How Much Does a Discus Fish Cost?

exotic red discus fish vectorThe Discus fish, as its name implies, is a bright round colorful disc of a fish. This docile, shy, grouping fish makes a pricey yet popular addition to freshwater aquariums for intermediate to advanced keepers.

However, even beginning keepers can learn how to keep healthy Discus fish with careful attention to tank size, water cleanliness, décor, food, and appropriate selection of freshwater tank mates.

Discus fish price can vary depending on a number of factors which we will discuss in detail in this article.

Discus Fish Purchase Price

Discus fish come in a truly amazing constellation of colors and patterns. From neon blue to sunset orange, solids, stripes and spots, and even albino fish, each seems to be its own individual work of art.

For this reason, some colors and patterns can be more in demand than others and this often affects the price.

Live Aquaria lists Discus fish that are priced from $48.99 all the way to $239.99 while Discuss Madness lists Discus fish $40 to $179. On the other hand, Discus Guy offers fish starting at $17.95 and going up to $185.94.

What Affects the Discus Fish Rate?

These are the primary factors affecting the fish price:

Shipping – Online shipping for live aquatic life is arranged to maximize chances of a live, healthy arrival. Rates can vary based on a number of variables.

Live Aquaria offers free shipping for orders of $99 and up. For all other orders, rates vary depending on where you live and what you buy. Rates for live fish start at $29.99.

Discus Madness posts shipping rates based on zone. Its rates vary from just $11 all the way to $125 per shipment.

Discus Guy has shipping rates ranging from $74.95 to $94.95 with zero profit built in (i.e. you pay what UPS charges the company to ship your live fish) depending on ship-to location.

Coloration – Some colors and patterns are less common and this can impact fish price. Also be aware that tank lighting can change how a fish looks so be sure to shop with a reputable breeder locally or online!

For example, the wild red spotted green Discus is relatively rare and prized by collectors (current list price $199.99 at Live Aquaria). Conversely, turquoise is a quite common color and is easy to acquire (current list price $69.99).

Wild versus domestic – There are two basic strains of Discus fish: “wilds” and tank-bred domestic fish. The former come from the South American Amazon while the latter have been developed by Discus breeders; many of whom also compete in Discus shows.

For the greater good of wild populations, purchasing tank-bred domestic Discus is preferable. Fair trade hybrid wild caught/captive bred programs are one potential exception.

Size and age – Discus fish can live up to 15 years in captive conditions. But these fish mature slowly and won’t reach their adult size until the age of 2 to 2.5 years.
At two months old, a Discus may measure just two inches. At two years old, that same fish may be 6.5 inches.

Purchasing a younger, smaller fish can be cheaper (between 30 and 50 percent of the adult price). If you want to breed or show Discus, you may want to invest in adult fish to be sure of their coloration.

symphysodon multicolored cichlids in aquarium

One-time Discus Fish Costs

Keeping healthy, long-lived Discus fish depends in large part on your ability to replicate a captive environment similar to what they would seek out in the wild. While this will require an initial investment on your part, it will pay off in many years of enjoying your lovely fish!

  • Aquarium

Discus are shoal fish, which means they have evolved to live in groups. Two fish is a minimum but more is better.

For every adult fish, provide 7 to 10 gallons of water (10 adult fish = 70-100 gallon tank). A 100-gallon tank may cost $800 and up.

  • Lighting

Hunters use bright lighting at night to catch wild Discus fish for the pet trade. Not surprisingly, Discus in captivity prefer low lighting!

Bright lights can contribute to stress and reduced longevity in captive Discus. Lighting that is also suitable for growing live plants starts at $42.

  • Filtration

Discus fish are messy eaters but need clean water. So filtration is important! You can get a filtration system sized for 110+ gallons starting at $80.

  • Testing and monitoring

Ongoing tank testing and monitoring for pH and temperature is particularly vital when keeping wild-caught Discus in particular. You want to monitor for ammonia, nitrates, nitrites, pH and temperature.
Multi-parameter monitoring can cost $77 and up.

  • Décor

Wild Discus live in rivers where the substrate consists of gravel, small rocks, and plant life. 20 pounds of freshwater sand starts at $16 while live freshwater plant packs start at $35.

Ongoing Discus Fish Costs

The most common maintenance costs of fish in general have to do with their food and overall well-being.
Discus are primarily carnivorous and require a varied diet of fresh or freeze-dried foods to take in all their required nutrients. Flakes or discs are less common but a good backup food source. You can get Bio-Gold starting at $11.80 per 2.82-oz. pack.

Tubifex worms start at $10 for 1/8 pound, bloodworms start at $10 per 27-gram container, and brine shrimp start at $9 per 36-gram pack.

When it comes to their health, Discus fish can suffer from parasites, bacterial and fungal issues; including a unique issue called “hole in the head”.

If you need veterinary care, expect to pay a minimum $20 but can go up to $80 per visit, depending your your pet’s condition and where you are living. But first, you have to make sure that a vet specializing in marine and aquatic animals are within the vicinity in case of emergency.

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