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Oscars are one of the most popular fish kept in home aquariums. They come in a wide variety of colors and patterns, and they’re usually quite friendly (though they can be territorial towards other fish). Oscars make a great addition to almost any tank, but you might want to know about the popular different types of Oscar fish available. In this blog post, we’ll take a look at eight common Oscar varieties. We’ll also include pictures of each type so you can identify them easily. So without further ado, let’s dive into our list!
Introduction to Oscar Fish
Oscar fish are a longtime favorite in the aquarium hobby and one of the most popular freshwater fish period. These fish are big, colorful, and full of personality. So much so that they have been nicknamed the aquarium puppy or river dog by some due to their extremely playful behavior.
Like other popular freshwater fish, the oscar fish has been subjected to improper care by beginner and inexperienced hobbyists. Many first-time oscar owners are not aware of their true size and just how quickly they will outgrow a tank. If given the right care, these fish can fill a larger tank all on their own.
The most popular type of oscar fish is the traditional orange and brown combination of the tiger oscar, but there are many varieties available for the more adventurous hobbyist.
Oscar Fish Care Requirements
Oscar fish are not impulse buys. They require long-term planning in regards to tank size, tank mates, and diet. Unfortunately, these fish are commonly sold as juveniles when they’re only a couple of inches big, tricking unknowing hobbyists about their true care requirements.
The truth is that Oscars are monster fish that not many hobbyists have the ability to care for. However, if you’re willing to give a very large tank to one single fish, then the oscar fish might be the best choice.
Their Natural Habitat
Oscar fish are scientifically known as Astronotus ocellatus. They are a type of cichlid though they’re not as aggressive as some of their closest relatives.
Instead, these gentle giants scour the basin of the Amazon River basin in South America for whatever can fit in their mouths. They have been documented in most countries throughout South America, but have known established populations in the United States as well as Singapore.
These ecosystems are heavily forested with a silt substrate. They prefer slow-moving rivers and tributaries with various structures, like tree limbs, where they can hide and claim territory. Oscars can be found living solitary lives or in small groups.
In terms of fishkeeping, oscar fish are just another type of South American fish from blackwater conditions. However, their mature size is what makes them difficult to keep.
Most oscar fish will surpass 1 foot in length at their mature size. In the store, they’re usually sold while they’re still small, which makes more hobbyists willing to buy them; this is a mistake as they’re put into a holding tank that they’ll grow out of with a promised upgrade in the near future. Most times, they’ve never actually given a bigger tank after that and the fish needs to be rehomed.
The bare minimum tank size for any type of oscar fish is 75 gallons. A 125 gallon tank is even better to allow for more swimming space and more controllable water parameters.
This tank should be given a powerful filter to keep up with the messy habits of oscar fish. Additional flow is not needed and lighting can remain dim. They prefer a sandy bottom and will enjoy rummaging through it for additional food to eat; this also means that live plants are not safe from being uprooted!
Otherwise, oscar fish tank setup is simple. Add some rocks and driftwood for shelter and your oscar will thrive.
What Is The Biggest Type?
We mentioned before that oscars are monster fish and can easily surpass a foot at adult size. But how big can they actually get and are the different types of oscar fish different sizes?
The biggest that oscar fish can get to be in captivity is about 18 inches and several pounds. It is rare for them to get any bigger than this, though they can keep growing over their 20 year lifespan.
Most types of tiger oscar that were derived from Astronotus ocellatus have the ability to reach these monstrous sizes. Some breeders have made short-bodied varieties that may stay slightly smaller, though.
If oscar fish are known for one thing, it’s their personalities. These fish are full of life and will let you know when they don’t like something in their tank.
It is important to understand that Oscars are not aggressive fish, though most hobbyists refer to them as aggressive. Yes, they will defend their territories and chase after problematic tank mates, but they won’t attack other fish without a reason. Instead, they are labeled as being aggressive due to their appetite which makes them eat almost everything in sight.
Oscars are slow-moving fish. They will usually be seen floating in the water column, occasionally moving around to search for food. That being said, they enjoy having plenty of swimming room for when they get quick bursts of energy.
At the same time, these fish can be quite temperamental. If something is added to the tank that they don’t like, they will become less active and might even try to uproot whatever the new addition is. Even then, they are likely to uproot decorations with no intent.
Lastly, oscar fish love their owners. They will recognize the person that feeds them and may eat directly out of their hand.
Due to tank size and waste management, most hobbyists don’t keep their oscars with other fish, especially not in a community tank. If space isn’t a problem, then there are a few tank mate options that can go with most types of oscar fish.
The goal is to get a fish that is too large to be eaten. Some hobbyist feel getting small, fast, schooling fish that can escape your oscar in a large tank are worth it. The logic here is that they can be easily replaced. Going with small fast fish is an approach I wouldn’t recommend.
One of the best oscar fish pairings is with the severum cichlid (Heros severus). This is because these fish share similar tank and water conditions. Severums are also big enough to hold their own against a full-grown oscar.
Other possible oscar tank mates include:
- Chocolate/emerald cichlids (Hypselecara temporalis)
- True parrot cichlids (Hoplarchus psittacus)
- Peaceful green terror cichlids (Andinoacara rivulatus)
- Flagtail prochilodus (Semaprochilodus insignis)
- Silver dollars (Metynnis spp.)
Oscars may be the least picky of all eaters; oscar fish eat anything that fits inside their mouths, and we mean anything.
Oscar fish are primarily carnivores, meaning they prefer a diet that consists of meaty foods. From there, the possibilities are nearly endless for food options.
These beautiful fish will enjoy a variety of live, frozen, and freeze-dried foods such as:
- Worms (bloodworms, ,blackworms, earthworms, Tubifex worms)
- Shrimp (full raw shrimp, brine shrimp)
- Mollusks (clams, scallops, mussels)
- Insects (insect larvae, crickets, mealworms)
To help keep costs down, oscar fish may be given high-quality cichlid flakes or pellets; pellets may be preferred as some oscars may refuse to come to the surface to eat. Most local pet stores also carry specific oscar fish food.
These large fish will eat as much food as they’re given, which can lead to water quality issues and a lazy fish if overindulged. Eventually, your fish will greet you at the top of the tank waiting to be fed.
Top 8 Types to Choose From
The most common oscar variety to see is the tiger oscar fish. But did you know there are several other types of oscar fish with incredible colors and patterns?
Some of these include the blue oscar fish, black oscar fish, and veil tail oscar fish. Some of these varieties may be harder to find than others, though they all generally share the same care requirements.
- Adult Size: 1 foot
- Color Pattern: Orange/red marble on black/brown body
- Unique Traits: Dorsal fin eyespot
The tiger oscar fish, also known as the marble cichlid or the velvet cichlid, is the original variation of Astronotus ocellatus. These fish are very common to find in aquarium stores and can be identified by their red and orange marble patterning on their dark body; they will also have a bright, unique eyespot beneath the dorsal fin near the tail.
There is no difference between male and female oscars at any time besides breeding periods. They can successfully be kept in pairs in the aquarium as long as the tank size is adequate.
- Adult Size: 1 foot
- Color Pattern: Light pink shading on platinum white body
- Unique Traits: Pink/red eyes
Albino oscars are a natural albino variety of the tiger oscar fish, Astronotus ocellatus. As an albino fish, these oscars have a genetic disorder that causes reduced production of melanin. This results in a platinum white fish with possible lighter pink shading and no marbling.
However, there are not many true albino oscar fish available; albinism is relatively rare and these fish are in high demand. Because of this, many oscars that are sold as albino are actually lutino.
At first glance, a lutino oscar fish will look albino. The main difference is that lutino oscar fish have marbled, orange patterning while albino oscar fish can have red or pink shading. When in doubt, check the eye color to distinguish between these two very similar-looking fish!
- Adult Size: 1 foot
- Color Pattern: Contrasting shades of blue with some orange marble patterning
- Unique Traits: Intensity of blue varies between individuals
The blue oscar fish (picture source) is extremely rare to find in the aquarium hobby. This is a selectively bred fish that isn’t widely available, leaving it to be on display in only the best of the best aquariums.
These fish have beautiful, intricate shading where some scales are darker and more intense blue than others. This, paired with the contrast created by the orange marbling, can create a dazzling display unlike any other fish.
While blue oscar fish have been compared to other intensely colored cichlids, like the electric blue acara (Andinoacara pulcher), there is a depth that has yet to be recreated in another species.
- Adult Size: 1 foot
- Color Pattern: Dark body with shaded bands
- Unique Traits: Light colored belly
Instead of going vibrant, breeders chose to bring out the best of the dark aspects that oscar fish have to offer. The tiger oscar is a naturally dark fish, but hobbyists took it one step further with the black oscar (video source).
The black oscar fish is largely a selectively bred fish that has been designed to bring out the intensity of the browns, blacks, and greys that these fish have to offer. As a result, the bodies of these oscar fish are a uniform shade of grey with overlaying darker, marbled bands. The stomach is usually lighter and some orange or red patterning may also be present.
It should be noted that some tiger oscar fish are naturally darker than others. A black oscar fish will generally lack the intense marbling that comes with the original variation of this fish.
5. Veil Tail
- Adult Size: 1 foot
- Color Pattern: Orange/red marble on black/brown body (tiger oscar variation)
- Unique Traits: Elongated fins
The veil tail oscar fish (video source) is a very beautified fish. These fish have been bred to express extra-long finnage, much like veil tail betta fish. These extended tails are almost threadlike and carry the signature black and orange color combination from regular tiger Oscars.
Though veil tail oscar fish have regular coloration, their patterns have also been exaggerated. Oranges have been intensified and might appear as more organized lines than random blotches across the side of the fish.
It should be noted that these fins are especially susceptible to being nibbled on by other fish in the tank. Extra-long fins may also become too heavy for your oscar fish to carry, leading them to regularly rest on the substrate and other surfaces around the aquarium.
- Adult Size: 1 foot
- Color Pattern: Orange/red body with minimal blacks/greys
- Unique Traits: Fiery red body
The red oscar (video source) is the exact opposite of the black oscar. Instead of the dark colors of the tiger oscar being enhanced, the reds and oranges have been maxed out.
Red oscar fish have almost entirely red-orange bodies; there are no remnants of the regular marbled patterning and the majority of the fish is a fiery color. The only parts that usually remain black or grey are the face and fins.
In general, an oscar fish with a higher degree of red is more desirable than one with less. This is one of the most attainable varieties of oscar fish in the hobby, though quality will vary along with the price.
There are many other types of red oscar, including the chili red oscar fish and albino super red tiger oscar fish. These types will vary in intensity and presence of red; some of the highest quality red varieties will present as a uniform red body.
- Adult Size: 1 foot
- Color Pattern: Light yellow on creamy white body
- Unique Traits: Yellow coloration
Named for obvious reasons, the lemon oscar fish (video source) can be a bright yellow color! However, most lemon oscars are actually creamy white with some hints of yellow; only the highest quality lemon oscars will be bright yellow. Although this coloring might seem difficult to achieve, their popularity has made them largely available.
Yellow is not a very common color to see in predatory freshwater fish, so a lemon oscar fish can instantly become the center of attention for any display. It can also be easy to confuse the lemon oscar with albino or lutino varieties if yellow coloration is minimal.
- Adult Size: 1 foot
- Color Pattern: Light orange marbling on platinum white body
- Unique Traits: Orange eyes
Often confused with the albino oscar fish, lutino oscars are not truly albino. Instead, these aquarium fish have a near platinum white body with orange or yellow marbled patterning. This is in contrast to true albino oscar fish that lack patterning entirely.
Another main difference between the albino and lutino oscar fish is eye color. Lutino oscars will have orange or dark red eyes while albino fish will have very light pink eyes. Unfortunately, lutino oscars are often sold as albino fish, which can make identification difficult.
How Many Types Are There?
Thanks to the aquarium hobby, there are many different types of oscar fish readily available to most enthusiasts. Scientifically, there are only two species within the Astronotus genus, including Astronotus ocellatus.
Oscars come in a large selection of colors though there is definitely room to expand. Because they require so much space to breed, their true potential remains to be seen.
Oscar fish are very hardy fish. Unfortunately, their massive size and tank mate limitations are often unknown to beginner hobbyists looking to purchase a small fish.
Given the right tank size though, there are several types of oscar fish to choose from, all with very similar care requirements but with very different appearances!
Mark is the founder of Aquarium Store Depot. He started in the aquarium hobby at the age of 11 and along the way worked at local fish stores. He has kept freshwater tanks, ponds, and reef tanks for over 25 years. His site was created to share his knowledge and unique teaching style on a larger scale. He has worked on making aquarium and pond keeping approachable. Mark has been featured in two books about aquarium keeping – both best sellers on Amazon. Each year, he continues to help his readers and clients with knowledge, professional builds, and troubleshooting.
I still remember a salesman explaining some of the care and feeding of the Oscars they had in stock in McCrory’s, a “Downtown Brooklyn” department store, circa 1960. My life is a bit less hectic, these days, and I’m finally considering getting some as pets. Good article!