Oscar fish -Food, lifespan, tank mates, feeding and colors

The oscar fish also are known as Astronotus ocellatus is a cichlid family fish species known under a wide range of different names, including tiger oscar, velvet cichlid, and cichlid marble.

In tropical South America where the species resides naturally, A. Specimens of ocellatus are often found on local markets for sale as food fish.

Other areas including India, China, Australia, and the United States have been introduced to the fish. It is considered a popular aquarium fish both in Europe and in the United States.

Taxonomy of oscar fish:

Louis Agassiz originally described the species as Lobotes ocellatus in 1831, because he mistakenly believed that the species was marine; later work assigned the species to the genus Astronotus.

There are also various junior synonyms of the species: Acara compressus, Acara hyposticta, Astronotus ocellatus zebra and Astronotus orbiculatus.

Short Description to oscar fish:

Astronotus. ocellatus which is also known as oscar fish were reported to grow to approximately 45 cm (18 in) in length and 1.6 kilograms (3.5 lb) in mass.

The wild-caught species forms are typically darkly colored on the caudal peduncle and on the dorsal fin, with yellow-ringed spots or ocelli.

These ocelli were suggested to function to limit piranha (Serrasalmus spp.), which co-occur with A, to fin-nipping.

The ocellates in their natural surroundings. The species can also change its coloration rapidly, a trait that facilitates the ritualization of territorial behaviors and the fighting between specifics.

Juvenile oscars are colored differently from adults, stripped with white and orange wavy bands and spotted heads.

Classification of Oscar fish:

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Cichliformes
Family: Cichlidae
Genus: Astronotus
A. ocellatus
Binomial name
Astronotus ocellatus

(Agassiz, 1831)

Oscar fish lifespan:

The lifespan of oscar fish is generally about 10-20 years. However, caring and maintaining a healthy environment  for oscar fish is very much necessary to make sure it has the maximum lifespan. 

Habitat of Oscar fish:

Habitat of oscar fish

Oscar fish is native to Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil and French Guiana, and it also occurs in the Amazon River basin, along the Amazon and Ucayali Rivers, as well as in the Approuague and Oyapock Rivers.

In its natural environment, the species is typically present in slow-moving white-water habitats and has been observed to be sheltered under submerged branches.

Feral populations also occur in China, northern Australia, and Florida, USA, as a by-product of ornamental fish trade.

The species is limited by its intolerance to colder water temperatures in its distribution, the lower lethal limit for the species is 12.9 ° C (55.22 ° F).

Oscar fish reproduction:

While the species is generally regarded as sexually monomorphic, males have been suggested to develop faster, and males are noted to possess dark blotches at the base of their dorsal fins in some naturally occurring strains.

The species achieves around a year of sexual maturity and continues to reproduce for 9–10 years.

The spawning frequency and timing can be related to rain incidence. A. Ocellatus fish are spawners of biparental substrates, although detailed information about their reproduction is scarce in the wild.

In captivity, it is known that pairs select and clean generally flattened horizontal or vertical surfaces to lay their 1,000-3,000 eggs on.

As with most cichlids, astronotus. Ocellatus (a.k.a oscar fish) cares for brood, although the duration of breeding in the wild remains unknown.

Oscar fish food:

Most of the wild fish eaten by Oscar fish are relatively sedentary catfish, including the species Bunocephalus, Rineloricaria, and Ochmacanthus.

The species uses a suction mechanism to capture prey, and the death mimicry of Parachromis friedrichsthalii and Nimbochromis livingstonii has been reported to be “laying-on-side” in similar fashion.

Wild oscars also consume seasonally shrimps, snails, insects and insect larvae, and fruits and nuts.

The species also has an absolute vitamin C requirement, and in its absence develops health problems. Captive oscars usually eat carnivorous fish foods: crayfish, worms and insects.

Territorial Behaviour:

Black oscar fish

Oscars are territorial so it can be risky to bring them to your tank.

They are not afraid of attacking other fish, and they will do so if a fish invades their territory. The matting and feeding times can fuel their aggression as well.

Most of their time is spent swimming in the tank ‘s mid-levels, although in search of food they often head down to the substratum.

During this search you could see them uproot plants and decorations, so everything in the aquarium should be secured down.

The good news is that if the tank is set up correctly but you choose the right tank mates you can control their aggression.

Oscars will often lay claim to an aquarium area and be very aggressive towards other fish intruding within the aquarium or lake on their newly established territory.

The territory size varies according to the size and aggressiveness of the fish based on its surroundings.

Once the oscar establishes a territory, it defends it vigorously by chasing away other fish.

Oscar fish variety:

These are few varieties or types of oscar fish:

  • Tiger Oscar
  • Red Oscar
  • Albino Oscar
  • Blue Oscar
  • Black Oscar
  • Florida Oscar
  • White Oscar
  • Green Oscar
  • Veil Tail Oscar
  • Lemon Oscar

Most varieties grow to be large and reach a maximum of 12 inches. In their lifetime they reach this size quite fast, growing one inch a month until they are fully grown.

They have a body which is long oval. The dorsal and anal fins extend along the body up to the caudal fin, forming a rear fan.

Reproduction in this species will be hard to find as they are monomorphic, which means that both sexes have the same looks. To tell them apart it takes a close look at the genitalia.

Classically, these cichlids are covered in a variety of irregular black and orange splots, but over time colors may change.

A lot of varieties were created by selective breeding.

For the aquarium industry a number of ornamental Oscar fish varieties have been developed.

These include forms with greater intensity and red marbling quantities across the body, albino, leuctical and xanthistic forms.

A. Ocellates with marbled red pigment patches are sold as red tiger oscars, while those strains with mainly red flank coloring are frequently sold under the trade name red oscars.

Red pigment patterning differs among individuals; Long-finned varieties have also been developed in recent years. The species is also occasionally colored artificially by a process called painting.

How to create an aquarium for Oscar fish?

Remember that fish have evolved to live in their natural areas, so you need to set up your aquarium to replicate those natural conditions.

South America’s freshwaters are warm at a neutral pH, so Oscars can’t handle extreme levels in acidity or alkalinity.

Since most populations are found in rivers such as the Amazon, water flow tends to be strong.

The sunlight would be strong, but the water would not be crystal clear so some of the intensity is lost as the light penetrates the water.

At the bottom of the river would be a soft substratum scattered around on top with rocks, debris and vegetation.

How should be the tank?

A layer of soft substrate should be at the base of the tank. Fine grained are the softest substrates, so sand would be ideal. Oscars like digging so they’d get scratched by a coarse substrate.

The most natural look would be to place rocks and bogwood around the tank, but any decorations are free to choose from. Make a few caves for each fish, so that they can hide within their territory somewhere.

Remember to fix the decorations firmly in place too. When looking for food, this species will dig around objects that can dislodge them.

It is unlikely that live plants will be eaten but they are still not safe. As with the decorations, plants can be uprooted while digging through the substratum.

Use hardy plants to survive the trauma. Floating plants should be safe against damage, hornwort is a good option.

Ideal water conditions range between 74-81 ° F, 6-8 pH and 5-20 KH.

No special equipment is needed to keep the water healthy, just a filter to clean it and a heater to keep the ideal temperature range. Most aquarium lights are also suitable.

Attach equipment firmly to the tank or they will suffer from an Oscar’s digging by the hands (or fins). Keep the lid on as these fish are strong and can jump or force other fish to jump.

Although they like strong currents in the wild, the filter outlet should create a sufficiently strong current, so you should not need water.

What Size Aquarium Needs Oscars?

Oscars will need a fairly large aquarium which is ideal for 55 gallons or larger. A smaller tank will put stress on them which will make them sick or aggressive.

Oscar fish tank mates:

Having the right oscar fish tank mates is very much necessary to create a healthy environment within your aquarium of pond.

This species isn’t the best to make friends with. Their aggressive nature can cause tank mates to live in fear (assuming they’ve never been eaten before).

They live in some of the world’s most diverse areas in South America, so they are used to many other fish.

That’s not the same in a tank, however, because there is much less room, so tensions are rising. If you want those cichlids, an Oscar only tank is probably the best idea.

If you’re looking to turn your tank into a community, you ‘re going to have to choose some big, passive fish that stay out of the way while being able to defend themselves.

The following are some good examples: Arowanas, Bichirs, Convict Cichlids, Firemouth Cichlids, Green Terrors, Jack Dempseys, Jaguar Cichlids, Sailfin Plecos, Severum Cichlids and Silver Dollars.

As you can see, the most common tank mates are fellow cichlids since they can usually hold their own against an Oscar.

Any tiny fish you add will disappear quickly from the tank. For small invertebrates such as shrimp and snails, this will be the same too.

Clown pleco can also be a friend to oscar fish.

Can i keep them together?

Oscars can be kept together, and the safest option is usually this. Just be sure to follow the above mentioned storage guidelines.

Their need for territory may lead to tank mates being attacked. Make sure they have plenty of space, as this reduces disputes over territory.

Oscar fish feeding

While finding suitable tank mates for Oscars can be difficult, providing a healthy diet isn’t. They are omnivores and are going to eat just about anything you give them.

Small fish, larvas and small pieces of plant debris would be eaten in the wild. Small insects and crustaceans would form the bulk of their diet.

In an aquarium the easiest option is to use flake / pellet foods bought from the store.

These were designed to contain all the nutrition you need for your fish, you can even buy some specifically for cichlids.

Other options include live / frozen food (which is protein-filled). These include bloodworms, daphnia, and shrimp brine.

Live food encourages Oscars to catch their food that brings forth their natural instincts of hunting.

If you have some green spare vegetables around the kitchen you can chop them up and put them in the tank.

Or you can use them to produce your own homemade fish meals.

Even though they might nibble at plants, if you feed them enough of other foods, this won’t be a large part of their diet.

A mix of different types of foods will be the best diet to provide a range of nutrients that your fish will need to stay healthy.

How to care your oscar fish?

oscar fish mates

Oscars need more caution than most other species. Their size and great appetite means they cause a lot of mess.

This makes cleaning of the tank very important, or conditions will quickly deteriorate. Perform changes to water at least once a week, ideally twice.

These cichlids are harder than most fish, so they often don’t get sick, but just like all species, they can get ill.

A common problem with these fishes is disease of “hole in the head.” It is here that cavities and holes start to form.

This might be a sign they don’t get enough nutrients in their food. If you see signs of this disease, it is worth changing their diet.

Breeding process:

This is one of the most difficult fish to breed in captivity. Here in this section i will be talking about the breeding process in oscar fish.

Individuals are very picky when choosing a mate so you can’t assume that putting together any old male and female will lead to youth.

You can try and buy a breeding pair already established. Another option is to purchase a group of juveniles as they grow together they build a connection and are more likely to form pairs of mating.

A problem with the second option is that breeding will take a while, because you will have to wait until the juveniles mature; it takes 1-2 years.

As long as the Oscars think they have found a suitable mate, any combination of individuals from different varieties can be breed.

These fish would of course raise in “rainy season.” In an aquarium, try lowering the temperature a few degrees to signal rainy season.

Water changes every few days along with sprinkling water on the surface for a couple of minutes each day will help as well.

They’ll flare their gill when the fish are ready to spawn and use their fins to indicate to their mate. This could be simple waggling of the fines or vibrations.

The pair will be cleaning a rock surface to lay the eggs on. The largest females are capable of producing up to 3000 opaque white eggs. 

Both parents will guard the eggs until they hatch (after 2-3 days); females will fan them to keep the substratum from smothering them while males will keep other fish away.

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