Why Do My Oscars Keep Dying?? Help

Discussion in 'Oscars' started by MarkBishop, Jul 8, 2019.

  1. MarkBishop

    MarkBishopNew MemberMember

    Hello everyone, this is my first post.

    Let me start by saying I have had aquariums before with little or no issues. This one is giving me a serious headache.

    I have a 55 gallon tank with an "Penn Plax Cascade 1200 GPH Canister Filter", and a "300w in-Line External Heater". I also have about 2 inches of typical aquarium gravel, several fake plants, and one big fake rock ornament from Petco.

    I have been cycling the tank for several months with immature guppies and filter media from my other tank. The tank currently has 3 immature guppies in it (a month old - each almost an inch long). I initially bought this new tank to have an Oscar (I have had them in the past and love them!) that would eat the fry because my other tank is getting overpopulated.

    I use an API FRESHWATER MASTER TEST KIT to check my parameters and have finally achieved the following results:
    Ph - 7.6 to 7.8
    Ammonia - 0ppm
    Nitrite - 0ppm
    Nitrate - 0ppm

    Using the test strips I get the following:
    GH (General Hardness) - between 120 and 180
    KH (Carbonate Hardness) - Around 120

    I keep the tank around 78.6 degrees F

    For better or worse, I use aquarium salt in all my tanks. I also use API Quick Start and Stress Coat when adding the new fish and with water changes. When I add new fish I typically open the bag and roll the edges down and float them in the tank for about 20 minutes, and then for the next 2 or 3 hours I add about a quarter cup of water every 15 or 20 minutes before I net them and add them to the tank to slowly get them acclimated to the new ph and water variables.

    So, as I said before I have had at least three guppies in the tank thriving for the last month or so. I had been using a lot of guppy fry in the tank until I got the cycle completed. They were dying quite often until the numbers for cycling fixed themselves.

    About a month ago I tried adding a Tiger Oscar from Petco, and it died within a day or two. It just never ate anything and kept hiding in the plants. I went back and got a replacement.

    This one survived and thrived for about a week and a half before it died to an unfortunate accident where the inlet filter head to the canister filter popped off and he was sucked up into the tube.

    I went back to Petco and got another replacement. He did eat for the first day or two, but then he eventually started hiding in the plants and laying on the bottom of the tank. He also developed skin issues. It was almost like the skin was peeling. His eyes clouded over, and then he died after about a week of having him.

    After this, I went to an LFS near me and got a bigger (About 3-1/2 inches long) Albino Red Oscar, and a Bristlenose Pleco to eat the algae off the glass and rocks. The albino was very shy but he was eating off the bottom for about the first week. The pleco seemed to be fine as well. After the first week, the albino started doing the same thing the other tigers were doing. He would lay on his side (On the bottom and floating) and stopped eating. Again the pleco was fine. The albino died about a week ago while I was away on vacation (He was acting funny before I left). I had started using medications (Imagitarium Parasite and Bacterial Remedies) before I left just in case that might have been it, and my mother followed up with the rest of the med cycle. She came in to feed a couple times a day while I was away. She found the Albino and scooped him out. The pleco died about a day before I got home from vacation. He was fine until my mom found him at the bottom of the tank dead. I was feeding the pleco algae disks a couple times a week, but there was plenty of algae in the tank either way.

    I test my water parameters at least once a week and have had no Ammonia, Nitrites and Nitrates for at least a month. I do 10-gallon water changes (2 Five Gallon Buckets), about 20% weekly, except when I went on vacation. I use a siphon and vacuum the rocks during water changes.

    The meaningful parameters seem to be fine, so I am not sure what I am doing wrong. Also, I have had the three guppies in the tank for several weeks now with no issues. I don't want to get any more Oscars until I figure this out, but I need to do something fast as I now have over 100 guppy fry in my breeder tank.

    I am wondering if maybe I had accidentally gotten my hands in the water with antibacterial soap on them. I just don't understand why my guppies would be fine and the bigger fish are not. I am thinking at this point I need to empty the tank and clean it out thoroughly and start over.

    Any suggestions would be great.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. NC122606

    NC122606Well Known MemberMember

    A bit confused that you do not have nitrates in a cycled tank? Also, how much salt did you use, it could be making it almost brackish for the tank. Guppies can live in brackish water but Oscars should not be able to live in brackish.
  3. MommaWilde

    MommaWildeWell Known MemberMember

    Hi, I am sorry you are having hard time. It seems maybe you lost your cycle. Everyone would handle this situation differently but here's what I would do.
    1. Do a thorough gravel vac and rinse your filter and do 50% water change
    2. Get some tetra safe start plus or dr. Tim's or seed or stabilty bacteria. Just follow the directions on the bottle. If you have more guppies you're willing to use then I'd add those too. You may be struggling with the cycle because the 3 juvie guppies aren't enough to cycle a tank that big.
    You can always move them back to your other tank before you add a new oscar.
    3. Really watch the Oscar's behavior and observe their fins, eyes, everything for a while before you choose to try to get the healthiest one.
    4. After you eventually add the oscar I'd add more bacteria at the same time.
  4. 86 ssinit

    86 ssinitWell Known MemberMember

    I’m thinking it may also be the salt. Do a 50% water change and stop adding salt. Think the reason for no nitrates is hopefully because your not shaking it enough. Skin peeling could be because of the salt or high ammonia. Unless your kit is faulty it’s the salt. To check test kit bring some of your water to the lfs and have them check it.
  5. OP

    MarkBishopNew MemberMember

    Thank you all for the replies.

    I use about a tablespoon of salt per five gallon that I use to replace water when I vacuum the rocks out. The people at the lfs told me to add salt to help keep the tank healthy. I have read a lot and have seen mixed reviews about it. maybe I have been adding too much.

    I will immediately stop adding the salt to this tank and vacuum the gravel, rinse my filter media in the tank water and do a 50% water change tonight when I get home.

    I have already, will this be okay instead of tetra safe start?

    I have already added about 35 more guppy fry (About 3/8" long) as of last night because my breeder tank is starting to get out of control. I counted over 120 fry when I got back from vacation. I will wait until I get Nitrates in my test to put Oscar back in.

    Both my API master test kit and the API test strips show zero values for Nitrates. I also had Petco test the water when each of my Oscars died and they said the parameters were good. I think they were zero there too. I thought maybe that was because I have so few fish in the tank. I did have a reading of about 40PPM Nitrates when I had the first Oscar in the tank. So, I am 100% sure the tank was cycled before I added the first Oscar. I shake the bottles as indicated for the tests for Nitrates.

    I wish there was a test for salt levels.

    Again thank you for the replies, and I really hope it was the salt. I hate to see my fish suffer.
  6. 86 ssinit

    86 ssinitWell Known MemberMember

    Well there’s next to nothing fish wise in the tank. So there shouldn’t be nitrates. Do a 75% water change. That will remove most of the salt and what’s left won’t matter. Let the fry stay in there for a few days and check your ammonia and nitrite. If you get an ammonia reading add the bacteria if not your still cycling.put the Oscar back in and stay on top of testing and water changes (30% a week). Don’t chase nitrates. 40ppm just means do a water change.
  7. OP

    MarkBishopNew MemberMember

    Thank you very much! I will take your advice and do that tonight.
  8. OP

    MarkBishopNew MemberMember

    I just wanted to come back and say I now have a seemingly healthy Oscar in my tank. I swapped 75% of the water three times in a week, added water back in with no aquarium salt, and then added another Oscar and he is doing great! He is still not eating the feeder guppies I put in the tank, but he is eating pellets, and crisps.

    Thank you all for your advice!
  9. Coptapia

    CoptapiaWell Known MemberMember

    A bit late, but your nitrates were probably sky high. You need to kick the reagent #2 bottle around the room, not just shake it. You need to bang it about aswell.
    And don’t use salt. Oscars don’t like it. It doesn’t “keep a tank healthy”. What it does is prevent diseases breaking out that are trying to tell you that the tank isn’t healthy.

    For future reference, when you bring a fish home, compare the pH and hardness of the bag and the tank. If they’re similar then leaving the fish in the bag for 2-3 hours is just causing a lot of unnecessary stress. They need to be out of the bag asap, so you need to keep testing the bag, and get them out as soon as the waters are the same. This can be minutes or hours, it all depends on how different the waters were to start with. :)
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2019
  10. 86 ssinit

    86 ssinitWell Known MemberMember

    Things have changed with oscars. Most feed there oscars pellets and flakes. Guppies maybe as a treat but are not needed anymore. Our resident Oscar keeper @Dawn Michele will be better at helping you with feeding that Oscar. Glad to here your tank is running better. How long have you had the new Oscar?
  11. OP

    MarkBishopNew MemberMember

    I have stopped using salt altogether now. My Nitrates tested at about 5PPM this morning after having the Oscar in the tank about a week. Ammonia and Nitrites tested at 0. The lfs PH is about 6.5 and my PH is 7.8 which is why I acclimate them in the bag for so long. I think this last time it was only about an hour. I test the PH in the bag when I get it home before I start dripping water in. If I put any more fish in I will definitely start testing more often during my drip acclimation so the fish isn't are not in the bag any longer than they need to be.

    86 ssinit:
    I have had the Oscar about a week now. I had some feeder guppies outlive a cichlid I had given them to and they started breeding before I had the chance to replace the cichlid with my Oscar. That is why I have been trying to feed them to the Oscar. The guppies are breeding ridiculously fast now and I was hoping the Oscar would hit the tank eating...he has not. He seems to be trying to get them but they appear to be too fast for him to catch. I really need him to eat these things. I currently have a 25 gallon tank at work with about 70 guppy fry and 8 adults (The process of replacing the Cichlid has taken some time). I transferred about 30 fry and immature guppies to the Oscar tank I have at home last week and there are still that many in there today. I may have to ask the lfs if they will take my guppies.
  12. Coptapia

    CoptapiaWell Known MemberMember

    Personally I would remove the feeders before the Oscar gets any, unless you plan to feed it fish all the time. They can be very difficult to get off live fish once they get a taste for them.
  13. OP

    MarkBishopNew MemberMember

    I will be attempting to feed live all the time with other types of food/treats intermingled. I do not think I will have any trouble having enough feeders. I have a feeder tank, and my son has one as well.
  14. Dawn Michele

    Dawn MicheleWell Known MemberMember

    Hello!!! Don't feed your Oscar fish!!! It's NOT a good idea. I feed my Oscar Big Boy pellet's. I got him when he was 4 inches long. He is now over 12 inches & wide!!! He is in a 125 by himself!!! These guys need a lot of space and clean water!!! I feed him.
    1. Hikari Cichlid Bio gold
    2. Hiakri Cichlid Excel
    3. Hikari Cichlid Staple
    4. Dainichi Cichlid XL Pro
    5. Dainichi Krill
  15. OP

    MarkBishopNew MemberMember

  16. Dawn Michele

    Dawn MicheleWell Known MemberMember

    Hello. They can carry bacterial infections & parasites.They don't have all the nutrients they need. That's just my opinion. I have a JD that would not eat pellets. All he would eat was frozen Brine Shrimp & Bloodworms. It took me about 2 months of working with him and he LOVES his pellets. He gets the other as a treat.
  17. JessicaSwanlake

    JessicaSwanlakeValued MemberMember

    In a followup to the good advice Dawn provided I will also add that wild Oscars eat far more insects and inverts than fish. The only fish they would have in their diet would be small amounts of already dead fish and maybe the occasional fry. If you really want to feed your Oscar live food I would recommend red wigglers/earthworms, crickets, and mealworms. I feed those to mine a few times a week and he LOVES them.
  18. OP

    MarkBishopNew MemberMember

    Thanks for the advice everyone! I will take it all under advisement.
  19. Coptapia

    CoptapiaWell Known MemberMember

    What @JessicaSwanlake said, plus frozen cocktail prawns, or whatever you call them. The small ones used for prawn cocktails and prawn sandwiches. Crustaceans are very similar in composition to insects, so it’s a good addition, along with a good pellet or two. I’ve raised many hundreds of Oscars and I’ve never found one that will fill up on flakes once they get bigger than a couple of inches. They only eat one or two.
Similar Threads
  1. WD66
  2. Bc62098
  3. Grady
  4. DougU
  5. Gamer