Can Oscar Fish Get Depressed? {8 Reasons Why They Are Depressed}

Does your oscar fish have feelings? Are you convinced that your oscar fish is sad and wondering if other fishkeepers agree? Well, you’re right and we should find out what we can do to cheer up our oscar fish.

Can Oscar Fish Get Depressed? Yes. Scientific data backs it up for the entire species, but oscar fish in particular display feelings of sadness and frustration that can be observed as depression.

Promote a happy outcome for oscar fish with a lifetime of enrichment, nutrition and activity. 

Why Do Oscar Fish Get Sad?

An oscar fish can get pouty or frustrated which leads to sadness. Something is up and your oscar fish is enjoying it. Let’s look at 8 possible reasons.

  1. Bullying tankmates
  2. Aggression
  3. No objects to move around
  4. No plants to fuss with
  5. Not enough room
  6. Lack of stimulation
  7. Loneliness
  8. Illness

1. Are Oscar Fish Bullies?

Oscar fish are fine on their own or with suitable tankmates. They are not shy or timid most of the time and they can bully fish that are.

Try not to include shy or timid fish with oscar fish. Oscar fish can dominate and bully them. Fish that swim at the bottom of the tank would be perfect because oscar fish tend to dwell in the middle and top of your aquarium. They’ll avoid each other well.

We all know that bullies in our world tend to have emotions that are unchecked. An oscar fish may get depressed and bullying other fish could be the outcome of that.

2. Are Oscar Fish Depressed Because They Are Aggressive?

Aggressive tankmates may not take to getting bullied and some may defend themselves. Oscar fish can be attacked or chased around. Oscar fish are territorial fish and will get into encounters with tankmates that get close to their space.

Aggression leads to stress. Stress leads to sadness.

3. Are Oscar Fish Depressed Because They Are Bored?

Oscar Fish like to keep themselves busy in your tank. They will move around rocks and gravel. They could mess around your decorations and also pull out plants.

If they have nothing to do in the tank, they will get listless and bored. They may end up sluggish and lethargic. Add plants, rocks or spaces they can swim through. Allow them to redesign the tank a bit to keep themselves busy.

A busy oscar fish is not a depressed oscar fish.

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4. Will Plants Make Oscar Fish Happier?

Plants provide:

  • oxygen
  • nutrients
  • shelter
  • hiding places
  • things to tug and pull on


Health and nutrition is key in keeping happy oscar fish. Plants help oxygenate the tank to prevent your oscar fish from gasping for air or swimming to the surface too often.


Oscar fish are omnivores and the addition of plants in the aquarium will provide them the chance to nibble here and there for the benefit of their diet and as an activity. Snacking is also fun.


Shelter in plants creates a territory for your oscar fish to defend. They enjoy the task of defending as a job. The role keeps them focused with no time to be depressed.

Hiding Places

Oscar fish enjoy hiding or they do it out of stress. Either way, the safety blanket that plants may provide will give your oscar fish a chance for a break or a place to recover.

Things to Tug and Pull

Oscar fish decorate or dig up the substrate in their effort to spruce up their environment. They are routinely seen moving around rocks. If the plants are made of plastic or live, they might try to pull on them and possibly yank them out. It’s like an exercise which is a great tool to fight depression.

5. Is My Tank Too Small And Making My Oscar Fish Sad?

A small tank leaves the oscar stressed without anything to do. Consider a 75 gallon or larger tank for 1-3 oscar fish. Add things to do like decorations, cages or caves. Allow oscar fish to swim through plants or anything in their way so they can explore.

A small tank is limiting the curiosity and desire oscar fish to stay active and do stuff. We can decrease their stress and help with their brain stimulation with larger tanks filled with objects and plants. A larger tank provides more oxygen which also leads to more energy.

6. Are My Oscar Fish Suffering From Lack Of Stimulation?

Oscar fish are intelligent even when they look goofy moving rocks around. They have feelings and experience boredom. Give them something to tug at or push around and they’ll try it out.

A bored oscar fish could also cause damage to your tank.

  • They could go after the heating tubes, air pump or filter.
  • They could bully other fish. 
  • They could go on a hunger strike. 
  • They could hurt themselves.

We don’t want them to break anything, hurt other fish, stop eating or bang themselves against the walls of the tank. Stimulating oscar fish will go a long way to preventing depression.

7. Is My Oscar Fish Lonely?

Not really. You can keep one oscar fish and you should be fine. An oscar fish doesn’t need company, but wouldn’t mind tankmates if they don’t get in their way. They swim in the middle or top of the tank so a tankmate that swims on the bottom will be fine.

The oscar fish isn’t looking to make friends. They want something to do. If a mate or courtship allows them to keep their mind off boredom or depression, then it counts. Oscar fish can actually get lonely during mating season and if there is no mate. This is temporary as long you keep them busy in a large, decorated tank.

8. Is My Oscar Fish Depressed Because It’s Sick?

This is when our power of observing carefully as fishkeepers comes in handy. We know the telltale signs of illness on their bodies and in their behavior. If your oscar fish is sick they will demonstrate actions more obvious than being depressed.

Look for any discoloration, abrasions, wounds, spots or fin rot. Test the water quality and do regular water changes. Do all the things you do well and your oscar fish will thank you for it.

We hope the tips in this article will help cheer up your oscar fish!

Brian Arial

Brian Arial has kept fish for leisure and worked with fish stores for most of his life. He enjoys writing and caring for aquariums and ponds.