Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Let's talk oscars!

Far too often, almost daily, do I hear someone in a pet store or online talk about getting fish that are far too big for their tank or about how they own fish that are going to outgrow their tanks in a short period. I already discussed the most common offender of this, the common pleco owner in my post but now I want to talk about my very favorite fish of all time, the Tiger Oscar!

The tiger oscar (Astronotus ocellatus), and its albino colormorph, is likely the third most popular freshwater fish in the hobby behind the angelfish and the goldfish. However, the majority of hobbyist have become accustom to housing their oscars improperally. Oscars get to be between 18" and 20" in length and they can weight around 5 lbs when fully grown. More impressively, oscars will grow at a rate of 1" per month and eat anything and everything in sight, including but limited to, plastic plants and poker chips. As such an oscar needs a tank that is between 18" to 24" inches front to back so that it turn around in the tank without having to bend itself in half; also the tank should allow the fish to swim 3 or 4 lengths before having to turn around. As such, an oscar should never be housed in a tank smaller than 90 gallons. The sad truth, however, is that I have seen owners keep them in tanks as small as 10g and the majority live in 55g tank. Even in a 55g tank, which most new hobbyist will think of as a very large tank, an oscar will become stunted and die within the first 2 to 3 years from internal complications or head and lateral line erosion (HLLE). A properly housed and fed oscar can live 15 to 20 years.

There seems to be an horrible rumor going around that pet stores will gladly accept your fish that has gotten too big for aquarium and thus hobbyist can buy fish that they know full well will outgrow their tank and just return them when they tire of the fish and start over again with a juvinile. Most stores, including chain stores are getting away from this practice and for good reason. I know if I'm working and you try to turn over an over grown fish, I'm gonna tell you tough luck. You bought it so you have to watch it die a slow death.

There is a strange dichotomy between pet owners, most, according to serval online polls, would not hessitate to spend upwards of $3000 to save the life of a dog or cat yet they are loath to spend the money to properly take care of fish. Somewhere along the lines hobbyist have gotten it into their heads that fish are disposable pets and its is societly acceptable to place fish in inhuman conditions; after all the average oscar costs only $8 so who cares, right?

Please, a pray that if you do not have the ability to purchase and properly equip an aquarium large enough to house large fish such as tiger oscars or silver dollars (125g+) or common plecos (125g+) arowanas (300g+) or peacock bass (200g+) or jaguar cichlids (200g+) or umbee cichlids (300g+) or pacu (400g+) do not buy these fish and leave them to real aquarists to care for. Stick to mollies and platies.

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