Otocinclus Catfish: Care, Food, Size & Algae Eating and more

These fish are among the best algae eaters in the world. It is their natural food that makes them very easy to feed. They are also easy to care for, making them ideal for beginners.

They are peaceful creatures and can be placed in a variety of freshwater community aquariums.

This article will help you understand why these fish are so popular, covering everything from the ideal tank setup to breeding, and much more….

If the otocinclus has caught your attention… Keep reading this article! 

Care Level:Easy
Color Form:Various, most have a brown stripe down their body
Lifespan:3-5 years
Size:1-2 inches
Minimum Tank Size:10 gallons
Tank Set-Up:Freshwater- sandy substrate with caves
Compatibility:Peaceful community aquariums

Otocinclus is a genus of freshwater catfish in the family Loricariidae. There are about 19 species of Otocinclus are of different sizes, patterns and colors. They are often called “Otos”.

They are native to South America, mainly from the northern rivers of Argentina and Venezuela. Unusually for South American tropical fish, they are not found in the large Amazon River that runs through the continent.

Most fish are added to an aquarium for their appearance, but Otos serve an additional purpose: they are great for removing algae..

If the algae are getting out of control in your aquarium, these fish will do wonders and quickly eat the algae..

They are ideal for beginners although somewhat delicate with nitrates.

It does not take much experience to care for them, as they are an undemanding group, tolerating a variety of conditions. If you can keep your aquarium in good condition, most species will live 3-5 years..

Otocinclus are bottom-living fish, so they are elusive when it comes to finding them.

How to feed Otocinclus?

These fish are herbivores, which restricts what can be given to them.

They mostly eat algae, which is what they would normally eat in nature. Although they eat algae, you also have to add other foods. Algae will be depleted quickly if a large group of Otos is maintained.

You can buy seaweed pills in stores that will disappear in a few hours. Add one every other day.

You can also use vegetables that you also eat.

Green vegetables are the best, such as lettuce, spinach, and zucchini. Cut one or two small pieces and drop them into the tank a couple of times a week, making sure they sink to the bottom of the aquarium. After 24 hours, remove any pieces that have not been eaten. It is best to prick them on a stick for barbecues and thus they will be easier to place and recover.

Just be careful not to overfeed your Otocinclus. It is important to monitor the levels of algae in the tank and use this to decide how much supplemental food to give.

Behavior of Otocinclus

Hedges are small, peaceful fish that try to stay out of the way of other aquarium inhabitants.

They could easily be caught by larger fish, so they are skittish by nature. You’ll see them running through the aquarium when they get scared. They can move very fast, which doesn’t help when it comes to catching them with the net.

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Much of its life is spent at the bottom of the tank and on the surfaces of aquarium decorations, plants and crystals. If there is no algae, they will move to a new surface.

Schools of otocinclus tend to stay together,grazing in the same areas. When a group hooks onto aquarium crystals, you’ll get an interesting view of their bottom, revealing how they use their mouths to grip themselves firmly.

Appearance of Otocinclus

These catfish are ideal for small aquariums of 40 liters, because adults rarely exceed 5 centimeters. The smallest species (Otocinclus tapirape) only grows to be 2.5 cm long. The largest species is Otocinclus flexilis, which reaches 5.5 centimeters.

Its body is of simple cylindrical shape that narrows from the head to the caudal fin. On the head it has a strong mouth that is used to hook to surfaces.

Those of the family Loricariidae are different from many other groups of catfish due to the armor rows they have on their body. This helps protect them from the most nervous fish and thick substrates.

They have a limited ability to breathe air. A tube between the esophagus and stomach forms a hollow area that allows them to breathe it.

It can be difficult to sex the Otocinclus as they are quite similar; females are generally larger and wider. It differs best when looking from above or below.

As for colors and patterns, one species can look very different from another. Here are some of the most popular species for aquariums:

  • Common Otocinclus (Otocinclus vittatus)

This species has one of the most widespread distributions in allof South America, including the Amazon River.

The upper part of its body is mottled brown, the lower parts are white. A brown stripe runs along its side from the head to the caudal fin. The rest of the fins are almost transparent.

  • Otocinclus Gold “golden” (Otocinclus affinis)

These are fish similar to the common Otocinclus,and are often misidentected. Brown colors are less distinctive and may be more like the golden color; hence its name.

  • Otocinclus Zebra (Otocinclus Cocama)

When a fish has a name that includes the word “zebra,” you can usually guess the pattern all over its body. This fish is no different.

Zebra Otos have black and white vertical stripes that run from just behind the head to the caudal fin. Horizontal stripes extend along the head. The rays of some individuals are not so straight, so these fish are also called Tiger Hedges.

  • Dwarf Oto (Otocinclus macrospilus)

This is another species that resembles the Common Oto.

However, there is an easier way to identify it. Although it has the same dark stripe all over the body, the caudal fin has a different design. The lateral stripe stops, or becomes pale, before the caudal fin. On the tail it has a large spot.

  • Silver Otocinclus (Otocinclus vestitus)

Although they share the same lateral stripe as many of the other species, the brown colors are closer to the silversides, as their nickname suggests.

Otocinclus Care

Conditions in the habitat and aquarium of the Otocinclus

This group is found mainly in small streams or shallow rivers throughout South America, areas that are ideal for the appearance of algae. Here they adhere to the substrate or rocks in search of algae.

Warm waters are slow but well oxygenated,the pH is generally neutral. Under the water there is a soft and sandy substrate. In the substrate there are stones, wood and anything else that moves with water.

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There are a few plants around, but not many. They have access to plenty of light and penetrate through the shallow water.

Many of the aquarium’s popular fish come from the rivers of South America, so the configuration of the Otocinclus is very similar to that of other freshwater species.

Aquarium configuration for otocinclus

They are bottom-dwelling fish, so it is crucial to correctly set up the lower levels of the aquarium. Choose a fine-grained sandy substrate; thicker pimples can scratch your body and cause health problems.

Choose some decorations and spread them throughout the substrate. Rocks can be used to create caves (these will be used as shelter when your Otos are stressed).

Plants (such as Staurogyne repens) can be used to provide more shelter. They also provide more surfaces for algae growth. Although they are vegetarians, the Otos eat the algae instead of eating your plants.

The water in the aquarium should be in perfect condition, with levels of ammonia and nitrite should be kept at 0ppm. Water changes every 1-2 weeks will help keep them at zero. The temperature should be 22-26°C and the pH should be as neutral as possible (between 6.8-7.5). Soft water is ideal, no more than 15dH.

No special equipment is needed for the movement of water. Standard aquarium lights are also valid for them to be at ease.

Aquarium size for the Otocinclus

Oocinclus are small fish, so they will be comfortable in medium-sized aquariums. A 40-liter urn is suitable for a small group of 4 to 6 Otocinclus.

You can keep adding more fish to your group, but every time you add one you will need 8 more liters of water.

The compatibilities of Otocinclus with other fish

Hedges are small and peaceful,so they won’t be a problem for any of your other fish, which means there are plenty of potential aquarium mates for them.

However, their small size makes them an easy target, so it is necessary to avoid mixing them with large or aggressive fish. This means that many cichlids are not a good choice. An Oscar could hunt and kill an Otocinclus with ease. A general rule of general rule is to stay away from species with an aggressive reputation or a mouth large enough to eat an entire Otocinclus.

This still leaves plenty of species to choose from. Some of the most popular fish options include angelfish, cherry baebos, Corydoras, Danios, Gouramis, Guppies, Harlequin Rasboras, Mollies, Tetras, and zebrafish.

You also have the option to join them with invertebrates. Shrimp and snails are popular aquarium companions for their different appearances and behaviors and will also help the cleaning of the aquarium.

The Otocinclus as we have already mentioned are social creatures that must be kept in groups of at least four individuals. The larger the group, the better – just make sure the aquarium is big enough.

Guide to the Otocinclus

A healthy aquarium usually means that you will have a healthy Otocinclus, but they can be fragile fish. Sometimes individuals can die soon after being introduced into a new aquarium, even if they look healthy, you have made a good adaptation to the water and the aquarium conditions are perfect. But most will adapt well.

Algae are seen as a problem that needs to be eradicated but removing all algae from your aquarium would take away their main food source. So, when cleaning the tank, make water changes to reduce contaminants, but don’t completely clean all the algae you see.

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This fish is not prone to any particular disease, but they can suffer from some parasite and fungal problems that are common among freshwater fish, such as Ich.

By observing your fish, you can quickly detect the disease. Loss of appetite, inactivity, and increased respiratory rate are signs of illness. Watch for color changes, spots, and wounds as well.

The two most common causes of disease are:

  • Dirty aquarium.
  • A poor diet.

When you detect a disease, check that the parameters of the tank are where they should be. This includes temperature, pH, ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. You can then set the parameters that have been modified.

Also think about what you feed your fish. Eliminate any food that is not nutritious from your natural diet. Sometimes, changing diet slightly returns the appetite to the fish.

It is better to quarantine sick individuals in a separate aquarium to protect the rest of your fish.

Reproduction Otocinclus

These are not the easiest fish to breed in captivity, but they can be achieved. It all depends on how selective your fish is, you’ll need to get lucky.

Conditions should be perfect, which means that the aquarium should be clean and have a balanced diet.

Raising the temperature of the water a little helps them to make layings; however, do not exceed 26°C. In nature, rising temperatures would be a natural signal to mate.

When they are ready to mate, the males will chase the females around the aquarium. The males then fertilize the eggs of the females, which are deposited in small clusters on the surfaces around the aquarium.

After a couple of days,the fry will go swimming. They will feed on the algae and bacteria around the tank. It won’t be long until they can eat the same foods as adults.

Is Otocinclus right for your aquarium? “SUMMARY”

If you have an aquarium of small freshwater fish, the Otos will normally have no problems.

Of course, the conditions of the aquarium must also be suitable,but this group enjoys the same conditions as many other freshwater fish.

They are easy to care for so that people of all experience levels can take care of them, it is unlikely that you will make many mistakes with such an undemanding fish.

If you end up getting some of these fish, you’ll get a cleaner aquarium and a social group of bottom dwellers.