Thursday, March 1, 2007

How to breed and raise Oscars

If you want to breed Oscars, you better get a gigantic tank and a wheel barrel full of food!

Water chemistry:
Oscars breed in slightly acidic water, PH of 6.8 or a little lower is fine. The tank temperature should be from 74 - 82 degrees F. 80-82 for breeding.

Selecting breeders: Since Oscar fish are so large in size, take at least two years to mature and can't be sexed easily, the only way to get a breeding pair is to raise about half a dozen in a gigantic tank (you're talking 200 gallons or more) to let them pair off naturally. The best way to acquire a pair is to purchase a proven pair of adult breeders. If you buy a proven pair of breeders, make sure you get a guarantee from the vendor that the fish are young and fertile breeders. Vendors will try and sell you fish that are all bred out that either produce few eggs, or none that are fertile if they sense that you are a Green Horn. Get it in the contract!

Setting up the breeding tank: The breeding tank should be at least 100 gallons. No gravel, rocks plants etc... Make sure you have a solid top to prevent the fish jumping out and place a few bricks on top to make sure. Oscars are strong fish and have been known to knock tops right off of tanks! Two outside power filters, one on each side of the tank to try and keep the water clean. This is almost an impossible task with Oscars because of the massive amounts of food that they eat (live goldfish, frozen krill, almost everything but the kitchen sink!) and their appalling table manners. You'll be changing 10 - 20% of the water every day so this will help. During this water change, use a siphon tube or garden hose to siphon out all the big lumps and dirt that you can get. When the eggs have been laid, you will turn off the power filters and set up an air stone or to at the opposite side off the tank of where the eggs are. You'll need a heater of 500 watts or two at 250 watts. Not the submersible types, the kind lets you adjust the temperature from outside the tank. The old fashioned kind.

Now the process starts: It will take about a month for the pair to get used to their breeding tank. Just keep feeding them three times a day with everything but the kitchen sink. Besides feeding them live goldfish, frozen krill and Cichlid pellets, you can also feed then skinless chicken breast, turkey breast and sirloin steak. I'm not kidding. Never feed them hamburger. They love it, it isn't bad for them but it clouds the water like mad!

The breeding ritual: When they are ready to breed, you'll notice allot of fin wagging and they might even lock jaws! The courtship of locking jaws is a ritual designed by nature as a test to their commitment to each other. (Oscars mate for life) This might last for a few hours so keep an eye on them. If you see one or the other in a corner that is starting to get too beat up, separate them with a piece of glass until all healed. You'll have to try again. Even if everything goes smooth, you're going to see some scrapes and tattered fins. They might go through this routine every time they are in breeding mode, they may not. Keep your eyes open!

Now we will get these baby's to breed! Once they have successfully gone through the mating ritual, you're pretty much in the home stretch. Keep changing 10-20% of the water every day and feeding them 4 times a day. You will notice them cleaning of a section on the bottom of the tank. This is where they will lay their eggs, hundreds of them! They will get very protective of this area so don't be surprised if they attack the siphon tube when you are in there siphoning out water. Nature will take it's course and they will spawn.

You have eggs, now what? You could take out the eggs to be artificially hatched if you can get them to lay their eggs on a piece of PVC pipe, or you can let the parents take care of them. I would recommend that you let the parents take care of them. Hatching them artificially works fine for the fry but you could run into allot of problems with the parents fighting with each other. One might blame the other for the loss of fry and wreck their relationship. Best to let them try on their own. If it works out, you have a great pair. In about 10 days the fry will become free swimming and absorb their egg sacks. They are ready to take live or frozen baby brine shrimp immediately. After another week you can supplement their diet with flake food. In three weeks they will be big enough to feed them all kinds of different food. In about 6 weeks you can net them out to be placed in another large rearing tank. You never know, about this time you might have another spawn to deal with!

by Jeff O' Corbett
Article Copyright 2007

Video of Oscars Spawning