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What to Feed your Discus

Once your new discus have had a chance to get acclimatised to their surroundings, you will want to try and give them some food.

The best thing to feed your discus when they are first introduced to your discus aquarium is some frozen bloodworms, which have been rinsed in hot water to take the chill off them. Discus love frozen bloodworms and it is a great way to get them interested in feeding in their new surroundings.

Another thing you can use is adult brine shrimp. These two foods, while not necessarily high in nutritional value, are still very important in the diet of your discus.

Discus living in their natural habitat generally subsist on small insects, insect larva and small crustaceans. So we know that discus are a carnivorous fish, and as such need meat in their diet. Discus do not need a diet that consists completely of living foods either.

It is convenient or even desirable to try and give the discus in your aquarium a completely natural diet, like they would receive in the wild. Live foods generally are not very sanitary and as such can carry parasites and other pathogens into your aquarium. So you should restrain from giving your discus live food, except under very particular circumstances.

You want to try and feed your fish small amounts multiple times daily. This will help you keep control of the food, and also keep your discus in tip top condition. While discus in the wild do go for extended periods of time without food, you want to keep your discus not only well fed, but happy as well, especially if you are trying to breed discus. A discus who is stressed or unhappy will not breed as easily as a happy discus.

You will want to feed your discus a mixture of prepared foods, live foods and frozen foods to make sure they get all their dietary needs.

Prepared Foods:

There are a wide variety of prepared foods, which come in the form of pellets and flakes, on the market today which are specifically designed to meet all your discus’ nutritional needs. It is recommended that prepared foods are offered to your discus at least one feeding a day, to help maintain a balanced diet.

Prepared foods have often been enhanced with vitamins and mineral supplements so they are the best kinds of foods to give your discus.

It is important to remember that just because a certain brand of prepared food for discus is more expensive than another, it doesn’t make it better. Likewise, just because a brand of prepared food for discus is cheaper, doesn’t make it inferior to other brands.

Some brands like to have flashy labels to attract you to buy more, and the content may be nothing. A product sitting right next to it may not have a flashy label, but may in fact be better for your discus.

The only sure way to know if a certain brand of prepared food is right for your discus is by reading the labels carefully.

The brand of prepared food which is right for your discus can vary depending on a few things such as: how old your discus fish are, if your main reason for keeping them is breeding, and if your discus is healthy or not.

If you are unsure about which brand of prepared food might be right for your discus, you can always ask another discus keeper or breeder, or anyone who deals in discus.

Discus are not generally used to eating prepared foods, so it might take while to get them to take it. This is especially true of adult discus. When you are dealing with baby discus, they will pretty much eat anything that is fed to them, within reason of course.

Adult discus are more reluctant to eat new foods, as they get set in their ways and used to one kind of food. When dealing with adult discus, it is very important not to switch brands of prepared foods as it can be very time consuming getting them to accept a new prepared food.

Food Blocks:

When you are going to go on vacation, and can’t find anyone to take care of your discus while you are away, you can opt to purchase prepared food blocks for your discus. These blocks are designed to be put into the water and dissolve slowly over time releasing the food as they do. The downside to using these food blocks t feed your discus while you are away, is that they can pollute the water in your discus tank, and could potentially cause problems for your filtration system as well.

Prepared foods are essential to the discus diet, but you should still give them a balance of live foods and frozen foods as well.

Live Foods:

Discus love live foods, as they are still wild animals that we are keeping in captivity. When you give your discus live food, it brings back all their natural instincts and makes them feel as if they are right at home in their natural habitat. You can take the discus out of the wild, but you can’t take the wild out of the discus.

Live foods are especially important to give you discus during their breeding period. When you give your discus live food during this period they become more active sexually, and are more likely to successfully finish the breeding process, with good results.

The unfortunate thing about live foods, as mentioned earlier in this section, they should be used sparingly as they aren’t too safe to give your discus. A lot of live foods can carry pathogens and parasites to your discus, and because of the confined environment, and the social nature of the discus, these pathogens and parasites can make their way into the entire discus population in a very short time.

The only live foods that you can give your discus, which are relatively safe to give as they are not too prone to be contaminated with pathogens or parasites, are: Brine Shrimp, Whiteworms, Glassworms, and Earthworms.

Brine Shrimp:

Brine Shrimp are one of the best live foods to feed to your discus in terms of digestion. Giving your discus some brine shrimp every now and then will aid in keeping the overall health of your discus’ digestive tract in good condition. Although the brine shrimp aren’t too high in nutritional value, discus love them, and will eat them much like humans will eat popcorn. Many discus breeders and keepers tend to argue over the fact as to whether the nutritional value which the brine shrimp has is beneficial to discus or not. It is true that brine shrimp are not high in protein or calcium, but they are a significant source of saturated fats and lipids. While saturated fats and lipids are essential in any diet for your discus, you mustn’t over do it. For this reason, they are not considered high in nutritional value, as they aren’t a significant source of a variety of essential nutrients that your discus needs to be healthy.


Whiteworms have been a choice for a live food by not only discus keepers and breeders, but also by aquarium owners as a whole. Whiteworms are the live food which is the most nutritious to give your discus of all the live foods which are acceptable to give them.

While being very high in nutritional value, you do not want to feed too many to your discus due to the very high fat content that they also contain.

Generally speaking, if you are going to incorporate a Whiteworm treat now and then for your discus, you will only want to give it to them around two or three times in a week. This should give a much needed boost to your discus’ diet, and they simply love to eat Whiteworms.


Glassworms get their name due to their transparent bodies. These worms can be either found in a lake setting, or purchased from you local bait and tackle shop.

Glassworms are pretty easy to keep as well. Simply leave them in a water filled container in the refrigerator until you are ready to feed them to your discus.


By far the easiest of the live foods to find, keep, and give your discus fish, earthworms are the one of the favored live foods to give by many discus keepers and breeders. Earthworms can be found almost anywhere, usually just after a rainfall, but you can also purchase them from any local tackle and bait shop.

They are extremely easy to keep as well. Simply keep them in their container, in which you either bought them or caught them, in the refrigerator until you are ready to feed them to your discus.

Before placing them into the refrigerator however, you may wish to keep them overnight in a box filled with little bits of newspaper. The newspaper helps to clean out the digestive tracts of the earthworms, limiting the chance of exposing your discus to any pathogens or parasites the earthworms may be carrying.

When you are ready to feed the earthworms to your discus, simply remove them from their container, cut them into smaller pieces and feed them to your discus.

Frozen Foods:

Frozen foods play an integral role in the diet for your discus. They usually comprise of things such as: bloodworms, other various kinds of insect larvae, brine shrimp, and various forms of heart and beef mixtures.

Discus really enjoy these mixtures of frozen foods, and unlike some prepared foods, will readily accept them as part of their diet.

Before serving a frozen food mixture to your discus you will want to be sure that you rinse them off in hot water by utilizing some sort of net. This is especially true if you purchased the frozen mixture from a store, and did not prepare it yourself. This is because frozen foods have a high water content, and due to storage conditions, a lot of the time the water content of these frozen foods can be contaminated by any number of things which may not be too healthy for your discus.

There are a lot of discus keepers and breeders around the globe which utilize dear, veal, turkey, and beef heart as the main base for their frozen food mixtures.

Making your own frozen food mixtures for your discus can be very time consuming, as you need to be sure to remove all traces of sinew and fat, but it is worth it in the long run, as it is relatively inexpensive to make these mixtures.

Frozen foods are generally made in the following manner:

  1. Take the base meat (this can be heart or any other lean meat which does not have a high fat content) and liquify it in your household blender.
  1. Add other ingredients such as: liver, shrimp, non-oily white fish, cooked carrots, and spinach
  1. Mix all the ingredients into unsettled non-flavored Jello
  1. Pour the mixture into bags and place them into the freezer to set.

While Frozen foods are an excellent addition to the discus diet, it should be noted that they can have the tendency to pollute the water and can cause issues with your filtration system. This is mainly due to the juices from the meat, and tiny particles of food that break off and get into the water in your discus aquarium.

Because the frozen food has the tendency to pollute the water in your discus aquarium, it is always a good idea to remove any uneaten frozen foods no more than one hour after you have fed your discus.

To give your discus that added boost they need in their diets you may opt to add some vitamins to the frozen food concoction just after it thaws out and before you feed it to your discus fish. You do not want to subject your discus to an overdose of these vitamins, so if you are unsure of how much to use, get into contact with your local aquarium supply store, and they should be able to help you out.

This is not to dissuade you from using vitamins. It is rather difficult to ensure that your discus get all the vitamins and nutrients they need sometimes, and these vitamins and supplements you provide them will ensure that they do, and also prevents them from getting sick.