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Hi, I recently tried keeping Otos again, the first time all 3 died with in 1 week, I have had these current 3 for about 2 weeks now. I did a 50% water change just before adding the Otos 2 weeks ago because the Nitrate was about 40ppm. The otos all seem ok, they are swimming and grazing on algae, I did notice that they have mild redness around the area of the gills but I thought that the gills are a reddish color and this may be normal color versus irritation. I am not 100% sure.

But just a few minutes ago I noticed two of them hanging on the glass near the top of the water, then 1 swam to the surface, turned belly up and started gulping/chewing/moving its mouth against the surface of the water.

I did an internet search and have read conflicting things, about the fish are gulping for air and in distress, or the fish are taking in extra oxygen at the surface the way corydoras do and that this was normal, and another post mentioned a biofilm on the surface and that the fish was eating food/algae from this.

I do seem to have a bit of a biofilm that I just noticed after looking at the pictures.

What do you think?



 

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If the fish have redder than normal gills, especially along with rapid breathing and hanging near the water surface, then that means their is gill irritation/damage. Could be from ammonia poisoning or chlorine burns from tap water.

Fish gills are normally red though, so without seeing for myself I can't tell just how red they are. Normal red or abnormally/more intense red. Look at some pictures online to compare.

If the gills appear more brown/purple, that is from nitrite poisoning. In short, nitrite toxicity causes the fish's blood to carry less oxygen, so basically the fish is oxygen deprived. (Like humans blood turning/looking purple with lack of oxygen).

Are there other fish in the tank? Any signs of distress from them?
Are the otos flashing (rubbing body against objects)?

Test ammonia and nitrites. If none of those, gill disease or flukes can infect gills. They can turn red and the gill covers can extend/protrude outward.

I am not sure if Otos take breaths of air from the surface like Corys do.
I've seen fish skim water surfaces in search of food, but haven't seen fish actively eat surface scum (snails do though!).

Main worry is ammonia or nitrite toxicity, so check those right away. Do a water change or two and see if the behavior still remains.

By the way, it seems there is a picture you attached, but it isn't showing.
 

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I've noticed that Oto gills tend to be redder than most fish, probably because they are right against the glass which makes it easier to notice.

Unless other fish are also in distress I doubt that oxygen is a problem. Otos can breath atmospheric air so I'd imagine they would be among the last to be affected.

If they just make quick trips with their suckers upside-down they a just eating biofilm.
 

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This is sort of normal resting colouration:



They can get a little pinkish when they swim around like crazy fish (from exertion), but I find the real deep red you get with new fish should go away in a few weeks.

They can definitely graze biofilm, but make sure they're not actually trying to intake the more highly oxygenated water layer at the surface (ie, they shouldn't do this all the time).

The secret to otos is if they don't look fat, they need more food.

 

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For me, otos have been somewhat enigmatic. Some live, some die, for no apparent reason. Excellent water, plenty of food like zuchini and algae wafers to supplement, but still some live and some die. When they start to 'get sick', the redness starts to disappear...then death. So for me, red gills around to their little bellies is a good thing. I know they are 'belly breathers', and go to the surface to gulp air. I've also seen them hanging at the surface apparently resting upside down, or eating something. It is hard to know if it means they are getting sick, unless you can see the red in their gills and belly fading. I've kept one oto for almost two years now. That's the longest I've ever been able to keep them alive. Others come and go.
 
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