Fish cannot talk. Nor can they communicate properly with their human owners.
How do you tell if your Oscar fish is dying or in need of medical attention? The answer to this is to look for the telltale signs such as fish feeding, behavior, swimming, and general physical appearance.
A sick fish will definitely look and act differently from a healthy fish.
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What signs to look out for in dying Oscar
It is important to know that neither the basic appearance nor the behavior of a fish is enough proof of ailment or fatal distress on their own. There are a lot of fish who just aren’t very colorful or just don’t like to play so much.
Especially when dealing with fish like Oscars, you need to realize that they have their own very independent personalities. You cannot judge them all based on a wide prototype.
When trying to figure out if your fish is sick or healthy therefore, there is a basic list of items that are important to check off a list. While just one symptom may not signify a problem, two or more of these may mean that your fish is in acute distress.
Loss of appetite
Your fish interest in food is a very important gauge of whether or not they are okay. Basically, food is life. Without food, your fish will die in a short time. Now the fish may not totally abandon food, but if he is wasting way less than he needs, there may be something wrong.
Fish generally don’t do much with their existence. Their very simple routine mostly consists of eating, growing, eat again, and then maybe reproduce. Growth and reproduction are heavily reliant on your fish having enough energy available to carry out these activities.
A change in appetite, either sudden or progressive is a strong indication that something is wrong.
Change in Appearance
Appearance is of particular importance in this discourse because we are talking about Oscar fish. These Cichlids are known for their bright colors. In fact, it is some of the reason people like them in their aquariums in the first place.
A change of appearance in your Oscar might not be a problem in itself because Oscars could change colors due to a bunch of reasons that aren’t related to death or ill health. It is however very important to know that a lot of fish disease tell on their skin.
Watch out for fill flukes
There are some parasites called Skin and gill flukes. They can cause significant disease in fish especially if the fish is not eating properly or is under stress. These parasites are usually not dangerous. The average Oscar can handle them gracefully.
If however your fish isn’t eating well, it may become extra burdensome to handle the parasites and this may slow them down, make them sick and eventually kill them.
Long history of wrong diet
Oscar fish are omnivorous in nature. They will eat literally anything that will fit in their jaws. This is however not a license to feed them wrongly. Yes, there is such a thing as wrong fish feeding.
Generally, Oscars have very specific diet needs. As much as they need proteins, they need their vitamins and minerals too. It is especially important to make sure that their food is infused with vitamin C.
Whatever food you feed your Oscar fish should have enough vitamin C and a good balance of veggies, fruits and protein. If your fish does not get the proper diet, Your fish may also quit eating. This may also happen if the food you offer your fish is not palatable enough.
As far as fish diet is concerned, yet another thing of note is the tank companions. If your fish has tank companions that are bigger than it or more aggressive than it, your Oscar may not be able to feed properly because of the competition. This will eventually catch up with the fish and cause it to fall sick.
Loss of awareness
A change in your fish usual temperament could be an important indication of distress or life threatening ailment. The awareness of a fish can usually be gauged if you already know something about the fish’s mental health and behavioral history.
It is important to know your fish’s activity level in terms of swimming.
Oscars are middle level to top level swimmers. But they can sometimes be seen swimming low to find food. Oscars particularly may lie on their sides for minutes at a time. The difference however is that a healthy fish will spurt right back up when stimulated.
If you stimulate your Oscar and it doesn’t respond as it usually would, it may be an indication of disease and distress.
Now you can’t very well put a stethoscope to your fish’s body to find or gauge breathing and pulse. But this doesn’t erase the fact that both are very important points of not in deciding if your fish needs to see a vet or not.
Most animals hyperventilate when they are stressed or distressed. It is not much different in fish either. Hyperventilation could be a sign of distress and so should be taken very seriously.
How to measure your Oscar fish pulse
The best way to measure breathing for most fish is to count the number of times their opercula (gill covers) move.
Fish have very effective respiratory systems. Blood flows through the gills in the opposite direction that water is moving. This maximizes the off-loading of toxins and uploading oxygen. Any change to this system can decrease its efficiency and lead to problems for the fish.
Why your Fish can’t breath
An increase in your Oscars breathing pattern could be an indication of Poor water quality or infectious diseases like bacterial, fungal, parasitic, and virus.
Your fish would very likely respond to these sort of problem by secreting mucus in the gills to protect it. The mucus will cover the gills though and thus reduce water supply to the hill. The heart and respiration rate of the fish will then increase. If you pay close attention, you are likely to notice this.
Reduced Swimming Activity
They way your fish chooses to swim may be the alert you need to know that it isn’t in good health. Oscar fish who have been attacked or wounded in a show of aggression between them and other Oscars will move painfully.
They may dart from one corner of the tank to the other, swim much lower than usual or they may swim with their noses poured out of the water.
Reasons for this sort of behavior in your Oscar may include but is not necessarily limited to an Elevated ammonia situation. The fish may start swimming fast in all directions in an attempt to get far away from the polluted water. It however won’t be able to go far because it is in a tank and not in the wild.
How to solve erratic swimming
When you observe increased and abnormal swimming behavior, you should immediately test the water for ammonia in order to prevent the situation from worsening.
Reduced swimming activity however may indicate more serious problems like ailment, injury, or serious and potentially fatal distress.
Oscars are colorful fish. An unprecedented fade in the color of your fish could be an indication of distress or ailment that can be life threatening.
Their beautiful colors are often influenced by their diet.
A fade in color could be an indication that your fish isn’t eating well or properly. This is definitely something to be investigated immediately as it could mean that your fish is dying.
How do I stop my fish from dying?
Fish die from a variety of reasons ranging from ailment, to old age. But as many people will agree, Oscar fish are strong fish. They don’t die easy.
The most important thing to do if you suspect that your fish is dying is to call your vet. However, if for some reason you can’t reach your vet, can’t afford the care or aren’t even sure what’s going on with the Oscar, you can try the following steps to address possible problem causing the distress.
Minimize Stress in Aquarium
Stress in itself isn’t always completely avoidable. Your fish will experience some form of stress from time to time. Especially each time that you change the water, change the food, etc… the aquarium is a complex environment and especially for a fish like Oscar, a slight change in temperature could stress them.
Stress however shouldn’t be excessive or constant. Neither should it become inescapable for the fish. Something as simple as cooler waters can kill your Oscar. They need very specific temperature and they may run into problems real fast if they don’t get it.
Test and check the water
Look at it like this; your fish drinks his water, Lives in his water, And defecates in this same water. Needless to say that water had to maintain a certain standard. That is why one of the first and most important things to get when preparing a tank is to get good filtration systems.
Make sure that the tank size is right for your Oscar fish. You must also make sure that the water has good strong filtration and temperature regulators.
Don’t just clean the tank, clean the filter.
The point of changing the water is to keep it clean. This point will however be seriously defeated if you don’t clean the filter too. Filtration is a very important part of your fish’s water health. It is how the bulk of the waste products is extracted from the tank.
Your fish needs a certain pH to thrive and anything that changes that pH can kill your fish in the short or long run. Take the time out to clean your whole tank once in a while too. I’m talking the whole nine yards. From the tank body to the decors and right down to the substrate.
Right tank mates
Having too many kinds of fish from too many parts of the world in the same tank may be a problem. Not all fish will thrive in the kind of water temperature that Oscar fish will. Keeping the Oscar with fish that do not need similar environment may be a big problem as these other fish may die and pollute the water long before you notice.
As a general rule, do not get your Oscar fish a tank mates that is big enough to attack and kill i (the Oscar). Oscars are aggressive, but the advantage of size is definitely going to be something to note. Even if the other fish doesn’t out rightly kill the Oscar, the many fights and brawls eventually will.
Tank mates and cramped space
It is very important to know that. Tank mates can be a source of serious stress. This is especially true if the tank is not big enough for the fish to pick territories. Tank mates need to be of species that will stay out of the Oscar fish’s way. The truth of the matter is that some fish compete to dominate space and food within the aquarium.
This competition can become unhealthy if it is constant. It can even become dangerous to the Oscar fish or its tank mates in the long run.
Competition amongst the fish may be healthy. But then it may also become bloody. The Oscar fish is completely capable of being both the oppressed and the oppressor.
Change the water. But not too frequently.
Try to do a water change at least once in ten days. This water change shouldn’t be total. About 45 to 60% water change at any given time is okay.
You should however try not to change the water too often as this will mess with your water toxicity tests if you have to do it.
You may also want to invest in some water testing kits. It will help you keep track of your aquarium water conditions. These, along with good feeding practices and strong and efficient filtration will help keep your tank in good condition for your Oscar fish.
Keeping that aquarium at the exact level of warmth that Oscar fish needs is very important. Almost as important as making sure that they get their right amounts of vitamins in their food, Oscars prefer slightly warm water. This tiny detail can make all the difference between whether your fish will succumb to a basic ailment or not.
Oscar fish do not have the ability to handle cool water well. There have been reports of fish that died within a few hours of being in cool waters. Your aquarium heater has to work at all times.
Make prior plans for a good Aquarium
The best way to ensure that you can have a healthy and happy Oscar fish is to plan ahead and spend time working with and enjoying your fish.
Try to create routines that help you regularly monitor your fish and aquarium water quality. This is bound to help you to identify small changes in behavior or water quality before they become big problems.
Develop a friendship with your fish. Get to know them. They are very intelligent fish. They are called the river dog for a reason. The more you get yourself acquainted with them, the more likely you are to notice even the slightest changes in their attitude and general behavior. This will help keep you at alert each time you see something unusual.