What Tank Setup Do You Need for an Oscar Fish

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Oscar cichlid fish

Cichlids are a popular fish. There are over 2,000 varieties found in South America throughout the Amazon River. One favorite variety is the Oscar, AKA marble cichlid, velvet cichlid or tiger Oscar. If you’re considering Oscar fish in your aquarium, here’s what to know about their natural habitat.

How Big Do Oscar Fish Get?

Oscar fish swimming in a tank

In the wild, Oscar fish can grow up to 18 inches, but in captivity, they rarely get bigger than 10 to 12 inches. They do quite well living alone. Because they can get so big, it can be difficult to find fish that pair well with them. You want bigger fish that won’t fit in the Oscar’s mouth. The Oscar can be territorial and assertive, so any tank mates need to be able to compete for food. The Oscar will prefer the top to mid-level of the tank. Tank mates that prefer the bottom of the tank and who aren’t shy will be the best bets. 

What Size of Tank Do You Need for Oscar Cichlids?

Because Oscars can get so large, you need a minimum 55-gallon aquarium. Ideally, you should get a 75-gallon or larger tank, especially if you plan on putting any other fish in the tank. You should plan on getting a cover or lid for the tank. Oscars can and do jump. 

What Filter Should I Get for Oscar Fish?

Oscars eat quite a bit of food, so you will need a good filtration system to keep the water suitable. Go for a sturdy, high-performance, high-quality filtration system. Canisters are recommended. It’s also recommended that your filtration should be able to turn over the volume of water in the tank every 15 minutes.

Do Oscar Fish Need An Air Pump?

Oscar fish do not need an air pump, provided the tank is getting enough oxygen. With a good filter that keeps the surface water moving, your Oscar fish should be okay. However, you do need to pay attention to your fish and watch for the following signs of needing more oxygen:

  • They may gulp air from the surface of the tank.
  • Their gills will move faster than normal.
  • Your fish aren’t very active. 

Do Oscar Fish Need a Heater?

Oscar fish prefer warmer waters, between 74 and 81 degrees Fahrenheit, with 77 being ideal. The Amazon River is quite warm and Oscars do not like cool waters. A heater can keep the temperature stable, which makes your fish healthier. The pH level should be between 6 and 7.5. You’ll want to test the water’s pH regularly to keep the nitrate and nitrite levels down. Changing the water can help keep conditions adequate for your Oscar fish to live a long life of 10 to 13 years. 

What Tank Setup Do You Need for Oscar Fish?

They prefer lush vegetation, similar to their natural environment. These fish will move the plants around in the tank, so you should make sure that the plants are heavier and well-set into the substrate. Oscars don’t necessarily need lighting and although the Oscar fish may prefer the tank murky and dark, your plants in the tank won’t.

Raising Oscar fish can be rewarding. Provide them with a healthy aquarium and you’ll have years of enjoyment with your fish friends.

About the Author
peacock cichlids fish swimming

Dustin Williams

Dustin Williams is a third generation aquarist and tropical fish fanatic. He grew up surrounded by various pets including; dogs, cats, turtles, hamsters and of course, aquarium fish. He has owned his own aquarium since Y2K and is experienced in keeping all types of freshwater tropical fish. He currently owns a 67 gallon tank with various African Cichlids and writes content for his personal aquarium website.... Learn More

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