The majestic, graceful, and dignified Discus fish has been described as the "King of the Aquarium Fishes" for good reason. They are highly esteemed within the fish keeping hobby due to their dramatic coloring, refined shape, and regal bearing and are widely considered to be the pinnacle of tropical fish keeping. These quiet, peaceful, and elegant creatures inspire appreciation and dedication like no other fish.
Discus are considered part of the cichlid family and are categorized into three species, two of which have been long time standards and one which has been relatively recently described. The Green Discus Symphysodon aequifasciatus and its close relative the Heckel Discus or Red Discus Symphysodon discus are the most recognized species. These two are found in the central and lower Amazon regions and are very similar in coloring and behavioral disposition. Both are considered valid species by the scientific community. The third species, the Blue Discus or Brown Discus Symphysodon haraldi, was recently identified by Mr. Heiko Bleher and is awaiting further work to determine identification and validation.
There are many local color varieties, possibly due to natural hybridization, though most available Discus today are tank bred varieties. Through selective breeding a wide variety of body shapes, colors, and patterns are being produced. These tank bred varieties are widely divergent from the wild caught discus and tend to be better adapted to tank life, requiring less stringent care than their wild caught brethren. Even so, tank bred Discus are more demanding of good water quality, require a larger aquarium, and are more expensive than many tropical fish.
Discus were first imported into the United States and Europe in the 1930's and 1940's. Early efforts to ship and keep these fish proved exceptionally difficult, but much more is now known about their needs and requirements. An experienced and dedicated aquarist will find these fish a challenging and rewarding experience.