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Discus Gills

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What do you think is wrong with this discussion? We purchased it from a LFS and it looked like this when we got home. There has been no improvement nor decline but just curious what's wrong with it. We don't think it gill flukes since it eats well and doesn't seem to "itch" it. 



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I lost two of my discus to a gill disease. Assumed to be gill rot. Nothing ever I tried worked for 8 months of treatment

Discus rarely do good in such type fully substrate community tank environment sadly. They are mostly used to and require pristine conditions with perfect water quality.

I will tag our friends here @Odd Duck @Colu @jwcarlson 

but I would highly recommend going to simplydiscus forum and also ask there ASAP

Also you should share your water parameters, temp, tank size, stocking, how you acclimated, etc to find a better answer

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I agree with Lennie about Simply.  I don't know what's going on with this fish.  It certainly isn't a short gill plate.  Looks almost like one of the gills broke loose and is hanging out.

Just a couple of other observations... the red cover is very thin, can't see profile of the others, but would guess they are also thin.  They need to be wormed, levamisole is a good choice.  Eliminating worms with gravel substrate is going to be a challenge.  What temp are you keeping them at?  How often are you changing water and how much?

Not the greatest pictures here, but discus should have a good "thick" profile when viewed from the front.  Yours has a pinched forehead andnhas likely been in decline for weeks or months.


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Couple of possibilities could have been caused by Gill rot or  a genetic deformitie what are your water parameters ammonia nitrite nitrate pH KH GH temperature any rapid breathing hanging out near the surface lethargy flashing spitting food out sunken belly white stringy poop has it had Reddening of gill plate or Gill @yeebee29

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The gills are definitely anemic, which can be caused by a number of things. I would trust @jwcarlson and @Colu with their observations.


The gills shouldn’t look like that either they should be structured like a fan or a brush difficult to say whether that was caused by poor conditions or genetic disease as some populations of discus are severely inbred.



Source: journal of Zoomorphology volume 142 pg 87-92

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@Lennie @Colu @jwcarlson @Biotope Biologist Thanks for responding. The fish has been like this since we got him. We didn't notice it at the fish store and they didn't do returns or exchange 😞 

Some of the stats for the 75 gal tank:

Stock: 6 Cory catfish, 4 other discus, ~ 20 total Rasbora and Tetra schooling fish, probably some 10 or so amanos shrimps hiding. 

Water levels using API test kit: PH = 7, Ammonia = 0 ppm (yellow) , Nitrate = 0 ppm (yellow)

Temp = 83

Feed = Vibra bites and bug bite flakes in the morning, frozen bloodworms in the evening.

Water change = 25% once a week, fluval 307 filter washed once a month. 


Thanks again for any more advice or help! We will feed the red cover more if possible. He has been the alpha chasing everyone and we did notice he slowed down with eating, but we thought it was because the yellow panda became alpha. 

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I know I'm a stick-in-the-mud regarding discus.  But you're going to have massive problems with only changing 25% of your water once a week.  How long has your tank been set up?  Do you trust a reading of zero nitrates?  Do you have any way of confirming that test?

I'm glad to see that you've got the temperature at 83, that's a good discus temp.  Be cautious about the tank mates as there's quite a lot of fish that don't do so well quite so warm.  You've got a quite a lot going on there, so not sure what specific types of corys/etc that you've got.


I do not think it's a short gill plate, the gills should never extend as far as they are right now.  They're touching the fins.  Not even sure it's actually gill?  I had only looked at this on my phone so it was pretty small, I thought it looked almost like one side of the gill had been broken off and was hanging down and was discolored because blood flow wasn't happening.  Is it just on this one side or is it on both sides?  It's a shame because it's actually a pretty good looking discus!  If it is gill tissue, @Biotope Biologist is absolutely correct that it is certainly not healthy.

Regarding the thin fish.  You cannot feed your way through a parasitic infection.  There's parasite load in basically all fish, but a stressful event like being shipped to your house or being shipped from Asia to your LFS and then typically kept in poor conditions and underfed for weeks on end... then tossed into your tank and you get the benefit of seeing all the issues.  

Fish that aren't eating are usually in a bad way.  If they are eating, you need to individually watch them to make sure they're not just spitting everything out.  Like Colu mentioned above, sometimes this is a hex issue and might require a course of metro.  So pay attention to the feces they're passing.

I had discus in a 75 doing 90% water changes every day for about two years.  I cut down to 90% about three times a week and started having problems with them.  And that was on a bare bottom tank.  I know there's people on here and elsewhere who get really, I'll say lucky, and happen to be able to keep their discus healthy in less than ideal conditions.  But I can promise that it's not the norm and that these people typically almost have "Amazon River Water" coming out of their taps.  😄

Edited by jwcarlson
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I’m no discus expert but that gill definitely looks very strange.  I agree that it looks rather devitalized and suspect like the others that there may have been an injury that’s damaged the blood flow to that gill arch.  It’s possible the fish could survive with a damaged gill arch but it will always be potentially compromised and possibly the first to get sick.  Except the red is definitely thin and I agree it needs dewormed.  I would do both levamisol and praziquantal.  Below is the regimen I use when I want to use both as quickly as possible.  Ignore font and spacing weirdness since this doesn’t copy / paste very well from “Notes”.


Siphon out debris from the bottom before and after dosing to remove any expelled worms, eggs, debris, etc.  Levamisole is inactivated by organic debris and by light, so dose after lights out and black out the tank for 24 hours, remove organics via water changes and cleaning the bottom of debris as much as possible.

It’s likely that levamisole does what it can do within the first hour, but best to follow directions precisely.  If you have a bare bottom hospital tank available, it might be best and easiest to transfer the fish to that tank for the duration of treatment - up to 5 weeks total treatment time if doing 3 doses of praziquantal.

Levamisole treatment should be weekly for 4 treatments.  Praziquantal treatment should be every other week (at least) for 2-3 treatments and it is left in for a week at a time.  It can be dosed the day after levamisole treatment.  Remove any carbon or Purigen from filters before dosing.

Have enough dechlorinated water to do a 50% water change immediately if any adverse symptoms are seen in the fish.

A typical treatment regimen: 

1. 50% water change with careful siphoning of debris from the bottom of the tank.

2. Dose with levamisole and black out the tank for 24 hours.  Then 50% water change siphoning the entire bottom of the tank.

3. Dose with praziquantal directly after the second 50% WC.

4. One week later, 50% water change siphoning the bottom thoroughly.  Dose with levamisole following directions in step 1-2.

5. One week later (start of week 3 of treatment), repeat all steps 1-4 over another 2 weeks time.

6. Repeat all steps 1-5, then do last WC one week later after third dose of praziquantal.

Not all snails will tolerate treatments, so best to remove any snails in the tank.

Condensed, weekly schedule:

Week 1: siphon debris and do 50% water change, levamisole x 24 hrs, siphon.  Treat with praziquantal and leave in until next week.

Week 2: siphon, levam x 24 hrs, siphon.

Week 3: siphon, levam x 24 hrs, siphon, then prazi.

Week 4: siphon, levam x 24 hrs, siphon.

Week 5: siphon, levam x 24 hrs, siphon, then prazi.

Week 6: siphon.

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