The Pigeon Blood Discus

In 1989, Thai discus breeder Kitti Phanaitthi created a new strain of discus fish that would prove to become one of the most popular types of discus fish found in tanks worldwide. Named for its blood red colored eyes, the pigeon blood discus was named after rubies found inside the Mokok Mine in Myanmar. The pigeon blood discus came about as a result of cross breeding a unique male striped turquoise discus with a golden base, black spots, and violet stripes from
the Schmidt-Focke lineage (valued at nearly $3,000) with a female red turquoise discus of the same lineage, resulting in discus fish with coloration that had never been seen before.

During the initial breeding of the two discus fish, about 50% of individuals that resulted were red turquoise, and the other 50% were the striped turquoise. It was in these newly bred striped turquoise discus that the pigeon blood phenotype was displayed, passed on by the father. This phenotype is marked by black spotting, also called peppering, against a pale yellow-pale orange
base with defiant yellow and sometimes red eyes.

During this time, however, a true pigeon blood strain never actually took hold, as in order for a strain to “hold true”, it must produce young that are of identical coloration to the parent fish 100% of the time. In 1991, however, Kitti exhibited his newly crafted pigeon blood discus at Aquarama, which stole the show and opened the door for the gene responsible for this pattern to be spread across the world, as discus breeders became intrigued by the strange marbling of
oranges and yellows against the nearly white nonpigmented portions of the body. The gene responsible for this strange phenotype is one that is amelanistic, meaning that when this gene is expressed, it results in a mutation that causes a lack of pigmentation (cells responsible for color) on the pigeon blood’s body.

Over the years, the pigeon blood phenotype has become more and more refined through the use of selective breeding. Most notably, through selective breeding, breeders were able to phase out the black peppering that was observed in Kitti’s original strains of pigeon bloods. Some aquarists note that by raising young pigeon blood discus in a tank with very bright lighting, that less black spots will be present in future generations. Removal of this dark peppering resulted in more vibrant coloration, and allowed for the base color to be accentuated against other, more aesthetic patterns.

The physical appearance of the pigeon blood discus is one of the most intricate of all the discus strains. With a base color that is typically a creamy yellow-orange, it is one of the more vibrant strains of discus fish that exist today. Its tail almost always black, and its head highlighted by bright red eyes, the pigeon blood discus is one of the most popular strains of discus fish among discus keepers, with a body color comparable to the colors seen during a sunrise.