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FAQs on Oscar Disease/Health 9

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Please help me, help my mother's fish. Oscar hlth. 2/22/10
I have an issue, obviously considering if I didn't I wouldn't be writing.
<Well, you're honest at least!>
My mother has an aquarium which I believe to be a 75-90 or so gallons. She has two large Oscars (one is 11 1/2 inches and the second is smaller at 8 1/2) And a Plecostomus that's over a foot long.
<Yikes, that's a busy aquarium. Marginal water quality, I'm sure.>
That is all she has in the tank other her filter then decorations which she uses real stones, although they are large stones she uses smaller ones for the gravel and a few large ones for the decorations, no fake plants.
<That's fine - Oscars will uproot stuff, and Plecs aren't precisely delicate in their swimming movements. Large flowerpots are cheap and cheerful "caves" for fish like these.>
One is what I believe (thru research) to be an Albino Tiger Oscar (the larger one who is sick right now), breed from an Albino and a Tiger Oscar, the other I believe to be a Tiger Oscar (the smaller not sick one). My mother has had these fish for 5-6 years, and they have only grown about 2 inches in this period of time, so I am not sure how old they are.
<Size is about the going rate for these species.>
She got them from a friend who didn't want them any longer. She has had them in this specific tank for 4 years.
She doesn't use live or frozen foods, just pellets.
She also never has to do water changes or treatments her tank is that healthy (well besides this issue).
<Never does water changes? How bizarre. You should be doing 25% water changes every week or two.>
And we are not sure of the sexes since they are hard to determine.
<You can't sex Oscars outside of breeding anyway.>
Just today she noticed her larger fish is sick, he/she has a swollen belly on both sides, and has a white/ clear sac looking thing coming out of the anus.
<Prolapse. Very common when cichlids are maintained in poor conditions.>
I've researched on your website and came to the conclusion to use Epsom salts for use of a treatment.
<It's not so much a treatment as something that minimises the symptoms. The digestive tract becomes swollen with bacteria or Protozoans, expands, and pushes out the anus. So while Epsom salts relax the muscles and allow the Prolapse to reduce somewhat, this doesn't fix the problem. You need the right medication, and then must also improve the water quality. So it's a two-step thing.
I called her to tell her this and how to do this (by your instructions) but then she was looking at the fish and its changing colors, its head is turning a greyish color and its fins are turning color from white to a vibrant yellow color!
<Likely some sort of systemic infection.>
They are not upside down, he isn't swimming sideways, he just sits with his face in the corner towards the top. The other fish is acting and eating normally. I noticed months ago that the fish had holes in there head (right off the bat thinking hole-in-head) but I read on it and these fish apparently do have holes in there head so we waited to see if I over-reacted.
<Oscars very, VERY commonly get Hole-in-the-Head, and it's related to poor water quality, especially non-zero nitrate levels. Any nitrate level above 20 mg/l will severely stress cichlids including Oscars.>
These holes haven't changed since then, which has been months. So now that it is changing colors I thought best to contact you. I know you have many people writing in about swelling bellies and things coming out of there anus, but not all of that and color changes!!
<Perhaps, but taken together this does strongly suggest poor water quality.>
There's bloat, but that's just the belly swelling, so I didn't think it was this. Then I was thinking prolapsed rectum, from reading the letter with the lady with a Oscar that had swollen belly and the anal issue, and color fading, but not changing color such as my issue. I'm really starting to get nervous, these fish mean a lot to me (although they are my mom's fish) they are what made me love fish and aquariums, I could stare at them for hours and not get bored. I almost think I love them more then my mother does.
<Despite what The Beatles said, Love is *not* all you need. Oscars need good water quality.>
So if you can help me please do. I appreciate you taking the time to read this. Also, not sure if this will get posted on the site or just an e-mail back please let me know. Thank you.
<Happy to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Oscar hurt 2/18/10
I have 2 Oscars, 1 is approx 7" (tiger) the other quite small approx. 2" (albino tiger). Also, in the tank is a 10" irr. shark ,a black knife, a green Severum, and a 8" Pleco. Tonight when I got home it appeared that the big Oscar tried to eat the small one. This happened once before but awhile ago.
<And of course you sensibly moved the smaller fish to its own aquarium...
only a fool would leave them together after something like this, surely?>
Now his scales are all messed up and he swims upside down and in spirals.
<Ah, but no, you *did* leave them together.>
Is the anything I can do or is he injured beyond help?
<Obviously each Oscar needs its own aquarium. Sexually mature specimens are not tolerant of one another, except in very large aquaria. Since you don't mention the size of the aquarium, I'm going to assume it's something far too small, like a 55 gallon system. A single Oscar, by itself, will take over a 55 gallon tank. At 75-90 gallons, you could add ONE catfish. But for the selection of fish you have, anything under 200 gallons would be insane.>
I did put StressCoat in the tank and separated him into one of my breeder net cages, Please help .
<Breeder cages? You mean you have Oscars cooped up in those things for Guppy fry? How's that going to help? Move these fish to their own aquaria, and treat as per Finrot. Given proper water quality and a tank of its own, an injured Oscar should get better, and the loss of a few scales shouldn't be fatal. Does rather depend on whether you're prepared to make the effort.
Unfortunately we get messages from too many aquarists who can't be bothered, and simply euthanise fish they've somehow managed to get half-killed anyway. Sad I know, but it's the reality, and if you detect my slightly cross tone here, forgive me, but that's the reason. Cheers, Neale.>
re: Oscar hurt
Look I didn't ask for help to be berated like that.
<Well, if I hurt your feelings, I'm sorry.>
I have kept fish of all species for over 25 years and never ran into this problem before.
<Perhaps, but it wasn't a surprising problem. Oscars don't get along.>
As far as the tank goes its a 125 gallon with FX5 Filter turning the water over 3x per hour.
<Way too little water circulation. For large cichlids, you really should have much higher turnover rates, at least 6 times per hour, and ideally 8 or more.>
Not a 55 Gallon like you think.
<Still, it's too small for the Oscars, or they wouldn't be fighting. What can I say?>
I put him in that to separate him immediately with no where else to put him, sorry I don't have another tank but I do the best I can.
<Sometimes the best you can do isn't good enough.>
I guess that why I don't go to these sites. Who needs to be setup for a lashing when they ask for help.
<All I can say is that I analyzed your problem on the data offered, and gave you what is an accurate diagnosis. I'm not sure what else you expected me to say. You didn't tell me the size of the tank. Since most of the "my Oscar killed its tankmate" messages come from people with small tanks, I mentioned how a small tank wouldn't work.>
I have NEVER euthanised a fish.
<Sometimes euthanasia is appropriate, so in itself isn't a black mark against anyone. What matters is how you euthanise a fish, and that you perform euthanasia when it's appropriate to do so.>
I do put forth effort.
<Glad to hear it.>
This Oscar has been with other Oscars and never hurt the smaller like this.
<When they're younger, they're tolerant. But once sexually mature, they become aggressive.>
Sorry for the inconvenience, CHEERS, Jeff
<No inconvenience at all. I'm merely trying to help. Cheers, Neale.>
re: Oscar hurt
I was wrong it is filtered 6x per hour.
<Well, that's much better.>
So basically no more fish for that tank especially another Oscar.
<Depends on the fish you're adding. A good approach with these robust communities, what in England we often call rough-and-tumble communities, is to choose fish that are completely different from each other. That way,
no-one sees anyone else as a threat. So an Oscar, a Plec, a trio of Tinfoil Barbs, perhaps a Leporinus (though these can be nasty) and maybe some type of "eel" like a Fire Eel can work out great. All the fish are looking for
different things out of life, so no-one gets too cranky. But keep a bunch of cichlids together, and inevitably they *all* want the same flowerpot or cave, and the end result is a fight. If the tank is overstocked, then aggression might be minimised because no-one becomes the territory holder, but overstocked tanks create a whole set of new problems, like high nitrate levels and the resulting likelihood of sicknesses such as Hexamita infections.>
I guess that I just got a very territorial one because I did have 3 together for 6 years until my heater unknowingly broke and they got sick.
<Sounds a fair analysis. If you had three females for example, then you'd be fine. But males are mutually aggressive, and mated pairs will also be aggressive to any other Oscars. In general, Oscars are best kept one to a tank. That way, they're very peaceful by big cichlid standards.>
I have since prevented that from happening again by getting an alarm that is audible as well as visual if it wavers more than 3 degrees.
<Would further recommend a "heater guard" if they sell them for the heater you have. These are simply plastic clip-on things that keep the heater safe. Better still, get an out-of-tank heater like the Hydor ETH, or else build a sump and stick the heater in there.>
Thanks Sorry about the confusion, Jeff
<No problems. Good luck, Neale.>

Oscar Vertical w/ bent tail
Oscar With Internal Infection - 2/7/10

Please help!!! My 8 yr old Tiger Oscar has been swimming vertically for about 2 wks. Two days ago his tail began to bend. I have been reading your information, but am still unclear what could be the problem (swim bladder, etc.) He is in a 90 gal. with 3 other Oscars, who are fine. I have the ability to quarantine him. Should I do this and try the Epsom salt? Is the correct dosage 1 tablespoon per 5 gal.? Should I try feeding him, and what? Any help would be greatly appreciated. We have had him since he was only an inch long. Thank you Tracy
< Start by checking the water quality. Ammonia and nitrites should be zero.
The nitrates should be under 20 ppm. Place the fish in a hospital tank with clean water. Treat with a combination of Metronidazole and Nitrofuranace.
The key to a complete recovery is early treatment. These medications can be bought online at drsfortersmith.com

Scales are missing on Red Tiger Oscars 2/1/2010
<Hello Denise,>
My son and daughter each have a small Red Tiger Oscar.
<Bad choices as pets for children. These are very difficult fish to keep properly.>
The Oscars are kept in separate 5 gallon tanks with filters.
<Insane. Make that 55 gallons for each tank, and we're talking.
Five gallons is barely enough for a Betta, let alone an Oscar. Did you tell the pet store you were doing this? If they told you that was fine, then they're idiots. If it was your idea, and somehow you though they'd be fine for a while, then, well...>
They are fed 2 small gold fish feeders every other day and flakes on the other days.
<Did you read ANYTHING about Oscars before purchase? If you did, you'd known feeder Goldfish are a VERY BAD food item for Oscars. Not only are they a major source of parasites, they're also loaded with fat and Thiaminase.
We have done the water changes and de-chlorinated the water. Lately we have been noticing that each of the Oscars seem to have white spots, but more like the scales are missing, not like Ick. I thought they may be scraping themselves on the gravel but we never see them do that and it is getting worse. Any ideas?
<Yes. You're killing these fish. Whether deliberately or through sheer ignorance, you've stuck two perfectly nice animals in enclosures they cannot possibly be maintained in, and then fed them the worst possible diet. So these lovely, intelligent animals are being poisoned to death.>
Denise F
<Denise, I really, really do not like yelling at people. And when people write back that their feelings are hurt because I've yelled at them, that's sad. I volunteer here precisely because I like fish and I like people. But
when I get messages like this, it's hard for me to return a measured, let alone kind, response. Not one aquarium book ever written would ever suggest keeping Oscars this way, so my only conclusion has to be you read nothing
at all before buying these animals. Given you haven't said anything about water quality, I have to assume you didn't cycle the tank for 6 weeks before adding the fish. So essentially everything that you could do wrong, you have done wrong. It's not the fish's fault, it's not the retailer's fault, and it's certainly not my fault; it's your fault. Time to read what I've sent you to, think about what you've done, and react accordingly.
These fish aren't going to survive these tanks, let alone get better.
Either return them or euthanise them.
If you want to keep them, you're going to need a 55 gallon tank for each one, or a 75-100 gallon tank for the two of them. Don't delude yourself into getting a 20 gallon tank now, and then saying you're going to upgrade in a couple months. These fish grow EXTREMELY fast when kept properly, and will need that 55 gallon tank within 6-9 months of hatching. So get real, focus on what needs to be done, and move on. Feel free to write back and
yell at me for being rude if that makes you feed better. But my concern here is for your fish, and the bad example it's setting your kids. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: scales are missing on Red Tiger Oscars, hlth., nutr. -- 02/02/10

Hello Neale:
<Hello Denise,>
My apologies for my ignorance. I did tell the pet store exactly my plans and purchased the Oscars at the same place. The same place I buy the feeders. Obviously they were either only concerned with the sale or they had less knowledge than I did.
<Well, you do have to treat advice from store clerks with caution. Some specialist retailers are staffed by outstanding fishkeepers, and I've learned a lot by listening to them. But all too often the generic pet stores employ staff who know little to nothing about fish. In general, take the advice, but double check against a book or a web site you can really trust.>
Many years ago, I too had an Oscar for many years, fed him feeder fish and never had a problem.
<It's like the old maxim, "playing Russian Roulette once and surviving doesn't make it safe". Work on predatory fish has demonstrated without any ambiguity that diets high in Thiaminase lead to ill health and premature mortality. Do read Marco Lichtenberger's piece here at WWM on this topic.
The incidence of parasite infections following the use of cheaply produced feeder fish is very high. Furthermore, goldfish and minnows are rich in both fat and Thiaminase, and Bob Fenner believes, after autopsies of numerous fish, that these feeder fish are the #1 cause of premature death of Lionfish. The #1 cause! These feeders are killing more Lionfish than bad water quality! Thankfully, feeder fish simply aren't sold in the UK, so this isn't an issue here. The hobby has moved on, and aquarists switched to safer, cheaper, and less expensive foods. But for whatever reason, the US market has changed yet.>
Never did the pet store say anything about having a 55 gallon tank, nor did they tell me about feeder fish being bad for them to eat.
<Not impressed by them, I have to say.>
Once we started noticing the problem. We immediately began the water changes every 3 days between 25 - 30%. We are now feeding them frozen, thawed shrimp and peas.
<Again, do go back and read about Thiaminase. Shrimp contains a lot of Thiaminase, and over time, over-use will lead to vitamin B1 deficiency. I'm sure you already know about how the Royal Navy was plagued with the problem
of scurvy back in the 18th century. The sailors were getting lots of calories, but for some reason would get sick within a few months of leaving harbour. The problem was that their diet, while adequate in other ways, lacked vitamin C. Over time this meant they became sick. Only with the introduction of citrus fruits into the sailors' rations did things improve (from whence comes the nickname for the British around the former Empire, "Limeys"). It's precisely the same thing here: shrimp, mussels, clams, squid and other Thiaminase-rich fish and seafood may contain lots of calories and protein, but they also contain Thiaminase, and over time, you're creating problems by using them. Restrict Thiaminase-rich foods to once or twice per week. The rest of the week should be made up of foods
that lack Thiaminase. These include good quality pellets (e.g., Hikari Cichlid Gold), earthworms, snails, fresh or frozen cockles, fresh or frozen tilapia fillet, and of course plant foods like cooked peas. Indeed, a perfectly adequate diet could be based around just good quality pellets plus the cooked peas to ensure adequate fibre.>
I have done a lot of reading over the past few days and the Oscars seem to be improving dramatically.
In addition we are currently looking into a 55 gal tank.
<That's fine for one Oscar; two will eventually fight in that space, unless by some miracle you have two females, or else a pair that get along from the word go.>
I thank you and appreciate your advice no matter how loud you were yelling.
<Glad to have helped. Good luck. Cheers, Neale.>

Sick Oscar
Oscar With Internal Infection -- 1/21/10

We have a pet Oscar who has been sick now for about a week. We have cleaned the tank and treated him for Ich, but he has continued to stay on the tank bottom and will not eat. I read about this on your site saying he is distressed. The thing were worried about seems to be a problem I can't find an answer to. He seems constipated, not with reg poop, but this clearish white long poop which he continues to push out almost constantly the past few days. We can't find anything describing this and don't know what he could be sick with. Therefore I do not know how to treat him..
Please help because he is a beloved family pet. He usually eats from our hands and jumps up to hit the lid when he is hungry. The past week or so, he barely moves around stuck on the tank bottom and will not eat. He seems to be getting a whitish color to him, especially on his top fin. He still moves his side fins but on one of them, there is a tiny white speck.
< Check the water quality. The ammonia and nitrites should be zero. The nitrates should be under 20 ppm. The water temp should be around 80 F.
Treat with a combination of Metronidazole and Nitrofuranace. These medications may affect the biological filtration.-Chuck>

Albino Oscar Cichlid Has Gold Growth Over Eye 1/21/10
I looked through all the Oscar cichlid help pages, and none of them quite fit my current problem. I work in a local pet store, and one of our albino Oscars has this weird growth over its right eye. It basically looks like skin is growing completely over the eye, only it's very shiny and gold.
Like the shade of pyrite. It's not cloudy or transparent, you can't see through the gold at all. The Oscar is still a baby, only about 3in long, and this is the 2nd one that was shipped to us this way. The first one was a few weeks ago and the growth or whatever it is gradually took over until the entire eye was covered in gold and it was blind in that eye. The other eye stayed clear and normal, but the fish eventually died. The current one has the growth half-covering the eye at the moment, it seems to work its way inward evenly until only the very center of the pupil is left clear, and then it grows over that as well. Any idea what it could be?
<Have seen this, and have a theory/guess that it is a genetic anomaly...
From the great deal of inbreeding that has gone on over the decades of producing these sports in the far east... is a growth that is part of the fish itself>
I have access to the following medications if you think they will help (and I'm not averse to buying something else with my own money if needed):
Clout, Melafix, Pimafix, Jungle Parasite Clear.
<I really don't think this is an infectious or parasitic situation... nor nutritional. But genetic>
I'm sorry I can't give you parameters for the tank, I'd get in trouble for writing it down even if it's to help the fish. They're kind of weird here.
But the tank is a 10 gallon, he's the only fish IN his tank, and the temp is set at 76F. Any help you can give me would be greatly appreciated.
<Perhaps if this fish perishes it can be preserved, presented to a fish pathologist for histological examination. Bob Fenner>

Dying tiger Oscar -- 01/12/2010
I've had my Oscar for about 2.5 years, for some reason his tank became overwhelmed with algae,
<Blue-green algae by any chance? Or hair algae? Either way, almost certainly down to marginal water quality, insufficient water changes, and inadequate water turnover.>
I tried using some Algicide-RX,
<Toxic... even though sold as safe, shouldn't really be used in tanks while the fish are in them.>
(because he keeps killing the algae eaters)
<These don't fix algae problems.>
and it seemed to get worse. Since yesterday he hasn't been acting right, now he has something like blood on the inside of his body building up around his fins and tail and he can't move his tail.
<Sounds like he's reacting badly to environmental conditions. Would do a 50% water change immediately, taking care not to expose the fish to dramatic changes in pH or temperature. Make sure the new water has water conditioner added to remove chlorine, chloramine, and copper (and ammonia, if there's some in your water supply).>
He has a little bit of a milky film on parts of him also.
<Mucous appears when fish are irritated; it's the equivalent of a rash on human skin.>
I have completely drained and clean the tank to start it over (as recommended by the local pet store).
<While a big water change is good, this assumes the filter isn't disturbed, and it's almost never a good idea to take a whole aquarium apart if you have fish already. At best, put some tank water in a bucket and keep the filter running -- once switched off, the filter bacteria can start to die in as little as 20 minutes if they don't get enough oxygen (canister filters are very bad in this regard).>
I don't know what to do and I really don't want him to die.
<Do review the basic needs of Astronotus ocellatus, here:
Most premature deaths come down to tanks that are too small, badly filtered, and improperly maintained. Poor diet is another key issue (avoid Goldfish and other feeders, unless you deliberately want to make your Oscar sick).>
Any help will be GREATLY APPRECIATED. thanks.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: dying tiger Oscars -- 01/12/2010
he should be back in his tank by the end of the night,
I added stress coat+ and DeChlor.
<Ok. But do check if you have chloramine, and if so, use a dechlorinator that removes it: not all do.>
I also added some to the temporary tank. once the regular tank is up to temp then I'll put him in.
<Fine. By all means use hot water from the hot water tap, and mix with cold water. A good dechlorinator should remove copper, the only possible reason not to use hot water. Using hot and cold water speeds up bringing the tank temperature to the correct 25-28 C required by this species.>
What's his survival chance?
<No idea. Depends on how sick he is, whether he's been poisoned by the Algicide or stressed by the sudden change in environmental parameters.
Consider: when you suddenly kill all the algae in a tank, you suddenly load the filter with a lot of dead stuff to clean, and the decaying algae uses up oxygen as it rots. This is why you should NEVER use any kind of "killing potion" in an aquarium, whether for snails or algae. Much better to fix the underlying problems, and let algae and snail numbers decline naturally.>
the filter will have new filters also.
<But you won't be throwing out the cycled, mature biological filter media, will you? That would be mad. By all means replace mechanical media (e.g., filter floss) used to trap silt as often as you want, but biological media (e.g., sponges, ceramic noodles) should be used carefully, replacing no more than 50% within a 6 week period. If you think you've poisoned your tank, then this is one of the VERY FEW situations where using activated carbon alongside biological filtration makes sense.>
I have 10 gallons of the old water that he is in now, should I add that into the new water?
<Water carries little/no useful bacteria. So use, don't use, as you prefer.
Makes no difference at all. Actually, I'd throw ALL the old water out, and use completely new water, and then acclimate the Oscar to the new aquarium just as if you'd just purchased him. In other words, stick him in a bucket with just enough old water to cover him, and then add a cup or two of water from the tank every 5-10 minutes until the bucket is filled. I'd then half empty the bucket, and repeat the process. Once you're done, and this should take an hour or so, lift the fish and put it into the aquarium. Throw the old water away. Only LIVE FILTER MEDIA matters so far as restarting your aquarium goes, i.e., the sponges, ceramic noodles, or whatever used in your filtration system. Keep these alive by connecting the filter to bucket of aquarium water, and don't switch the filter off for more than 20 minutes.
Reconnect the filter to the aquarium ASAP.>
Thanks again. Louis
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: dying tiger Oscar -- 01/13/2010

I got him back in the big tank last night, but today he's just kind of floating around and his tail is real stiff. His scales toward the back of are turning like a whitish color and look like they are starting to dissolve. Any ideas?
<Does sound very serious. Without seeing the fish, or at least a photo, it's hard to say anything sensible. I also need to know the water quality and water chemistry. It's all very well talking about the fish, but if you have non-zero levels of ammonia and nitrite, or extremes of water chemistry, then these could be major factors in the fish's ill health. I'm also concerned we haven't yet mentioned the size of the tank or the filter turnover rate. A small tank with an inadequate filtration system could easily have had poor water quality, and algae problems of the type you were
trying to fix are often caused by poor water quality and lack of water movement. In other words the algae problem might have been a symptom of issues with the aquarium, and then the use of the Algicide just tipped things over the edge, to the degree your Oscar suffered from acute oxygen deprivation, poisoning, or whatever. In any event, really the only thing you can do is ensure optimal water quality, try not to disturb the Oscar too much, and hope for the best. In particular, review all the basics of the species: a tank at least 55 gallons in size, and realistically 75+ gallons, a filter with a turnover rate of at least 6, and preferably 8, times the volume of the tank per hour (so a 330-440 gallon/hour filter for a 55 gallon tank). Water quality should be 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and nitrate levels less than 20 mg/l. Water chemistry shouldn't be extreme in either direction; aim for pH 6.5 to 7.5, 5-15 degrees dH. Water temperature should be slightly warmer than average, 25-28 degrees C. But do bear in mind warm water contains less oxygen, which is why light stocking and generous water turnover are important. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: dying tiger Oscar -- 01/13/2010
he's in a 55 gallon tank, and the filter is a AquaTech 30/60.
<This is a hang-on-the-back filter, right? Pretty useless for big, messy fish, in my opinion. Adequate biological filtration perhaps, but very poor mechanical filtration, and not enough water circulation to keep the whole tank nicely oxygenated. External canister filters, ideally combined with reverse-flow undergravel filters, are the way to go when keeping big, messy cichlids.>
he has pretty much lost all of his scales. he's still moving his gills fine, and his front fins but he still can't move his tail. I hate to see him suffer, but I keep hoping for the chance that he will come out of it.
<Do see WetWebMedia re: euthanasia.>
I don't have all the stuff to check the water, but I took some to the pet store and they said its fine.
<"Fine" doesn't mean anything. Get the numbers. Really, you should own, at minimum, a pH test kit and a nitrite test kit. The problem with the guy at the pet store doing it is that often these guys don't have a clue.>
I just found out that one of the tank heaters is malfunctioning so I am going to replace that today.
<Well, I can see how that would make a big difference. Malfunctioning hot or malfunctioning cold?>
I will try to get a pic today. Thanks.
<Cheers, Neale.>

hole in head 1/5/10
Hello, Lately I have noticed my albino Oscar has a few holes in his head as well as it seems his fins maybe rotting. I have done multiple water changes
<Test results?>
and used medication.
<What type and how administered?>
However when meds are used my fish just sat at the bottom of the tank and looked like they were going to die. I have two Oscars in a 75 gal. Any and all help is greatly appreciated. Thank You, Scott Newton
<Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/FWHLLECases.htm
and the linked files above... Bob Fenner>
re: hole in head 1/7/10

I threw away the package for the meds however it was a powder that changed the water to a greenish color. It did not work at all it just caused my other Oscar to act like he was dead for a few days. Hope you can help Thanks Scott
<... Please read where you were referred to. Some folks adhere to the belief that HLLE is resultant from Protozoan infestation... others (myself included) consider it more a symptom of "poor water quality" and lack of nutrition. BobF>

Possible Sick Oscar! Please Help! 1/4/10
I recently inherited an Oscar fish when my daughter moved out and, unfortunately, know very little about them.
<Mmm, will try to assist/help>
The Oscar is black with reddish-orange spots but I don't know exactly what kind he is or what sex for that matter.
<Not important... all Oscars are the same species... See here:
He is currently about 5" long and 4-5 months old (That is how long we have had him.). He is housed in a 55 gallon tank. He also has two Bala Sharks, a Painted Glass
<Mmm, not compatible>
and three Plecos as tank mates. Perhaps unusual mates but they have been in the same tank for a little over a month and have been nothing but harmonious. Originally, he was in a tank with two African Cichlids but they were extremely aggressive toward him so he had to be removed.
Yesterday, I noticed that the Oscar is very pale, kind of gray looking, his mouth is wide open and his gills are open too; almost as if they are swollen.
<Yikes! Environmental problem of some sort...>
The tank is at 78 degrees but I am not sure about the water quality.
<In the meanwhile... ASAP, do a size-able water change (like half)... do you know how to do this? Please see here re: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwh2ochgs.htm>
I am going to take a sample to the local fish shop today. All of the other fish look and behave normally.
<The Oscar, being the largest... needs more oxygen, is more susceptible to types of chemical challenges>
I feed the Oscar cichlid pellets but have never given him any live food.
<This is fine. See the first reference... the linked files above... re Feeding>
I just did a water change
<Ah, good>
but I am wondering if there is anything else I should be considering.
Perhaps a disease or something that I do not know about. Anything you can suggest would be helpful as I am new to this (still learning) and I want to do right by this wonderful fish.
Thanks! Connie
<Thank you for your care and caring Connie. Do have your shop test for ammonia, nitrite and nitrates in particular. You likely need more filtration, and in time, a larger tank for these fishes. Bob Fenner>
Re: Possible Sick Oscar! Please Help! 1/5/10
I just wanted to thank Bob Fenner for his input in this matter and for his timely reply. Unfortunately, I lost the fish anyway.
But at least I was able to make an attempt to save him. Although I found the Oscar extremely fascinating (I was kind of in love with him), I am not planning to get another Oscar so I shouldn't need any advice in the future.
I couldn't bear it if I killed another one due to my own ignorance about the species. Thanks again to Bob and to all of you who give expert advice to all of us novices!
<Happy to have tried to help Connie. Life to you, BobF>

Floating Oscar on side... "Bring in another victim of env. dis." 12/16/2009
I have poured through your site and looked up everything I could on treating
my poor tiger "Oscar". I believe he has swim bladder disorder, as he has been floating on his side at the top of the tank for four days.
<Okay, so if you've even casually perused the site, you'd know that "swim bladder disorder" is really just a name for some symptoms, which almost always stem from improper care. Also, some research would have been more helpful to you prior to this condition developing.>
I did a 50% water change the second day, which admittedly had not been done in a couple months.
<Why not? Are you aware of the need for water changes? They dilute the toxins (waste products) from a closed system. If you don't do them, your fish is swimming in a cesspool. Have you ever tested the water? Chances are good that Nitrate is through the roof. If you're not sure what I'm talking about, please educate yourself on the nitrogen cycle. Here's a link to a wonderful article:
I had also been told when we first got Oscar that the light at the top of the tank would be enough to heat the water and that there was enough oxygen in the water that he did not need bubbles.
<What is the temperature in the tank? A two-dollar thermometer, plus Googling "Oscar temperature" would have told you that this is likely not the case. As for oxygenation, what type of filtration do you have? Often, hang-on-back filters do adequately oxygenate water; when I run canisters, I always provide extra oxygenation, just to be safe.>
Our tank is 38 gallons and Oscar is approximately 3 years old and 4 inches long.
<This fish should be twelve to fourteen inches long by now. Most reach the ten- or twelve-inch mark in their first year of life. The minimum size for an adult Oscar is 75 gallons, if this gives you any indication of what's gone wrong here. Something in his environment has prohibited his normal growth.>
The temperature of the tank dropped considerably last week due to a freeze we experienced, which the tank is next a large window.
<Well, this would be an excellent reason to invest a little bit of money in a heater.>
On the third day, after researching more, I got a heater and air tube.
<Here, I'm not sure I can say "Better late than never." The damage appears to have already been done by some aspect of his poor environment. However, whatever catfish you have in the tank with him will likely benefit, even if he does not.>
I bought Kordon Amquel Plus and Nova Aqua Water Conditioner (a different brand than I had previously). I performed another 50% water change, refilling with hot water and heating up to 80 degrees, <78 is fine.>
added the air tube and the Kodav water treatments. The small catfish was ecstatic,
<Yay! Clean water!>
but Oscar still remains floating.
<What are you feeding this fish on a daily basis? Dry foods, when used as the sole source of food, cause constipation.>
I tried feeding him shelled peas by putting them into his mouth, but he just spits them out.
<He's been through many, many changes in environment lately. This could be terribly stressing him, as well. Please buy Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate tests, and provide those readings in numbers.>
His abdomen is not noticeably distended, though he seems uncomfortable.
<When was the last time he ate?>
I try to rotate the side which is facing up out of the water and periodically will hold him slightly under in an upright state so that he move his fins. He seems active at that point and wants to swim, but pops up to surface like a balloon and is too tired to control where he goes.
This morning I found him up against the heater and had a seemingly burned area on his poor head.
<Oh, no. This is going to open him up to infection on top of everything else. You've got to get on top of water quality very quickly in order to avoid infection here. Medicating this fish could stress him so much as to kill him.>
I added Melafix and two tablespoons of aquarium salt to the water.
<What was your reasoning for this treatment? Melafix is likely going to do nothing here, though it does act as a mild antibacterial, but this fish has so much working against him that Melafix is useless. Another thing you'd have learned if you'd read on our site as much as you state is that Aquarium Salt really is only useful in treating Ich. It can help detoxify Nitrite and Nitrate, but at the amounts you're adding, is likely doing nothing.>
I did not dissolve it first, as you mention in other posts.
I want him to keep his strength up. I am going to test the water with a kit, as it appears the test thermometer in the tank that shows temperature, Ph and ammonia levels has not changed at all and are high.
<Yes...the tests. Please provide these levels. Be sure to test not only Ammonia, but Nitrite and Nitrate, with the test kits that contain reagents in bottles, not the dip strips. This is what you've been missing. Toss that in-tank thing and buy some real tests that give real results. They take five minutes longer than the "live" tests, but provide more accurate results.>
I changed the water filter, though I was worried that it would be "too clean" in a short amount of time.
<You are absolutely right. Why are you doubting your own actions, but failing to read and answer these questions prior to making the mistakes?
You claim to have read, read, read, but if you had, you would know the answers to most of your problems stem from environment. You've removed any biological bacteria that did exist in the tank by removing the filter cartridge.>
Is there any way to drop them quickly?
<Huge daily water changes. Borrowing cycled media from another filter and placing it into your own. A product called "Dr. Tim's One and Only" will instantly cycle the tank. It is the only beneficial-bacteria-in-a-bottle that I can recommend -- most of them are nothing more than a waste of money.>
I am not sure if you recommend him not eating at all or trying something else, like live
earthworms, dried earthworms, medicated food (if so what brand?), etc.
<At this point, I would allow him to fast, and concentrate on water
quality. You'll find that when it approaches healthy levels (0 Ammonia, 0 Nitrite, Nitrate under 20), your fish may begin to eat again.>
Should I add more salt or wait three days after another water change?
<I'd stop adding salt. You could try Epsom Salt after the water quality has returned to normal if he still refuses to eat, in the event that this may be some sort of digestion problem. But, I really doubt that it is.>
I am afraid to make anything worse and just want him to get better.
<Making him "better" should have started a long time ago. At this point, bring water quality up to par and hope for the best. Try and get a hold of something, explained above, which will instantly mature your filter. In the event that you can't, huge daily water changes are the only thing to do. Buy liquid test kits, and test daily. You're ultimately looking for parameters mentioned above.>
How long can they be in this state before it is too late?
<I honestly don't know, Jessica. I'm surprised this fish is still alive.
He is at least one-third of the size he should be. He was kept cold for much of his life, and has been living in high, high concentrations of his own waste. Just do those water changes and get water quality back to where it should be.
Though you say you have read our site, I'm going to ask you to go over this information one more time. Please begin by reading here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebindex/oscars.htm, as well as those linked files above the title of the article. There's just too much going wrong for this guy. Please let me know if you have any more questions.>
Thank you for all your help!
<You're welcome.

Re: Floating Oscar on side 12/16/2009
I appreciate your terse tone.
<I appreciate that you understand the seriousness of the situation.>
We used to be up on the water changes
monthly, <This should at least be bi-weekly.>
but I have been left to being primary caretaker. My boyfriend bought Oscar for his daughter, for which he said he used to have one and thought all the extras were useless. Okay, so live and learn, I have been doing all research and ignore his obvious thoughtlessness.
<Absolutely. The best thing you can do.>
I purchased the test kit last night, which are the strips, I am not sure I can afford another kit now. The ammonia: 1.0, nitrate +3: 10 (1/2 way between 0 & 20 in color), nitrate +2: .5, hardness: 300, chlorine: 0, alkalinity: 80, pH: 7.8 alkaline.
<Okay, so you've got Ammonia, and I'm guessing you mean Nitrite for the second reading, so you've got that too. This means that the cycle has somehow been interrupted, and it was most likely done when you "overcleaned." From now on, big water changes, frequent testing, until things get back to normal. The good thing is that your huge water changes have effectively diluted Nitrate, which is also toxic at higher levels, and so you've made progress there.>
I will look into the good bacteria you mentioned for the tank.
<This, or getting some cycled or 'seeded' media -- perhaps a local fish store might have some?>
I feed him Oscar show pellets. I have tried Hikari cichlid gold, but he wont touch it. We gave him feeders in the beginning, but stopped when I read what the damage that can bring.
<Absolutely. Not even necessary dangers!>
As far as supplements, the first I read of those was recently.
<Okay, so there's no problem in feeding pellets as a staple. But mix in some "wet" stuff, too -- bits of fish filet, bloodworms, peas, etc. There are some supplements sold for freshwater fish. I use Seachem Nourish. But Oscars routinely grow very, very large without the use of supplements, so his lack of growth is ultimately due to neglect, apparently on the part of your boyfriend.>
I didn't know there was a difference between aquarium salt and Epsom I terms of using it as a laxative.
<It will make all of the difference. The Epsom salt even instructs humans to use it to relieve constipation, by orally consuming it, and bloat, by soaking the bloated area in it. My mom worked on her feet for most of her life (hairdresser) and an Epsom Salt bath helped her swollen ankles and feet every night.>
Oscar was a healthy eater. He last ate about six days ago. I didn't feed him, so can't tell you how much he ate, but it wasn't everything. I try to put one pellet on at a time and have him eat it before I drop another.
<A good method. L
The other "feeder" drops in about seven at one time, so I am not sure if it is constipation or purely water (the latter I suspect).
<The overfeeding could also be a cause of the interruption of the biological cycle. Then, the problem was compounded by overcleaning.>
I will perform another water change.
<Yes -- keep doing them, and keep testing!>
I will wait on salt until water conditions improve.
<Okay. The reason for this is that the water quality improvement may remedy his condition without the use of anything else.>
To clarify, I have looked through your site for hours and hours, but only upon it's discovery yesterday. I had also researched other sites before finding yours, which had the most content and advice.
<I'm glad you found us. I think that there are some really basic things that you're on your way to figuring out, and after you get there, keeping fish will be so much easier. Please feel free to write back if you need more help.>
So, thank you for help and I will do my best to make things better.
<You're welcome. Thanks for accepting the truth for what it is, and doing your best to fix the situation. Oscar appreciates it.>
Sent from my iPhone

Oscars not feeling well 12/3/09
Hello I was looking through your site and I didn't come across an answer to my question,
I work in a retail store that recently started carrying Oscars and other Chiclids.
<It's "cichlids", as in sick-lids.>
The Oscars were doing fine till just a few days ago.
<Ah, famous last words...>
I know that Oscars are very territorial as they get bigger and the tank we have them in is small but being a store we don't have much choice.
<You're going to lose a LOT of money if you adopt this approach. Bob has written much here at WWM re: the aquarium business, but the bottom line (in more ways than one) is that you get the gear needed to keep whatever fish species you want to sell, rather than order in a bunch of fish and then just hope for the best.>
I have 5 Red tigers and 2 Albinos in a 50 gallon tank (Small I know) and I do 50% water changes 2x a week. but I came back from the thanksgiving holiday and found 3 of the tigers had lost their color and were sitting in a corner of the tank with fins clamped and breathing hard. I quickly did a water change and checked the parameters
<Classic stress behaviour. First dumb question: how did you cycle the tank?
Second dumb question: do you track water chemistry and water quality on a routine basis? And final dumb question: what are you feeding these fish?>
<What's the water chemistry beyond this? In other words, do you know the general and carbonate hardness levels?>
Ammonia: 0
Nitrite: 0
<Somehow, I doubt these two numbers. Be open minded. Check two or three times across the day. The vast majority of sick fish are sick because of chronically poor water conditions. Ammonia and nitrite have to be zero all
the time, and with cichlids, nitrate levels below 20 mg/l are extremely important.>
Salt: 0
Temp: 83
<Much too warm; the warmer water is, the less oxygen it holds. Unless you have a darn good reason to do otherwise, tropical fish should be maintained at 25 C/77 F.>
When I came in this morning there was one that looked like he had a coating of mucus on him I am at a loss on what to do I don't know if we are just too over crowded or if its something else.
<Could be overcrowding, depending on the size. Assuming regular levels of filtration and water changes, half a dozen inch-long Oscars would be fine in 50 gallons, but above a couple of inches in length, 50 gallons would be
a deathtrap.>
The only thing we have done differently is when we were gone for the weekend the lights were off for 3 days since we don't have them on a timer could they be stressed out because the lack of light? any info will help.
<Lights will not be a big deal, but Oscars, like all fishes, don't like bright lights, loud noises, or really anything else that would disturb any other animal. Use your common sense here. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Oscars not feeling well 12/3/09

OK I just ran another test and here are the results
PH- 7.6 still
<This is fine for Oscars; indeed, optimal, given that poor biological filtration is more dangerous to them than non-acidic pH levels.>
GH- 30 PPM
KH- 40 PPM
<Extremely, dangerously low. Do read here:
For general fishkeeping, especially with big, messy fish in a relatively small tank, moderately hard water with a medium level of carbonate hardness is extremely useful.>
Ammonia- O still ( I will check it one more time early afternoon and check again before I go home)
Nitrite- 0 (Same as Above)
Nitrate- 0
Temp- 80
<Little on the warm side.>
I also did another 30% water change and added a little Methylene Blue (2 Drops per 10 gallons)
<Why? Do bear in mind all medications are toxic (including the ones doctors give us). Overuse, or misuse, will cause problems. Adding "a little" of anything just in case is really VERY unwise.>
I haven't had time to look at the website you gave me been busy here with other stuff but I will look after I get off work.
<Fair enough... but do set some time aside. You might want to start off here:
the tank has been established for about a year we had sword tails and platys in their before we got the Oscars.
I check the water bi-weekly and haven't had a problem with ammonias in 6 weeks. We feed them a mix of Pellet food, Frozen Brine and Frozen Bloodworms and every so often I feed Micro Crabs.
<Since you're aiming to sell these fish, I'd stick with an pellet/wet-frozen diet. Live foods are a variable, and you just don't know if they're bringing in parasites. Goldfish/minnows are downright lethal, but even crabs and earthworms have a small risk attached. They're one more thing to worry about. Instead alternate between a quality pellet food (like Hikari Cichlid Gold) and chopped mixed seafood that you can buy in bag from places like Asian markets. Here in England a 454 g/1 lb mixed bag of squid, prawns and mussels costs £3-4, and that'll work out much more economical than food sold at the pet store. Small strips of tilapia and coley would also be economical and safe.>
Thanks so much for the help I am new at this and I have taken on the responsibility of these critters. (not to mention I have really taken a liking to these guys and it kills me to seem them sick).
<Oscars are indeed the classic "Pet Fish" which is why they're so popular. Kept well few, if any, fish are as smart or easy to tame. Lots of stories about them being taught tricks, including playing with ping-pong balls! They love human company, and once settled, can even be petted (check out You Tube for lots of such examples).>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Tiger Oscar's Behaviour 11/16/09
Oscar Swimming Funny

Hi, I have four tiger Oscars in a 6 foot tank, they are approx 1 1/2 years old and were placed in the tank together when they were about an inch long. I have one Oscar that has currently changed his behaviour - He
has always lived and built his nest behind a structure in the tank and usually sits within the area of his hole, however lately he is lying vertically (nose up, tail down) against the structure, he has slowed down on his eating, not swimming much, and I've noticed over the past two weeks that when he is resting (and sometimes swimming) he floats on his side, his top fin is laid against his body and also "lays" his tail on the bottom of the tank. He doesn't have a swollen abdomen, no hole in the head and no white spots. The other fish are acting as normal (they have built their owns nests within the tank and seem content). I have been changing the water twice a week (about 50%) for the last two weeks - I usually do my water change every 2nd week. I do regular water tests (about twice a week) and act upon any inconsistencies of the water. I feed the Oscars pallets once a day. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Regards, Donna.
< Sounds like an internal infection. It could be caused from stress, diet or poor water quality. Isolate the infected fish in a hospital tank and treat with Metronidazole and Nitrofuranace as per the directions on the

3 year old tiger Oscar, hlth., env. -- 10/21/2009
Hi, my name is Shawna and I have a Tiger Oscar that is about 3 and a half years old now. I cleaned my tank about a month ago<"Cleaned?"... as in altogether? Better to not do this; but instead to change part of the water out, clean the sides down, vacuum the gravel at weekly intervals>
and now my Oscar has been getting strange marks on him.
<Likely from a loss of nitrification (biological filtration capacity)>
At first, along the top of his body just underneath the top fin on both sides, he was starting to look pale.
His stripes also started to become very pale and white in color, which is usually caused from stress i thought. This went on for a few days and then his eyes started to get very cloudy.
<Bad... burned>
This cleared up within a week and I started to think he was all better now. Then i noticed where he used to be pale in color on his body, by the top fin, he had a spot that had very minimal peeling and now his scales seemed to be a bit swelled. It has also seemed now that his tiger stripes have pretty much disappeared or faded out where this is happening.
He is still eating and is swimming normal, really he seems perfectly normal other than these swelled scales. The symptoms to me remind me of a human sunburn!
Instead of getting red, he gets pale, he is peeling and his scales are swelling much like how a sunburn bubbles. I had a Marine Glo light which glows a blue which has been used for some time now so i don't think its lighting. He is in a 108 gallon tank with a 6" goldfish, a 7" Dempsey, a 4" peacock cichlid, an 8" Pleco and a smaller other fish that I have no idea what it is that was given to me months ago. I have had my water tested
<What results? Appreciable ammonia et al?>
quite a few times and have not changed a thing that i have done since i have gotten him. The only thing that changes is the type of food. Right now I am feeding him floating cichlid pellets. On occasion, crickets and guppies but i have not done this for quite some time. I have never ever fed him low quality foods!! Im not understanding what is going on because he is not acting strange at all, I have noticed that a couple times when the paleness started, he seemed almost itchy but that has stopped. I hope nothing is serious and there is a solution. Thank You
<Mmm, again... the clean-out... Please read here:
and the linked files above; esp. on troubleshooting. I would be looking for a good starter medium, like Dr. Tim's "One and Only". Bob Fenner>

Oscar not well 10/8/09
Hi we have two Oscar fish who seem to be unwell. One is active and eating well with fin rot.
<Do review water conditions. Almost always, Finrot is triggered by water quality problems. Just to recap, Oscars need a big aquarium, and for two specimens, 75-100 gallons is required. The filter needs to be very powerful, at least 6 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour, i.e., for a 75 gallon tank, 75 x 6 = 300 gallons per hour. The water chemistry isn't critical, anything from pH 6.5 to 8 is fine, with 5-20 degrees dH hardness. But water quality is absolutely critical, and there should 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, and nitrate levels below 20 mg/l at all times.>
The other more placid fish is sometimes going onto his side, and has a huge opening where his anus is filled with white fluffy beads that fall out and inside he looks raw red. He just isn't himself.
<Well, do, I'd guess not. He's very sick indeed, and probably needs to see a vet. At the very least, antibiotics will be required, and these will require a prescription from a vet in most parts of the world. If the body cavity is open like this, the fish is exposed to massive amounts of bacteria, and septicaemia, among other things, is likely. The fish will be in severe distress. Does it feel pain? That's hard to know for sure, but the fact it isn't eating proves it's uncomfortable and distressed. Either take it to the vet, or else euthanise it. Those are your two options here.
He eats well.
We have been to the aquarium a handful of times this week with concerns over our nitrate and ammonia levels.
<Nitrate or nitrite? These are different things. Nitrate doesn't tend to cause immediate problems, but constant exposure to levels above 20 mg/l does stress cichlids and is connected with various diseases including Hole-in-the-Head and Hexamita infections. Nitrite, on the other hand, is immediately toxic, and even low levels will stress and eventually kill fish.>
My husband has been doing regular large water changes, he changed their diet to a seaweed type and now based on the professional recommendation stopped feeding them and medicated the water with Bactonex but this says on the bottle that it is a prevention aid for fungal, bacterial and parasitic infections.
<Too far gone for off-the-shelf medications.>
Do we need antibiotics or do you suggest something else?
We are on day two of using this medication and the white fluffy beads were expelled this morning. The guy said the fish would improve noticeably within a few days. Just now as I look at him I can see a little scale falling off him . There is no slimy coating, no white spots, no funny eyes, the one we are most worried about with the large butt with beads and what looks like air bubbles inside of him doesn't have fin rot.
<It's a bacterial infection. The bubbles are pockets of respiratory gases released by the bacteria. Basically, it's gangrene.>
He's alert though and comes up to us for look. The fish don't fight. We got them 4 weeks ago together.
<How did you cycle the tank before you bought them? I ask because some people mistakenly think you can buy an aquarium and buy the fish on the same day. You can't. You buy the aquarium, and then you add a source of ammonia for about 4 to 6 weeks, and then add your fish. The ammonia can be household ammonia, but an easier option is to add flake food in about the same amounts as you'd add if there were fish in the tank. The flake decays, produces ammonia, and that starts the cycling process. Using a nitrite (not a nitrate) test kit you monitor the nitrite levels, and by about week 2 or 3 you should find nitrite has peaked and starts to drop down. A week or two later it's at zero, and that's when your tank is ready for some fish. By the way, while you're cycling the tank, you also do your weekly water changes, 25% at a time.>
They seem to be best friends sleep touching and swim together all the time.
<Shame they're so sick. Do note that only juvenile Oscars are gregarious; adults are territorial.>
Can you please help as our local stores are all saying the same things.
Change the water and get nitrate levels to 0.
<Why are you/they focusing on nitrate? Nitrite is the dangerous one, nitrate is much less dangerous.>
My husband has been tirelessly cleaning and doing everything they say and yet the water levels are not great-lower but I think he mentioned .2 ammonia and .5 nitrate.
<I'm guessing you actually have 0.2 mg/l ammonia and 0.5 mg/l nitrite (not nitrate). This would imply your tank is still cycling, and should not have any fish in it.>
Thanks so much and thank you for your time.
<Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>

Please help me with my baby Oscar 9/29/2009
Hi, my name is Laura I was looking up about bleeding Oscar fish and I came across your reply on somebody else's question and I hope that you can help me.
<Bleeding? From its fins? In most cases when blood appears on the skin or fins, it's Finrot. And most of the time, this is caused by poor environmental conditions. Oscars in particular need large, well-filtered tanks with a mature filter.>
I have had my Oscar Fish for about a week and a half and today when I was falling asleep he through some pebbles/gravel at the tank wall so I woke up to see what he wanted and I noticed while he was pooping some red liquid stuff was coming out, and when he finished going the red stuff continued to come out.
<How did you cycle the tank before adding the Oscar? Don't forget an Oscar aquarium will need a big biological filter, and that'll take some 6 weeks, minimum. You'd have to cycle the aquarium using a fish-less method, such as adding flake or seafood to the tank every few days. Once ammonia and nitrite levels hit zero, the tank's ready to become a home for an Oscar.>
I noticed that sometimes his 'droppings' are white and sometimes they are dark, if that matters at all. Also he has two white small dots on his head (about the size of a piece of salt) that have recently appeared, I don't know what they are and I can't get my hand close enough to see if they are stuck on him or not.
<The white specks are likely dead or dying skin.>
What should I do, is he sick? If he is do you have any suggestions on medication of any sort. His water has been cloudy lately even after we do water changes (siphoning the tank as well for all of the droppings and extra food and dead plant leaves), we have done them from 10% up to 40% trying to clear it up, we don't know what is causing the cloudiness. Right now bc he is small we have a 10 gallon tank (we are upgrading as he gets bigger)
<Bingo! You cannot possibly keep an Oscar in this tank.>
we do water changes frequently, we have a new filter, a water heater that reads 79, and a tube that makes bubbles, he also has a piece of drift wood and water plants (that we bought from the pet store). We have an algae eater (we feed him algae wafers bc there is not enough algae in our tank yet), and we use water conditioner called NovAqua Plus and something that removes nitrate-nitrite-ammonia-chlorine-chloramines its called AmQuel plus.
<This water conditioner treats the new tap water you add to the tank. It does NOTHING for the ammonia and nitrite produced by the fish.>
We feed him freeze dried Brine Shrimp, and sometimes minnows, but not recently.
<Don't feed your Oscar live feeder fish, ever. Earthworms, cockles, frozen lancefish, unshelled prawns, and so on can be used to make a nice mixture of treats. The staple should be a quality pellet, such as Hikari Cichlid Gold.>
He is an active little guy kind of a crazy fish he likes to move and knock the plants all over the place, there hasn't been a change in behavior or anything, I just know from reading up that it is common for Oscar Fish to get hole in the head, and parasites, and other weird diseases...
<All these "weird diseases" are caused, at some level, by bad care.
Hole-in-the-Head is typically associated with poor water quality, including nitrates above 20 mg/l, and unbalanced diet. Parasites usually come from either newly introduced tankmates or, more likely, feeder fish. As I say, don't use feeder fish.>
I would like to prevent this from happening to our fish. If you have an ideas to why this is happening to our sweet Oscar please e-mail me.
Thank You! -Laura
<Laura, you have much reading to do! Oscars are difficult to keep, and require at least a 55, preferably a 75 gallon, tank with a strong external canister filter. Do read here:
Cheers, Neale.>

Hey again! Oscar reading, again... 8/28/09
Hey guys. I contacted you guys maybe 6 months to a year ago about a Tiger Oscar I had owned that got a fungal infection (white puffy substance on the body).
Well, I've recently started a new family. I have now 2 new Oscars, a baby tiger and a baby albino. Also, with them I bought a Black Convict Cichlid.
In the tank I already had a full grown African Cichlid and a Plecostomus that is about 8 inches. They're in a 55gal tank,
<Oh my friend! This is too small a system for what you list. You will need a tank at a minimum twice this volume>
water temp usually at 78-74 degrees. I noticed my albino's fin's are starting to turn black. I've never seen this before so I Googled it, and got mixed answers from fighting to disease. Any thoughts??
<In a word: stress...>
Thanks again.
Luke Whittemore
<Read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/oscars.htm
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Please help
Oscar In Mourning, Probably Not 8/23/2009

Hi my name is Selena. I have a tiger Oscar which I'm worried about. He recently lost his mate, I have fed him feeder fish to help cheer him up but that has not seemed to work. About a week ago he has stopped eating and also been swimming on his side. He is curled like he is dead but he is not.
I have checked. If u could please help me that would be great. Thanks Selena
< I think you should be concerned with why the other Oscar died. The same disease could be affecting this Oscar too and not the death of his tankmate. Do a 50% water change , clean the filters and vacuum the gravel. Remove the feeder fish. They introduce lots of diseases. If your Oscar acts hungry then feed him a high quality cichlid pellet. If not then he may have an internal infection. treat with a combination of Metronidazole and Nitrofuranace. This will affect the biological filtration so watch for ammonia spikes.-Chuck>

Tiger Oscar "Shedding" 7/23/09
My 4 year old tiger Oscar looks like he is "shedding skin." He isn't eating or swimming. He just lays on the bottom of the tank and looks like he is dead but isn't. He will only move if you make him. I have checked
the water and even did a partial water change..Usually when he gets to feeling "down and out" a partial water change helps revive him (approx every 4-6 weeks).
<<Water changes should be done... every week... RMF>>
What do I do now?
< Check the water quality. The ammonia and nitrites should be zero. The nitrates should be under 20 ppm. The water should be around 80 F. If all these parameters are within range then I would recommend doing a 50% water change, vacuuming the gravel, cleaning the filters and treating with Nitrofuranace. Follow the instructions on the package.-Chuck>
Re: tiger Oscar, hlth. 7/26/2009

Water change helped a lot! He acts like his old self again. Thanks.
"<<Water changes should be done... every week... RMF>>"

Female Albino Oscar (6 - 7" Long) - Breathing Difficulty 7/7/09
Female Oscar With Breathing Difficulty
Thank you in advance for your help with our Oscar. We have a breeding pair of Oscars and 1 Pleco in our 120/g tank. We got all three in April of 2006. Our female looks like she is having difficulty breathing, gasping for air. We have no problems with our air pump as there are plenty of bubbles going into the water, but our pH is low, which we are working on now to raise it. What else could be wrong with her, or is it our tank that has a problem? Our other two fish are not having any difficulty breathing. We have excellent filtration (2- Rena PS3's) in our tank, and the water is crystal clear. We are located in SC and the water temp is a bit higher then we like (84º), but it has never bothered them before. She last laid eggs about a month ago. He goes through the motions, but doesn't fertilize them. Any idea as to why she would have problems breathing? She isn't eating as well as she usually does either... I don't want to lose her, if possible. Thank you!
< Heavy breathing could be a symptom of many things. First check the water quality. The ammonia and nitrites should be zero. The nitrates should be under 20 ppm. If you don't have any test kits then do a 50% water change and see if things improve. The stress of breeding could have caused an internal infection which will affect the gut and cause additional stress to the entire fish. The fact that she is breathing heavy and not eating may be the early symptoms of that internal infection. Get some medicated food with Metronidazole in it. It is sold at DrsFostersmith.com. Follow the directions on the package.-Chuck>

Oscar With Eye Problems 7/3/09
I am writing in desperation for my 2 year old Oscar "Diesel". I awoke last Wednesday to find both his eyes covered in what appears to be fungus. I tested the water and the nitrate levels were 200ppm, all others normal, I did a 25% water change. Thursday, it spread to his fins, tail, and face. I did another water change, took out activated charcoal, added ammonia remover insert to filter, and treated with Pimafix, nitrate levels still 200ppm. By Sunday, fungus was no longer on his body but still on his eyes, nitrate levels still 200ppm. I did a water change, switched medication to API fungus cure and by Monday the majority of the fungus came off his eyes but now appears like his eyes are rotting. Wednesday did a water change and added activated charcoal, and still no improvement with eyes. Today, water is still green from medication, no improvement with eyes, the nitrate levels are still 200ppm. He hasn't eaten anything since last Wednesday, even if I try to hand feed him and his eyes look like their rotting. He doesn't appear blind and has been more active the last few days but I don't want to lose him. Please help!
**the first two pictures are from today and the second two are from last Thursday.
< The bacterial infections have taken their toll on your poor Oscar. It is difficult to cure infections with nitrate levels this high. I would recommend a 50% water change vacuum the gravel and clean the filters. The bacterial infections may have penetrated the lenses of the eyes and lifted them off. Treat with Nitrofuranace or Erythromycin as per the directions on the packages.-Chuck>

Oscar With Eye Problems II - 7/6/09
I really appreciate your help. I did as you said although it was difficult to get the medication, but I have noticed he now has a brown discolouration all on his underside, should I be treating for parasites as well?
< For now just go with the antibiotics. If you actually see parasites then they can be treated later with Fluke-Tabs.-Chuck>

Sick Oscar 6/6/09
I have been searching your site for answers but could not find any for my particular situation. I currently have a tiger Oscar that is about 4 inches long. I noticed some white spots on his pectoral fins and before that he was staying at the surface behind my power filter. I figured he has Ich because these are the most common signs of it. I currently put him in a quarantine tank for treatment. The display tank has no other fish and is set at 82 degrees Fahrenheit to speed up the life cycle and let parasites die off. I am currently using super Ich cure by API. The quarantine tank is at about 84 for the same reasons. Now for my question. About a day after the first dose I noticed the spots starting to fade a bit and maybe a few
going away. Now his pectoral fins seems to be a little frayed and maybe some slight if any cloudiness in his eyes. Has my Oscar developed even more illnesses do you think? I rarely ever have sick fish so I'm not sure what to do. I appreciate your help and time. Thank you.
<Hello Jonathan. It's actually not uncommon for Ick (Whitespot) to lead to secondary infections such as Fungus and Finrot. What happens is that the white cysts on the fish's body burst open when mature, and that's how the "baby" free-living parasites get into the water and so are able to find new hosts. But the damage to the fish's skin allows infections to set in. So, as always, review water quality, since that's the thing that makes such infections probable, and also treat for Finrot and Fungus using a reliable medication of your choice (not salt, not tea-tree oil!). In the UK and Europe, I recommend eSHa 2000, but there are doubtless other products you might use elsewhere in the world. Do remember to remove the carbon from the filter while treating your fish with medications. Cheers, Neale.>

Oscar problems multiple 05/25/09
Hello, and thank you for reading this.
<Service to you!>
I have had quite a few Oscar problems and somehow have always seemed to fix whatever was going on. I've had 3 Oscars for about 4 years now. One is over a foot, the others are 8-10 inches. The largest was very aggressive and was moved to his own 55 gallon tank.
<About all there is room for>
The other two seem to be paired up. They love each other. Although they have never had any eggs, they tail quiver and lip lock and when one is sick
(seems to happen often lately) they stay by the other's side. They are also in a 55 with one 6-7 inch Pleco.
My first problem was my largest. He got HITH.
<... from water quality, the crowding...>
Obviously my fault, not changing the water enough. Pure laziness. It got really bad, but with enough water changes it suddenly healed. He looks
normal now! I was feeding Wardley pellets, crickets on some days and brine shrimp. Next my other two got HITH. These two are an albino and a red. Mostly it was the red. It got so bad that I thought my red's eye was going to fall off.
<... where is this going?>
I just kept with the water changes, used Melafix and salt in the water, and voila! He healed. Everything was better, and unfortunately I went back to being lazy with water changes. No excuses, but I have a house full of animals and now I'm paying the price. My largest is in his own 55 with one Pleco. He has one decorative log, temp stays at 78 and the filter is a dual BioWheel. He has a couple holes now, not too serious (although I know it can get out of hand) but for the last few days he's been laying on the bottom with his fins close to his body. I used Jungle Fungus because it has both fungal and bacterial fighting properties, and also saved my Albino recently when he was doing the same thing. I've been using VitaChem vitamins and
Melafix/Pimafix and today did a 50% water change. After the water change he's suddenly been swimming a LOT more. Laying on bottom some, but what more can a foot-long fish in a 55 tank do?
<I don't understand... what are you asking?>
I think the meds stressed him out and now that he's swimming I'm going to do one more Melafix/Pimafix dose tonight and put in new carbon filters tomorrow.
<Cut the "fixes"... they're bunk>
My BIG worry is my red in the other tank. I know you are going to ask for water test numbers, but I've never done a water test in my life.
If I had the equipment I would do it right now and send. But I'm just grasping right now to save Oscar. Albert and Oscar both have a serious case
of HITH right now, as far as I know.
<... see WWM re>
Oscar looks much worse, but Albert's was so bad he really looked like some of his head was scraped down. He was floating head down for a while.
<Pathetic... likely your nitrates and other pollutants are sky high>
Then floating midway on his side, not even leaning on anything. My fish guru suggested I treat for bacterial infection, and then use Jungle HITH
<My young friend... stop medicating... Your fishes problems are environmental in nature... You're neglecting the care of the animals in your care...>
The HITH Guard did nothing. I finally used clout,
which has worked in the past, and the white poos sticking to the filters disappeared. The floating copepods disappeared too! Of course I was doing
lots of water changes. The whole time Oscar was doing great (he's the red). He would stay next to Albert (Albino) but he was eating great. Both heads started healing. Albert's grew back - doesn't look shaved down anymore. Then Albert started laying on his side on the bottom, with fins close to his body. And he stopped eating. He would try to eat, but not really. And Oscar starting spitting out his food. I was feeding Hikari floating pellets
(Can't find large Wardley and they're bigger now, so....) I noticed the clamped fins and also a hole in Albert's right fin. That kept getting bigger. And I noticed a little bit of raggedness on his tail, and I thought fin rot! I used the Jungle Fungus med - and it healed him right up. Now he is my healthiest Oscar! I've been feeding them Oscar Grow large pellets floating and sinking a couple at a time, to make sure they are eating. OK, so a few days ago both were swimming and eating great. I did a water change on Friday. And I used clout one more
<... No! Metronidazole is toxic in repeated exposures>
time, because Oscar's holes started growing again. One day Oscar was stealing Albert's food, and the next day Oscar is open-mouthed, head up as
if not enough oxygen, and not eating. His gills seem to be hard working and one side has a whiteness on it that resembles his holes. His holes have
suddenly gone crazy, like they're growing deeper/bigger within just a couple of days. They're eating away around his eyes. As he breathes it looks like there's a flap from inside his mouth - all the way around - that goes with his breathing. I've looked down into his mouth to see if any rocks are stuck, thinking he grabbed one with one of the sinking pellets, but I can't see anything, like it's swollen. He was head up for 2-3 days, and now he's gone to the bottom. Not leaning over, but sitting on his stomach with his mouth open and what looks like labored breathing. I thought it was low oxygen.
<... pollution... organic...>
That's why I did the water change Friday. He's got two filters (without any filter in them, but running) one is two-sided, but no BioWheels, the other
is a large penguin BioWheel, and there are two long airstones going. His mouth has not closed, and he's still on the bottom, with these terrible looking holes. Albert is doing great! He's swimming, looks healed (still has some holes but if you saw him a couple weeks ago you'd be amazed). I haven't fed them for a few days and I'm thinking this is the end for Oscar. I saw some more stringy feces sticking to the filters although not really very white, so I was going to add Jungle Parasite tonight because it has the Metronidazole and the (p) med can't think of the name. Praziquantel?
I have had great luck with jungle except for the HITH Guard. But I don't know if this will help him or hurt him. I don't know if this could be some
kind of fungus or bacteria, or just water and it's the end of his days. :( I don't have a way to move him. If I treat it means Albert gets treated too. I use prime and stress coat and aquarium salt during water changes.
<Cut the salt>
I have been feeding very limited because I wanted to get rid of those copepods, and they are gone. I have also treated with Melafix and Pimafix for 4 days and added the vitamins. I will wait until morning to put in the jungle parasite - but if you don't think I should please let me know! What else can I do?
Water temp is at 78.
I also have one more question. My neighbor is giving me his 125 gallon.
I planned on putting Donovan (my largest) in there so he would have some nice room to swim, since the others are smaller, but if Oscar lives should I put the two in there instead? And if Oscar doesn't survive, is there a way to put both Donovan and Albert in the 125 together or would they tear each other up? (Have been apart for a long time now). Thank you thank you, please help me with what you think I should do next. The water change did not help Oscar at all - but it did help my largest. I am very worried.
<Then apply yourself... Read on WWM re Oscars, FW maintenance... learn to/use test kits... STOP "medicating"... you're doing harm... Bob Fenner>
Overmedicated? 5/27/09

update: Oscar died overnight.
<Hi Jen, Mac L here assisting the great Bob>
I believe I killed him by overmedicating.
<Sadly I think so too but you had a combination of problems involved in this as well.>
This is the first large Oscar I've lost, I feel sick. I don't know how Albert is going to deal, because like I said they were a pair. Can Albert go on and be okay as a single Oscar when he's had a mate his whole life?
<Albert will be better as a large solo Oscar then trying to add another one because they can and they will tear other Oscars up if you try to add them and they are not compatible>
Will he get depressed? Should I introduce him to my largest when I get the 125 ready? Or keep one in the 125 and one in the 55?Thanks,
:( :(-Jenn
<Honestly in my opinion Jen an Oscar is too large a fish for a 55. I have seen their bodies become misshapen and stunted when kept in a small tank and their growth is so rapid. You obviously care about your fish. You could possibly try to put them both together in the larger tank but being aware that it very well might not work and they might have to immediately be separated. Oscars are great pets but in the wild get absolutely huge and I really wish that stores would tell people more about them when they buy them. Don't you just love it when they come talk to you or spit water at you for your attention? Good luck!. >
Re: Oscar problems multiple 06/03/09

Thank you for your reply. So far Albert is doing well and he's very active, every time I come near the tank he's there asking for attention.
<Good behavior>
Yes I love that about Oscars. They are very in tune with us. Even if it's only because they're pigs!
My next objective is to get that 125 set up and ready for Donovan, my giant. I do understand that a 55 is too small. I did a nice water change for Albert yesterday and will do one every other day to help him heal. The only thing I add to the water is vitamins. Thanks again for your help.
<And you for this upbeat update. Cheers, BobF>

Oscar's tail (entire tail) eaten off, help! 5-10-09
I'm in a bit of a hurry (as I'm sure you'll understand why, as you read on), so I apologize in advance if this information is already posted on your site.
<Likely is written elsewhere, and you would actually get a reply more rapidly using the Search box...>
Our Oscar and Pacu have been tankmates since they were babies, together for over a year now. They'd been best buddies, with only the occasional bullying by the Pacu. Well, it finally happened, 2 nights ago we caught the Pacu eating the Oscar.
<Pacu are omnivores with a taste for fruit, but I'm sure they'll bite small, sick, weak or moribund fish. So while they're fairly trustworthy fish kept alongside tankmates of similar size, if this Oscar was substantially smaller than the Pacu, or for some reason weakened, then that might explain what's happened here.>
Fins are nearly completely gone, tail IS entirely eaten away (into the fleshy part). I'm going to attach a photo. Naturally, we moved it into a QT tank, doing water changes daily. Didn't think Oscar was going to even make it through that first hour, now here we are, 2 days later and he's figured out how to swim normally again, ate last night, poo'd just fine! My main question (and reason for writing) is...will adding aquarium salt reduce the risk of infection/fungus?
Will it also aid in the healing process?
I intend to add some tonight, just because I know that it does help, I'm just not sure how, haha.
<The idea salt is a cure-all is an old one, but it really isn't much good.
For one thing, marine fish get bacterial infections, and they're in seawater! This Oscar is in seriously bad shape. You need a robust, aggressive treatment here that deals with both Fungal and Bacterial infections, since your Oscar WILL get both if not promptly treated. I'd be looking at Seachem PolyGuard, Seachem NeoPlex, eSHa 2000 or similar.
Obviously NOT something like Melafix, which is, at best, a preventative tonic. A proper antibiotic such as Maracyn would be a very sensible augment to the treatment, especially if the tissue remained red and sore for more than a week or so.>
Will the tail grow back, or will our little Oscar just be tail-less for the rest of it's life (if it continues to survive and do well)?
<Given time, fish show an amazing ability to regenerate fins. It all depends how much of the bone on tip of the caudal peduncle (the muscular "stem" of the tail) has been damaged. If the peduncle is basically sound
and the bones intact, with luck, this fish could regrow its fins.>
Thank you in advance for ANY information you can give me. It's MUCH appreciated.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Oscar's tail (entire tail) eaten off, help! 5-10-09
"Pacu are omnivores with a taste for fruit, but I'm sure they'll bite small, sick, weak or moribund fish. So while they're fairly trustworthy fish kept alongside tankmates of similar size, if this Oscar was substantially smaller than the Pacu, or for some reason weakened, then that might explain what's happened here."
Not this little bastard, I've learned there's nothing trustworthy about him! :) While the fish is incredibly loving and docile with me (insists upon being pet during water changes and such), it will eat anything in the tank simply because it can catch it.
<Ah, I see. Does happen, as I said. The idea Pacu are pure herbivores is widely quoted by erroneous; do also be careful when petting your Pacu: they are confirmed "biters" and have extremely strong teeth and jaws evolved for crushing nuts. Your fingertips will be as nothing in comparison!>
Tis a naughty little fishie. I really should have known better, however since the O is just over half the size of Pacu and they'd been together so long, I made the simple mistake of believing they were fine together.
Lesson learned.
<The hard way...>
I'm not sure why it prefers "meat" over "fruit", maybe because it's THE DEVIL??
<They're omnivores, as I said, and view both as food, much as we do. While Pacu are generally very good choices for robust communities alongside Red-tail Catfish and the like, clearly combining them with smaller Oscars isn't reliable.>
Also, we will treat the Oscar, I can't tell you how much we appreciate the advice on medication. While the Oscar is in bad shape, I'm quite surprised at how much fight this little thing has in it! Maybe it's because my 5 year old sits at the QT tank all day chanting "Fight, fight, fight". Hehe :)
<Hmm... is she chanting for a rematch, or simply hoping the Oscar lives to fight another day?>
I'll be bookmarking this site, I'm very happy with the quick response and such detailed, helpful information. You're amazing :)
<Thanks for the kind words. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Oscar's tail (entire tail) eaten off, help! 5/16/09
Hiya Neale...Just an update on my Oscar, in case you remember the conversation we had about it! "Dogfish" is doing very well, appears to have some re-growth of the fins, still not sure whether or not the tail will come back. It is eating well, swimming wonderfully, and is getting excited to see me at the tank again :) Yay! Strong little fishie, eh?
<Glad to hear the good news. Clearly you're doing the right things, and let's hope for a complete recovery! Cheers, Neale.>

Oscar is literally falling apart -- 4/30/09
I have a 55 gallon fish tank and have two Oscars and a sucker fish.
<Oh... well, the "sucker fish" could easily be part of the problem, or at least an exacerbating factor. Gyrinocheilus is aggressive, while Pterygoplichthys is opportunistic, and both will suck on the sores of
large, slow fish such as Oscars. So even if the wound started off fairly trivial, these fish can make things much worse. I'd bear this in mind, and observe accordingly. It also goes without saying that a 55 gallon tank is barely adequate for a single Oscar, let alone two.>
We have had the two Oscars since July 2008 and they were both in very good health. They were purchased small and both have grown at the pace the should. The larger of the two developed white spots on it over a month ago and we treated it with Ick medication.
<Now, what sort of "spots" were these. Ick is very specifically a parasite infection, and what you see is salt-grain like powder all over the body, often on the fins first. It's very different to, for example, patches of dead white tissue caused by fighting or Finrot. Then again, Hexamita infections can cause erosion of the sensory pits on the head, and on Cichlids especially this very, very common when water conditions aren't
optimal. What you see are the sensory pits gradually getting bigger, and as they do so, they become focal points for secondary infections.>
Since then it has gone down hill fast. It has holes in its gills that are blood red and it seems to be literally falling apart. Not just his head all over his body.
<A photo would really help; if actually Ick, then Ick medication should work very effectively, assuming it's used correctly (e.g., you removed carbon from the filter before use). But if the problem is something else,
then you have to act/medicate accordingly. Metronidazole (trade name: Flagyl) is the standard anti-protozoan medication used for Hexamita, dosed at 250 mg per 10 US gallons, once per day for at least three days. Nothing else works for Hexamita. Regardless, we're almost certainly dealing with a
secondary bacterial infection as well, so an appropriate antibiotic is surely essential, for example Maracyn or Maracyn 2.>
We have gone to every store and purchased all different medication as well as keeping the water in the tank clean by changing over 1/2 every few days.
As of today, he is not doing good at all. He's developed ulcers all over, holes and chunks and today will not eat. Can you help me.
<Do send along a photo (500 KB, please no bigger) and we can try and pin things down a bit better.>
The other Oscar is in the same tank and it is fine. He does not have one imperfection.
<Hmm... this is curious. On the one hand, it isn't uncommon for Hexamita infections for example to crop up on one fish but not in another, perhaps for reasons such as genetics. But in the case of non-social fish such as Oscars, you can't rule out some behavioural aspect, either direct physical damage (leading to secondary infections) or merely psychological bullying (in which case the victim can be stressed, and so has a weaker immune system). In any case, you can't really keep two Oscars in a 55 gallon system, so part of the solution will be isolating the sick fish, treating, and ultimately rehoming. Do recall Oscars *easily* top 30 cm / 12 inches a piece, often by a wide margin. They are highly territorial, and other than mated pairs, do not live in social groups except when young.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Astronotus (systems; behaviour; health) -- 04/22/09
My question is like many other ones, but also different in a few ways.
<Oh? Most Oscar questions boil down to too many specimens in too small an aquarium, with too little care being taken over water quality.>
I have a Orange Albino Oscar, and a Black Tiger Oscar, and for about 4-6 months they've been great together.
<Famous last words. Let's be crystal clear about something: Oscars aren't sociable fish. They are territorial, and except in big tanks, they often don't get along. Juveniles are gregarious to be sure, but as they age, they
become less accommodating. Mated pairs generally form loyal bonds and work well together, but territorial males will be hugely intolerant of one another, and will fight.>
Until recently, My Orange Oscar, looks kind of like it's shedding, on both of it's sides in the middle.
<Fish don't normally shed their scales. So if you have a fish obviously losing scales, that tends to mean either it's sick, or it's being physically damaged, e.g., through fighting.>
It lays on the bottom (not on it's side) either normal, or very slightly tilted. He's not to active, he comes to the top when i feed them, but won't eat much. The reason i said my question was different from the ones on your site at the moment, is because i have the tiger Oscar in there with it, and it seems like almost every time i feed them, the black Oscar will jump out of the water and land on the orange one.
<Sounds like aggression or bullying to me.>
The orange Oscar is also missing it's top fin since this morning. i don't see any pieces of it's fin in the tank, so I'm thinking it got eaten.
<Again, consistent with social behaviour issues.>
Last but not least, i have a odd tank I'm not to sure of the tank size, (30-50gal)
<Dismal. You need more than 50 gallons FOR JUST ONE OSCAR, let alone for three of them!>
i know that's a big difference but it's a half octagon tank, and i don't know how to measure it.
<Easy. Empty the tank. Fill the tank up again, counting how many buckets containing X gallons of water you need to fill it.>
I run two 20 gallon topside filters,. the kind that hang on the back.
<Hang-on-the-back filters are hopeless for large cichlids. You need big, heavy-duty filters with inlet and outlet pipes at different ends of the tank. External canister filters are the ideal, but wet/dry filters and
reverse-flow undergravel filters can work well too (though the latter will need a gravel tidy to keep the Oscar from upturning all the gravel). Allow 8 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour; e.g., a 100 gallon tank would have a filter rated at 800 gallons per hour. Sounds a lot, but trust me, a 40 cm Oscar makes A LOT of mess.>
i have a air tube on the back of the glass letting air bubbles go into the water.
i feed them feeder minnows,
<Stop this! Feeder minnows are completely the wrong thing for these fish, and in the trade we call these "parasite bombs". Minnows, goldfish and other Cyprinidae contain Thiaminase and fat, both of which cause serious health problems for Oscars. You certainly aren't doing your Oscars any favours here. See those strong jaws they have? They're for crushing shells. Oscars LOVE crayfish, shrimp, snails and other such things.>
and fish flakes, and algae pellets, which they seem to love oddly enough.
<They're omnivores, and plant foods (such as cooked peas) are a good addition to their diet.>
I do my 25% water change twice a month, and i notice that a lot of people say once a week?
<Yes, you should be doing AT LEAST 25% water changes per week. In an undersized, under-filtered tank like yours, twice a week would be better. Look up Hole-in-the-Head disease and Hexamita infections. These are difficult (and expensive) to treat, but plague Oscars kept in conditions such as yours.>
Please tell me if i should start doing the 25% change more often, such as once a week.
Please help, thanks, Mike F.
<Done my best. Do read some more, here:
Cheers, Neale.>

Tiger Oscars are real bad help please
Sick Old Oscars 4/14/09

Hi guys, I really need your help. I have two tiger Oscars and they are very old and very sick. A friend gave them too me four years ago and he had them for six years.. The oldest one is totally blind that's how I got her, She also over the last few weeks can't stay upright and she won't move very much. her scales look really old and withered,. It makes me sad to see her like this. her fins look tied and painful. Now the boy??? He is a pig and is too dominate all the time he is huge and the youngster of the two. He is healthy, probably too healthy at times. The problem with him is,, he has a hole on the side of his face, near his gills. I have changed water. have done gravel, used medications, got new filters. Temperature is ok, tested water, all is great in that area. This hole is now the size of a 5 cent piece. he looks fine but he must be in pain. I have just noticed on the glass of the tank these tiny tiny white worm things crawling all over the tank.. This must and has to be bacteria correct??
< Bacteria typically do not crawl and look like worms.>
I need your help and there is no limit I will not go to help this pair. They are apart of my family. I no there fish but I got them in bad condition, and they have had a great life when I got them please guys help me please. I have read some of the other people you guys have helped,, and I hope you can do the same for me. I have a 220 liter tank with a aqua 170 filter water heater that on 28 degrees, the diet is gold fish and feeders once a month as a treat, they get crayfish and shrimp. They eat bloodworms and Oscar pellets. can you help?? thanks for your time.
< Do a 50% water change, clean the filters and vacuum the gravel. Fluke Tabs will get rid of the "worms". These are parasites probably brought in with the feeder goldfish. Then treat with a combination of Metronidazole and Nitrofuranace. Change the diet to a high quality cichlid pellet and skip the feeder fish. Keep the nitrates under 20 ppm with water changes.-Chuck>

Oscar has white "tufts" of fuzz under chin 4/15/09
Hello, I was looking @ my tank today and noticed my albino Oscar is developing 2 white fuzz spots under its chin on the right & left sides.
It almost looks like a "fu-man-chu" lol! But I'm wondering I this is body fungus?
<Mmm, could be... not uncommon a spot for such... from these Cichlids injuring themselves>
I really have no place to treat it if it is, and what the best thing to do?
<Likely just do your best to preserve, present good water quality>
Its in the tank w/ 2 other Oscars that are about 1 1/2 times bigger.
<Oh! Maybe they are fighting... I would be keeping an eye out for aggression, be separating the smaller one if so>
One is a regular Oscar & the other is a tiger. Neither of the bigger two have this problem. Please help, & thanks!
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Sick Oscar! Please Help! - 4/13/09
I have a 3 year old Tiger Oscar named "Mo". I "saved" from a guy keeping her in a 10 gallon when she was nearly 8 inches long! I have had her for nearly 6 months and upgraded her tank from a 10 gallon to a 55 gallon, and she has been doing fine up until now. She has lost a lot of her scales, and has turned from a dark greyish black to a bright yellow. Do fish jaundice?
< They can suffer from liver dysfunction but I am not quite sure about the jaundice.>
Now she is acting erratically (attacking the back of the tank) and swimming listlessly around the tank. She has been eating her food, and she hasn't lost any weight, but now instead of attacking Bakka, the Pleco,
which she does on a regular basis, she is now attacking the back of her tank, and has been having what look like small seizures. Her whole body shakes uncontrollably for 2-5 seconds, and she seems to be having trouble breathing. I have done research for two days, and I can't find anything about them turning yellow and seizing, so I don't even know if I'm on the right track. Does this sound like something that is common and can be treated, or am I essentially watching my Mo die? She spends more time than usual on the bottom of the tank now. I'm sorry the information is so scattered, but I'm trying to make sure I get you all the information you need to help me with her! The Pleco isn't showing any signs of sickness or the yellow tint Mo is showing, so I don't think it's something contagious, but you're the experts not me! Thank you for all your help and time! Terri
and Mo
< Important information would have been water quality tests. High nitrates from lack of water changes could stress the fish and cause bacterial infections to set in. I would recommend a 50% water change then vacuum the gravel and clean the filters. Treat with a Nitrofuranace type of antibiotic as per the directions on the package. After treatment you will need to look for ammonia spikes because the biological filtration may have been affected by the antibiotics.-Chuck>

Oscar Illness
Oscar With Head Trauma 4/1/2009

I have a 7 year old Oscar that is about 14 inches long and housed in a 90 gallon aquarium. Yesterday he jumped out of the water and hit the underside of the hood of the tank very hard. When that occurred he floated to the bottom and was in what would seem like a coma. He was just laying on the bottom not moving or even breathing. I was really confused but not sure what to do so I left him there. About two hours later I checked on him and we was swimming around but seemed as if he was blind. He kept swimming into the side of the tank and into the bottom. This morning he was on his side just laying on the bottom, gasping for air and trying to swim but cant get up. Im not sure what's wrong but he has a few scratches, one his head, one under is bottom lip, and one on each of the covers over his eyes. Im not sure if you guys have any ideas for me but, I don't want to let him suffer nor euthanize him if there is a chance.
<He may have knocked himself out and caused some form of brain damage. No real treatment except wait and see. Usually you should see some improvement in 24 hours.-Chuck>

Re: New Oscar Fish, hlth. 3/20/09
Hello again WWM,
Here are the difficulties I am having with my Oscar now. I immediately moved him after our last contact to a 40 gallon tank, by himself. (My husband thought he had a 55 gallon, but it wasn't) The tank had been in
storage for several years, but I cleaned it up before we put Oscar in. We have two filters, Penguin 200 biofilters, and no heater since the thermometer was staying consistently at 76/74 degrees. (He is in a very
warm part of the house.)
<Try putting a maximum/minimum thermometer in this room for a while. I'd have thought keeping a heater in your tropical aquaria would be a no-brainer, warm house or not. I cannot stress too strongly how quickly
cichlids are harmed by sub-optimal temperatures. For Oscars, the lethal temperature is well known because it limits their (non-native) range in Florida; anything north of Tampa Bay, FLA is not warm enough for them. If you're having trouble keeping a cichlid healthy, temperature is certainly one factor to consider.>
He has been swimming all the time and eating a lot. Very playful when begging for food already. However, I noticed a couple days later a couple white dots on his fins. I thought they were just particles in the water,
but they stayed. Then I researched and learned about Ick. I bought Ick Clear by Wardley and treated the tank last night. I am going to do a 50% water change tonight, and repeat the process in three days. When should I put the carbon back in the filters?
<Only when the full course of medications has been run, usually 24 hours after the last dose.>
The ph and alkalinity and water hardness have all been high. I have been wondering how to fix those problems, but the nitrates and ammonia have been safe.
<Ammonia is only "safe" at zero, and nitrate is only safe below 20 mg/l. If you don't have those values or better, then again, this is another likely source of trouble.>
I also noticed some cloudiness on Oscars eyes, both, and learned about pop-eye.
<Cloudiness is an early warning sign of what can become Pop-eye. Again, review conditions; pop-eye (or cloudiness) in *both* eyes usually indicates chronic water quality issues.>
I can't tell if I am just being too worried and thinking he has everything, or if he is actually getting pop-eye. I have attached some pics of our beautiful Oscar, and I'm hoping you can help me get him in top shape again.
<He looks in basically good health, but I would be alert to the eye problem and review temperature, water chemistry and water quality. I'd counter any potential problems by taking great care not to overfeed, and also doing regular water changes. As you say, he's a handsome fish; let's keep him that way!>
As I said before, I have no Oscar experience, but I am used to high maintenance things, since I have two kids under 5, a husband, and a Newfoundland dog! I really believe I can take good care of him once I get
the hang of it.
<I'm sure you will. Oscars are rewarding fish, though they do, admittedly, require a fair amount of work.>
Oscar has not shown any signs of stress.
<Ah, take care here:. While loss of appetite is a good sign something is wrong, a healthy appetite doesn't automatically mean everything is rosy. If fish eat a lot, and then that overwhelms the filter, you can end up with a water quality problem a few hours later you don't notice, and then by the next time you feed the fish, things have returned to normal.>
He is constantly swimming and wanting food.
<He's training you. Resist!>
I have also been looking for info on how much to feed him.
<Less than you think. Better to offer 2-3 small meals per day than one big one. Yours looks a decent weight, but take care not to overfeed. Good quality pellets (Hikari Cichlid Gold are probably the best) make a good staple, but Oscars eat crunchy things in the wild, so offering them crickets, krill, small snails and even things like houseflies are all good and will help avoid constipation, a common problem. Conversely, avoid live feeder fish, whatever your retailer might suggest. These are the single worst food for an Oscar.>
We are planning to upgrade our tank size this summer too, to maybe a 60 or 75 gallon, and invest in a Fluval filter.
Thanks again! Alison
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: New Oscar Fish 3/20/09

Hello again,
What do I need to buy for my tank?
<At minimum, for Oscars you want a heater that will keep the water at about 26 C (79 F), and a reasonably robust filter. When shopping for heaters, look for one that comes with a plastic "guard" (e.g., the Superfish Aquarium Heater) because these will be less likely to be broken by the Oscars. Oscars have a bad habit of moving things about, and if they can dislodge the heater, it can fall to the bottom of the tank and potentially crack. As for the filter, I'd buy an external canister filter rated at not less than 6 times the capacity of the aquarium in turnover per hour, and ideally 8 times. So for a 55 gallon tank, the minimum filter would be rated at 6 x 55 = 330 gallons/hour, and a better filter would be 440 gallons/hour.>
Why is the water so bad?
<Don't know. Is it actually bad? Have you checked? Invest in two test kits:
pH and nitrite. You may already have them. The pH should be between 6 and 8, and while the value doesn't matter, it should be steady. For the next seven days (i.e., between one water change and the next) do a pH test daily, and see if the pH is steady. Commonly fish tanks experience a pH drop, and while this doesn't matter too much if very slight (e.g., from 8 to 7.8) if it drops a lot (e.g., from 7.5 to 6.0) then you have a serious problem. The nitrite test kit will tell you if your filtration system is adequate. It should register 0 mg/l (= 0 ppm). If it doesn't, then you likely are overfeeding or under-filtering.>
I will get a heater today and hope that helps. Should I buy any drops or anything for the eyes?
<I'd check the water quality/chemistry first, as mentioned. If everything is good, I'd expect the fish to recover. Using an anti-Finrot medication such as Maracyn wouldn't do any harm though (remember to read the instructions though).>
Did you think they looked normal?
<Difficult to say for sure, but did seem slightly opaque.>
I have been feeding him Hikari Gold and dried krill.
<Both good foods, but both are "dry" and consequently prone to causing constipation or bloating. Think about what would happen if we ate beef jerky all the time! Would augment this diet with "wet" foods. Wet frozen foods, even human foods, can be ideal. A bag of mixed seafood from a grocery store or Asian food market is an inexpensive and healthy way to feed large predatory fish. A small morsel of squid or mussel makes a healthy dinner for any Oscar. The more variety you give, the less chance of disease.>
Sorry for all the questions, but I am going to the pet store today and want to get everything I need this time. Thanks, Alison
<Do review the article on Oscars, here:
Hole-in-the-head and Pop-eye are the two commonest problems with Oscars, and both are "chronic" diseases that creep up on you through environmental issues rather than suddenly appearing thanks to a pathogen. So it's important to get the fundamentals right with Oscars. There are a few books about them too, any one of which might make for a good night's reading.
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: New Oscar Fish, hlth. -- 03/22/09

Sorry to bother you again, but I am really worried about Oscar now. I did 50% water change last night, added water heater, and checked levels. ph was 7.8, Alk was high still, ammonia was 0, nitrate 20.
<OK. These are borderline conditions for Oscars, though to be honest I doubt the reason your fish isn't healthy. While Oscars prefer soft/acid water, specimens here in England seem to adapt to "liquid rock" readily enough.>
All Oscar has done is lay on the bottom of the tank, fins clamped breathing heavily.
<Not a good sign.>
Gills look swollen and fins kind of torn.
<Assuming he hasn't been in a fight or you were clumsy when netting him from one tank to another, then the torn fins imply Finrot. When this comes "out of the blue" it tends to mean poor environmental conditions. Whatever your test kits say, I'd operate from that assumption. Specifically, I'd treat for Finrot, increase aeration/circulation, stop feeding, and perform water changes as regularly as the medication allows (some meds may recommend water not be changed for a period of days).>
I put Maracyn in this morning, but no improvement so far. Will it help him, or should i have gotten Maracyn Two?
<Not "instead", but certainly, if Maracyn doesn't help by the end of its course of days, then do a big water change, and start a course of Maracyn 2.>
Why was he swimming before the heater and water improvement and acting sick now.
<Simply because one thing happens after another doesn't mean they're related. Oscars demonstrably don't "adapt" to sub-optimal temperatures, and since millions of people keep Oscars with heaters, there's no reason to assume your Oscar has had some sort of allergic reaction! What I will mention is this: don't trust the setting dial on the heater! Make sure the water is being heated to an appropriate temperature by checking with a thermometer.>
he has still eaten but i am really worried and don't know what to do now.
Thanks, Alison
<Don't feed while medicating. Cheers, Neale.>

Sick Oscar (Astronotus; another sick fish "treated" with Melafix) 2/15/09 Hello~ Your website is very informative and great except I cannot find any emails that match all my Oscars symptoms. Hopefully you can help me. I have called a couple of local fish stores and even went to a Oscar website in which I was criticized for letting my Oscar get this way. My Oscar's name is Dorothy (not really sure of the sex but that is what my boys named her.) I have owned Dorothy for 5 years she is 10 inches. I had her and a Sunfish, (that I saved from the frying pan)who was about half the size of Dorothy, in a 55 gallon aquarium. No decorations other than some large rocks. No gravel or sand. Made it easier to clean. Last year we had to move into my parents house because we bought a farmhouse that needed to be remodeled from top to bottom. I had to move Dorothy and the Sunfish into a 30 gallon aquarium. I have a 55 plus gallon Whisper pump hooked up and a suction cup bubble wand to help the air flow. I rinse the filters every week and after 2 weeks I change them completely. I keep the temperature of the tank at about 80 degrees. About 2 months ago, the Sunfish died suddenly. The night before he was eating and the next morning I found him dead. Instantly I was concerned as to what happened. I pulled the pump out cleaned it from top to bottom. Changed about 25% of the water. I did not want to do more because Dorothy became melancholy/depressed. She stayed in the corner and would not eat or swim around. For a couple of days I thought that she was being moody because she no longer had a tank mate. After about the third day of not eating I really examined her. I noticed that she had what looked like fungus. I treated her with fungus medication followed the instructions with that. She bounced back for about a week. Then she started hanging in the corner again. This time she had her nose pointed down and her tail pointed to that top of the tank. I tried to get her to swim around by seeing if she would follow my finger along the front of the glass, a game we played when she was a baby, but she would not move. I also noted that her stomach looked bloated. This is when I emailed into a Oscar website after trying to find some reason why this happened and how I should treat it. After feeling like a very bad parent I was told that she had a Urinary Tract infection? and was told that there is no real cure for this try some aquarium salt. I bought the aquarium salt gave the correct dosage and hoped for some type of reaction from Dorothy. Nothing. Next I called a local Aquarium shop and talked to the owner who told me that it sounded like she may have Dropsy. I have never heard of this before and he told me to treat her with Melafix for 7 days then do a 25 % water change. I started treating her and by the end of the week she was now laying on the bottom of the tank and her stomach looked less swollen. I did the 25% water changed and started week 2. Now when I go in to sit by her tank she comes over to the front of the tank close to me. I noticed that she has a mark on the bottom of her chin/jaw. What is this called? Someone mentioned it in a prior email on your website and said it was chin sink? I couldn't find any more information on this and how to treat this? I have sent a picture. She did not have this during the prior treatment. I have now treated her for 2 1/2 weeks with the Melafix and the aquarium salt. The water has turned really cloudy, the medicine bottle said that was normal. I tried to entice her with worm pieces and she tried to eat but it looked like she was having a hard time swimming normally, it is almost like she is having spasms when she swims, and then when she did get positioned in front of the worm she couldn't scoop it up in her mouth. After a few attempts she went back to the corner of her tank. I took a spoon and pushed it towards her and she kind of sucked it in. It was a short lived victory for me because that was the first thing she has eaten in a month. It has been 4 days since then and things have not changed. I don't know what else to do. If you can help me out by maybe coming up with whatever is actually wrong with her or maybe a different treatment? Thank you for your time. ~Shannon <Shannon I can't tell from the image anything useful, it's just too blurry! But please, let me say this: both salt and Melafix are useless. Assuming that this a bacterial infection, use an antibiotic such as Maracyn (or, if that doesn't work, Maracyn 2). Make sure to run the full dose, for all the require days, removing carbon from the filter during the process. Bacterial infections typically look like sores, ulcers and so on, while Fungal infections are very obviously bundles of fluffy white threads. They often occur together, and mostly in tanks with poor water quality. So review conditions in the tank. Cichlids are sensitive to ammonia and nitrite, but also nitrate causes problems about 20 mg/l. Alternatively, external bacterial infections can be caused by violent tankmates or rough handling on the part of the keeper. Cichlids typically fight by wrestling "mouth to mouth" and in the process can damage themselves. Oscars are actually peaceful fish, and shouldn't be combined with species notably more aggressive. Since this fish is an Oscar, I'll also mention the use of feeder fish as one of the best ways to make a healthy fish sick. You should never, ever feed an Oscar feeder fish. They need a varied diet based on good quality cichlid pellets such as Hikari brand pellets, augmented with various invertebrates (they love earthworms!) and green foods such as tinned peas. Cheers, Neale.>

I think we need a crusade against Melafix. It seems that every sick fish we get photos of has already been treated with stuff, and remained sick. How did it ever get onto the market? Who endorsed it? Neale <... and I've just seen in a Brit mar. mag.... there's now a saltwater version! Gahhhh! BobF I think we need a big banner or something on the "Before You Write" page that says: "If you've treated your fish with Melafix, Bettafix or Pimafix, and it's still sick, then try using a PROPER antibiotic, antibacterial or anti-fungal." <I agree... and have tried to intimate this...> Or words to that effect, anyway! Did you hear that Australian fish magazine Sara and I had written for appears to be closing down? Shame. <Had heard> Cheers, Neale <Sign of the times... BobF>

Oscar Tank Problems 2/11/09 Hello there- my name is Sieba, I live in central California in the mountains. I moved in with my boyfriend 2 years ago, and have since been the one taking care of the fish tanks. The tank is about 150 gallons, two Oscars, one a foot long, the other about 9 inches. Two plecostomus each 14 inches long, two jack Dempseys, each about 7 inches long, and one foot long catfish. is this tank overcrowded? < Check the nitrates with a test kit. They should be around or under 20 ppm. If they are higher than this they need to be reduced with water changes. If you cannot keep it under that level with weekly water changes then you should reduce the number of fish so that water changes will keep the water under these levels.> How much filtration should I have? < The filters should turn the entire tank volume over 3 to 5 times per hour. This means that your filters should pump at least 450 gallons per hour.> What temp is best? < Somewhere between 75 and 82 F.> I really want to take care of them properly since my boyfriend doesn't do a thing to help. The Oscars have these white pock marks on them, I treated them a few weeks ago with fungus clear, but have no idea if that was the correct treatment to use. The fish store people here know NOTHING!. Please help me! Thanks! < The white marks on the fish are commonly referred to as Hole -In-The-Head Disease. It is usually associated with poor water quality and diet. I would recommend doing a 50% water change, cleaning the filters and vacuuming the gravel. Look to change the diet to a quality pellet food like Spectrum New Life. If the holes get worse you might try treating the tank with Metronidazole. If you are close to Sacramento then there are members of the Sacramento Aquarium Society that may direct you to stores that may be better informed.-Chuck>

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