Tiger Oscar Origins and Profile

Written by Kmuda. Posted in About Oscars

Tiger Oscars are a color variety of the Oscar Cichlid (Astronotus Ocellatus). Actual origins of the Tiger Oscar remain somewhat of a mystery with some information that suggests they were based from a naturally occurring color variety originally (incorrectly) classified (in 1904) as a separate species (Astronotus Ocellatus Zebra), a classification which is now obsolete. We know now, through additional DNA studies from 1986, that fish originally identified as Astronotus Ocellatus Zebra are actually Astronotus Crassipinnis (the second Oscar species). There is no viable evidence that these fish have any relation to the origins of the Tiger Oscar.

Astronotus Crassipinnis

Tiger Oscar Origins

Additional “evidence” that the original Tiger Oscars may be based upon a naturally occurring color variety stem from photographs taken by Dr. Herbert R. Axelrod in the early 1960s, of wild caught fish (then classified by Axelrod as Astronotus Ocellatus Zebra), which identify a fish with a resemblance to the Red Tiger Oscar. But the Tiger Oscar did not start appearing for sale to aquarium enthusiasts until the early 1970s.

Common Oscars have been available to hobbyist for well over 100 years. Aside from the Common Oscar (aka Wild Type Oscar), the first color variety generally available to hobbyists was the Red Oscar. The Red Oscar was developed by a Thai Businessman named Charoen Pattabonge, first becoming available to aquarists in 1969. It is the predominately accepted belief that Tiger Oscars are a subsequently fixed color strain, crossing the Red Oscar back to selected Common Oscars, which would fit with their availability dating to the early 1970s (a few years after the Red Oscar).

Left: Red Oscar – Right, Wild Caught Oscar

Red Oscar wildoscar

If you take the above two fish, mix them together, then it seems perfectly reasonable you wind up with fish identified in the below photograph. A Tiger Oscar is a Common Oscar were the olive drab green coloration of the body has been replaced with mostly Red, inherited from the Red Oscar.


Regardless of the origins, Asian breeders have turned the appearance of the Tiger Oscar into something far removed from any wild brethren, achieving amazing coloration and patterns never achieved by nature.

Tiger Oscar Profile 

Scientific Name:Astronotus ocellatus (invalid/outdated synonyms: Lobotes ocellatus,  Cychla rubroocellata, Acara compressus, Acara hyposticta, Astronotus ocellatus zebra, and Astronotus orbiculatus)

Common Name: Tiger Oscar

Size: 12" is common, larger have been known to occur in aquariums

Origin: Tiger Oscars are not found in the wild. Their parent fish, the wild Oscar is natively found in South America - Amazon and Orinoco River Basins - Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, French Guiana, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela, as well as non-native populations becoming established in Florida, various Caribian islands, Australia, and likely elsewhere in the tropics.

PH: Unless you are keeping wild caught Oscars, and there are no wild caught Tiger Oscars, pH is virtually irrelevant. What is important is a stable pH. People keep Oscars in a pH from 6 to in excess of 8. I think the idea pH would be neutral to slightly acidic but there is absolutely no need to attempt to adjust pH.

Food Items:In the wild, an Oscars diet consist primarily of insects and crustaceans. In captivity, a commercially available quality pellet should be the primary staple of their diet. For an in-depth review of an Oscar's dietary requirements and suggested feeding practices, please review Oscar Fish Diet – Feeding Oscars.

Longevity: In captivity, far too many Tiger Oscars die within 3-5 years. For a fish that should live a decade or more, this is a shame. A result of poor husbandry and bad diet. Owning a Tiger Oscar is a long term commitment not to be taken lightly. If the idea of weekly water changes does not appeal to you, you don't need to own an Oscar.

Aggression: By large cichlid standards, Oscars are mildly aggressive. People often make the mistake of assuming Oscars are as aggressive as their New World Cichlid brethren, such as Green Terrors, Red Terrors, Jack Dempsey's, etc... They are not. When housed with these more aggressive fish they generally are on the lower end of the cichlid pecking order. When it comes to housing a pair of Oscars, your best chance of success would be with two females. When young, you may be able to keep two males or a male + female but when sexual maturity sets in, hang on. Two males, no way. There is going to be a war and one of two, if not both, will be killed. A male and female can coexist provided neither detects a weakness in the other and/or both decide to spawn at the same time.

Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallons, per Oscar.

Tiger Oscar Care

Tiger Oscars are simply a color variety of the Oscar Cichlid (Astronotus Ocellatus). All information in the article database applies to all Oscars, including the Tiger Oscar. So feel free to read other articles in the database as well as participate in our forum. A good staring place is the New Oscar Owner Information Packet.

Tiger Oscar Photos

Just a few photo's from our members.


Tiger Oscar

Photo Courtesy of Ahab's Foot


Tiger Oscar

Photo Courtesy of HereFishyFishyFishy


Tiger Oscar

Photo Courtesy of lifesk8r4


Tiger Oscar

Photo Courtesy of lifesk8r4


Tiger Oscar

Photo Courtesy of Tom


For additional Tiger Oscar Photos, review our Gallery Keyword Album