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Old 01-23-2023, 01:31 AM   #1
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Red face Conflicting advice on stocking an Oscar tank...

I am new to oscars, as well as cichlids in general. I have several tanks of various sizes but the tank I have the oscars in is a 125 gallon. It has been up and running for about a month now and this evening I purchased two 2 inch tiger oscars to add. There are currently no other fish in the tank. I have been trying to find out the best advice on how to stock oscars so I get the least amount of aggression. However, I also want an interesting looking tank as this is as big as I can ever go. Options I have considered are adding a third oscar, two jack dempseys, or a school of 6 silver dollars. Some say never to keep two oscars, but always to keep 3 to disperse aggression. Other people say the opposite, stating that by keeping three you're asking for trouble when two pair up. I also read that three would be overstocked in a 125 but some people say it's fine as long as your filtration is adequate and you keep up with water changes. In my case, the tank is over filtered and I keep a very consistent water change schedule. As far as the JDs and silver dollars are concerned, some say keep oscars in a species only tank, others say it's fine as long as everyone is added around the same time etc... So now I am interested in hearing from some of you who have experience with any or all of this. I just want to do what is best and easiest on the fish and myself in the long run especially since going bigger is not an option.

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Old 01-23-2023, 03:19 AM   #2
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Hi and welcome to the forum

If you want a breeding pair of cichlids like Oscars or Jack Dempseys, buy 8-10 young fish and grow them up together. When they mature, they will pr off naturally and you either move the prs to their own tanks, or move everyone else out. Most times letting the fish find their own mates will provide you with a good pr, but not always. Sometimes they don't work together and they need to be given different partners. This is where moving the prs into their own tanks come in. If they don't work out, you can swap them around.

Adding 2 or 3 fish and growing them up together might give you a pair, or you might get 2 or 3 males, or 2 or 3 females. And they might not like each other and you could end up with 1 fish.

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If you don't want a breeding pair and only want some colour and movement, then buy 1 of each species, preferably females because they are less aggressive, (get them all the same size), add them to the tank at the same time, and let them grow up together. They will establish a pecking order and have their own territories and normally be fine. However, if you add another fish afterwards, or move the ornaments around, you can upset the balance and then one fish might go nuts and kill everything else in the tank.

Cichlids like Oscars and Jack Dempseys are highly territorial ambush predators. They have their area and wait for something to swim past, then lunge out and grab it. Putting them in a tank together can work sometimes but there is no guarantee.

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Oscars and Jack Dempsey cichlids can easily reach 10-12 inches long and do get bigger.

The minimum size tank for one adult Oscar cichlid is 4 foot long x 2 foot wide x 18 inches high. If you get a breeding pr and have nothing else in the tank, then a 4x2x2ft tank might be big enough, but a 6x2x2ft tank would be better.

Jack Demspey cichlids need a similar amount of space except they are much more aggressive than Oscars.

Years ago in the shop we had a display tank with Central/ South American cichlids. The tank was 8 foot long x 2ft wide x 30 inches high. It had a number of decent sized cichlids in, including a pr of Jack Dempseys. Everyone was happy and fine for months and they all got along beautifully, until the Jack Dempseys decided to breed. We went in one morning and there was a 8 inch black belt cichlid that had been smashed and was barely alive. We moved it out and the next day there was a parrot cichlid that had been smashed. We checked the tank and couldn't see any eggs and the only thing we noticed was the 2 Jack Dempseys acting very social to each other. There was no lip locking or anything, just 2 fish hanging together. The next day they had eggs and half the fish in the tank were dead and the rest were hiding in the far corner. The fish in this tank weren't small wimpy fish, there was a managuense, dovii and a number of other fish and they were all very similar in size, but the Jacks went nuts and took over the entire tank. They even attacked us and the nets we were using to try and get the injured fish out of the tank.

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If you want other fish in the tank, then add them at the same time you add the cichlids, or add the other fish first and add the cichlids a month or two later. But make sure the cichlids are smaller than the other fish already in the tank so they aren't too stressed about being in with predators.

Silver dollars need to be kept in large groups (preferably 10 or more) and most can grow to 4-5 inches in diameter.

Having more fish in the tank can reduce aggression or make it worse, but it also causes the water to go off faster. You need to have a tank that is big enough (long and wide) to hold all the adult fish and make sure they all have their own space.

I'm not sure what the dimensions are for a 125 gallon tank but it might not be big enough for all the fish you want.

Most of these fish will live for 10 years, maybe more, and there are very few places that take unwanted fish that are big or aggressive.

Do you plan on moving in the next 10 years?
Big tanks are a pain to move, and big fish often stress and sulk when their tank has moved.

Are you willing to look after the tank and fish for at least the next 10 years?

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Regarding cichlid care, they suffer from dirty conditions and can develop hole in the head disease, which is caused by a protozoan called Hexamita. Predatory fishes create more waste and higher protein levels in the water and make the problem worse. The easiest way to prevent this disease (or most diseases) is with regular tank maintenance.

You should wipe the inside of the glass down each week. This helps remove biofilm that is home to harmful microscopic organisms.

You need to do a big (75%) water change and gravel clean the substrate every week. And if the nitrates go up above 20ppm during the week, you need to do a big water change several times a week. You want to keep nitrates as close to 0ppm as possible and under 20ppm at all times. The big water changes and gravel cleaning removes fish food and waste, as well as dilutes the number of disease organisms in the water.
Make sure any new water is free of chlorine/ chloramine before it's added to the tank.

When the filter is established (more than 6 weeks old), you want to clean the filter at least once a month. Filter media/ materials (sponges, etc) get squeezed out in a bucket of tank water and the media is re-used. The bucket of dirty water is poured on the lawn outside. A clean filter will reduce the number of disease organisms in the filter and water. Since all the water goes through the filter, keeping it clean helps keep the tank cleaner.

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Throwing this out there. There are smaller cichlids that are much more peaceful and don't grow as big, but they still have plenty of personality. Severums, festivums, blue acaras, Geophagus braziliensis, parrot cichlids, firemouth, etc. Some of these can get along with an Oscar but not with Jack Dempseys.
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Old 01-23-2023, 08:54 AM   #3
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Thank you for your very thorough response.

I greatly appreciate the time you have already taken with my questions, but here come some more

Assuming you have talked me out of JDs (I was already on the fence anyway) and that I am not interested in breeding, would I have enough tank to add one more oscar? Some say never to keep two, and others say never to keep 3. I am definitely confused by the conflicting information out there in regards to that. Tank dimensions are 6ft long by 18 inches wide by 21 inches high.

I'm not married to the idea of the silver dollars. I thought I could keep six, but if it needs to be 10 that seems like a stretch as far as having enough room for everyone to live happily. Additionally, should I consider any bottom feeders that may be interested in cleaning up some of the food these little piglets spit out? And if so, do you have recommendations?

I have 8 tanks and I do at least 50% water changes on all of them weekly already. I do 75% in my goldfish tank. I don't mind them, I actually kind of enjoy the maintenance aspect of the hobby. I don't see dirty tank conditions becoming an issue. Also, we own our home bought it as our forever place so moving is not really a consideration either.

Thank you again. I'm more interested in doing what's right by the fish, and less interested in getting everything I think I want. I'm also eager to learn about oscars and keep them happy for their lifespan in one tank.
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Old 01-23-2023, 09:05 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by KRGilley23 View Post
I am new to oscars, as well as cichlids in general. I have several tanks of various sizes but the tank I have the oscars in is a 125 gallon. It has been up and running for about a month now and this evening I purchased two 2 inch tiger oscars to add. There are currently no other fish in the tank. I have been trying to find out the best advice on how to stock oscars so I get the least amount of aggression. However, I also want an interesting looking tank as this is as big as I can ever go. Options I have considered are adding a third oscar, two jack dempseys, or a school of 6 silver dollars. Some say never to keep two oscars, but always to keep 3 to disperse aggression. Other people say the opposite, stating that by keeping three you're asking for trouble when two pair up. I also read that three would be overstocked in a 125 but some people say it's fine as long as your filtration is adequate and you keep up with water changes. In my case, the tank is over filtered and I keep a very consistent water change schedule. As far as the JDs and silver dollars are concerned, some say keep oscars in a species only tank, others say it's fine as long as everyone is added around the same time etc... So now I am interested in hearing from some of you who have experience with any or all of this. I just want to do what is best and easiest on the fish and myself in the long run especially since going bigger is not an option.
To start with, you picked an interesting specie because Oscars are highly intelligent fish. That said, doing what's best and doing what's easiest is not what you signed up for. lol Oscars are " dirty" fish because they have big appetites which means they leave big " deposits" in the tank so good filtering and a lot of water changes are necessary to keep them best.

Let's start with your tank being only a month old. Have you cycled the tank during that month? If there was no life or ammonia source during that time, all you did was look at a tank of water. If you did cycle your tank, you'll want to check the ammonia level for the first week after introducing the new fish just to make sure it doesn't rise too high while the bacteria bed catches up to the load.

Cichlids are an interesting group because there are all kinds of them. Non aggressive, mildly aggressive, very aggressive. Oscars tend to fall into the mildly aggressive category with the ability to be very aggressive. Cichlids like to have territories so make sure you keep plenty of decorations in the tank for the fish to make private homes. Use pieces of wood and rocks for the decor but use larger pieces since Cichlids are diggers and like to move things. Live plants will have problems because of this. It's not unusual for an Oscar to grab a plant and uproot it " just for fun. " Jack Dempseys got their name because they are fighters like the pro boxer Jack Dempsey. If you do add these to the tank, I'd add them last. Silver Dollars are a good mix with Oscars as long as you get ones that can't fit into an Oscar's mouth. Oscars will eat just about anything that fits into their mouths including fish, lizards, frogs, insects, worms, mice, etc. Nothing is safe if it fits into their mouths. They usually leave things alone that they can't eat. So when adding new fish, you'll want to pay attention to size and shape of the new fish. Long and slender shapes can easily get eaten. Fat and round shapes are much safer.

While Oscars are not necessarily schooling fish, you can easily find them in shoals so mixing them shouldn't be a problem. If you do add more at a later date, you'll want to add fish that are larger than what you have at the time. This will give the new fish a fighting chance against an established fish. This is why you want to add your "collection" at one time so there are no territorial disputes. The fish will form their own pecking order so there will be some squabbles when first introduced. This rarely ends up with major damages to a fish. As for how many Oscars to keep together, if there is enough space, keeping 2 is usually fine. (I've done singles, doubles and as many as 6 fish in a tank your size. I did need to reduce the number to 3 as the fish matured tho. ) If one bullies the other, you may need to separate the fish for some time for the bullied fish to recover. I've found that feeding the fish at 2 locations in the tank at the same time can help both fish get food and reduce bullying over food. If you keep to a schedule and feed at the same locations, in time, you should see the fish waiting for food at the locations you feed just prior to feeding times. Keep in mind tho that should you get a breeding pair out of your collection of Oscars or other cichlids, the other fish should be removed or the breeding pair should be given their own tank alone. Breeding cichlids can become extremely aggressive towards tank mates. Even if you separate the pair, the remaining fish can maintain that breeding attitude and cause chaos in the tank.

You said you had oversized filtering which is good. Weekly water changes will also be necessary to keep the water fresh. Clean water and a good diet are necessary to keep your fish in good shape. As I said before, Oscars are dirty fish so spot cleaning the substrate during water changes will be very beneficial. You can use flexible tubing attached to some rigid tubing to siphon out any detritus that the filter didn't get.

The biggest problem I've found with Oscar owners is that they don't feed enough in an effort to not over feed. This is partly the cause for over aggression with the fish. You'll want to feed a variety of foods to ensure the fish are getting a balanced diet and feed multiple times during the day. It's better to feed small amounts multiple times per day than 1 large feeding a day. Oscars, like most fish, are glutens so they will always eat which is why it's better to feed small amounts at each feeding. Make sure you get some vegetable matter or roughage into them as well to keep the " pipes flowing" . A protein only diet can lead to constipation.

Hopefully this is the information you were looking for.
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Old 01-23-2023, 09:40 AM   #5
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Hi Andy, and thank you for your response. This is definitely some of the information the I have been looking for.

Yes, I had fish from other tanks in there for the last month. I moved them back to their old tanks before I moved the oscars in.

Any advice on some kind of bottom feeder that would snack on a bit of the food they spit out would also be welcome. I'm not trying to get myself out of cleaning, but there's so much food that comes out of them when they eat. Seems a shame to waste it
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Old 01-23-2023, 01:03 PM   #6
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Hi Andy, and thank you for your response. This is definitely some of the information the I have been looking for.

Yes, I had fish from other tanks in there for the last month. I moved them back to their old tanks before I moved the oscars in.

Any advice on some kind of bottom feeder that would snack on a bit of the food they spit out would also be welcome. I'm not trying to get myself out of cleaning, but there's so much food that comes out of them when they eat. Seems a shame to waste it
Great, glad to hear the tank is "pre-cycled".

I liked to keep Raphael catfish with my Oscars. They come in spotted and striped varieties and look neat in a small school (3-6 fish) . Their exterior is not really too appetising so the Oscars left them alone. You won't see them much but they got the job done. If you make nice caves or tunnels that face the front of the tank, you will most likely see them in there.

There are also some types of South American Wood catfish that can also work with them but you have to be careful because if you have a crowded tank, some get too large and can stress the system and if you get the small ( often more colorful )species, they can get eaten. Fisher's Wood Cats comes to mind as they only get to about 8"-10". ( Personally, I like the Raphaels better for their coloration. )

I've kept and bred a lot of Oscars over the years ( at one point I had 13 breeding pairs of them ) so I've had some really interesting experiences with them. Any other questions, just ask.
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Old 01-23-2023, 01:14 PM   #7
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Excellent! Thank you again.
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Old 01-23-2023, 05:20 PM   #8
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You could possibly get away with having 6 silver dollars in the tank but they do better in bigger groups. They naturally occur in groups consisting of hundreds or even thousands of individual fish, so even 6-10 is a low number for them.

You might be able to get 3 Oscars in the tank. You certainly can while they are young. But when they mature there could be problems. You will have to monitor them and if they start killing each other, you will need to separate them.

Mystery/ Apple snails can be kept with Oscars and clean up algae and uneaten food.

You can have floating plants in their tank. Water Sprite (Ceratopteris thalictroides/ cornuta) is a nice plant and can be grown in the gravel or on the surface. Floating plants can help keep nitrates down so are worth considering. Red root floaters are another floating plant that can be used but they can't be planted in the substrate.
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Old 01-24-2023, 12:46 PM   #9
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Thank you Colin. I had not even considered being able to have plants with oscars. I'm definitely going to give some a try. I so appreciate all the advice getting started.
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Old 01-24-2023, 09:58 PM   #10
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Thank you Colin. I had not even considered being able to have plants with oscars. I'm definitely going to give some a try. I so appreciate all the advice getting started.
Just tossing this out there , Silver Dollars may eat your plants. Also, if you do decide to get the Dollars, you want the species Metynnis argenteus. These are the smallest of the Metynnis family. They are not all the same. Some can grow to 10"+ while the argentatus should only get to about 6".
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Old 01-30-2023, 03:46 PM   #11
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I once had a pair of Oscars in my 90g. I had a monster pleco, a 10"+ female Red Oscar, a half a dozen silver dollars, and her two mates. My female was the one I started with, I got her when she was a very ugly 2.5". When she got bigger I got her a mate, and she accepted him, for a while. The Oscars got along, as long as there was plenty of hiding places, the male was smaller than the female, and the female had plenty of fake plants to move around. But, change one thing, like the number of silver dollars or the decor, and she turned on the male. She killed them both, and ended up in a deep depression that I couldn't get her out of, she didn't even rearrange the decor! I ended up rehoming her... I only had two Oscars in the tank at one time, so she had two different mates at two different times.
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Old 01-30-2023, 05:09 PM   #12
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I’ve read one too many horror stories about 2 or more Oscars in a 125 to go there. I have one Oscar in a 125 with 6 small Clown Loaches. The CL will likely be moved to their own larger tank eventually. I am also growing out 6 Silver Dollars for this tank, as the CL are on the nocturnal side. Right now the SD are more like quarters, Oscar bite size.

The aggression I’ve read about tends to occur as these fish reach age 2-3. I see several people in Oscar Facebook groups rehoming their Oscars & keeping one due to increasing aggression. This is not always the outcome & some pairs or trios do ok, but potential aggression something I’d prefer to avoid.

I have another Oscar in a 110 with a Jack Dempsey. They grew up together, raised by a previous owner who lost all interest in fish-keeping. These guys ignore one another.
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Old 02-20-2023, 11:28 AM   #13
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Iíve read one too many horror stories about 2 or more Oscars in a 125 to go there. I have one Oscar in a 125 with 6 small Clown Loaches. The CL will likely be moved to their own larger tank eventually. I am also growing out 6 Silver Dollars for this tank, as the CL are on the nocturnal side. Right now the SD are more like quarters, Oscar bite size.

The aggression Iíve read about tends to occur as these fish reach age 2-3. I see several people in Oscar Facebook groups rehoming their Oscars & keeping one due to increasing aggression. This is not always the outcome & some pairs or trios do ok, but potential aggression something Iíd prefer to avoid.

I have another Oscar in a 110 with a Jack Dempsey. They grew up together, raised by a previous owner who lost all interest in fish-keeping. These guys ignore one another.


Hi Jacky, I keep 2 Oscarsí in a 55 gallon grow out tank.I have 1 grade AAA Latino Oscar and 1 wild caught Oscar from Columbia. I also have a group of 5 silver dollars which are 6-7 inches. What I have noticed however is that the Silver dollars are constant chased by the Oscars. They have no nipped fins or any visible damage however they are constantly being chased. They will be moved up into my 180 gallon tank soon ( Silver Dollars ). What I will say though is That there is pretty much no aggression between the cichlids since I put the Silver Dollars in there
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Old 02-20-2023, 03:31 PM   #14
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Very interesting! Glad you posted. I managed to find 6 Silver Dollars, actually more like half dollars. They are in a tank with several plecos now, my most recent fish fascination. Plans were to relocate to the 125 with one 8 yr old 8” Oscar and 6 smallish Clown Loaches, but I’m currently thinking of leaving them with the plecos to get a little action in the tank. The plecos are inactive throughout the day and I’ll aim my infrared wildlife cam at them sometime soon.

I don’t like to see fish chasing each other around and spent the morning setting up a 20 g for a fancy goldfish. A few amorous males would not leave her alone in the 125 g. I had to move her and another one last summer when the warm waters got the boys going. I didn’t expect this at water temp 65F, but these boys were in a frenzy. So far, they’re leaving the other one they pursued last summer be, but I’ll move her as well if need be. Male goldfish in love can be surprisingly aggressive.
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