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Why Is My Oscar Fish’ Skin Peeling Off?

The popularity of keeping oscars is starting to increase again and although they are a great looking fish to keep, there can be a little more sensitive to some common beginner fish keeping mistakes that we see time and time again.

This will often result in a number of very worried fish keepers reaching out and asking for advice about whats wrong with their oscar.

One of the more common questions that we see month in, month out is about oscar fish skin peeling.

We know that this can worry a large number of people new to fish keeping but thankfully, the three main causes of it looking like the skin of your oscar fish is peeling off are generally very easy to treat in most situations, especially if you catch it early enough.

With so many people reaching out for help about their oscars skin looking like it is peeling off each month, we wanted to publish our own article on the subject.

Our hope is that we will be able to help as many of our readers as possible not only identify the specific cause of the issue in their oscar but also treat the problem as quickly, easily, and cheaply as possible.

Why Is My Oscar Fish’ Skin Peeling Off?

The three most common reasons that it may look like your oscars skin is peeling off is due to issues with nitrates and ammonia in its tank, ich, and velvet.

All three of these are generally easy to identify and treat with the majority of oscars making a full recovery within weeks of starting your treatment plan.

Please note, if you suspect that your oscars skin looks like it is peeling due to ich or velvet then you should probably look towards quarantining your oscar during treatment if possible as both conditions are easy to transfer between fish.

With both conditions, it is not actually the skin of your oscar peeling off either but the parasite husks moulting off your fish giving the appearance that its skin is peeling.

With the various sensitivities to nitrates and ammonia levels, there can actually be issues with your oscars scales and skin to cause it to bubble and potentially peel.

The longer these are left to develop, the more scaring your oscar will have and the harder it will be to treat but if you act quicky, you should still be able to treat the issue with minimal problems.

Problems With Nitrates And Ammonia!

If your ammonia and/or nitrate levels are too high in your oscars tank then it can be common for your oscar to have a number of issues with one being bubbling skin and scales.

Although the scaring can be permanent, your oscar can often make a full recovery and still live for many years once you normalise the ammonia and nitrate levels in its tank.

You will usually have to have a decent water test kit for $30-$40 to get accurate readings of all water parameters if the water parameters are so bad you can see skin peeling in your fish.

Sometimes you may be able to use a cheaper test kit but they usually only test for nitrate levels with the more expensive kits being the ones that will check ammonia.

Use the test kit to gauge the levels of nitrates and ammonia in your tank and then implement water changes as required in a safe manner.

Sometimes, especially when the water is so contaminated that there are visible issues in your fish you may have to change a large amount of the water but you often won’t be able to change high volumes in a single water change so you will have to space it out over a week or two.

Does Your Oscar Have Ich?

Ich really is the bane of fish keepers all over the world no matter their level of experience and it can be very easy to accidentally add ich to your tank.

A fish with ich can appear to have peeling skin when the ich husks from the parasites fall off your fish with the ich making it appear as if the skin of your oscar is worse than it actually is.

Thankfully, due to ich being such a common problem, there are plenty of cheap treatments on the market that can quickly and easily treat it with APIs Super Ich Cure usually being the best one that we recommend.

Simply follow the dosing instructions on the label relative to your tank size and apply the treatment as required. Within about a week or so it will look like the condition is getting much worse but it is just the empty parasite husks falling off your fish and is actually a sign that the ich is being treated correctly.

If possible, you can look to quarantine your oscar with ich away from your other fish to reduce the chances of it spreading throughout your tank but this will depend on if you have a spare tank large enough for an oscar available.

A number of people will try to treat the full tank though as ich can be very contagious and easily be taking hold on your other fish in your main communal aquarium if your oscar has it.

Could It Be Velvet?

Velvet is less common than other parasites but it can make it look like the skin of your oscar is peeling or sheeding off.

Similar to other parasites though, it is usually the husk of the parasites falling off the skin of your fish that makes it look like its skin is peeling rather than the actual skin but velvet can quicky cause permanent scaring.

You can usually treat velvet in your oscar with ease by using Cupramine with some people also restricting the light available to the tank until the treatment is complete as the velvet parasite requires lots of light.

Although some people on social media do say you are able to treat velvet by only restricting the light in the tank, this is very rare, especially if the parasite has developed to a stage where it looks like the skin of your fish is peeling off.

For the best results, you really should be using a specific treatment like Cupramine to treat the velvet as quickly as possible to also reduce the chances of long term scaring on your oscars skin.

Just like with ick, some people will quarantine a fish with velvet as soon as possible to prevent it from spreading to their other fish.


That brings our article going over why your oscar fish looks like its skin is peeling off to an end. We hope that we have been able to help you better understand the three main causes of this as well as how to identify and treat them correctly. It is usually much easier to treat than most people initially think and the majority of oscars with either of the three main causes should make a full recovery provided you implement a suitable treatment as soon as possible.