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Discus

(Symphysodon discus)

Overview

Nicknamed the “pompadour fish” for their distinctive look, discus have a round, flat body 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 aid in communication within a school of discus and to camouflage the fish from predators.

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

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.

Quick Facts

Learn more about the discus! Did you know that young discus fish feed on the mucus from their parents' skin after hatching?

Found in slow-moving fresh water, discus live in tributaries in the Amazon River basin. Schools of discus hide in underwater debris away from predators.

A discus’ diet includes worms, small crustaceans, insects, insect larvae and plant matter.

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

Their population is believed to be stable.

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

Meet the Expert Ken Howell

As the curator of the Upland Tropical Rain Forest, Amazon River Forest and Australia: Wild Extremes exhibits, Ken starts his day early, walking through each exhibit.

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