How to Save a Dying Oscar? [2022]

You have a beautiful Oscar fish in your aquarium.

You think you’re doing everything right, but one day, your oscar fish starts swimming up and down near the top of his tank (the way they do when they are dying).

It stops eating and may start laying on the bottom of the tank or just floating around listlessly.

What would you do aside from just panicking?

How can you save a dying Oscar fish?

TBH, you may not know this. That’s why I’ll share early signs of your Oscar Fish dying.

Not just that, I’ll also guide you on how to save your dying oscar fish!

Here we go –

Is My Oscar Fish Dying? What are the Signs?

Loss or Decrease in Appetite

Mealworms as food and Buffaloworms as food

Oscar fish can be finicky eaters. They need to be fed 2 or 3 times a day and will often refuse to eat on the days in between.

When an Oscar fish’s appetite diminishes, try feeding it live worms, daphnia (a type of tiny crustacean), or brine shrimp.

If your Oscar fish is not eating even when these live foods are offered and it is behaving normally, it may be a sign that your oscar is sick.

Oscar Fish is Clamped

Clamping is a stress response often used by the fish to protect itself from predators or physical injury.

If you notice your Oscar’s gills clamped shut and it does not open them when you gently touch them, then it is likely experiencing some form of stress.

If your Oscar fish has been sick for a while and has just recently opened its fins again after a long period of being closed, then this might be normal behavior as they recover from their sickness/injury.

However, suppose this occurs during an outbreak of ich/white spots or other disease symptoms (such as clamped fins).

In that case, this could indicate that your Oscar may have contracted some sort of illness that may require veterinary care to help recover properly.

Oscar Fish has Trouble Swimming or Stays Around the Filter in the Aquarium.

If the Oscar fish you have is not moving around the aquarium and appears to be staying near the filter, it could be a sign that your fish is sick.

A healthy Oscar will swim fast in circles around your aquarium. If it is not swimming, something is likely wrong with it.

Fish is Lethargic, Lying on the Sand or Lying on the Bottom of the Tank

If your Oscar Fish is lethargic and lying on the bottom of the tank, sand, rocks, gravel, or substrate, this is a sign that it may be sick or dying.

When there’s too much movement in its tank—it could cause other problems in addition to stress-related ones, such as poor water quality due to high ammonia levels and nitrate poisoning, which can lead to diseases like fungus infections (white spot disease).

If you need help maintaining the water quality of your oscar fish tank, read these 6 Ways to Make Home Aquarium Water Safe for Fish.

White Cotton-like Growth on Your Oscar Fish

If you notice white cotton-like growth on your Oscar fish, it’s a sign of cotton wool disease. The cotton wool disease is caused by bacteria and can be fatal to your fish if left untreated.

This is a severe condition that requires immediate treatment by an experienced veterinarian to save the life of your pet.

If you see any signs of cotton wool growth, take them to a nearby pet care center.

Oscar is Breathing Fast or Gasping for Air

If your Oscar fish is breathing fast or gasping for air, this could be a sign that it is sick.

While it’s normal for an Oscar to breathe in and out quickly while hunting, they should not appear to be panting or on the verge of passing out.

If an Oscars’ gills are flapping wildly as if it was trying to breathe underwater, this could indicate a big problem.

If your Oscar fish has no other symptoms, such as swelling around its eyes or mouth, but you notice that it’s still breathing heavily and rapidly, try dipping the tank temperature down by 3-5 degrees (Fahrenheit).

This will help slow down their metabolism and reduce stress which can cause them to over breathe while hunting because they’re feeling stressed out by too much activity in their environment – including new Oscar tank mates/plants/decorations!

Oscar is Blind

If you’ve noticed that your Oscar fish has a red film over one or both of its eyes, it’s time to start treating the infection.

The red film is bacteria and could lead to blindness in Oscar Fish, so it’s essential to see a vet as soon as possible.

If your oscar fish has received some sort of injury, it can heal on its own unless they develop an infection in its eye.

If your fish has sustained an injury or is feeling stressed, you can set them on the road to recovery by performing palliative care using aquarium salt.

Note: When you notice an eye condition in your fish, never treat them at home without consulting a fish vet. Also, avoid adding eye drops into the eyes of your oscar fish as it’s a complete waste of time and resources.

Fins are Rotting Away or Dissolving

Fins are the fastest-growing part of a fish’s body; any physical damage can ultimately cause them to rot or dissolve.

Fins that are not damaged can be trimmed to make the fish look better, but this should be done with care as it can lead to infection or bleeding.

Change in Appearance of Oscar Fish

  • Change in color: The Oscar fish can change its colors to adapt to its surroundings. It may be sick if you see a lot of white dots on your fish.
  • Change in shape: A healthy Oscar will have a rounded body and be alert. If they’re lazy, have sunken eyes, are skinny, or have a sunken belly, it’s time to get them the care they need.
  • Change in size: This can also indicate illness; however, if you notice that your Oscar has grown since you got him/her without having been fed any extra food – this is normal!
  • Behavior changes: You should notice changes in how your Oscar behaves and how much he or she eats (or doesn’t eat). For example, if your Oscar fish usually swims around at night when everyone else is sleeping…but now sleeps all day instead. Something may not be right! Or if it usually swims around like crazy but now just lays on the bottom motionless, something could signal that something wrong is going on with them!

Oscar Fish is Swimming Erratically

If your Oscar fish swim in a way that differs from the norm, it may signify a cry for help.

If the fish is usually calm and peaceful but now seems to be swimming more erratically, it could have some sort of ailment.

Oscar Fish Flashing

If you notice your Oscar fish flashing against the fish tank accessories, this is a sign that they are not well.

Flashing occurs when an Oscar fish feels uncomfortable or stressed by something in its environment, such as being exposed to bright lights or noisy disturbances from other fish in the tank.

This may indicate something wrong with your Oscar’s health or home environment and should be investigated immediately.

Sluggish Behavior

If your Oscar fish is sluggish, it is a sign that something is wrong.

The fish should be swimming around the tank.

Something may be seriously wrong if your Oscar fish has been lethargic for over 2 weeks.

It could be because of stress or another reason.

Once you’ve detected these signs in your oscar fish, it’s time to save them from dying by taking some necessary steps. Here are a few steps you can take –

How to Save a Dying Oscar?

Rescue Oscar from the Tank, Clean His Body and Skin

You can save your fish by getting them out of their tank on time and cleaning it up.

First, remove Oscar from its home as gently as possible. You can use a wet towel to place them in a new and improved home.

P.S. Alternatively, you can use a fish transport bag if you’re not confident moving them using a wet towel.

Once moved, rinse any debris in their tank using water.

Next, use a soft brush or sponge to clean off excess slime from his skin and fins with lukewarm water (be careful not to cause any damage).

Now pat dry your Oscar before handling him again—if it’s wet when you put him back into his new home, it might overheat!

Give It Time to Rest, Check for Fungus or Signs of Infection

An Oscar fish gets infected with fungus in its mouth, fins, and open wound.

Once you’ve detected this, head to a nearby pet shop and buy a fungal remedy containing Phenoxyethanol.

If your entire fish tank is infected with fungus, move all your oscar tank mates to a temporary fish tank. Otherwise, move just the infected oscar fish and apply topical antifungal and antibacterial agents to the infected parts.

Tip: You can use Gentian Violet agent for this.

Always remember, fungus infection spreads in your oscar fish tank because of the following 4 reasons –

  1. Poor water quality.
  2. Poor Hygiene.
  3. Existing injury or disease.
  4. Decomposed organic material in excess.

So, after providing the basic fungus care to your oscar fish, you should do a 50% water change.

However, if you’re keeping your Oscars in the same tank, I don’t recommend changing the water when they undergo fungus treatment.

Once the treatment is done, you’re free to do everything you want.

Use Rid-Ich Medication

If you have an Oscar that has been sick for a while and not improving, you may want to try the Rid-Ich.

Rid-Ich is a parasite-killing medication that works in most cases. It can be purchased online or over the counter at pet stores and aquarium shops. To use it:

  • Put 1 drop of Rid-Ich in 2 gallons of tank water daily for 2 weeks (or until symptoms are evident).
  • Alternatively, if you have live plants in your tank (and no fish fry), add 2 drops per gallon instead of just 1 drop per gallon for 4 days (or until symptoms clear). This method is more effective with plants because they absorb parasites, so they don’t float around in your tank, causing harm to your fish!

Note – Be sure not to exceed recommended doses—this can cause serious side effects!

Put in the Some Aquarium Salt

Salt is a natural antiseptic and helps clean the wound.

It also removes toxins, kills the fungus, and prevents infection.

So, put some aquarium salt in your fish tank.

The more salt you put in your tank, the better your chances of saving your dying Oscar will be (but don’t go overboard).

The recommended quantity is 1 tablespoon (Tbsp) per 3 gallons of water.

Feed Starving Fish

While the fish are dying, you need to feed them a lot of food. You can do this with live foods like brine shrimp, mosquito larvae, and mealworms.

Do not give them flake or pellet food even if it says “for newborns.”

These are for healthy fish and will only cause more stress for your sick little guys!

Frequently Asked Questions


It’s heartbreaking to see your fish die.

But once you’ve done your part, there’s nothing else you can do!

In most cases, though, Oscars are tough enough to bounce back from even the worst conditions and live long lives with proper care.

I wish the same for your oscar fish.

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