Choosing Suitable Oscar Fish Tankmates

Is your tank big enough?

I'll get straight to the point, is your aquarium big enough for one Oscar, plus some tankmates? You should already know that 55 gallons is the absolute minimum for one adult Oscar. If your aquarium does not meet this requirement then you have two choices, either stop reading now and enjoy what you've already got, or upgrade your aquarium by at least 75% and then come back and read the rest of the page. Sorry if that sounds a little bit harsh, but that really is your only two options. Most of the fish I am going to recommend as tank mates will require a minimum of 50 gallons just for themselves, not including the Oscar.

Choosing tank mates that are suitable

Remember that you can't put any fish in with an Oscar, you've got to choose fish that will be able to live in harmony with your Oscar. First and foremost, you cannot put small community fish in with an Oscar fish because they will just be an easy source of food. I would advise not adding anything less than 5 inches to an aquarium that contains an adult Oscar fish. The type of fish that you add to an aquarium is also important. For instance, we wouldn't recommend angelfish as a tank mate because they are quite delicate with their long flowing fins, plus they actually prefer the taller type aquariums. Tankmates don't necessarily have to be semi-aggressive themselves, shoaling fish such as Silver Dollars make an excellent tankmate because they are on the move all the time and feel safe amongst numbers. Some species of bottom-dwelling fish are sometimes a good alternative because they don't really come into contact with Oscars who tend to stick to the mid-or top layers of the water most of the time. Some smaller species of cichlids make very good tankmates because even though they are quite small, they still have the ability to stand up for themselves.

Beware of catfish

There are lots of different species of catfish in the world, quite a lot of them come from South America. Catfish do make very good tankmates for your Oscar, however, some people have encountered problems when trying to keep the smaller species of catfish with their Oscar.

Predatory fish always swallow their prey headfirst in order ensure all the fins are folded back and don't catch in the throat. When an Oscar decides it fancies catfish for dinner it will often take the catfish in its mouth and try and swallow it. When it realises that it's not going to be able to do this it tries to expel it. This is when problems arise. A lot of catfish have got spikes built into their fins. These spikes are extremely sharp as a lot of fishermen have found out. What happens is the spikes dig into the Oscars throat or mouth and the Oscar cannot spit the catfish out. Over the years, we've probably had about five cases of this exact thing happening. If my memory serves me well, at least one Oscar actually died because the person couldn't get the catfish out in time. The other cases involved the Oscars owner having to manually remove the fish from the tank and use tweezers to get the catfish out of the mouth of the Oscar. So really what I'm trying to get across is that even though catfish are a good tank mate, small catfish like Pictus species that don't grow much more than 6 inches could be a problem if purchased when very small.

Beware of fish that grow very big

This might sound like a bit of an obvious thing to say, but you've got to make sure you know what you are buying and how big it's going to get. When you buy a dog you know how big it's going to get, the same thing should apply when you buy a fish. A reputable fish store should have information listed on the front of the aquarium stating exactly how big the fish will get.

Pacu
Some fish stores sell what a lot of people assume are Piranha. In fact, in a lot of cases, these are Pacu, a vegetarian cousin of the Piranha. Unless you are an experienced fish keeper with a very large aquarium, these type of fish are completely unsuitable for the majority of fish tanks as they get extremely big. Pacu do actually have the potential to reach 36 inches.

Plecostomus
Another fish which you are bound to come across at your fish store is called the Plecostomus. Although not always obvious to some people, they are also a member of the catfish family. These fish are primarily algae eaters but will scavenge on any food other fish leave behind. These are normally sold at fairly small sizes, anywhere between two and 3 inches. However, there are a few species of Plecostomus that can easily exceed 24 inches and weigh several pounds. A lot of people buy them because they think they are going to keep the aquarium clean of algae. To a certain extent, that is true, some of these fish will keep the glass spotless. However, I'm sure you've heard of the saying, "what goes in, has to come out". These fish are the exception, what goes in comes out in gargantuan amounts of poo. They are also big polluters of aquarium water so my advice is don't be fooled into thinking this fish is going to save your work, it won't, in fact, it will actually make more work for you in the long run. The most common of these species found in fish stores are the Sailfin and Common, both of which are not suitable for anyone with aquariums less than 100 gallons. There are quite a few species of this fish that don't get any bigger than six or 7 inches so you may be better off getting one of these If you are limited in space.

Black Banded Leporinus - Leporinus fasciatus

Leporinus make wonderful tank mates

A few suitable tankmates

Silver Dollars - Metynnis hypsauchen - 6"

Silver Dollars don't like being on their own so should be kept in groups of a minimum of three. They are extremely placid and make excellent tank mates. Make sure that you have a supply of vegetarian food if you keep silver dollars more info...

Black Convict Cichlids - Archocentrus nigrofasciatus- 6"

Although the Black Convict doesn't really get much bigger than 6 inches, it still makes an excellent choice for tank mate for an Oscar fish. I would advise putting in either a couple of pieces of rocks made into a cave, or a piece of wood as the black convict will appreciate the cover

Severum - Heros Severus - 12"

Severums really do make excellent tank mates for Oscars as they can stand up for themselves perfectly okay and are more than capable of competing for food more info...

Jade Eyed Cichlid - Cryptoheros spilurus - 6"

The Jade Eyed Cichlid is a Central American cichlid. Whereas I'm not in favour of mixing fish from different parts of the world, this was one cichlids that did work well with my Oscars.

Black Banded Leporinus - Leporinus fasciatus - 12"

I absolutely adore my Leporinus, they are not aggressive and keep themselves to themselves. However they can occasionally nip at other fishes fins but it's not something you should worry about. They can be a little timid and skittish so any sudden movements in front of the tank will startle them. These fish absolutely love peas

Jurupari Earth Eater - Satanoperca jurupari - 10"

These Earth Eater fish are very placid & like being in groups, from my experience they don't do very well on their own. They will eat sinking food and blood worm so can compete for food easily. If you have a group of them they are fantastic addition to your aquarium

Blue Acara - Andinoacara pulcher - 8"

These little chaps can be fairly aggressive so will stand up to Oscars. My advice would be to purchase these as adults as they can find it difficult to compete for food when they are very small, especially if you got more than one Oscar.

Firemouth - Thorichthys meeki - 8"

This relatively small cichlid that doesn't normally exceed 8 inches is another fish that will more than stick up for itself if sharing a tank with an Oscar

Plecostomus - Hypostomus plecostomus - 18" +

Often abbreviated to Plecs or Plecos, these bottom dwelling fish are very popular as people buy them for their ability to cleanse the tank of algae. However, please be aware that some species of Pleco can well exceed 12 inches, in fact some species such as the Sailfin and Common can even exceed 18 inches. The larger specimens of Pleco need large aquariums, in excess of 100 gallons so please don't buy these fish unless you have the facility to house one properly

Chocolate Cichlids - Hypselecara temporalis - 12"

Chocolate cichlids come from South America. Even though these cichlids can easily reach 12 inches, they are actually very peaceful. So long as your Oscar isn't aggressive, and your aquarium size permits, a Chocolate cichlid could make a very good tank mate

Obviously there are many more fish that you could put in with your Oscar, these are just a few Examples of the more common tank mates that people keep with their Oscar fish.

The sizes quoted on this page are meant to give you an idea of how big these fish can get. It isn't guaranteed that these fish will get this big in your aquarium. If you are unsure about what fish to mix with your Oscars then please visit our forum and seek advice...

Setting up an Oscar Fish Tank

Before rushing out to buy your first Oscar take some time to look at what is involved in keeping one of these fish. Surprisingly, Oscars can live for over 10 years, that's the same as a pet dog. So it's important that you understand that getting an Oscar is a long-term commitment to looking after your fish's welfare. Your Oscar is going to rely solely on you to make sure that it's home is clean and safe at all times. Your commitment to your Oscar will mean carrying out tank maintenance at least once a week for the entirety of your fish's life. Changing water and cleaning substrate shouldn't take more than one hour every week, but it will be a task that cannot be overlooked or ignored.

Aquariums cost money to run

You should consider the cost of keeping a large aquarium running 24/7. You will need a heater and a filter running every single day of the year. Because Oscars are tropical fish the aquarium water must be kept warm at all times. A 55-gallon aquarium is going to require a minimum of 200 W of heating that must be switched on all the time (imagine leaving the house lights on 24/7 in two or three rooms of your house). Filters won't use as much power, but they will still need to be kept running at all times. Many of us have water meters and therefore pay for what you use. The bigger the tank, the bigger the water change each week. Then you've got your food on top of all this, plus any medication that may be needed. The biggest mistake you can make is thinking that an aquarium doesn't cost anything to run. Big aquariums can not only increase your electric bill each year but also the water bill at the same time.

The correct size aquarium

Having the correct size aquarium for an Oscar is absolutely paramount. You wouldn't buy a Saint Bernard dog if you lived in a tiny one-room flat, would you? So why people think they can house a large Oscar in a 25-gallon tank is anyone's guess. Remember that Oscar fish can reach 12 inches + as adults. That's a large fish that needs a fairly big aquarium. One adult Oscar must have at least 55 gallons of water to itself. If you are able to get a larger aquarium then we would always advise you to do this. Keeping tropical fish is highly addictive and once you've got one fish, you normally want more. So what if you want two Oscars or several tankmates? Start thinking about an aquarium in excess of 100 gallons. I can absolutely promise you that trying to keep two Oscars in anything less than 100 gallons will result in extra tank maintenance. You'll find yourself having to change the water more than once a week and carry out filter cleaning more often. The worst thing you can do is give yourself too much work to the because after a while you will get bored with it and the chances are the fish will then start getting neglected.

Aquariums come in many shapes and sizes. When choosing a tank for your Oscar you should opt for a tank that will allow the Oscar to swim back-and-forth quite easily. Therefore, avoid dome and hexagon -shaped aquariums, they don't have enough length in them to allow the Oscar room to swim freely.

If you are buying from the fish store then they will be able to tell you exactly how many gallons the tank holds. However, if you are buying second-hand then it's not always apparent how many gallons the tank holds. Using this simple aquarium size calculator, you can enter the dimensions of the tank and it will give you an accurate reading of exactly how many gallons/litres the aquarium holds.

There are a few companies who manufacture very large aquariums. Very large aquariums are by no means cheap, but if you are intending on keeping lots of big fish then you're going to need one of these very big tanks. Check out fish tanks direct.com, they manufacture aquariums in excess of 350 gallons. You can customise the aquarium and have all your filtration system fitted as well. If you are going to get serious about keeping Oscars and large fish then this is probably the best direction to go.

US/UK gallons converter

If for some reason you want to convert US gallons into UK imperial gallons, or vice versa than this UK/US Gallons Converter chart is very handy

Always use a secure aquarium hood

I really can't emphasise enough how important it is that you have a secure lid on your aquarium if you are keeping Oscar fish. For some reason Oscars like jumping. I believe that in the wild they will often jump out of the water to catch insects from overhanging leaves and branches. They seem to replicate this in the aquarium as I've seen them jumping out of the water to catch small flies. Even a medium-size Oscar can lift the lid a couple of inches on a 125-gallon aquarium. Some tanks don't have lids, they just have the lights suspended above the water. These are most definitely the worst design aquarium you could ever use with an Oscar. If you want to avoid finding your Oscar dried up on the floor in the morning then always use a secure lid on your fish tank.

The importance of good filtration

The filter is the absolute heart of your aquarium. The filter is very much like the liver or the kidneys, it filters out all the horrible stuff and makes sure that your water is always nice and clean in order for your fish to stay healthy. It's very important that the filter you use is able to circulate the water quick enough in order to remove all those dangerous toxins that can easily kill fish. For instance, if your tank is 60 gallons, make sure that you are using a filter that is rated for more than 100 gallons. I think it's fair to say that we tend to go a little bit overboard when keeping Oscars. Oscars are messy, they produce a lot of waste so you need that extra filtration.

Knowing how your filter media works

I think it's important that you understand what's inside your filter and how the different elements work to keep your water clean. All filters come with mechanical and biological filtration, some also contain chemical filtration. All three types of filter media have their own job to do and knowing what each one does is very important.

Mechanical filtration

Mechanical media normally comes in the form of a piece of sponge, often blue in colour. This type of media is there to catch any solid pieces of debris that the filters suck up. The debris can be anything from fish poo through to uneaten fish food. Depending on what size tank you've got, and how many fish you are keeping will determine how often you will need to remove the mechanical filtration for cleaning. Cleaning mechanical filtration is very straightforward, you can take it out of the filter and give it a rinse out in a bucket of existing tank water. This type of mechanical filtration can be changed every few months when it gets absolutely filthy.

Biological filtration

Biological media is what really keeps the whole aquarium alive. It's what removes all the toxins from the water and keeps the fish alive. Without biological filtration, your fish would be swimming around in a toxic soup. If you are using a canister filter then you will probably find it came with some strange -looking bags of material that either resembles little round balls, or little rings that look a bit like pasta. This, in fact, is your biological media and will be contained within the trays in the filter. This type of filter media is very porous and therefore the nitrifying bacteria have a really good surface to live on. The big advantage of using this type of biological media within a canister filter is that it really does an excellent job of dealing with ammonia and nitrite. Secondly, if you don't overstock your aquarium then you can often leave canister filters for longer intervals in between cleaning.

Chemical filtration (activated carbon)

You may have noticed a black sponge in your filter. This is what is called chemical filtration and it's designed to remove impurities from the water. The best use you can get from using chemical filtration is to remove any medication that is left over from a water treatment. Some people use it in order to stop their water smelling. However, the problem with chemical filtration is that eventually, it will become completely saturated with impurities. If this happens then there is a possibility that impurities could start leaching back into the aquarium water. It's up to you whether you use chemical filtration. If you do use it then be aware that it needs replacing every few months.

Which filter to use

There are only two types of filter I would recommend for an Oscar fish aquarium, and they are a large canister filter or a sump filter. Because Oscar fish require large aquariums, small filters are of little use because you would need about three or four of them installed in the aquarium. Even then, you probably wouldn't have adequate filtration. There are numerous different manufacturers of canister filters that would do a great job in your aquarium. If you've got the money then I would recommend Eheim as they produce the Rolls-Royce of aquarium filters. Yes, they are expensive, however, you get exactly what you pay for. Eheim produces canister filters that will filtrate aquariums right up to 1200 L, which is about 300 gallons. I've used Eheim filters ever since I got my first aquarium and I think they are just fantastic. Another make of filter that a lot of people highly recommend is Fluval. They also produce good quality canister filters that are more than adequate for filtrate in a large aquarium containing Oscar fish. Because Oscars are so incredibly messy it's a good idea to literally double the filtration on your aquarium. If you've only got the one adult Oscar in a 55-gallon aquarium then I don't think there's any need to go over the top, a filter rated for a 100-gallon aquarium would work just great. When I had my 125-gallon aquarium I have a couple of Eheim 2028 canister filters installed, both of which are rated up to 132 gallons. But I had two Oscars and a few tankmates and the extra filtration was well needed. The beauty of having two canisters installed on the one aquarium is if one breaks down, you've still got a working filter that will still keep the tank clean until you get the other one fixed. Also, having to filters means that you can alternate filtration cleaning. This means that you are not cleaning both filters at the same time risking losing bacteria. You can clean one filter one week, and then wait another week and do the other one.

Keeping oxygen levels up

Canister filters normally come with a spray bar that resembles a garden sprinkler. The spray bar is attached to the side of the tank and should always be placed just above the surface of the water. What you are aiming to achieve is a constant water surface movement created by the water spray. It's important that your fish have plenty of oxygen, setting up your spray bars properly will create this surface agitation and in turn creates lots of little oxygen bubbles. When a fish tank hasn't got enough oxygen in the water the fish will normally breathe fairly heavily. If the oxygen depletion is particularly severe then the fish may hang at the surface opening and close their mouths whilst they take in oxygen. If you're using a good filtration system then it should oxygenate the water properly. However, if you feel that you want to add oxygen to the water, maybe because the weather is warm then you can use an air stone.

The sump filter

For fish keepers who have got especially large aquariums, the sump filter is often a good alternative to a canister filter. As I've already mentioned Eheim do produce a canister filter which is capable of filtering a 1200 L aquarium which is approximately 300 gallons. However, once you start getting even bigger, four or 500 gallons then a canister filter is just not going to be efficient enough. The beauty with sump filters is they are relatively easy to make and you can make them as big as you like. We have a page dedicated to the workings of the sump filter so have a read. Further Reading on Sump Filters...

Heating your aquarium

Oscar fish come from the tropics and therefore need to live in a heated aquarium. Oscars are okay with a water temperature as low as 21°C, and they can cope with temperatures of up to 30°C (temporarily I should add). A good temperature for Oscars all year round is 27°C. Oscars are known for being fairly rough with things that are placed inside their aquarium. For some strange reason, they often take a bit of a dislike to heaters and can easily smash a glass heater to pieces. Over the years I've had to replace the heater several times because of destructive Oscar fish. There are loads of heaters on the market that are made of heavy duty glass or even metal. These are the type of heaters that I would recommend for an Oscar fish aquarium. One of the best heaters I ever used was manufactured by a company called Aqua Medic. They manufacture single heaters up to 500 W which is perfect for aquariums up to around 125 gallons. They are made of titanium and are virtually indestructible, the Oscar would have to be on steroids to even make a dent in one of these heating elements. However, you also have to purchase the control box that goes with these heaters so they will end up being quite expensive. If you would prefer something a little more affordable than you could look at a new range of heaters called SCHEGO. They are also made of titanium and are extremely robust. Like the Aqua Medic, you also need to purchase a temperature controller because they don't have a built-in thermostat. However, the thermostat that controls the SCHEGO range of heaters is a lot cheaper than the Aqua Medic model. Your heater should always be submerged under water. I always like to place mine near to the water flow entering the aquarium. This will ensure that the whole aquarium is heated properly. One important thing to bear in mind is using the correct size wattage for your size of the tank. What you don't really want happening is the heater working overtime in order to keep the water warm, this will just cost you an absolute fortune and will probably lessen the life of the heater.

Aquarium thermometers

Aquarium thermometers were always the bane of my life, I never found an internal thermometer that the Oscars wouldn't find and destroy. The best advice I can give you is to completely forget about putting thermometers inside the tank, you'll be wasting your time if you've got Oscars. The best thermometers I have used are external and therefore out of the reach of destructive Oscars. You don't have to pay a fortune, you can get one for £10 and it will last you for years.

Aquarium lighting

Oscars do not require any specialised lighting, in fact, you could probably leave the lights off all day and it wouldn't bother them in the slightest.

However, we have all gone to the trouble of setting up an aquarium so it's obviously nice to be able to see what's going on. It's even nicer if you can use lighting that brings out the colours in your fish, although many Oscars are rather dull and drab. Having said that, lots of tropical fish do have beautiful colours that can be wasted if the aquarium lighting isn't very good.

use the Kelvin rating, this is basically the colour temperature of the light, the full spectrum of light produced by the sun which consists of different wavelengths. I know, pretty boring and not really that interesting to talk about unless you are an aquarium lights enthusiast.

The best advice I can give you is to think about what type of lighting you want to achieve. Most people want to see their fish properly, may be the colours popping. Therefore depending on how many bulbs your system takes, you could opt for one Marine blue and one Marine white. Maybe you've got a large aquarium which takes three bulbs, you could opt for two Marine blue and one Marine white, or vice versa. It's impossible for me to tell you exactly what you need, the best thing to do is go to the fish store and see what's available, I'm sure they could give you some really good advice. Alternatively, come and talk to us on the forum and somebody will be happy to advise you on lighting.

Limiting the time your aquarium is illuminated

One thing I really hate seeing are aquariums that are left illuminated 24 hours a day. In the wild, the fish will know exactly when it's day and night. Contrary to some people's belief fish do actually sleep. Some people think that because Oscars don't close their eyes they don't sleep... In the tropics where OscarFish comes from you will get about 12 hours of sunlight. This is the maximum we would recommend you leave your lights on for in a 24-hour period. Remember that bright aquarium lights will encourage algae growth so limiting lighting times will help keep your aquarium clean.

Sand and gravel

I think it's nice to have a substrate in your aquarium. I've had both sand and gravel over the years, however sand is definitely my preference. Your fish store will probably stock various grades of sand and gravel that come in all different colours. However, if you just want a standard sand or gravel then the cheapest option is to go to your garden centre where they normally sell large bags of gravel or sand for about £10. Read my article on using sand for your aquarium substrate. A lot of the information in the article can also apply to gravel as well.

Aquarium wood

Wood is a great addition to an aquarium, especially the great big pieces that you can get. However, wood isn't always cheap, especially if you want a really big piece. You can pay over £100 for the really large pieces of wood. But in my opinion, they really do look the business. It's important that you be extra careful when deciding on adding wood to your aquarium. Don't put wood that you find on the beach, or in the woods in your aquarium because it probably won't be cured properly and the chances are it will just go rotten once submerged under the water. My advice would be to buy properly preserved wood that is completely ready to go straight into an aquarium. Be aware that some types of bog wood can stain the water and turn it a yellowish in colour. Some people like to boil wood before putting it in their aquarium so that if there is anything nasty present they can eliminate it. When you first put wood into your tank you may find it floats. Don't worry about this, it will soon become saturated and sink to the bottom. Alternatively, you could always attach a few weights to make sure that it sits properly on the bottom of the tank. I like to place my wood near the back of the tank, rather than too close to the glass. You'll find that fish such as plecs, loach, catfish and smaller tank mates appreciate the extra shelter and protection that large pieces of wood offer.

Plants

I have tried plants on many occasions, I know other people who have tried planting up their Oscar aquarium. The majority of us have failed miserably because it is quite obvious that Oscars have a devious streak when it comes to real plants in their aquarium. I'm quite sure that Oscars get a kick out of ripping real plants to pieces, it's almost as if they are trying to tell you that they will decide what goes in their home, not you!.

Instead of wasting your money on expensive aquarium plants, why not try some artificial plants? Nowadays they make some very realistic looking aquarium plants that are very difficult to tell from the real thing. The chances are the Oscars will still uproot them, but at least you can put them back into the substrate to live another day.

Now we've discussed the aquarium, filtration and how to initially set the aquarium up we will move on to some other important factors that you will need to know.

Why you must cycle your aquarium

If you don't read anything else on this page then please read this section because it is very important indeed. If you've never kept fish in an aquarium before then you will be unaware of how important it is to prepare the tank properly before you add your fish. I have written what I hope is an easy to understand article on how to cycle an aquarium properly.

Your aquarium water has turned cloudy

It's not uncommon for aquarium water to become cloudy or milky in colour. In most cases, it's simply a slight unbalance in the water chemistry. Normally it's nothing to get too worried about, however, you mustn't ignore cloudy aquarium water because there's always a chance that your fish could be put that risk if you don't do anything about it. I have written a very popular article on how to deal with cloudy aquarium water.

Your tank is ready for fish

Once your aquarium is cycled and you are ready to start adding your fish it's important that you don't get carried away and put all your fish in at once. We recommend that every fish keeper tests their water on a regular basis. However, in the first few weeks that your tank has been set up the filtration will be quite delicate so it's important that you keep on top of your water testing to make sure that water quality doesn't degrade.

If in doubt test your water

It's important that every fish keeper has the means to test the aquarium water. You can take a sample of your aquarium water to the fish store were they are normally quite happy to test it for free. However, you have to bear in mind that things can go wrong at any time. Therefore, I would recommend that you get yourself a master water testing kit which will enable you to test for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and pH. Understanding how these dangerous toxins can affect the fish and how you test for them will benefit you in the long run.

Profiling the Oscar Fish Cichlid

The Oscar Fish is a freshwater tropical Cichlid native to various rivers and waterways located in the Amazonian basin in South America. Even though the Oscar can be found living wild in other parts of the world, including some of the waterways around Florida, these are fish that have been released on purpose and have started breeding.

Oscar fish normally reach a maximum size of 11 or 12 inches in captivity and can weigh up to approximately 3 lbs. Oscars can exceed 14 or 15 inches, however, fish like these are quite uncommon.

Oscar fish grow at an incredible rate. Fish stores normally sell them anywhere between 1 and 2 inches as babies. Once in your aquarium and being fed on a regular basis, you can expect an Oscar to gain nearly an inch each month for the first seven or eight months. At about nine months, your Oscars growth rate will start slowing down. Once they reach 12 months you should expect your Oscars size to be close to 10 inches, maybe even bigger. Oscars will probably reach a maximum size at around three years old.

Various types of Oscar fish

Listed below are some photos of the different varieties of Oscar which have been artificially bred from the wild Oscar that is found in its native environment.

The photos below show other colour varieties of Oscar, plus several that are not so common.

Tiger Oscar Fish

Tiger Oscar fish - this most resembles the original Wild Oscar fish and is extremely common

Albino Tiger Oscar Fish

Albino Tiger Oscar fish - if you want to be pedantic then this is actually a Lutino Oscar fish as it exhibits colour pigmentation, whereas true albino creatures do not. However, for the sake of stopping confusion, they are normally referred to as albino. This particular fish all so has some Tiger Oscar fish in it as well

Red Oscar Fish

Red Oscar fish - first bred over 40 years ago, the red Oscar fish is truly beautiful when displaying its vibrant red colouration

photo of a albino Oscar fish

Albino Oscar - This Oscar does not appear to exhibit any colour throughout its body, therefore we would refer to this as a true albino Oscar fish.

Veil Tail Oscar

Veil Tail Oscar fish - these Oscars have been bred to exhibit long fins. As you can observe by our example, the fins can become damaged quite easily. Nevertheless, they are beautiful fish with their long flowing fins that often look like silk

Red Lutino Oscar

Red Lutino Oscar fish - this is what we would call a red Lutino Oscar fish, although some people may still refer to it as albino, does it really matter?

photo of a wild Oscar fish

Wild Oscar - I have been reliably informed that this is a wild Oscar that was taken from a river in South America.

The Lemon Oscar Fish

Photo of Lemon Oscar Fish

There are some species of Oscar that are unique and therefore quite rare. One such species of Oscar is called the "Lemon Oscar". Our photo shows a pair of Lemon Oscar's that were bred in the Philippines. They were then purchased as juveniles and now have grown into arguably two of the most beautiful Oscars, you will ever see.

Intelligent Cichlids

Most cichlids show signs of intelligence, the Oscar Fish is no exception. It's no wonder people fall in love with these excitable fish as soon as they see them. Unlike most tropical fish, the Oscar seems to have the ability to actually acknowledge what is going on on the outside of their aquarium. Oscar owners will tell you that as soon as they walk in the room the Oscar will show signs of excitement in the presence of its owner., it will wag its tail, swim back and forth in the anticipation of getting some attention. It really isn't any surprise that the Oscar fish has gained the nickname "river" or "water" dog because they behave very much like an excitable little puppy.

If you ever see your Oscar attacking the side of the glass then there is every chance that he is seeing his reflection. Whether this could be classed as intelligence is up for discussion, however, it can be quite startling when you see this happening for the first time. You can read more about Oscars seeing their own reflection in this article.

Do Oscar Fish play

Try putting a ping-pong ball inside the aquarium so that it floats on top of the water. You may find that your Oscar comes up to investigate exactly what this strange addition to the tank is. Most fish would probably not pay any attention to something like this, however, Oscars are different and it can be quite fun watching them knock the ping-pong ball around the aquarium. Many people claim that their Oscars do actually play. I have my opinion on this which you can read here

Oscar aggression

Oscar fish are what we describe as "semi-aggressive". I do get rather annoyed when I read articles suggesting that Oscar fish are outright killers and will basically slay any other fish living with them. This is about as far from the truth as you can possibly get. In fact, Oscars are in most very placid and will tolerate most other tankmates. Having said this, they are cichlids and this species of fish can show aggression towards fish living with them, including their own species.

In order to minimise aggression, you should always give your Oscar fish the correct size aquarium to live in. This means 55 gallons for one single adult fish. Once you start adding more Oscars, or different species of fish then you will need to start thinking about a much larger aquarium.

It's fairly easy to identify an Oscar that is showing aggression. In most cases, they will open their mouths as wide as possible and flare their gills to make their heads look as big as possible. Oscars will often get aggressive during tank maintenance as some of them do not like you putting your hand in their tank. Where it's very rare for Oscars to hurt their owners, they do have fairly rough mouths which can inflict superficial wounds on rare occasions. If you do have young children then it's advisable to avoid little fingers entering the tank.

It is easy to confuse aggression with what we refer to as a "breeding ritual". It's not always that easy to differentiate between outright aggression and a pair of Oscars that are flirting with each other. If you visit this article I will talk a little bit more in detail about telling the difference between fighting and flirting.

Feeding Your Oscar Fish

The biggest mistake a lot of people make is to feed their Oscar on foods that are unsuitable and unhealthy. To give your Oscar Fish the best chance in life we recommend feeding it on healthy foods at all times. An unhealthy diet could contribute to illnesses and disease one of which is the dreaded hole in the head disease. Many people think that this illness is brought on by poor water conditions, however, a poor diet can also put the fish at a higher risk of developing horrible diseases. Oscar fish should always be fed on food that is good for them. We would recommend that at least 80% of the main diet consists of a good quality Cichlid pellets. There are various different manufacturers that produce really good quality food that is packed with all the nutrients and vitamins that your fish need on a daily basis. You can then supplement the rest of the Oscars diet with other types of food. Some people like to add a lot of natural food that is close to what the Oscar would feed on in the wild. Oscars eat a lot of insects in the wild so feeding them on live food like crickets, locusts, grasshoppers, mealworms and even garden worms is good because all these foods contain vitamins. Seafood is also healthy and a great supplement for your Oscars diet. They love cockles and mussels, obviously minus the salt and vinegar. Prawns and shrimps are absolutely fantastic food as they contain a lot of fibre which can aid the Oscars digestive system. Try chopping up pieces of fish such as tuna or salmon. You can even feed your Oscars on pieces of squid, they love the meaty texture of this seafood.

There really is a massive amount of food available, especially if you visit your local fish store and have a look in their frozen food section. Visit our food list article for a much more in-depth list of what foods you can give to your Oscar. If you click on the blue links then you will be taken directly to eBay where you can purchase the food with one click.

How much and how often should I feed my Oscar?

There really isn't anything to worry about what it comes to feeding your new friend for the first time. Baby Oscars are absolutely voracious eaters and seem to be hungry all the time. However, there is obviously a limit on how much they should be fed and I'll explain how I've been doing it for the last few years.

If your new Oscar is just a little baby then it is advisable to stick with fairly small foods, to begin with. I certainly wouldn't be putting in large prawns, or even very large pellets because baby Oscars are incredibly greedy little individuals and will more than likely stuff as much as they possibly can into their mouths. When this happens they often have problems swallowing the food. Cichlids pellets come in three or four sizes, I would advise starting off with the smaller sized pellets that are available. Start off by dropping in three or four small pellets, to begin with, and let the Oscar eat them. Follow this procedure for about three minutes and then stop feeding. Keep this feeding regime until the Oscars reach about 5 inches. Obviously, in the meantime, you could increase the size of pellets. There's no need to put a stopwatch on, three minutes is really just a ballpoint figure. You may find that the Oscar doesn't want any more food after three minutes. Normally the Oscar will indicate when it's had enough. However, baby Oscars are very greedy and it's very easy to get taken in by them. Don't be fooled by their constant need for food, these guys can beg like a pro, which is why people often overfeed them.

Oscars that are 5 inches or more don't necessarily need to be fed three times a day, you can reduce feeding down to twice a day. Carry on the same routine, as much food as they can eat in about three minutes. Once the Oscar reaches 10 or 11 inches then you could feasibly feed it just once a day. However, most people would prefer to feed at least twice a day. If your fish leave any food floating on the water remove it before it starts breaking down.

Beware of some foods

There are some foods that we would recommend you avoid feeding to Oscar fish. Some food items may contain parasites and disease, whilst other types of food either don't contain many nutrients or more worryingly contain high levels of saturated fat which are very bad for fish.

Feeder fish

The term "feeder" fish basically refers to any small fish that is used as live food for another fish, normally a larger predatory species of fish. The most common species people use as feeders are goldfish. The problem with goldfish is they can contain internal parasites that if ingested by your Oscar can cause all sorts of problems. No one is disputing the fact that Oscars will probably be an opportunist in the wild and will certainly eat any other small fish given the chance. However, we feel that it's a risk that is not worth taking so feeding live fish is best avoided when there are plenty of other better and more healthy foods available. If you are absolutely adamant that you want to feed live fish to your Oscars then we would encourage you to either breed the fish yourself or quarantine any purchased fish for at least two weeks. But that will never 100% guarantee you are not feeding infected fish to your Oscar.

Animal meat

We get asked questions about whether you can feed foods like chicken, beef, other types of animal meat to your Oscar. It's important that you understand that a fish's liver is not very good at processing saturated fat which is what you get from animal meat. Fish that consume large amounts of saturated fat on a regular basis are at risk from developing fatty liver disease which can be fatal. Whereas I personally wouldn't recommend animal meat as food for your Oscar, in very small amounts fed occasionally it probably won't do any harm. However, I would only recommend beef heart as this is one of the leanest parts of the animal and contains a lot less saturated fat. High-protein foods can be used to enhance growth rate. You can also make up your own beef heart recipe and include vitamins and other healthy food items such as shrimp. Some people make up the own beef heart recipe in order to administer vitamins and medication..

Enhance the colours of your Oscar fish

There are a few ways to bring out the colours in your Oscar. One way is to use light-coloured substrate and have fairly strong lighting. You will often find that red Oscars become extremely vibrant in these sort of conditions. Another way is to feed your Oscar on foods that are known to enhance colours. River shrimp are one source of food that could improve the colouration of your Oscar. However, there are foods that are specifically made to bring out the colours of your Oscar fish. One of the best and well known are These cichlid pellets supposedly bring out the colours in your fish. Now I'm going to be perfectly honest with you, I've used these over the years and I couldn't really give you any guarantees on how well they work. The best thing to do is feed them as a staple diet for at least five days a week for several weeks or months, you will then know for sure how well they work.

Commercially available fish foods

I've compiled an extensive list of commercially available foods that are available. I'm very sorry, but I can't guarantee that all of these foods are available in your country and at your fish store, you will just have to ask. However, you will see that a lot of the list items are text links. I've searched out items to make sure they are available on eBay and linked directly to the products. If they are not available at your local fish store then hopefully you can get them off of eBay.

Breeding Oscar Fish

There's nothing more exciting than watching a pair of Oscars going through the breeding ritual and then getting down to the business of laying eggs. However, if the eggs hatch then there is every possibility that you could have several hundred babies to deal with. Obviously, you are not going to be able to stop a pair of Oscars breeding if they want to. However, purposely going into breeding Oscars is something that should be thought through very carefully. Before you even start trying to breed Oscars, you should already have plans on what is going to happen to all the babies that you will end up with.

Male or female

Before you can breed Oscars you need a male and a female. Unlike many other tropical fish where there is a distinctive difference between the male and the female, there is actually no way to tell the difference between the male and female Oscar just by looking at them. Some people claim they can sex an Oscar by comparing fin shape, colouration or even temperament. However, these claims should be dismissed. Oscars are what we call "monomorphic", translated to "one shape". This means that the male and female look exactly the same.

There are really only two known ways of successfully telling apart a male from female Oscar fish. The first involves a process called "venting". Somebody who knows what to look for will be able to examine the genitals of the Oscar fish. By comparing the shape and size of the opening will determine the sex. The second and absolute 100% guaranteed way of sexing an Oscar is when you see the female laying eggs and then the male fertilising them.

If you are lucky enough to witness Oscars laying eggs then you may want to take a little peek at the underneath of both fish. You will then see the difference between the female and male genitals. The female's genital papilla is what most of us refer to as an egg tube. It's fairly wide at the end and whitish in colour and sticks out quite far. When she's not laying eggs it retracts completely inside her. The male's genital papilla is very different from the females as he only has a small spike from which sperm is deposited from.

I have written a more in-depth article on how it is possible to determine the sex of an Oscar Fish.

Obtaining a male and female

This is actually a task that is easier said than done. In the Cichlid fish world, the female will normally choose a partner to pair up with and breed. Therefore it's not just a case of buying two Oscars and waiting for them to breed. You might get lucky and end up with a breeding pair, however, the chances are you've either bought two females, two males or a pair of Oscars that just aren't interested in breeding with each other. In order to increase the chances of finding a breeding pair, you will need to get several Oscars and keep them together in the same tank for a few months. What you hope will happen is two of the Oscars will eventually break off and form a pair together.

If you've already got an adult Oscar then you could play cupid and try and find a mate. This would involve bringing home adult Oscars for basically what would be a date with your own Oscar. In order for you to find your pair this way I think you would have to have a fairly good relationship with your local fish store because obviously, you may have to return the Oscar several times until you find what you're looking for.

Signs of possible breeding

Before Oscars ever start laying eggs you will start seeing some very strange behaviour. The female Oscar will want to test the male Oscars strength and she does this by playing a kind of tug-of-war with him. This procedure is called "jaw locking" and as the name suggests, the Oscars grab onto each other's mouths and literally try and drag each other around the tank. As well as the jaw locking, you may also see the Oscars chasing each other sporadically, often trying to nip each other at the rear end. The jaw locking and chasing will then lead onto the Oscars looking for an area in the tank where the eggs will be laid. If you've got a flat rock in the tank then the chances are they will choose this area. They will then start scrubbing the rock with their bottom lip in order to make it nice and clean so the eggs stick properly.

Lump on Oscars lip

Oscars often develop a strange protrusion on their bottom lip. I am not aware that anyone has come up with a conclusive reason why these strange lumps appear. However, it is my opinion that these lumps are somehow related to Oscars when they become sexually mature. A lot of the questions asked are exactly what these lumps are and why Oscar Fish develop them. Whereas I can't give you a conclusive answer, I can give you my opinion on why Oscars develop these lumps on the lower lip

If the female is going to lay eggs then there is a very good chance that the egg tube will protrude at some stage during the cleaning process. You may even see the males sexual organ sticking down at the same time. However, I've seen this before and eggs were never laid so it's never an absolute guarantee that something will happen.

Oscars finally lay eggs

When the female Oscar is ready to start depositing her eggs on the rock you will probably notice the egg tube protruding from her. The egg laying will probably start suddenly, she will start swimming back and forth over the rock whilst wiggling slightly. If you look carefully you will see small white eggs on the rock. As she swims back and forth the male will follow her and fertilise the eggs. It's impossible to say exactly how long the egg laying process will take, it depends on how many eggs they lay. Sometimes they can completely cover a large rock with eggs, other times they don't lay that many.

Once the eggs have been laid on the flat rock both male and female Oscar will then oxygenate the eggs by using their two pectoral fins as fans. As well as oxygenating the eggs, they will also remove any eggs they deem bad. Therefore don't worry if you see them eating one or two eggs every now and then.

fertilisedeggs

Fertilised Oscar fish eggs

wiggler

Oscar fish fry 2 hours old

Eggs that have been successfully fertilised will change from white in colour to a tan brown after a few hours. The eggs will then take about three days to hatch. At first, you will see the eggs shaking slightly as the fry start to break out of the shell. Once the fry completely hatches they will have a yolk sac hanging below them, this will feed them for approximately four days. Once the yolk sac has been used up they will then need to be fed.

You have Oscar fry

If your intentions are to keep the baby Oscars then you will need to take them away from the parents and put them in their own tank. You're not removing the fry for protection, you will need to put them in the tank that has pristine water conditions. Also, in order to feed and help them grow properly, they will need to be completely on their own without any interference from other fish in the aquarium.

Feeding your fry

Feeding Oscar fry is not as straightforward as feeling any other fish. The Oscar fry has got tiny mouths and it's doubtful whether you will have any suitable foods to hand. However, there is a wide variety of baby fry food to choose from nowadays so your fish store should have something suitable for you to use. Alternatively, have a look on eBay, you can get just about anything you want off there.

Brine Shrimp

Brine shrimp are by far the best food to feed to your Oscar fish fry. People have been using baby brine shrimp as fry food for many years. Brine shrimp are packed with all the nutrients and proteins that your Oscar fry needs to grow into healthy adult fish. Brine shrimp also trigger the hunting instinct so your baby fry is more likely to react to baby brine shrimp than long living food.

Baby brine shrimp are very easy to culture. You can buy eggs online and keep them for many years in a cool dry place. Brine shrimp eggs can be hatched using a brine shrimp hatchery and will normally be ready to be fed to your fry within 24 - 48 hours. It's quite easy to make your own brine shrimp hatchery, alternatively, you can purchase them online for very little money.

This article will give you good information on what other foods you can use to feed to your baby fry.

Brine shrimp hatchery

If you fancy making your own brine shrimp hatchery then visit this article, it gives you some really good information on how to make one for very little money.

Artificially hatching Oscar eggs

If you decided that you want to breed Oscars with the intention of selling the fry then you will need a spare aquarium in order to raise the fry. Your spare aquarium must be quite big but more importantly, it must be fully cycled ready to take the fry. Baby fry will not be able to withstand poor water conditions so there's absolutely no point in trying to raise them in an aquarium that hasn't already got an established biological filter running on it.

After the eggs have been laid and they have changed colour to a tan brown, you can then remove the stone and eggs and put them in your spare tank. In order to replicate the procedure where the fish oxygenate the eggs, you will use an air stone. Prop the stone up at a slight angle using the air stone. When you switch the air stone on you should see the bubbles rising up the side of the stone and then flowing across the eggs. These oxygenated bubbles will take the place of the fish fanning them with their pectoral fins. 

The fry will hatch after about three days. They will have a yolk sac which will sustain them for about three days. They will now be ready to be fed on the live baby brine shrimp. Once the fry reaches .5 cm and starts to resemble Oscars you could try feeding them on baby fry flake. However, keep on feeding them on the brine shrimp until they are big enough to eat normal food.

Simulate natural breeding conditions

Oscar fish breed in the rainy season in their natural environment. The conditions in your home aquarium will probably remain the same all year round. Your Oscar will not know when it's time to breed. It's not uncommon for a female Oscar to produce eggs not long after a large water change. Basically, the Oscar has been fooled into thinking that it's raining and therefore it's the time of year that she should be reproducing. So using this knowledge there is a way that you can try and trick your Oscars in thinking that it's the rainy season and time for making babies.

Simulating heavy rainfall in your aquarium is not that difficult. Extremely heavy rain will cool the temperature of the water slightly so drop the temperature of the water by about 2°C. There are various ways you can simulate rainfall in on the water. The easiest way is to use a spray bar which when positioned slightly above the water will simulate the sound of rain falling on the water. Even though a lot of canister filters do come with spray bars, it might be best to actually modify your own spray by using a water pump. This way you can switch it on several times a day to simulate rainstorms. Alternatively, use a watering can and spend five or 10 minutes sprinkling the surface of the water a few times a day. 

During your rainy season simulation period feed your Oscars on insects, shrimps and bloodworm. A cheap way to obtain the perfect insect is to hatch mealworms.