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Discus diet


Lennie
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So, I got the pair I wanted.

 

They seem to do well and good. However there is a problem. I forgot to ask about this part to the guy I got them from.

they don't seem to be a fan of commercial food diet. Today I talked to the guy I got them from, and he said he usually feeds them frozen brine shrimp, beef heart, and bloodworms.

 

Even tho I am ready to support their diet with these sort of stuff, I am personally not a fan of feeding such food nonstop, especially considering I can't manage to find anything to enrich their food with vitamins and such. And I am not sure I can feed beefheart directly, maybe something like this can work?

Discusfood Beef Heart Daily Paste 325 Gr. Discus Balık Yemi 

Edit:  some sites state this

"ingredients:

fish and fish by-products, cereals, meat and animal derivatives, oils and fats, yeasts, vegetables and other vegetables (5%)."

meanwhile some other sites state:

"Composition: vegetable by-products, insects, proteinhydrolysate from beef, vegetables (corn,spinach, moringa, garlic), cereals, krill, oils and fats (salmon oil), algae (spirulina, chlorella), minerals,yeasts"

 

 

I don't have access to bug bites or vibra bites to make such commercial food transition. The thing is, they didn't even seem much interested in fd tubifex.

Any ideas how can I make them transition to a commercial diet potentially?

Edited by Lennie
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Update:

I went to my LFS to buy them some frozen food for their size. I got them this:

Discus balance red, Ocean Nutrition

At the same time, I fed them Tropical's D-50 granules this morning. Now they seem to ate them all when I'm back from LFS. So it took like 2 hours for them to eat but they ate it all at least. There was no food on the bottom of the tank!  Maybe they ignored others due to their 0.5mm size, as normally I usually feed all my fish tiny food. Maybe they don't like the tiny food even tho they considerable have small mouth for their size.

 

Also seems like Ocean nutrition has bloodworm shaped discus formula. I am planning to order it too

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I was reading recently about wild discus that explained that they are predominantly eat aglae and plant matter detritus  in the wild  examined the stomach content of wild discus consisted of 50% algae and other plant material  and 20% detritus  30% insect larvae in the dry season in the wet season 70%  algae and other plant matter 10% detritus 20% insect larvae some  evidence to suggest they also feed on freshwater sponge's   discus are prone to being overweight in captivity suffering from fatty liver and a lot of other  health  problems which are probably diet related i would try and feed a more natural diet good quality algae based flake food or pellet with a minimum of 50% algae repashy super green brine shrimp Daphnia blood worms  Tubifex worms @Lennie

Edited by Colu
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On 7/14/2023 at 1:57 PM, Colu said:

I read recently about wild discus that explained that they are predominantly eat aglae and plant matter detritus  in the wild  examined the stomach content of wild discus consisted of 50% algae and other plant material  and 20% detritus rest 30% insect larvae in the dry season in the wet season 70%  algae and other plant matter 10% detritus 20%insect larvae some  evidence to suggest they also feed on freshwater sponge's   discus are prone to being overweight in captivity suffering from fatty liver and a lot of other  health  problems which are probably diet related i would try and feed a more natural diet good quality algae based flake food or pellet with a minimum of 50% algae repashy super green brine shrimp Daphnia blood worms  Tubifex worms @Lennie

That is actually very interesting. So they get their protein mostly from algae, however in the hobby they are mostly being fed meaty foods.

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The age/size of your discus would weigh heavily in my decision of what to recommend. When I bred discus, I felt bloodworms were more of a candy treat than a proper food source. Many commercial breeders refuse to use them because of the low protein & potential for pathogens in frozen versions. The idea behind using so much beefheart always bothered me too. Discus don't eat cows in the wild. LOL


The babies & youngest (under 3" diameter) were fed animal/insect/vegetable/algae proteins twice a day, with water changes every other day. The juveniles & adults, had mostly insect/vegetable/algae proteins, fed once per day, with weekly water changes. Those foods for all ages were a mix of different brands of commercial pellets or flakes, dependent on the ingredients.

 

The primary food for the juveniles & adults was a mix of tropical flake, some sinking catfish pellets, & a few algae wafers, because I also had sterbai corydoras & ancistrus in the tanks with them. The morning before their weekly (50%-80%, depending on water parameters) water change, I would alternate weekly between a turkey based "Cichlid Delight" or "beefheart plus" frozen food, plus the other food, in smaller quantities. Once per month, I would feed baby brine shrimp.
https://sfbb.com/fish-food/cichlid-delight/
https://sfbb.com/fish-food/beefheart-plus/

 

Edited by Tazalanche
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Mine will eat some flake.  But their favorite is freeze dried black worms from Australia.  They're expensive.  During growout I fed them primarily beefheart.  My discus also seem to like gnawing on plants, but they mostly leave anubias alone.  They're scavenger type fish in my experience.  They eat a lot off the bottom even in my barebottoms that are clean.  I attribute their seemingly frequent need to be wormed (a topic for elsewhere), but every time I add a new fish, at least one discus end up not eating and needs a round of levamisole to get them back to health.  This just happened again when I added a bristlenose that I QTd and wormed before. 

Diet-wise now they mine are adults I feed them flake in the morning and 2 or 3 blackworm cubes in the evenings.  My experience is that they like fresh foods.  I made a lot of beefheart (like 30 pounds) and it is now a year old and they are not too keen on eating it anymore.  I have never bothered trying to fully convert them to commercial feed, I'm OK babying them.  They also get occasional frozen Hikari bloodworms, treat only, I don't think it's a great staple.  

I would question if you need to add vitamins to any food you're making, especially if you're supplementing with some commercial feed (or mixing a little in).  All I ever added to beefheart was garlic guard and they grew out well with that. 

 

Overall, I am becoming less convinced that discus are "worth it" for me.  I enjoy them, they're beautiful, but even with daily 90% water changes they seem very sensitive for me.  I am sure there are other factors.  I have started to skip some water changes (doing 3 or 4 a week now).  My goal is to eventually get them into a 125 I have for them, but am not feeling motivated to actually do that at this point. *shrug*

 

@Colu I have seen a lot of references to this study, but no one has been able to provide a link.  Any chance you have one? 

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On 7/14/2023 at 4:31 PM, Tazalanche said:

The age/size of your discus would weigh heavily in my decision of what to recommend.

these guys are approximately 2.5 year old

 

On 7/14/2023 at 4:49 PM, jwcarlson said:

but even with daily 90% water changes they seem very sensitive for me

Do you really think that your fish need %90 water changes? My friend treats his 4 discus juveniles as a community tank member with no problems. He used to breed and keept discus the same way too.

I feel like huge water changes are a stress factor for the fish, and doing it in a daily basis might do more harm than good considering stress is likely affecting them more negatively than any slight nitrate in the water column. What do you think?

Again it is just a thought of mine as a a normal fishkeeper and I am just new to the discus world. But %90 water change daily sounds quite stressful to me

 

On 7/14/2023 at 1:57 PM, Colu said:

I was reading recently about wild discus that explained that they are predominantly eat aglae and plant matter detritus  in the wild  examined the stomach content of wild discus consisted of 50% algae and other plant material  and 20% detritus  30% insect larvae in the dry season in the wet season 70%  algae and other plant matter 10% detritus 20% insect larvae some  evidence to suggest they also feed on freshwater sponge's   discus are prone to being overweight in captivity suffering from fatty liver and a lot of other  health  problems which are probably diet related i would try and feed a more natural diet good quality algae based flake food or pellet with a minimum of 50% algae repashy super green brine shrimp Daphnia blood worms  Tubifex worms @Lennie

My ichthyologist friend said she also saw the study but they are fussy about eating algae based stuff and she found they feed on algae if others do and if it is on a surface like the glass.

Do you keep discus Colu? What's your experience like?

 

Because if they are fussy eaters, then even if it is the best food ever, If you can't make them eat it, then it is pointless, right? I'm not sure I can transfer these 2.5yo fish transfer to an algae heavy commercial diet at this point 😄

 

On 7/14/2023 at 4:31 PM, Chick-In-Of-TheSea said:

Won't they eat the worm culture thing you have goin @Lennie?

I only have microworms and vinegar eels. Too small! :') 

And I hatch bbs once every two days

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@Lennie I do not think daily water changes are needed, but I think clean water is required.  I am by no means a discus expert.  So take this for what it's worth.  If someone takes a 2 or 3" discus and raises it for a year or so, you can SEE their care in the discus.  Unlike any other fish I have kept.  The shape, size, eyes... They're swimming billboards advertising how well they were cared for!  That said, if you're lucky and have soft, acidic water on tap, I think you can dang near get away with murder raising discus because the bacteria loads are so low compared to high pH petri dish water. 

I have not found the daily water changes to bother the discus at all, they don't skip a beat.  The discus will eat during a water change and eat again as soon as they're mostly upright when it's refilling.  Doesn't seem to bother them.  But the water is extremely similar to what they had been in (aged and preheated).  If someone had them in 160 ppm nitrate soup and them did a massive water change, I could see their being problems.  I all water changes with aged preheated water in all my tanks and have not noticed anything I would consider overly stressful.  Some fish might get a little spooked depending on how much other cleaning I am doing, but overall they don't seem to mind. 

 

 

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On 7/14/2023 at 5:14 PM, jwcarlson said:

That said, if you're lucky and have soft, acidic water on tap, I think you can dang near get away with murder raising discus because the bacteria loads are so low compared to high pH petri dish water. 

yea, That's why they are one of the few tanks I use full RO and then remineralise it later on. My tap has high ph of 8.0, and high kh of 20. Also the tds reads 375 out of the tap.

The guy who bred them before said his tds is around 80 and he was keeping them at 6.2-6.3 ph.

 

What actually bothers me is keeping them in a barebottom no decoration breeding tank. I got a custom made tank for them with the size of 60x60x50cm.  I at least wanna sneak in a pot with aquasoil in with a big crypt on one corner, or add some floating plants 🤣

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On 7/14/2023 at 10:21 AM, Lennie said:

yea, That's why they are one of the few tanks I use full RO and then remineralise it later on. My tap has high ph of 8.0, and high kh of 20. Also the tds reads 375 out of the tap.

The guy who bred them before said his tds is around 80 and he was keeping them at 6.2-6.3 ph.

 

What actually bothers me is keeping them in a barebottom no decoration breeding tank. I got a custom made tank for them with the size of 60x60x50cm.  I at least wanna sneak in a pot with aquasoil in with a big crypt on one corner, or add some floating plants 🤣

What is the reason for barebottom?  Do they try to eat substrate or something?

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I keep mine in my liquid rock, but trying to breed them is a different animal.  

My apistos get straight RO, but also won't breed successfully either.  So long story short, don't listen to me. 🤣

Barebottom just makes it very easy to keep the tank clean, @Chick-In-Of-TheSea... Not to speak for Lennie.  It's common with discus, particularly when growing out, because you're feeding them so much.  I cannot imagine trying to keep a tank with substrate clean with the amount of food I fed my juvy discus over their first year.  I'm talking 6-8 half inch+ cubes of beefheart every day, plus some flake, plus feeeze dried blackworms.  It would have been gross.

Edited by jwcarlson
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On 7/14/2023 at 2:49 PM, jwcarlson said:

Colu I have seen a lot of references to this study, but no one has been able to provide a link.  Any chance you have one? 

Am just using my phone at the moment and not sure how to link 

 

On 7/14/2023 at 3:03 PM, Lennie said:

My ichthyologist friend said she also saw the study but they are fussy about eating algae based stuff and she found they feed on algae if others do and if it is on a surface like the glass.

Do you keep discus Colu? What's your experience like?

 

Because if they are fussy eaters, then even if it is the best food ever, If you can't make them eat it, then it is pointless, right? I'm not sure I can transfer these 2.5yo fish transfer to an algae heavy commercial diet at this point 😄

No I don't keep discus I just find it interesting readings books and articles about  diet and health I always like to feed my fish as natural a diet as possible  heiko blehers discus vol 1 vol 2 are  really good reads for anyone into discus what you could do is try  coating a piece of slat  in repashy and stand it up right they might be more inclined to try it 

Edited by Colu
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  • 1 month later...
On 7/14/2023 at 8:49 AM, jwcarlson said:

Mine will eat some flake.  But their favorite is freeze dried black worms from Australia.  They're expensive.  During growout I fed them primarily beefheart.  My discus also seem to like gnawing on plants, but they mostly leave anubias alone.  They're scavenger type fish in my experience.  They eat a lot off the bottom even in my barebottoms that are clean.  I attribute their seemingly frequent need to be wormed (a topic for elsewhere), but every time I add a new fish, at least one discus end up not eating and needs a round of levamisole to get them back to health.  This just happened again when I added a bristlenose that I QTd and wormed before. 

Diet-wise now they mine are adults I feed them flake in the morning and 2 or 3 blackworm cubes in the evenings.  My experience is that they like fresh foods.  I made a lot of beefheart (like 30 pounds) and it is now a year old and they are not too keen on eating it anymore.  I have never bothered trying to fully convert them to commercial feed, I'm OK babying them.  They also get occasional frozen Hikari bloodworms, treat only, I don't think it's a great staple.  

I would question if you need to add vitamins to any food you're making, especially if you're supplementing with some commercial feed (or mixing a little in).  All I ever added to beefheart was garlic guard and they grew out well with that. 

 

Overall, I am becoming less convinced that discus are "worth it" for me.  I enjoy them, they're beautiful, but even with daily 90% water changes they seem very sensitive for me.  I am sure there are other factors.  I have started to skip some water changes (doing 3 or 4 a week now).  My goal is to eventually get them into a 125 I have for them, but am not feeling motivated to actually do that at this point. *shrug*

 

@Colu I have seen a lot of references to this study, but no one has been able to provide a link.  Any chance you have one? 

Do you have a source link for those from Down Under?

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  • 1 month later...

I'm still struggling very much to make them accept various foods. Any suggestion is appreciated. They basically eat only frozen brine shrimp ( I buy the ones with spirulina at least) and only Tropical's D50 grans (after they drop to substrate and sit there for a while). Nothing else.  They just eat to survive.

Ive tried Ocean nutrition's frozen discus cubes, fd tubifex, 4 different granules, frozen daphnia, frozen artemia. They are extremely picky and refuse everything except brine shrimp, which they have been fed on before me nonstop.

 

I'm lost

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On 9/21/2023 at 2:56 AM, Guppysnail said:

Try red wiggler worms since you cannot get white worms. I know you dislike worms but I worry for your kiddos not eating and the stress it causes you. Around me they sell them in different sizes. Most folks cut them up for smaller fish. 

4DA7A5E9-89E9-4479-A6DE-CE9A050ACB32.jpeg

Basically what  Im seeing whenever I dig my garden to plant? or is it sth different? 

Nobody sells worms like these here. 

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On 9/21/2023 at 4:41 AM, Lennie said:

Basically what  Im seeing whenever I dig my garden to plant? or is it sth different? 

Nobody sells worms like these here. 

If you have a Wal-Mart near you, go to the sporting goods area, everyone that I have been has a fridge and will have live bait in it. There are usually red wigglers, and night crawlers at least.

Another thing you can try is if you have a LFS nearby that sells live blackworms, get some and a worm feeder cone. You can get a good amount and they can be stored in the fridge for a long time, just need to be rinsed off every day or every other day in cold water. 

I have fed both red wigglers and blackworms to my discus and other fish, and have not found anything that will turn the worms down. 

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On 9/21/2023 at 1:21 PM, Andy's Fish Den said:

If you have a Wal-Mart near you, go to the sporting goods area, everyone that I have been has a fridge and will have live bait in it. There are usually red wigglers, and night crawlers at least.

Another thing you can try is if you have a LFS nearby that sells live blackworms, get some and a worm feeder cone. You can get a good amount and they can be stored in the fridge for a long time, just need to be rinsed off every day or every other day in cold water. 

I have fed both red wigglers and blackworms to my discus and other fish, and have not found anything that will turn the worms down. 

Hey Andy,

Thanks for the info.

 

Im not from the US, no walmarts in where I live. Pretty sure no supermarket here sells live food for fishing. 

Potential leeches and unwanted stuff coming with blackworms creep me out. Im a huge snail guy. If I happen to get snail leeches it would make me very sad

 

also my discus refuse to use worm feeder cone. Ive tried upwards and downwards. They didnt even touch it with Brine shrimp or fd tubifex in it.

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On 9/21/2023 at 4:41 AM, Lennie said:

Basically what  Im seeing whenever I dig my garden to plant? or is it sth different? 

Nobody sells worms like these here. 

Yup what you see in your yard but cultured.  If you use no chemicals or pesticides  in Your yard you can use those. 

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Welcome to the discus club.  I'm a newbie as well as I bought an existing discus setup about a month ago.  The prior owner was feeding 100% beef heart three times a day so I think it is similar to where you are at.  They guy I bought from was nice enough to give me his remaining beef heart supply.  I feed that once a day, but I started working in sinking pellets, etc. on my second feeding.  There are some other fish in there that get flakes and other food as well. 

The discus were a little stressed after the move and weren't exactly attacking the beef heart when I first had them but they liked it a lot more than the pellets I was trying to get them on.  I just left it in there and eventually they would pick at it.  I think leaving pellets in for a few hours is ok and they would eventually eat it all.  I see them start to eat the sinking pellets a lot more quickly now than when I first got them and they are always gone after a few hours. 

I think it just takes a little bit for them to warm up to the new food but then they get on it just fine after a while.   D-50 granules seem to be highly thought of so I wouldn't worry about trying to many other dry foods.  

Since they have been on frozen food, I'd keep some of that or fresh food in the mix at least for now.  I have heard to stay away from blood worms - seems to be the conventional discus wisdom.  I'm not sure it is fact, but there are a lot of other options available so I think that there is no need to test the theory with my fish.  Im planning to make my own beef heart mix once I run out of the stuff I have.  There seem to be a lot of recipes online so you may want to think about that.  Much cheaper than buying the frozen stuff in the store.

I think "discus culture" can be a little extreme with the huge water changes, precise water conditions, and heavy feedings multiple times a day. The fish can be a little sensitive and they are expensive so it makes sense that the conventional wisdom is a little more extreme (bare bottom only, 100% water changes daily, etc, etc)  

They can handle all the protein of a lot of frozen beef heart without bloating up and dying.  And since they can handle it, the meaty diet can help them grow larger than they would on a more typical diet during grow up (or at least give them a better opportunity to big).  Breeders obviously would like to grow discus as large and as fast as possible (see prices online of a 2" vs 4" vs 5").  Also, die-hard discus folks love to strive for dinner plate size discus and feel like they've failed if they have a sub 6" fish. So it also makes sense why it is commonplace for discus to feed heavy protein diets.  The breeders people buy from are probably feeding them that and the discus forums are full of folks advocating it.  However, if you can get them to eat a good pellet or flake you can phase out the frozen entirely in my opinion.  They are likely done growing for the most part at 2.5 years.  If they are really large they may need like more protein than a smaller fish but I wouldn't stress about it too much.  Some of mine are young and I'd like to get some of the extra protein in them while they grow.  Also, I like the idea of making my own fish food that I can play with the formula on.  We'll see if I feel the same way after I make it a few times 🙂


 

Edited by _Eric_
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On 9/21/2023 at 11:46 PM, _Eric_ said:

Welcome to the discus club.  I'm a newbie as well as I bought an existing discus setup about a month ago.  The prior owner was feeding 100% beef heart three times a day so I think it is similar to where you are at.  They guy I bought from was nice enough to give me his remaining beef heart supply.  I feed that once a day, but I started working in sinking pellets, etc. on my second feeding.  There are some other fish in there that get flakes and other food as well. 

The discus were a little stressed after the move and weren't exactly attacking the beef heart when I first had them but they liked it a lot more than the pellets I was trying to get them on.  I just left it in there and eventually they would pick at it.  I think leaving pellets in for a few hours is ok and they would eventually eat it all.  I see them start to eat the sinking pellets a lot more quickly now than when I first got them and they are always gone after a few hours. 

I think it just takes a little bit for them to warm up to the new food but then they get on it just fine after a while.   D-50 granules seem to be highly thought of so I wouldn't worry about trying to many other dry foods.  

Since they have been on frozen food, I'd keep some of that or fresh food in the mix at least for now.  I have heard to stay away from blood worms - seems to be the conventional discus wisdom.  I'm not sure it is fact, but there are a lot of other options available so I think that there is no need to test the theory with my fish.  Im planning to make my own beef heart mix once I run out of the stuff I have.  There seem to be a lot of recipes online so you may want to think about that.  Much cheaper than buying the frozen stuff in the store.

I think "discus culture" can be a little extreme with the huge water changes, precise water conditions, and heavy feedings multiple times a day. The fish can be a little sensitive and they are expensive so it makes sense that the conventional wisdom is a little more extreme (bare bottom only, 100% water changes daily, etc, etc)  

They can handle all the protein of a lot of frozen beef heart without bloating up and dying.  And since they can handle it, the meaty diet can help them grow larger than they would on a more typical diet during grow up (or at least give them a better opportunity to big).  Breeders obviously would like to grow discus as large and as fast as possible (see prices online of a 2" vs 4" vs 5").  Also, die-hard discus folks love to strive for dinner plate size discus and feel like they've failed if they have a sub 6" fish. So it also makes sense why it is commonplace for discus to feed heavy protein diets.  The breeders people buy from are probably feeding them that and the discus forums are full of folks advocating it.  However, if you can get them to eat a good pellet or flake you can phase out the frozen entirely in my opinion.  They are likely done growing for the most part at 2.5 years.  If they are really large they may need like more protein than a smaller fish but I wouldn't stress about it too much.  Some of mine are young and I'd like to get some of the extra protein in them while they grow.  Also, I like the idea of making my own fish food that I can play with the formula on.  We'll see if I feel the same way after I make it a few times 🙂


 

Hey Eric

Thank you for sharing your experience. I'm sad to hear you are also going through similar stuff.

 

I actually had a chance to talk to a biologist/fish ichthyologist friend after reading what Colu has shared about a study. Seems like Discus are actually meant to be mainly algae eaters, and she mentioned even sometimes insect levels are almost non-existent in their diet. She also mentioned; 

"fishes are largely known not to be able to process lipids well from mammalian or avian sources. Even with major elements/minerals when an insectivore is fed a diet that included fishes they couldn't as efficiently extract calcium or phosphorus, and we can apply this further because it's about enzymes and bacteria within the gut. You can't suddenly change an animals diet otherwise you could inject a person with gut biota and they could suddenly digest wood, or you could cure lactose intolerance. I don't feed entirely Spirulina but the aim is to get them onto Repashy soilent/super green with the range of algaes and if anyone has kept discus they know getting them onto new captive diets is a nightmare. I personally think in the wild they largely feed on a surface and there is some movement to it from the water. But also in captivity they are spoilt like humans given fastfood, if they refuse healthy food and being able to get their way."

 

Also seems like nitrite being higher with beefheart infers protein not being processed by the fish. Also she mentioned there is a higher survival or equatable on the spirulina. Skin pigmentation also seems to be better on algaes.

I think the following might be the study @Colu was mentioning. @jwcarlson

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/250051348_Ecology_and_life_history_of_an_Amazon_floodplain_cichlid_The_discus_fish_Symphysodon_Perciformes_Cichlidae

image.png.a625012cf36cf4bdd7ca05d885147859.png

 

Edited by Lennie
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