Skip to main content
Log in

Costs and benefits of biparental mucus provisioning in discus fish (Symphysodon aequifasciatus)

  • Short Report
  • Published:
Ichthyological Research Aims and scope Submit manuscript


We tested the manner in which the number of fry influences the costs and benefits of mucus provisioning in discus fish (Symphysodon aequifasciatus) via two experiments. In experiment-1, we found that fry grew more rapidly when they were raised with parents than when raised without parents, suggesting that fry benefits from the mucus provisioning by parents. In experiment-2, a reduction in the body weight of parents correlated with brood size. The growth rate of fry did not linearly correlate with brood size. We discuss the functions, costs, and benefits of mucus provisioning in discus fish.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Similar content being viewed by others


  • Azuma H (1991) Parental care behavior of Uaru amphiacanthoides. In: Azuma H, Sakamoto Y, Sakurai A, Urano T (eds) Encyclopedia of tropical fish breeding. Fish Magazine press, Tokyo, pp 134–135

  • Balshine-Earn S (1995) The costs of parental care in Galilee St Peter’s fish, Sarotherodon galilaeus. Anim Behav 50:1–7

  • Booth D, Alquezar R (2002) Food supplementation increases larval growth, condition and survival of Acanthochromis polyacanthus. J Fish Biol 60:1126–1133

  • Buckley J, Maunder RJ, Foey A, Pearce H, Val AL, Sloman KA (2010) Biparental mucus feeding: a unique example of parental care in an Amazonian cichlid. J Exp Biol 213: 3787–3795

  • Crampton WG (2008) Ecology and life history of an Amazon floodplain cichlid: the discus fish Symphysodon (Perciformes: Cichlidae). Neotrop Ichthyol 6:599–612

  • Clutton-Brock TH (1991) The evolution of parental care. Princeton University Press.

  • Dijkstra C, Bult A, Bijlsma S, Daan S, Meijer T, Zijlstra M (1990) Brood size manipulations in the kestrel (Falco tinnunculus): Effects on offspring and parental survival. J Anim Ecol 59:269–285

  • Godfray HCJ, Parker GA (1991) Clutch size, fecundity and parent-offspring conflict. Philos Trans R Soc London B 332:67–79

  • Godfray HCJ, Parker GA (1992) Sibling competition, parent-offspring conflict and clutch size. Anim Behav 43:473–490

  • Gross MR, Sargent RC (1985) The evolution of male and female parental care in fishes. Am Zool 25:807–822

  • Hildemann WH (1959) A cichlid fish, Symphysodon discus, with unique nurture habits. Am Nat 93:27–34

  • Jordan LA, Herbert-Read JE, Ward AJ (2013) Rising costs of care make spiny chromis discerning parents. Behav Ecol Sociobiol 67:449–455

  • Noakes DL (1979) Parent-touching behavior by young fishes: incidence, function and causation. Environ Biol Fish 4:389–400

  • McKaye KR (1986) Trophic eggs and parental foraging for young by the catfish Bagrus meridionalis of Lake Malawi, Africa. Oecologia 69:367–369

  • Kavanagh K (1998) Notes on the frequency and function of glancing behavior in juvenile Acanthochromis (Pomacentridae). Copeia 1998:493–496

  • Ota K, Kohda M (2014) Maternal food provisioning in a substrate-brooding African cichlid. PloS One 9:e99094

  • Perrins CM (1965) Population fluctuation and clutch size in the great tit. Parus major. J Anim Ecol 34:601–647

  • R core team (2014) R: A language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna, Austria: R Foundation for Statistical Computing.

  • Reynolds JD, Goodwin NB, Freckleton RP (2002) Evolutionary transitions in parental care and live bearing in vertebrates. Philos Trans R Soc London B Biol Sci 357:269–281

  • Satoh S, Tanaka H, Kohda M (2016) Facial recognition in a discus fish (Cichlidae): experimental approach using digital models. PloS One 11:e0154543

  • Satoh S, Tanoue H, Ruitton S, Mohri M, Komatsu T (2017) Morphological and behavioral ontogeny in larval and early juvenile discus fish Symphysodon aequifasciatus. Ichthyol Res 64:37–44

  • Schütz M, Barlow GW (1997) Young of the Midas cichlid get biologically active nonnutrients by eating mucus from the surface of their parents. Fish Physiol Biochem 16:11–18

  • Trivers R (1972) Parental investment and sexual selection. In: Campbell B, ed. Sexual Selection and the Descent of Man 1871-1971: Aldine Press. pp 139–179

  • Trivers R (1974) Parent–offspring conflict. Am. Zool. 14: 249–264

  • Wisenden BD, Lanfranconi TL, Keenleyside MH (1995) Fin digging and leaf lifting by the convict cichlids, Cichlasoma nigrofasciatum: example of parental food provisioning. Anim. Behav. 49:623–631

Download references


We thank the member of Animal Sociology Laboratory of Osaka City University and Fisheries Technology Laboratory of National Fisheries University and M Kuratsu, an ornamental fish breeder, for their helpful comments. We followed the “Guidelines for the use of fishes in research” of the Ichthyological Society of Japan. S.S.was financially supported by KAKENHI (No. H17J11490) for this study.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Shun Satoh.

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Satoh, S., Tanoue, H. & Mohri, M. Costs and benefits of biparental mucus provisioning in discus fish (Symphysodon aequifasciatus). Ichthyol Res 65, 510–514 (2018).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: