Care Guide for Oscar Fish – The South American “Water Dog”
Oscar cichlids are one of the most popular fish sold at pet stores because of their beautiful colors and unique personality. These “water puppies”, also known as water dogs, are smart enough to recognize their owners and will walk up to you at the front of the aquarium to say hello. They can also be trained to eat from your hand. Also, they can get moody and sulk at the bottom of the aquarium because you altered their environment by doing a water change or moving the decorations. However, many people don’t realize they grow to the length of an American football and can live as long as a dog. Continue reading to find out how to care for this amazing “wet pet” and to see if it is the right fish.
What are Oscar Fish?
Astronotus ocellatus can often be found in South America in countries that have slow-moving waters and trees roots or rock. You may find juveniles as small as 2-3 inches (8-8 cm) in a pet store, but adults can grow to 10-12 inches (25-30cm) or greater. They can grow rapidly and often reach two-thirds of their adult sizes within six-12 months. Then development slows for the rest of their 10- to 20-year lifespan.
What is the difference between oscar fish types? The cichlid has big, bright eyes and a variety of colors. The most well-known type is the Tiger Oscar. It has bright, red-orange markings set against a dark background. Other varieties include albino, red, lemon, black and white, and long fin.
What is the cost of oscar-cichlids? Oscar cichlids are readily available and easy to raise at fish farms. We usually see smaller oscars priced between $7-9 and larger oscars around $15.
The albino Oscar is adorable as a puppy in the pet store, but it could one day reach the height of a hotdog.
How to Set Up an Aquarium for Oscars
Oscars are extremely hardy and can survive in tropical climates between 74-80degF (23-25degC) with pH levels of 6-8. Because they are large fish, they produce a lot waste and require adequate filtration. We have used hang-on-back, canister, internal, and sponge filters with our oscars. As long as the current is not too high, the filter can handle the bioload, and the filter can be easily cleaned, the type of filter does not really matter.
One of the most frequent questions we receive about their housing is “What size tank do we need for this number oscars?” Although some say a 55 gallon tank is sufficient, we believe that 75 gallons (280L) is better to allow them more swimming space. For two oscars, look for an aquarium that is 5-6 feet (1.5-1.8 m) in length and holds at least 90-100 gallons (350 L).
How many Oscars can be kept together? You can put several oscars into a large tank. However, they may become territorial or aggressive and you might have to remove them. If this doesn’t work, you can remove the fish. Three oscars were previously kept in a 125-gallon fish aquarium. However, two of them eventually formed a group and bullied the third. The third oscar was eventually forced to move into another tank.
Oscars love decorations in their tanks. They are powerful, large fish that like to rearrange the environment and root plants. Aim for decorations with no sharp edges so that your oscar won’t be injured if he tries to move them. You should also avoid adding too many decorations to your oscar’s swimming space and impede their movement.
Use simple decorations with rounded edges that won’t take up too much of the oscar’s swimming space.
What fish can live with oscar cichlids? Obviously, this species has a big mouth that can suck up any fish or invertebrates small enough to fit inside, so do not keep them with nano creatures. Despite their large size though, they are not overly aggressive (except during spawning seasons) and can be picked on by other big fish, so choose their tank mates carefully. They have been kept with peaceful, larger fish such as silver dollars, certain plecos and other small-sized South American Cichlids.
What does Oscar Cichlid eat?
These omnivores tend to prefer proteins, but they will opportunistically consume anything edible they can find. In the wild, they eat insects, crustaceans (worms), small fish, fruits and nuts that drop into the water. We prefer to feed high-quality fish food such as Hikari Cichlid Excel medium pellets and Xtreme Big Fella Pellets. Their favorite snacks include freeze-dried krill and crickets. You can also give live snails or earthworms to them if you have them.
Make sure to provide a wide variety of foods and consider adding Vita-Chem supplements to provide all the essential vitamins and minerals they need to avoid health issues like “hole in the head” disease. Oscars are very hungry and will eat anything they find. If they feel full, they should adjust their portions so they have a slightly round belly.
Large cichlids can be prone to hole-in-the-head disease, so keep their immune system healthy by feeding a varied diet with different kinds of foods.
How to Breed Oscar Fish
Most people do not intentionally breed oscars because females can lay hundreds to thousands of eggs and it’s very hard to find homes for so many large fish. Oscars can be difficult to sexually sex because the appearances of both males as well as females is almost identical. When the oscars are around 1-1.5 years old, you can try to identify their sex via a technique called venting, which involves flipping the fish on its back and examining the reproductive area. A male has two holes the same size as a female, while a female has one bigger hole and one smaller hole that is the “ovipositor”, which is the breeding tube that produces eggs.
But even if they are able to identify a male or female, they might be picky about pairing up. Therefore, some people buy a group of six juveniles, wait till they’re old enough to form pairs, and then isolate a chosen pair in their own tank with no other fish. The female will lay her eggs on a flat rock, or on a clear-out bottom area. After the male fertilizes eggs, the female and the male guard their brood aggressively against predators. Once the fry are hatched, transfer them to a smaller grow-out aquarium and give them tiny foods like baby brine shrimp. You should not leave them in the same aquarium as the parents. They may become pregnant on their own children once they have started swimming freely.
These red oscars are paired and will defend their eggs during breeding seasons.
If you’re willing to make the commitment, oscars are wonderful fish to keep and will give you many years of enjoyment. It is possible to rehome larger fish, but it can be difficult. Make sure you are able and able to care for them throughout their lives. For more information on smaller cichlids, check out our favorite species that you can keep in a 29-gallon aquarium.