15 Types of Oscar Fish for Next Level Aquariums
The oscar fish, a unique-looking fish from South America, is popular in the fish-keeping world thanks to its hardiness and striking colors.
All oscar fish have the same care requirements, but these 15 varieties are guaranteed to make visitors want an aquarium of their own.
Wild oscars are the default type of oscar fish. The original species of Astronotus ocellatus is native to the Amazon River basin, the Paraguay River, the Rio Negro and the Parana River. There, they're prized not just for their looks but for their meat, which is considered extremely tasty.
All other types of oscar fish are derived from the original wild type, but wild oscars are beautiful all on their own. They have a grey or tan base color with an overlay of yellow, orange and white patterning.
Red oscars are the second most common variant. Their two-toned appearance is unmistakable, with a blackish head and bright red body. The red shading fades into dark fins, and their black eyes are rimmed in orange.
Oscars, like most fish, are timid when they're first introduced to a new aquarium. After they've had a few days to adjust, however, they become highly curious, exploring their surroundings and watching their owners through the glass.
The green oscar is a mottled combination of green, yellow and black, with dark bands across the fish's middle. Green oscars aren't hard to find, but the best specimens can get pricey.
Those ones have yellow spots with black centers, giving the fish an exotic look more commonly seen in marine species.
If you can only buy one variety of oscar, the blue one should be on your shortlist. This crossbred variation is a mix of different shades of blue, with a brilliant light-blue pattern winding over a dark blue background. The coloration is striking especially under certain light conditions.
Once your blue oscar settles in, watching them is fascinating. They're considered one of the most intelligent species of freshwater fish, and many of them reorganize their tank. It's like feng shui for fish.
Lemon oscars look a lot like white or albino ones, but there are subtle differences that set them apart. Lemon oscars have a mostly white body with a yellow gradient overlay, but the vibrancy of their coloration varies.
The biggest factor determining how colorful they appear is the quality of their food and water. Just like with people, eating a balanced, nutrient-rich diet helps oscars look and feel their best. Since fish don't just drink water, but breathe it, water quality is extremely important, too. Dirty tank water, or water with the wrong pH or hardness, can weaken an oscar's immune system and cause their bright colors to fade.
One of the coolest oscar fish varieties isn't a color at all: It's solid black. They do have some subtle stripes across their midsection, and some have lighter bellies, but for the most part, they're an all-black fish. Their fins are the darkest color, and they look like they're wearing orange eyeliner.
Aside from being candidates for the next MAC beauty ad, they're pretty sweet fish to own. Some oscars get to know their owners so well that they'll eat from your hand, so there's a chance you will run into tiny oscar teeth if you try. Luckily, they're so small that it doesn't hurt if they nibble you.
The white oscar has similar patterning as the tiger oscar, but with coral or light-pink striping over a solid white background. They're similar in appearance to albino oscars but with more of a pinkish tint instead of a yellowish one.
To make them stand out the most, choose a dark-colored substrate, and plenty of it. Oscars grow up to 15 inches in length, so a 75-gallon tank is the bare minimum for one adult oscar.
Albino oscars are one of the three "parental" types of oscar, meaning that other variations were derived from this one. They're mostly cream-colored with a light-orange pattern covering the back half of the fish's body. The patterning is unique to each fish, so no two albino oscars look exactly the same.
Albino oscars, like all oscars, are surprisingly long-lived fish. They can live more than 15 years when properly cared for, although 10 to 12 years is more common. All the more reason to make sure you're serious about fish keeping before buying one because, once you do, you'll have a giant aquarium for a decade or more.
If you're into metallics, it's tough to top the copper oscar. Their base color is a deep shade of cool blue-black, with a shimmering orange overlay that intensifies in the middle. The color fades back into a blue-grey at the fins.
Copper oscars are an artificially produced variant, but they're one of the most beautiful to look at. Since they're such chunky fish (don't tell them we said that), the details of their colors and patterns are easier to appreciate than with smaller species. It's like a county fair goldfish on steroids.
Golden oscars are quite similar to copper oscars but with more of a yellowish hue than orange. They start out a brighter yellow color, which deepens to a rich gold as the fish matures.
Like white oscars, their colors pop the most on a dark background. Oscars have a reputation for being aggressive, and they can be. It all depends on their environment, however. Oscars do best when kept in a spacious tank with other oscars or with other cichlids that are big enough to hold their own (but not so big that oscars see them as a threat). Jack Dempseys, black convicts and firemouth cichlids are all good oscar tankmates.
The blueberry oscar fish is poorly named, in our opinion. Blueberry oscars are much lighter in color than their namesake, but they're still gorgeous fish. They're typically baby blue with light-orange patches and orange-rimmed eyes.
While most food formulated for cichlids is fine, some keepers occasionally feed their oscars frozen peas to help boost the saturation of their colors.
Black and White Oscar
Black and white oscar fish, looking somewhat like swimming zebras, tend to live longer than other oscar varieties. Living more than 20 years isn't unheard of, although 15 years is a more common lifespan.
To maximize their lifespan, checking the water quality in your oscar's tank is a must. If the water isn't changed often enough, they are prone to developing a condition called hole-in-head disease. It's just as unpleasant as it sounds, but it can be treated if caught early enough.
Oscars are tropical fish, preferring warm waters with a neutral pH. They thrive in temperatures between 74 and 81 degrees Fahrenheit and have done well after being introduced to the freshwater swamps of Florida.
Over time, the oscars released there have evolved to have their own unique appearance. They resemble a cross between the wild-type oscar and the tiger oscar. Interestingly, their exact appearance varies depending on what type of prey is readily available. Their color shifts over time, so the fish you buy may look quite different in a year or two.
The tiger oscar, sometimes referred to as the marble cichlid, is one of the most eye-catching types of oscar fish. They have a splotchy, bright orange-red pattern offset by a deep-blue base color.
If you have enough space to home a group of oscars, you may get a chance to see baby ones. While they can be a feisty and competitive species, once they form a mating pair, oscars bond for life. They lay hundreds of eggs at a time, and the female fans her eggs frequently to make sure they're oxygenated and healthy. Males usually stand guard to make sure other fish don't gobble them up.
If you do hope to breed your oscars, pick up a sponge filter instead of a regular canister or hang-over-the-back type. That way, the eggs won't get sucked into the filter by mistake.
We saved the best for last. The veil tail oscar is a gorgeous variety that possesses one feature no other oscar can claim: a long, flowing tail as smooth as silk. Similar to betta fins, which are completely translucent, the fins of a veil tail oscar come in four different color morphs. Most, however, are black with bright orange spots.
Once you've had your oscar for a while, it's almost guaranteed that they'll learn to recognize you. Some oscars have been known to follow their owner from one side of the tank to the other, earning the nickname "the water dog." How cute is that?
Not sold on Oscar fish? Keep reading about unique (and fun!) pet options below: