Otocinclus Catfish – Care, Tank Size, Breeding & Details!

TankOtocinclus Catfish are also known as Dwarf Suckers or Oto Catfish. To maintain the cleanliness of the aquatic environment for a long time, experts advise you to get Otocinclus Catfish, which eat algae formed on stones, decorative elements, and the walls of the tank.They are great algae eaters.

Quick Stats

Scientific Name: Macrotocinclus Affinis, Otocinclus Affinis
Common Name: Oto, Oto catfish, otto cat, dwarf suckermouth, dwarf oto, dwarf Sucker
Tank Size: 100 liters (26,42 gallons) and more
Temperament: Peaceful
Diet: Omnivorous bottom feeder
Temperature: 22-28 C (71,6-82,4 F)
pH: 6.5-7.5
Care Level: Easy
Color Form: Various, most have a brown stripe down their body
Lifespan: 3-5 years
Size: 1-2 inches
Family: Loricariidae
Tank Set-Up: Freshwater- sandy substrate with caves
Compatibility: Peaceful community aquariums

Natural Habitat

The homeland of Otocinclus Catfish is considered Argentina and Venezuela. Some varieties of fish boast Brazil, Paraguay, and Peru.

Otocinclus Catfish inhabits small streams and clean rivers with a weak current, where they eat algae and fouling at the bottom of watercourses.

Typically, Catfish can be seen off the coast, where they hide in small-leaved plants. Using suction cups, they cling to broad-leaved thickets, stones, and other underwater objects. They are also found in open water, swimming in shoals of many thousands over sandy areas with structures such as a  branches or leaf pack.

Otocinclus Catfish live in packs that can be as big as several thousand individuals. Flocks feed in the shallow sand, where there are many plants and snags. These Catfish feed on periphyton and algae.

Description of Otocinclus Catfish

Otocinclus Catfish acts as a striking example of an aquarium cleaner. The length of his body is 5-5.5 cm. The shape of the body of the fish is similar to a spindle. Otocinclus is also called Dwarf Suckers or Oto Catfish.

These cleaner fishes have an interesting color. Their side plates have a gray-yellow hue, and the back is covered in dark color. The vulnerable abdomen of gray-milk coloration is devoid of platelets.

Along the body from the sides, there is a dark strip, passing at the tail into a spot, which may differ in different species in shape and size. Small fins are characterized by transparency.

An interesting feature of Otocinclus is intestinal respiration. Catfish have an air bubble, with the help of which they inflate their esophagus and float to the surface. With a lack of gill breathing, the catfish often swims on top of the water to breathe.

Even beginners can determine the gender of these cleaning fish. It is enough to look at the fish from above, the males are small in size and elegant in shape, and the females are larger, wider, and rounded.

Deciding on the gender of aquarium pets is quite easy, but experts recommend keeping a flock if you plan to breed Otocinclus.

Little cleaners try to stay in the thickets, on the walls of the aquarium, and on the stones on which they scrape off various fouling with the help of their mouth-suction cups. Catfish have small teeth, so they do not damage the plants.

Varieties of Otocinclus Catfish

There are about 18 species of Otocinclus Catfish, but only a few of them are purchased for the aquarium. There are very few differences between the varieties of Otocinclus. They differ only in small deviations in color and size.

Most often, aquarists choose the following types of Otocinclus Catfish:

1- Otocinclus Affinis: Aquarists acquire these cleaners quite often. The body of catfish reaches a length of 3-4 cm. This species has a silvery-yellowish color and the presence of a brown stripe on its sides. On the gray-beige back, there is a brown speck and light marble spots. Transparent fins cast a greenish tint.

2- Speckled Catfish or Otocinclus Flexilis: Catfish have an olive-gray or gray-yellow color on their body. On the back, there are numerous spots of dark color. The fish has intermittent side stripes.

3- Otocinclus Arnoldi: Inexperienced aquarists often confuse this species with Affinis. Arnoldi is distinguished by spots of a dark brown hue.

4- Dwarf Oto: Individuals of the smallest species grow no more than 2 cm in length. Acquire them only for small tanks.

All types of Otocinclus Catfish get along well in an aquarium and are able to cleanse the aquatic environment well.

Although there is a clear species classification of these catfish, it will be difficult for a newcomer to decide on the choice of a future pet. Professionals recommend acquiring catfish varieties of Affinis. You can buy fish in any specialized store.

Aquarium Conditions For Otocinclus Catfish

Recommendations for Otocinclus Catfish:

  1. Since catfish live in packs, they need a large aquarium with a volume of 70 liters or more. Such conditions are acceptable for a group of 6-8 fish. It is best to choose containers of a rectangular shape, which have a wide bottom.
  2. The water temperature maintained by the heater must be between +22 ° C and +28 ° C. With increased rates, fish can get sick and even die, so you need to regularly check the temperature regime.
  3. Otocinclus Catfish prefers to live in dim light, which is easy to organize with a fluorescent lamp.
  4. It will be necessary to take care of good aeration and water filtration. Avoid the negative reaction of underwater inhabitants to dirt and stagnant water using mechanical filters and aerators, which provide a slow flow.

Some people think that Otocinclus are able to maintain the purity of the entire aquatic environment on their own, but this is not so.

Otocinclus Catfish Tank Mates

Otocinclus Catfish are shy, but they are quite friendly to most other aquarium inhabitants. In the daytime, they hide among the thickets and behind stones, and in the evening they begin to actively clean their homes. When catfish feel danger, they swiftly float away to shelters.

Good Tank Mates for Otocinclus Catfish are Serpae Tetra, Glowlight Tetra, Black Skirt Tetra, Dwarf Gourami, Betta Fish, Angelfish, Cherry Barb, Corydoras Catfish, Danios, GuppiesHarlequin Rasbora, Mollies, Tetras, and Zebra Loaches.

You should avoid keeping them with large cichlids like Flowerhorn fish, Green Terror, or Oscar fish.

Catfish Diet

Otocinclus Catfish constantly collects food for themselves with the help of their oral sucker. The cleaners feed on microalgae and zooplankton so the tank should not be cleaned with chemicals that might kill small organisms.

Since there is not enough necessary food for catfish in a container with renewed water, additional feeding is necessary for them.

Fish can be fed with vegetable slices and bread. Especially catfish love cucumbers, zucchini, and spinach. These vegetables must be soaked well and cleaned before feeding the fishes. Otocinclus Catfish will eat dry vegetable feed with pleasure. The fishes must be fed with protein-rich food during the spawning season.

Reproduction and Care of Fry

For breeding Otocinclus Catfish, it is necessary to create suitable conditions. Therefore, the aquarist will have to acquire a spawn tank and the volume of it should be at least 30 liters.

The tank must have thickets and moss. Experts advise giving preference to Anubias, cryptocoryne, and echinodorus. Water should be with an acidity of 6.5-7 pH and hardness of 4-10 dH.

For a successful spawning, it is better to use a large flock of catfish, but three males with two females are quite enough. The courtship period includes peculiar mating games and skirmishes between males.

Spawning usually occurs in the morning. After choosing a partner, the female presses her head against his abdomen, stimulating the production of milk. Consequently, she throws the fertilized eggs on a cleaned secluded place. In one clutch, there are from 120 to 140 eggs, which ripen within 3-7 days. The female fish lays fertilized eggs in a clean secluded place which could be stone or sheet.

Eggs ripen at a temperature of +27 ° C to +28 ° C. The volume of water in the spawning should not exceed 20 cm. The first fry hatch already 3-4 days after the female has laid eggs.

The diet of fry includes micro worms, spirulina, egg yolks. Lastly, matured individuals should be fed Gammarus and bloodworms in case of mass breeding. Protein products stimulate fish to reproduce. Otocinclus Catfish can breed at the age of 7-8 months.

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