Are Oscars Cichlids?

This article talks about Oscar fish. Particularly, it answers the question of whether or not the Oscar is a cichlid or not. The articles clearly describe the attributes of a cichlid and then compare these attributes to the Oscar fish to see if the fish is indeed a cichlid or not.

The Oscar belongs to the family of khichdee. The Oscar fish shares a good deal of physical attributes with other fish in the family Cichlidae. It also sports a lot of the behavioral patterns and lifestyles of other cichlids. 

The next paragraphs will show us specific reasons the Oscar qualifies to be called a cichlid. We will explore its physical attributes and what features it shares with other cichlids. we will also talk about life span and habitats. We will also talk about behavior which it shares with other cichlids.

What Exactly Are Cichlids?

Cichlids are specific species of fish. They are categorized into the family Cichlidae and order perciforms. There are over 1300 different species of this fish and they are popular in aquariums across America and Europe.

These fish love freshwater and make many freshwater streams and lakes and rivers their home all over the world. They also reside in rivers in Africa and tropical parts of America. Madagascar and southern Asia also house them. The vast majority of these fish, however, reside in Africa. making a lot of lakes there their homes. 

What are Oscar fish?

Many people also call the Oscar “Astronotus ocellatus”. This species of fish from the cichlid family have many ordinary and common names. Some people call it the “Tiger Oscar”, “Velvet Cichlid, and “Marble Cichlid”. It would seem that the fish is very resilient because it seems to spread across climates and continents quite easily. A lot of Oscars are in local markets where people sell them for food. They also adorn a lot of homes in the form of aquarium fish. This is because they can come in bright colors or at least be spotted by bright colors.

What are the most general features of cichlid?

Cichlids sport a single nostril respiratory system. this is unlike most other fish who have two nostrils on each side of their faces. They have deep bodies. Cichlid fish have a lateral line. They have three or more anal spines. A good deal of the fish are small enough to be in aquariums, they, however, do not grow longer than about 30 cm (12 inches). Many of the fish species have pointed rear edges of the dorsal and anal fins.

Cichlid Diet

The diet of a cichlid often depends on the species.  Cichlids can be vegetarian or carnivorous, while some are even omnivores.

Some species of cichlid have shown a specific preference for algae and small invertebrates. Some enjoy a diet of small animals such as insects and fish. Yet, some species of cichlid will consume nearly anything and everything that they come across. This has proven to be a negative trait, especially where they have been artificially introduced into a new environment.

Cichlid Reproduction and mating

There is a worldwide consensus on cichlids’ mating behaviour. They have elaborate courtship rituals and prepare for breeding with care. They make a big deal of their nest location, maintenance, and defense as well as the defense of the nest and protection of the new young.

There is however a species of cichlids that are mouth breeders. This species has a different approach to its reproduction ritual. They place their offsprings in their mouths and carry them around. This is unlike the other species who place theirs in the nest. This mouth breeding behavior is often amongst many species of the genus Tilapia and also to certain other Old World genera.

The average clutch size of most cichlids is 200. Young cichlids are called; “Frys”.

Irrespective of whether they are mouth breeders or nest breeders, all species of cichlid show strong parental bonds in their breeding season. They share the whole reproductive process and duty. The female may lay eggs under a rock or log. She would then stay above the eggs and fan the water over them while her partner stands or as is in this case, float guard and protect their family. The situation will remain like this until the young ones are able to swim freely. This usually happens when they are a few weeks old.

Cichlid Appearance

Cichlids are known for their bright colors. This bright color is the reason people love them in aquariums. They come in different colors like Black, White, Yellow, Orange, Silver, Blue, Green, Red.

There is a special breed of cichlids that are known as the fire mouth. The fish are also known as (Cichlasoma meeki). They earned the name because of their bright red mouth and throat. The bright color is also on their chest. There is yet another species as the Jack Dempsey. It is also knowns as “C.biocellatum”. This fish is rather large and dark. The fish is spotted. And it has a blue-green color.

The Oscar (Astronotus ocellatus) is an attractive fish with an orange-ringed black spot on its tail base. There exists yet another one that has a very deep body. This fish has the color blue streaked on it. Another popular aquarium fish of this group is the angelfish. It is also known as Pterophyllum. Yet another cichlid is Tilapia mossambica. It is a beloved African species that many cultivated as food in many regions.

Bright colors adorn the body of cichlids. The family is however so diverse that size, just like color could set the fish apart.

These fish range in size from just a couple of centimeters to over a meter in length. All species of cichlid are very similar in appearance. The major differences would be in size and color. They all have scaly skin though. 

Cichlid habitat

Cichlids thrive best in brackish and freshwater. A 6.4 – 6.8 PH level is just perfect for them. This condition often found in African great lakes. It is no coincidence the cichlids are there in abundance.

The Victoria, Malawi, and Edward Lakes of eastern Africa are home to a wide variety of cichlid species. There is also the Tanganyika lake which is the largest lake in central Africa. The two different types of cichlids are thought to have evolved from different fish. This lake houses major cichlid species. 

The Amazon basin in South America serves as a glorious habitat for cichlids like the freshwater angelfish. The discus fish and you guessed right; the Oscar. Many people also call the Oscar “The marble back cichlid”. They are also in this habitat. These fish evolved from African cichlids years ago. Right after they crossed the Atlantic Ocean.

Cichlid Lifespan: The cichlid lifespan varies from species to species. As a general rule, however, the average cichlid lives for about 5 – 60 years.

Fact about cichlids

Aquarium common face

Cichlids are one of the most popular fish in aquariums because of their beauty. They come in varying colors. They are usually relatively easy fish to house. Unlike marine or sea fish, these freshwater beauties need little attention. So much so that some people even breed them for food. This is especially popular with the bigger cichlids.

Cichlids danger status

Cichlids do not appear as an endangered species on the surface level. This is because they have ease with reproduction and seem to grow in population. The reality is that they are a slightly endangered species. This is because a lot of the species have been over hunted. They have also been exposed to pollution and water contamination. They are dying almost as fast as they are born. The conservation status of Cichlids is “Least Concern” as of today. This status is expected to change in a few years. Especially if the present status persists.

Cichlid predators

Cichlids are readily available and are thus prey to numerous predators. This is probably because there are so many of them. Some of these predators include humans, other fish eel sharks, and birds. Some bigger species of cichlids hunt and eat the smaller species.


There are more than 1,300 known species of cichlid. More of these fish are found each year. There are an estimated 3,000 different species in total!

The fish species that would be able to successfully categorize themselves as cichlids are nearly 3000. There is no doubt that Oscar fish is a member of the family of cichlids. Because of its color and behavior, habitat, diet, and other physical features, there is no doubt whatsoever that the Oscar fits into that category snugly. The Oscar fish is indeed a cichlid.