Wild Oscar Aquarium Care, Feeding and Native Habitat Information
Astronotus ocellatus (the Oscar) is an intelligent and very interesting species which is native to the Amazon River basin in South America. In their natural environment, Oscars are typically found in slow moving, whitewater to blackwater lakes and rivers and can be found taking cover around and within submerged driftwood, trees, roots, rocks, and vegetation. The Wild Oscar is the original species of Astronotus ocellatus; all other Oscar variants in the hobby were derived (through selective breeding) from the Wild Oscar. Wild Oscars will grow out to be larger than the selectively bred Oscar variants as they are the original species, collected directly from the Amazon basin. They are one of the hardiest and most popular Cichlids in the hobby and can learn to distinguish their owner(s) from strangers as well as associate them with food. Wild Oscars are very intelligent and will develop and display unique and interesting personalities. In addition to their constant "begging" for food, they can also be trained to eat from their owner's hand; which is why they are sometimes referred to as river or water dogs. Wild Oscars have a base color of tan to gray with varying black, tan, gray, white, yellow, and bright orange markings on their body and fins (although their pectoral fins are usually translucent with no additional colors or markings). They also have a black ocellus spot at the beginning of their caudal fin that is commonly bordered in orange, yellow, gray, or tan.
Wild Oscars require an aquarium of at least 75 gallons and should be provided with a sand or gravel substrate and multiple places where they can find shelter (driftwood, rock structures, vegetation, etc.). Wild Oscars are known to dig in substrate, which will cause uprooting in regard to live plants; live plants should have strong root systems, be placed in pots within the substrate, or species that will attach to and grow on driftwood and other structures should be used. Water changes (at least 25%) should be carried out every 2 weeks (or more or less frequently, depending how efficient the aquarium filtration is). Wild Oscars are very hardy fish, but they are also big and messy eaters and eventually they will have health problems if their water chemistry is not maintained; filthy water is usually where "one-eyed" Wild Oscars come from as well as Wild Oscars that have developed HITH (Hole-in-the-Head) disease. Wild Oscars are omnivorous (more accurately, facultative piscivores); they love live foods and enjoy the chase (your live plants won't), but will also readily accept many other foods. Wild Oscars require vitamin C and will develop health problems in its absence. Ideally, Wild Oscars should be fed a variety of foods, such as live, frozen or freeze-dried ghost shrimp, minnows, bloodworms, blackworms, mealworms, earthworms, and crickets. To make sure they are getting enough vitamins and nutrition, Wild Oscars should also be fed some prepared foods such as Cichlid pellets or sticks.
Wild Oscars are egg-layers that practice brood care; a breeding pair of Wild Oscars will become very aggressive towards other tank inhabitants. Once a mated pair is established, the female Wild Oscar will lay around 800 eggs in a carefully cleaned, flat location (driftwood, flat rocks, slate, etc.) within the aquarium. The eggs will hatch in 3-5 days and the fry will be free-swimming within a week. The newly hatched fry can be fed a diet of baby brine shrimp (and crushed flake food) and moved to other foods as they mature.