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Astronotus ocellatus is a species of fish from the cichlid family, originally described by Louis Agassiz in 1831, although he mistakenly classified it in the marine genus Lobotes. The largest of the new world cichlids, they can live 10-20 years and reach up to a maximum length of 45cm (18 inches) long, although they are most commonly found 25-30 cm (10-12 inches) in length and 1.6 kilograms (3.5 lb) in weight. A popular aquarium fish, Astronotus ocellatus has many common names, including oscar, tiger oscar, velvet cichlid, or marble cichlid, which reflect a number of bred ornamental varieties, including long-finned varieties and various color morphs. Oscars are native to the Amazon river basin, especially shallow, quiet floodplains and swamps. Native oscars usually show characteristic orange ringed, bilateral ocelli (eyespots) at the base of their tail which have been shown to dissuade predators and also function in sexual selection, as these fish are very visually oriented. Suction feeders, A. ocellatus are omnivorous, eating invertebrates such as flies, worms, crayfish, some small fish, fruit that falls into water, and large oscars will even eat small vertebrates, such as mice. Oscars are an esteemed food species in South America, although not commonly eaten elsewhere, as they grow too slowly for aquaculture. Escaped ornamentals and individuals purposely introduced into waterways have established wild populations in Asia, China and North America.

(Beeching, 1995; Froese 2011; Griffioen 1999; Nico and Fuller 2012; Robbins; Wikipedia 2012; Winemiller 1990)


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