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. Keep reading to learn how to best care for this incredible “wet pet” and see if it’s the right fish for you.
What are Oscar Fish?
Astronotus Ocellatus can be found all across South America. They are most often found in areas with slow-moving water and shelters such as rock or tree roots. 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 development slows for the rest of their 10- to 20-year lifespan.
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.
Although this albino oscar may look adorable as a youngster in the pet shop, it can eventually grow to be as long as a hotdog.
How to Set Up an Aquarium for Oscars
Oscars can survive in tropical temperatures of 74-80°F (23-27°C) and pH levels between 6-8. They are a large fish and produce a lot of waste so they need to be properly filtered. Our oscars have been equipped with sponge, canister, internal and hang-on back filters. 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.
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 that doesn’t work out, be ready to get rid of some 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 eventually had to be moved into a different tank.
What do oscars like in their tank? Decorations can be a challenge since oscars are very large, powerful fish that like to rearrange their environment and uproot plants. Aim for decorations with no sharp edges so that your oscar won’t be injured if he tries to move them. Also, don’t add too many decorations that can impede their movement and take up valuable swimming space.
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. 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?
Although they prefer protein, omnivores will eat any edible food they find. Their diet includes small fish, insects, crustaceans and worms. They also eat fruits, nuts, fruits, and vegetables that are thrown into the water. 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. Finally, you also give them live snails and earthworms if they are easy to obtain.
Vita-Chem supplementation may be an option to help avoid “holes in the heads” diseases. 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
Oscars are rarely intentionally bred because the females can lay thousands to hundreds of eggs. It is also difficult to find homes to so many large fish. Oscars can be difficult to sexually sex because the appearances of both males as well as females is almost identical. Venting is a method that involves turning the fish upside down and inspecting the reproductive area. This can be done when the oscars reach around 1-1 1/2 years of age. 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.
However, even if you identify a male and female, they may be picky and not willing to pair up. Some people purchase six juveniles and wait until they are old enough to form pairs. Then, they isolate the chosen pair and place them in their own tanks with no other fish. The female lays her eggs in a flat rock or other area at the bottom of the tank. Once the male fertilizes the eggs, they both aggressively guard their brood against would-be 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 have teamed up and will fiercely defend eggs during breeding periods.
Oscars are a wonderful fish to own and can provide many years worth of enjoyment if you are willing. 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.