How Long Does It Take for Discus to Settle? {Top 10 Ways To Settle Your Discus}

Are you here to find out the length of time needed for your Discus fish to adjust and settle into your tank? Would you like to know how to help your Discus fish settle in smoothly? Let’s get into it right away.

How Long Does It Take for Discus to Settle? It can take 2-4 weeks for your Discus fish to settle and adjust to your tank. If you can maintain pristine waters, plenty of hiding spaces, proper lighting and slow movements, your Discus fish will settle in sooner. 

Why Is My Discus Not Settling?

If you have brought a single or multiple Discus fish to your aquarium, but they are having a hard time settling in, there could be some factors involved that you need to address. Let’s look into them right now:

Top 10 Ways To Help Your Discus Settle

  1. Lighting
  2. Water parameters
  3. Your movements
  4. Background colors
  5. Tankmates
  6. Hiding spaces
  7. Overcrowding 
  8. Quantity
  9. Acclimation
  10. Food options and amounts

1. Lighting

When you fist introduce a Discus fish to your tank, they may act freaked out or skittish at slight movements or bright lights. They frighten easily.

Try turning off the tank lights or keeping them dim for 2-3 days while your Discus fish settles in. You can gradually increase the lighting to where you like it, but do it slowly for a period of 14 days without rushing it.

2. Water Parameters

Your Discus fish expects pristine water, frequent water changes and soft, slightly acidic water that is on the warmer side. If you have an established community tank that is thriving under parameters that don’t exactly fit the needs of your Discus fish, settling in will be difficult.

Here are the water parameters that are ideal for Discus Fish:

  • pH: 6.0-7.0
  • Temperature: 82-89°F
  • Water hardness: 18 ppm to 70 ppm
  • Chlorine: 0.001 ppm to 0.003 ppm
  • Ammonia: 0 ppm
  • Nitrite level: 0 ppm
  • Nitrate: less than 10 ppm

Many Discus keepers feel it’s better to take care of their Discus fish in a species specific tank for this reason. These fish are not for beginners.

Experience tells us that focusing solely on the needs of Discus fish alone, allows them to thrive for many years without the stressful bouts with illness or behavioral problems.

3. Your Movements

There are many cases of Discus fish darting, bumping or trying to jump out when their human caregiver arrives in the room. You movements cause a new Discus fish to behave jumpy, finnicky or fearful.

Your appearance may also alter the perception of a Discus fish. It has been noted in some instances that when you are wearing darker clothes, your Discus sees you as a bigger or scarier threat.

Move slowly. Give it 2 weeks or so for your Discus to see your slow movement to the tank where you carefully place very small amounts of food at the surface and walk away.

In this time, your Discus fish will slowly realize that you are a friendly provider of food. Sooner than later, your Discus fish will swim to you and be fond of your arrival.

4. Background Colors

Dark colored substrates, dark walls or dark backgrounds can create hostility, fear or lengthen the amount of time for your Discus fish to settle into your tank.

We like dark colored backgrounds with colorful fish to bring out the vibrancy in their colors. The problem is that Discus fish prefer white or light backgrounds, fine white sandy substrates and light or fully transparent glass walls.

Cover the sides of the tank with light colored panels around the glass if you do not plan to change your background. Wait 2-3 weeks for your Discus to settle and remove the temporary light colored panels.

YouTube video

5. Tankmates

Keep in mind that Discus fish come from the cichlid family of fish and this means they are slightly territorial. They may look at any tankmate as a potential threat.

Any tankmates that moves too fast for their liking will cause stress and prolong the settling in process. The best overall tankmate is a Corydora or cory catfish that minds its own business at the bottom of the tank and leaves your Discus to enjoy the rest of the tank.

A species specific tank will lead to better adjustment and less stressful acclimation.

6. Hiding Spaces

As soon as your new Discus fish enters the tank, this welcome addition will feel the need to find a place to hide. If you do not have enough tall plants to provide cover such as Amazon Swords, then your Discus fish will sulk in a corner.

Food will not be eaten and that’s fine for the first 2 weeks. The problem is that with a lack of hiding spaces, there is no opportunity to take a break from the lights and your presence.

Give your Discus fish a chance to settle in slowly with plenty of relaxing areas for a timeout from all the movement and travel that brought your new fish here.

7. Overcrowding

If you do not have a tank size that is 75 gallons or above, the hobby of caring for Discus fish may not be right for you. Planning a community tank by adding more tankmates within a 75 gallon or smaller tank will cause overcrowding issues.

Your Discus fish may feel threatened to defend territories or may retreat. Adjusting to an overcrowded tank may never occur.

Chances are that you may see your new Discus fish on its side at the bottom of the tank instead of thriving in a spacious area with plenty of its own species to play with.

8. Quantity

Did you knw that it’s best to keep 6-8 Discus fish together? One Discus fish will spend most of the time hiding in a weakened state and may not eat enough to survive. Disease may strike more often in a single Discus fish.

This is a shoaling species that feels safety in numbers when placed in its own group of at least 5 Discus fish. A bonded pair may live together without the rest of their group.

Juvenile Discus fish will settle in faster in a group as they grow up together.

9. Acclimation

While we are advocates of using the drip method of acclimating most of our aquatic life in our tanks, the Discus fish want us to hurry up.

A bag with a Discus fish inside it, floating at the surface may cause your newcomer to feel the need to jump out. This has happened more often than we would like.

Begin adding tank water into the bag and slowly emptying it and filling equal parts.  Do this 6-8 times over the course of an hour and get your Discus fish in a position where it can finally swim and find a safe hiding space.

The bag at the surface makes your Discus fish feel exposed without being able to naturally hide. We need to allow the natural instinct of this fish to take hold and find cover as soon as possible.

10. Food Options and Amounts

Your Discus may not eat for 2-3 weeks while it is adjusting with a new life in your tank. During this time, move slowly and offer only small amounts of frozen, freeze dried, protein rich foods to entice your Discus fish to come out of hiding and eat.

Do not hang around the area because you are still perceived as a threat. Gently walk over, (wear light colored clothing), drop in the meal and slowly back away.

Do this for 14 days and soon your Discus fish will love you and be excited to see you as the food provider.

  • Brine shrimp
  • Mysis shrimp
  • Bloodworms
  • Meaty flakes
  • Sinking pellets
  • Plant matter
  • Blanched spinach or lettuce

These foods will keep your Discus fish nourished in smaller quantities during the settling in period.

How Many Days Can Discus Go Without Food?

A Discus fish larger than 4 inches can go 2-3 weeks without eating. The older your Discus fish, the longer it can go without eating.

Juveniles will need to be fed more frequently throughout the day and cannot survive without eating throughout the week.

Stock 6-8 juvenile Discus fish together to speed up the settling in process. They will soon place their worries or perceived fear far behind the need to eat.


We wish you the best of luck and hope that you can use these top 10 tips provided to help your Discus fish settle in smoothly.

Patience and routines are required by you and all of us Discus fish keepers who are rewarded by the beauty and temperament of these wonderful fish when they are thriving in our tanks.

Thanks for visiting and see you again soon!

Brian Arial

Brian Arial has kept fish for leisure and worked with fish stores for most of his life. He enjoys writing and caring for aquariums and ponds.

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