The Proper Care and Maintenance of the Oscar Cichlid
Although the name "oscar cichlid" sounds vaguely like that of some character actor you can almost bring to mind, it is actually the name of a type of fish. Although the oscar is native to South America, it has found a home in aquariums throughout the world.
The Basic Facts about the Oscar Cichlid
The oscar cichlid, called by the scientific name of “Astronotus ocellatus,” can grow as long as 2 and a quarter feet. This large size has been one of their main attractions in the aquarium industry, as they grow just large enough to reside comfortably in the larger fish tanks. One would not call the average oscar a beautiful fish, but it does have a certain grotesque charm in its well-defined mouth and dark colors. The wild caught variety will have orange markings on its hind area. Young cichlids of this variety will have stripes before they mature.
The aquarium industry, however, has given the oscar a makeover, breeding varieties of the fish that emphasize the best aesthetic attributes of the fish. The main varieties they have managed to engineer are the albino oscar—who is predictably white--, the leucistic oscar—that is also white but with a yellowish tinge to it--, and the yellow xanthistic type. You can also find them in a variety of colors across the spectrum.
Tank Conditions for Proper Oscar Care
You should get a nice large tank, 40 gallons at a minimum. Don’t forget that these fish get fairly large. The more room you give them the better. The room is also useful because the oscar is a bit of a dirty fish when it comes to waste production.
To help you with tank cleaning, a good bottom feeder like a plecko helps. These will ease some of your cleaning concerns. Even so, you should still change one fifth of the tank water every week so that a harmful level of bacteria doesn’t form in your oscar’s living space.
You should keep the temperature near but not over 80 degrees. Cichlids find this temperature comfortable, but if you go over 80 you are likely to damage and eventually severely hurt your oscars.
Feeding Your Oscar Cichlid
Oscars are a predatory fish. They live in the same waters with piranhas. A fish that keeps this sort company naturally requires protein in the form of other fish and living things. Most cichlids love the soft chewy texture of bloodworms. They also have a real taste for in eating crickets and grasshoppers, just throw these critters into the tank and enjoy the show.
Be sure to feed your oscars well so that they don’t start to turn on each other. Cichlids are very aggressive and when faced with a shortage in resources, their innate aggressive tendencies ramp up.
Oscar’s Aggressive Temperament
As I mentioned above, Oscars live naturally with piranhas, so it should come as no surprise that they tend to harass other fish in the tank with them. If you introduce any other fish to the tank, they should probably be either bottom feeders or other cichlids. Even if you introduce two cichlid species together, you will want to introduce them at the same time so that neither one feels as if the other is invading its “territory.”
An Interesting Observation about Oscar Cichlids
Some oscar owners claim their fish sit still and allow them to “pet” them. Owners who have this belief, further claim their fish enjoy this, although it is unclear how the owners know this.
Regardless of whether you believe this story, the oscar is an excellent fish for your home tank.