Otocinclus refers to a genus of freshwater catfish that go by many names, together with the Dwarf Suckerfish, Oto Catfish, or just Oto. They’re small and energetic fish that make nice additions to each nano and enormous aquariums. These peaceable herbivores primarily feed off algae, making them excellent for aquariums with cussed algae development.

Breed Overview

Dimension: As much as 2 inches lengthy
Lifespan: 3–5 years
Comparable Breeds: Chinese language Algae Eater, Cory Catfish, and Pictus Catfish
Appropriate for: Intermediate to superior fish keepers
Temperament: Peaceable, social, skittish, energetic

There are round 17 totally different species of Otocinclus catfish, however not all of them are saved as pets. The commonest species saved in aquariums are the O. macrospilus, O. vittatus, O. vestitus, and O. cocama. These species are sometimes mistaken for each other as a result of all of them have strikingly related appearances. This is the reason Otocinclus catfish are sometimes mislabeled when they’re up on the market, and there’s a lot of confusion with their widespread names.

Caring for Otocinclus is comparatively simple when you perceive their fundamental care necessities, though they’re nonetheless advisable for extra skilled fish keepers.

Otocinclus Catfish Traits

How A lot Do Otocinclus Catfish Value?

Otocinclus catfish originate from South America, particularly in Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Argentina. Their wild habitat consists of slow-moving and shallow streams or rivers cluttered with rocks and vegetation. Though there are lots of species of Otocinclus catfish, not all of them are saved as pets. Their rarity and availability within the aquarium commerce business can have an effect on their value barely, though they don’t seem to be very costly fish.

The O. cocama or Zebra Otocinclus is taken into account rarer than the opposite three species and customarily prices between $30 and $80. The extra widespread species of captive-raised Otocinclus catfish price round $10 to $35 per fish. You possibly can usually discover them offered at a reduced value if you are going to buy them in teams from pet shops or on-line retailers.

Picture Credit score: Anwarul Kabir Photograph, Shutterstock

Sociability of the Otocinclus Catfish

Do These Fish Make Good Pets?

Caring for Otocinclus catfish has its personal set of challenges, however they make good pets. It’s a good suggestion to solely preserve Otocinclus when you have earlier expertise elevating and caring for delicate tropical fish. They’re usually described as being finicky in aquariums and don’t tolerate stress effectively.

Otocinclus are very delicate to water high quality, which impacts their habits and basic well being. They should be saved in well-maintained and mature aquariums that meet their excellent water parameters. This makes them a poor selection for newbie fish keepers who’re nonetheless studying the fundamentals of aquarium upkeep. Otocinclus should be saved in tropical freshwater aquariums with no traces of ammonia or nitrite and is barely acidic. Their small dimension makes them appropriate for nano aquariums underneath 30 gallons, though they profit from having extra room to discover.

Picture Credit score: Wirestock Creators, Shutterstock

Does This Fish Make a Good Tankmate?

The Otocinclus is a extremely peaceable and social fish, which makes them suitable with different small fish with the same temperament and water parameters. Earlier than protecting Otocinclus catfish with different tankmates, you will need to perceive their social necessities. Otocinclus catfish are social fish that kind giant shoals within the wild.

They need to by no means be saved alone or in pairs, and ideally in teams of 5 or extra of the identical species. Whereas the totally different species can coexist collectively, they might have slight variations of their social behaviors that might intervene with the compatibility of the shoal.

Other than their species, Otocinclus catfish are suitable with different small and peaceable fish that thrive at tropical temperatures. They’ll simply be injured or stressed by being saved with incompatible tankmates, so select their tankmates fastidiously.

Appropriate Tankmates: Incompatible Tankmates:
Neon Tetra Goldfish
Black Skirt Tetra Koi
Harlequin Rasbora Oscars
Glowlight Tetra African Cichlids
Livebearers (Guppies, Mollies, Platies, and Swordtails)
Bronze Corydoras Jack Dempsey

Aside from fish, Otocinclus catfish could be housed with thriller snails and typically even shrimp if there are many hiding locations.

Care Information & Tank Set Up

Otocinclus catfish wouldn’t have very demanding housing necessities. A 15-gallon tank can comfortably home 5 to 6 Otocinclus catfish because of their small dimension. The tank dimension will should be upgraded if you happen to plan to maintain them with different fish. Regardless of their small dimension, Otocinclus catfish shouldn’t reside in small bowls or vases as they don’t present them with sufficient house to thrive.

Moreover, the tank ought to have extra horizontal swimming house to accommodate their bottom-dwelling behaviors.

Picture Credit score: Anwarul Kabir Photograph, Shutterstock

Water High quality, pH, & Temperature

If you would like your Otocinclus catfish to be completely happy and wholesome in an aquarium, good water high quality is significant. Otocinclus catfish are tropical fish that want a heater of their aquarium set to a temperature vary of 74 to 82 levels Fahrenheit (23° to 27° Celsius). The temperature must be saved steady with few fluctuations to reduce your Otocinclus catfish’s stress.

Your Otocinclus catfish’s water ought to have an acidic to impartial pH vary of 5.5 to 7.5, and a water hardness of seven to fifteen dGH. Their tank must be totally cycled earlier than any Otocinclus catfish are added. There ought to be no traces of ammonia and nitrite of their water, and nitrates are tolerable as much as 15 ppm.


As bottom-dwelling fish, Otocinclus catfish will spend most of their time swimming alongside the substrate. It is very important select a pure and easy substrate that won’t injure them or be tough for them to forage via. A sandy or very high quality quartz gravel substrate is advisable. The colour ought to vary from gentle tan, brown, and even black. You need to keep away from any sharp gravels or ones with dangerous dyes or water-altering properties. Some substrates excellent for reside plant development can change the pH of the water, which is perhaps worrying for Otocinclus.

Picture Credit score: chonlasub woravichan, Shutterstock


Otocinclus catfish thrive in closely planted tank setups. They take pleasure in having varied vegetation to cover underneath and it replicates their wild habitat. Reside vegetation like java moss, jungle vals, java fern, fox tail, and hornwort are advisable. You can even add items of driftwood or rocks to the tank to encourage your Otocinclus to eat any biofilm or algae that grows on them.


Otocinclus catfish are primarily nocturnal fish, however they nonetheless want lighting through the day. Most Otocinclus catfish are energetic within the evenings and when the aquarium lights are turned off, they’ll eat and forage through the day too. You need to keep away from protecting them in brightly lit aquariums as this may be worrying for them and trigger them to hunt out darker areas of the tank to cover. A low to reasonably brilliant aquarium gentle ought to be saved on for six to 10 hours per day and turned off at evening.

Otocinclus dwarf catfish consuming cucumber


Otocinclus catfish want a filtration system within the aquarium to maintain the water clear and transferring. Nonetheless, the filter shouldn’t produce a robust present, since Otocinclus catfish originate from slow-moving waters. Most filters can be utilized in Otocinclus aquariums, together with sponge, hang-on-back (HOB), canister, and varied inner or exterior filters. The filter ought to ideally use each mechanical and organic strategies to filter the water, however chemical filtration is useful too.

Issues to Know When Proudly owning an Otocinclus Catfish:

Meals & Eating regimen Necessities

The Otocinclus catfish is an herbivore that primarily feeds on algae and detritus within the wild. Nonetheless, they eat a extra omnivorous weight loss plan in captivity. Otocinclus catfish don’t require a lot protein of their weight loss plan, however you possibly can often supply reside meals like child brine shrimp and daphnia. Their staple business weight loss plan ought to encompass a sinking pelleted or flake meals with algae as the primary ingredient. Veggies like zucchini and cucumber could be provided to Otocinclus a number of instances per week, however they need to be eliminated inside half-hour to forestall the water from fouling.

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Dimension & Progress Price

Most Otocinclus catfish are comparatively small in dimension, rising no bigger than 2 inches in size. Nonetheless, the dimensions of Otocinclus catfish can differ relying on their species as some develop considerably bigger than others. The smallest species within the Otocinclus genus is the O. tapirape 1 inch lengthy. Whereas the biggest species, the O. flexilis, continues to be small at solely 2.7 inches lengthy.

They’ve a comparatively quick development fee and do most of their development throughout the first 4 months of their life. Most Otocinclus catfish are totally grown and sexually mature by the point they’re 6 months outdated.


There are quite a few species of Otocinclus catfish, with solely a handful out there as pets—the Zebra, Widespread, Dwarf, and Silver Otocinclus. They’re higher recognized by their species identify since sure Otocinclus catfish wouldn’t have widespread names. Some species that have been beforehand within the Otocinclus genus have since been modified, resulting in much more confusion amongst hobbyists. The Golden Otocinclus catfish particularly was previously often called the O. affinus however has since been positioned within the Macrotocinclus genus.

Regardless of all of the confusion concerning the species and their appearances, the few Otocinclus catfish saved as pets have the same look. They’re all characterised by their tiny pencil-shaped our bodies with brown to gray colorations and darkish stripes. One in all their most distinguishing options is the small suckermouths that they use to suction towards surfaces.

The Zebra Otocinclus catfish is well recognized by their uncommon patterns of silver and darkish brown blotches, whereas the Silver Otocinclus catfish has a shiny gray and brown coloration with darkish aspect stripes. The Widespread or Dwarf Otocinclus have a yellowish-brown coloration, with the O. vittatus having uneven brown markings above their darkish aspect stripes. All of them have a forked caudal fin, a single anal fin, a triangular dorsal fin, and a pair of ventral and pectoral fins.

Totally different Species of Otocinclus Catfish:

  • Peppered Otocinclus catfish (O. flexilis)
  • Zebra Otocinclus catfish (O. cocama)
  • Golden Otocinclus catfish (Macrotocinclus affinus)
  • Widespread or dwarf Otocinclus catfish (O. vittatus, O. macrospilus)
  • Silver Otocinclus catfish (O. vestitus)
  • Brown sucker catfish (O. cephalacanthus, O. lophophanes)
  • Dwarf Otocinclus catfish (O. mariae)

Lifespan and Well being Situations

Otocinclus catfish have a comparatively quick lifespan of round 3 to five years. That is considerably shorter than many different bottom-dwelling fish just like the Plecostomus and just like the Cory catfish. With correct dwelling circumstances and a balanced weight loss plan, you possibly can preserve your Otocinclus catfish wholesome sufficient to reside for the following 5 years in your care.

No matter how effectively you take care of your Otocinclus catfish, they will nonetheless develop sure well being circumstances that may have an effect on their lifespan.

Minor Situations

  • Cataracts
  • Slight skeletal deformities

Critical Situations

  • Parasitic infections
  • Bacterial infections
  • Fungal infections
  • Ammonia toxicity

Male vs Feminine

Otocinclus catfish are sexually dimorphic fish and there are barely seen variations between the sexes. The feminine Otocinclus catfish is barely bigger and plumper than the males, which is simple to identify when seen from above. Male Otocinclus catfish have a slimmer look and barely pointier fins.

3 Little-Recognized Info About Otocinclus Catfish

1. The Otocinclus catfish is without doubt one of the smallest genera of catfish.

2. There are lots of totally different species of Otocinclus catfish, however just a few of them are saved in aquariums.

Picture Credit score: MargieV, Shutterstock

3. Otocinclus catfish are a few of the finest algae-eating fish that can be utilized to maintain algae development underneath management.

Remaining Ideas

In case you are an skilled fish keeper trying so as to add a bunch of small algae-eating fish to your aquarium, the Otocinclus catfish is perhaps a good selection. They’re suitable with different small and peaceable fish, making them appropriate additions to tropical neighborhood aquariums. Otocinclus catfish hardly ever develop previous 2 inches lengthy, making them appropriate for nano aquariums over 10 gallons in dimension.

Take into account that as a social species, the Otocinclus catfish must be saved in teams of 5 or extra. Their tank must be totally cycled and well-maintained to make sure that their water high quality is right.

In any other case, Otocinclus catfish are energetic shoaling fish that do an awesome job at consuming cussed algae and biofilm in aquariums.

Featured Picture Credit score: nwarul Kabir Photograph, Shutterstock

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