Parrot Fish and Discus: Can They Live Together?

Parrotfish and Discus are among my favorite type of fish. There is no doubt that they bring plenty of beauty and life to the aquarium. However, before I mixed the two species, I began wondering whether the two could coexist in the first place. That was when I began to research the topic pretty extensively.

Parrotfish and Discus can live together, since both species require similar water conditions, including pH and water hardness. However, Parrotfish are relatively more aggressive and territorial than Discus; that could pose an issue and prevent them from getting along.

As we move forward in this article, I will share a few useful techniques to increase the chances of coexistence. Ultimately, I will show you what other kinds of fish can live with Discus, in case you choose to seek for an alternative.

Can Parrot Fish Live With Discus?

While Discus are often called the kings of the aquarium, some people think that parrotfish are ugly. However, that hasn’t stopped aquarists who are fascinated by their appearance from wondering whether or not they can be paired with other fish.

Even though parrotfish can live peacefully with several suitable tankmates, there is no clear consensus with regards to their ability to coexist with Discus. Some people believe that their origins make them a threat to fish like Discus. But others have argued that the evidence does not support these assumptions.

Parrotfish are popular in some circles, but they are not that common among fish owners. Hence, many aquarists that argue about their ability to coexist with Discus do so with a lack of experience.

Some people think that the rearing of parrotfish is immoral because their bodies are deformed.[1] These voices do not want aquarists to breed parrotfish. For that reason, they are not necessarily a household name. Their rarity in some places tends to create confusion for amateurs. 

Because of the absence of reliable research supporting or discouraging the pairing of Discus and parrotfish, many aquarists do not know whether these two creatures are a suitable match for one another. 

In many cases, your only option is to make up your mind after looking at the available information. And even then, you have to take a chance by experimenting and waiting to see if your Discus and parrotfish will get along. Some of the factors that will impact the results include:

1. Minimal Size Differences

Size matters in aquariums. Bigger fish tend to eat smaller fish, which is why you should endeavor to pair species of similar sizes. Parrotfish are roughly 8 inches in size. They are large fish that are unlikely to fit in the mouths of Discus.

Speaking of Discus, they can grow to a size of ten inches. In other words, these two creatures are roughly the same. Discus are unlikely to confuse parrotfish for food. The reverse is also true. That works in your favor.

2. Tank Requirements

While Discus and parrotfish are comparatively similar in size, there are some variations in the tank conditions they require. Discus are large fish that need tanks of at least 50 gallons. They require temperatures ranging between 82 and 88 degrees F, pH ranging between 6 and 7, and water hardness of 1 to 4 dKH.[2] They like soft, warm, acidic water. 

Parrotfish are not that different where the pH is concerned (6.5-7.4).[3] Problems only arise when you look at the temperature. Parrotfish live in environments with a temperature ranging between 76 and 80 degrees F. Their requirements do not fit within the temperature range of the waters that Discus inhabit. 

Naturally, if push comes to shove, you can successfully rear parrotfish in waters whose temperature suits Discus. However, you ran the risk of exposing them to the sort of stress that will make them vulnerable to diseases.

If you attempt to adjust the temperature to suit the parrotfish, you will inconvenience the Discus. As you can see, it is better to keep parrotfish and Discus in separate tanks where you can adjust the parameters to suit their unique needs.

3. Temperament

Many of the confusion surrounding the possibility of keeping Discus and parrotfish in the same tank emanates from their temperaments. Discus are straightforward creatures in this area. They are peaceful and shy, and they do not like conflict.[4]

You cannot keep them with aggressive fish that are either larger or the same size because they will get bullied. However, smaller fish might suffer in the presence of Discus. Like other cichlids, they are territorial. They will compete to establish a pecking order. 

Discus will also show signs of aggression as a way of securing a mate. In the process, they could intimidate smaller fish, preventing them from eating. But for the most part, Discus are shy, peaceful creatures. 

On the other hand, parrotfish are not so straightforward. Technically speaking, they are peaceful fish that should be paired with other peaceful fish. They cannot survive in tanks with aggressive neighbors. However, like cichlids, they also have an aggressive side. 

Many aquarists will tell you that their aggression is more pronounced than what you see in Discus. Though, it would be more accurate to say that Discus are not only peaceful but shy. That makes them more vulnerable to bullying.

If you compare them to other aggressive fish, parrotfish are peaceful. But in a discus tank, it would be more accurate to call them semi-aggressive. They have been known to act out. However, this is where the situation becomes somewhat complicated.

Even though parrotfish are aggressive in some cases, they are not necessarily dangerous. Their mouths are so deformed that they cannot even close them, and their teeth are found in their throats.[5] In other words, they cannot bite your Discus. 

That makes them practically harmless. When conflict breaks out, parrotfish are more likely to ram into their enemies. But that doesn’t make them a threat. Because of their deformed swim bladders and curved, compressed spines, they do not always swim properly.

As a result, they do not have the maneuverability to do any concrete harm to a Discus fish. That being said, a parrotfish’s successful or failed attempts at ramming into a discus fish could cause stress. As was mentioned above, discus fish are shy. 

That makes them more vulnerable to the aggressive tendencies of their neighbors. Even though a parrotfish cannot physically harm a discus, it could cause distress in the fish. For fish, stress is just as dangerous as physical harm.

How to Make Parrotfish and Discus Coexist?

Parrotfish are called semi-aggressive because they are not continuously violent. Most of the time, they are peaceful. If you can match them with calm fish whose size matches theirs, you have a decent chance of maintaining the peace in their tank.

Discus are similar to parrotfish in size. Therefore, the two can live together. Considering the discus’ shy attitude and the parrotfish’s occasional aggression, there are three elements that you can emphasize to increase the chances of your Discus and parrotfish living harmoniously in the aquarium:

1. Get a Relatively Large Tank

All fish react negatively to small tanks and overcrowding. It is even worse for cichlids because they are naturally territorial. A small, crowded tank can compel even the most docile of fish to fight, especially if their tankmates are similar in size.

If you want your Discus and parrotfish to get along, give them plenty of space; a discus fish needs at least 50 gallons, and a parrotfish needs a minimum of 30 gallons. You should find a tank that can accommodate both species, allowing them to roam and explore without running into one another.

To achieve that, I highly recommend checking out my aquarium kits buyer’s guide. Besides the kit that I use, I made sure to mention a bundle for experts, 55 gallons in volume. That kit is highly cost-effective and had received hundreds of positive reviews online.

2. Introduce Plants and Decorations

Because Discus are shy, they place a lot of value on their privacy. Parrotfish are the same. They want an abundance of hiding places, and you should indulge them by adding plants, clay pots, rocks, caves, and any other items that can provide them the cover they need.[6]

That will allow them to alleviate any stress they feel due to their deformities and the presence of Discus. The discus fish are in the same boat. If your parrotfish become a source of stress, the Discus can just hide.

3. Maintain Ideal Water Conditions

As was mentioned earlier, Discus and parrotfish require similar water conditions, especially pH and water hardness. However, their temperature requirements are a bit different. Discus fish thrive in warmer conditions than parrotfish; 82-88 and 76-80 Degrees Fahrenheit respectively.

To ensure both creatures enjoy the temperature they need, keep the water between 79 and 84 Degrees Fahrenheit. That is merely the average of the different ranges the two species require. You shouldn’t go over on beneath that desired range.

To make sure the water in your tank maintains within that delicate range, I highly recommend checking my recommendation for an aquarium heater. In there, I reviewed the particular device that I use with great success. That was the only heater that kept my temperature balanced, without causing any fluctuations.

Either way, if you own Discus fish, you may also find useful these articles that I wrote:

What Kind of Fish Can Live With Discus?

Discus are not natural fish to keep. They are quite tricky. One way of alleviating the challenge they present is pairing them with suitable tankmates and fish with similar temperaments that are less likely to bully or intimidate them.

Species like Cardinal Tetras, Corydoras Catfish, Bristlenose Pleco, and German Blue Rams are suitable tankmates for Discus due to their docile characteristics. Rosy Tetras and Dwarf Gourami are also peaceful creatures with similar ph, temperature, and water hardness requirements as Discus fish.

  • Cardinal Tetras – Not only are they beautiful, but cardinal tetras are calm and peaceful creatures.[7] They are reasonably active fish that spend their days swimming back and forth. However, they rarely bother other fish. Their social behavior will put your discus fish at ease.
  • Corydoras Catfish – Corydoras catfish, are simple fish that will keep your tank clean by eating all the leftovers. They are peaceful creatures that are unlikely to create distress among their neighbors.
  • Bristlenose Pleco – This fish is prevalent in many circles because it will keep the algae in your tank under control, maintaining a conducive environment for your Discus. They spend a lot of time at the bottom of the aquarium. They are peaceful and hardy, and they appeal to amateurs because they are easy to care for.
  • German Blue Rams – These are small, beautiful, peaceful fish that have a similar temperament to Discus fish. They have a shy personality, which is why they spend a lot of time hiding. They are unlikely to harass your discus fish.
  • Rosy Tetras – Rosy tetras are peaceful and social creatures that enjoy the company of other fish. They tend to live harmoniously with their neighbors, and discus fish have nothing to fear from them.
  • Dwarf Gourami – These are hardy fish that require little maintenance. They can live in a variety of water conditions, and they have peaceful temperaments. If you can keep them in densely planted tanks, they will coexist with your discus fish.

Conclusions

Parrotfish can live along with Discus, although you should keep in mind that they don’t share the same temperament. Parrotfish are more aggressive, while Discus are relatively docile. Yet, a parrotfish is unlikely to attack your Discus, mainly due to its disrupted jaw.

In case you are looking for an alternative, you can keep the two species in separate tanks. To make sure that your Discus doesn’t get lonely, you may introduce more peaceful creatures to its tank. You may consider Rosy Tetras, Dwarf Gourami, and Cardinal Tetras for that matter.

References

  1. https://www.thesprucepets.com/hoplarchus-psittacus-1378430
  2. https://www.fishkeepingworld.com/discus-fish/
  3. https://www.fishkeepingworld.com/blood-parrot-cichlid/
  4. https://www.aqueon.com/information/care-sheets/discus
  5. https://thepetsupplyguy.com/blood-parrot-fish-aggressive/
  6. https://www.theaquariumguide.com/articles/blood-red-parrot-cichlid-care-guide
  7. https://www.tropicalfishcareguides.com/aquarium-fish/best-discus-tank-mates/

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