The best way to start understanding discus tropical fish is to determine what is meant by the term ‘tropical’. In the strict sense of the word, it applies to the portion of the earth that lies between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, but things are never that simple. Nature is not concerned with lines drawn on a map, and rather prefers for plants and animals to colonize areas best suited to their own requirements for a fruitful life – and temperature may be only one aspect of their needs. Thus, when talking about discus tropical fish, we have to consider all aspects of their natural environment.
The discus belongs to the Cichlid class of fish, and naturally lives in the calm warm waters of the Amazon River in South America. Discus have a single nostril on either side, a broken lateral line and cycloid scales. The popularity of discus tropical fish however, has led specialist breeders to develop many new color, body and finnage forms to fulfill the desires of the hobby aquarium. In fact, outside of the wild, the original species genetics are a rare sight these days.
The natural habitat of the discus fish include small rivers, streams, and other freshwater areas surrounding the Amazon river. In the wild, discus live among submerged tree roots and branches close to shore. The discus uses these underwater features for cover against prey. Nature has evolved the wild discus with black horizontal stripes which act as camouflage and aid the fish to blend in with its environment.
There are thousands of species of fish living in the various waters of the world, and discus tropical fish are only one of them. What is important to remember though is that each of them requires a given set of parameters to live and reproduce successfully. To keep discus in the aquarium, it is vital to understand how they function, and what conditions they need to thrive, and how variations and stress can affect them. Armed with this knowledge, you will be able to analyze the behavior and needs of your pets when they leave the Amazon for a home in your aquarium.