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  1. #1
    In loving memory of Meeko PumaWard's Avatar
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    Under Water Fido : The Basics to Oscar Care

    Oscars… probably the cichlid that gets the most attention. As little ones, they inspire many oo’s and awes at the local fish store with their wiggly bodies and big puppy-dog eyes. The adults are quick attention getters, and everyone who visits a home with an adult oscar is fascinated. They are one of the most intelligent fish in the hobby, with a great personality to boot. However, many unfortunate Oscars end up in the wrong home… like many of their furry cousins (puppies).

    So, how exactly is an oscar properly cared for? Who should and who should not have an oscar?

    The Oscar Fish (Astronotus ocellatus)

    The oscar quickly grows to be a large, messy cichlid, who is always on the look out for food (whether it needs it or not). They are typically carnivores which will feed on smaller fish, insects, crustaceans, and other small animals in their natural habitat. They should be fed a large, tropical fish pellet geared towards carnivorous fish; I prefer the Hikari Cichlid line for any large cichlids I have owned, but there are plenty of other options out there. They can also be given crickets, small fish (such as guppies), worms, and many other live food to vary their diet. Use caution when feeding fish sold in the fish shops, as these usually contain little nutritional value and often carry diseases.
    Oscars are native to the tropical Amazon region in South America, and therefore should be given temperatures typically found in their locality. Temperatures should range between 75F-80F, so a heater will be needed in most situations. However, they seem to have little prefrence in pH or hardness.
    The next part is where you typically see problems in the care of Oscars. Oscars are typically bought small… BUT, grow to a large size in a very short time. And by large, I mean usually around 13’’, and need heavy filtration with a big tank to keep their water clean and to keep them happy. Dimensionally wise, Oscars should be give at least a 4’ tank that is at least 18’’ wide. Often, 55g tanks are recommended for Oscars, and, while their volume is acceptable, their dimensions are not. A standard 55g tank is 12’’ wide, shorter than the length most Oscars attain, so these fish would not have much in the way of turn around space. Therefore, they would not be in comfortable conditions; in other words, not thriving. Also, Oscars need regular water changes, at least 50% once a week, although water quality should be monitored so that nitrates do not rise much above 20ppm. If nitrate levels become higher, additional water changes are in order.


    Food:
    Because it is suspected that nutrition deficiencies in Oscars (as well as many other fish) may lead to the dreaded disease, Hole in the Head (HITH), a varied diet is invaluable. A high quality stable, preferable a pellet, should be used. This diet should be supplemented with things like bloodworms and various other live/frozen/freezedried foods. Care should be taken with feeder fish. They should be quarantined at least 3 weeks prior to feeding if bought from the LFS, but a better option may be breeding your own. Fish like guppies can easily be raised for use as the occasional feeder in a 20g tank. Either way, the feeders should be fed a quality diet as well so that they have nutritional value.

    Water:
    It is also suspected that water quality contributes to HITH. Nitrates should be kept low in a tank with Oscars (or any other fish for that matter), so as to provided a healthy environment. Ammonia and Nitrite values should always read 0ppm, while nitrate should read no higher than 25ppm, preferable less than 20ppm. Oscars are very messy fish, so may require more water changes than the 20% weekly that many tanks get in order too keep nitrates within acceptable levels.

    Tank mates:
    Oscars are large, but not usually aggressive fish. Tank mates should be chosen with care. Remember, any thing that can fit in an Oscar’s mouth will probably end up there within a short period of time. Tank mates should also not be aggressive unless the particular oscar can hold his own (which are on rare occasions, IME). The tank must also be large enough to withstand the bioload placed on it by the added mates. For instance, in a 75g you may be able to have an armored catfish provided you keep up your maintenance and it does not grow larger than 12-13’’.


    If you can’t provide these things for any oscar, you may want to consider other species that are more suited to your tank(s).

    If anybody has anything else to add, please do
    "a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow members and also respect for the community as such." -Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

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    Basics to Oscar Care

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  2. #2
    500+ jumps-n-counting,SKYDIVE! ChileRelleno's Avatar
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    Astronotus ocellatus aka Oscar is a very opportunistic Omnivore, a scavenger that'll eat just about anything edible it can get its mouth around.
    The mainstay of their diet is insects followed by various other invertebrates, e.g. various worms, crayfish and snails, small fish and mammals and even vegetable & fruit matter.
    Oscar is neither a true carnivore nor Piscivore, Oscar is not picky he'll eat almost anything.

    A captive Oscars diet should consist primarily of a quality pellet or stick cichlid food, regularly supplemmented with a liquid vitamin*.
    Treats can be given, but best advised to be given sparingly. Favorite treats readily available are various types of worms, e.g earthworms, nightcrawlers and wrigglers, Mealworms (Actually a beetle larvae), Crickets, Krill, fresh Shrimp and Feeder Fish. Feeder fish as already stated should be quarantined or raised by you, and certain types of feeders, e.g. Goldfish, are not desireable due to high fat content. The use of feeders is a highly controversial subject amongst some keepers, generally in regards to nutritional value and health hazards.

    *The regular use of a liquid vitamin supplement is widely believed to help with the prevention of HITH & LLE. Oscars are prone to these diseases and a vitamin deficiency is a suspected agitator amongst other factors.
    Last edited by ChileRelleno; 11-01-2005 at 1:56 AM.
    If your going to take one of Gods creatures into your care,
    then you need to "CARE" for it!

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  3. #3
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    hey i need to know if a tank my dad got some time ago which he says is 40g is enough for 1 oscar... its 3'long, 18" wide, and about 17" Deep...i know you say 55-80g tanks but i hope thi will work...i made the mistake of buying an oscar without knowing their full size...



  4. #4
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    My Friend Has A Tank That Is A 30 Gallon With Two Oscars. They Have Been Living In There For Almost 9 Months Now. They Are Very Healthy But Will Porbably Outgrow This Space. You Should Be Good With The 40 Gallon For A While Until The Oscars Outgrow It.



  5. #5
    Purple is the color of Royalty daveedka's Avatar
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    hey i need to know if a tank my dad got some time ago which he says is 40g is enough for 1 oscar... its 3'long, 18" wide, and about 17" Deep...i know you say 55-80g tanks but i hope thi will work...i made the mistake of buying an oscar without knowing their full size...
    Short term a 40 g might be O.K. long term it will be an issue. The dimensions are acceptable although pretty tight, but the bio-load that a large Oscar puts on a tank will be very hard to handle with 40 gallons of water. In order to keep the oscar healthy, you will most likely be doing 3-4 medium to large volume water changes weekly. This will drastically reduce the entertainment value of the Oscar over time.

    I would look for a 75g as quickly as possible. Oscars grow fast and you don't want to wait until it's too late to make the upgrade.

    Remeber if you are buying stand tank filters etc. a 90g uses all the same components, and gives you more water volume. the taller tanks are marginally harder to work with but IME the extra water volume is worth it.


    I would also add that Oscars love live snails. Snails are easy to raise fairly clean, and allow a lot of hunting activity without overfeeding. They do not need to be removed if uneaten (very unlikely scenario) since they are a live critter which adds little bio-load. I raise several types of live feeders, but the snails are the predominant live food source. Oscars will crush shells, and if the snail is too big to get in its mouth it will remove it from the shell. no snail is safe unless it is massively huge.
    Dave



  6. #6
    Nano-Reefer FreddytheFish's Avatar
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    Great Article, hopefully people will read this before they get one or there 10 gallon.

    BTW, "underwater fido" is a great name. My dad had one, he said it had a great personality, it would even beg for food!






  7. #7
    Purple is the color of Royalty daveedka's Avatar
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    BTW, "underwater fido" is a great name. My dad had one, he said it had a great personality, it would even beg for food!
    Just an FYI for those who have the option. My current Oscar was a wild caught fish not a tank bred fish. The difference in personality is huge. The oscar I have is borderline on skittish, and not at all friendly towards people. He is a beautiful fish and I like him a lot but nothing similar to tank bred oscars I've owned. He is still of course a large messy guy with somewhat of a bad attitude. When he was smaller, my dempsey and firemouth picked on him, now that he has gained some size he does as he pleases and the other cichlids steer clear. The only fish that the oscar doesn't keep in line is the royal pleco. Of all the dempsey/Oscar combo's I have owned, my current tank has the most aggressive fish. Thus far they have not hurt each other, but they get in each others face on a regular basis.
    Dave



  8. #8
    The glistening drop.... Rbishop's Avatar
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    discussion for this article can be found at..

    http://www.aquariacentral.com/forums...d.php?t=156931
    Bob

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