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Oscar Cichlids in a Native Habitat

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The oscar (Astronotus ocellatus) is a type of cichlid that, although often seen in aquarium settings, also frequently lives in natural environments. These relatively squat freshwater fish are known by a handful of other monikers, which include "marble cichlid," "tiger oscar," "velvet cichlid" and "red oscar." Oscars are usually black, dark brown or deep green in coloring. As far as physical appearance goes, these fish are not too far away from sunfish.

Physical Appearance for Identification Purposes

Apart from overall body coloring, oscars usually possess noticeable crimson or orange striping on their backs, according to Animal Diversity Web of the University of Michigan. Their tail foundations usually have single circular red or orange markings. Oscars have wide mouths, fleshy lips, sizable eyes and jutting jaws. They generally achieve body lengths of a maximum of 14 inches or so. The sexes look alike.

Geographic Location

Oscars are South American fish that inhabit the Amazon, Orinoco and Parana Basins. Their geographic scope encompasses several different countries, including French Guiana, Guyana, Brazil, Paraguay, Venezuela, Colombia and Peru. These cichlids also often live in the United States—in the commonwealth of Puerto Rico and also in both Hawaii and the southern region of Florida.

Native Habitat

Oscars are partial to still waters on the shallow side—especially if their bottoms are smooth, soft, sandy or muddy. Some typical environments for oscars are ponds, canals, swamps, marshes and floodplains. They also gravitate toward aquatic settings that feature ample cover in the form of submerged tree logs and limbs. Oscars thrive in water that is roughly 77 degrees Fahrenheit. During times of reproduction, however, they may look for temperatures that are just a tad higher.


Out in their native habitats, oscars consume mostly tiny fish and the larvae of bugs. They are not fussy eaters, however, and readily eat other forms of sustenance. Oscars also regularly feed on crustaceans, water bugs and gastropods. For the most part oscars are slow and inert creatures. However, when going after prey they can be swift and nimble—if only for brief periods.