Do Discus Need Wave Maker? {Do Discus Fish Like Currents?}

Are you wondering if your discus fish tank requires you to use a wavemaker? Do discus fish prefer strong currents? In this article, we will discuss if discus fish need a wave maker.

Do Discus Need Wave Maker? No. The natural habitat of discus fish is still water under overhanging branches near shorelines or river banks. They don’t require currents or a wave maker to bring them food, oxygen and nutrients or to push away waste products.

Circulating the water flow doesn’t harm discus fish and may prove to be beneficial in aquariums. Although a wave maker isn’t necessary, it shouldn’t bother your discus fish.

When Should I Use a Wave Maker?

Wave makers are great to increase the flow of oxygen in all areas of your tank. They work great in reef tanks because corals are other invertebrates that are you immobile would benefit from currents in the following ways:

  • Brings them food
  • Directs oxygen and gases towards them
  • Circulates nutrients
  • Carries away waste products

Since the natural habitat of discus fish are areas where currents or waves are not present, recreating the still waters that they are used means that you do not need a wave maker.

Keep in mind though that you will have to perform water changes multiple times a week to suit the demands of discus fish. A wave maker can reduce the amount of water changes you need to perform.

When Should I Get A Wave Maker For Discus Fish?

If you are noticing that your discus fish are struggling for air with rapid gill movements or gasping at the surface, you can consider a powerhead or wavemaker to assist them.

A wave maker also helps to cut down on frequent water changes in your discus fish tank.

Do Discus Fish Like Currents?

Yes and no. In a natural setting most discus fish enjoy calm still waters where they swim graciously or float effortlessly.

In the case of many individual aquarists, they have noticed that their discus fish actually become more active when currents flow through their tank. These discus fish also ended up eating with a larger appetite.

There are no steadfast rules in this matter and you can do what works well for your discus fish based on their behavior to still water or water that is flowing with a powerhead, air pump or wavemaker.

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Why Are My Discus Fish Breathing Fast?

You may in fact have younger juvenile discus fish that are still in their growth phase. If they are 1 year old or younger, you will need to perform daily water changes at up to 50% to 2/3 of the water in your tank.

You may notice your juvenile fish:

  • Breathing hard
  • Gasping for air at the surface
  • Gulping
  • Rapid gill movement
  • Staying close to the surface
  • Lack of appetite

It becomes tedious to continuously change the water so often. A wave maker can’t help to agitate the surface of the water and help move the oxygen throughout the tank.

At this point, you may be able to cut down on frequent water changes. Once your discus fish reach adulthood, you can reduce water changes to 30% one to two times a week.

Does a Discus Tank Need a Powerhead and Air Stone?

No. it is not required for discus fish to have a powerhead, wavemaker, air pumps or air stones in the tank. They do help however, to keep waste from building up in the corners of your tank.

The addition of flowing water can help to increase oxygen throughout the tank. A sponge filter can take the place of any of these items in a discus fish tank.

Since discus fish enjoy still waters in river banks, it is not required to increase the flow of water in your tank.

On the other hand, there is no evidence that this will stress out your discus fish. They may become more active with an increased appetite.

Is a Wavemaker Necessary?

No. It is not necessary to have a wave maker in your discus tank. Wave makers work well in reef tanks where sessile invertebrates that do not move can benefit from the flow of water bringing them much-needed nutrients.

If this doesn’t apply to your tank, you can opt for a cheaper options such as using:

  • Air pump
  • Air stone
  • Sponge Filter
  • Canister Filter
  • Weekly water changes

What Do I Need for a Discus Tank?

Discus fish grow large and enjoy tanks that are 75 gallons or more in size. The shape of a discus fish would benefit from a taller designed aquarium tank.

They do not require wave makers or air pumps, but in many cases do not get stressed from the added flow of water. In most cases, the water movement can remain gentle.

You could add large leaf plants and driftwood and arrange them in vertical positions to reenact trees and branches that are hanging in their natural habitat.

Gravel is not necessary and you can choose to keep discus fish in a bare bottom tank.

  • 75 gallons or larger
  • Taller aquariums rather than wider
  • No air pumps needed
  • Simple filtration (sponge filters work well)
  • Tall leaves or driftwood hanging vertically
  • No need for a gravel substrate in a species specific tank

What Is the Purpose of a Wave Maker in an Aquarium?

The purpose of a wave maker is to help circulate the water in your tank, especially in areas where there is a lack of movement.

Wave makers are beneficial in large sized aquariums. A lot of times the filter in a tank may not reach these corners or areas where water stagnates.

With a wave maker, you can increase oxygenation to better help the overall balance in your tank’s ecosystem.

Where Do You Place a Wave Maker?

The best place to put a wave maker is near the top of your tank to help create surface agitation. It will be easier for the wave maker to clean and push debris.

If the wave maker is placed too low in the tank, you may blow the gravel or detritus from the substrate. A wave maker moves the whole body of water in a tank compared to a powerhead only moving a part of the water.


Discus Fish do not require a wave maker or powerhead, but they may not oppose it either. The water flow in their natural habitat is gentle or still. This is why it isn’t necessary.

You can cut down on frequent water changes with a wave maker, but you will have to notice if your discus fish are stressed from too much water flow.


Thanks for visiting and see you again soon for another article on aquatic life that we enjoy keeping, managing and writing about. Bye for now!

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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