The Natural Habitat of the Oscar Cichlid

Updated April 17, 2017

The Oscar Cichlid is part of the Astronotus Ocellatus species. It is a fish known by a number of different titles including oscar, velvet cichlid, tiger, and marble cichlid. The Oscar Cichlid lives in South America, in the Amazon River of Brazil and Peru. The Oscar Cichlid is also found in southern Florida; however, it is not native to this area of the United States. Zoologists released the oscar in this area where they began breeding. Most people are familiar with the Oscar Cichlid because it is a popular fish for home aquariums.


The Oscar Cichlid prefers slow moving, fresh water habitats. It protects itself by hiding under branches and trees that have sunk to the bottom of the river bed. The Oscar cannot tolerate cool water temperatures and will die if the temperature gets below 12.8 degrees Celsius or 12 degrees Celsius.


Oscar Cichlid’s eat slow moving fish in its natural habitat. The favourite foods of the Oscar are catfish such as Bunocephalus, insects, insect larvae, and crustaceans. The Oscar Cichlid captures its prey by using a suction method, often laying on its side to imitate death so its prey will move close enough to get caught in its suction. Vitamin C is an important need of the Oscar Cichlid in its natural habitat. Without enough of this vitamin, disease and death will occur.


Oscar Cichlids remain in heavily vegetated areas near the banks of the river for breeding and nesting. They tend to breed more frequently during rainy seasons. Oscars are very territorial during the spawning period and will fiercely defend their territory. The female Oscar lays from one thousand to three thousand eggs during spawning on a flat, clear substrate surface. The Oscar Cichlid eggs hatch within four days.

The female Oscar will protect the newborn fish in her mouth if a predator is nearby. The newly hatched Oscars grow quickly and will reach an adult size of up to two feet with an oval, stocky body, large eyes and head and a large mouth. The Oscar Cichlids reach sexual maturity in about one year and breed for about ten years.


Oscar Cichlids confuse their predators by changing their colour, similar to a chameleon, which naturally camouflages the Oscar, blending with the colours of the riverbed and vegetation. The Oscar Cichlid also has ocelli which are spots that resemble eyes on the dorsal fin and caudal peduncle. These false eyes deter nipping of the fins by attacking piranha. Oscars are normally slow fish but can swim very quickly for a short distance in an attempt to flee from a predator. The predators of the Oscar Cichlid found in its natural habitat include other large fish, invertebrates, reptiles, and large birds.


The Oscar Cichlid is caught in its natural habitat by fishermen who sell them to supermarkets and restaurants. The Oscars make excellent fish food when full grown.

Oscars are also captured in their natural habitat to use as aquarium fish. The Oscars are very popular tank fish and are a favourite of aquarists. The Oscar Cichlid is hardy, breeds well in captivity, and is easy to care for.

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About the Author

Karen Curley has more than 18 years experience in health and nutrition, specializing in healthy food choices for families. She received USDA certification in food components, nutrient sources, food groups and infant/child nutrition, and holds a B.A. in English from the University of Massachusetts. Curley is also an avid gardener, home renovator, Collie breeder, dog groomer and dog trainer.