A Crash Course History Lesson About Discus Fish

A Crash Course History Lesson About Discus Fish

Posted by UncleSam'sDiscus on Apr 25th 2018

Swimming with utmost grace and beauty, the discus fish are arguably one of the most interesting and beautiful species of tropical fish. With its striking color and incredible form, you can’t go wrong in putting a pair or more in your aquarium. Typically friendly and non-aggressive, the discus fish can easily co-habit with other fish types. More and more households are displaying this fish in their water tanks but not everyone knows about its origin and history. Stick around if you are one of the latter because we are about to reveal a handful of quick facts about this beloved aquatic beauty.

Earliest Discovery

The discovery of the discus fish goes a long way back to the early 19th century when scientists and naturalists like Johannes Baptist Natterer, Johann Jacob Heckel and Phillip F. von Martius, to mention a few, embarked on a journey to the land unknown: Brazil. During the expedition along the Amazon river, Natterer and his companions discovered plenty of new species which they named after themselves.

Sometime later, majority of the party left to go home. Natterer was among the few who chose to remain to continue the exploration. Between the years 1831 and 1835, the researcher said to have caught a discus fish in one of his nets. He then brought with him several other samples of the tropical fish when he was homeward bound. In total, Natterer hoarded 1,671 fish species, 1,146 mammals, 1,024 mussels, and few thousand others, most of which were entirely strange to the eyes of the Western world.

Heckel, who worked in one of the Natterer’s collections, analysed a special type of cichlid which he named Symphysodon discus. It is now commonly called Heckel discus. (Sample picture below)


It wasn’t until the 1920s when the first few discus fish were imported live to Europe. The batch was said to have never survived. Several attempts were made from 1928 onwards. It was only in 1932 when a single discus made the trip alive to the foreign continent.

Breeding and Mutation

Subsequent era of pet fish keeping gave rise to the emergence of different types and breeds of discus fish. As early as 1903, a green-colored discus was documented by J. Pellegrin. In 1955, Harald Schultz published his discovery of the brown and blue varieties.

In 1936, H. Hartel reportedly succeeded in breeding the discus in Europe. No recorded details were shown about the experiment but two decades later Dr. E. Schmidt-Focke and Dr. E. Van Slogteren published their scientific notes of discus breeding and hatching.

More and more colors of discus were discovered both in the wild and in their adopted environment in the 50s and 60s. In 1969, the beautiful turquoise discus was caught. Since then, other color variants like white, yellow, silver, and blue were spotted.

Further occurrence of amazing discus fish patterns and colors were seen towards the end of the 1990s. In Asia, particularly, there were cross breeds of ghost, blue diamond, snake skin, and pigeon blood varieties.

Thanks to modern techniques and state-of-the-art tools, the sky is the limit for what the discus fish breeders of today could make.

What other interesting historical facts about the discus fish that we should know about? Sound them off in the comments down below.

Visit Uncle Sam's Discus to see a wide range of available discus fish online, click this link.

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