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6 Of The Best Dither Fish For Discus!

Although discus has always been a very popular fish due to their beautiful colors and patterns, their popularity is starting to increase within the fish keeping hobby and more and more people are starting to add discus to their tanks.

Due to discus being cichlids, they can be aggressive to each other as well as their tank mates but as far as cichlids go, discus are one of the calmer genus’ that you can keep.

Sometimes, this calm nature can make the fish shy and cause it to hide away in its tank and we have noticed people asking for ways that they are able to calm their discus fish.

This is why we have decided to publish this article going over our recommended dither fish for discus that you are able to add to your tank.

Not only can dither fish help to keep your dither fish calm in their tanks and help them come out of hiding if they are shy but they can also help to reduce aggression too if you are having problems with aggression.

Before we go any further though, we want to quickly say that adding dither fish to a heavily stocked tank can make the situation worse so only ever take this route if your tank has the space available for the fish.

Dither Fish For Discus!

Here is the short list of our recommended dither fish for a discus with all of these species having been used by the community successfully and being proven to work in a tank with a discus:-

  • Tiger Barbs
  • Tetras
  • Rasboras
  • Danios
  • Silver Dollars
  • Livebearers

We often see people make the mistake of adding multiple species to use as dither fish for their discus but this really isn’t needed in the vast majority of tank setups.

We would always recommend that you go with a single species and just be done with it.

Tiger Barbs

In our opinion, tiger barbs are the best dither fish for any type of cichlid and they have been proven to work time and time again within the fish keeping community.

In the vast majority of situations, adding at least four tiger barbs to your tank, ideally six if you have the space available will help to encourage their schooling behavior and get them working as dither fish.

Not only can their schooling movements help to calm your discus and help them come out of hiding but it can also calm aggression in the tank too.

It makes take a day or two for the discus to accept the tiger barbs and for your tiger barbs to get used to their environment but in time, we are confident that tiger barbs will be able to meet your needs.


Tetras are another very popular option for dither fish for discus as well as any other type of commonly kept cichlid fish and their low price makes tetras a very attractive option.

The various colors available for the different types of tetras also offers some customization for the colors that you will be adding to your tank if you want to keep to a set color scheme.

You will usually want to keep a minimum of six tetras to encourage schooling but no more than ten as to many tetras used as a dither fish can end up stressing your discus due to their constant swimming and random direction changes.

Here are some of the more common types of tetras that you can use as dither fish for your discus:-

  • Neon Tetras.
  • Cardinals.
  • Glowlight Tetras.
  • Black Neons.
  • Diamond Tetras.

Most people will only ever need to go with neon tetras though due to their low price, great performance as dither fish, and their wide availability.


Rasboras come in just behind tetras due to their slightly higher price tag, larger size making it more difficult to get them to work in smaller tanks that are already close to maximum stocking, and the difficulty in getting some types of rasboras.

Still, many people do use rasboras as a dither fish for their discus as well as other types of cichlids with minimal issues.

Just like tetras, you really do need to be trying to add a minimum of six rasboras to your tank but not more than ten but the larger maximum length of rasboras means that they will take up more of the stocking space in your tank pushing them down our list.

Here are some of the types of rasboras that you are able to use as dither fish in your tanks:-

  • Harlequin Rasbora.
  • Neon Rasbora.
  • Glowlight Rasbora.
  • Panda Rasbora.
  • Scissortail Rasbora.


Although you are able to use a number of different types of danios as dither fish for your discus and most of them will work, there does tend to be a correlation with giant danios being the better option.

If possible, we would recommend that you go with giant danios rather than any other type of danios if you do settle on this species as your dither fish option.

Still, if you really do have your heart set on one of the other types of danio, they can work but they are usually just a little less effective than giant danios.

Silver Dollars

Although many people do recommend silver dollars as a dither fish for cichlids with many people successfully using them, there seems to be just as much chance of silver dollars ending up being an easy meal for your discus.

Due to this, we wanted to include them in our list but make our readers aware that there are definitely better options out there and that we would recommend that you go with one of the options on our list if possible.


Our final entry on our list of dither fish options for discus are livebearers, although we do like live bearers due to their bright colors and patterns as well as their performance as dither fish, they do tend to be one of the least effective performers available.

Ideally, you will be going with tiger barbs, tetras or rasboras but if you do like livebearers such as guppies, platies, and mollies, they can work but it does tend to take more time for them to work and calm your discus fish down.

You also have to keep in mind that livebearers can breed rapidly so we would recommend that you only purchase your livebearers from someone who can provide you with only male or only female fish.

This will prevent you from having problems with the population of the live bearers in your tank rapidly increasing.