What Do Oscar Fish Eat? 13 Diet Recommendations

Oscar fish makes for an excellent pet fish. Like most members of the cichlid family, they are colorful, interesting to observe, and easy to take care of for long periods. But what do they eat? Are they stuck with pellets, or can you feed them something different? This article covers some basic feeding guidelines for Oscar fish, as well as 13 diet recommendations that will keep them healthy and happy.

What Do Oscar Fish Eat?

One of the most common questions asked by those new to fish keeping is “what does Oscar fish eat?” The answer, unfortunately, is not a simple one. Oscars are omnivores, so despite their reputation for being meat-lovers, they are not limited to eating just meat. They will also eat invertebrates, plants, and even detritus.

Probably the most balanced diet for Oscar fish is a mixture of meaty foods (mostly pellets) and some live food on the side. This will give them what they need nutritionally while not stunting their growth or warping their innate preferences.

Feeding Guidelines

Bright Oscar Fish - South American freshwater fish from the cichlid family

If you’re hoping for a fish that can go weeks without food, an Oscar is not the right choice. Oscars should be fed a minimum of twice a day, and more if you can manage it. When feeding your Oscar, it’s important to remember that they are messy eaters, which makes maintaining ideal water parameters a little more difficult compared to other fish.

To avoid causing damage to your aquarium water quality, we recommend feeding your Oscar in a separate container that can be easily cleaned. You can also try using a net to scoop extra food out of the tank once your Oscar is done eating.

Of course, frequent water changes are essential for cleaning food out of the tank, but also for ensuring that you maintain ideal water parameters in the tank. The frequency of water changes will depend on fish tank size, the number of Oscar fish you have, and how often they are fed.

What Do Oscar Fish Eat? 13 Diet Recommendations

Meeting the needs of your Oscar Fish doesn’t mean spoiling them with fantastic foods, but rather feeding them a balanced diet that includes a variety of food items. Here are 13 of the best Oscar Fish diet recommendations:

Live Food

Live foods have a clear advantage in that they are highly similar to what Oscars would eat in their natural habitat. Things like insect larvae, small crustaceans, and small feeder fish can be fed to your Oscars. Not only are they excellent food for growth, but they can also help keep your Oscars active and playful.

If you’re going to feed live food to your Oscars, it’s important to make sure that all the food is free of parasites and harmful bacteria. You can buy live food from most pet stores or online, or you can even catch it yourself if you’re feeling adventurous.

1. Fish Food

Assorted different types of food for aquarium fish. Flakes, spirulina, pills, mixture. Navy blue sea background, close up

Dry food is most likely the base food for most Oscars. Pellets are the most common type of dry food and are usually made for carnivorous fish. They should make up the majority of your Oscar’s diet, but you can also supplement with other types of food.

In general, oscar food should be high in protein, low in fat, and include less processed ingredients. The ingredients of fish food should be easily readable, and you should avoid any food that has artificial colors or flavors. On top of pellets, you can also try giving them other types of food like flake food – just make sure to avoid varieties with large amounts of plant matter.

Some hobbyists also have a preference for homemade fish food. This can be a great way to ensure that your Oscar is getting the best possible nutrition, but it can also be more time-consuming and difficult to get right. However, the possibilities are endless once you overcome the learning curve. When you’ve mastered the basics, you can even experiment with making slow-releasing fish food!

2. Grasshoppers

a grasshopper on a plant

Oscars are carnivores, but they aren’t opposed to eating all kinds of animal foods. You can even feed them small insects like grasshoppers if you want. Keep in mind that this will probably be more expensive than other foods on the list, but it’s a great way to give your Oscars some exercise and mental stimulation.

Plus, some oscars tend to get bored of their food over time, and you can help prevent this by giving your Oscar a variety of foods to keep its palate interested. Grasshoppers are a good example of a food that you can give your Oscars whenever you’re looking to switch things up. Keeping their diet varied will help keep your Oscars healthy and happy.

3. Crickets

Cricket insect on tree

It’s possible to keep crickets as pets, so why not feed them to your Oscars instead? Crickets are an excellent source of protein, which makes them an important component of any diet for carnivores. The fact that you’re able to buy them in bulk or even breed them yourself also makes them a cost-effective choice for feeding your Oscars.

If you’re hesitant to feed crickets to your Oscars because of the risk of parasites, you can easily kill any potential parasites by freezing the crickets for at least 24 hours. Just be sure to defrost them before giving them to your Oscars – they should be nice and crispy when they’re ready to eat!

You should feed crickets a maximum of two times per week to keep them from overtaking your oscars’ diet. Remember – you want to feed them an assortment of foods.

4. Earthworms

Earthworms close-up.

Earthworms and blood worms are examples of meaty foods that your fish would love. Because they are so high in protein, they make an excellent addition to your Oscar’s diet. Like crickets, you can either buy earthworms or blood worms from a pet store or online, or you can collect them yourself if you’re feeling adventurous.

This is yet another example of nutritious, convenient food that’s widely available. You can feed your Oscars earthworms and blood worms a few times a week without worrying about them becoming the dominant food in their diet.

Frozen Foods

Frozen food is a great way to give your Oscars the variety they need in their diet. There are all kinds of different frozen foods available, so you’re bound to find something to match your Oscars’ taste!

5. Shrimp

Fluker's Freeze Treats

Brine shrimp and freeze-dried shrimp are some of the most popular types of frozen food for Oscars. Because both these protein sources have relatively short shelf lives, freeze-drying makes them easy to store and keep on hand. This is good news for all oscar enthusiasts out there, because this means they’ll always have a nutritious treat on hand for their pets.

You can feed your Oscars brine shrimp as often as you want – just be sure to give them other types of food too so they don’t become bored of it. Another thing to remember is that feeding shrimp or brine too often can lead to cloudy water. Make sure you’re giving your Oscars other foods alongside brine shrimp to keep their water clean. 

6. Mussels

Fresh Mussels

If you want to pamper your Oscars by feeding them a seafood diet, mussels are a great option. They’re extremely protein-dense, making them an excellent food selection for Oscars. Mussels are also easy to find – you can get them at most grocery stores or seafood markets.

Mussels at their fully-grown size can be a bit daunting for smaller Oscars, so it’s a good idea to either cut them into smaller pieces or feed them to your Oscars when they’re younger. Though mussels may be nutritious, you should not make them part of an exclusive diet for your Oscars – these should only make up a small percentage at most.

7. Tilapia Filets (Cut To Size)

Sea Best Tilapia Fillets

Fish is one of the most high-quality, nutritious ingredients in premium oscar food, and tilapia is a perfect example of a lean, healthy fish. Tilapia is also a good choice for Oscars because it’s low in mercury and doesn’t have a strong flavor, making it one of the most neutral and versatile protein sources for your pets. They are often used as fish ingredients in commercially processed pellets.

The best way to feed your Oscars tilapia is by cutting it into small filets that they can easily eat. A piece of tilapia that is too large clouds water, because the process of tearing meat apart can be a messy one. We all know you want clean water in your tank, so stick to smaller filets!

For more info on how to feed tilapia to your fish at different growth stages, check out this helpful article. These tips focus on fish housed in fish farms, but the insights contained within are interesting and applicable to even a home setup.

8. Clams

Clams in Asian Market

Clams are one of the most popular types of seafood for Oscars. They’re also easy to find an affordable, so there’s no surprise as to why the fish love them! Most clams you can buy from a grocery store or seafood market are cleaned and washed thoroughly, which makes feeding them to your Oscars easy.

Clams should be fed raw and whole so they don’t choke your Oscars. They can be fed from time to time as part of a varied diet and not as any primary source of food for your pets. You can cut them up to make smaller pieces for younger Oscars, but make sure you do it immediately before feeding them! This prevents clams from drying out and becoming harder to eat.

Veggies

Oscars may enjoy a wide variety of food in their diet, but they don’t eat only meat. Plant matter makes up a large part of their natural diet in the wild, so make sure you’re giving them vegetables, too! Vegetables are a great way to add fiber and nutrients to your Oscars’ diet, making for a healthier, more complex meal. Here are some of the best options for your Oscars:

9. Lettuce

Closeup of lettuce heads collection

Lettuce is the plant-based food of choice among oscar owners because it’s low in calories and high in fiber. It also has a mild flavor that most Oscars will enjoy, making this a versatile addition to a healthy diet. You can give your Oscars lettuce leaves whole or chopped up into small pieces. Iceberg, romaine, and butterhead lettuces are all good options.

Some hobbyists may wonder if lettuce stalks are also edible. The answer is yes – Oscars will love to eat them! However, you should only give your pets the small, tender stalks and not the tough ones. Tough stalks can be a choking hazard, and you don’t want to take any chances with your Oscars’ health.

10. Cucumber

Green cucumbers on wooden table

Cucumbers are yet another human food Oscar fish can eat! For humans, they are an excellent source of Vitamin K, which is essential for the prevention of calcium oxalate stones. For fish, however, these veggies function as a highly nutritious food that’s low in calories and carbohydrates!

Cucumbers should be peeled and cut into small pieces that your pets will easily eat. Though it may be tempting to pick a cucumber slice off your salad and feed it to your oscar, you should avoid doing so because cucumbers from salads contain dressing and other extra ingredients.

The best way to feed your Oscars cucumbers is by peeling and cutting them into small pieces immediately before feeding them. This will help keep them fresh and make them easier to eat. They should not be given as a large, whole piece like other vegetables because they can easily fall apart and cause your Oscar to choke.

11. Spinach

spinach in a bowl

Spinach is yet another type of food you can safely feed your Oscars. It’s rich in fiber and contains calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, Vitamin A, and B-12. As a result of all these nutrients packed into one food source, spinach helps promote healthy growth and development.

The best part about feeding spinach to your Oscars is that it can be served fresh or frozen. If you have some leftovers from making a salad, simply rinse it off and chop it into small pieces before feeding it to your pet. If you don’t have any fresh spinach on hand, you can always buy frozen spinach from the grocery store and thaw it before serving.

12. Zucchini

A Zucchini Plant in a Garden

Zucchinis are a type of summer squash, which makes them an excellent choice of food for your Oscars. Like cucumbers, zucchinis are low in calories and carbohydrates but high in fiber. This nutritious food is also rich in Vitamin A, C, and K as well as magnesium, folate, and potassium.

There’s no need to pick off pieces of zucchini and feed them to your Oscars – they’ll love to eat the whole thing! Just be sure to chop it into small pieces so it’s easy for them to eat. You can either give your pet a whole zucchini or chop it up into several pieces. The former will require them to do a little more work to eat, which can be a good source of entertainment for them. 

13. Peas

Fresh Green Peas

Peas are a lovely source of Vitamin C, dietary fiber, and plant-based protein. They also happen to be one of the most affordable vegetables you can buy. Oscars will love to eat fresh, frozen, or canned peas. Some pet owners swear by peas as a remedy or preventative for constipation.

Just like with other vegetables, you should chop up fresh peas into small pieces before feeding them to your Oscars. If you’re using frozen or canned peas, simply thaw them or drain them before serving. There’s no need to cook peas before feeding them to your Oscars – they’re perfectly edible straight from the pod!

Conclusion

There you have it! From live protein sources to frozen vegetables, Oscars can eat a wide variety of human foods. Just be sure to chop everything into small pieces so they’re easy to eat. Feeding your Oscars a varied and balanced diet is essential for their health and well-being. Enjoy watching them enjoy their healthy meals!

Did you enjoy this article or learn something new? Want to share your thoughts or experiences with other pet owners? If so, we invite you to leave a comment below. We love hearing from our readers and we’ll do our best to reply as soon as possible. Thanks for reading, and please share this article with a friend who might find it helpful!

Wanda is a second-generation aquarist from the sunny tropics of Malaysia. She has been helping her father with his freshwater tanks since she was a toddler, and has fallen in love with the hobby ever since. A perpetual nomad, Wanda does her best to integrate fish-keeping with her lifestyle, and has taken care of fish in three different continents. She loves how it provides a nice break from the hustle and bustle of life.

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