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« เมื่อ: พฤศจิกายน 06, 2006, 10:30:31 PM »

Source: Bangkok Post  World News    5/11/2006 11:25:29

Chompoo Trakullertsathien

Dubbed the ''King of aquarium fish'', the discus has long been admired by fish fanciers around the world. In Thailand, this beautiful fish, also known as a pompadour, has long reigned as a favourite.

 

According to a discus breeder at Sanam Luang II, its popularity is on the rise due to its loveliness and eye-catching shapes and colours. Many people are also interested in breeding discus fish since they command a good price. Apart from domestic sales, the fish is also exported to other countries.

 

A native of the Amazon and its tributaries in South America, the discus (Symphysodon discus Heckel) was first described by Austrian Dr Johann Jacob Heckel in 1840.

 

The fish was first introduced to Thailand some 50 years ago, and currently we are one of the world's leading exporters of the fish. Discus breeding farms have mushroomed in and around Bangkok because the area is suitable for the breeding and survival of the fish.

Although there are only two species of discus (Symphysodon aequifasciata and Symphysodon discus), through selective breeding there are now many varieties available.

 

Some popular varieties of discus are the blue (S. aequifasciatus Haraldi), brown (S. aequifasciatus Axelrodi), green (S. aequifasciatus Aequifasciatus) and the Heckle (S. discus Heckle). These four are the only naturally-occurring varieties, with the pineapple discus (S. discus Willischwartzi) and the red discus (S. discus discus) being variants of the Heckle discus also found in the wild.

 

Each is shaped differently, with colourful striations and different sizes. For example, the Heckle discus is yellow and brown, with light blue striations. The brown discus has a reddish-brown body adorned with blue striations on its head, dorsal and anal fins.

 

The Sanam Luang II breeder said that if kept in captivity in a healthy environment and with a good diet, a discus can live for more than 10 years.

 

''Some owners lack the attention to detail or commitment required when it comes to taking care of discus fish. Many think that fish are like a fashionable object, used to decorate their house. That is totally wrong. Fish also need love and care for their survival. Like dogs and cats, fish can become friends,'' said one breeder.

 

FAccording to a fish vendor at Sanam Luang II, discus fish should be kept in schools (of at least three fish) since they are gregarious animals. If you want a more colourful look to your fish tank and increase the varieties of fish you keep, check which fish can happily co-habit with the discus (some catfish and tetra make ideal companions).

 

FWater quality is a prime concern when it comes to keeping discus. Discus do best in water with a pH level between 6 and 7 and a temperature of about 26 to 30C. Discus fish can survive only in clean water _ water derived from natural sources is unsuitable since it can carry parasites and germs harmful to the animal's health. Tap water is best, but it must be left standing for three days to allow the chlorine in the water to evaporate.

 

Water must be changed regularly, once every day or two, by removing 10 to 20 per cent of the water in the tank and replacing it with fresh clean water (that has been allowed to stand). Water changes must be done more often if there are many fish in the tank. Fish living in poor water will have a dark body colour.

 

FAquarium size matters. First of all, owners must know the objective of their discus keeping: Breeding or pleasure. If you want to breed discus, a larger tank is required. Kept purely as pets, discus prefer large tanks _ at least 100cm in length and 45cm high. For three to five young, small discus (up to 7.5cm), a 150 litre tank is ideal (measuring around 100cm by 40cm by 45cm).

 

FFilters, a heater and an air pump will also be required to keep your fish healthy.

 

FDiscus fish dislike direct lighting. They are happy to live in an indirectly-lit tank. Some owners prefer an undecorated tank, which while looking a little stark, can be cleaned easily, reducing the chances of infection. Others prefer to add aquatic plants to the tank.

 

There are advantages and disadvantages. Some water plants can't survive in a low illuminated environment. Besides, it is rather difficult to keep the planted tank clean at all times. Most importantly, the plants can harbour parasites detrimental to the fish's health.

 

The advantage of keeping the tank green is that water plants can add more oxygen to the water. Besides, it makes the fish's artificial home looks more realistic, more like their natural habitat.

 

Certain plants, such as Microsorium pteropus, known as the Java fern, and Echinodorus tenellus, the pygmy chain sword, can survive in a tank with low lighting. Owners must also ensure that all decorative items used in the tank such as stones, wood and shells are clean. Soak them in potassium permanganate for 15 minutes to help eliminate parasitic contamination (but follow the instructions for dilution and rinse thoroughly before putting in the tank).

 

Discus don't like movement that may be interpreted as being from predators, so place the tank near a wall, away from areas of activity and at waist height or above. The best way to keep the fish settled is to paint the sides and back of the aquarium blue or black leaving only the front part clear.

 

FBuy your fish from a reliable source, since some vendors may try to sell you older fish, which apart from living for less time once you have them, are not good for breeding.

 

Buying a big fish is not ideal, since a larger size means that the fish is older. Small fish are better. A young fish should have a round body, and a curved dorsal fin is also a desirable trait.

 

The external appearance of the fish can tell whether or not it is healthy. Torn fins may not be a big problem if they are a result of accident, but if the fish is infected with parasites this can be serious, since it will affect its health.

 

Fish with clamped fins and dark bodies are not healthy. Eyes are a good indicator _ fish with clear bright eyes are generally in good shape. Any fish that refuses to eat or looks inactive in the water is not a good choice. Choose fish that are good swimmers and not easily frightened.

 

Not all discus are naturally colourful. Some colours can be induced by hormones, and this can be detrimental to the health of the fish, and damage its reproductive system.

 

Nutrition is a major aspect of discus keeping. Both live food and commercially available dry food are nutritious. Mosquito larva, red worm and water worms are perfect natural food, rich in protein. This kind of food can help enhance the colours of the fish.

 

The drawback of fresh food is possible contamination with parasites and germs. Submerge it in potassium permanganate before feeding it to the fish, but seek expert advice first as potassium permanganate can kill your fish. Hand feeding can make the fish more tame and familiar with its owner.

 

Diseases that affect discus are varied, and most stem from a poor environment and/or poor maintenance. The most common diseases are bacterial, and they attack different organs. Septicemia is a bacterial disease occurring in the blood. The symptoms include blotchy haemorrhages on body and fins, distension of the abdomen and exophthalmia (bulging eyes). Fin rot is also caused by bacteria. Good maintenance of your aquarium's water can help prevent the occurrence of these bacterial diseases.

 

External and internal parasites are also major enemies of discus fish. Consult your vet for medical treatment when your fish is infected with parasites.

 
 
 
 
 
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