 fish already tomorrow. Thank you for helping me save money and time.

Final preparations awaiting hatching of larvae

I tidied up a grid for cells in the store. This is a galvanized metal mesh, but additionally coated with green plastic. It was very simple to make it: I took a piece of plastic sewer pipe with a diameter of 100 mm, wrapped a mesh around it, cut off the excess, and simply wrapped the rest of the pins around the rods of the cell.

He also fixed a net on top so that the fish would not try to get close to the calf and would not hurt themselves. The couple did not react to my manipulations with this design and did not lose interest in the masonry.

The appearance of larvae. The first days of courtship of producers for offspring

I carefully removed the net, my parents carefully transferred all the larvae to a new place, and the whitened eggs were eaten.

By the time the fry spread, I lowered the water level in the spawning grounds, which is called “to the maximum”, that is, I left 3-4 centimeters above the larvae, but so that my parents didn’t fall on their side, I didn’t pour the water, but left it in containers for further changes.

Independent life of fry. Diet and feeding schedule. Final result

He sold the fry very quickly, and left himself 11 pieces. Of course, the smallest remained, but over time they began to level out.

I think, subject to the above complex rules, your pets will certainly please you with their offspring.

Rustam Alimov, Germany.
Skype: tasch-hann1972
Phone: +4915233739549