FAQs on Oscar
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Sick Oscar... beaten? 2/22/13
Had an ammonia spike which lead to lost of slime coat & cloudy eyes.
Eyes have cleared up almost all the way. The first day and a half he
laid on one-side. Now he is upright but remains on bottom of tank. Have
been doing water changes, the salt trick and also added prime to tank
When I looked at him the other day it appears his flesh popped through
his skin. Is there any treatment for this or should I euthanize (if so
<Something has beaten this fish... What else is in the tank? What re the
system itself, size, mechanicals, water test parameters... READ on WWM
re what we're looking for information wise... then write back. Bob
Oscars Dropping dead! - 12/18/2012
I hope this gets to the right desk,
<It's on my desk tonight - Sabrina with you this chilly evening.>
and hope this letter finds all in great standings or better.
I am floored with the events of the last few days. My boyfriend and
myself have an aquarium that we set up earlier last summer. We got 4
young Oscars (two albino, two regular tigers) and put them into the
50gallon tank -
<This is too small by far to house four adult Oscars. Young Oscars
grow up, not slowly either, and are very "messy" fish - i.e., consume a
lot of food and produce a lot of waste, thereby fouling the water
quality impressively. I would not house more than one adult in a
50 gallon tank, and even that might eventually be just too much work for
my lazy self to keep up with the waste production.>
They where about 3 inches each. Today the remaining two are a good 6-7
<This is about the largest I would be inclined to keep in a 50g; if it
is possible for you to consider a larger tank, please do so.
Otherwise, be prepared to consider more/stronger filtration and more
frequent water changes. Weekly wouldn't be overkill.>
but two have recently died.
<How unfortunate; my sympathies. Hopefully we can help you turn
things around for the remaining two....>
I know your going to want to know the water stuff,
however, I don't have a kit yet (I know, bad fish owner),
<You said it, not me. Get test kits as soon as you reasonably can
for Ammonia, Nitrite, Nitrate, and pH. These are not just "nice to
have", but "urgent". Since we can't physically see or sense
(beyond making guesses based upon scent, color, clarity, etc., which is
entirely unreliable and inaccurate) these properties of the water, the
only way we can really know what is the status of the environment is by
using a reliable test kit.
These measures aren't just for having fun playing with science at home
(even though it is fun anyway), they're crucially important because the
water is what the fish are living in full time. They're not moving
around in the air, like you and me, or mice, or cats, or dogs, they're
immersed full time in a medium in which you and I don't live.
Control that environment, and you control the health of the animals.>
but these guys have been thriving so nicely in this tank until now!
<The exceedingly precarious balance of too much fish in too small a
space finally tipped. It was inevitable, without constant checking
of water quality and large frequent water changes. Get those test
kits.... and change water. A lot of water. Like,
Night before last we looked in the tank and noticed that one of the
tiger Oscar's scales had seemed to liquefy, some where still hanging on
but they where not hard scales - I am having trouble explaining what
they look like, but liquefied is my best description - And where hanging
off waving in the water like tirn flesh with no hardness or shape like a
scale should have.
The flesh between the fins just sort of evaporated on the pectoral fins.
Death came very quick after that.
<Your descriptions are very clear, and almost certainly symptoms of poor
water quality. Perhaps very, very poor water quality.>
We have 2 left, scared to death they will die of this disease.
<They will, if you do not correct this environment as soon as possible.
Minutes matter right now. If you can do a water change the moment
you get this email, do so. If you can properly match for
temperature and pH and use a good quality Chloramine remover (Jungle
brand ACE, Seachem's Prime, or really any other commercially available
product that removes Chlorine and neutralizes Chloramine), then I would
seriously consider changing 50% of the water or more. Even if you
can't match for pH (since you lack a kit), I would probably still do
We use distilled water because the local water has TONS of chlorine and
other chemicals (you can smell it in the water).
<Yikes! Do not use distilled water! There is no buffering
capacity in distilled water at all, and as soon as waste and dissolved
organic "stuff" builds up, carbonic acid builds too, and the distilled
water with no buffering capacity drops in pH rapidly - a "pH crash".
This alone can kill fish, very very rapidly, and also with the symptoms
you describe. You would be better off to do a major water change -
right now if possible - with tap water treated with the Chloramine
remover mentioned above. If this is what has happened (and I would
bet a fair amount of money on it), then you're not going to be able to
match for pH, and frankly, what the fish are going through right now is
probably worse than the shock of bringing the pH back up with a large
water change. To be safe, perhaps you could try a 25% water
change, see how they fare for a couple of hours, and then do another,
perhaps larger, water change.>
Is there any hints or tips you could pass along to save the remaining
<As above. And act quickly. Even minutes are important right
Or have you heard of this before?
<Oh yes. And seen it. Environmental disease - reaction,
sudden or otherwise, to adverse water quality or other problem(s) in the
environment - is probably the "number one" killer in pet fish. And
what makes this most unfortunate is that, once we're all properly
educated about it, how easy it is to simply test water, observe water
quality, and maintain with simple water changes....>
Thank you for your time
<And thank you for your interest in fixing this problem. I do hope
you are able to do so in time. My best wishes to you and your
Oscars Dropping dead! - II - 12/19/2012
You responded so quickly I truly do appreciate it!
<Glad to be of service, Sara!>
I have ordered a test kit that covers all the things listed as of last
The other 2 Oscars appear as frisky as ever right now.
<Then let's keep our fingers crossed that we're not too late.>
I am going to do the water changes as suggested getting rid of the
distilled, but is it safe to use tap water, conditioned of course?
<Conditioned, yes. It is possible, of course, that you're in an
area with water that's just too "bad", but most places in the U.S.
(assuming that's where you are) are "okay" enough to say so.
Oscars are very, very tolerant of a very wide range of pH and hardness,
and as long as the water is treated for chlorine and chloramine, chances
are it'll be okay.>
Or should I use that filtered/artesian stuff?
<You could use filtered water, spring water, etc., just NOT distilled
water. And be aware that some/many "filtered" waters may need some
additional buffering capacity added - something like Kent's "R/O Right"
product, or other similar options. You can also use half tapwater
and half filtered/R/O water, which will give you perhaps the best
results. Oh, and as far as "spring" water is concerned....
One of the best road trips I ever had took me through the Owens valley
in California, and south toward the Mojave desert. Somewhere in
that saltpan-riddled territory was the headquarters and bottling
facilities of one of the major spring water producers. They're
just starting with what I'd call some of the worst water in the nation,
and filtering it to what I'd call passably drinkable.
Filtering your tapwater or purchasing water cheaply at a water filtering
facility in your general area (or even from one of those dispenser-type
machines outside of supermarkets) is as good.>
I will have my guy go out and get whatever needed for it to be started
soon as we know what to do over it. I do have to let you know we are
very rural, so zipping out to buy something fish-specific isn't exactly
easy (closest Petco is oh, 126 miles off down a snowy highway).
<Ah, I do sincerely understand. I used to live in Bonner's Ferry,
ID, nearest Petco was that far I'm sure - though there was a little
mom'n'pop spot outside of Sandpoint, ID, and they got all my
Good folks, and only maybe 40 miles away. I do miss living up
We don't want to lose these fish (I am particularly fond of the last
living albino we call "runt" - almost solid white still, no orange, but
his fin tips and edges are black). Again, thank you for the quick
<My very best wishes to you and your Oscars, Sara.>
Oscars Dropping dead! - III - 12/21/2012
Howdy my new bestest Oscar buddy (Lol, don't worry, not some freak, just
always appreciate help)...
<No worries. I'm freaky enough for the both of us anyway!>
I started conditioning a good bit of water last night (tap water) so it
has plenty of time to be just right.
<It should (hopefully) not require much time.... That said, water
districts are not created equally. My own tapwater has a pH in the
summer of 9.5-ish, but after neutralizing Chloramine and aerating
overnight, the pH plummets to around 6.0! I'm sure you begin to
understand how important those test kits are. I'm glad they're on
We plan on doing the change out slow, about 10 gallons at a time with
what I have for safely holding water.
<Do be observing those animals closely. I fear that you're up
against time, and moving too slowly might not be in the interest of
their health.... You'll just have to find a balance between moving
quickly enough to reverse whatever problems are in their environment
(Ammonia, Nitrite, perhaps a drastically low pH, maybe other completely
different factors) and watching to see if they are adversely affected by
the crappy tapwater.>
Yes, I am in a rural area where water is just "off." it IS drinkable,
but the chemical content is high here because of our supply's issue with
what we call "shrimp." Bugs basically.
<That's.... neat. Creepy.>
I looked up different colors, I think "Runt" is one of those lutinos?
I found 2 tiny orange spots by his/her tail, but other then that the
only colors are the black on the fins (which goes to clear further out
on the dorsal fin, with a bit of orange growing along the edge). Rainbow
<Sounds pretty! Lutino Oscars typically have normal eye color (as
opposed to the blazing red of an Albino Oscar's eyes), but can sport
even vivid red coloration like the Albinos often have. The black
edge to the fins is not uncommon in Lutino Oscars, as well.>
Thanks! And I'll let you know what happens!
<Sounds good. Take care, -Sabrina>
Sick tiger Oscar
<Hi Lane, Rick here>
I have asked you questions before about my platys and your advice worked
wonders, so maybe you can help me with this. My family just bought a 5
inch tiger Oscar from the pet store and we have had him for about a
month. He has never had a problem before and is always active and
hungry. However, for the past 5 days he has not eaten and has been
acting very lethargic. He is swimming at the very top of the tank and
<Hmm. What's the water temperature? Even though Oscars like the water
warm, they still need dissolved oxygen. Do you have sufficient surface
I have pellets and feeder fish in there for him and I have tried to feed
him on multiple occasions but he just goes to hide.
<Feeder fish aren't the best idea unless you are breeding them yourself.
Can easily import pathogens or parasites. Even then, feeders should be
used sparingly. Better to feed pellets and a variety of frozen foods.
Oscars aren't very picky eaters.>
On Sunday we performed a large water change of about 60% because the
water had become dirty with brown algae which we determined to be new
<Algae might be a symptom of overfeeding. Also, watch the relative
temperatures of the tank water and the replacement water during water
changes. Thermal shock can produce symptoms as long as days after
the water change.>
Our hardness in the tank is a little high but other than that the levels
<quantify? You blamed algae new tank syndrome but other levels are fine.
If you have no ammonia, nitrite or nitrate, that seems to contradict
, even though the tank is continuously filling up with brown algae. How
can I clean the tank and heal my Oscar?
<Difficult to make conclusions without the actual data from your water
tests. Does the fish exhibit any physical symptoms or only behavioral
symptoms? Any pitting of the head area indicating possible
Oh and we had another Oscar, but she just wasn't eating since we got her
and died about a couple weeks after we got her.
<Could be any number of reasons.>
The tank is 75 gallons and minus the 2 rosy red minnows swimming around
that he hasn't eaten he is the only fish. I can't figure out what is
wrong with him and I need a solution fast!
<75 is sufficient size for a single Oscar. You'd need over 100 gallons
for a pair. Keep in mind these are extremely messy fish. Watch him
eat, you will see food coming out through the gills as the fish tries to
Oscars require larger and more frequent water changes than most fish.>
Re: Sick tiger Oscar - 8/23/12
The temperature ranges from 26.9 to 27.2 degrees Celsius.
His behavior used to be slightly aggressive and he was a total pig,
jumping out of the water for food, always coming up to the tank to
eat, etc. Now all he does is sit at the top and barely move.
<Original behavior typical. What puzzles me is that the fish stays near
the surface rather than on the bottom. That might point to some sort of
poisoning, nitrite perhaps since your value is not zero? Are the minnows
behaving abnormally, too?>
And this is only the second time I have given him feeder fish, but he
loved them the first time.
He gets plenty of pellet food everyday (not too much, we don't overfeed)
and he usually eats all of it the second it gets in the tank, but he
hasn't touched it lately.
<Be sure to remove uneaten food.>
The actual test results were:
Total hardness- 75
Total alkalinity- 40
<Nitrite should be zero. The tank may still be completing its cycle..
Here in Phoenix, people keep Oscars in water much harder than yours, so
I doubt that is your root cause. A few questions then: Has the pH been
changing or is it stable? Is the pH of the water put into the tank
significantly different from 6.8? Are there any other physical changes
or clues you can
observe on the fish, such as a change in the color and/or texture,
gasping at the surface, abnormally fast gill movement? So far the
clues still point to nitrite poisoning or possibly insufficient
dissolved oxygen, but there is always a chance that some stress
activated a latent illness or the feeders brought something in. - Rick>
Re: Sick tiger Oscar - 8/23/12
And also the water temperature of the new water is fine (27)
and he has no indications of hole in the head.
<Good. In-line with the other values - Rick.>
Re: Sick tiger Oscar - 8/23/12
Okay so I just did another water test and the levels are the same except
the nitrite levels are 0 and the pH is a little bit acidic. Between 6.2
and 6.8, leaning more toward 6.8. I will do another test tomorrow to see
if anything changes, but what should I do if the pH isn't stable?
<Consolidating the two emails>
I also just did another sink water test and the levels are the same as
they are in the tank except the sink water is a little less acidic than
the tank water. Not completely neutral, but definitely less acidic
<6.2 and 6.8 are very different pH values when you consider this is a
logarithmic scale, so each integer value is a factor of 10. If you
are using test strips, I recommend a liquid kit as more accurate. My kit
has three color-values indicated between 6.2 and 6.8. Stable pH is
very important for any fish. Fluctuating pH can cause serious problems,
especially if changes occur quickly. Soft water is notorious for
causing pH drift in the acidic direction, which is consistent with what
you appear to be experiencing. The solution to stable pH with soft
water is to use a buffer. Unfortunately, I have the opposite situation
with extremely hard water, so I don't really have a lot of experience
with buffering tanks and can't advise on the what and how much question.
However, here are several sections of the WetWebMedia website with a
wealth of information on pH and water chemistry.
You might also check in with a reliable local fish store to ask them
what they advise their customers to use. It should be relatively
consistent locally. But, if it turns out the total alkalinity already in
your tank is sufficient, then pH is a red herring and we need to look
Re: Sick tiger Oscar - 8/23/12
I'm sorry to keep bugging you about this but I have been looking up
symptoms for pH shock and they seem to be similar to how he is acting
but the sites I looked at all had varying symptoms so I was wondering if
you would tell me the symptoms of pH shock and how to cure it
<No problem. We've all experienced trying to save animals. You probably
get multiple symptoms in your searches because different animals behave
and react in different ways, some more sensitive than others. You
haven't mentioned if there are any symptoms aside from the lethargy.
Anyway, the key here is to get that pH stable to minimize the chances of
any latent illness exacerbating the problem. I still have a sense
there might be something else going on, but getting the pH stable will
be a good start.
By the way, a quick look-up in one of my books suggests maintaining a
buffer of 4 degrees carbonate hardness. -Rick>
Re: Sick tiger Oscar - 8/23/12
Okay so I did another pH strip test and it came out the same. I'm going
to get some liquid test strips today
<Good. You can be much more confident in your results. API makes a very
good freshwater test kit. They cost a bit more but will last you a long
, but I finally got a good look at him, he was laying on the ground
which isn't unusual behavior for him in the early morning,
<Oscars can be lazy at times.>
and I was able to confirm what I thought I had been seeing. His eyes are
cloudy. I don't know what this means or if this will help with the
diagnosis. Later today I'm going to the pet store where I bought him to
see if they can tell me anything, but other than that the only numbers
that are off is the pH is a little bit acidic and the water has a low
<That symptom helps. Many of the causes I've seen listed for cloudy
eyes, such as cataracts in a young fish, or rare eye flukes, are
unlikely in this situation. I didn't find much related to this in a
quick WWM search, and most of what I did find was related to marine
fish. However, I did find an article on FishChannel.com reinforcing that
cloudy eyes can be associated
with low pH. You should read it.
I think this reinforces our pH hypothesis. - Rick>
Re: Sick tiger Oscar - 8/24/12
I went and got liquid test strips <<?>> today, and they
gave me the same results.
However, the man I talked to at the fish store said he could have picked
up a fungus from the fish that died. That wouldn't surprise me because
it started up after she died and she was in there for three days because
she died in an ornament and we couldn't find her.
I did a little research and it seems correct, so I have started treating
him with Pimafix to cure it.
<I had a feeling something more than just pH shock was going on. I
recall that Bob Fenner isn't excited about the herbal treatments. I'm a
bit less skeptical about naturopathic methods, but be ready to switch to
something more potent if it doesn't work. I'd still track the pH
regularly before and after water changes until you understand how it
behaves for you. Good luck and let us know how it goes. - Rick>
Re: Sick tiger Oscar - 8/24/12 9/1/12
He definitely had a fungal infection. He has been getting back to his
normal behavior and he is eating more each day. Thank you so much for
all of your help!!!! I am very grateful for everything!
<That is terrific news!
my baby Oscar swimming crazy
My Oscar is swimming funny. I have a 55 gallon tank. I have a Jack
Dempsey and a small Oscar, well the Jack Dempsey beat the little
Guy up, by eating tail and side fins.
<Completely predictable. Don't keep them in the same aquarium. Since
Oscars need a 75-gallon aquarium, minimum, you may as well buy the new
tank. Did you do any research? Didn't you read about how Oscars are
large, territorial towards their own kind, but basically peaceful? That
Oscars prefer soft, slightly acidic water? Compare this to Jack
Dempseys, which are hostile, bad-tempered fish that need hard, alkaline
water. No-one who's done research would keep them together. They're
fundamentally incompatible fish.>
I put the Oscar in a smaller 10 gallon hospital tank he was doing fine
but now he gets stuck to the side of the filter and swims in circles and
<Doesn't have any fins, so swimming isn't easy. Plus, 10 gallons is
insanely small for even a baby Oscar. Hospital tank needs to be at least
20 gallons for this species. What's water quality like? How did you
mature the filter in this aquarium before adding the fish? Any nitrite
or ammonia in the water in this tank will make a bad situation even
I got him Melafix
<Waste of time, money.>
gave him fresh peas and little chunks of earth worms, but he won't eat.
<If cichlids don't want foods, it means they are very, very stressed and
sick. Medicate as per Finrot using a good quality medication (Maracyn 1
and 2, used together, works well).>
Please help I feel sorry for the little Guy.
<I bet. Do read above, then here:
Follow the links to do with health and systems. Your problems here are
entirely of your own making; that means they're easily fixed if you
how you keep your pet fish.>
Thanks much Cassie
<Most welcome, Neale.>
Dying Oscar 5/31/12
I have two Oscars that we bought about six months ago. We have them in a
55 gallon tank with plans to move them to a larger tank as they grow.
A few days ago we had some work done to the floor in our living room and
they got pretty upset. they lost their color, wouldn't eat, laid on the
bottom of the tank.
<Not to worry; more psychological than anything>
We also noticed they had white spots that my husband says were Ich?
<Doubtful... just body mucus coalescing into dots>
He treated the tank
<Mmm... can be quite toxic, dangerous>
and has been doing water changes, about 25 to 50 % alternatively almost
<And this... no more than 25-30% changes, lest you disrupt biological
He does the water testing but says the levels of nitrates and ammonia and
such are fine.
We got new filters, added a bubble rock for extra oxygen, and have been
only feeding them if they seem interested. Red, the one Oscar is
interested, but only occasionally and still spend most of his time at
the bottom of the tank, although he is looking much better and gets up
when we come into the room. Oscar, the other fish, is now floating at
the top of the tank, his fins are all torn up, and he is upside down. He
rarely tries to swim, just kind of floats there. We had two Plecos in
with them but one died and the other is looking very sick.
<Yikes! What medication/s are you using, active ingredients? See WWM re>
He barely moves at all unless it is to go to the top of the water for a
second then right back down. The Ich seems to be gone but the fish seems
to be getting worse. They don't fight. Oscar and Red seem to get along
very well. They used to get excited whenever we entered the room,
wagging their tails and darting around the tank. We have grown very
attached to these fish and it is breaking my heart to watch him so sick.
Is there anything I can do? Thanks for the help!
<The treatment and too-large water changes should cease. Freshwater Ich
is easily defeated via simple temperature increase... Bob Fenner>
Re Dying Oscar 5/31/12
Thanks for the reply! Unfortunately, Oscar went to fish heaven while we
were sleeping. The Pleco and Red seem fine, just a little depressed
which is understandable considering all they have been through. I talked
to my husband (he is the one who does all the tank maintenance and
cleaning) and apparently he thought it was Ich because of poor water
<Mmm, again, unlikely. Freshwater Ich doesn't "hang around" typically;
"waiting" for opportune, resistant-diminished hosts... In other words,
unless you added a vector like live food/s, new fishes, it shouldn't be
He got some bad advice from the pet store and was not doing the weekly
water changes and cleaning because they said he was cleaning too often.
He used the Ick Guard, but only once he says and was relying on
water changes and aquarium salt to help clear it up. The active
ingredients are Victoria green and Nitromersol.
<These are very safe... actually, too much so. This combination is of
little to no use. Please read here:
and the linked files above>
After he used that is when Oscar went belly up.
<Mmm, a coincidence... much more likely there was a pulse of ammonia,
nitrite, and/or loss of DO that killed your Oscar, Pleco>
The Pleco is back to hanging out in his log and on the wall of the tank.
Red is still laying at the bottom but comes up to say hi when we come
near the tank and when my daughter offers him food. Could all of this
have been due to not cleaning
<Is highly likely environmental; no way to tell at this point>
We have lost all of the fish in our other tank (about 15 tiger
<Unusual... these are very tough/hardy animals... Am wondering if you
have an issue w/ "indoor pollution"; perhaps an oily et al. film that is
coating over your tank/s surfaces... Please read here re:
and now Oscar. I want to get this problem under control before anyone else
dies and before we get new fish for the second tank.
<Understood; and agreed. BobF>
Oscar fish... distressed in uncycled system
My fish is going crazy when i get close to the tank. He haven't
eaten in 8 days. The levels or fine we put him in a 55 gal 8
<... this system isn't cycled. The chemistry here is the likely
cause of this fish's troubles, troubled behavior>
He cut himself going crazy on side of face. I don't know what to do
please help me.
<Read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwbiofltfaqs.htm
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>
Re: Oscar resurrection! 1/21/12
Hey thanks for the help my Oscar is back to healthy in fact i
hadn't seen it so active in a while :-)
<Glad you had such success! Cheers, Neale.>
Oscar swimming off balance. 1/8/12
I have a 8 yr old Oscar in a 55 gallon I have 3 filters. He has
always been healthy. I do water changes every week and rinse
filters. Water temp is 78-80 water conditions are A0 Nitrates .20
to 40 and Nitrites 0. Oscar staying at top of the
<I see this... trouble. What other life is in this system,
what re the set-up, history?>
When he tries to swim to the bottom he pops back up to the top he
seems off balance. He stays at the top for feeding. I fed him
peas yesterday and today.
Should I keep up with the peas only?
Im setting up a larger tank. Last week he hit the top of the tank
cover scraped the top of his body. It turned white. He also has
specks on his fins. I noticed in the pic today around his mouth
is white also. It didn't look white in the tank looking with
a flashlight. I did a water change and added a bit of aquarium
salt on Thursday. Today Saturday (1-7 2012) he has been swimming
off balance and staying at top. He is hungry but only will eat at
the top he wont swim or go to the bottom he stays at the side of
the tank. I've read to add Epsom salt should I do a water
change since aquarium salt is in the tank?
<... Something is very wrong here...>
Should I treat him for the scrape on top? I attached some pics of
the top of his body him at the side of the tank and his head.
Thanks for any help you can give me
<My best guesses based on what you've presented: Either
this fish has been, is being brutalized by a tankmate, or
there's (danger!) an electrical leak from something in water
contact in this tank! DO take care in checking this, lest you be
badly shocked. I'd unplug the heater, allow it to cool, and
remove it to check for breakage. Similarly, the filter/s, pump/s,
and lighting. Are all these plugged in to/through a GFI? Please
read here re:
Are you familiar w/ basic tests for electrical leaks? Bob
Re: Oscar swimming off balance.
Thank you for the reply so soon. This picture was this
morning he seems a bit better.
<Ah, yes... but... why was this fish jumping, damaging
He is looking at me and not in the corner. No they are not
plugged into a GFI. But I tested each filter (3) 2 lights,
1 heater and an air pump into a GFI. All was fine.
Wouldn't I feel a shock since I change water every 5
<Not necessarily. You (through your shoes) might well be
Ammonia-0 Nitrites 0 Nitrates between .20-40
<Keep this under 20 ppm. See WWM re FW NO3>
PH 6.8 - 7.0.
<And no lower than 7...>
I have well water with a filtering system. I checked all
the water from the faucet also. (fine) I add stress coat
with water changes. I alternate feeding them Hikari gold
and regular pellets, frozen bloodworms, frozen shrimp,
frozen veggies, krill and dry shrimp/krill. No feeders.
He lives alone in a 55 gallon He was in a
75 gallon with another Oscar as babies but when they got
older they fought so I got the 55 gallon and moved him.
<Also good... Might you have a pet out of the tank... a
cat or dog that is antagonizing this fish?>
He really has grown and is ready for a larger tank. Im
setting up a new tank for him. His tank now has Aqua Clear
110 and a Aqua Clear 70 and a Marineland 200 bio wheel
<Good to have such redundancy>
He beats himself up, sometimes attacks the plants the rocks
anything in the tank and the intake tube,
<Common Oscar beh.>
I put the heater on the side of the tank so he wouldn't
get at it. He seems to leave it alone.
<Best to enclose such heaters in a perforated tube of
PVC or such>
This is why his tank is empty. If I walk by the tank in the
dark he gets startled easily and splashes around. So I try
to let him see me before I walk by or turn the lights on in
NYear weekend he hit the top of the tank cover and
really scraped the top of his body. I think he has outgrown
this tank. Not much room for him to turn. Anyway I
still have the problem until I can move him. As I said I
gave him peas for 2 days and yesterday I added some Epsom
salt This morning (Sunday) he was better, swimming more
normal<ly> and looking for food. I did another water
change this morning. Should I treat the white area
<I would not. Too much potential downsides from
Im going to the fish store tomorrow. I don't want to
loose such a beautiful boy he is part of the family.
Re: Oscar swimming off balance.
Im also looking into getting a GFI
Re: Oscar swimming off balance.
Are you familiar w/ basic tests for electrical leaks? Bob
Sorry just noticed this. Im not sure if this is right but I
have a GFI in my bathroom so I used an extension cord and
plugged all the units from the tank into it one by one.
Re: Oscar swimming off balance.
No cats or dogs.
<Mmm, another swing and a miss>
I do water changes bare foot...I hate shoes....Tonight he
is facing down and seems like gas is coming out
....No treatment for the injury on top of his body that is
<Nothing more, no>
just water changes every 4 or so days until he is healed?
Im guessing he jumped up and hit the cover because he needs
a larger tank. I cant eat or sleep when they seem sick. Ok
<Look for that larger tank... B>
Re: Oscar swimming off balance. 1/9/12
My Oscar was better yesterday (Saturday) after the peas and
Last night (Sunday) he was leaning head down for awhile
looked like gas coming out of him (bubbles)
He is back staying in the corner on top and is again
swimming off balance Any clue on what this is
and what can I treat him with. possible constipation or
<Read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/OscarDisF12.htm
and the linked FAQs files above>
Re: Oscar swimming off balance.
Update my Oscar is still not able to swim down floats up and he
stays in one spot on top. Sometimes his body goes into an L shape
while he eats.
He still swims off balance and swims backwards now. I treated him
with Metronidazole 2 treatment as it says on the directions, he
is the same today but he is still eating. What would be best food
<Read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/oscarfdgfaqs.htm
Should I do another treatment?
<I wouldn't. See WWM re Metronidazole... too hard on the
kidneys, kills from repeated exposure>
He does have specs of white on his fins they usually come and go
Am 0 Nitrates .10 Nitrites 0. after treatment.
<Keep reading. BobF, who is writing a piece (article) on
Astronotus ocellatus hlth., splitting up the accumulated Oscar
Health FAQs as we key>
Re: Oscar swimming off balance. 1/18/12
so the answer is don't do anything? >>>
<... read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/oscars.htm
and the linked files above. B>
Re: Oscar swimming off balance. 1/18/12
Any idea of what is causing the swimming problem? could it be
connected to his back injury(scrapping) from hitting the tank
I've been doing frequent water changes, feeding peas using
Astronotus; diet, health
Hey there I'm new to this but I have an Oscar almost 3 years
<You're new to fishkeeping and only just got this 3-year-old
Oscar? Or you've kept this Oscar for 3 years but feel like
you're a new fishkeeper?>
he has been swimming upside down for two days I've read that a lot
of goldfish is bad
<Yes. Why are you feeding your Oscar goldfish? That's the single
best way to ensure your Oscar gets diseased. There are no books on
Oscars that recommend goldfish, and no experienced fishkeepers writing
in magazines or websites. So I have to ask, where did you get the idea
to use goldfish from? Sometimes people keep predatory fish because they
want to see one fish kill and eat another fish. You can find videos on
YouTube of teenage boys (with social inadequacies, I have to assume)
videoing this sort of thing, usually with rock music in the background.
Depresses the heck out of me. Please don't follow their lead.
Oscars need a mixed diet, largely based on good quality pellets such as
Hikari Cichlid Gold, with some fresh or frozen foods such as tilapia
fillet, cockles, prawns and mussels used now and again. If your fish
can't balance itself, it may be constipated, in which case Epsom
salt together with a diet of JUST cooked peas will help (no, he
won't eat the peas at once, but when hungry, after a few days, he
But if the problem is more serious, as it could easily be, then
we'll need more information on this Oscar's world. How big is
the tank? What is the water quality like? How often do you do water
changes? Apart from goldfish, what food do you use and how
so I think that might be the problem he also has a bump coming out his
<His left'¦? Cheers, Neale.>
Re Astronotus; diet, health 1/8/12
The tank is 48g I change the water ones a week he shares it with 3 jack
Dempsey I've had him for 3 years
<Too small, as I'm sure you realise. Oscars alone need at least
75 gallons (though often mentioned, 55 gallon tanks quickly become
filthy and nitrate levels are very difficult to control in tanks that
small). Add a bunch more cichlids like the ones you have, and you need
a tank 100 gallons or larger.
How much water do you change? I hope at least 25%. How big is the
filter? I hope at least offering a turnover rate not less than 8 times
the volume of the tank, i.e., 48 x 8 = 384 gallons/hour. Nitrate levels
must be 20 mg/l or less; ammonia and nitrite must be 0. This fish is
almost certainly being stressed, harmed, killed by the environment
you've provided. Without improving his world, medication won't
be much/any use. Nitrate poisoning, constipation, Thiaminase, Hexamita,
secondary bacterial infections -- all
these are possible explanations for the symptoms you're observing.
Re Astronotus; diet, health
Water temperature is
80 degrees I usually feed him Hikari pellets water change is 25%
<Given how small your tank is, I expect you will need to do more
water changes than this to keep nitrate levels low enough. In any
event, the rest of my comments stand. This fish has been stressed by
the environment you've provided. Read through my messages and act
accordingly. Cheers, Neale.>
Re Astronotus; diet, health 1/8/12
Thank you very much
<Glad to help. Neale.>
Astronotus; health 12/22/11
Hi, I have two Oscars and my smaller 3 inch Oscar is turning pale. They
are both black, but the smaller one is turning a pale olive green at
the top of his/her body... Is this normal, what can I do, I'm
extremely worried about my fishes life!
<Need some information here, Nicky. How big is the aquarium? Have
you measured water quality recently? Let's recap. Oscars need big
tanks and extremely heavy-duty filtration. For two specimens you'd
need at least 75 gallons, even for babies, and the filter should
provide a turnover rate of at least 8 and preferably 10 times the
volume of the tank per hour. For two Oscars, I'd be using two Eheim
2217 canister filters or similar. Almost all problems with Oscar health
come down to poor environmental conditions -- not enough aquarium
space, not enough filtration. Cheers, Neale.>
<<Neale, WWM referral? B>>
Re: Astronotus; health 12/25/11
I noticed my temperature was off and that made him go back to normal
color... but now the big one keeps swimming on his side. basically
these to fish belonged to my friend who could no longer care for them.
He housed them in a ten gallon tank and passed them to me. I can't
afford a bigger tank at this moment, and the Oscars are very small.
<Hello again Nicky. There's really not much else I can say here.
I appreciate you're doing your best to help these fish, and that
you're stuck with the aquarium you have for the short term. But
Oscars aren't "social" fish and won't get along
without plenty of space. Males are aggressive towards one another *and*
towards unreceptive females, and mouth-to-mouth and mouth-to-flank
interactions are common examples of aggression. In terms of water
quality, you need to keep nitrite and ammonia at zero, and nitrate
below 20 mg/l, so heavy filtration and likely water changes more than
once a week will both be part of the maintenance regime. Do read:
Re: Astronotus; health, and comp. f' 1/5/12
Okay one last question it's, my big Oscar has almost killed
my smaller Oscar. My smaller Oscar's scales are ripped all
the way off. Leaving white dermis. He can't eat anymore because he
can't swim to catch food. His fins have been ripped between the
connective areas. He is on his side and can only breath. So i put him
in a fish carrier. There is a heater as well in there. He has been in
there for the past week and a half. My main question is, is there a way
to supplement his diet, since he can't eat. Vitamin drops???! I put
Melafix for the fins.
<Melafix is not helping here; you need a proper antibiotic or
antibacterial, e.g., eSHa 2000 or Maracyn. Vitamins are irrelevant.
This fish needs a hospital tank (at least 30 gallons for an Oscar) with
and filter where it can recover for a few weeks. Long term, each Oscar
needs at least 55 gallons, preferably 75 gallons. As I've said
before, Oscars are not social and yes, the bigger one will want to kill
the smaller one. Putting the fish in a "fish carrier"
(whatever that is) won't help. If you can't do any of
what's required, euthanasia may be the only option.
Possibly, a pet store could take one or both fish from you, or you
could make an appeal on a fish club forum or at a city aquarium club.
Red Oscar wont eat medicine
<Hello to you both.>
We have a 2 year old red Oscar and a 1.5 year old tiger Oscar with a
Pleco in the same 55g tank.
<Your tank is much too small for all these fish together. It's
barely adequate for even one of them kept alone. Consider 75 gallons
the absolute minimum for two Oscars together, and 100 gallons the
minimum if you want the catfish too.>
About 2-3 months ago the red male Oscar developed hole in the head,
<Almost certainly down to the size of the tank. The thing with
cichlids is that they're acutely sensitive to non-zero nitrate
levels, and in small tanks, it's difficult to keep nitrate below a
safe value of 20 mg/l. The bigger the tank, the more water to dilute
the nitrate, so the better the health of the fish. Other factors very
likely come into play, including fresh greens in the diet (wild Oscars
consume fresh greens as the gut contents of their prey as well as
consuming some plant material directly, and in aquaria it's
critical to respect that). Low oxygen concentration in an overstocked
tank is a third factor likely behind HITH disease.>
and we tried the general cure from Pet-Smart... it did nothing.
He was eating well up until about 7 days ago. We have been trying to
feed him this medicated fish food from Jungle, that worked the last
time he had hole in the head (which cured him last time), but this time
he just won't eat it. He won't eat much, actually'¦
He seems severely lethargic and only has come out to swim (from his
house) once in a great while, or when attacked by the other Oscar. We
tried the Melafix with aloe,
and that seemed to perk him up a little, but did nothing else. We
tested the tank water, and the ammonia is fine; but the nitrates are
<See above. Cichlids must have nitrate levels below 20 mg/l, and
ideally as close to 0 as possible. Can't do that? Don't keep
cichlids. I've seen cichlids develop HITH time and time again in
overstocked tanks, and almost every time I see cichlids with HITH,
it's the same problem: overstocking, lack of water changes, high
nitrates, monotonous diet. Throw the use of feeder fish into the mix,
and things become even worse.>
The water is soft, the ph, nitrites and everything else is fine on the
test.... What do we do?
<Buy a bigger aquarium.>
Is there any chance we can save our Red Oscar?
<Yes; treatment requires Metronidazole, also known as Flagyl, as
directed by the manufacturer or your vet. Success rate is pretty good
if treated promptly:
Naturally, environmental conditions need to be fixed, too.>
Chrissy and Chris
<Glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>
Sick Oscar, same as almost all... no
reading or data of use 10/20/11
Yesterday I added another pump to my 40 gallon tank everything was fine
at first. Then today I noticed my Oscar was swimming up in the new
pumps bubbles He seemed to be enjoying himself. The other fish in the
tank a black catfish and a algae eater would swim around him. About
dinner time my daughter noticed Oscar had started swimming upside down.
It was very sudden. I transferred him to a 2 gallon hospital tank
<? Two gallons?>
gave him a pea and some medicine for parasites.
But I don't see any bloated area on him, but his belly has a yellow
color to it and his eyes are cloudy. Can my Oscar be saved?
<This volume is too small for these fishes... very likely water
quality IS the issue here. Change a good deal of water out, vacuum the
gravel... READ here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/oscarsysfaqs.htm
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>
Mysterious Oscar Killer 9/19/11
Hi wwm crew,
This is my first time writing to you guys and surprisingly (to me), it
is about some fish we have a good deal of experience with, our Oscars.
My parents bought a 75 gal tank 3 weeks ago and in their rush they
fully stocked it with 4 Oscars, 5 guoramis (spelling?), 2 upside down
cats, 2 silver dollars, and 2 tin foils. The smallest Oscar (our albino
tiger) suddenly began hiding about 4 or 5 days into our ownership and
died a week after bringing them home. We assumed (knowing how
territorial these fish are as well as their general bossy attitude)
that one of the three much larger Oscars stressed the poor guy to
death. Then, a few days later our red Oscar ( the second largest) began
hiding under our big wooden root structure (large piece of wood bought
at PetSmart). When I went to check on the tank (one of many trips to my
parents house) I was taking inventory of all the fish and got a good
view of Red. He had Ick. I gently guided him to the side of the tank
with the net to get a better look and take pics. He was very calm and
came out with no trouble. He allowed me to take the pictures and went
back to hiding. I immediately informed my parents and insisted on
treatments and a quarantine tank(which I told them to get a week before
lol). The next day we bought a ten gal glass, a filter, air bubble bar,
tree to give shelter, herbal meds for fungi and bacteria, and rocks.
The meds were suggested to us by the fish department lady. We set up
the quarantine tank, siphoned off about 7 gals of water from the main
tank and added two gals of treated tap, let it run and discovered a
major leak in the ten gal and had to dump the water. We got a
replacement tank the same night and got it set up and again siphoned 7
gal tank water to two gal tap. We refilled the main tank with treated
tap. He seemed to be doing better in the ten gal though he would not
eat. Both tank have been cycling through meds since the night of their
purchase per instruction. Yesterday red died. We are down to two Oscars
though every other type of fish has remained relatively unaffected.
About the same day we put red in the ten gal, our largest Oscar, an
albino, began sulking and hiding but still eating. He has no sign of
Ick, fins in excellent condition but a small scrape on his side. He is
no longer eating. The tin foils had a small amount of Ick that has
almost fully cleared up. No other fish in the tank has shown signs of
Ick. All but Oscars showing normal behavior and appetite. Please note
that while I am working on water condition it still needs some work. Ph
is good but nitrates are still high. I have a vacuuming and 30 gal
water change planned for this evening. I want to add suckerfish but do
not know if it is safe yet in my tank. Please help me! I have lost two
Oscars n do not want to loose any more. I am sorry this email is so
long but I am trying to give you all the info I can. Please help me to
understand what this Oscar killer is. Is it bioload? Or an illness?
Thanks so much for your advice and wonderful site. Be sure to look for
my emails around Christmas related to a reef tank that is being given
to my son as a Christmas gift.
<Greetings. It does seem your aquarium is massively overstocked. One
Oscar in a 75 gallon tank is a squeeze; four of them is insane! Even if
they're only young, let's say anything above 12 cm/5 inches,
this tank will be overstocked. Throw in big fish like the Tinfoil Barbs
and you've got a recipe for disaster. Adding a Plec catfish would
be lunacy, and simply isn't on the cards at all. Not only does this
aquarium need to have most of its residents removed, the Plec/Oscar
combination is an unreliable one, with the common Pterygoplichthys
species especially being known "mucous grazers" that damage
the flanks of Oscars when they try to scrape off the mucous. But
let's not worry about that now, because you aren't adding any
more fish to this tank! Let's focus on why your fish are dying. The
thing with cichlids is that non-zero levels of ammonia and nitrite are
especially dangerous, and even nitrate, which for most fish isn't
too serious, starts sickening them at levels as low as 20 mg/l. On top
of this, overstocked tanks have low levels of oxygen, and this is
another cichlids won't tolerate for long. Basically you have an
aquarium that isn't nearly big enough for the fish you're
keeping; 200 gallons would be the sort of size for the fish you have,
though whether four Oscars will tolerate one another once they start
pairing off is a whole other discussion. Do read what these fish need,
write up a shopping list, and make the necessary changes.
Otherwise return all but one Oscar, and if you want a companion for it,
choose a robust species that won't graze its flanks, for example
Synodontis euptera or Panaque nigrolineatus.
Re: Mysterious Oscar Killer 9/22/11
Thank you so much Neale,
<Glad to help.>
Your insight helped to confirm ALL of my worst fears. After reading
your email, I immediately looked up every fish my parents bought. I
spoke with them about the information I gained and asked a few
questions about the individual fish they bought and the live fish store
they were bought from.
I was very disturbed to hear that the clerk at one fish store (no names
but the tins, dollars, 2 Oscars, the cats and the gouramis were
purchased here) recommended that my parents put more fish but also
recommended they put in the tins, dollars and cats (while they are
decent suggestions, not all together and not in a 75 gal tank.)
<I agree. All lovely fish, some of the best in fact, but your family
have enough for a swimming pool!>
All about the Benjamins. We have been discussing solutions and here is
what we have decided.
1. Return/trade in the tins,
<Could be wise. These fish are among the worst when it comes to
housing because they're both active and big, so they need more
space than an inactive fish of similar size. They're also social,
which exacerbates things.>
2. Get a new tank for dollars, cats, and gouramis (I would like your
suggestion on size here. I'm thinking maybe 50 or 60 here. And am
also considering trading/returning the dollars.)
<Have seen 75, 100 gallon tanks with a combination of Gouramis and
Australian Rainbowfish (Melanotaenia boesemanni for example) and these
work extremely well together. Throw in some live or fake plants for
greenery, and you have a winning aquarium that works well across a
broad water chemistry range.>
3. Get 1 new Oscar (we lost our albino). Now my question here is can I
add some hermits and snails since they r armored animals?
<Crabs are a major part of the diet of Oscars, as are snails to a
degree. Look at those jaws -- they're massive! In the wild Oscars
crunch on all sorts of shelled and armoured beasts, even small catfish
What about suckers?
<As I said, some Plecs can damage Oscars. Take a look at the photos
close to the top of this page:
Both Bob Fenner and myself believe that this is a classic example of
Plec damage. While this isn't common behaviour, it does happen.
I'd choose the Suckermouth catfish extremely carefully. The best
bets are the more-or-less herbivorous sorts like Panaque nigrolineatus
rather than omnivores such as Pterygoplichthys species. Alternatively,
there are some excellent Synodontis species like Synodontis euptera
that will be just as good at eating any leftover food without being
dangerous to your Oscar. Do remember, in an Oscar aquarium no catfish
will prevent algae problems. Such a tank will have so much nitrate and
phosphate, and likely few/no fast-growing plants, so that physical
removal is really the only way forward. Floating plants might work well
The Oscars will be all that's left in the 75 gal. Thank you again
for your insight. Unfortunately, I was unable to prevent this incident
but with your help I am in the position to fix it and prevent future
instances of ignorance. Again, thank you guys for all you do. I look
forward to your advice as I travel down the road of saltwater tanks in
the near future, something I plan to take very slowly.
<Saltwater is fun in many ways, and thanks to advances in filtration
and live rock, much easier than many suppose. Bob Fenner's
'Conscientious Aquarist' book really is an excellent
step-by-step cookbook guide, and you'll find it well worth
borrowing or buying. Cheers, Neale.>
Oscar fish 8/21/11
My Oscar's eyes are sticking out of his head more than
normal, is this a disease.
<Yes. Pop-eye is a related condition where the eye
has been sufficiently damaged that infection behind the eyeball causes
swelling. Treatment is largely "wait and see" plus the use of
Epsom salt, and optionally,
antibiotics. See here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/fwpopeyefaqs.htm
If one eye is damaged or popping, that's commonly physical damage,
e.g., by clumsy netting or a frightened fish bumping into the walls of
the tank. If both eyes are damaged or popping, that's often to do
with poor water quality. Either way, Pop-eye is extremely common when
Oscars are kept in poor conditions, typically tanks that are too small,
too few water changes, poor filtration. Do read:
Re: Oscar fish 8/21/11
Is popping eye a deadly disease?
<As stated in my last message, in Oscars, it is usually an
indication of chronically poor environmental conditions. Without
knowing anything else about your aquarium, that would be assumption
here. So yes, it's a sign the Oscar is in very poor health, and
without fixing both the environment AND treating the symptoms, the
Oscar could well die. Not from the Popeye, but from other infections
and stresses brought on by the poor environmental conditions. Sadly,
this is all too common with Oscars because people keep
them in tanks that are too small, feed them too much, feed them the
wrong foods (e.g., "feeder fish", Thiaminase-rich foods, not
enough green foods), don't supply enough oxygen, don't do
enough water changes. Cheers, Neale.>
Oscars; sys., fdg., hlth.
First off I'm new to Oscars and have learned TONS from the posts on
your site. I have 3 juvenile Oscars. The largest 2 are around 4 inches
long. I bought them because they looked cool and I had seen a friends
very gregarious Oscar and thought how much it reminded me of my black
So being the typical exuberant "act first and research later"
Oscar owner, I bought 3 of them. Doh!
I have 2 albino's and a tiger. Originally they were all in a 35
gallon aquarium together, but later I built a new 65 gallon and moved
the tiger to it along with several new jacks, auratus and a couple
<One Oscar will not live long or well in a 35 gallon system>
The tiger was the largest of the fish in the new aquarium and everyone
has gotten along famously for several months despite significant size
differences. Mistakenly I have been feeding goldfish
to my various cichlids... soon to stop thanks to what I have read
I have been keeping the gold fish in a separate aquarium that remains
heavily medicated with elevated temperatures. None of my fish have
shown any signs of parasites or disease and I check them daily.
<You won't be able to see... until there are REAL
The 2 albinos are still in the 35 gallon and seem to get along fine
despite a significant size difference between them.
<Antagonism will occur very rapidly...>
I checked the water a couple of days ago and the
nitrite/nitrate/ammonia levels are fine, but I clearly need to change
the water more often.
<I'd change a good percentage every week. See WWM re>
The filter is a 55 gallon filter in a 35 gallon aquarium so it does
keep ahead and I clean the filter every week or so. The 65 gallon
aquarium has a 120 gallon aquarium filter in it so it too keeps ahead
and the filters get cleaned at the same time as the smaller
OK for the problems...
1. The albinos are in the 35 gallon aquarium. The larger albino for
several months has randomly exhibited the odd behavior of being placid
and calm for days and then suddenly slamming himself into the glass,
bottom or lid.
<Due to the size/volume, and/or possibly a (goldfish vectored)
These fish need to be moved (now) to larger quarters. Read here:
It then acts like it has knocked itself out and will lay on the bottom
on it's side, breathing heavily. A few minutes later it's
swimming around like nothing ever happened. The albinos will obviously
soon outgrow their current home, but have never conflicted or caused
each other any harm. Is the large albino crazy?
The slightly smaller one NEVER acts that way. Some times this will
happen in the middle of the night when I am asleep and the thrashing
around noises are so significant that it wakes me up.
2. The tiger Oscar was in the 65 gallon aquarium and has been a great
fish both to me and it's tank mates. It has been in a static
environment (no new fish or other changes) for several months with 4
jacks and 3 auratus and a plec
<These fishes also need a much larger world...>
of which all are smaller than the Oscar by half. This past week the
Oscar stopped eating and being gregarious and then killed an auratus
and started doing the random slamming into things. It currently has a
deep gash in it's head. I know it wasn't the best of solutions,
but I moved it back in with the other Oscars to save the other fish.
The three Oscars for the past 3 days of being back together are getting
along very well despite the aquarium size. The large albino and the
tiger are the same size and never apart and swim side by side or lay on
the bottom together. They never fight and completely ignore the smaller
albino. None of then show any territorial signs...yet.
Any suggestions would be helpful.
<As you re-read the "Oscar Health/Disease FAQs" files, you
might consider a mixed treatment of Metronidazole and an Anthelminthic
(in foods), otherwise, STOP feeding "feeders" and oh, I see
some good news below...>
Obviously these guys need much more space and I intend to build a 300
gallon in the next 6 months, but they wont wait that long.
I have an empty 55 gallon that I may split them up in until then.
<A good move>
I'm concerned they will
kill themselves slamming into things. Is this remotely normal?
<Yes... from crowding, certain parasitic infestations>
Can I do anything about it?
<Read where you've been referred to>
I already removed anything from the aquarium that they could bash into
the glass for fear of them hitting the glass and breaking it. Thank you
in advance for your input.
<Welcome! Bob Fenner>
Tiger Oscar wounded 6/7/11
I have a 2yr old tiger Oscar, 11 inches long, who has managed to hurt
itself on the decoration in my tank. I have removed the decoration. I
then added some aquarium salt and a little Stress Coat+.
<Salt does little of value when treating such damage. Stress Coat
may or may not help, marginally, but I wouldn't bet the farm on
I had the water tested at the pet store and they said that the pH was a
6.8 and my ammonia level was good.
<By "good" we MUST mean ZERO here. So clarify this! Wounds
like this one WILL heal quickly if the water is spotlessly clean. But
if the water is dirty, and ammonia and nitrite levels are good proxies
for water cleanliness, the wound will quickly get infected. Assuming
this tank is large (75 gallons) and equipped with a decent filtration
system (at least 6 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour)
and that water quality is excellent (0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and nitrate
level less than 20 mg/l) this wound WILL heal, and all you need add is
a suitable antibiotic to prevent secondary infection.>
I feed it Hikari Cichlid Staple, blood worms, and minnows.
<Minnows, also known as parasite bombs. If you want to offer a
"live" treat, then earthworms are by far the best
I'm not going to feed it minnows anymore after reading the other
posts on your site. I'm not sure why it hurt itself but what
worries me more is the way the wound looks now. The wound is 2days old.
It has fuzzy looking white stuff on it.
<If the fuzz has the texture of cotton wool, then that's fungus,
and that is usually a sign the water is not clean. Common reasons are
overstocking (an Oscar this size in less than 75 gallons is
overstocked) or the filter isn't adequate or the fish is being fed
too much food. Obviously dead skin and flesh will be off-white in
colour, much like cooked fish meat.>
Earlier today it just had a milky looking coat over it. The Oscar is
not eating anything. Its feces is a milky color. It just stays in the
bubbles and appears to be mouth breathing but not heavily. Please help.
There are pictures attached if it helps.
<Absolutely no reason this fish should get worse. But make sure the
tank is [a] clean; [b] the water is clean; and [c] that you're
doing everything sensible to keep both tank and water clean. Medicate
as per Finrot and, if you think relevant, Fungus (some medications,
like eSHa 2000 and Seachem Paraguard treat both). If the fish appears
lethargic or isn't swimming or breathing normally, assume
environmental conditions are not good, and review accordingly. Do read,
understand Bob's piece on the factors that affect fish health,
A fish in the situation of your Oscar has the potential to recover
quickly, but only if its environment allows. Good luck,
Sideways Oscar 6/2/11
Hello there, I'm hoping you can help with my Oscar issue.
I've read through your site and not found anything exact that
covers my situation, although maybe I'm just not reading the
right things. I will try to give as much information as I can
I have a 75 gallon tank that has been up and running for 7 years.
I have never had issues with it crashing or losing fish, all
along it's been a great tank even when I neglected to clean
it regularly. It has a thick layer (3inches or so) of smooth
gravel with an underground filter (I know, not particularly
useful for cichlids, but they've yet to dig down to it).
I also have two of the Aquaclear 500 filters (now known as 110s)
and two powerheads for aeration and circulation. My current fish
consist of 2 Oscars that we've had for about 2 years,
they're about 6 inches long, a Leporinus that is about 8 yrs
old and 8 inches long or so and a Raphael cat that's about 3
inches long. We also have one jack Dempsey (3 in) and two
Firemouths (2 in and 3 in). I don't plan on adding anything
and all of these fish have been together in the tank for about 2
<Mmm, this 75 gallon is more than filled-up
I have moved the tank 4 times, with the most recent being 6 days
<A good clue>
Two weeks ago I did a big cleaning on the tank. Taking all
decorations out and cleaning them and then vacuuming the gravel
with about a 40% water change. At that time I hadn't cleaned
the tank in about 8 weeks and it was still clear but had algae
and gravel was dirty. Typically when I clean the tank, even if
it's been a while, the water is clear again after sitting
overnight. This time it stayed somewhat hazy until I moved it
(It was at a relative's house and we finally moved it to
ours, pretty much next door.) This would be the 4th move and I
have never had any losses or problems from moving the tank
before. We saved more than half of the water, kept all rock wet,
filters were kept with everything in them and wet and everything
went back into the tank as is. We used tap water to fill and then
treated with Stress Coat to dechlorinate.
<Mmm, good; but would add the dechloraminator first>
This time everyone transferred quite well, it seemed at first the
Leporinus had a bit of a swim bladder issue
but after about 15 min he was swimming normally after putting him
back in the tank. The water stayed somewhat hazy still even after
about 48 hrs, but all of the fish seemed happy and not stressed.
They were swimming and eating normally. The water haziness that I
saw was not white but just like the water was still a bit dirty.
In an effort to help the cloudiness, I tested the water with some
at home strips. It stated that the ammonia was low/normal,
<Has to be 0.0... any detectable is debilitating>
nitrites neg, nitrates very high (I assume from the dirt),
<The lack of cleaning>
alkalinity moderate, and the water is very hard. I know you
prefer numbers but this is what the strips tell me. I was also
concerned because my strips are old and probably expired.
<Am not a fan of test strips.>
I took a water sample to the local fish store and was told that
everything checked out 'fine'. I know, not very
descriptive or helpful and that is the trend for them. I then
thoroughly cleaned one of the filters by rinsing the sponge and
all of the substrate and I plan to do the other in a week or two.
This has seemed to help the haziness a little.
About 3 days after the move, my albino tiger Oscar was found
floating sideways/upside-down at the top of the tank. He was
still alive but didn't' seem to be able to right himself.
I tried some regular aquarium salt and when I noticed that the
others we picking at his fins, I also treated with Melafix.
<Worse than worthless. See my comments/search on WWM
I have since separated him to one side of the tank with a divider
so that he would no longer be picked on. He's not floating
anymore, but after the first day, he just lays sideways at the
bottom and doesn't seem interested in food. This has been
going on for about 3 days. He was previously the dominant fish in
the tank and demonstrated that even after the move until he lost
his ability to move correctly. Upon reading your other Q&A, I
went back to look at him several times. He's not bloated,
eyes are clear and he still looks around the tank, watching the
other fish through the divider.
His color seems fairly normal for him considering he was never
truly an albino. He's always been more light gray and orange
than truly white. If anything he's a little darker than
normal but not really noticeable. If I bug him, he will swim
upright but kind of clumsily. When he settles back to the bottom,
he'll be upright but then just tip sideways and stay
Again, he's not interested in food even when I put it in
front of him. I typically feed Hikari Gold cichlid pellets and a
few flakes of tropical food for the smaller fish. I've also
tried another 20% water change today and added a bit of Epsom
salt hoping that would help. So far, he's still alive, still
sideways, and still not eating. All of the other fish are acting
normally and look great. I'm hoping to save him and I'm
not sure what to do. I'll also attach a photo I took before I
Sorry this is so long, Thanks for any assistance you can
<My guess is that the moving, large water change, loss of
nitrifying microbes from these has conspired to physiologically
challenge your fishes... the Pencil and this one Oscar more than
the other two. There is no "treatment" per se, but I
would try offering other, more tempting foods... Perhaps some
garden earthworms. I would also be looking into the water quality
of your tap and pre-mixing in some commercial pH raiser or simple
baking soda (bicarbonate) to get the pH more near 7... As most
everywheres tapwater is not dependable in terms of quality and
amount of sanitizer, I strongly encourage you to get a dedicated
trash bin, and pre-mix your change-out water... You can use one
of your power heads to move it to the tank. Bob Fenner>
Re: Sideways Oscar 6/2/2011
Thank you for your advice.
The albino Oscar is still hanging out sideways at the bottom. He
looks around when I turn the lights on but doesn't seem
interested in moving. I tried your suggestion of earthworms, even
dangling one in front of him, but no luck, he didn't even
seem interested. Everyone else still seems to be doing very well,
normal appetite and behavior though the other Oscar seems to like
to stay near the divider when the sick one is on the other side
I tried my test strips again, to see how much work I needed to do
and for comparison. Here are the results. Both strips are Jungle
Brand Quick Dip strips. The ammonia strip result is 0ppm. The
other multi-strip is as follows: Nitrate 160ppm (still high so I
will continue vacuuming and regular water changes and I still
need to do a complete cleaning on one of the filters - I
didn't think it was safe to do it all at once?),
<You are correct, and do read on WWM re NO3 control>
Nitrite is 0ppm, Total hardness 300 ppm (not sure what to do
<Not likely a problem.>
Total Alkalinity between 80-120ppm (this strip was harder to
read), and pH is now at 6.8.
I am not sure what to do other than continue water changes with
treated water as recommended. I'd rather that he didn't
starve to death but I'm not sure how to entice him to swim
around or to eat.
Should I try more Epsom salt or aquarium salt?
<I would not>
Also, I do have carbon in my filters, should those be
(other than that there's just the sponge and BioMax)
Thanks for all of your help, I'll keep you updated.
<Real good. BobF>
Re: Sideways Oscar 6/10/11
Just emailing an update and seeing if you have any more
thoughts or ideas.
The Oscar is still lying sideways at the bottom of the
tank. He does move positions through the day and night but
is still always on his side. If I bother him with a net or
algae scrubber magnet on the glass, he'll flail around
a bit but always settles back.
<Does it appear this fish "can" actually
"get up" and swim properly, or is it impaired
He's still not eating, I've tried withholding food
for days and then feeding with no luck. Foods I've
tried include: pellets, flakes (because they float past his
face), frozen blood worms, live earthworms, peas, and
finally something I never do, a feeder fish just to see if
that would get his attention. Just like before he watches
and follows the food with his eyes and right now the little
feeder goldfish is living happily in the tank with him.
It's been 11 days of him not eating and lying on the
bottom. I continue my weekly water changes and am seeing
improvement in the Nitrate status of the tank. All of the
other fish are doing great (except for being annoyed that
they can't get to the feeder fish on the other side of
the divider). The only other thing I've noticed is the
lower portion of his tail fin and possibly his little
ventral fins are a bit more yellow than they were
Any thoughts or suggestions are greatly appreciated and
thank you for all of your help.
<Am given to propose that this fish may have damaged
itself neurologically... a bolt into something hard... like
a brain-stem injury...
Or perhaps an internal nervous complaint rendering the same
result. I would still not give up. Bob Fenner>
please help. Oscar hlth., rdg. 5/18/11
hell my name is Ysabella, I have 4 baby Oscars, 2 clown loaches,
<The loaches should be elsewhere; not kept w/ Oscars>
and a common Pleco, one of the Oscars is really sick and has become so
over a period of 24hours, he lays on the bottom of the tank and for
lack of a better description loses his "balance" and tips
over I have done regular water tests all show normal healthy; PH 7.5,
high range PH 7.4, nitrite (No2) 0, nitrate(No3)10, ammonia 0.25.
<Trouble here. Ammonia needs to be 0.0; ANY present is
none of the other fish have his symptoms. I have also noticed his eyes
have gone deep black and he has lost nearly all his colouring (he is a
tiger Oscar) I have asked the LFS where I got him from and they said
just to use some health guard. I am at a loss he is refusing to eat and
he is getting worse. they are in a 120 litre tank
<How large are these fishes? This isn't enough room if the
Oscars are more than an inch or so in length>
(I am planning on getting a larger tank soon for them) I feed them
<See WWM re... I'd skip>
and Hikari gold cichlid pellets. I really do not know what to do any
help you could offer would be helpful regards Ysabella
<... That it is only one of the four Oscars points to this being a
social issue... but the ammonia present is toxic... Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/oscarsysfaqs.htm
and the linked files above... particularly Feeding, Disease, Behavior.
Re: please help 5/19/11
hi thanks for your reply unfortunately he died during the night. I will
take your advice to hopefully prevent this happening again, thank you
anyway. regards Ysabella
<Thank you for this follow up... Again, I encourage you to read on
WWM re this species... In some ways not easily kept.
Sick Tiger Oscar - Please help ASAP... need data,
We have a 5-6 year old Black Tiger Oscar who lives in a standard
6 foot tank on his own and is approx. 1 foot in length.
Filtration is great and water quality is as perfect as we can get
<Need details, not subjective evaluations>
However, when he first became ill a couple of months ago the
water was quite acidic and nitrates were very high. His water
quality has always been on the acidic side of neutral and
it's never seemed to bother him.
<It does inside. See WWM re bolstering pH, alkalinity. Simple
We have done a few water changes and cleaned the filter right out
and we are now keeping the water as neutral as possible with the
nitrates no higher than 20 to try to give him the maximum chance
For quite a few weeks, perhaps even 2 months ago, we started to
notice he was ignoring his food.
For a while he was still acting normal but ignoring his food and
we thought he was probably still eating something because he was
still alive after so long, seeming not to eat, but still acting
However, over the last 2 weeks he has started to get a lot worse,
He has started to look skinny in the belly and developed a lump
around his anus (internal not external). The lump is slowly
getting larger. The lump almost looks like he has a large ball
before the exit to his anus and almost like he can't pass
whatever is sitting in there.
I was thinking that he could be constipated and the reason I
thought so was because I saw a really thin string of what looked
similar to diarrhoea dangling from his anus a few days ago and I
thought it all made sense.
<... what do you feed this fish?>
I thought if he IS constipated he would feel ill and eat less and
less until he wouldn't eat at all.
He is now sitting on his belly on the bottom of the tank and
still seems to be breathing normally, but a little slower /
relaxed. However, he doesn't lay upright he leans to one side
(the right hand side). Like he's got no energy left but still
very much alive. Tonight I've put on the aquarium light and
got the camera out and he leaned over and I've seen what
looks like a bubble of water (similar to a large blister) hanging
from his anus. It is colourless and looks like I could pop it if
I tried (not that I'm going to try - poor fish would probably
die from pain).
<Don't do this>
I need to know, without using any medications or chemicals, can I
put him in a smaller tank and use standard sea salt to cure him
without making him more ill? Obviously, this is some kind of
growth but I would hope salt would still help. I'm hoping
it's not a tumour or something serious. I know I couldn't
keep him in the salty water long term. I have saved an electric
blue (who was grey and belly up near death after being bashed)
with salt water and also a constipated gold fish that was belly
However, the Oscar isn't belly up and doesn't have a
swollen belly. I really hope it can be a simple fix too. He's
like a dog that greets us when we come home and he's always
been happy to see us, I don't want him to die if I can help
it. I also want to avoid putting him down but if he's going
to be in pain much longer, we might have to.
I really hope I've been able to provide enough detail.
<Mmm, nothing really "jumps out" as a probable cause
here... This could be "just" a behavioral issue, or
nutritional... or some aspect of water quality.>
I really really hope you can help our favourite pet.
Please refer to the 3 photos I've attached.
<Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/oscardisfaq4.htm
and the linked files above. Am hoping by your review and further
input we'll be able to figure out a course of action here.
Oscar Problem, HLLE 4/26/11
Dear WWM Crew,
We have a black Oscar that we purchased about 4yrs ago at
Recently he has spots on him that looks like something is eating
away his skin.
<I see this... HLLE...>
He has large portions above his eyes missing and on his sides. I
was reading on your website that it could be due to our
<Likely high metabolites (accumulated waste products) in the
water are a factor here, but also a lack of vitamins, nutrition
often plays a role. You proffer no data re water quality or
foods/feeding, the environment...>
About 3 months ago we changed the water and we had a 1yr old
Oscar and he died because of too much Chlorine.
We also have a Plecostomus that we thought was maybe picking on
our Oscar but still again we aren't sure. I have attached a
couple pictures. Please help!!!
<Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/FWHLLECauses.htm
and the linked files above re Cures. Bob Fenner>
Red spot on Tiger Oscars mouth 4/5/11
Oscar with Infected Lip
Hi I just purchased a breeding pair of Oscar's and when I got them
home I noticed the male had a red lump on the inside of his lip any
idea of what this could be ? His behaviour is normal and does not
appear to be suffering in any way . Could this be caused be lip locking
mating rituals ?
< Cichlids have certain spawning rituals that include pairs lip
locking in a test of strength to test the suitability of a mate. Large
cichlids have teeth that can inflict damage during this premating
behavior. Keep the nitrates down and watch for infection. If it gets
worse or starts to fungus than treat with a Furan type
Oscar... hlth. 3/24/11
I have a 6 year old red Oscar and over the last week he has been
swimming at the top of the tank with his mouth constantly open, seems
like he is having problems breathing.
<Might well be... The collection of gas-impervious material (cooking
oil, other aerosols, "dust"...) is very often a cause of
oxygen deprivation issues>
When I look down his mouth I can't seem to see his tongue....also I
have notice a small lump under his mouth, I'm worried because I
haven't seen him eat or relax for the same amount of time. and
I'm worried he is suffering..please help.
<... I would be dipping water from the surface (to remove possible
mentioned film), gravel vacuuming and changing out a good portion of
the water... Adding aeration/surface circulation. Measuring pH,
ammonia, nitrite and nitrate pronto! And not feeding at all till I
discovered and solved the source of trouble here. Have you looked on
WWM, used the search tool re "Oscar breathing problems"? Bob
Oscar maybe sick 3/23/11
I have one Oscar in a 75 gal tank, no other fish in the tank. It
is about 2 years old and about 10 inches long. I just did a water
change 5 days ago.
I use a water conditioner and a pH balancer every time I do a
The filter is a 3 tier canister filter. I feed it the Cichlid
pellets and bloodworms.
<These last have fallen out of favour... I would discontinue
It has two white spots, one on the tail fin and one on its
It has what appears to be flecks of white on its other fins. I
just noticed it within the last few hours. There has been more
algae growth within the last couple months.
<Indicative of a drop in water quality perhaps, a change in
the season (more heat and light) possibly>
There are shallow spots on its head too. I think the spots on its
head may be the beginnings of hole in the head
but the white spots are confusing. There are different issues
with some of the same symptoms. Please help. I don't want it
to get worse. I attached a few pictures I hope it helps. Thank
<I would add a (to me) known/complete food... Spectrum (brand)
pellets to fight/repair the HLLE, do what you can to improve
water quality (you don't list measures/tests for NO3 for
instance)... and read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/FWHLLECures.htm
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>
re: Oscar maybe sick 3/23/11
Thank you for the advice. I don't have a test kit, that's
why there are no readings, but I am getting one asap.
<Ahh, good. I would just use Nitrate as my "eye"
into water quality here...
Keep NO3 below 20 ppm. and you should be fine. Means to do so are
gone over and over on WWM>
I am going to the pet store now to get the spectrum food and get
my water tested. I am also going to do another water change. Will
let you know how it goes. Again, thank you.
<Thank you Sarah. BobF>
Re: Oscar maybe sick 3/24/11
I went and had my water tested and it was good.
<Good...? How much Nitrate? More than 20 ppm?>
I did rinse out my filter and its components and added a bubbler.
The white spots have disappeared :)
Thank you for your help.
<Thank you for this update. BobF>
Oscar Fish Acting Crazy 3/11/11
<Hello Dominique. You appeared to send a message with 16 MB of
images attached, each more than 2 MB in size. Because of the
limited e-mail space we have here, and because us crew members
don't want to spend all evening downloading giant
attachments, we don't accept that size attachments or that
number of them. We do specifically state this on the "Ask
WWM" page, likely where you found our e-mail address. Please
resend your message with a few, smaller images. Programs like
iPhoto will easily resize images. Try aiming for about 800 x 600
pixels, or about 500 KB per photo. Thanks, Neale.>
Re: Oscar Fish Acting Crazy [Fixed]... sys. 3/11/11
I tried to find an area on the website where I could post my
question but I could not seem to locate it. I am e-mailing you
guys today because I am concerned about my Oscar fish's
behaviour. As well as awkward things happening to my Pleco.
<Okay, fire away!>
To start I have a 65 gallon tank with a 300 watt heater.
<Should be ample for a single Oscar, or a single adult Plec
alongside small community fish, but Oscar and Plec together will
need more space than this.
Even if water quality stays acceptable, I'd expect a fair
amount of silt in the tank, reducing its clarity, and making it
altogether less attractive.>
I have two Emperor filters which claim to filter 55 gallons
The tank contains 7 fish in total.
2 Oscars (1 is a red Oscar and the other is a albino Oscar)
<Yikes! If these are both males, you won't be able to keep
them together in a tank this small.>
2 Zebra Danios (There use to be 3 but one disappeared last
<I bet! Zebra Danios are Oscar food. They shouldn't be in
the tank at all.
While a single or even three Danios won't poison an Oscar,
they are minnows, and that means, like Goldfish, they contain
Thiaminase, and over the long term that will cause problems. In
any case, there's a risk of introducing disease, and simply
by giving predators like Oscars live food, you increase the
chances they'll become aggressive. Remove to another
2 Fire and Ice (This is the name of the fish given at the pet
<Need a photo of these.>
1 Leopard Pleco
<Pterygoplichthys gibbiceps; a very, VERY large Plec with the
potential to reach 60 cm/24 inches within three years. Sometimes
Plecs damage Oscars by scraping at their flanks. I would not keep
Oscars and Plecs together, but if you must, do look out for signs
of damage on the flanks, like odd white scratches.>
The fish generally get along together. I have not seen them
fighting with each other.
<Yet. Sexual maturity in Oscars occurs around 20 cm/8 inches,
from which point males become increasingly intolerant of other
males and sometimes females.>
The Oscars swim together regularly and are usually found floating
beside each other.
<For now. While Oscars *are* comparatively peaceful by cichlid
standards, they are *not* schooling fish. Some specimens coexist
indefinitely, especially in large (100+ gallon) tanks. But
there's always a risk, and mouth wrestling is a good sign
they aren't getting along. Prolonged aggression leads to
shredding fins, stress, and worse.>
The weird behaviour I have noticed with my albino Oscar is that
whenever I walk into the room, turn the room or tank lights on or
even open the top lid of the tank he will begin to swim as fast
as possible into any decoration then right into the glass side of
the tank and finish off by swimming directly up and hitting the
top of the tank.
Afterwards he will just float on his side at the top of the tank
for a couple minutes and have multiple cuts and scratches on his
head. This has been happening for the last couple of weeks and
its really beginning to worry me. The red Oscar will sometimes
swim away from the albino while he is having his fit and cut
himself as well. So I'm left with both Oscars cut sometimes.
I am just wondering why he is acting this way. Also my red Oscar
is not black. When I purchased him his back was black but after a
few weeks the colour has turned pale.
<Indeed. He is trying to blend into the background, but
I would like you to note that I did not know that I should wet
the food pellets before feeding the Oscars since a couple weeks
ago. Prior to knowing I would just throw the pellets in, this
would have occurred for about 2 months. During which the albino
would float on his side occasionally but he seems to be doing
The other thing I would like to ask you is why is my Pleco miss
He has some dark areas and along his back in a symmetrical shape
he has these brown areas and it looks weird.
<Again, altering colours to blend in.>
Sometimes his fins will split as well.
<Could easily be damage by/from the Oscars.>
I have attached some photos of my tank and fish in this email. I
am doing a water change tomorrow. The red cup in the tank has
saltwater in it to help heal the wounds. If it is possible could
you recommend what decorations I should keep in my tank and what
I should remove?
Thank You Very Much!, Dom
<Bottom line is that your aquarium is terrifying your fish.
Why? Because of the white substrate. Fish HATE white substrates.
Think about it -- in the wild many predators attack from above,
like Herons. The brighter the substrate, the easier the fish will
be seen. So fish prefer to swim over dark substrates. If you
stick a white substrate in the tank, you're making your Oscar
feel like it's in full view of any passing predator. End
result -- constant fear. Replace with plain vanilla gravel or, if
you must use something trendy, matt black gravel. Providing some
overhead shade, for example floating Indian Fern, will help as
well. Problem solved. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Oscar Fish Acting Crazy 3/15/11
Sorry about the late response, I just wanted to say thank you for
<Nice to hear back. Glad to have helped. Cheers,
Hope you can help! (Astronotus; RMF?)<<Nothing
We had two Oscars in a 5ft tank. The Oscars are approximately 7 years
old and 10 inches long. We recently lost the albino Oscar who was
breathing heavily and would lay on the bottom of the tank and not
<Indeed, I seem to recall something about this from a couple of
Now our tiger Oscar seems to be sick.
<Do, please, check the environment. If you lose two fish within a
short period of time, then it's most likely to be something wrong
with their world. To recap: Oscars need 0 ammonia and 0 nitrite;
nitrate levels less than 20 mg/l; and a water temperature at the
middling range, 25 C/77 F being ideal. Water chemistry shouldn't be
too hard: 2-15 degrees dH, pH 6-7.5. Water circulation must be robust,
with lots of oxygen; check the filter is working, providing a turnover
of at least 8 times the volume of the tank per hour, and that
there's good circulation of water at all levels, not just at the
top. Replace 20-25% of the water regularly, preferably weekly. Poisons
can affect cichlids quickly and severely, especially things like paint
fumes, tobacco, and bug sprays. Sudden exposure to temperature changes,
like a broken heater, can affect them more rapidly than most other
fish. Diet should be mixed, mostly good quality pellets alongside
smaller portions of white fish fillet, squid, unshelled shrimps or
small crayfish, snails, and some green foods like cooked peas.
Feeder fish should never be used. Lifespan for Oscars is around 12
years, so yours aren't especially old, and therefore old age is
unlikely to be the issue.>
He is only breathing out of one gill and lays sometimes on his side on
the bottom of the tank. He is still eating but we are worried that we
are going to lose him. We have treated the water with Melafix as
suggested by another aquarium specialist.
<Melafix isn't much of a cure; at best, it helps fish recover
from minor wounds, assuming the fish isn't already infected with
something. The classic combo treatment for cichlids infected with some
unknown bacterium or protozoan is Metronidazole with a Nitrofuran-drug
such as Nitrofurazone, but obviously this won't help if the fish is
poisoned or environmentally stressed.>
Do you have any ideas of what could be wrong with him?
<Nope, but see above.>
Tiger Oscar, hlth., env. 2/12/11
My Tiger Oscar is losing his scales down one side, and have
already lost one Oscar to this, I just cant find any information
on what's happening.
<Almost certainly water quality.>
I have a 55 gallon tank and had 4 baby Oscars, (I will be
upgrading as soon as my husband upgrades to his 175 gallon tank
<Not going to work! A pair of Oscars simply will not tolerate
any other Oscars in their patch. Plus, the amount of filtration
and the frequency of water changes will make this an insane
amount of work.>
I have just upgraded to a canister filter (Flu-Val its the 200
gallon one) I have tested the waters and everything coming back
as zero ,
<Somehow I don't believe this. Ammonia and nitrite should
be 0, yes. But the nitrate should also be very low, less than 20
mg/l, preferably less than 10 mg/l. Unless you're changing
more than 20% of the water in your aquarium every day, and
feeding the fish hardly anything, I simply can't imagine
nitrate levels this low for four Oscars in a 55 gallon
PH is 7.8.
<Meaningless without water chemistry as well. Is the water
hard or soft?>
I have been medicating with * Melafix Antibacterial fish remedy*
doing the correct dosing and ( I lost one of my tiger Oscars)
<This product is of limited to no value once fish get
now we done a water change last night as it was the end of the
and now my other Tiger Oscar seems to be coming down with the
exact same thing.
<Yes, predictable. The thing is that an aquarium and its
filter will hold only a certain number and weight of fish. You
can ignore that, but Nature always wins, and eventually the fish
literally DIE BACK to the population the tank can hold. In all
likelihood, your 55 gallon tank will end up with a single
I fed them last night and he was happy as Larry, but got home
this evening to see that he's not doing so great and his
scales are coming off.
<Photo is actually a bit too small to see anything. But my
assumption here is you have an Oscar that can't swim, looks
moth-eaten, has damaged scales and fins, and perhaps shows no
interest in food and just hides away as much as it can.>
I feed them once a day and they have a couple of the *Tetra
Cichlid jumbo sticks*, and I will treat them with blood worm
every couple of days or so.
<Diet is probably not the issue here, but do try varying the
diet of your Oscars, and don't forget to starve them once or
twice per week. Green foods are also important, and foods with
indigestible content, like snails and unshelled shrimps, are
extremely useful treats.>
Please help, I don't want to loose my Other Tiger.
<Do read here:
Besides improving this fish's living conditions, medicating
with Metronidazole and Nitrofuranace simultaneously usually
produces the best results with cichlids when they are ill in this
sort of way.
Don't forget to remove carbon while medicating, if you use
carbon at all.
Sick Albino Oscar
I have been searching for an answer to my problem with no
results. I have 2 Oscars, one tiger and one albino. Both are
probably 8 or 9 years old and in a 90 gallon aquarium. They are
about 11 inches each and have been very healthy until the other
day. I was recently ill and did not do a water change for a few
weeks. I checked the pH and it was low.
<Very common if you skip water changes. Between water changes
the pH in all aquaria goes down. This is called acidification. If
you have enough carbonate hardness in the water, this will be
minimal. But in soft water with low carbonate hardness (less
than, say, 4-5 degrees KH) you will find pH dropping noticeable
between water changes. As pH drops below 7, biological filtration
slows down, and below pH 6 it almost stops.>
The ammonia and nitrogen were both 0. So I did a water change and
cleaned the tank also new filter cartridges. The problem is that
my Albino Oscar is lying on the bottom of the tank on its side.
It is not eating and this has been for about 2 days. The other
Oscar seems perfectly fine. When I fed them, the Albino swam to
the top, but did not eat. Then it did this really odd shake (like
a wet dog) and went to the bottom of the tank and is just laying
there. It did this a couple of times (that I noticed). I feel
awful to think that it's my fault for not doing a water
change but that is too late, as I was quite ill, and the water is
fine now. The pH is back up to 7.0 and all chemistry is fine.
<Your opinion on water chemistry is helpful, but doesn't
tell me much.
What's the carbonate hardness? That's the crucial thing
here. A good idea is to place a cup of crushed coral into a media
bag and place this into the filter. The crushed coral needs to be
cleaned under hot water every month.
What the crushed coral does is slowly dissolve, raising carbonate
Once installed, check the carbonate hardness every few days for
the first couple of weeks. If you have a carbonate hardness of
around 5 degrees KH, you're doing fine. The pH should stick
to 7.5, ideal for Oscars as well as filter bacteria. If the
carbonate hardness is far above 5, say, 10 degrees dH, halve the
amount of crushed coral. Repeat testing as before, and see what
I don't see any obvious external problems and wonder if it is
<Unlikely; stress is much more probable.>
I have had these fish for a long time and want to do the best
thing possible. Also, the other Oscar seems to hover over the
albino as if it knows something that I don't.
If it is ill and requires medication, will I need to separate
<Only if the other Oscar becomes aggressive towards the weaker
Or is it just depressed?
<Fish don't get depressed. They can certainly be stressed
by poor environmental conditions, lack of room, or the wrong
social situation. But they don't become
Any help would be appreciated. Thank You, Stacy
<Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Sick Albino Oscar -- 02/02/11
Hi Neale, My poor Oscar died today.
<Too bad. Sorry to hear this, Stacy.>
Now I notice a few white patches on the tiger Oscar (probably
I have medicated the tank with anti fungal-external parasite
<If the tank is empty, or contains just the other Oscar,
there's really no real reason to medication. Finrot and
Fungus *don't* jump from one fish to another. They're
present in all tanks, all the time. As for Ick, I really
don't think that's the issue here. If you think it might
be, then by all means use the super-safe heat/salt method for
treating -- raise the temperature to 28-30 C/82-86 F, add 2
grammes of aquarium ("tonic") salt per litre of water,
and run like that for 14 days. Then turn the heater back down to
25 C/77 F and do your usual water changes to flush away the salt
across the next few weeks. That will kill Ick and Velvet. It will
also suppress fungal infections to some degree, so it's a
good thing to do in situations like this. But my guess is that
the other Oscar will be fine.>
Could you please give me a step by step agenda? He is the only
fish in the aquarium and I think the albino probably had the same
condition. Because of the albino's coloring I may have been
mislead as far as a diagnosis goes (I did not see the patches
probably due to his white coloring). I have never had a fish with
this condition and will look up the information on your website.
Any help would surely be appreciated. Thanks, Stacy
<Hope this helps, Neale.>
Re... remaining Oscar (not Albino) hlth.
OK, Now I am a bit confused. I have been paying so much attention
to the Albino (now dead) Oscar that I am really taking a good
look at the other.
I have sent a couple of pictures: one with the white stuff
<Yes, I see; could be bacterial, but I think also incipient
and one with the eyes, Do you think he has Pop Eye?
<On his right-hand side, seemingly yes.>
Sheesh, I feel like a fish killer (lol). I have never had
problems with these fish and have had them for 8 or 9 years
<Many of the cichlid problems develop with time, partly
because the fish are bigger so the problems in the tank become
acute, and partly because we become complacent about water
changes. At 8 years old your Oscar is in middle age -- 12-15
years would be somewhat old, so age itself isn't the
So..... I am not experienced with fish diseases. But I must say I
have learned quite a bit in the past few days. As for the white
fungus?? Ich?? abrasions?? Need help.
<If this was me, I'd treat the Pop-eye with Epsom salt (at
a dose of up to 3 teaspoons per 5 gallons) in the water, and
I'd also treat for Hole-in-the-Head using a combination of
Metronidazole and Nitrofuranace.
These should work fine together; the Epsom salt reduces swelling,
and the Metronidazole and Nitrofuranace is a good combination for
cichlid ailments of all types.
Also do review diet. Oscars, like virtually all cichlids, benefit
from some greens in their diet, with cooked/canned peas or
spinach being the most readily taken. As ever, avoid "feeder
fish", and provide good foods, whether live (like
earthworms) or wet-frozen (like tilapia fillet).
Minimise Thiaminase-rich foods like prawns, shrimps and
So far the only thing I have done is add the Ich med to the water
and I did another 10% - 15% water change today. I took out the
carbon but should I still use the filter pouches minus the
carbon? So now I am at the point of deciding what treatment is
preferred and necessary. Maybe a dual treatment.... I don't
know and hope you will. Thank you so much for your multiple quick
responses!! Stacy the Nudge
<Glad to help. Do read the articles linked above. You'll
see situations like this with Oscars are far from rare. Cheers,
Oscar has nasty cuts
Oscar With Injuries 1/11/11
Hi guys and girls, Your site is by far the best on the web for Oscar
< Thank you for your kind words.>
You helped me a few months ago and I'm hoping you can do so again.
I have an Oscar about 6 months old and he's around 5'' big
now. He has a 50 gallon tank all to himself with only two items in
it... an empty terra cotta pot and a log (purchased from the pet
store). When he was a tiny baby, I went away on vacation for 10 days
and used an automatic feeder. I learned very quickly upon returning
that I had inadvertently trained my Oscar that food came from that big
black object at the top of his tank. I stopped the auto feeder once I
got back but he still swam to the same spot at the same time every
single day waiting for that food to drop. I noticed that once the food
no longer dropped, he appeared to become impatient and started
"biting" the water right near the auto feeder. I figured this
meant he was hungry, so I'd get up and feed him when he did this.
Of course, now I have inadvertently trained him that jumping/biting at
the water until it makes a loud sound results in him getting fed.
I've created a monster. At first I found it a little endearing but
also felt it might be stressful to him so I started feeding him in the
mornings to prevent this behavior at his normal 9pm feeding time. The
feedings in the morning did NOT stop him from attacking the surface of
the water at 9PM. Taking care not to over feed him, I'd split his
feedings between the morning and the evening feeding times. I saw no
problems with this until tonight. I heard him jump up at the surface of
the tank and make the "biting" the surface sound but I was on
my way out and didn't give him any food. When I came home an hour
later, his body was covered in injuries... particularly his head. He
literally has chunks taken out of his forehead and a flap of skin
dangling off his face between his eyes. :( I almost cried when I saw
it. What the heck happened to him? I'm not sure if he jumped at the
surface and injured himself on the small opening between the
auto-feeder and the hood cover or if he ran into something in the tank
(the wood piece, the filter "arm" that reaches down into the
tank). It's been a few hours since I first noticed the injuries and
I'm noticing that they are blackening now around the edges. I think
I remembered reading on here somewhere that this meant they are
healing. I also just noticed that one of his eyes seems to be getting
cloudy all of a sudden (it was perfectly fine this morning). I'm
not sure if there is something I should do for him. Should I add
Melafix to help him heal faster?
< No, see comments below.>
On a side note, he appears to have developed hole in the head recently
with two small holes near his gills that have been there now for a few
I lost an Oscar to this disease due to ignorance and not knowing
anything about the disease until it was too late. I smartened up and
bought the 50 gallon tank, I have a hang on back filter that has a 75
gallon capacity and am also purchasing a canister filter next week. I
cycled the tank for a month before adding the Oscar and he has been
happy and healthy in there for 6 months... until now. Nitrites are at
0, ammonia 0, nitrates between 20-40 right now but that's because
he is due for his water change tomorrow.. it is typically at 20ppm.
I am not sure if I should administer an antiparasitic treatment or
With my last Oscar I feel like the treatment ultimately lead to his
death.. it was too stressful for him. My new Oscar is a lot bigger
though and probably stronger. I should also mention he is fed a varied
diet of pellets, brine shrimp, blood worms and veggies (I use the
"Lunch Box" frozen cubes variety pack). I am so scared to
treat him with meds because I couldn't bear to lose another one but
at the same time the holes aren't healing and I'm not sure what
else I can do to provide a healthy environment for him. I do water
changes, 25% once a month but I think I need to increase this to twice
a month. Should I do it more frequently, or do bigger changes to see if
this helps heal the holes before I treat with an anti-parasitic?
< Cleaner water is a big plus.>
A friend of mine had an Oscar with HITH and he treated it with the meds
and put it in a bigger tank and it completely healed. I'm torn.
Sorry for the lengthy message, but it appears that I have one immediate
problem and one ongoing problem to contend with here. My Oscar is still
eating very well right now and he is sulking a bit in the last hour or
so at the bottom. This isn't unusual for him when there is any
change to his environment whatsoever. He is terrified of the tank
lights so I keep them off and he was also terrified of a new house
plant that I placed next to his tank. He hid on the other side for two
days until I figured out what his problem was. To test it I moved the
plant to the other side and he immediately swam to the opposite side
and sulked there. I've moved the plant to the kitchen :) Thanks in
advance for any and all help. Also, any recommendations on a good
canister filter for a 50 gallon tank would be greatly appreciated.
Katie < Keep the nitrates under 20 ppm with water changes. Your fish
is getting bigger and puts out more waste. You need to do bigger water
changes or more of them. Keeping the water clean is a big step in
preventing infection. If you do not want to medicate then keep the
nitrates under 10 ppm and add a teaspoon of aquarium salt per 5 gallons
of water. Clean the filters too. If you see some cottony growth or red
areas then you need to medicate with Nitrofuranace (Furan-2). Add some
floating plastic plants to delineate the top of the water. This will
give your Oscar a marker for the water surface so he might stay below
the water and not injure himself again. The Melaflex is a like a
general tonic or inhibiter, but I have had better luck using
Suicidal Oscar 12/6/10
My Oscar jumped out of the back of my tank the other day.
<As should be obvious, Oscars cannot be kept in tanks without secure
covers. This holds true for practically all cichlids.>
I got him and was able to put in back in and he lived, its been about 3
days now. After I put him back in the tank I noticed a lot of his
scales were missing, I figured at was too big a deal because the scales
will grow back.
<Indeed, they will grow back, all else being favourable.>
But I was away this weekend and now I am back home and I noticed that
his fins are starting to "fall" off, his color is also very
drained, he doesn't seem to want to eat.
<Understandable. Don't feed until he actively begs for food, and
in the meantime, medicate as you would for Finrot and Fungus. You could
try something relatively mild like Melafix, though I'd be tempted
to go for something a bit more heavy duty, such as Seachem PolyGuard or
I know this can all come from stress from being out of the water for as
long as he was, but I was looking to see how is scales were coming back
in and it looks as if there is something growing on him, it's
transparent and looks like it's slimy. I want to clean my tank to
see if that would help but I am afraid of putting anymore stress on my
<Obviously good water quality -- i.e., zero ammonia/nitrite, and
below 20 mg/l nitrate -- are essential. But cleaning the tank as such
won't do much either way, so stick with your usual, regular
maintenance regime. Stir gravel with each water change, remove 25% of
the water per week, rinse filter media every 6-8 weeks, etc.>
There are other fish in the tank as well and I don't want them to
get sick as well. Please help me make my fish better!
<One last thing, remember that Oscars need a varied diet. The
quickest way to make an Oscar sick is to give it feeder fish; give even
one live fish as food, and who knows what parasites and bacteria
you've inoculated your Oscar with! Likewise, avoid Thiaminase-rich
foods such as prawns and mussels. Instead, provide good quality cichlid
pellets (such as Hikari Gold) as the staple, and offer weekly
supplements of cooked/canned peas, strips of tilapia fillet, earthworms
and crickets. The more variety, the better, as Oscars are famous for
going "on strike" if they get too much of the same thing,
refusing to eat anything other than the favourite food.
Re: Suicidal Oscar
Oscar With Internal Infection 12/9/10
Thanks for the help! I was planning on starting treatment today but
when I woke up this morning I noticed my fish was swimming belly up! I
immediately thought the worse but when I went over to check I noticed
he was still breathing and as soon as I got close he began to swim
around! I started the treatment for
Finrot but not I'm wondering what I can do so he isn't upside
down! It seems like he wants to flip the right way and even did for a
couple hours but now he's back on his back. Is there anything I can
< Do a 50% water change, clean the filter, and vacuum the gravel.
This should remove most of the organics from the water. If your fish is
still eating then feed a medicated food with Metronidazole in it. If
you fish is
not eating then treat the tank with a combination of Furan-2 and
Metronidazole. If your fish starts to eat then feed the medicated fish
food. This condition may be caused by stress or s poor
Oscar cichlid diagnosis
Oscar with Bacterial Infection
Hi just wanted to see if you could help me out. I have studied
your site and really appreciate all the information you provide.
I have two Oscars, have had them about 6-8 months now. They live
in a 100 gallon tank, with 2 emperor 400 filters. They live with
one Pleco, and one Synodontis catfish. I noticed about 2 weeks
ago, that one of my Oscars had a little hole forming on his head,
freaked me out, went and researched hole in head disease, and
took action. I checked my water parameters, and my pH 7.8 -- 8.0,
Ammonia = 0, Nitrate = 0, Nitrate was 40 ppm. So I immediately
started increasing my water changes from once a week, to every
2nd or 3rd day. I had also recently switched to some cichlid food
that I bought on eBay, witch I immediately stopped feeding them,
and went back to Hikari Cichlid Gold, frozen blood worms and some
Krill. After every water change, I have started adding aquarium
salt, and did dose them with one dose of Metronidazole, and
removed my carbon. The Oscars look so much better, they are back
to greeting me again, very active, eating great etc. The hole in
his head grew a little larger, but now looks to be healing great.
I thought I had it all under control, but now I notice these
discolorations on one of my Oscars body. I really don't have
any idea what it is, maybe a fungal infection? He is still
eating, my Nitrates are now between 10 -- 20 ppm, and I am still
doing water changes every 3 days. Should I be concerned about
this, and if so what should I do? I have attached a few photos
outlining areas where I am concerned. Thanks so much for having
this website, the information is so valuable. Mike
< When the nitrates are high the bacteria become very active
while the fish's immunity starts to become less effective. I
think you have a bacterial infection that could be treated in a
hospital tank with either a Furanace or Erythromycin type of
antibiotics. Keep the nitrates under 20 ppm. Check your tap water
too. You may have high nitrates in your tap water and will never
get under the tap water nitrate levels while using that