Oscar fish are considered to be very hardy. They’re beginner-friendly fish that will do well so long as you meet their basic needs.
Even so, Oscars can still die when things go wrong. If your fish seems out of sorts, you might be worried that it’s about to die.
Can you tell when a fish is on the verge of death? Are there signs that you should look out for?
Keep reading to learn about signs that an Oscar fish is dying. Being able to recognize these things might allow you to turn things around.
Even if it’s too late to save the fish, it’s good to know what to look out for. Once you’ve read everything, you’ll be much more prepared to deal with the situation.
How to Tell if Your Oscar Fish is Sick
You’ll find that Oscar fish won’t die for no reason. If your Oscar fish is relatively young, it’s not just going to drop dead.
It’s likely that the fish will get sick and this might cause it to die if you don’t do something. There are many signs that will tell you that a fish is sick in some way.
The information below will tell you that a fish is either sick, stressed, or dying. There are many signs that can indicate a fish is sick, but these signs could also simply mean that the fish is stressed.
In some cases, these signs could be an indication that the Oscar fish is dying. It just depends on what’s truly going on.
1 – Appetite Loss
Under normal circumstances, Oscar fish are rather gluttonous. They look forward to feeding time and will happily eat as much as you give them.
If your Oscar fish seems to have lost its appetite, that’s not a positive sign. It could mean that the fish is dying.
When fish are approaching death, they might stop eating. This is something that might mean that the fish will die rather soon.
It could also be a sign of something else entirely. Loss of appetite is a symptom of many different types of sicknesses.
Your fish could have a disease or it could be infected in some way. Look for other symptoms to try to determine if the fish is sick.
It’s also worth noting that water quality issues can sometimes cause fish to stop eating. If the water quality is poor, the fish might stop eating as much as usual.
You should do your best to maintain high water quality standards. Regularly test the water using a pH balance testing kit.
If anything is off, you can easily get the balance back to normal. Simply use chemicals to get the pH balance where it needs to be.
The pH balance for Oscar fish should be kept between 6.0 and 8.0. If you want things to be optimal, it’s best to keep the pH balance at 7.2.
Clean the fish tank on a consistent basis and do weekly water changes. Oscar fish are rather messy and you must have good tank maintenance habits to keep everything clean.
2 – Losing Color
It’s normal to see Oscar fish lose color when they’re stressed. However, this can also be a sign that the fish is close to death.
Does your Oscar fish appear to be losing color rapidly? If the fish is becoming pale, it could be a sign that it will die soon.
You shouldn’t jump to conclusions, though. Since color changing can occur for other reasons, it’s best to see if there’s something you can change.
When a fish loses color, it could be a sign of stress. Oscar fish can become stressed for many different reasons.
These fish also hate being put in fish tanks that are overcrowded with too many fish. You shouldn’t put your Oscars in such a situation.
Bullying can cause Oscars to become stressed. It’s imperative to avoid putting the Oscars in a tank with fish that will bully them.
Poor water conditions can cause stress, too. You learned about how imperative it is to take care of the fish tank earlier.
A sick fish can also start to grow pale. It’s possible that your fish might be sick in some way.
If the fish is sick, you might be able to turn things around. Try to determine what is wrong so you can take the appropriate action.
3 – Clamped Fins
Sometimes you might notice fish with clamped fins. Clamped fins aren’t necessarily a sign that an Oscar fish is dying, but it’s still not something you should ignore.
Generally, clamped fins should be seen as a sign of stress. It indicates that there is a problem in the tank.
In case you don’t understand what it means to have clamped fins, this is simply a term that means the fish is holding its fins flat against its body. When this happens, it could be a symptom of some type of disease.
It could also simply be related to stress. Fish might have clamped fins due to water quality issues.
Clamped fins are a common sign of parasitic infections. You should take action fast to determine what’s going on.
4 – Breathing Issues
Breathing issues can be a serious problem. If your fish is having problems breathing, it might be close to dying.
Does your Oscar fish appear to be gasping for air? While this could be a sign that the fish is dying, it could also mean that you need to make immediate changes to the fish tank.
You see, fish will normally struggle to breathe when the water conditions in the tank are really bad. Dirty water will throw the pH balance of the water off.
This causes the ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite levels to rise. High levels of ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite will make it incredibly difficult for the fish to breathe.
You could see the fish gasping for air at the surface of the tank. It could also just hang out at the bottom of the tank while breathing in a distressed fashion.
It’s likely that you’ll need to clean the tank and resolve issues with the pH balance. Water changes will be necessary and you’ll want to act fast to keep the fish from dying.
If you ignore the problems with the water, the fish will eventually die due to oxygen deprivation. You don’t want that and it should be something that you can prevent by being a proactive fish owner.
Simply do a better job maintaining the tank. Keep the water quality in the right range and remember to consistently clean the tank so these issues won’t pop up again.
5 – Abnormal Behavior
Often, when Oscars are on the verge of death, they’re going to start acting strange. You might notice abnormal behavior that will show you that something isn’t right.
For instance, your Oscar fish might be listless. It could start swimming in unusual ways in the tank.
Erratic swimming could be a sign that something is seriously wrong with the fish. If the fish is constantly swimming in unusual ways, it’s important to check the fish to see what’s going on.
It could be that the fish has some type of disease. Fish that have swim bladder disease are known to swim upside down and they might even swim in erratic circles.
Other problems can cause erratic swimming as well. Neurological issues, parasitic infections, and even issues with the water quality could be to blame.
Don’t ignore abnormal behavior. It could well be a sign that the fish is dying.
There are other types of strange behaviors to take note of. Below, you’ll learn about some of these behaviors.
6 – Constant Hiding
It’s fine for fish to hide sometimes. Oscars might choose to hide when they want to be alone.
However, it’s not normal for these fish to hide constantly. If your Oscar fish is hiding all the time, it could be that it’s dying.
Fish often try to stay away from other fish when they’re on the verge of death. If your Oscar fish is normally lively and it suddenly starts hiding all the time, it’s not a good sign.
Of course, Oscars will hide when they’re stressed. Sometimes these fish will even hide when they’re being bullied by other fish in the tank.
You might need to check to be sure that the fish in the tank are compatible with the Oscars. If you have Oscars in a community tank with fish that they aren’t compatible with, it might cause them to hide due to bullying issues.
7 – Flashing
Flashing is something that fish do when they’re feeling uncomfortable. If you’re not familiar with the term, it refers to fish rubbing against objects in the tank.
You’ll often notice fish flashing when they have diseases such as white spot disease. This is a type of parasitic infection that causes white spots to form all over the body.
It’s very uncomfortable for the fish and they try to rub against rocks and other objects in the tank to find relief. Some suspect that the rubbing is an attempt to get rid of the parasites.
If the fish has a disease like this, it could very well die if you don’t treat it. You need to take action right away to help the fish get better.
Thankfully, this condition is easily treated by giving the fish medication. There are many medications that are used to treat this parasitic infection.
Once the fish has been treated, it should make a full recovery. Of course, you’ll need to address problems in the fish tank that caused the fish to get infected in the first place.
This isn’t a problem that happens to Oscar fish unless the conditions in the tank are bad. It’s likely that the water quality isn’t good.
You’ll need to test the water and ensure that the pH balance is right. It’ll also be imperative to keep the tank clean and do better tank maintenance.
8 – Staying At the Bottom of the Tank
Sometimes Oscars will start staying at the bottom of the tank. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the fish is hiding.
When this occurs, it could mean several different things. It could be a sign that the fish is dying.
Sometimes when Oscars are approaching death they will stay at the bottom of the tank and stop moving. The fish might simply die if it’s in bad shape or if it has simply become too old.
Staying at the bottom of the tank could be a sign that the water temperature is off, too. When the temperature of the water gets too cold, fish will stay at the bottom of the tank.
This is done in an effort to conserve energy. Oscars don’t do well when the temperatures dip too far below the preferred temperature range.
A temperature that is too high can also cause these fish to stay at the bottom of the tank. This is because oxygen is more plentiful at the bottom of the tank.
You should check the temperature to see if anything is off. If necessary, you might need to buy a new heater or make adjustments to the settings.
Remember that Oscar fish like the temperature of the water to stay between 74 degrees Fahrenheit and 81 degrees Fahrenheit. You don’t want the water to get cooler or hotter than this.
Now you’ve learned about many signs that can show you that an Oscar fish is dying. These signs could also mean that the fish is sick or stressed.
If you catch these things fast enough, you can save the fish. Making necessary changes and treating the fish will allow you to get the fish healthy again.
Sometimes a fish might be too sick or too injured to survive. In this situation, you’ll simply have to endeavor to do a better job when caring for future fish.
Do your best to look out for your fish as an owner. Check on the fish often and pay attention to it.
If you see negative signs such as the ones listed above, you’ll need to take action. Do something to try to help the fish and hopefully it’ll get better under your care.
Jeff has always enjoyed having pets, but as a child, he was drawn to his family’s fish tank. Being able to maintain a small ecosystem and observe the behaviors and interactions in the underwater world peaked his interest early on and has kept him hooked until this day. On Avid Aquarist, Jeff shares everything he’s learned about helping aquatic life survive and thrive in a home aquarium.