Friday, May 18, 2007

No room for a dog?
Put a tiger oscar in your tank.

The tiger oscar is a puppy disguised as a fresh water tropical fish.

Oscars are smart, playful, willful, and love to eat. Years ago I called my fish tank "Marineland of the Bronx." I could hold food a few inches above the water surface, and my finned pups would leap out of the water to take the food from my fingers -- just like porpoises in the real Marineland.

When I entered the room, they wiggled their tails just like a cocker spaniel or golden retriever greeting a favorite visitor.

Oscars are opinionated, with strong views on tank decor. If you put in a plant that an Oscar doesn't like, it will be shredded or thrown out. I once put a heavy 12-inch-tall rock in the middle of my tank. A few days over, it was lying down flat. My oscars had become excavators -- digging out the gravel under the rock until it fell.

I restored the gravel and repositioned the rock. And a few days later it was knocked down again. The fish and I continued the silly competition for a few weeks before I surrendered. I liked the looks of the vertical rock, but I didn't live in the tank; so I let the oscars dominate the decorating.

Oscars can grow big (six inches is not unusual) so plan on a big tank (50 gallons or more), and a big food budget. Live food is good, but my guys also loved squished snails, and cubes of freeze-dried tubifex worms.

Oscars get along fine with similarly-sized fish, but anything mouth-sized can be considered lunch.

One of my oscars tried to swallow a catfish, but it got stuck in his mouth. I took the Oscar out of the tank, held him in a damp towel, and used an alligator clip to remove the rotting catfish carcass from his mouth. After the surgery, I rubbed his belly and put him back in the tank, and he picked his future food more carefully.

Because Oscars eat a lot, they crap a lot, so its VERY IMPORTANT to have powerful filtration to keep the tank clean. Oscars are susceptible to fungus infections, with disgusting fuzz growing from their eyes, and then they die. Treat your pets well.

(photo from

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