Wednesday, January 30, 2008

How To Set Up The Aquarium For Oscars

Oscar fishYou have bought yourself a fish tank (aquarium) and you have got yourself the filtration system for it. Now what? Time to fill it up! Okay, there are plenty of information on the net on how you should condition the water in an aquarium and that you have to use all kinds of water treatment liquids to ensure that the water condition is just right before you introduce your Oscar fish into the aquarium. Trust me, having reared an Oscar successfully, it need not be so complicated.

Firstly, I placed the fish tank on sturdy stands. Usually the shop which sells you the tank would recommend a stand to go together with the tank. Then, I will set up the water filter and run the pipings according to instructions. If you wish to place gravel in the tank, rinse them before hand to remove dirt, dust and grime.

Next, place a plate or something flat on top of the bed of gravel before pouring water onto it. This will prevent the water from disturbing your latest landscape work of art. After you have filled up the tank with water (usually leave at least 3 inches between the water surface level and the top of the tank), turn on the water filter and let it run. The water might turn slightly cloudy as tiny particles in the gravel are mixed into the water. It is okay. The water should turn clear in a while.

Whilst letting the filter run, get a good anti-chlorine and add this into the water. I previously used the Genesis brand. Follow the instructions on the bottle. As the Oscar fish is pretty hardy, you don't really need stuff like ph-control unless your water source is seriously skewed towards extreme levels of acidity or alkalinity. You might, however, want to put in a couple of bio-bacteria drops which you can purchase from the aquarium store. This helps to start up the friendly bacterial colony in the water filter system. Allow the water to set itself up for about an hour or more before introducing your Oscar fish into the tank.

Now, don't just throw that Oscar into the water. Whilst the Oscar fish is still in its bag, float the bag over the water surface in the aquarium for at least 30 minutes. This allows the water in the bag (with the Oscar) to be brought nearer to the temperature of the water in the aquarium. You may release the Oscar fish after that. I usually only release my pet fish when it is dark. This helps to minimise the stress to the fish when it is introduced to a new environment - its new home!

Friday, January 25, 2008

Suitable Filtration Equipment For Oscar Tank

Okay. You want to buy an Oscar fish and you have set your sights on a fish tank for that purpose. But wait! You will also have to consider finding a suitable filtration equipment for the fish tank to house the Oscar. Without proper filtration, chances are your Oscars would not live long enough to keep you in good company.

Before choosing which type of filtration you should use for an aquarium tank containing this cichlids, you must understand the Oscar's feeding habits. Now, unfortunately, the Oscars are not cultured diners. They are messy and they love their food. Feed them and they will chomp on their food (whether it be live feed or pellets) and some of these food will come out where their gills are. Bits and pieces of food would then be lying over the floor of the aquarium and over time, will decompose and become toxic if not efficiently removed by the filtration system.

An efficient water filtration system for the Oscar fish tank would be one containing mechanical filtration, chemical filtration and bio-filtration - usually in that order of filtration. Put simply, the mechanical filtration which are usually made up of sponge or suitable wool material helps to trap larger particles - sediments and food. The chemical filtration part which is usually activated charcoal (not your average charcoal for barbeques) are designed to and would help remove odour or medication. Finally, the bio-filter which houses friendly bacteria in sponges or ceramic balls will act on processing and changing feed waste (ammonia) into harmless nitrate. In an ideal world, the water becomes clean and need not be changed. However, the opposite is true. You should, as a matter of practice, continue to change about 20 to 25% of the aquarium water weekly so that fresh water is introduced and the level of toxic waste is reduced.

What kind of filter would be suitable? I would say filters which reside outside the tank. Filters such as vibrator-type air pumps are useless for this kind of fish and their waste produce. It is also usually noisy. Undergravel filters are also not suitable for the Oscar fish as the Oscars like to shift the gravel around and this disrupts the efficiency of the undergravel filter system. A canister filter or overflow system which uses a power head would be most suitable for the Oscar tank.

Both the canister filter or overflow system allows for cleaning of the filtration media without disrupting the tank occupants. It is also less messy for the owner in a way. In the next post, I will teach you how to change the water in the tank and how to clean the filtration media.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Oscar Fish Tank Requirement

Right, looks like the Oscar fish is a good candidate to take home for you? Have you got the right fish tank for the Oscar? Let me share with you what I did which went wrong and how you can learn from my experience in setting up the right tank to rear oscar fishes.

Firstly, bear in mind that the Oscar cichlid fish can grow up to a foot in aquarium conditions. Bearing that in mind, you would want to get a tank which is at least 3 times the maximum length of an adult Oscar. A tank with a minimum 3 feet length and 2 feet wide and 2 feet tall would be ideal for an adult Oscar. I mentioned "an" meaning just one Oscar. If you want to rear more than one, get at least a 5 footer length aquarium. The reason for getting such a long aquarium is to allow the Oscar fish to roam freely without inhibition. I learnt the hard way in just providing a 2 feet tank to my Oscar and he could not grow any further than about 6 inches long. As a result, I replaced the tank with a larger tank (at a cost, of course! and full of hassles) and that allowed him to grow further.

Set up your tank bearing in mind that the Oscar fish grows rapidly, especially during the juvenile stage. Don't bother with too much decor like fake houses or colourful wheels or even plastic plants. Forget about using real plants as well as they, like many other cichlids, have a tendency to be "destructive" in the sense that they like to dig and push gravel around. It is okay to use gravel only and perhaps a couple of big rocks to give them a sense of security especially when they are still juveniles. Consider removing these big rocks when they grow big especially if you don't want them to hurt themselves brushing off their bodies against the rocks.

Invest in the best filtration system you can afford because the Oscars eat a lot and them excrete a lot. You wouldn't want to be using an inadequate filtration system which allows the nitrate levels to build up faster than it could cope. Water quality is always important when rearing fish and you wouldn't want to be killing your pet fish slowly with poor water quality. In the next post, I will discuss on the suitable types of water filtration for rearing the oscar fish.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

How Many Oscars Should One Keep?

oscar fishIt is tempting to buy a couple of juvenile Oscars when they all look but just 3 inches long in the pet shop. Their playful ways with one another may make you think that they will all get along when you bring them back home to that tank you've set up for them. I would think twice if I were you.

First things first. You have to realise that the Oscar fish can actually grow up to a foot or longer in aquarium conditions and for up to 10 years if not longer. That little juvenile which is only 3 inches long can grow up to four times its size (and create 4 times as much mess!). You are thus looking at a long term relationship with the cichlid called Oscar that you are so tempted to buy.

The answer to how many oscar fish one should keep depends on how big a tank you are setting up and whether you are prepared to keep them for that many years. And please don't do the environment-hazard thing of throwing them into the nearest lake because the Oscars can be belligerent enough to cause havoc to the natural fish ecosystem in that lake. We wouldn't want that, would we?

I would use a rule of thumb of providing an aquarium size at least 3 times the length of the maximum size of the Oscar fish if I were to rear a single Oscar. That means, the tank should be of at least 3 feet length to make the Oscar comfortable and to allow it to grow to its maximum potential. If you intend to rear two, you will have to provide a much bigger tank for obvious reasons - and also giving consideration to the fact that these are territorial creatures.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Typical Behavior In Oscars

oscar fishFor fishes kept in aquariums, the Oscar fish is probably one of the most intelligent and "human-like" found. Personally, I have found great joy in keeping fishes from the Cichlidae family of which the Oscar belongs to. They seem to exhibit certain traits which make aquarium fish keeping all the more enjoyable. These are some of the behaviours exhibited by the Oscar fish.

You bet, especially when you consider its purposiveness in its movements and intentions. Comparing it to other fishes like the kois, goldfishes, barbs and danios, the Oscars move about with more awareness. At times, it looks as if the Oscars knew what they wanted and how they would move about to achieve their goal. It does not swim aimlessly or dash about like the barbs or danios. Rather, they have that "exploratory" look about them. Not unlike a predator!

Would you not consider placing your hand inside the aquarium to allow the Oscar fish to brush themselves against the palm of your hand just like how a cat or dog would do so to you? Seriously, the Oscar fish can be affectionate if you know how to deal with it. A word of caution though! I wouldn't dip my hands in fingers first because little Oscar might think that a bunch of worms (food!) have just entered for dinner! Rather, I would make a fist and dip it into the aquarium before slowly opening my hand. That's the rule of thumb (pun intended) for dipping hand into an aquarium especially when you are dealing with a fish which eats meat.

An Architect and Builder
Don't bother decorating a tank which you intend to house an Oscar cichlid. Just like most cichlids, the Oscars like to rearrange the gravel or rockwork in the tank. It is impossible to satisfy them with your own styling as far as how an aquarium decor would look like. These little fellas would scoop the gravel in their mouth and throw them wherever they fancy. Then, they will guard their territory, especially when they have made a nest for themselves. So, save that effort of yours.

The way the Oscar fish struts itself majestically - with striking colours on its body, whilst protecting its territory in the tank is a sight to behold. Fishes smaller than the Oscar might get eaten up or get bullied to a corner. Bigger fishes would fare better but the Oscars would not hesitate to pick a fight when it feels that its territory is being threatened.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Oscar Family

oscar fishAs mentioned in the introduction to Oscars, the Oscar or Astronotus ocellatus belongs of the Cichlidae family (commonly known as Cichlids). As such, its behaviour is not dissimilar to other cichlids. Cichlids, though varying in body shape, size, colour and breeding style do have something in common - intelligence, which is not oft seen in other types of fishes.

The Oscar family is popularly referred to as the peacock cichlid or velvet cichlid, especially to American and UK aquarists. I suppose this is due to the beautiful markings on the Oscar Cichlids - the ocellatus or "eye" which is prominently seen on the side of the Oscar's body just like how it appears on a peacock's feather. It is almost like a false eye by the side of the body to deter other fishes from coming near, though I must say that Oscars are usually aggresive in nature and fear no other fishes (unless they are far too big).

I understand that the original scientific name for the Oscar is Lobotes ocellatus as given by Baron Cuvier in the 1800s, though I have no idea how it became the Astronotus ocellatus. Personally, with no disrespect to Baron Cuvier, I prefer the current scientific name for the Oscar.

Introduction To Oscars

oscar cichlidThe purpose of this site is to share with you the rewarding hobby of rearing Oscars. Oscars are a breed of Cichlids known in science as "Astronotus ocellatus". "Astronotus" means being marked with a start on the back and "ocellatus" means bearing an ocellated marking or "eye spot".

Contrary to popular belief, Oscar Cichlids are easy to rear and provides enjoyment to their owners. I for one, used to play with my Oscar fish by stroking the fish. This fish, when given the kind of environment and maintenance needed, can become true pets in the sense that they are highly interactive.

As a previous owner of a beautiful captive bred Oscar with blazing orange red markings in full contrast with its black body, I will share with you the tips, dos and don'ts for the successful rearing of Oscars.