What Do Oscar Fish Eat? (9 Examples & Simple Instructions)

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Oscar fish are among the top choices for freshwater aquarium enthusiasts, and it’s not hard to see why – they’re known for their friendly demeanor and low-maintenance nature.

Now, let’s address some important queries: What’s the best food to nourish them with? How can you make the right choice when it comes to their diet? And how often should you feed them?

This article will explore these questions, assisting you in selecting and fine-tuning the perfect diet for your Oscar fish. Let’s jump right in.

What Do Oscar Fish Eat?

When it comes to feeding Oscar fish, there is a variety of food options you can choose from:

1. Pellets

Pellets are a convenient and balanced food option for Oscar fish. They are formulated to provide all essential nutrients in one bite.

  • Nutritional Balance: Pellets are specifically formulated to include proteins, fats, and essential vitamins for the healthy growth of Oscar fish.
  • Easy Storage: Pellets are dry and can be stored easily in air-tight containers, reducing waste and spoilage.
  • Less Mess: Unlike some other food types, pellets don’t disintegrate quickly in water, contributing to a cleaner tank environment.
  • Uniform Feeding: Because pellets are consistently sized, it’s easier to monitor the amount of food your Oscar fish consumes.

Feeding Instructions

  • Step 1: Choose high-quality Oscar fish pellets. Look for ones with a good protein percentage (typically around 40%).
  • Step 2: Measure out the recommended amount based on the fish size. Generally, a juvenile Oscar may eat about 2-3% of its body weight daily, while adults may eat around 1-2%.
  • Step 3: Drop the pellets directly into the tank, aiming to distribute them evenly.
  • Step 4: Monitor the fish to ensure they are consuming the pellets within a few minutes. Any uneaten pellets after 5 minutes should be removed to prevent water contamination.
  • Step 5: Alternate with other foods to ensure a balanced diet. Feeding pellets exclusively can lack certain nutrients.

My recommendation: TetraCichlid Floating Cichlid Sticks (link to Amazon).

2. Live Feeder Fish

Feeding live fish can simulate a natural hunting experience for Oscar fish. However, this option comes with risks of transmitting diseases or parasites.

  • Stimulates Natural Behavior: Oscars engage in hunting when presented with live feeder fish, which can be enriching for them.
  • Protein Source: Live fish offer a high protein content essential for Oscar fish growth.
  • Disease Risk: Feeder fish may carry diseases or parasites that can infect Oscar fish.
  • Ethical Concerns: The use of live fish for feeding raises ethical questions and can be controversial among aquarists.

Feeding Instructions

  • Step 1: Purchase healthy feeder fish from a reliable supplier to avoid transmitting diseases to your Oscar.
  • Step 2: Quarantine feeder fish for at least a week to observe for any signs of diseases or parasites.
  • Step 3: Add 2-3 feeder fish into the Oscar’s tank at a time, making sure not to overcrowd.
  • Step 4: Watch the Oscar as it hunts and consumes the feeder fish.
  • Step 5: Limit the feeding of live fish to once or twice a week as it can be fatty and not nutritionally complete.

3. Chopped Fish or Seafood

Chopped fish and seafood like shrimp and squid are nutrient-rich and can be a treat for Oscar fish. They are generally relished but should be fed in moderation.

  • High Protein: These options provide excellent protein content for muscle development in Oscar fish.
  • Natural Oils: Chopped fish and seafood contain essential fatty acids beneficial for Oscar fish skin and scales.
  • Cost Consideration: Fresh seafood can be more expensive than other food options for Oscar fish.
  • Freezing Required: To kill potential parasites, the seafood should be frozen before feeding to Oscar fish.

Feeding Instructions

  • Step 1: Select fresh or frozen fish (like shrimp, tilapia, or scallops). Ensure they are free from additives and preservatives.
  • Step 2: Thaw (if frozen) and chop into bite-sized pieces suitable for your Oscar’s size.
  • Step 3: Feed using aquarium tongs or by hand, ensuring the Oscar can consume each piece within a few moments.
  • Step 4: Offer the chopped fish or seafood to the Oscar, observing their intake.
  • Step 5: Remove any uneaten pieces after 5 minutes to prevent water contamination.

4. Earthworms

Earthworms are an organic and protein-rich food source that can be a treat for Oscar fish. However, sourcing from non-contaminated soil is crucial.

  • Protein-Rich: Earthworms offer a good protein source that can contribute to the growth and health of Oscar fish.
  • Soil Contamination Risk: If not sourced carefully, earthworms can carry pollutants that are harmful to Oscar fish.
  • Limited Nutrients: Earthworms may lack some essential nutrients and vitamins required for a balanced Oscar fish diet.
  • Seasonal Availability: Depending on your location, earthworms may not be readily available year-round for Oscar fish.

Feeding Instructions

  • Step 1: Source earthworms from a reliable supplier or your own uncontaminated garden.
  • Step 2: Rinse the earthworms under cool water to remove any dirt or debris.
  • Step 3: Depending on the size of the earthworm and your Oscar, you can offer the worm whole or cut into smaller segments.
  • Step 4: Drop the earthworm into the tank and allow the Oscar to consume it.
  • Step 5: Do not overfeed; offering earthworms 1-2 times a week is sufficient as a treat.

My recommendation: Berkley PBBPT (link to Amazon).

5. Crickets

Crickets offer a unique protein source for Oscar fish and can be part of a varied diet. They are often used in the diets of various aquarium fish.

  • Good Protein Source: Crickets are high in protein, which is beneficial for Oscar fish growth and muscle development.
  • Chitin Content: The exoskeleton of crickets provides chitin, which can be hard for Oscar fish to digest in large quantities.
  • Freshness Factor: Crickets should be purchased from reputable sources to ensure they are disease-free for Oscar fish.
  • Nutritional Imbalance: Crickets lack some essential fatty acids and should only be part of a varied diet for Oscar fish.

Feeding Instructions

  • Step 1: Purchase crickets from a pet store or supplier.
  • Step 2: Ensure the crickets are appropriately sized for your Oscar. If too large, they may be chopped into smaller bits.
  • Step 3: Drop 2-3 crickets into the tank at a time, observing the Oscar’s reaction.
  • Step 4: Ensure the Oscar consumes the crickets promptly. Crickets can survive underwater for a short duration and may hide.
  • Step 5: As with other treats, limit the feeding of crickets to once a week to ensure a balanced diet.

6. Shrimp

Oscar fish enjoy shrimp, whether live or frozen. It offers them a rich source of protein and essential nutrients.

  • High in Protein: Shrimp provides the protein Oscar fish need for muscle development and growth.
  • Variability: Oscar fish can eat both freshwater and marine shrimp, but it’s crucial to ensure they are free from contaminants.
  • Calcium Source: The shells, when consumed, can provide Oscar fish with calcium which aids in bone health.
  • Preparation: Before feeding to Oscar fish, shrimp should be appropriately thawed if frozen and cut into suitable sizes.

Feeding Instructions

  • Step 1: Choose fresh or frozen shrimp. Ensure they are free from additives and preservatives.
  • Step 2: If using frozen shrimp, thaw them thoroughly before feeding.
  • Step 3: Remove the shell and tail, then chop the shrimp into bite-sized pieces suitable for your Oscar’s size.
  • Step 4: Offer the chopped shrimp to the Oscar, either by hand or using aquarium tongs, and observe their intake.
  • Step 5: Remove any uneaten shrimp after 5 minutes to prevent water contamination. Remember, shrimp can be a great protein source but should be given in moderation.

My recommendation: Hikari Freeze Dried Spirulina Brine Shrimp Cubes (link to Amazon).

7. Bloodworms

Bloodworms are a popular food choice for Oscar fish due to their high protein content. They can be fed live, frozen, or freeze-dried.

  • Rich in Protein: Bloodworms are packed with protein, making them an excellent choice for Oscar fish’s diet.
  • Versatility: They are available in various forms – live, frozen, and freeze-dried, providing flexibility in feeding Oscar fish.
  • Digestibility: Being soft and small, they are easily digestible for Oscar fish.
  • Occasional Treat: Due to their rich nature, bloodworms should be given as a treat rather than a staple to avoid overfeeding Oscar fish.

Feeding Instructions

  • Step 1: Purchase frozen or freeze-dried bloodworms from reputable pet stores.
  • Step 2: If using frozen bloodworms, thaw them in a bit of tank water before feeding.
  • Step 3: Measure out a suitable amount based on your Oscar’s size.
  • Step 4: Sprinkle the bloodworms into the tank, spreading them evenly.
  • Step 5: Monitor your Oscar as it consumes the bloodworms, removing any uneaten amounts after 5 minutes.

My recommendation: San Francisco Bay Brand Freeze Dried Bloodworms (link to Amazon).

8. Krill

Krill is another seafood option that Oscar fish find palatable. They are small crustaceans packed with nutrients and natural color enhancers.

  • Color Enhancer: Krill contains astaxanthin, a pigment that can help intensify the coloration of Oscar fish.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Krill is rich in Omega-3, promoting heart health and boosting the immune system of Oscar fish.
  • Easily Digestible: Being small, krill is easily consumed and digested by Oscar fish.
  • Storage: If using frozen krill, it needs to be stored at cold temperatures and thawed before feeding to Oscar fish.

Feeding Instructions

  • Step 1: Opt for frozen or freeze-dried krill. Always ensure they are free from additives and preservatives.
  • Step 2: If using frozen krill, thaw them in a small amount of tank water.
  • Step 3: Depending on the size of the krill and your Oscar, you may need to chop them into smaller pieces.
  • Step 4: Feed the krill to your Oscar using aquarium tongs or by hand.
  • Step 5: As always, remove any uneaten krill after about 5 minutes to ensure water quality.

9. Mealworms

While not the most common food, mealworms can be included in the diet of Oscar fish. They are larvae of the darkling beetle and offer a crunchy treat.

  • Nutritional Profile: Mealworms provide a good source of protein and fat for Oscar fish.
  • Texture Variety: Their crunchy texture can be a novel experience for Oscar fish, contrasting softer food options.
  • Supplemental Food: Due to their chitinous shell, mealworms should be an occasional treat rather than a staple for Oscar fish.
  • Preparation: Larger mealworms should be chopped into smaller pieces to ensure easy consumption by Oscar fish.

Feeding Instructions

  • Step 1: Buy mealworms from pet stores or trusted suppliers. They are commonly sold for reptiles but are also suitable for Oscars.
  • Step 2: Ensure the mealworms are alive and active. Dead mealworms can harbor bacteria.
  • Step 3: Rinse the mealworms gently to remove any dust or substrate.
  • Step 4: Drop a few mealworms into the tank. Start with a small number to gauge your Oscar’s interest and appetite.
  • Step 5: Monitor your Oscar’s consumption. Remove any uneaten mealworms after a few minutes, and remember to offer these in moderation.

My recommendations: TradeKing Dried Mealworms (link to Amazon).

What Do Oscar Fish Eat In The Wild?

In their natural habitat, Oscar fish are opportunistic predators that consume a varied diet based on the available prey.

They primarily feed on smaller fish, insects, and other aquatic creatures found in their South American freshwater environments. Delving into their natural diet:

  • Small Fish: As primary predators, Oscar fish often hunt and consume smaller fish present in their ecosystems.
  • Aquatic Invertebrates: Oscar fish will snack on crustaceans like shrimps and small aquatic insects, utilizing them as a protein source.
  • Insects and Larvae: They will eat above-water insects that fall into the water, as well as aquatic insect larvae.
  • Occasional Plant Matter: While primarily carnivorous, Oscars might occasionally ingest plants or fruits that fall into the water, diversifying their diet.

Feeding Oscar Fish: Practical Tips

Feeding Oscar fish requires understanding their dietary needs and preferences for a healthy, balanced diet.

Optimal nutrition ensures that Oscar fish thrive, exhibit vibrant colors, and live a full lifespan. To support these claims:

  • Variety is Key: Oscar fish benefit from diverse diets, including pellets, live foods, and fresh offerings, ensuring they receive all essential nutrients.
  • Quality Matters: Invest in high-quality Oscar fish pellets with around 40% protein content, ensuring optimal growth and health.
  • Live Foods: Offering live foods, like feeder fish and crickets, simulates the Oscar fish’s natural predatory behavior and provides enrichment.
  • Moderation is Crucial: While Oscar fish may voraciously eat, avoid overfeeding; adults typically consume about 1-2% of their body weight daily.
  • Avoid Contamination: Always remove uneaten food after 5 minutes as it can deteriorate water quality, affecting Oscar fish health.
  • Supplementary Foods: Offer treats like bloodworms, krill, and earthworms weekly, ensuring Oscar fish enjoy varied tastes and textures.
  • Monitor Health: Pay attention to the Oscar fish’s behavior, color, and activity levels post-feeding, which can indicate diet suitability and overall well-being.

Also Read: How To Feed Oscar Fish

Live Foods for Oscars: Pros and Cons

Live foods can be a valuable dietary component for Oscar fish, offering both nutritional and behavioral benefits.

However, they also come with risks that can potentially harm the Oscar fish. Delving deeper into this:


  • Natural Behavior: Live foods allow Oscar fish to exhibit hunting behaviors, stimulating their natural instincts and providing enrichment.
  • Nutritional Value: Some live foods, like feeder fish, can offer essential fatty acids and proteins beneficial to Oscar fish growth and health.
  • Diet Variation: Introducing live foods can diversify the Oscar fish diet, preventing dietary monotony and promoting interest during feeding times.


  • Disease Transmission: Live foods, especially feeder fish, can introduce parasites or diseases to the Oscar fish’s environment if not properly quarantined.
  • Nutritional Imbalance: Relying solely on live foods can lead to deficiencies; for example, feeder fish might not offer all necessary nutrients for Oscar fish.
  • Overfeeding Risk: Oscar fish might overconsume live foods due to their predatory nature, potentially leading to obesity and other health issues.

Feeder Fish: What to Watch Out for

Feeder fish can be a nutritious addition to an Oscar fish’s diet, but they also carry potential risks that can compromise the health of your pet.

Ensuring the safety and health of your Oscar fish requires careful consideration when introducing feeder fish. Delving into the details:

  • Disease Risk: Feeder fish can harbor diseases and parasites, like ich or internal worms, which may infect the Oscar fish.
  • Nutritional Deficiency: Sole reliance on feeder fish can result in imbalances; they might lack essential vitamins and minerals crucial for Oscar fish health.
  • Quarantine Importance: It’s vital to quarantine feeder fish for at least a week to observe any signs of illness before offering them to Oscar fish.
  • Quality Matters: Source feeder fish from reputable suppliers to minimize the risk of introducing contaminants or sickly fish to Oscar fish.
  • Avoid Overfeeding: While Oscar fish may be keen on hunting live fish, feeding them excessively can lead to obesity and related health issues.

Commercially Prepared Food for Oscars

Commercially prepared food for Oscar fish offers a balanced and convenient dietary solution, ensuring that the fish receives all essential nutrients.

Many top brands have tailored their offerings to meet the specific needs of Oscar fish. Here are some examples from Amazon:

DIY Meals to Enhance Your Oscar Fish’s Diet

Offering foods commonly found at home can be a cost-effective and convenient way to supplement an Oscar fish’s diet.

However, it’s essential to ensure these foods are safe and prepared appropriately for the fish. Here’s how you can use household items for your Oscar:

  • Boiled Peas: Remove the skins and mash them; they’re good for digestive health and can help if Oscar fish are constipated.
  • Cooked Spinach: Blanched or lightly boiled, spinach provides necessary vitamins and can be chopped finely for Oscar fish consumption.
  • Raw Zucchini: Thinly sliced or grated, this is a favorite for many Oscars, providing them with essential fibers and nutrients.
  • Eggs: Hard-boiled egg yolks can be offered occasionally, in tiny amounts, as they’re packed with proteins and fats beneficial for Oscar fish.
  • Rice: Cooked rice, offered sparingly, can be a filler. While not nutrient-dense, it can occasionally be used as a supplement.

How Much Food Should You Give Oscar Fish?

Determining the correct amount of food for Oscar fish is essential for their health, ensuring they neither overeat nor go undernourished.

The quantity varies based on their age, size, and activity level. Breaking this down by age:

  • Juvenile Oscar Fish: Young Oscars are growing rapidly and require feeding 2-3 times daily, consuming food within 2-3 minutes each session.
  • Adult Oscar Fish: Mature Oscars should be fed once daily, typically consuming about 1-2% of their body weight in food.
  • Elderly Oscar Fish: Senior Oscars have slower metabolisms; feeding them slightly less than adults, around 0.5-1% of their body weight daily, is ideal.

How Often Should You Feed Oscars?

The frequency of feeding Oscar fish is pivotal in ensuring their health, growth, and well-being.

The regularity varies based on the fish’s age and their individual needs. Diving deeper by age:

  • Juvenile Oscar Fish: At this growing phase, feed Oscars 2-3 times a day, ensuring they get ample nutrients for healthy development.
  • Adult Oscar Fish: As they reach maturity, feeding once daily is adequate, making sure they consume their food within a few minutes.
  • Elderly Oscar Fish: Older Oscars may have a reduced appetite; feeding once daily or even once every other day can suffice, observing their intake closely.

Also Read: How Often To Feed Oscar Fish

What to Do When Your Oscar Stops Eating

If your Oscar fish stops eating, it’s a concerning sign that could indicate various issues ranging from stress to illness.

Prompt action and close observation are crucial to determine the root cause and address it. Here’s what to consider:

  • Water Quality: Test the tank’s water parameters; imbalances in pH, ammonia, or nitrite levels can stress Oscar fish, impacting their appetite.
  • Environmental Stress: Ensure that the tank’s setup, like hiding spots and decorations, doesn’t cause territorial disputes or stress for Oscar fish.
  • Disease Symptoms: Examine the Oscar for signs of disease, such as white spots, erratic swimming, or discoloration, which can cause loss of appetite.
  • Diet Variation: Introducing a variety of foods might reignite their interest in eating; sometimes, Oscars can become bored with a monotonous diet.
  • Observe Tank Mates: Ensure other fish aren’t bullying or stressing the Oscar, as this can also deter them from eating.

How Long Can Oscars Survive Without Food?

Oscar fish can survive without food for a surprisingly long time due to their ability to metabolize stored fats and proteins.

In ideal water conditions and with no underlying health issues, an adult Oscar can go without food for up to two weeks, though it’s not recommended.

Juvenile Oscars, due to their higher metabolic rates and growth demands, should not go without food for more than 3-5 days.


For those of you who are just skimming through, here’s a short recap:

  • Oscar fish thrive on pellets, live foods, and treats for a diverse diet.
  • Live foods simulate natural behavior but require disease caution.
  • Chopped seafood and worms supplement protein, but check for contaminants.
  • Commercial food ensures balanced nutrition; homemade options add variety.
  • Adjust feeding by age, watch water quality, and address appetite loss.