How Much Should I Feed My Oscar? (I was surprised!)

I got my first Oscar nearly 30 years ago, and ever since then I have been totally hooked on Oscars. Over the years I have kept many Oscars and probably every color strain there is. I currently have a trio of Lemon Oscars living in a 180 gallon (680 liters) aquarium and it is a tank that everyone who comes into my fish room loves to look at.

Eating Daphnia
Eating Daphnia

Knowing how often to feed your oscar and how much to feed him each time can be tricky. Oscars are greedy feeders and baby Oscars will want to eat all day, every day. If you throw a handful of pellets in every hour throughout the day, the chances are your oscar will each like a pig every time.

That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good way to go. Power feeding your oscar will make him grow quickly, but almost certainly shorten his life.

It is much better to feed little and often than it is to give your oscar one large meal once a day. We find three feedings a day works best for our juvenile fish, reducing the number of feeds as the oscar gets larger. A full-grown adult fish may only need feeding once a day. The most important thing to remember is, only feed your fish as much as they will consume in a few minutes. Food left uneaten will rot down quickly and can foul your Oscars tank water.



How Much Should I Feed My Oscar?

In my experience of keeping Oscars, at feeding time they will try and throw as much food down the necks as possible. They are voracious eaters! Don’t let them fool you into throwing handfuls of pellets into their tanks.

I strongly recommend adding a few pellets to the tank, giving your oscar a minute or so to eat them, then add a few more. Repeat the process for about 5 minutes, or until your oscar loses interest in the food.

Any food which remains after your oscar has finished eating should be removed. Food left in the aquarium will quickly break down and begin to foul your Oscars water. Uneaten food is the quickest way to an ammonia spike in your Oscars tank.



What Should I Feed My Oscar?

A good quality pellet designed for large cichlids should make up a large portion of your Oscar’s daily diet. I believe 70%-80% of what you feed your oscar should be pellet foods. I have had great luck with both Cichlid Gold and Cichlid Staple by Hikari. I have found Amazon to be the most reasonably priced source.

For the other 20%-30% of your Oscars diet, I suggest you mix it up as much as possible to give your oscar the most balanced diet you can. Oscars love eating live foods such as crickets, mealworms, silkworms, and even garden worms.

They will also relish frozen foods such a cocktail shrimp, bloodworms, and brine shrimp. For my largest Oscars, I feed frozen and thawed whitebait and even squid.

All these foods contain a different mixture of vitamins and minerals which will contribute to your Oscars long term health.

One great advantage live and frozen foods have over pellet food is that they don’t break down and foul the water as quickly. If you add 20 live shrimp to your Oscars tank in one go and he only eats 10 of them. The other ten will live quite happily in the tank until your oscar is ready to eat again.

Prawns and shrimps make a great addition to your Oscars diet as they are especially high in fiber. Like in us humans, fiber aids your Oscars digestive system.

Freeze-dried krill makes an excellent addition to your Oscars diet. They will quickly crunch through the krill, which admittedly does make a bit of a mess, but if your oscar has small-mouthed companions like blood parrots, the parrots will quickly seize on all the tiny morsels the oscar spread around.

Other prepared foods such as Vibra Bites by Hikari and Bug Bites from Fluval make a great addition to your Oscars meal plan. My Oscars go crackers for both.

Vibra Bites are made to look like bloodworms. Some float, some sink, the fish make short work of them. Bugs Bits comes in a variety of sizes and is made from Black Soldier Fly larvae. I wouldn’t be without either in my fish room.

Foods You Should Not Feed Your Oscar

I strongly recommend oscar owners steer away from feeder goldfish. These goldfish offer your oscar little nutritional value and are often riddled with disease and parasites. If you absolutely must feed feeder goldfish, try to purchase them a number of weeks before you are going to use them as feeders.

Keep the feeder goldfish in their own aquarium, medicate them so they don’t pass any illness to your Oscars, and feed them well so they offer your oscar a decent meal.

A word of caution feeding any live fish to your Oscars. Oscars are big, bulky fish which are not built for the chase. I have seen some nasty injuries on Oscars which have been chasing a small, nimble goldish around the tank, only to run into a stick or piece of bogwood.

I wouldn’t suggest anyone feed their Oscars animal meats such as beef or chicken. Animal meat can be fatty and Oscars are not great at processing saturated fats. They can suffer from a fatty liver disease which will bring an untimely death to your oscar. Beef heart can be fed, but only as an occasional treat.

Why not check out my article 10 Unusual Foods Your Oscar Will Actually Enjoy!

In Conclusion

In my experience, feeding little and often is better than one large meal a day. Spreading the feedings reduces the workload on your filter and reduces the chances of large quantities of uneaten food collecting in your aquarium.

Each time you feed is an opportunity to interact with your Oscars, allowing you to get to know them and them to relax in your company. Plus, each time you are at your tank observing your Oscars is a chance to check all is well with the tank. 3 or 4 feedings a day also gives you more opportunities to feed a different food each time. Variety is the spice of life and the key to a strong, healthy oscar who will hopefully get to enjoy interacting with you for many years.


About the Author

I’ve been keeping, breeding, and showing tropical fish for nearly 30 years. Over that time I’ve done it all! I’ve had great success and I’ve made some really foolish mistakes (like the time I bought an Asain Walking Catfish). Read more…
Richard James
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