History of the Pigeon Blood Discus

An insight into the origin of the fish which changed the discus hobby forever and the man that had the vision…

The pigeon blood discus strain was developed by Thai discus breeder Kitti Phanaitthi in 1989. They were named after the rubies of the same name found within the Mokok Mine (Myanmar). This name was given by Kitti because some of the fish exhibited deep red coloured eyes. This strain was a result of an initial crossing of a unique Striped Turquoise male originally from Schmidt-Focke lineage (this fish was unusual with a golden base, violet stripes and black dusting ‘peppering’ all over). He had obtained this fish from a friend for ฿100,000 (Thai baht) which was approximately $3000 (U.S) and bred it with a Red Turquoise female (Schmidt-Focke) owned by Kitti himself.. 

Schmidt-Focke ‘Red Turquoise’ (Photo: Eberhard Schulze) (Below Left)


The original Schmidt-Focke ‘Striped Turquoise’ strain still exists in the hobby today. This fish is owned by customer: Vasilios Riniotis of Greek Discus (Greece). (Above Right)

50% of the initial breeding resulted in Red Turquoise individuals and the other 50% were the Striped Turquoise. These individuals had the ‘pigeon blood’ phenotype from the father which included a lot of black spotting (peppering) on a pale orange / yellow base with noticeable yellow or occasionally red eyes.

The true pigeon blood strain was never stabilised (it didn’t breed true). A stabilised ‘strain’ must produce 100% of the young identical to the parents, but many many individuals harbouring the pigeon gene were shipped worldwide and the almost amelanistic gene was spread across the globe after Kitti exhibited the fish at Aquarama 1991. These hence manifested in multiple locations thereafter.


Kitti at Aquarama 1991 with Heiko Bleher   Concept of True breeding

Pigeon blood types have been refined through selective breeding over many years by breeders around the world (including Kitti himself) who saw the value of this genetic mutation. Not only for the creation of new marketable strains but more specifically the removal of the dark pigment within the base colour allowed for accentuation of the pattern layer amongst many other possibilities. A way to deliberately induce amelanism (although not very effective without a few generations of selective breeding).  

The original phenotype of the’Kitti’ Pigeon Blood (Below Left)


The original Kitti Phanaitthi ‘Pigeon Blood’ strain (after considerable selective breeding to reduce the peppering) (Above Right)
Detailed information and further history on Kitti Phanaitthi and his Pigeon Blood strain as well as an insight into the breeders of the last 60 years can be found in Heiko Bleher’s book “Bleher’s Discus Volume 2” available exclusively in the U.K. only from C.E. Fish Essentials.

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