In prior articles we have discussed an Oscar's Dietary Requirements, as well as identified commonly used Fish Food Ingredients Analysis. In this article we will discuss, specifically, my recommended foods for Oscars.
Recommend Pellet Food for Oscar Fish
This is a controversial subject as there are proponents of every brand of food on the market. However, this is my article so I get to identify my preferences.
My preferred Oscar pellet is Hikari Cichlid Bio-Gold. I select this pellet primarily because of the benefits and resulting effects of functional probiotics. Are there foods with a better ingredient list, absolutely? NLS ingredients are second to none. I don’t use New Life Spectrum as my primary Oscar pellet for two reasons. The first of which is the issue I have with what I call “NLS Dust”. Whenever I feed my Oscar NLS foods (of any size), I wind up with a coating of fine red powder that covers the substrate, sponge filters, mechanical filtration pads, and my biomedia. My primary fish keeping philosophy involves keeping organics as low as possible and this “NLS Dust” is in violation of this principle. As a result, it is not my preferred pellet food for Oscars. Aside from the “Dust” issue, NLS utilizes Ethoxyquin in many of their formulas and while the concentration of Ethoxyquin in NLS products is likely much lower than what has been proven to cause potential harm, I prefer a food that does not utilize this artificial preservative.
All of that said, I do not want to slight NLS products. NLS is an excellent food, one of the best on the market, it’s just not for me for the reasons I clarified above.
So, as stated previously, my primary Oscar fish food is Hikari Cichlid Bio-Gold Plus. While the ingredients are not quite as outstanding as many of the NLS formulas, they are perfectly acceptable and the added benefits of functional probiotics make up the difference. While NLS results in NLS Dust residue accumulating in the tank, use of Hikari Bio-Gold Plus actually reduces waste by as much as 50%. For clarity, my concerns about waste are less about esthetics and more about water quality and tank health. By limiting waste in the tank you are reducing heterotrophic bacteria colony sizes, some species of which can become pathogenic. Limiting waste also extends the life of your biomedia while reducing filter maintenance. When using Hikari Bio-Gold Plus, my monthly canister filter cleanings result in much less gunk being extracted from the filter. For some, this may allow increased time between cleanings. For me, it simply identifies lower levels of organics are accumulating in the filter (and tank) in between the monthly cleanings. And lower organics, in combination with a complete diet, are my goal.
Another benefit of Hikari Bio-Gold plus are the effects probiotics have on the fish’s poo. Diets heavy in prepared dried foods commonly result in constipation which, in the worst case can turn into complete blockage, subsequently causing death. If we are lucky, this only results in a prolapsed anus. However, the effects of Hikari probiotics on digestion and waste in the fish’s digestive system eliminate this concern. Solid wastes (poo) of fish fed Hikari Bio-Gold Plus will have an almost powdery consistency, easily expelled. And once expelled, the Hikari germ continues to work, further breaking down the waste, helping to achieve the overall waste reduction mentioned previously.
Aside from a reduction in waste, the most important aspect of functional probiotics is improved digestion. Using functional probiotics, the proteins included in fish foods, even those from non-preferred proteins, are better digested by the fish. Studies specifically on fish have identified use of probiotics even enables them to utilize otherwise useless starches for energy. The end result is the fish is better able utilize the nutrients included in the food. Absent probiotics, these otherwise indigestible starches (used as binders and alternative protein sources) would pass through the fish almost completely undigested, with a two fold impact. They become a food source for heterotrophic bacteria, something I am trying to limit, and they wind up as gunk in the substrate and filter media, contributing to overall organic levels.
Combine improved digestion with waste reduction, along with the reasons I’ve clarified I do not use NLS as my staple pellet, and you’ll understand why I do use Hikari Bio-Gold Plus. Other foods offer probiotics but the only one I've used where the desired results have been achieved is Hikari Bio-Gold Plus. This is likely due to known issues with probiotic bacteria remaining viable after packaging. Hikari seems to have deciphered the code where other vendors have had less success.
I’ve made it this far into discussing a staple pellet food for Oscars and have not even mentioned the most commonly discussed (or desired) “feature” of a food…. coloration. If seeking the most intensive coloration of your fish is your primary focus, NLS should be your selection. Obviously, this is not my primary concern or I would overlook the use of Ethoxyquin and the issues I have with NLS dust. While I find my fish’s coloration to be perfectly acceptable feeding Hikari Bio-Gold Plus as my primary pellet, especially when the diet is supplemented with frozen or freeze dried krill, it’s only fair to clarify that there is an obvious coloration enhancement in my Oscar whenever I switch to NLS as the primary pellet.
Other pellet/stick foods worthy of mention would include Dainichi Veggie Deluxe,HBH Oscar Show, HBH Super Soft Krill, HBH Super Soft Spirulina, Omega One Veggie Rounds, Zoo Med Spirulina 20 Sticks, and Aqueon Cichlid Pellets. While any of these would be perfectly acceptable as either supplemental or staple diets for an Oscar, none of them offer quite the same level of potential benefits as Hikari Bio-Gold Plus or NLS as a staple diet, so they are not amongst my preferred staple Oscar fish foods. Both Spirulina 20 and Omega One Veggie Rounds are a regular supplemental component of my Oscar’s diet (once or twice a week). Unmentioned, simply because I have not tried it, is Hikari Massivore Delite, which may very well be an improvement over Hikari Bio-Gold Plus.
Hikari Bio-Gold Plus accounts for 60% of my Oscar's diet, with Zoo Med Spirulina Sticks and Omega One Veggie Rounds accounting for another 10%. The remainder of my Oscar's diet consist of frozen and freeze dried foods.
As a generalized statement, I prefer to feed a floating pellet over a sinking pellet. The reason for this is I don't want my Oscar ingesting the substrate when inhaling food. This is a common cause of blockage in Oscars. That said, some of the foods I feed my Oscar are sinking foods, such as Omega One Veggie Rounds. When I feed these foods, I feed them one wafer or pellet at time, with my Oscar waiting on the release, so that it is caught and consumed on the way down. In the odd instance he misses it, one of the Silver Dollars will catch it, starting the Keystone Cop Frisbee Chase amongst the SDs. If one of these foods manages to reach the substrate, I retrieve it.
Recommended Frozen Foods For Oscar Fish
The only frozen food worthy of special consideration would be Frozen Krill. As a supplemental food, Frozen Krill is an excellent source of proteins, amino acids, omega 3 oils, and color enhancing carotenoids. Krill shells are perhaps the best natural source of astaxanthin, a color enhancing carotenoid.
Frozen Krill is a regular component of my Oscars diet, being feed a few times per week, sometimes a krill or two in conjunction with his pellet food and sometimes as the only food fed that day. If fed as the major component of the diet, the recommendation would be Hikari Bio-Pure Frozen Krill as Hikari Bio-Pure products are supplemented with vitamins, especially vitamin C, which is a necessity for Oscars. However, if fed, as I do, as a moderate component of the diet, with sufficient vitamins being provided by the staple pellets, my preference is San Francisco Brand Sally’s Frozen Krill as this product utilizes Antarctic krill (Euphausia superba), which is preferred over krill from the pacific ocean (Euphausia pacifica) due to it’s improved purity and color enhancing capabilities.
Another frozen food which I feed moderately (perhaps once per week or so) are frozen silversides. These frozen treats are high in fat so are not recommended as a staple diet. However, as a treat and supplemental food, they are perfectly acceptable. When feeding Silversides, I usually inject them with a fish vitamin such as Boyd's VitaChem or SeaChem Nourish.
Brine Shrimp, Mysis Shrimp, Bloodworms, and the like, can be fed to baby and juvenile Oscars but are not recommended for adult Oscars as they are simply too small.
Frozen Krill accounts for as much as 20% of my Oscar's diet. Silversides are restricted to at most, once per week.
Recommended Freeze Dried Foods For Oscar Fish
Much like frozen foods, the only freeze dried food worthy of special consideration would be freeze dried krill. I commonly feed freeze dried krill, usually using it instead of Frozen Krill either because I am out of Frozen Krill or I’m in too much of a hurry to thaw the frozen krill out before feeding.
If feeding as a staple component of the diet, I recommend soaking the krill in a fish vitamin such as Boyd’s VitaChem or SeaChem Nourish. If feeding as treat food, this is of less importance but remains a recommendation.
As for product of choice, my preference is Ken's Freeze Dried Krill Superba, due to its higher level of freshness and the fact that the krill are intact, not turned to dust, and of decent size for Oscars.
Another freeze dried treat worthy of use are freeze dried crickets, which can be found in the reptile section of any chain store or local fish store. I feed these irregularly, but they are a component of my Oscar's diet.
Other Recommended Foods for Oscar Fish
Frozen or fresh raw shrimp is an irregular but common treat for my Oscar. Some care, however, should be taken when feeding shrimp. Tiger Shrimp flesh is high in thiamine, which is the same chemical located in goldfish flesh that cause a vitamin B deficiency in our Oscars. So knowing the species of shrimp is important, avoiding Tiger Shrimp.
Very small shrimp can be fed whole, shell included. Shrimp shells (and krill shells for that matter) are excellent roughage, serving much the same role as fiber in our diets. Larger shrimp should be cut up into bite size pieces to prevent the inevitable mess that will result from feeding your Oscar shrimp pieces that are too large. Again, even when cutting up shrimp, there is no need to discard the shell.
I've never had an Oscar that would eat fruits and vegetables. I wish they would. If I could get my Oscar to eat oranges, bananas, melons, and green peas, they would be a substantial portion of their diet (20% plus). Oscars are true omnivores. They are equally capable of digesting plant matter and animal matter. Since fruits and veggies provide a better source of vitamins and minerals than any prepared dried product ever will, if your Oscar will eat them, by all means, feed them. Many people report success feeding their Oscars such foods. My recommendation is to try them and see if you get lucky.
Feeding Oscar Fish Live Foods
This subject was covered extensively in the Oscar Fish Diet document so I will not go into details here. Live foods fed to my Oscar are restricted to crickets, grasshoppers, and earthworms. I am not a proponent of feeding any type of fish, especially goldfish, and it has nothing to do with any type of cruelty concern. If I thought feeding my Oscar other fish would provide significant nutritional benefit he would be fed fish on a constant bases. The fact of the matter is that products I've mentioned previously are nutritionally superior and do not present the same risks. Please review the Oscar Fish Diet document for additional explanations.
During summer months, when grasshoppers, crickets, and worms are plentiful, they are a regular addition to my Oscars diet. Usually caught in the yard while working in the garden, or sometimes they make it into my house. Either way, they crossed the wrong person that day, if they get within my reach they will become Oscar fish food. Whenever I am at one of the local fish stores, I will usually purchase a few crickets to toss into my Oscar. I make no specific effort to go out of my way to procure these live foods for my Oscar, but when the opportunity presents itself, I take advantage of it.
It would be irresponsible of me to recommend feeding grasshoppers, crickets, and worms caught in your yard without warning you against the potential for these critters to introduce pesticides and other chemicals to your Oscar, that they may have been exposed to while crawling in the yard, or your neighbors yard. If there is any possibility that the grasshopper or worm you've caught may have been exposed to such chemicals, do not feed it to your fish.
During summer months, grasshoppers, crickets, and earthworms account for as much as 20% of my Oscars diet. Outside of gardening season, they account for a small percentage, perhaps fed once per month.
A quality pellet should account for at least 60% of your Oscar's diet, with a combination of frozen and freeze dried foods, primarily krill, and other supplemental foods such as raw shrimp, fruits, melons, and veggies (if they will eat them) accounting for the remainder. Live foods are an excellent supplement but not nutritionally sufficient as a primary component of the diet.
Supplemental dry foods high in veggie content, especially spirulina and kelp, are fantasitic additions to a staple pellet. In my case, they account for about 10% of my Oscar fish's diet.
To assist you with identification of a "quality pellet", please reference our "Fish Food Ingredients" document and menu (found on the front page, left side under the Articles menu. Any food identified as a 3 star or above can be considered a "quality" food.