Your Discus fish can develop many health problems, just like any other fish. One this page you will find the most commonly occurring Discus diseases.
Like with any other organism, if you are able to identify a disease problem in its early stages you greatly increases your chances of treating it successfully and helping your Discus make a full recovery. The best thing you can do to prevent diseases in your Discus is by providing your fish with a varied diet and keeping your fish in optimal conditions (proper water chemistry, right temperature, low levels of nitrogenous water, no rapid changes in any water parameter, etc.)
Discus Disease – Hole in the Head
Among certain large Cichlids, including the Discus Fish, Hole in the Head is a common disease. Catch this one early because that will make it infinitely easier to treat. Allowing this discus disease to progress to long can even kill your fish. If you are able to treat your fish back to health, the wound can leave a permanent scar. So, early treatment, while the wound is still small is definitely recommended.
The most common method used to treat Hole in the Head in Discus fish is raising the water temperature to 96.8F (36C) over the course of a few days. Then leave the temperature at the level for 8-10 days. When you increase water temperature you must always increase aeration at the same time to make sure there is enough oxygen in the water. Combined with the heat treatment you can orally administer Flagyl (Metronidazole) as directed.
If you notice that the high water temperature is stressing your Discus fish then you have to turn the temperature back down. A stressed fish is much harder to heal. In this case you will to seek other forms of treatment; for example, using only Flagyl for treatment.
Discus Disease – Gill Flukes
Gill Flukes are common in Discus fish and are extremely dangers for Discus fry. Gill flukes are external parasites that destroy the Discus’ gills and cause erratic swimming and heavy breathing. An infected Discus may even become paralyzed and sink to the bottom of the aquarium. This problem is curable using a medication called Formalin, but naturally preventing Gill Flukes is always preferred.
The adult Discus is not affected by Gill Flukes as much as the Discus fry so an infected parent can actually still spawn. Then when the fry begin to eat off of their parents they may ingest the Gill Flukes. That is the reason why you would separate the fry from the parents as soon as possible as I discussed in Discus Breeding
Discus Disease – Costia, Velvet & Ich
Ich (also known as White Sport), Costia and Velvet are not very common Discus diseases because the high water temperature of a Discus aquarium is not suitable for these microbes. If your Discus develops any of these diseases the first thing you should do is increase the water temperature to around 93.2F (34C). The microbes will find this temperature extremely uncomfortable. As a rule of thumb, Velvet will be killed off in 2-3 days and Costia by day 4. Ich will have to be treated for at least 10 days because this parasite is only vulnerable to heat during its free-swimming phase.
Discus Disease – Internal Parasites
A Discus may have internal parasites for a long time without showing any signs of illness, but when the right conditions arise the parasites population can grow exponentially. That is when your Discus will show signs of sickness. Signs that you should look for are emaciation (abnormal thinness) and white feces. Without performing an autopsy you have no certain way of knowing which parasite is responsible for this Discus disease. Luckily, many parasites are sensitive to Flagyl (Metronidazole). In addition to administering Flagyl you will want to increase the temperature and increase aeration.
If your Discus is still eating then you can marinade its food; for example, larvae or live worms, in a Flagyl solution for about an hour. It is recommended by many aquarists to use a solution of 200mL water and 10mL Flagyl for the marinade. If your Discus is no longer eating you will have to force feed it using a needless syringe. Add a mixture of 3 parts water, two parts liquid fry food and one part liquid Flagyl to the syringe (make sure the needle is removed!). The fry food is added to make sure that your fish doesn’t starve while you are treating it. Place your Discus on a wet towel and use the syringe to administer about 2mL of the solution down its throat. Wait until it swallows before you put the Discus back into the aquarium. The Discus will expel a lot of what you just gave it through its mouth and gills, but at least some of it will be ingested. Unfortunately, you will have to treat your fish 2 times a day this way until it starts to show signs of recovery (ie/ it starts to eat again). This type of treatment is very high stress for a fish especially since the fish is already stressed from the parasites.
Discus Disease – Bacterial Infections
Bacterial infections are most common in aquariums that lack maintenance, but they can also appear in well-maintained aquariums sometimes. Unless you have a good microscope or access to a lab it will be impossible to indentify which bacterium is causing the problems. Fortunately, the local fish store will have a wide-spectrum antibiotic that will attack many different kinds of bacteria; for instance, Chloromycetin. You can purchase it in powder form and it is recommended that you use roughly 1 teaspoon per 100L of water. Calculating the exact volume of your aquarium is important to avoid over dosing. Often you will see a substantial improvement in only 8 hours. The Chloromycetin will degrade in roughly 12 hours, but you may want to administer a second round in two days just to be on the safe side.
Similar Aquarium Posts:
- Discus Fish Breeding
- Discus Fish – Symphysodon aequifaciatus haraldi
- Keeping Discus Fish
- Selecting Discus Fish
- Discus Fish Nutrition