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Our New Discus Tank - IV

by George J. Reclos

A picture taken at the beginning of October 2002 (2 months after setting the tank with some new plants added). The plants are doing well and the fish seem to enjoy it. However, the water parameters of our tap water are far from ideal for this type of tank. Indeed, with a KH=8, GH=9 and pH=7.7 it would be ideal (and actually I know it is) for an African cichlid tank but not for discus which require a very soft water. There are quite a few options to correct this. Starting from Reverse Osmosis (R/O) units down to additives. Since the tank is in the laboratory we work at, we decided to use the ion-exchange column (see photo below) to soften the water. This, coupled with massive water changes and the use of peat in the filter should result in an adequately soft water. Indeed, after many water changes, the water parameters became KH=4 and GH=5. I will keep using the de-ionized water until the KH reaches the 3 mark. Below that I think that the buffering capacity is too small and the presence of carbon dioxide injection makes it too risky. 

 

This is a photo of the Echinodorus "Ozelot" green, donated by the fellow hobbyist Pavlos Aslanis (along with a great deal of useful information). However, all those plants require high light levels and carbon dioxide to thrive. Lighting was increased to almost 1 Watt / liter (actually it is 1.5 Watts / liter in the back of the tank and about 0.6 Watt/Lt in the front). Carbon dioxide injection proved a bit more complicated since it was the first time I was working with such a small water volume and the fluctuations of the pH were not acceptable. After many trials and errors I came down to 1.25 bubbles of carbon dioxide  / second. The following graph shows the fluctuation of the pH in this tank under those conditions. Measurements were taken every 15 minutes for two days and the average was plotted against time.

It is evident that the pH has stabilized and fluctuates within a very narrow range, while the CO2 content of the water ranges from 18-20 ppm. The lights are turned on at 9:30 and go off at 21:30.

One of the discus (actually the dominant one - shown in this picture) has already doubled in size in two months. However, the rest of them didn't follow the same growth pattern. Thus, this discus is now claiming almost the whole tank as its territory while the rest will try to stay away from it. I had the feeling that keeping those discus all alone was not very natural so I searched to find out which other species would be compatible and - perhaps - relieve some of the tension in the tank. Adding any plecos was eliminated as an option since the tank was planted and the ultimate task is always breeding the fish we keep. Plecos, being nocturnal animals will always make a good meal of any eggs laid in the tank..

Continued in next page

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