Symphysodon discus


Young discus fish feed on mucus on the sides of both parents after birth.

Exhibit Name and Location:
Baltimore - Amazon River Forest

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As one might expect based on the name, discus have a round, flat body that is similar in shape to a disk. They vary in color—donning hues of green, red, brown and blue and have dark vertical stripes. These stripes serve a dual purpose: to help with communication within the school of discus and to camouflage the fish from predators. Because of its distinctive look, a nickname for the discus is the “pompadour fish.”

To reproduce, male and female discus together choose and clean a spot where the female discus will lay between 80 and 400 eggs. The male fertilizes the eggs, and the male and female then guard the eggs until they hatch. When the eggs hatch, the fry swim to the parents and eat the slime off their skin until they’re old enough to eat larger pieces of food. Juveniles can live in groups, but as they get older they will start to form bonded pairs and become territorial against other couples.


A typical discus diet can include worms, small crustaceans, insects, insect larvae, and plant matter.


This fish can grow to approximately 6 to 8 inches in height and length.


Found in slow-moving freshwater, discus live in tributaries in the Amazon River Basin. Schools of discus fish hide in underwater debris, hiding from predators.

Population Status

Their population is believed to be stable.


Fish, turtles, birds, and bats are among those that prey on discus.

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A Note From the Caretaker

These fish are great parents. Both mom and dad will guard the eggs, fanning them with their fins and picking off any that go bad to keep the clutch from growing fungus.