Care Guide for Oscar Fish – The South American “Water Dog”
Because of their unique personalities and beautiful colors, Oscar cichlids have become a popular pet fish. 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. Many people don’t realize that they can live up to ten times as long as dogs and grow as tall as American footballs. Continue reading to find out how to care for this amazing “wet pet” and to see if it is the right fish.
What is Oscar Fish?
Astronotus ocellatus is found in countries all over South America, mostly in slow-moving waters that have tree roots, rock, or other shelter for them to hang around. 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. In fact, they often rapidly grow and achieve two-thirds of their adult size within the first 6-12 months. Then, their development slows down for the remainder of their 10- to-20-year life span.
What kinds of oscar fish are there? These cichlids have big, blue eyes and come in a wide range of colors. The most well-known type is the Tiger Oscar. It has bright, red-orange markings set against a dark background. There are also long fin, albino and red varieties.
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.
This albino oscar is very cute as a juvenile in the pet store but can one day grow to the length of a foot-long 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. They are a large fish and produce a lot of waste so they need to be properly filtered. With our oscars, we have used sponge, internal, canister and hang-on-back filters. The type of filter doesn’t really matter as long as the current is not too fast, it’s able to handle the bioload, and you are able to easily to clean it.
We get asked the most common question about their housing: “What size tank do you need to house this many oscars?” Some people believe a 55-gallon tank should be sufficient for one oscar. However, 75 gallons (280 liters) is better for them as they have more space to swim around. 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 you keep together? If you have the space, you can try to put multiple oscars in a monster tank, but you may run into issues where some of them are very territorial or more aggressive than expected. 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. Eventually, the third oscar had to be moved into another tank.
What are oscars fond of in their tank? Oscars are large and powerful fish that love to rearrange their environment, uproot plants, and reorganize their surroundings. 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 kind of fish can live with Oscar Cichlids? They aren’t aggressive despite their size, but they can be picked up by larger fish. They have been kept with peaceful, larger fish such as silver dollars, certain plecos and other small-sized South American Cichlids.
What do Oscar Cichlids eat?
They are omnivores and prefer protein but will also eat anything that is edible. In the wild, their diet includes insects, crustaceans, worms, small fish, fruits and nuts that fall into the water, and other vegetation. We prefer to feed high-quality fish food such as Hikari Cichlid Excel medium pellets and Xtreme Big Fella Pellets. They also enjoy frozen-dried crickets, mealworms, and freeze-dried krill. You can also give live snails or earthworms to them if you have them.
Vita-Chem supplements can be added to their diet to ensure they have a variety of food options. This will help to prevent health problems such as “hole in the brain” disease. Plus, oscars are very eager eaters that love to beg for food, even if they are already full, so adjust their portion size so they have a slightly rounded belly that is not too concave or swollen.
Large Cichlids may be susceptible to hole in the head disease. To keep them healthy, eat a varied diet that includes different types of food.
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 are difficult to sex since both the males and the females are almost indistinguishable in appearance. 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 small holes of the same size, whereas a female has one smaller hole and one larger hole that is the ovipositor (i.e., breeding tube used to lay 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. The male fertilizes the eggs and they guard their brood vigorously from any 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.
Oscars are a wonderful fish to own and can provide many years worth of enjoyment if you are willing. Just be aware that bigger fish can be hard to rehome, so make sure you are able to provide for them for the entire duration of their life. For more information on smaller cichlids, check out our favorite species that you can keep in a 29-gallon aquarium.