My Oscars are giving off some impressive displays. I can't tell who's a female and who's a male, but it is a beautiful sight. Usually...One of them is a little older, but was taken from a 30 gal., which I believe has stunted it's growth somewhat. The next one I purchased at about 3 months of age, doubled in size, outgrowing the 5 month old oscar in NO TIME! Because it grew so quickly I made the assumption that is was male(although we call it "Luna"). But since these two paired up-(they liked each other immediately, but the past 6-8 weeks their relationship matured!) I've been thrown off. Everything ol' mother nature has taught me points to the smaller one (named Chili) being male. Chile ALWAYS initiated the displays. Usually it is a very soft, gentle "dance" they do. Very graceful, often synchronized and even gymnastic. At times though it gets violent, with Chili being the aggressor. This definitely screams male to me. He'll go from a submissive side-lying position on the bottom of the tank, to a no holds barred, to a "big faced" monster who just mashes Luna into the walls. Luna rarely tries to evade these attacks which screams female to me. I don't mind the splashing and puddles, but Luna sometimes gets pretty banged up.
I don't know much about how to sex them. The africans I am used to are much more obvious about it! I am not interested in breeding as their buddy is an african cichlid that they actually missed when I tried giving him a new home (he killed his mate and is the biggest bully I've ever seen! The oscars are the only ones who've survived him, and they are nervous and shy without him around). I think that if they did manage to breed that the tankmates woul eat them all up before they even became real fishies.
I highly doubt that these displays are for pecking order establishment because they have never challenged the others role in the community. And once Chili finishes beating Luna, they'll go back to caressing and even "snuggling" each other at night. This is something I never saw happen among the males in my african communities, no matter how well they got along, boys just don't snuggle!
My only concern it their mental well being. Basically, I once had adopted a cat who had been going into heat for years, she was literally always in heat because she was never impregnated. When I "fixed" her, she retained a lot of those strange habits she displayed before, and goes into a false heat 2x yearly. Is it going to weardown their psyches like it did this strange cat, because they aren't actually reproducing? Will they start to strike out against their tankmates? They don't notice the tin foil barbs, but they'd be an easy target for misplaced aggression. And of course, the african cichlid who bullies everyone- they are more than big enough to eat him, but for now they respect and almost fear him. I would rather cause the separation anxiety than have them kill the guy!
Also, since their behavior is (to me) so obviously reproductive, or at least flirting at it, are there any physical changes that might become obvious? I occasionally try to look at their genitals, but it's hard because they always want to be face-to-face with me. The glimpses I've gotten don't reveal a thing to me. No where as easy to sex as the rodents reptiles and crustaceans I've bred!! Any light anyone could shed on a first-time oscar owner would be appreciated!! I don't want my little guys going crazy or maiming each other just because they want babies! I really don't have the space to permanantly separate everyone...