13 Discus Fish Tank Mates – List of Compatible Species

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The discus fish is a cichlid which is already bound to surround the fish’s image with a ton of stereotypes. Interestingly enough, though, this is no ordinary cichlid.

While the discus fish retains a lot of the qualities that make cichlids so popular, it’s its own species with distinct and unique features as well.

On one hand, this fish is peaceful, intelligent, and shy, making it a great addition to any freshwater setup. On the other, it requires specific environmental conditions such as:

  • Higher-than-usual water temperatures, climbing up to 82-88 °F
  • Sufficient space to accommodate a group of at least 6 individuals (preferably 55 gallons or more)
  • Plenty of hiding areas for the fish to explore and retreat to during nighttime

Knowing this, let’s have a look at the most reliable tankmates you can get for this sociable and playful cichlid:

1. Guppies

Guppies are perfect as discus tankmates for several reasons. Firstly, they are peaceful and joyful and never exhibit territorial, aggressive, or bullying behavior against their tankmates.

They will become aggressive towards themselves, males especially, but that’s about it.

Guppies can grow up to 2.5 inches, but most will remain smaller. It also doesn’t hurt that guppies are hardy and adaptable and don’t require too much space to thrive.

Providing them with approximately 2 gallons of water per fish should suffice.

You should also keep guppies in groups of at least 6-8 individuals because these fish are social animals that thrive in larger communities.

Finally, guppies showcase the most impressive color and pattern diversity in the aquarium fish kingdom, making them ideal choices for any community tank.

Especially one with an equally diverse discussion group to complement their presence.

Compatibility – High

The 2 species should be tolerant of one another, provided you ensure optimal living conditions.

Keep your discus fish well-fed and ensure ample swimming room, live plants, and several hiding areas for both species to enjoy.

2. Tetras

Tetras are great community fish due to their small size, vivacious temperament, and great adaptability. They can also get quite colorful and energetic, depending on the species.

These fish can do great with an omnivorous diet and don’t require too much space to thrive. Your regular 1-1.5-inch neon tetras only require around 10 gallons of water per group.

Make sure you have at least 12 of them in your aquarium since these fish are more comfortable in larger communities.

Compatibility – Moderate

You have 2 problems to consider here:

  • Temperature preferences – Not all tetras have the same temperature preferences. Neon tetras, for instance, only require up to 76 F, which isn’t really compatible with a discus setup. Other tetra species can go over 80 °F a bit, making them a better choice in this sense.
  • Aggression level – Tetras are generally known as peaceful, but this isn’t always the case. Some species rank as fin nippers, while others, like the bucktooth tetra, are straight-up piranha-level aggressive. Choose your tetra species carefully.

3. Mollies

Mollies make for another great choice, thanks to their hardiness, adaptability, and easy-going demeanor.

These livebearers match guppies in terms of friendliness and diversity, which explains their unmatched popularity in the aquarium trade.

These are social fish, so always keep them in compact groups of at least 6-8 specimens.

Mollies use their school strength to deter more aggressive fish and keep themselves safe and comfortable.

If you want to avoid any type of fish-on-fish violence, skip the males. Molly males are more competitive and will even attack the females during the breeding season.

Given that mollies are almost always in the breeding season, you should avoid males altogether if you don’t want the headaches.

Compatibility – Low

There’s no problem in terms of behavior, diet, overall temperament, or space requirements.

But there is one in terms of water temperature. Mollies require a maximum temperature of 80 F, so you must find some common ground to accommodate both species adequately.

If your mollies don’t feel comfortable at temperatures of 80 and your discus population demands temperatures above that threshold, skip mollies.

4. Platies

Platies make for yet another vivid and peaceful community fish. This species’ diversity and friendliness make it ideal for large community setups as long as platies have sufficient hiding places.

These fish are great for beginner aquarists thanks to their hardiness and adaptability and don’t need much space to live long and comfortable lives.

Platies aren’t necessarily schooling, but they do feel more confident and well-mannered in a group of at least 6. Prepare at least 20 gallons for such a group.

Compatibility – Low

Platies come with the same problem that plagues mollies – adequate water temperature. The ideal temperature for platies rests around 70-78 F.

Some variations are acceptable, but most platies won’t be able to go past 80 °F. I recommend testing them for a short while to see whether they can adapt to the discus setup. If not, you may need to keep looking.

5. Corydoras

Corydoras rank as some of the most reliable tank cleaners you can get. These catfish are great for your discus tank, as they will be in charge of the maintenance routine.

Corydoras are peaceful and like to avoid other fish by retreating into their rocky safe spaces. They also eat pretty much anything they can find in their tank and demand an omnivorous diet to stay healthy.

Keep the lights low, add a bunch of live plants, and decorate their habitat with plenty of rocks and caves.

Finally, keep them in groups. Although Corydoras can live alone, they require company to keep them mentally healthy and happy.

Compatibility – High

Corydoras will avoid your discus fish as they do with pretty much any companion. Even if they do cross paths, they will inspect each other and be on their way fast.

Corydoras like to stick to their own and only go out for eating and some mild exploration.

Just make sure you cover the tank properly. These fish will often swim to the surface for a breath of fresh air (intestinal breathing) and can jump out if the opportunity presents itself.

6. Clown Loaches

Clown loaches make for an interesting addition to this list, mainly due to their size. These fish can grow double in size compared to discus cichlids, as adult clown loaches are known to reach 12 inches in captivity.

They also require companionship and a lot of aquatic space. A group of 4-6 clown loaches demand at least 100 gallons for themselves.

These active loaches demand to live in a group and are fairly active for their size. Have sufficient hiding places, plants, and plenty of open room for swimming and exploration purposes.

These fish are peaceful with most peaceful companions, so long as they’re not too small.

Otherwise, they will simply eat them. This isn’t the case with the discus fish, given that the cichlid can grow up to 6 inches and rely on its group strength to keep itself safe.

Compatibility – High

While these 2 species go great together, it’s all a matter of circumstances. If your clown loaches don’t have sufficient space, top-tier water quality, or a nutritious diet, they will grow more aggressive and stressed than usual. The same can be said about the discus cichlid.

On another note, the 2 are perfect with each other in the perfect setting and with optimal care and support.

7. Bristlenose Pleco

These catfishes are the ideal tankmates for your discus fish. Plecos are peaceful bottom dwellers that rely on their environment to keep a low profile and avoid other fish.

They’re not antisocial but don’t like to interact with other fish species either due to their more timid nature.

Plecos can grow up to 5 inches and require a lush ecosystem with plenty of feeding and hiding opportunities.

Have a sand substrate for them to go easy on their skin, and add a variety of caves and rocky hiding spots to boost the fish’s confidence and peace of mind.

These catfish thrive on an herbivorous diet and won’t mind some food competition, either. Not that that’s the case with discus fish.

Compatibility – High

There’s unlikely that anything will go wrong in your pleco-discus marriage. These fish are made for each other thanks to their similar personalities and vastly different lifestyles.

Both are generally peaceful, like to avoid tensions, and have different dwelling zones, making any territorial competition virtually impossible.

Plecos are only territorial against other plecos, and this only applies to males. It’s also worth noting that plecos and discus have similar water requirements, which only adds to their compatibility.

8. Ram Cichlids

Ram cichlids are an interesting addition simply due to the fact that they’re cichlids. It’s usually not recommended to house different species of cichlids in the same environment.

Especially when discussing more aggressive and territorial species, which is how most cichlid species are.

Discus and rams make for interesting tankmates, though. This is mostly due to the ram cichlid’s easy-going personality and similar lifestyle requirements.

Ram cichlids can grow up to 3 inches, showcase an impressive color pattern, and rank among the most peaceful cichlid species you can get.

These omnivorous bottom dwellers require temperatures around 75-82 F and will do just fine in a discus environment.

Compatibility – High

It’s unlikely that your ram cichlids will compete with discus over food, space, or any other metric.

Keep both species in groups, feed them well, and keep their habitat in good condition, and they will live in peace for the long haul.

9. Dwarf Gouramis

Dwarf gouramis are also awesome tankmates for discus cichlids based on their highly adaptable nature and easy-going demeanor.

These gouramis diverge from the typical gourami nature and are generally more peaceful and tolerant of other tankmates. They only grow around 2-2.3 inches at most and will adapt to a variety of aquatic setups.

Have plenty of vegetation available and provide the fish with easy access to the water surface. Labyrinth fish breathe atmospheric air occasionally, especially if water quality is suboptimal.

Compatibility – Moderate

While dwarf gouramis are considered peaceful, they can become aggressive towards other brightly-colored tankmates, and the discus fits that description.

You can mitigate tensions by adding more plants and increasing the tank’s size, but you should always monitor the fish’s interactions to prevent any extreme aggression.

10. Kribensis Cichlids

Kribensis cichlids are also known as dwarf cichlids, as they only grow up to 3-4 inches. They are one of the most handsome cichlid species, with their blood-red coloring splashing their thorax, abdomen, and lower jaw.

These fish require a variety of caves and rock structures around their primary dwelling area.

Kribensis cichlids are primarily peaceful but can get territorial at times, especially against other bottom dwellers.

Compatibility – Moderate

This is a tricky one. Kribensis cichlids are compatible on paper, given that they don’t necessarily share the same dwelling area with the discus.

The problem is that both species are cave dwellers. Not to the same degree, as the discus fish prefers open areas more, but they both like caves.

This can cause some territorial disputes, given that Kribensis cichlids are notoriously cave-territorial.

Make sure you manage the habitat’s layout properly to make sure there are enough caves for everyone.

11. Rasboras

Rasboras are tiny fish that don’t seem like great companions for discus cichlids. Their size is the primary problem to consider.

These fish only grow up to 1.7 inches, and most of them remain smaller than that. Fortunately, these fish thrive in large groups of at least 12 individuals.

They don’t need much space, as a 10-20-gallon setup is enough for a 12-15-rasboras group. They also accept an impressive temperature range of 73-83 F, which qualifies them as compatible tankmates for the discus.

Rasboras are easy to keep, eat pretty much everything, although they prefer live foods, and can cope with grumpy tankmates just fine.

Compatibility – Low/Moderate

This is another tricky addition to the list. Rasboras are too small to consider as viable tankmates for the discus. The peaceful cichlid can easily see them as food and dispose of them with ease.

However, you can prevent that by:

  • Adding more plants and decorations that rasboras will use as escape routes
  • Feeding your discus fish properly to lower its interest in rasboras meat
  • Keeping rasboras in larger groups to increase their survival chances

If these strategies don’t work, consider looking for other options. Rasboras don’t breed too well in captivity, so you can’t rely on their breeding prowess to keep up with their losses.

12. Otocinclus Catfish

This tiny algae eater is a great addition to the discus tank. Not only do they keep a low profile, making it difficult for the cichlids to spot them, but they also keep the environment clean of algae.

Otocinclus catfish rank as bottom dwellers as they stick to rocks, the tank walls, and any other hard surface, on a constant lookout for sustenance (primarily algae.)

Otocinclus catfish only grow up to 2 inches and require a lush ecosystem to hide and remain safe and healthy.

Just keep in mind that top water quality is necessary to preserve the fish’s health long-term.

Compatibility – Moderate

The main problem here is the temperature difference. Otocinclus catfish require temperatures up to 80 F, whereas discus cichlids have a minimum requirement of 82 F. So, you need to work a bit to balance things in this sense.

Otherwise, these catfish are great for your discus tank. Despite being tiny, they rely on their camouflaging abilities to blend with their aquatic setup and considerably decrease their visible print.

Having a variety of plants and caves in place will also increase their survivability considerably.

13. Rainbowfish

The rainbowfish is probably the most diverse and impressive species on this list. Rainbowfish come in a variety of sizes, between 2 and 6+ inches, depending on the species.

They are also great for beginners, who live their best lives in schools of 5+ individuals and prefer open swimming rooms with some caves sprinkled randomly.

They are also omnivorous and peaceful and will avoid all violence if possible.

There are 3 requirements to consider for your rainbowfish tank:

  • A diverse omnivorous diet with 2-3 meals per day
  • Monthly water changes
  • Sufficient swimming space, since these fish cannot stand overcrowding

Compatibility – High

The only problem I’m seeing here is the overcrowding. Both discus and rainbowfish require to live in groups of several specimens, so you need sufficient space for all of them.

Consider the tank equipment, aquatic decorations and rocks, live plants, and your fish groups when selecting the ideal tank.

Also, weekly water testing is necessary to preserve water quality.

Avoid These Tank Mates

Stay away from aggressive and territorial fish like African cichlids, barbs, bettas, red tail sharks, and every other species that fits the category.

Particularly messy species like goldfish are also out due to their extreme environmental print.

Discus cichlids don’t pair well with professional mess producers like goldfish or pufferfish.

Conclusion

Discus cichlids are amazing fish that easily adapt to most community setups.

It’s only a matter of finding the ideal tankmates and tweaking their environment so that it can accommodate all species.

avatar I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.

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