15 Best Discus Tank Mates (And Tips For Setup)

Nobody wants their favorite fish to be lonely. Swimming around alone is no fun! After all, there’s a reason you bought a tank instead of a bowl, and it just wouldn’t look right without a variety of beautiful and interesting fish to look at.

One of the coolest, most interesting, and most beautiful fish in any great fish enthusiasts’ tank is the Discus. Although it has a reputation for being hard to care for, this isn’t always necessarily the case. However, it is important to make sure your Discus is among other fish that it can coexist with well.

Read on to see which fish make for the best Discus tank mates!

Best Discus Tank Mates (Quick List)

Below, for your convenience, there is a list of some of the best tank mates for your beautiful Discus!

  • Siamese Algae Eater
  • Long Fin Red White Cloud
  • Apisto Agassizi
  • Silver Tip Tetra
  • Rummy Nose Tetra
  • Neon Tetra
  • Ember Tetra
  • Pencil Fish
  • Loaches
  • Panda Cory
  • Corydoras Sterbai
  • Marbled Hatchetfish
  • Pleco
  • Assassin Snail
  • German Blue Ram

Do Discus Need Tankmates?

So how come Discus fish are so commonly found in tanks with other fish? Is it completely necessary for the Discus to live well?

Actually, no. In fact, a tank with just Discus fish inside not only looks great but is easier to care for, at least for those who are new to the hobby. After all, the less fish you have, the less can go wrong.

However, there are reasons to keep other fish with your Discus. For instance, the general shyness of the Discus can be an issue, especially when you want them showing off but they’re too busy hiding! If other fish that are normally prey are swimming about freely, it will encourage your Discus to swim as well by letting them know it is safe!

How To Setup A Tank For Discus With Tank Mates

When setting up a tank for Discus fish, the important thing to consider is that they’re very particular. Remember, it is a Discus tank with other fish, not vice versa. It is important that the Discus’ tank is set up to the exact specifications they need, rather than being tailored to another fish.

The main purpose of your tank should be to be a Discus tank, with the other fish serving as support for the Discus. Otherwise, the Discus will be too shy, and its beauty will be hidden in the pits and crevices of your aquarium, rather than out in the open where it belongs.

Temperature

Discus fish are from the Amazon, and so they are used to waters that are quite a bit warmer than average. Try to keep the water between 82 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit.  Some types of Discus, such as wild Heckel Discus, prefer water that is even up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Talk about hot!

This will obviously affect the kinds of fish that are able to be good tank mates for your Discus. Purchasing other warm-water fish is an absolute necessity, as fish used to colder temperatures will not do well in an aquarium as warm as the aquariums Discus are comfortable in.

Acidity

The Amazonian water that Discus fish is originally from is not only hot. It also has a very specific pH level. Discus fish are healthiest in water that is at a pH level between 6 and 7.

Be careful, however, as if your specific Discus fish may have been raised in water with a differing pH level. Make sure to double-check what pH level water your fish were raised in before placing them in the tank, as a sudden pH change could be very bad for your Discus, and could even be fatal.

Other Water Conditions

The water you keep your Discus in should be de-chlorinated, as the chlorine isn’t good for the fish. It should also have a weak flow. This can be accomplished using driftwood, or a vertical piece of wood in the tank provided it is small and smooth enough to not injure passing Discuses and other fish.

Plants are not only a great addition to your tank as far as looks are concerned, but they also provide oxygen and a nutrient sink, giving a boost to the overall health of your tank, and the fish inside.

Discus fish prefer tanks with finer sediment. Small or medium should be fine. This is due to the fact that they like to search for food in the sediment, and larger pieces of rock can end up hurting them. Best to stick with finer sediment and let your Discuses search around at their hearts’ content!

Hiding Spaces

Since Discuses are naturally shy fish, they tend to love living in tanks with nice crevices, caves, and other nice hiding places. Make sure to add plenty of them to the bottom of your tank. Good examples are good fake boats, caverns, and other places where the Discus can completely conceal its presence.

Tank Size

Another factor worth considering is setting up a tank for Discus fish is the size of the tank you’re planning on putting your fish into. Just like you can’t put fish in any old kind of water, you can’t just throw them into any randomly sized tank you’ve got lying around and expect them to do well.

For any aquarium, the size of the tank you’ll need is entirely dependent on how many fish (individuals and different kinds) that you plan on putting in. The fact that you clicked on an article about tank mates indicates you are planning on putting at least a few different kinds of fish into your tank!

If this is the case, bigger is probably better. You want to prevent overcrowding, and you want to give your Discus space to swim. 100 gallons is a good number for Discus, as this will prevent drastic changes in water conditions between parts of the tank. A good rule of thumb is for every Discus you have, around 7 gallons of water should be in your tank.

Will Discus Attack Their Tank Mates?

The short answer to this question is most likely not. Discus are not known as an aggressive species of fish and are actually some of the most peaceful fish you can find to put in your home aquarium. Usually, when they come into conflict with other fish (perhaps over food, or territory), they try to escape by intimidation using their large, colorful bodies, or simply try to swim away.

That being said, they do not pair well with aggressive fish. You’ll want to build a peaceful tank around your Discus so they may thrive and show off those beautiful, colorful bodies without fear of being harmed, and without being intimidated into the corners of the tank, or into hiding beneath cover.

What Are The Best Tank Mates For Discus?

So, there is no definitive best tank mate for the Discus. They are quite a particular fish, seeing as they have many requirements that need to be filled. This combined with the fact that they do best when the tank is built around their needs means that it can be a challenge to find good tank mates for them.

But that’s why you’re here. So read on! We will cover the bullet list we outlined above here in more detail. Here are the best tank mates for Discus fish!

Siamese Algae Eater

The Siamese Algae Eater is a quite peaceful fish that mostly feeds on algae. They are quite skittish, so they do like cover as well, which will fit with the Discus tank you are (hopefully) constructing! They are an ideal tank mate because they are easy to care for, rarely cause trouble, and will feed on something different than your Discus.

  • Care Level: Siamese Algae Eaters are not very picky fish. They can live in many different kinds of tanks and environments. This makes them very easy to care for. There are a few things to look out for, though.  Firstly, a tank with Siamese Algae Eaters inside needs to be covered. They are very active and like to jump.
  • pH:  The Siamese Algae Eater can live in water with a pH between 6.5 and 8. This overlaps well with the Discus, so it shouldn’t be a problem at all.
  • Temperature: Temperature is the most limiting factor of pairing your Discus with a Siamese Algae Eater. Siamese Algae Eaters prefer water that is just under a tropical temperature. This puts it at around 75-79 degrees Fahrenheit. They can live in water that is a bit warmer, they just won’t be in their ideal environment. Still, they are less sensitive than Discus, so the temperature should be to the Discus’ specifications.
  • Size: Siamese Algae Eaters start between 1 inch and 2.5 inches in their youth and grow to between 5 and 6 inches in adulthood.
  • Tank Size:  Although they are not extremely picky, they do have a preferred tank size. A 20-gallon tank minimum is a solid size, with 10 additional gallons for each new Siamese Algae Eater you add. This should fit nicely with the dimensions of the tank you purchase for your Discus.

Long Fin Red White Cloud

Another extremely adaptable fish, the Long Fin Red White Cloud is ideal for pairing with other fish in multi-species aquariums. This is due to its ability to put up with conditions that are less than ideal, meaning it can live in many different temperatures, pH levels, and environment types.

Not to mention the beautiful color they can add to the middle level of your aquarium! This will also compliment your Discus nicely.

  • Care Level: Seeing as they are not very picky, and adapt to almost any tank situation, Long Fin Red White Cloud minnows are extremely easy to care for.
  • pH: These fish prefer a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Seeing as these are the exact numbers given for the preferred acidity of water for Discus as well, this is a point in the Long Fin Red White Cloud minnow’s favor as a good tank mate for the Discus.
  • Temperature: Unfortunately, they prefer their water a tad bit colder than the discus. They like water between 62 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. This is obviously not ideal, but it’s not the end of the world either, because as discussed earlier, this fish is great at adapting to new and different environments than it is used to.
  • Size: Red White Cloud minnows are of relatively small size, only reaching about an inch and a half when fully grown. This is another point in their favor as good tank mates, as they won’t take up very much space in a community tank.
  • Tank Size: This fish requires a tank size of a minimum of 15 gallons. Since this is a relatively small requirement, they will do just fine with a number of other fish in a larger tank.

Apisto Agassizi

A fish that, just like the Discus, originates in the waters of the Amazon, is a colorful fish with a dark horizontal stripe and a long dorsal fin. They add a splash of color to any aquarium. However, what color they add depends on their mood! This little quirk makes them quite interesting little fish and makes taking care of them just a little easier.

  • Care Level: Apisto Agassizi fish are considered relatively easy to care for. This is because they don’t need too much space, can coexist with many other types of fish, and their diet is quite flexible.
  • pH: The one problem you may find when trying to place an Apisto Agassizi in your Discus tank is the pH. They like their water quite acidic, between 4.0 and 6.0 pH. Although the Discus likes slightly acidic water, these numbers don’t quite overlap. Still, although it’s not a perfect match, you can make it work.
  • Temperature: These fish, much like the Discus you want to put them in a tank with, prefer warmer water. Specifically, water ranging from 72-82 degrees Fahrenheit. This tropical temperature preference makes them a perfect match with your Discus tank!
  • Size: A male Apisto Agassizi grows to about 3.5 inches, while a female is slightly smaller, growing to around 2.5 inches in adulthood.
  • Tank Size: Apisto Agassizi needs a tank of at least 30 gallons, with plenty of open swimming space, but also some cover and hiding spots on the bottom. Since this is similar in description to the Discus’ preferred tank, this makes it a very good tank mate!

Silver Tip Tetra

This mostly golden fish with silver coloring tipping its fins makes a great addition to any tank. Creating a beautiful shoal in any aquarium they find themselves in, Silver Tip Tetra makes for a great addition to any tank!

  • Care Level: Silver Tip Tetra are considered rather easy to care for as well. This is due to their omnivorous diet, which allows them to eat anything from plants to worms, insects, and pellets. This means they will not be in competition for food with the other fish in your aquarium very often, as they can always find something else to snack on.
  • pH: The Silver Tip Tetra thrives at a pH of 6.0-8.0. This, although slightly more basic than required at the higher end, fully overlaps with the needs of the Discus.
  • Temperature: As another species of tropical freshwater fish, Silver Tip Tetra tend to swim in waters that are between 72 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a perfect temperature to heat your Discus tank too.
  • Size: The Silver Tip Tetra reaches a length of two inches in its adulthood.
  • Tank Size: A Silver Tip Tetra prefers a tank that is at least 30 gallons.

Rummy Nose Tetra

This red-nosed fish is a standout in any tank. Originating in the Amazon, it prefers a warm, acidic tank (seeing a pattern?) They prefer open swimming space and plenty of thickets to use as cover since they are a shoaling species.

  • Care Level: As with many species of shoaling fish, Rummy Nose Tetras are considered to be quite easy to care for, and therefore ideal for beginners. They are also quite cheap at most aquarium stores, which is a nice little bonus!
  • pH: A pH of 6.4 and 7.0 is preferred for Rummy Nose Tetra fish. This is fairly close to overlapping with Discus fishes’ preferred pH, which makes Rummy Nose Tetras a good tank mate.
  • Temperature: In order to match the Amazon’s tropical waters, Rummy Nose Tetras prefer a temperature of 75-85 degrees Fahrenheit. Although slightly warmer than the Discus prefers, the ranges overlap, so you can make it work!
  • Size: Rummy Nose Tetras grow to between 2 and 2.5 inches. This relatively medium-small size allows them to coexist with many other types of fish, as they don’t take up too much space.
  • Tank Size: Rummy Nose Tetras need a tank of a minimum size of 20 gallons. This is not very big, so it shouldn’t be a problem when deciding to put them in a tank with your Discus and some other fish.

Neon Tetra

The Neon Tetra is a small but beautifully colorful addition to any tank! A silvery-white fish with a light blue back, its unique color might be easy to miss when you consider its small size. However, a few of these can really make for a more exciting tank. Just make sure they don’t get gobbled up!

  • Care Level: Much like the other shoaling fish on this list (and the other tetra), the Neon Tetra is considered beginner fish and is very easy to care for. This is due to their easy to satisfy diet, their wide range of tolerable conditions, and their ability to coexist with other fish.
  • pH: Ideally, Neon Tetra lives in water of 7.0 pH. However, a range from 6.0-8.0 is tolerable.
  • Temperature: Like the other tetra on this list, the tetra swims in warmer waters. Unlike the others, however, it can live in a wider range of temperatures, from 68 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Size: The tiny Neon Tetra maxes out at around a size of 1.2 inches. Although this might seem like a space saver, it could pose a problem. If a Neon Tetra disappears under mysterious circumstances, it might have been eaten! After all, omnivorous fish might not pass up such a tiny, tasty snack.
  • Tank Size: With a very small minimum tank size of only 10 gallons, the Neon Tetra can swim in a relatively crowded space, making it a solid tank mate for fish who might need a little extra space.

Ember Tetra

A tiny tetra, the ember tetra is orange-red in color and is mildly translucent. They, like other tetras, are peaceful fish that can coexist easily with many other types, including Discus! Their diet consists of mostly tiny invertebrates and plants.

  • Care Level: If you aren’t seeing a pattern by now, the Ember Tetra is extremely easy to care for, just like the other tetras on this list! This is because they are so peaceful, have a flexible (although, not as flexible as the others, considering their size) diet, and take up very little space.
  • pH: Ember Tetras do best in water with a pH of 6.6. They can adapt to a range, but 6.6 is ideal.
  • Temperature: The recommended temperature range for Ember Tetras is between 73 and 84 degrees Fahrenheit. This mimics the temperature of their tropical home environment.
  • Size: Ember tetras are very small, only growing to just under 1 inch, averaging out at about 0.8 inches. This tiny size puts them at risk of getting eaten by larger fish, but they will usually be fine.
  • Tank Size: Another tiny fish needs another tiny tank! Although for your purposes, your Discus will need a larger tank, the Ember Tetra needs only 10 gallons in a tank of its own!

Pencil Fish

Pencilfish are an interesting species. Much like their name suggests, they are quite slender, and peaceful by nature, making them great in community tanks. Although sometimes quite competitive within the species, their beauty and ability to coexist among other species makes them a great Discus tank mate!

  • Care Level: With easy to achieve tank requirements, the pencil fish is extremely easy to care for. They prefer slightly acidic and soft water, which is easy to achieve, and lines up with all the other fish on this list! Their diet is flexible, as they are omnivores, and they are quite peaceful. The only issue with Pencil fish is that the males can get quite competitive with mating. Be sure to keep as many or more females in the tank as males in order to avoid this problem!
  • pH: Pencil fish prefer their water slightly acidic, with a preferred pH scale ranging from 5.5-7.0. This overlaps well with Discus, making them ideal Discus tank mates.
  • Temperature: A temperature range from 72-82 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for Pencil fish. This is great for the tank you’d build for a Discus, as they share a preference for tropical waters.
  • Size: Although their slender look makes them appear longer, Pencil fish max out at around 2 inches long in adulthood.
  • Tank Size: A Pencil fish’s ideal tank size is around 29 gallons. Although this is larger than many of the similarly-sized fish on this list, such as tetras, it is still smaller than a Discus, making it quite possible for Pencil fish to coexist in your hypothetical Discus tank!

Loaches

With many different varieties, loaches are very easy to acquire and make good tank mates for almost any fish. This is because they are bottom feeders, so they keep the bottom of the tank clean of edible refuse. Try to avoid loaches over 5 inches, as they may scare off your Discus from feeding and free swimming.

  • Care Level: Loaches are considered fairly easy to care for, considering they are bottom feeders who tend to stay out of the way of the other levels of the tank.
  • pH: pH levels for loaches should be maintained at between 6.0 and 8.0. This ranges from slightly acidic to slightly basic, so they are a good fit for many different tanks.
  • Temperature: Loaches tend to like water that is between 59 and 77 degrees. However, they have been known to tolerate higher and lower extremes. This flexibility allows them to live in many different environments, making them an ideal addition to any tank.
  • Size: There are many different types of loaches, ranging from around 2 inches to just over a foot long! Try to stick to loaches that will max out under 5 inches, as these will intimidate your Discus away from food and open space!
  • Tank Size: Loaches like a tank size of around 20 gallons. This is far below the necessary space for your Discus, so if you want to include a loach in your tank, tank size shouldn’t be a problem.

Panda Cory

The Panda cory is a non-aggressive, bottom-feeding scavenger that originates in Central and South America. They require plenty of plant life, and smooth, fine gravel or sand on the bottom of the tank to avoid injury. They are also quite social, so a school of 5 to 7 is recommended. They are named (and are identifiable by) their beautiful black and white bodies.

  • Care Level: The Panda Cory is not too easy to care for, but they aren’t too difficult either. Their generally peaceful and non-aggressive demeanor helps, but they are fairly sensitive. They need plant life to hide from light in, soft gravel or sand at the bottom of the tank, and other Panda Cory to school with. This makes them not always ideal, as they require a little more effort, but their beauty makes up for it in spades!
  • pH: The Panda Cory likes slightly acidic water, with a pH of between 6.0 and 7.0.
  • Temperature: This fish thrives in water that is between 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit, so right around where the other tropical fish species that have made their way onto this list are!
  • Size: The Panda Cory usually grows to approximately 2 inches, which is fairly standard for aquarium fish.
  • Tank Size: Again pretty standard, the Panda Cory needs around a 20-gallon tank in order to be comfortable and move how they do in nature.

Corydoras Sterbai

Corydoras Sterbai are an extremely popular freshwater catfish that make their way into many aquariums due to the unique and beautiful markings streaking along their bodies. They are a fantastic fit temperament-wise, as they are quite peaceful and can coexist with Discus easily. They are among the most popular tank mates for Discus, as their temperament and tank requirements are quite a match!

  • Care Level: This fish is considered quite easy to care for, especially with Discus because of the similar requirements. Letting them swim in a school is preferred, so buy multiple!
  • pH: Corydoras Sterbai prefers a pH of between 6.0 and 7.6.
  • Temperature: Corydoras Sterbai like tropical water, between 73 and 79 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Size: This fish grows to around 2.6 inches on average. This is actually quite small for a catfish but is perfect for sharing a tank with a Discus.
  • Tank Size: Corydoras Sterbai needs a tank that is at least 20 gallons. This is just fine for pairing with your Discus.

Marbled Hatchetfish

With their small bodies and peaceful temperaments, the beautiful marble-patterned (and well-named) marbled hatchetfish is an ideal tank mate for your Discus!

  • Care Level: Hatchetfish are considered extremely easy to care for. They rarely leave the very surface of the water, and they are notably peaceful, even amongst the most peaceful species.
  • pH:Hatchetfish prefer a pH of 5.8-6.9. Slightly more acidic than most on this list, but you should be able to find a level that works with your Discus!
  • Temperature: A temperature of 74 to 83 degrees Fahrenheit is perfect for Hatchetfish. Pretty hot!
  • Size: Marbled Hatchetfish only reach a pretty small 1.4 inches on average! This is fine, since they are usually away from the larger fish, and stay at the top of the tank.
  • Tank Size: Like most of the fish on this list, a 20-gallon tank should be fine for Marbled Hatchetfish

Pleco

This tank mate is sometimes debated, but it comes recommended by some. This is due to some Pleco’s thinking that the mucus coat on your Discus is food! They are peaceful, but you should watch and make sure they aren’t trying anything too feisty with your Discus.

  • Care Level: Plecos are considered quite easy to care for, so they are good for beginners!
  • pH: Plecos prefer a pH of 7-8. This is slightly basic and is a little off from the other fish on this list. 7 should work for many of them, however, so if you love plecos, you can make it happen!
  • Temperature: 72-78 degrees Fahrenheit is a perfect temperature for Plecos.
  • Size: In an aquarium, a Pleco can reach around 15 inches. Wow!
  • Tank Size: Like the Discus, the Pleco needs a large tank. Over 70 gallons is perfect, as it is quite a large fish!

Assassin Snail

Fish aren’t the only thing that can live in your aquarium! An assassin snail is a perfect janitor for your aquarium, cleaning up the edible debris that falls to the bottom of the tank. The addition of a non-fish, and a beautiful striped shell to boot, make this critter a much-needed change of pace in your tank!

  • Care Level: Assassin Snails are very easy to care for, as they simply scavenge anything that falls to the bottom of the tank. Just set and forget!
  • pH: These snails like slightly basic water, between 7.5 and 8.0 pH.
  • Temperature: Warm water is perfect for Assasin snails, and they like a range of 75 to 85 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Size: These snails are around an inch long in most cases. You can fit a lot of these little guys in your tank!
  • Tank Size: These snails can basically fit in any size tank, so a 10-gallon minimum is fine for them.

German Blue Ram

This beautiful blue fish adds amazing color to your Discus tank and is a great tank mate as well. These medium-sized and magnificently blue fish is generally peaceful but can get aggressive during mating season. Keep an eye out!

  • Care Level: Intermediately difficult to care for, German Blue Rams require a lot of cover and plant life to be comfortable. This combined with their slight aggressive behavior in mating season makes them a bit of a challenge, but nothing too bad for you (and your Discus) to handle.
  • pH: German Blue Rams prefer acidic water, between 5.0 and 7.0 pH.
  • Temperature: Much like the other species on this list, they are comfortable in tropical water, between 74 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Size: These beautiful blue fish are easy to see, growing to a solid 3 inches when they reach adulthood.
  • Tank Size:  A single ram can live in a 10-gallon tank, and a pair can live in a 20-gallon community tank without issue.

Tank Mates To Avoid

Here, we’ll quickly go over which fish might be a bad match for you and your Discus.

Angelfish

Although they look great together, their temperaments are not a good match. Angelfish are feisty in comparison to Discus, so they may intimidate your Discus into staying hidden. That’s no good!

Clown Loaches

Remember when we talked about not purchasing loaches that exceed 5 inches. Well, clown loaches make that list! They can reach almost a full foot, and take up far too much space for your Discus to be able to thrive in the same tank.

Recap

So, there are obviously a ton of choices when it comes to choosing tank mates for your Discus. Any of the fish on this list will work very well.

However, there are a ton of other varieties of fish that are great. Make sure your tank is a Discus tank first! That means warm, slightly acidic, soft water with soft sand at the bottom, plenty of plant life and cover, and, most importantly, a community of peaceful, beautiful fish.

So what are you waiting for? Fill that tank up and get your Discus some fishy friends!

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