Oscars are definitely among the beautiful fishes that are fun to watch swimming in an aquarium. Fish keepers are often smitten by their unique appearances, but their bold behaviors are no surprise. These fishes know how lovely they look, and they are not afraid to flaunt it.
Despite their infamous aggressive manners, they are intelligent species and great for socializing. Beginners might find them challenging to keep for several reasons, but there are still plenty of points as to why you should consider owning one of these.
Let’s dig more about this interesting species, their habits, potential tank mates, and more.
What Is A Tiger Oscar Fish?
There are 13 different types of Oscar fishes, and the Tiger Oscar is probably the most popular of them all. They belong to the cichlid family, and these fishes are naturally found in the tropical parts of South America.
They are also native to other countries such as Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, French Guiana, and Columbia. There are plenty of Oscar fishes in the Amazon River, given that it is the most diverse ecosystem in the world.
Tiger Oscars are popular aquarium fishes, especially around America, Europe, and China. However, not everyone is advised to purchase them on the sole basis of their attractive appearances. They tend to be far difficult to handle due to their aggressive and intimidating actions.
What Does A Tiger Oscar Look Like?
The Tiger Oscar has a distinct oval-shaped forehead with bright orange markings all over its body. Their fins are also pretty noticeable, especially in the way they gracefully swim. They have a round tail and sleek black fins.
Tiger Oscars can grow up to 36 cm as an adult. They grow pretty quickly compared with other fishes. There are reports that Tiger Oscars in the wild grow for about 18 inches, which is relatively larger than those bred in captivity.
The majority of their body is covered in black scales with splashes of bright orange and reddish patterns. Some people compare their appearance to a lava rock, which makes them even more beautiful when swimming around.
In terms of gender differences, there is nothing much worth noting for Tiger Oscar fishes. They are monomorphic; meaning they both look almost the same.
Males tend to grow relatively more prominent than females. You will also notice the body of males developing a brighter color during the mating period.
How Long Does A Tiger Oscar Live
Given that the fishes receive proper treatment, high-quality foods, and suitable water parameters, they can live for 20 years. However, the average lifespan of these fishes is only 8 to 12 years, but you can have them live up to their full years with the right health conditions.
Temperament And Behavior
First of all, Tiger Oscars are not the perfect option to add to a community tank. These species are not that vicious, but they tend to eat smaller fishes and others of the same kind if they go within their territory.
They are often aggressive during mating season and feeding routines. It is best to keep them in a separate tank to avoid fights and potential injuries. If you’re keeping them in schools, ensure adequate space for each fish to prevent further problems.
Regarding their swimming habits, they often spend most of their time in the middle level of the tank. They search food down to the substrate, so it’s normal to see uprooted plants in their aquarium. While setting up their homes, make sure to secure the plants and other landscape items because this fish is quite the digger.
Tiger Oscars are aggressive fishes. They have sharp teeth on their jaw and throat. They will also attack you if you inadvertently place your hand inside their tanks, especially if eggs are hatching or when the mating season is about to come. However, you can control this attitude if the tank is correctly set up and compatible with tank mates.
It’s also better to understand that even though Tiger Oscars are hostile, every fish is still different. If you chose right, you could have an Oscar that is peaceful enough to pet with your bare hands. Otherwise, try to be more careful and put on some gloves or partitions if you need to place your hands inside the tank.
Another thing worth noting is that the Tiger Oscars’ aggressive behaviors are almost the same as their mating signals. Be sure to monitor each fish to recognize potential injuries and cues from the victim. If you spot damage, do everything you can to treat it immediately to avoid fin rot and other more complicated health problems.
How Much Is A Tiger Oscar Fish?
You can get a healthy Tiger Oscar for at least $10 in most aquarium stores. Unlike other fishes, they do well on their own and are less likely to get lonely. Each of them thrives independently, so there’s no need to keep them in groups unless you intend to breed them.
Diet and Nutrition
Oscars, in general, are omnivores. They eat various kinds of food, so it’s not hard to find something that suits them well. Wild Tiger Oscars mostly live off crustaceans, dead plants, and small insects. For aquarium fishes, you can feed them flakes, pellets, and live food treats.
Some of the foods you can incorporate into their diet are:
- Brine shrimp
- Boiled peas
- Blanched spinach
They are not picky eaters, so anything will do. Besides that, Tiger Oscars are hunters in nature, so you can also try to incorporate live food into their tank like snails, small crabs, and more. You can also try to place a feeder inside the tank if you like.
Due to their behavior, size, and appetite, Tiger Oscars require more care and attention. They often produce a good deal of mess, so it is vital to clean the tank more often. The recommended frequency of tank cleaning is at least once a week to avoid certain diseases.
The most common diseases Tiger Oscars might get in poor environmental conditions are:
1. Hole in the head
This is a condition that creates a hole in the head of a specific fish. The main cause of this illness has not yet been determined, but most experts believe that it is caused by a flagellate parasite called “Hexamita.” Other reasons that can contribute to the development of this disease are mineral imbalances, poor water quality, overcrowding, and improper nutrition.
- Lesions in the lateral line of the head
- Larger holes
- Loss of appetite
- Mucous trailing from the holes
- Sore eyes
Hole in the head is a treatable disease, given that it is not yet fatal and is recognized in its early stages. Based on studies, the drug Flagyl (metronidazole) can treat this ailment.
The drug should be added to the tank water and allow the infected fish to bathe in the mixture for 24 hours. They can also consume this orally if the fish is willing to take it. The treatment usually lasts for about five to ten days until there’s an improvement.
Ich is a condition caused by a protozoan parasite called Ichthyophthirius multifiliis. This parasite thrives in warm waters and can reproduce quickly. In most cases, this condition is brought by the newly added fish and other items placed recently inside the aquarium.
- Increased gill movement
- Loss of appetite
- White spots on skin, gills, and fins
- Reddening of fins
- Spending most of the time at the bottom of the tank
- Rubbing bodies against tank objects
There are various treatments available for this condition. The products you can try are:
- Malachite green
- Copper sulfate
- Victoria green
3. Fin rot
Fin rot is mainly caused by bacteria when it enters the body of a fish through lesions and injuries. Some of the bacteria that might include this disease include:
- Cytophaga spp
- Aeromonas spp
- Flexibacter spp
- Pseudomonas spp
- Flavobacterium columnare
- Bloody or blacked fins
- Fins are falling off
- Loss of appetite
- Slimy substance in the fins
- Spending more time on the surface
The best treatment to alleviate this condition is using antibiotics. In severe cases, this condition may require surgery to remove the affected tissues. However, in most cases, this can be aided by the following over-the-counter medications:
You can also try to add salt in the tank water alongside the medications.
4. Popeye Disease
Popeye disease is primarily due to poor and unhealthy water conditions. It can affect one or both eyes, depending on the situation.
- Swollen eyes
- Cloudy eye appearance
This disease usually has three components:
- Cornea damage (outer surface)
- Fluid build-up behind the eyes
- Bacterial infection
There are things that you can try to aid this problem. These include:
- Water change
- Separating the affected fish
- Use of antibiotic medications
- Adding salt to the tank water (1 tbs per 5 gallons)
5. Bloating or Dropsy
Bloating is a serious case for Tiger Oscars. This condition often includes other underlying diseases and serves as more of a symptom than an illness itself. The simplest cause of bloating for Oscars is constipation and overeating.
- Uncontrolled swimming
- Bloated appearance
- Hard feces
- Lack of bowel movements
Constipation can be aided by fasting, water change, and increasing water temperature by two degrees. You can also feed them soft-boiled peas. If the condition doesn’t get better, the fish might have dropsy, which is a more severe problem.
Dropsy symptoms include:
- Abdomen swelling
- Bloating appearance
- Popeye disease
- Uncontrolled swimming
- Loss of appetite
- Raised scales
Underlying diseases include organ damage, severe constipation, intestinal blockage, and tumors. It would be better to consult an expert or a veterinarian to know the best treatment for the following diseases.
Tiger Oscars are not the friendliest kind of fish out there. Tensions often arise when they are around, so it’s best to keep them away from smaller species. The most suitable tank mates for them are:
- Green Terrors
- Sailfin Plecos
- Silver Dollars
- Jack Dempseys
- Firemouth Cichlids
- Jaguar Cichlids
- Convict Cichlids
- Severum Cichlids
Most of these are cichlids because they can live peacefully around Tiger Oscars due to their size and strong will. Smaller fishes, shrimps, and snails will quickly vanish if you incorporate them in the tank as pets.
To set up a tank appropriate for this species, there are a few things you’ll need to consider:
- pH level
- Water parameters
The water in South America, where they originally reside, has a neutral pH level. Tiger Oscars are not compatible with highly acidic and alkaline waters. They can also handle slow to medium water movement, but you’ll have to lower down the light penetration by putting rocks, vegetation, caves, and other objects where they can hide. Light can be a stressor for this species.
If you’re looking for the most suitable substrate for them, it’s best to choose fine-grained, and sand would be a great option. They like digging, so it would be perfect to avoid scratching or put it to a minimum.
In terms of rocks, the options are limitless. It would be best to put the most natural-looking ones for aesthetics, and you can add several caves to serve as their territories. When setting up the environment, try to make it as natural as possible, and your Tiger Oscars will love it.
The gallon size should be at least 55 gallons for one Tiger Oscar because this fish needs plenty of space. Add 20 to 30 gallons of water for every fish you add to the tank. You should also set the water within 74 to 81 degrees Fahrenheit because they love to swim in warm waters.
Tiger Oscar fishes are harder to breed in comparison with other species. They are picky when it comes to partners, so it takes time to get them into mating.
For the best chances of breeding, it’s better to buy many juveniles and grow them together to build a connection while growing up. Most Oscars are monogamous, so when you spot a pair, they will mate for a lifetime.
Maturity also takes time for these fishes. It takes at least one year for the juveniles to mature. In some cases, it can even take two years for a Tiger Oscar to be fully grown.
After a pair of Tiger Oscars successfully spawns eggs, they will leave it on a rock surface to hatch. Typically, a large female can produce up to 3,000 eggs. Both parents are dedicated to keeping their eggs safe, so it’s better to avoid putting your hands inside the tank during this time because they will attack you.
After hatching, you can move the juveniles to a new tank using a sponge filter for a bigger chance of survival. Make sure to feed them two to four times a day for faster growth.
If you’re a hobbyist or a beginner when it comes to fish keeping, then Tiger Oscars might not be the best fish to have as a pet. They require a significant amount of attention and knowledge. Aside from that, their aggression might also cause intimidation to the owner and prompt neglect.
However, if you are willing to go through a lot of work, owning this species will be worth it. Their bright color patterns and interesting social behaviors are also quite lovable in some ways.
A Tiger Oscar is not a horrible fish to own. If given the chance, you will be able to see its beauty and might even become one of your favorites.