Can Oscar Fish Choke on Food? Yes! Save Your Fish!

Last Updated on June 28, 2022 by cmoarz

Oscars are pretty big fish with pretty big mouths, And they love to pack in as much food as they can.

Sometimes they can get a little too enthusiastic and end up choking on their food. Luckily for them, it’s really rare that an oscar will choke to the point where he needs human intervention to save him.

Fish are really good at un-blocking their own throats, So here’s what you should do and what you shouldn’t do to help your oscar when he’s choking.

What not to do when your oscar fish is choking

One of the most important things you shouldn’t do when an oscar is trying to help it is by removing food from its mouth.

It may sound counterproductive, and it’s a natural reflex for humans to want to help by removing the obstruction, but in this case, it can do more harm than good.

As long as the fish is clearly breathing, fish are very adept at dealing with minor obstructions in their throats and will usually cough it up on their own.

So resist the urge to help and let your fish do its thing. Just sit back and watch for the inevitable feeder fish getting expelled across the tank, it’s pretty entertaining.

There are some points in which you may need to intervene, and we will touch on that next.

Important note: Be sure your oscar is really choking and not just slowly eating his food. Oscars are known to chomp for a while before swallowing their food. If you’re unsure, observe your fish for a while to see if he’s actually choking or just taking his time.

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When you should act to help your oscar remove the blockage

If there is any chance the food is stuck in your oscar’s gills, then you need to take action. If the food is blocking the gills, your oscar will not be able to breathe and will eventually suffocate and die.

Oscars aren’t easy to catch, so the best way to remove the food is by using a pair of long, thin tweezers or forceps.

Carefully reach in and try to grab the blockage. It’s important to be as gentle as possible so you don’t damage the gills.

Once you have a good grip on the blockage, slowly and carefully remove it from the mouth area (not the gills) and gently pull it out or giggle it around a bit and let the oscar do the rest.

If you can’t get a good grip on the blockage or if you’re not comfortable reaching in with forceps, you can try to use a small net to scoop your oscar out of the water.

Be very careful as you do this so you don’t damage the gills or scales.

Once you have your oscar out of the water, you can reach in with forceps and try to pull the blockage out of his mouth and gills.

You want to try and get the food out of the mouth and not from out of the gills.

If you’re not comfortable doing this yourself, you can always take your oscar to a vet or fish store and they will be able to help, assuming he is still able to breathe somewhat.

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Types of foods Oscar fish can choke on

Depending on don’t the size of your oscar, just about all common foods can be choked on. Pellets, carrots, feeder goldfish, shrimp, you name it.

The only food that poses a very low risk of choking is live food as long as the live food is not bigger than the oscar’s mouth.

For example, an adult oscar’s mouth is big enough to comfortably eat an adult guppy fish, so feeding your oscar a live guppy fish poses a very low risk of him choking on it (Although Oscars need a pellet diet to get everything they need).

But if you have a baby oscar, feeding him live food is much riskier because the baby oscar’s mouth is not big enough to accommodate most live feeder fish.

Especially designed pellets are best for smaller baby Oscars.

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Preventing an oscar from choking on his food in the first place

While you can never completely prevent an oscar from choking on his food given how pig-like and sloppy they are when it comes to eating, there are some things you can do to minimize the risk.

The first thing is to pay attention to the size of the food you’re feeding him. If the food is too big, he will have a hard time swallowing it and may choke on it.

Cut large pieces of food into smaller, bite-sized pieces.

If you feed your oscar feeder fish, It should be appropriately sized for your Oscar’s mouth.

Likewise, Pellets come in a variety of sizes for Oscars, and you should buy the size that is appropriate for your oscar’s mouth.

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Why is my oscar spitting his food out, Is he choking?

Oscars are sloppy eaters and an understatement to compare them with pigs. If there’s too much food in the tank at once, they will spit out their original food to try and get the new food.

Oscars also just tend to be messy eaters in general and will spit out some of their food as they’re eating.

If food is too big, an oscar will continually spit it out and eat it again until it’s able to swallow it.

It may look like he’s choking, but he’s not. He’s just being a messy eater.

As long as your oscar is able to breathe normally and is acting normally otherwise, there is no cause for concern.


Owner of and also owner of actual Aquarium Gravel believe it or not! ;). Setting up beautiful aquarium sceneries and habitats since I was very young. Enjoy!