What Do Oscar Fish Eat?

Red Oscar

It can be entertaining to watch Oscars eat. Find out which foods are best for these cichlids, as well as how much and how often to feed them.

Commercially-Prepared Foods for Oscars

When shopping for commercial foods to feed your Oscars, look for foods designed for cichlids. A large selection of pellet foods are available, as well as foods that are frozen, freeze-dried or canned. Pellets come in different sizes and shapes to offer a selection for juvenile and adult Oscars. When choosing pellets or other food for your pet, make sure the food is smaller than the fish's mouth.

This short list offers popular commercial food choices suitable for Oscars:

Live Foods

In the wild, Oscars eat a varied diet which consists of a variety of insects and crustaceans. While Oscars eat many types of live foods, not all live foods are good for them. Just as pellets come in different sizes, the size of the live food fed to your pet should be appropriate for the size of the fish eating it.

Recommended live foods include:

  • Mealworm beetles (mature mealworms)
  • Mealworms
  • Mussels
  • Plankton
  • Prawns
  • Shrimp
  • Small fish

How Often to Feed Live Food

If you choose to feed your Oscar live food, you should add just one or two feeder fish to the tank at mealtime. Filling the tank with feeder fish and allowing your Oscar to feed at will has some definite drawbacks for him, which include:

  • Spoiling your pet so that he rejects any other type of food
  • An unbalance diet, which can affect the fish's health
  • Causing him to become obese
  • Causing a deadly ammonia surge by overcrowding the tank

The drawbacks for you include:

  • The regular expense and inconvenience of stopping at the pet store for Oscar food
  • The need for more frequent water changes and tank cleanings
  • The possible need to medicate your fish because he has caught a disease introduced to the tank from a feeder fish

Feeder Fish Cautions

Oscar swallowing a fish; copyright Marcelo Saavedra at Dreamstime.com

Oscars need a balanced diet, so feeding them small fish is fine if you limit it to just a few fish a week. However, there are a few import tips to keep in mind.

  • Always choose extremely healthy feeder fish. If these fish are sick or diseased, they can pass along diseases to your Oscar, such as the disease known as "hole in the head."
  • If you have difficulty getting healthy feeder fish, consider breeding your own. Guppies are prolific breeders and are often used as feeders.
  • Feeder Goldfish are not the ideal fish for an Oscar's diet because they are prone to disease since they are typically kept in overcrowded tanks. If you must feed goldfish, be very selective and never purchase from a tank that contains any sick fish.

How Much to Feed

Feeding Juveniles

If your Oscar measures less than four inches, it is a juvenile. These fish are fast growing, so smaller Oscars need to eat more often.

  • Fish less than four-inches long - Feed at least three times each day until their stomach look somewhat rounded.
  • Fish at least four-inches long - Feedings can be cut back to twice a day.

Feeding Adults

Once an Oscar reaches a year of age, it is considered an adult.

  • Adults should not be fed more than once a day.
  • In reality, most adults do well when fed about four days a week. This give the digestive track a day to completely clear before feeding resumes.

When Your Oscar Stops Eating

An Oscar can suddenly stop eating for a few different reasons, but it's usually a signal that something is wrong. These steps may help resolve the problem:

  • Test the water in the tank (water pH should be between 6.0 and 8.0).
  • Try a different type of food.
  • If the water condition is fine, you've tried different food and the Oscar still won't eat, stop feeding your fish for a few days. Usually a healthy fish will start eating again when food is reintroduced.

If you take these steps and your Oscar continues to refuse to eat, talk to a veterinarian or your local aquarium shop expert.

Food Quality and Balanced Nutrition Are Key

Feeding an Oscar isn't as difficult as it may seem. You just have to keep all the factors in perspective.

  • Always choose the highest quality food available.
  • Feed a combination of live food and commercial food to ensure your pet gets well-rounded nutrition.
  • Observe your pet when he eats, and remove any uneaten food two to three minutes after feeding so it doesn't foul the tank.
  • Watch your pet's condition. If he looks fabulous and seems active, alert and healthy, you probably hit the right food combo and feeding schedule.

These simple suggestions can help your Oscar live a longer and healthier life.

What Do Oscar Fish Eat?