The best way to raise juvenile discus is in what’s called a bare bottom or BB tank. That is, a tank with no substrate and only potted plants or artificial plants. Discus are messy eaters, they need to eat often and they are also very sensitive to water conditions. Gravel or other substrate makes it hard to remove uneaten food and waste. People who are focused on growing their fish as large as possible stick to BB tanks.
We didn’t like the look of the BB tanks and decided to go for a lightly planted tank. We did that despite the fact that we knew that keeping the plants healthy and the gravel clean would mean a lot more work and a lot more risk. We just liked the more natural look and to be honest we looked forward to watching the plants grow along with the fish in our own little low budget version of a biotope.
Discus are actually found in the Amazon River. There natural environment is black water around submerged decaying trees. To that end, some of the people who have the most beautiful tanks feature large sections of driftwood as the centerpiece of their layouts. We weren’t as knowledgeable when we designed our original layout and we wound up buying random pieces of driftwood at Pacific Aquarium. We’ll probably purchase some manzanita at some point.
We also wanted to have a very lightly planted tank, so we started out with only a few microswords (which look like grass), two amazon swords (the plants with larger leaves towards the foreground) and two watersprites (the taller plants towards the left and right edges of the tank). We’ later added an anubias plants attached to our largest piece of driftwood.
Unfortunately, we wound up having the quickly growing watersprite in front of the less aggressive anubias. It was clear that our layout was going to lead to the anubias being completely blocked from sight. We also wanted to open the tank up a bit in the front.
Last Saturday the 25th, Sarah went ahead and re-configured the layout so that the driftwood with our largest anubias is now in the center back of the tank. We also added two small anubias plants to the driftwood on the right of the tank and a few more bunches of the microsword grass. I think the new layout looks much better.