Are you looking for an intelligent pet in your aquarium, which can interact with you or display playful tantrums!
Astronotus Ocellatus, or the Oscar fish, is the answer, as this unique aquatic can react to actions outside the tank.
These are from the cichlid family, and have always attracted aquarists with their unconditional temperament, and attractive color variations.
They belong to the prominent river basins of South America.
The fish’s popularity has made it stamp global footprints, primarily for its ornamental importance in the fish-keeping industry.
Here, in this article, we are going to focus on the basic of caring for the Oscar fish, considering the breeding patterns, compatible mates, and how to manage the tank setup.
Oscar Fish Care Guide
Oscars are popular in home aquariums, and both novice and experienced fish keepers are interested in purchasing them.
Considering their size, native habitat, breeding culture, compatibility with other mates, and what actually makes them happy; you should follow the guidelines advised by experts after years of research on the fish’s lifestyle.
This care guide will provide the chronological order of maintaining the fish in various situations.
Quick Tip: Irrespective of their charm and sensitivity, fish are hardy and can thrive suitably without much care given, but you must not take them for granted.
How to Care for Them in an Aquarium?
The Oscars live in the Amazon, Ica, Negro, Solimoes, Ucayali, Approuague, and Oyapock rivers.
These are territorial species of freshwater; hence, it is difficult for them to adjust to cool water temperatures.
Oscars prefer white-water regions with the least disturbances or movements, which are filled with muddy sediments that create a neutral pH. They are often observed settling down under the branches of the plants.
The fish is accustomed to these natural parameters and essentials. You must follow the pattern closer to this, while petting the fish efficiently.
Required Water Parameters
Since the Oscar fish is native to hot or warm countries, it is obvious to maintain a warm temperature in the tank water.
Other than that, the first and foremost thing to ensure is the cleanliness of waste materials from the aquarium.
There are other ratios that should be considered while maintaining the water in the Oscar fish aquarium.
- The suitable water temperature for Oscar fish is between 22 – 25 Degrees Celsius, which is to be increased by 5 degrees during the breeding session.
- The suitable water acidity is between 6.5 – 7.2 pH, which is almost a neutral range.
- They can only thrive in freshwater. So, do not add salt to the water.
- Keep replacing 20% – 40% of the water weekly instead of all at once.
Note: The impurities can affect the pH levels in the water, which will hamper the fish’s health.
What is the Tank Size for Oscar Fish?
Petting a fish in a fish tank is a systematic process that one should consider and follow. When purchased through an online sale, the Oscar fish are babies of less than one inch in size.
In this condition, you may keep them in a small tank of 20 gallons in size. But smaller tanks should only be used as a temporary alternative, since you will require a bigger tank very soon.
This fish can grow as fast as 1 inch per month under suitable food and water conditions, and is observed to reach about 18 inches when fully grown in the wild.
As a result, you should provide them with at least 75 gallons of tank space to live comfortably. If you intend to keep more than one fish, increase the tank size accordingly.
What Fish Can Live with Oscars?
Though being an active participant in interacting with humans, this fish is not considered fit to live in a community. The reason is their uncontrolled aggression towards other species.
This fish dominates with predatory skills and is keen to attack every other fish that is peaceful, timid, and smaller in size.
But only a few categories of fish can survive mutually with the Oscar fish. They easily match up with their size and behavior to thrive calmly and maintain the elegance of the aquarium.
Here is a list of fish that are considered best tank mates of Oscars.
Tank Setup Ideas for Oscar Fish
These species display peculiarity in their living standards and take time to adjust to the surroundings.
They try to change the aquarium settings, and in this act, they intentionally or unintentionally dismantle the well-placed objects.
There are certain accessories and necessary equipment which you can induce in the fish tank with Oscars to let them easily & healthily adapt to the homely environment.
Do They Like Plantation:
The Oscars have a tendency to dig into the substrate, which eventually uproots the plants. Experts usually advise against putting rooted vegetation in their tanks.
However, Banana plants, Java Fern, and Java Moss are some hardy greens for fish tanks that can survive on low light and some fertilizers. These fish will find it difficult to uproot them.
Oscars, in their natural habitat, love to reside under the plant roots lying in the water. Hence, you can mimic the same environment by setting up floating plants in their aquarium.
Does the Tank Requires Lighting:
They are not nocturnal, and perform most of their activities in the daytime. But this fish usually does not get affected by low or high voltage lights in the water.
You can surely use some LEDs to enhance the visibility of the fish’s glitter, while it will also be nutritious for the plantations.
Best Substrate for Oscar Fish:
The substrate is always an essential part of an aquarium, and these fish prefer the bottom filled with sand along with gravel.
They like to penetrate their mouths inside the sand or misplace or re-place everything, sometimes by spitting from their mouths.
Tip: You must put 1 – 2 inches thick substrate and avoid harsh elements, which might hurt them while digging.
Toys or Decorative Items for Oscar:
These fish are always expressive and analyze the enclosing objects. They would either hit the rocks and stones to change their place, or hit the tank tools, resulting in their dislocation.
So, inducing simple tank toys will help the fish engage in activities and distract them from breaking the usable items. You can also add a few hidden objects like pipes or wood logs.
Quick Tip: The Oscars have the ability to jump above the water surface; therefore, you must also put a lid cover over the tank.
It is a known fact that leftover food items or decaying plants quickly rot and decompose, distorting water quality with time.
In addition to this, the Oscars are habitual of creating a lot of mess in the area as they spread the food items, which stay unconsumed over the substrate.
- Apart from regular water changes, you can use canister filters, which are the best filters for such a tank in terms of customization and ease of usage.
- If there is a lack of oxygen, the fish eats less, makes gill movements less frequently, or reaches to the top more frequently. Air-stones are the best solution for these tanks because they create fewer movements, and you can use as many as the fish require based on size and number.
- Water heaters are also necessary, especially in cold countries, as these fish cannot survive cold waters.
How to Keep Oscar Fish Happy?
The Oscars are special aquarium fish as they often behave like pet dogs while replying in a specific manner to the owners, and due to this, they are often called water dogs.
It tends to perform several activities, like shaking its head, body, and tail, to attract the attention of the viewers, or may even revert to its original action by rolling over.
To keep them happy and stress-free, you can regularly interact with them or try training them for specific moves.
The Oscars are able to recognize the actions of humans and love to display their own tantrums.
You must also take care to provide the best food, a suitable environment, and compatible mates.
How do the Oscars Reproduce?
This fish presents a lot of difficulties in artificial breeding methods.
The most confusing part is to identify males and females among them for segregating potential pairs from the group of mature or 2+ years old fish.
The experts advise putting a few of the mature specimens together with other necessary requirements in the tank. The opposite genders will eventually mate.
You must follow the step-by-step process given here to get positive results from breeding Oscar fish.
Step 1: Collect mature pairs of at least 4.5 inches in a separate tank.
Step 2: These are egg layers and open spawners, so you can induce smooth stones in the water to collect spawn.
Step 3: Keep the water clean by keeping with a temperature between 26 and 30 Degree Celsius.
Step 4: Feed the fish with nutritious food items like live meat in the form of worms, or crickets. Frozen foods like shrimp or prawns will also do well.
Note: This fish can complete approximately 4 reproductive cycles each year, for almost 10 years after maturity.
Step 5: Some times, the males are observed to follow the females and touch each other’s tails and bodies.
Step 6: After mating, the pregnant Oscar females take about 2 – 3 days on average to spawn 2000 – 3000 eggs over the smooth surface.
Fact: Smaller females lay 300 – 500 eggs, while larger ones can lay up to 3000 eggs
Step 7: The spawned eggs will hatch in another 3 – 4 days, and the fry will feed on the sac liquid for about a week. Both the parents equally protect the eggs and fry.
Step 8: Next provide junior fish food such as infusoria and baby shrimp.
Step 9: The juveniles should be fed about three times in a day.
Step 10: Keep cleaning the tank.
How to Keep a Healthy Pair of Oscars in a Tank
The Oscars are typical cichlid species that prefer to live their aquarium life in their own way.
The species living in the wild can live for about 20 years, but in captivity, they often live only up to 10 years.
The fish, though being tough in style, requires care in terms of feeding, or getting over health issues.
What to Feed an Oscars Fish?
These are carnivore species by choice, although sometimes they are found nipping over plant leaves or steps, which could be due to hunger or more significant gaps in feeding schedules.
The Oscars are known to eat almost everything that comes in their way, but you must ensure quality food is in their diet.
They can eat meat in all forms, whether frozen or live, although it is seen that they prefer more live food than frozen or supplements, when they become adults.
A study was conducted on meat products of warm-blood mammals to understand the effects of these on Cichlids.
This research proved that pork, beef heart, or anything which was once considered a staple food is actually quite harmful. Excess proteins and fats can severely damage their internal organs.
So, you can feed them with pellets or flakes, usually at a younger age. And in addition to this, pieces of insects, earthworms, shrimps, and prawn meat are quite suitable.
At a later age, you can give them live Worms, Guppies, or Goldfish, which are the best diet for Oscar fish.
Occasionally, they also settle down for green vegetation in one of the feeding schedules of the day. They also accept fruits and soft nuts like peanuts.
Diseases That Can Hamper the Oscars and Ways to Cure Them
These species are resistant to disease because they adapt well to their surroundings.
But one must consider inspecting them regularly for any sort of disturbances in their living patterns; since, the purpose is to cure the ailments, if any, and cancel out their severity.
A prominent solution to any of the diseases or infection is to clean, disinfect, and quarantine everything before introducing it into the fish tank. Most of the time, the bacterial infections reach the tank through them.
Hole in the Head: It is one of the common issues that is observed at the Oscars. It is particularly the Head and Lateral Line Erosion or HLLE, where small holes are formed over its head and face.
The major cause is the deficiency in Vitamin C, D, Calcium, or Phosphorus, which could be the result of impurities in water, over-use of chemicals like active carbons, or lack of nutrition in the diet.
Cloudy Eye: This is a unique condition when a white spot develops on the eye of the Oscar fish. It can be caused by a low pH value, an excess of ammonia and nitrate, or an impurity in water. But it can be cured through a continuous healthy diet while improving the water quality.
Skin Flukes: This is another problem that is seen in a few Oscars, which is caused by infections related to parasites, bacteria, or fungus.
Injuries: Oscars, due to their arrogance, tend to fight, which can cause them to injure themselves while consuming other fish or preying over small ones. Regular monitoring will help cure the injured area and stop the infection.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is my Oscar fish laying on its side?
Sickness, high stress levels, or weakness are the main reasons for such behavior by the fish.
Oscars frequently take time to adjust to new settings or tanks, and they may also feel depressed after a battle with a mate.
Lack of appetite and bad water conditions may also create trouble, leading the fish to lie on its side.
Can Oscars live with African Cichlids?
Both these species have high anger levels, where African Cichlids are way more aggressive and impulsive in reaction, ending up irritating or severely injuring the Oscars.
Another reason for their non-compatibility is that Oscars need soft water with a neutral pH, while African Cichlids can survive comfortably in hard water with high pH.
Do the Oscar fish bite?
These fish possess long teeth about 2.5 mm in their jaws and throat, which they use to chew the food particles.
But though being reactive to human directions, the fish can bite your fingers if they feel uncomfortable. Therefore, you must stay careful while putting your hands inside the fish tank.
Do they require air pumps?
Every fish needs oxygenated water in the tank, and most of the requirements are met by the air-stones, if used properly.
There are few aquatics that need an excess of oxygen levels, and for them, it is essential to install air pumps. Oscars do not like water movements, so experienced keepers advise against using such equipment.
But in the case of excess water impurities, oxygen levels decrease, leading to trouble for the fish because air-stones are incapable here.
In such situations, air pumps with a moderate flow can be helpful.
Which are the best cleaner fish for Oscar tank?
Large Plecos easily adjust with the Oscar fish, and the best part is that these fish are also considered cleaners, though not very efficient.
So, if you create a shared space with Oscars, then having Pleco fish will assist in controlling green growth. While they also consume food particles falling down on the bottom and left uneaten, and preventing them from rotting.
How do they sleep?
Oscars are extremely territorial fish, and from the beginning of their induction into the tank, they start claiming their chosen area in the tank.
So, they return to their home when the night falls or in the dark. It may be in a corner close to the walls, near a piece of equipment, or in a rock hole.
The eyes remain open even while they are sleeping, but the body shows negligible movements.
Can Oscars and Goldfish stay together as tank mates?
Many beginner hobbyists feel like putting all the glamorous fish together to enhance color variety in the aquarium. But never make a mistake with these two fish, as on its first chance, the Oscars will hunt the Goldfish down.
Other than that, there are different environmental requirements, as Goldfish require water temperatures of around 20 degrees Celsius, which is far below Oscar’s needs.
Even if they are kept together, both these fish are mess creators, which will disturb each other’s health conditions.
How many of them can you keep together?
It is always recommended to keep Oscars in a group so that they stay stress-free and remain engaged in co-activities.
In-home aquariums, you can keep a minimum of 4 – 5 of these species together, and thus, accordingly, you can increase the tank size to 140 Gallons.
Can Humans Eat Oscars
Yes, this fish possesses no dangerous elements, and anyone can consume it on a regular diet. Countries like Florida promote many popular recipes with it.
But the only problem that may persist while eating such species is that they are highly preferred as aquarium fish.
Now there are high chances of it being released from an owner into the river due to sickness and a possibility of medication intake, which can disturb humans’ health.
Petting an Oscar fish in home aquariums is a great experience as it not just beautifies the vision, but also entertains the visitors by its communicative acts.
Like any other fish, there are a few complications to caring for them, but by following the guidelines correctly, one can easily handle them in the long run.