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What is a Tiger Oscar?
The Tiger Oscar is a species of the cichlid family and is native to South America, where they inhabit the Amazon and its tributaries. Known for their striking coloration and aggressive behavior, these fish are a popular choice among aquarium enthusiasts. Tiger Oscars are distinguished by their vivid orange-red colors over black bodies, resembling a black rock on fire. This article will delve into the fascinating world of Tiger Oscars, exploring their behavior, diet, and care requirements.
The Tiger Oscar is a type of Oscar fish (Astronotus ocellatus), distinguished by its unique tiger-like skin pattern.
Tiger Oscars have vivid orange-red colors over black bodies. Meanwhile, wild Oscars generally have grey or dark brown scales with yellow and orange spots. The contrast between the dark and light colors in wild Oscars are often less vivid.
Even though Tiger Oscars are a type of Oscar, they are so popular that they are often referred to as common Oscars as well. When aquarium hobbyists mention “Oscar fish” or “common Oscars,” they are most likely referring to Tiger Oscars and not the wild Oscars. This makes sense, since Tiger Oscars are one of the first types of Oscars that were introduced to the aquarium hobby.
Here is a species profile chart for Oscar Tigers:
|Common Name(s)||Tiger Oscar, Oscar Fish, Oscar Cichlid, Marble Cichlid, Velvet Cichlid|
|Scientific Name||Astronotus ocellatus|
|Origin||South America (Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela)|
|Temperature||72-80 °F (22-27 °C)|
|Minimum Tank Size||55 gallons|
|Food & Diet||Omnivore|
|Tank Mates||Should be chosen carefully due to the Tiger Oscar’s aggressive nature|
|Common Diseases||Hole in the Head Disease, White Spot Disease/Ich, Fin and Tail Rot|
Tiger Oscars are hardy fish that are relatively easy to keep. However, it is important to understand and meet their basic care requirements. Some of these care requirements would include tank size, tank setup, water parameters, and diet.
The aquarium tank is the foundation of your Tiger Oscar’s habitat. Therefore, it is important to provide them with a proper tank setup for them to thrive and be happy. Let’s start by providing a spacious tank for them to swim freely.
Providing an adequate tank size for your Tiger Oscars is very important, considering they are large fish that are also quite active. When they are purchased from the fish store, they are most likely only 2-3 inches in size. However, they grow very quickly, so it is important to consider their adult size when choosing a tank size.
Here are the required tank sizes for Tiger Oscars.
1 Oscar Fish: For one Tiger Oscar, the minimum tank size is 55 gallons. The recommended tank size is 75 gallons.
2 Oscar Fish: For two Tiger Oscars, the minimum tank size is 75 gallons. The recommended tank size is 100 gallons.
3 Oscar Fish: For three Tiger Oscars, the minimum tank size is 100 gallons. The recommended tank size is 125 gallons.
Adding an additional 20-30 gallons of water is recommended for each additional Tiger Oscar.
Please note that these are general guidelines and the actual tank size may vary depending on the specific needs of your Oscar fish. It’s always better to provide more space than less for your fish to ensure their well-being.
Even though Tiger Oscars are considered to be hardy aquarium fish, it is still important to maintain proper temperatures and water parameters. This will help ensure the fish is not only surviving, but thriving in your aquarium.
Here are the ideal water parameters for a Tiger Oscar fish:
- Temperature: 72-80 °F (22-27 °C)
- pH levels: Between 6 and 8
- Water hardness: Between 5 to 20 dH
The tank setup for Tiger Oscars involves various considerations such as filtration, heating, lighting, and decorations.
Filtration is an important consideration because Tiger Oscars require a strong aquarium filter. Tiger Oscars eat a lot, make a lot of mess, and produce a lot of waste. A strong filter such as a canister filter would be recommended. A filter that is double the rated capacity of the tank would be recommended. For example, if you have a 100 gallon tank, installing a filtration system that is rated for 200 gallon capacity is recommended.
Heating is another important component of a Tiger Oscar tank. They are tropical fish that require warm waters. A reliable filter would be necessary to make sure stable temperatures are maintained. Keep in mind that Tiger Oscars can be destructive, and they cause damage to fragile aquarium heaters. Therefore, durable aquarium filters would be recommended. Glass aquarium heaters that are prone to breaking can be fitted with a protective covering.
As for lighting, Oscar fish dislike extremely bright lighting. Therefore, aquarium lights that are adjustable would be recommended.
The decoration of the tank can include driftwood, rocks, sand or gravel substrate, and some live plants. This will mimic their native habitat in the Amazon River basin, creating an aesthetic environment. In addition, these hardscape and plants can provide a hiding place for the fish, making them feel comfortable and safe when needed. In regards to live plants, keep in mind that Oscar fish may uproot and destroy it. While it’s great if you can keep live plants in your tank, expect some trial and error in this process. Some plants that are less likely to get destroyed would include Java Fern, Java Moss, Banana Plant, and Salvinia Natans.
As a reminder, decorations in the tank are good, but don’t overdo it. Be sure to reserve open space for the fish to swim and allow the fish to move with ease.
Lastly, decorations may be rearranged by the Tiger Oscars. You can try to secure it, or simply allow the Tiger Oscar to do its thing as long as there is no danger to the fish.
Oscar fish are omnivores and have a varied diet, consisting of both meaty foods and plant based foods. In their native habitat, the diet of an Oscar fish would include other fish, insects, crustaceans, plants, fruits, and nuts.
In an aquarium environment, Tiger Oscars would eat cichlid pellets as their staple diet. A high quality cichlid pellet such as Hikari Cichlid Gold Floating Pellets is recommended. In addition to this, foods such as shrimp, scallops, mussels, clams, squid, peas, spinach, cucumber, apples, bananas, crickets, mealworms, earthworms, and various other live foods can be added to supplement their diet.
As for feeding frequency, it’s recommended to feed adult Tiger Oscars once a day on alternative days. If you wish to feed them more than once, limit the practice to twice a week. As for juvenile Tiger Oscars, it is recommended to feed smaller quantities at a higher frequency. For example, feeding small portions three times a day would be good.
Normally, Tiger Oscars aren’t picky eaters, but there are several possible reason if they aren’t eating:
- Already Full: They may be full, and they are still trying to digest food from previous feedings.
- Environmental Change: New Tiger Oscars might not eat right away in a new tank. It’s normal for fish to be shy when they are first introduced to a tank.
- Stress: Louds sounds and or other disturbance in the environment may be causing stress to the fish.
- Poor Water Conditions or Bright Lights: Tiger Oscars may refuse food in poor water conditions or under bright lights.
- Unappealing Food: Tiger Oscars may find low quality food, old food, diets with no variety unappetizing. They may also be hesitant of foods that are new to them and they don’t recognize. Providing high quality food that is fresh and/or incorporating live foods may help stimulate their appetite.
- Disease or Parasites: Illness can cause loss of appetite. If this is the cause, immediate attention is required in order to address the illness.
Tiger Oscars are generally hardy fish, but that doesn’t mean that they are immune to disease and health issues. Here are some common diseases that they are susceptible to:
- Hole in the Head (HITH): This disease is potentially fatal if left untreated. Symptoms include white sores around the eyes and on top of the head, pitting lesions of the head and lateral line, larger holes and sores, mucous trailing from the holes, and loss of appetite. The exact cause for HITH has not been determined, but one possible culprit is the flagellate parasite Hexamita. Other factors may play a role in the development of this illness, including vitamin or mineral imbalances, overcrowding, poor water quality, or improper nutrition.
- Ich (White Spot Disease): Ich is a very common disease problem for all aquarium fish, including Tiger Oscars. It is caused by Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, a protozoan parasite. Symptoms of ich include loss of appetite, reddening of the fins, white spots on the skin or gills, sitting on the bottom of the tank, flashing (a behavior in which fish rub their bodies on objects in the tank), and increased gill movements.
- Fin and Tail Rot (Columnaris Disease): Fin rot is caused by a bacterial infection. Tail rot is essentially the same thing but it’s an infection near the tail of the fish rather than the fins. When fish are kept in poor water conditions, they will become stressed. This will make them susceptible to infections and illnesses.
It’s important to maintain good water quality and perform regular water changes to prevent these diseases from occurring. If you notice any signs of these diseases or illnesses, you should take action as soon as you can.
Tiger Oscars are large fish, often considered to be a monster fish in the aquarium hobby.
Size in Captivity
- Average Size: In captivity, Tiger Oscars usually grow to an average length of about 12 inches.
- Maximum Size: With optimal care, they can reach up to 15 inches, although this is not very common.
Size in the Wild
- Average Size: In the wild, Tiger Oscars have an average length of about 12 inches.
- Maximum Size: They can grow even longer, with a maximum length of about 18 inches.
Size Difference Between Male and Female: Tiger Oscars are a type of monomorphic fish, meaning that both males and females are the same shape, size, and color. With that said, it is possible that males may get slightly larger.
Tiger Oscars are known for their rapid growth. They can add an inch to their size every month, for the first year. In order to allow for them to grow at this rate, proper tank size, quality diet, and proper water parameters would be required.
Tiger Oscars typically live between 10 and 15 years. However, with great genetics and good care, some have been known to live up to 20 years.
There is a wide range in their lifespan, and good care can make a significant impact on their longevity. Therefore, this is a great reminder to understand their needs and provide regular maintenance to meet those needs.
Tiger Oscars are intelligent fish that can also be aggressive. They display a wide range of behaviors, making them very interesting to keep as pet fish.
Compared to many other species of aquarium fish, Tiger Oscars would be considered intelligent. They are able to recognize their owners, even amongst a group of people. The fact that they recognize their owners is evident by their behaviors. For example, if they are approached by their owner, they may be more interactive and show signs of eagerness to be fed. In contrast, when they are approached by a stranger, they may show signs of stress.
In an aquarium environment, they are mid-level swimmers, but they tend to turn everything inside of the tank upside down out of curiosity and search for food.
They can get upset and sulk as well. For example, when their tank is disturbed and they don’t like it, they might sulk at the bottom of the tank for a few hours or more.
Tiger Oscars are known for their aggressive behavior. One of the major causes of aggression is derived from territorial disputes. If another fish enters their territory, they may try to chase them out by displaying aggressive behavior. Levels of aggression are expected to rise during breeding season as well.
By providing a proper tank size and tank setup for the fish, unnecessary aggression can be avoided. With that said, even with a proper tank size and tank setup, some aggressive behavior is to be expected. Observation and monitoring their behavior and being able to determine when to take action would be important.
If you determine that the level of aggression is too high and intervention is required, here are some things you can do:
Increase Feeding: Tiger Oscars can get aggressive if they are hungry. You may be able to reduce the level of aggression by ensuring they are well fed.
Add an Object: Adding an object, such as a large rock, in the middle of the tank may help settle territorial disputes. The object will help solidify the border. In addition, the object can help break the line of sight as well. If the fish aren’t forced to constantly look at each other, the aggressive behavior may be reduced.
Add a Tank Divider: Adding a tank divider will prevent the fish from fighting each other.
Separate the Fish: Separating the fish into different tanks will be the solution if the level of aggression can not be managed.
Tiger Oscars do have teeth. They have two sets of teeth. However, they do not have any teeth on their jaws, unlike humans and other animals. The pharyngeal teeth, as the name suggests, lie at the back of their throat. The other set of teeth are located at the back of their mouths. These teeth are not sharp enough to cause significant injury to human flesh, but their bites and nips can surprise you or hurt slightly. Furthermore, Tiger Oscars are primarily suction feeders. This means that they suck their food into their mouths and then chew it at the back of their mouth and throat, before ingesting it. They do this with their mouth closed, so it’s unlikely that you will be able to see the process.
Tank mates for Tiger Oscars must be carefully selected. They are aggressive fish and they are not community fish. Therefore, many aquarium fish will not be suitable as their tank mate.
In general, fish that are too fragile or too small are not recommended as tank mates. Suitable tank mates would usually be large fish that are comparable in size to the Tiger Oscars, and also equally robust.
Here are some species that are usually considered good tank mates for Tiger Oscars:
- Convict Cichlid
- Jewel Cichlid
- Blood Parrot
- Clown Loach
- Jack Dempsey cichlids
- Silver Dollar fish
- Firemouth cichlids
- Blue Acara
- Common Pleco
- Sailfin Pleco
- Rainbow Shark
Breeding Tiger Oscar fish is a fascinating process. Here’s an overview of their breeding process.
Breeding Pair: Breeding starts with a breeding pair. They are able to breed from approximately one year of age, up to ten years of age. Breeding pairs that are at least two years old tend to be most successful. The breeding pair are monogamous, and the male and female must be compatible. Forcing a male and female to become a mating pair is not possible, as incompatible pairs may end up showing excessive aggression towards each other. In fact, if an incompatible male and female is placed in the same tank, it is possible that one may end up killing the other fish. The best way to obtain a mating pair is to allow a group of Tiger Oscars to pair off amongst themselves. This is especially true since the mere task of distinguishing between male and female Tiger Oscars is very difficult. They are considered monomorphic fish, meaning that both the male and female are the same shape, size, and color.
Mating Process The mating process begins with a pair of these cichlids chasing each other around the aquarium tank, after which they excitedly begin lip-locking and slapping tails against one another. Eventually, the female will descend to the rock and prepare it for her eggs. The optimal temperature for breeding Oscars is between 74°F – 81°F (23°C-27°C). Temperature is critical to induce spawning, and should be warmer than their usual tank, 79 to 86 F (26 to 30 C).
Egg Laying: Female Tiger Oscars lay between 300-3000 eggs. Smaller females tend to lay between 300-500 eggs, while larger females can lay up to 3000 eggs. Once the eggs are laid, the male will deposit milt to fertilize it. The eggs are opaque at first, turning transparent in 24 hours. The eggs will spawn in 2 to 3 days. The parents will usually protect the eggs during this process.
Raising Fry: After the eggs hatch, the fry will continue to be protected by their parents. The fry should be fed small quantities multiple times a day. Ideally, they should be fed five or six times per day. At the minimum, they should be fed twice a day. Newly hatched brine shrimp (Artemia nauplii) would be a great source of food for them. Eventually, they will be able to feed on dry foods as well.
Tiger Oscars are a type of Oscar fish. However, there are many different types, within the realm of Tiger Oscars as well.
Here are the different types of Tiger Oscars:
- Tiger Oscar: The original Tiger Oscar has bright orange markings all over its black and grey body.
- Albino Tiger Oscar: This is the albino variety of the Tiger Oscar. It features red to orange patches throughout its creamy white body.
- Blue Tiger Oscar: Blue Tiger Oscar features a dark blue to black background with orange to red patterns.
- Black Tiger Oscar: The Black Tiger Oscar is characterized by its dark body color, which can range from dark blue to black, with orange to red patterns.
- Red Tiger Oscar: The Red Tiger Oscar is characterized by its vibrant red coloration, which covers a large part of its body.
- Lemon Tiger Oscar: The Lemon Tiger Oscar is known for its vibrant lemon yellow coloring throughout its body.
- Longfin Tiger Oscar: The Longfin or Veilfin Oscar has been bred for long, flowing fins giving it a unique appearance.
- Wild Tiger Oscar: Wild Tiger Oscars generally have grey or dark brown scales with yellow and orange spots.
- Lutino Tiger Oscar: The Lutino Oscar is characterized by its vibrant color, with lemon colored covering a large part of their body.
- Orange Tiger Oscar: The Orange Tiger Oscar is known for its orange markings on a black body, similar to their namesake and the “stripes” can reach all over their bodies and even to their tails.