Sick Discus? - Common Discus Treatments

In the waters of the Amazon discus are not crowded for the most part and are surrounded by thousands upon thousands of liters of clean water with next to no dissolved organics and a very high oxygen content so generally they never become stressed to the point of becoming sick. In our aquariums though its different story, being a smaller body of water the temperature can flutuate a lot faster and dissolved organics can become an issue rather quickly stressing the fish and making them susceptible to common parasites and ailments.


A quarantine tank can go a long way to reducing the likelyhood and/or the severity of these instances and should always be used when aquiring new fish. Also the Quarantine tank can double as a treatment/hospital tank for when/if your fish do fall ill and require treatment.

A quarantine tank should be large enough to accommadate any size group of fish you're looking to add into your collection at one time but small enough that it wont cost a fortune to treat with medication at times the fish are sick, i find around 150-200L is manageable. The tank should consist of a cycled filter, airstone and a heater at minimum.


Lets take a look at some of those health issues and what we can do in these times to treat the fish.

Intestinal Worms

Threadworms and tapeworms are the more common types of intestinal worms that can infect our fish. Some fish will keep eating but never put on any weight whereas others may stop eating all together. Tapeworms will often present themselves as a tough segmented feaces trailing from the fishes vent while threadworms can be observed as very fine red threads protruding from the fishes vent. Worms can really hold back growing fish from reaching their full potential so its beneficial to treat routinely or when signs of worms are observed.


There are quite a few products on the market for worming discus but none are easier than Kusuri Wormer Plus, the active ingredient is Flubendazole which is quite easy on the fish and doesnt effect the bioligical filter in the process, suitable for use against all types of worms, intestinal helminths and gill and body flukes. Praziquantel Fluke and Tapeworm is effective against tapeworm and also gill and body flukes.


Gill Flukes

Gill Flukes are a very comon issue amongst discus especially at younger ages attributing to many issues with discus fry around the 4 week age. the fish will be observed breathing heavily from one sige of their gills and will often try scratch on objects in the aquarium flicking and scraping themselves trying to rid themselves of the itch.



Again there are many products that can be used to treat gill flukes, those being Kusuri Wormer Plus, Praziquantel or Trichlorofon. Quite often a couple treatments may be required. Formalin treatments have aslo proven to be quite effective against gill and external parasites.


External Bacterial Infections

This is probably the most common health issue i see amongst hobbyists and its often an issue that stems from buying fish from multiple sources. These type of issues i explain to people as being similar to a flu virus. Hobbyist buys new fish that are by all accounts healthy and mixes with their also healthy fish but within a day or so one or both of the groups become sick showing symptoms of thick slime coat and laboured breathing from the excess slime, quite often the fish will become dark in colour as they try to excrete more slime to rid themselves of the bacteria, damage due to netting etc can bring on the symptoms as the slime coat acts as a barrier against these types of issues, damage from nets etc allows the bacteria to get under the protective slime coat and multiply. Other times bacterial problems on fish can show themselves as an open type wound, ulcer or fin and tail rot, the treatment is the same.


Minor bacterial issues can sometimes be rectified with the addition of salt at 1tbsp/40L and is often the first go to treatment. Otherwise Furan(Nitrafurazone) is the treatment of choice at 500mg/100L for reducing the gram negative and gram positive bacteria with a partial daily water change in between treatments. Fish generally bounce back from these type of infections rather quickly. Water quality goes a long way in helping the fish recover. Add Aquarium salt at 1tbsp for every 40L.


Internal Bacterial Infection

An internal bacterial infection will show as a cloudy eye, swollen abdomen or bulging eye/eyes and often proving more difficult to diagnose and treat than external bacterial infections as often the fish isnt showing signs until it has had the issue for some time.


An Antibiotic like Metronidazole or Erythromycin in food is the best form of treatment coupled with great water quality will help bring these types of issues under control. Add Aquarium Salt at 1tbsp for every 40L.


Hole in the Head

Hole in the head(HITH) or Head and Lateral line Erosion(HLLE) in my opinion is directly related to a mineral deficiency as i mainly see it when fish have been kept in either rainwater or RO(reverse osmosis) water or fish that are not fed a varied diet. The condition seems to be easily reversed when the mineral content is raised and wounds treated for any bacterial infection with Furan, soaking the foods in a vitamin supplement like Bio Viv HUFA i feel helps to also fill any missing gaps in the fishes diet. Interestingly also is that fish with HITH can often be observed to be harbouring the intestinal flagellete Hexamita leading me to beleive that the flagelletes may inhibit vitamin/mineral uptake by the fish.


Changing water i feel is the most useful treatment for HITH, if using rainwater, RO water or your water is naturally soft an addition of Reconstitute RO is recommended. Often the holes can get infected so Furan is recommended to treat any secondary infection. Feed a varied diet enhanced with Bio Viv Hufa.



Hexamita(Hex) is an intestinal flagellete that generally all discus carry, when stressed the immune system becomes comprimised and these flagelletes can become an issue. The fish will often go off its food, become very shy and excrete white stringy type feaces.


Raising the temperature to 34 degrees celcius for a week will often clear the fish out. it will spur the fish to eat and accelerate the metabolism. Once the fish is eating adding an antibiotic like Metronidazole to the food for another week is recommended.



Items a Discus Keeper Should Have on Hand