Red Tiger Oscar – Oscars (Astronotus ocellatus) are a species of South American cichlid. They’re native to Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador, French Guiana and Peru. They can be found along the Amazon river and its surrounding areas, which is one of the most bio diverse environments in the world. Typically Red Tiger Oscars are covered in an assortment of irregular black and orange splotches, but colors may change over time as the fish matures.
All varieties of Oscars are infamous for their aggression, which is hard to imagine since they swim so gracefully, but they prove that looks can be deceiving. Those who are brave enough to keep them may initially be attracted by their appearance and colors, but quickly come to appreciate their intelligence and social behaviors – their complex behaviors will captivate you for hours. Most varieties grow to be large, reaching up to 30 cm. They reach this size quite quickly in their lifetime, growing several centimeters a month until fully grown.
Oscars are territorial, so adding them to your tank can be risky. They aren’t afraid to attack other fish and will do so if a fish encroaches on their territory. Mating and feeding times can also fuel their aggression. Most of their time will be spent swimming in the mid-levels of the tank, though they’ll often head down to the substrate in search of food. You might see them uproot plants and decorations during this search, so everything in the aquarium should be secured down. The good news is that if the tank is setup correctly and you choose the right tank mates, their aggression can be controlled. Their need for territory can cause them to attack other fish. Make sure they have lots of space as this reduces territory disputes.
The freshwaters of South America are warm with a neutral pH, so Oscars can’t handle extremes in acidity or alkalinity. Water flow tends to be strong since most populations are found in rivers like the Amazon. While the sunlight would be strong, the water wouldn’t 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 substrate with rocks, debris, and vegetation scattered around on top.
At the base of the tank should be a layer of soft substrate. The softest substrates are fine-grained, so sand would be ideal. Oscars like to dig so a coarse substrate would scratch them. The most natural look would be to place rocks and bogwood around the tank, but you’re free to choose any decorations. Make a couple of caves for each fish so that they have somewhere to hide away within their territory. Also remember to firmly fix the decorations in place. This species will dig around objects when looking for food which can dislodge them.
Live plants are unlikely to be eaten, but they’re still not safe. Just like the decorations, plants may be uprooted while they dig through the substrate. Use hardy plants so they can survive the trauma. Floating plants should be safe from damage, a good option is hornwort.
Their size and need for territory means each fish needs lots of space. Try 200 litres for the first Oscar, then 80-120 litres more for each additional fish.
An Oscar only tank is probably the best idea if you want these cichlids. If you are looking to turn your tank into a community then you’ll need to choose some large, passive fish that will stay out of the way while also being able to defend themselves. A few good examples include: Arowanas, Bichirs, Convict Cichlids, Firemouth Cichlids, Green Terrors, Jack Dempseys, Jaguar Cichlids, Sailfin Plecos, Severum Cichlids and Silver Dollars. As you can see, fellow cichlids are the most common tank mates since they can usually hold their own against an Oscar. Any small fish you add will quickly disappear from the tank. This will be the same for small invertebrates like shrimp and snails too.
They’re omnivores and will eat pretty much anything you give them. In the wild they would eat small fish, larvae and small pieces of plant debris. Small insects and crustaceans would make up the largest part of their diet. In an aquarium the simplest option is to use store bought flake/pellet foods. These have been designed to contain all the nutrition your fish need, you can even buy some specifically for cichlids. Other options include live/frozen foods (which are full of protein). These include bloodworms, brine shrimp and daphnia. Live foods encourage Oscars to catch their food which brings out their natural hunting instincts. If you have some spare green vegetables around your kitchen then you can chop them up and put them in the tank. Though they might nibble at plants, this won’t be a large part of their diet if you’re feeding them enough of other foods.
Oscars require more care than most other species. Their size and large appetite means that they produce a lot of mess. This makes cleaning the tank very important, or conditions will deteriorate quickly. Perform water changes at least once a week, ideally twice. These cichlids are hardier than most fish, so they don’t get sick often, but they can get ill just like all species.
A common problem for Oscars is “hole in the head” disease. This is where cavities and holes begin to form. This could be a sign that they’re not getting enough nutrients in their food. It is worth changing their diet if you see signs of this disease.
See Fish Disease Diagnosis and Treatment at Rebel Pets for help with diagnosing and treating diseases.
Tank Level:Mid dweller
|Adult Size:||up to 30 cm|
|Aquarist Experience Level:||Intermediate|
|Minimum Tank Size:||200 litres|
|Diet:||Omnivore, eats most foods|
|Lifespan:||Up to 20 Years|
|Water Flow:||Moderate to strong|
|Temperature:||23 to 27°C|
|pH:||6.0 – 8.0|