CLEANING UP AND TANK CONDITIONING WILD DISCUS
By Jim E. Quarles.
I hope the methods I use and have developed over the years helps you. I am sure
there are many other ways to reach the same goal. This just happens to be the
I have learned over time to tank condition wild discus.
I rush to the airport a little a head of time. Knowing that there might be a
with the shipment. It has happened so many times before. But one can always hope
the Airline will have treated this shipment right and are on time.( That would
be amazing) And that alone would be worth the trip to the airport to see!!
This morning I am expecting twenty boxes of assorted species, with nine to
ten fish per box. Wow ( 180 wild ones.) But I think I am ready. I started
the fish room ready for this shipment last week. Clean tanks with properly aged
water are waiting. The new set of nets I bought will help, these guys when fully
adult and wild kind of go nuts at first. An old net will not last long when
When I get to the freight office I am pleasantly surprised the flight arrived
I was on the way. The boxes are stacked neatly in the ( Warm Room ) at the
office. Looks like only two boxes are drip masters.( that=s how I refer to
I open these to and check the contents right on the spot along with the freight
clerk. All damages to boxes is noted on the air-bill. I was lucky this time no
and dried out discus. There is still enough water in each bags that leaked to
keep the fish alive.
I always take extra bags with me. I simply drop the leaky bags into new bags to
prevent the loss of more water, if the water is really low. I add some aged
from a five gallon water bottle in the truck. Just enough to give the fish a
making it to the hatchery room.
THE GENERAL CONDITIONS OF THE FISH
I am always prepared to open the boxes and look at the new wild arrivals
expecting to see some very sad puppies. Most of the time I am not disappointed
in this regard! Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised and fine excellent fish with
problems or damage. But this generally not the case.
Wild discus are collected a long ways from Sacramento, California and they
are not treated as the King of fishes should be treated until the arrive at my
then and only then do they start getting the Royal treatment that they deserve.
Discus are pretty tough fish in spite of what you have been lead to believe.
They have to be or none of us would have any due to the treatment when shipped
as wild creatures. The fish arrive with torn fins, in most cases colder water
the what is considered safe and hours after being place in a small volume of
water that has
become fouled during shipment.
In almost all cases they are hungry and have not be fed for days. In addition to
that they are loaded with both external and internal parasites. It is not rare
find a few that have skin breaks due to infection or missing scales, sometimes
fungus has taken hold. Sound like fun so far?
Those with a weak heart need to stop reading here. It gets worse! But I will not
list all the disgusting things I have seen with wild shipments, let=s just say
if your going to do this kind of work you better be prepared and know your
I have prepared in advance about a half dozen five gallon buckets with air
stones and about two gallons of fresh clean aged water. I open the boxes and one
by one place the fish in the buckets sometimes as many as five fish to the
bucket. I then
slowly add aged water with a ph. of 6.5 though a small air tube, like you use
your air stone. I can adjust the flow with a in line air valve. The room is
and the water is generally about 84 degrees in the buckets. I work very fast
it=s a large shipment. I give the fish just enough time in the bucket to reduce
chance of water changing shock. Then I net them into fifty five gallon tanks
contain nothing but two sponge filters ( very large ) these of course have been
seeded in working tanks before they are needed for this shipment. These first
holding tanks are on an automatic water replacement system. The have an overflow
with Twenty five percent of new aged water being replaced every 24 hours.
Once all the fish are in place in the first holding tanks tight lids are placed
tanks to prevent jumpers, and the lighting is reduced in that section of the
I do nothing more for the next twenty four hours except remove and dead fish
that did not make the trip. Of course I do a 100% eye ball check of all the fish
so that I can tell if I have any bad cases that must be treated at once. If I
such fish, they are moved to special twenty gallon treatment tanks. Where the
first thing added was Rock Salt. 2 teaspoon per gal. These tanks also have one
drop per gallon of Malachite Green dye that has been added with the salt. These
tanks contain no filters, only a heater that keeps the tank at 90 degrees F. And
a air stone.
This treatment is to help heal any areas of broken skin or missing scales
and should fungus be present it will prevent its growth until other measures
can be taken.
I will get back to these fish later. The remaining fish look fairly clear of
other then torn or some lost fins. But we both know they are loaded with
The first feeding is done at least 24 hours after they arrive. I feed them a
supply of Tuifex Worms. Now before you blow your top follow along with my
reasons for doing this. 1. These fish are hungry they have most likely not had
food for up to two weeks. Second they are already loaded with internal parasites
so that is a problem I next have to deal with. But for the time being I need to
some protein into their system. Wild fish after not eating for a while are
impossible to start on beefheart of flake foods, first they don=t know what it
and second they will not like it even if they try it. Tuifex worm fill that need
well they will generally start eating with little problem when offered the first
SO THE THEY ARE EATING NOW WHAT?
At this point the torn and ragged fins should start to heal, I add 2 teaspoon of
to each 10 gallons of holding water and 1 drop of malachite green. I hold these
conditions for a week to ten days. After ten days I start the fish on beefheart
mixing a little of the tuifex worms in with the beefheart, to change them over
pure beefheart can take up to a month. Once they are eating well and the fins
eyes start to regain a normal look, I let the salt and Malachite green be
by water changes. I prepare new clean holding tanks, with the same type of water
they are now used to.
THE FIRST DIP.
I now have had the fish for about a month if all is according to normal
It is time for the first removal of external parasites. To do this I use
Potassium Permanganate. I get the PP in powdered form and setup a 20 gallon dip
I mix 1/6 teaspoon of PP to a pint of warm water. This is added to twenty
aged water in the dip tank. A air stone or two is set to bubble on high in the
I then net two or more fish in a very large soft net and while keeping them in
the net, dip them into the PP mix. I retain the fish in the net for up to 3
the pp bath. They are then removed while still in the net and placed in the new
clean holding tanks. This process is repeated until all the fish have been
dipped for three minutes each.
The use of the PP removes most if not all the slime coat on the fish through
oxidation. Along with this removal the parasites are also washed away,.or at
a lot of them if not all of them are washed off the fish. Some of those
in the gills will be removed this way, but don=t count on it for the total
gill flukes that treatment will come shortly in our follow up dips or baths.
The discus will replace it=s slime coat in about 24 hours and I sometimes use
coat in the water to aide this replacement. If the fish still had some fin rot
working the pp dip certainly will end it or slow it down greatly. After this
first dip the fish
are once again allowed to rest for a couple of days. I watch them closely and
notes as to any additional problems that need attention next.
GILL FLUKE REMOVAL
A couple of days after the first dip, I prepare to treat the fish for the
Gill Flukes, I assume they all have them.. I have not been wrong about this yet!
I add three to four ppm of Praziquantel to the holding tank water. The filtering
process is bypassed for 12 hours and in effect the fish have no filter working
the air stones.( Since I am on central filters, I keep the filters working just
not exchanging water with these tanks.) After 12 hours the shut off valves are
and the tanks go back on line with the filters. This process is repeated
three days. At the end of three days the water exchange has removed the
praziquantel, and the fish are back in drug free water. Also hopefully they are
of gill flukes as well. ( at least adult ones )
NOW WE GO AFTER THE INTERNAL PARASITES
At this point the fish are eating good and the natural beauty of the fish have
returned, their eyes are bright and the skin and scales look good and parasite
the breathing is normal not rapid or short.
I now add Metronidazole to their beefheart food. I buy it in 250 mg tablets and
mix two tablets or 500 mg. To one pound of pure beefheart. I feed this to the
up to two weeks. Generally on the second day of feeding the medicated food I
notice dead worms expelled from the fish.
The fish are now 95% parasite free and growing in good health. But some work
remains to be done before I can call them..Parasite free and tank conditioned.
Keep in mind that all the while, these events are taking place the fish are
supplied with lots of water changes and the ph has been between 6.4 and 6.8.
What I do now depends on a lot factors. Most of the time I move the fish to
fifty five gallon fresh tanks with six fish per fifty five gallons. At this
point I pick
out the best looking fish and move them into 100 to 150 gallon holding tanks
I sometimes have twenty fish per 100 gallons in these tanks. These fish will be
considered as possible breeder pairs later. I will not go into how I pair the
since that is a different subject entirely.
One other thing should be noted, after we have reached this stage with the fish
I add Nitrofurazone to the system at a ratio that will act as a slight
the water. Not much but it does provide a little added safety and I think
some bacterial out breakes.
Well that=s about it. I hope I have covered all the importent parts of it. Of
dealing on with the volume of fish I handle requires a lot of tanks and centreal
filtering systems. I currently have seven filter systems working and it looks
a mad man entered the fish room and intalled pvc pipes and valves everywhere.