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Discussion Starter #1
These guys can be really hard to keep alive through the acclimation period. I am by no means an expert on otos. I had seven die on me last year. But I am trying again now; and would like to pass on some observations and possible tips.

1. Get healthy otos to begin with. Pay really careful attention to how they behave in the fish store! Many of us have heard that so many otos are shipped in terrible condition and are barely hanging on in the LFS before making their way to you, where they promptly or eventually die. I went to a fairly reputable LFS to get otos in two batches last year -- they all eventually died. A couple died within a week; the rest died over the next 3-5 months. Now it *definitely* could have been my fault that they died! But I have also been realizing after watching a million YouTube videos that my otos NEVER acted healthy from the beginning, and that I don't think I actually knew how healthy otos behave, which made me very uninformed as a consumer when I went to the LFS. I have since gone to the home of a top-notch online seller and fish expert whose otos are in perfect condition. I am now in Day 2; all 8 have survived 48 hours, including the 8-hour journey in the car back to my house. I did the " plop and drop" acclimation method - it worked fine. Fingers crossed!

My observation is that these healthy otos graze in a relaxed, graceful and continual motion throughout much of the day. They do rest for stretches of time, but they are not usually either hyperactive, darting like crazy, or super-dormant, for too long. They are not merely nocturnal; healthy otos will swim around in open water during the daylight. They have fairly full stomachs, with their white bellies protruding a little. And their color is fairly dark, not red or translucent around the head or sides.

2. Get otos in quantity. I think I made the mistake of never having more than 4 otos at one time. And one or two of them were usually ill. So far, my 8 otos are not shoaling, but I do notice them fairly close together a lot of time. I think this helps them, especially in the beginning when they are adjusting to new surroundings.

3. Have a mature quarantine tank with algae growth. I've kept a quarantine tank going for several months continuously - the last 2 months without any fish (just add fish flakes to keep the bacteria cycle going). There was a lot of algae growth - 95% of which was consumed by the 8 otos within 2 days. I'm happy they had good food to begin with. They also devoured a cucumber slice. Hooray.

4. WATCH for issues in the first several days. Here's my story: so this morning of Day 2, I noticed that 2, possibly 3 of the otos were breathing really fast and doing that sickly oto thing (not moving much, hiding). Must be some kind of stress from water parameter issue - I can't pick up anything noticeable in my water testing, but I have been down this road before with otos and it has never ended well. Some usually die within a day or two of the fast breathing stage. Others hang on for weeks or months. But they have all died. So I was really anxious this morning. Here's what I did, and after five or six hours, it has apparently WORKED (the fast breathing stopped and the otos are acting relaxed and non-shy again).

(a) partial water change (about 20%).
(b) inserted another strip of Polyfilter in tank (if you haven't heard of Polyfilter, look it up - I am using it for the first time) to adsorb/absorb bad stuff.
(c) repositioned my airtube bubbler to create a much stronger oxygen current in the tank. The water surface is actually wobbly now.
(d) clipped some algae-grown leaves from my non-quarantine tank and threw them in the quarantine tank w the otos (theory: the microorganisms and bacteria and algae on the leaves are familiar and comforting and nutritional to the otos and good for the water quality).

I'm not sure which of the above was most responsible for the return to normal behavior, but I am going to repeat this in the future if a problem arises.

Stay tuned. Here are a few photos of the little guys now.
 

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I'm not sure what my pH is, I haven't kept fish in a few years and I don't want to deal with Oto casualties again. I'd think about it if they were captive bred, but finding some for sale is like going on a unicorn hunt.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Day 4 update: 1 oto death. No outward sign of distress, just stopped moving, then started curling and tilting to side. :(
I took this as an urgent sign to do something further. I sensed one or two others were flagging as well. Here's what I have done.

a) Another partial water change. [Water a little cloudy from bacterial bloom - so unstable water parameters initially have likely caused distress. Polyfilter likely helping.]

b) Added another internal filter with mature media. Previously only had a 10g filter and an air bubbler to distribute water - thinking the quarantine tank only has 10 gallons - but there was detritus settling on the bottom, which I suspect means not enough filtration and flow. The otos seem to enjoy a strong flow of water.

c) Seems that one or two otos have not touched the veggies (yet) and may not take to them - just in case I got some marbles and put them in a jar with dirty tank water and placed in the window sill, to grow some more algae. Will deposit the marbles in tank in a few days. Sheesh.

Recovery this morning! - the 7 remaining otos are swimming freely and are grazing. I have been feeding asparagus, cucumber, and leek (I think). One or more has taken to all, but a few seem unsure of veggie still (see above). Also put a little Repashy Soilent clump in there, which has disappeared (possibly dispersed and sucked up filter - hoping not). All algae in tank is pretty much gone. Otos are ravenous eaters when healthy.

Food insight: has been said many times by others > veggies went untouched for 24 hours even though I had cooked and blanched them. So removing prior to 24 hours may not be a good call. On the other hand, I should watch for when to remove them before they deteriorate too much and spike the nitrate - I think it depends on the veggie and how soft and chewed up they look. Also oto appetite may depend on how they are feeling and other available food. On Day 1 the cucumber was gone within 24 hours (maybe pre-water condition deterioration?). On Day 3, not so much.

Okay, I do have a day job so am moving on to other activities.
 

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My otos are omnivorous and although they are quickly onto courgette or crushed peas, they are also are partial to the fishmeal pellets and algae wafers that I feed to the other residents.
 

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If you have freeze-dried tubifex, my oto's LOVE those. They'll push the cory's outta the way to get to them.
 

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Interesting I might try that (tubifex) next time... I recently got 20 otos, 17 made it through 4 weeks of quarantine. The 3 deaths all were within 2 days and those 3 were looking emaciated from the start. I only changed their water once a week, and dosed their tank with metro / prazi at the start and some metro laced food in the first week as well. Their tank was full of loose stems and a piece of driftwood and I fed them repashy, veggie sticks, algae wafers, spirulina powder, and some veggies, but they practically ignored the veggies for stem plants and the processed foods, and I can't be sure more than half ever really ate from the stuff I added. I think half made it just off bio film /algae. They pooped... a lot. Some of them came out looking preggo, but I'm pretty sure they were just fat.
 

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If you are getting a bacterial bloom then you tank either wasn't ready or you're over feeding. You might be better with sticking to the rapashy so you aren't polluting the water - try pouring it onto a piece of wood when you mix it, then add that to the tank so it stays in position whist they feed if they are slow. It will stay stable for a fairly long time.

You might find a wider flatter surface than marbles is better for growing algae. Pebbles/river rocks are good. Haven't tried marbles though so they may work ok.

Cappata leaves work well, as they can be safely left to disintegrate/be munched without polluting the water. Usually takes a couple of days for them to soak and the Otos to start on them if you drop them in dry, but a little boiling would probably speed that up.

Are you sure leeks are ok to feed? I don't know about fish but they are avoided as food for a lot of terrestrial animals.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Thanks. Yeah, I think I had a mini cycle happen on day two. The tank was cycled for months but I think that the combo of food and critters made it happen again. I Think I have it under control now. I am not sure whether the veggie piece I had in there was a leek or something else. Now that I think about it I think it was the bottom of a broccoli floret. It was frozen from the freezer from a few months ago. Anyways the otos seem to like it. Interesting idea about the repashy feeding method. If I only had a piece of wood lying around! I also tried an algae wafer and they are liking that. About the omnivorous oto: is it not true that one should limit proteins for these guys?
 

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That's good. I know everyone says how hard they are to feed but I've never had trouble with them taking algae wafers. You can stick the rapashy to anything that has a rough surface - I've found rocks a bit smooth but I've seen terracotta feeders that are scored flat disks. Wood is just good because of the grain. You just pour/drop it on before it sets. Dipped wooden skewers might work? Mine are pretty good at just chasing a cube around the tank.

I guess as they are 'aufwuchs' feeders it's really a mix of algae and teeny critters so a bit of non vegetable matter would make sense. Mine seem to get excited whatever I'm feeding the tank with but it's hard to tell what they are actually eating.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
They seem to like my Repashy Soilent chunks as well. Some new observations after 6 days. Seven of 8 otos still alive, feeding, reasonably alert, no clamped tails. All good. Watching a little bit of faded coloring -- still brown, not all-over pale, but a little lighter than usual and just slightly reddish hue around the head for one or two of them - this has never been a good sign for me so I am concerned.

>> Inserting new leaves from an established tank + not letting otos get too thin/dormant. One or two otos are not eating a lot from prepared foods and look thin, although not emaciated. Also, all of the otos sometimes look a bit lethargic during the day - just not moving a lot. I don't think this is a water quality issue and I tentatively do not think they are sick (but see some signs above that I am watching).

My evolving theory as I said earlier is that otos really should be moving fairly continuously, and if they are not it is NOT because they are shy or nocturnal but because they aren't 100% well or aren't finding enough to eat. I'm not saying an oto can't hang in one place for a half hour or more and still be healthy - they can - but in my observation they are more active than people think during the day -- and in the past, I was content not to do anything when they just stayed in one place all day, thinking they are feeding more at night - this didn't work out for me.

I am noticing that whenever I insert new leaves from an established plant tank, the otos perk up and start shimmying around toward the food source, then stay active for longer.

> Some of these otos seem fine adapting to prepared foods and veggies. Others - especially the smaller ones - are relying more on algae and don't give aufwuch about prepared foods. (That was a joke.) So providing at least a modicum of fresh algae/aufwuch source each day *seems* to help keep the younger guys afloat. I also have another evolving theory that if you provide a little familiar algae source, then their appetite stays up and carries over better to prepared foods. The thing I really don't want (and have seen before) is a hunger strike despite all manner of prepared foods being provided - leading to downward spiral and death.
 

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I got 5 otos almost 2 months ago, haven't done a single water change on the tank (just top offs), and haven't fed them once, just let the light run a bit longer in the start to encourage a bit of algae growth. I've had otos once before as well, and I have to say my experience back then was also generally that they were quite hardy.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
I am envious of you. That hasn't been my experience to date. It's been constant work for me. Since I have had problems in the past, I decided to rule out "bad batch" or "victim of bad transport to LFS" and get super-hardy otos from a reliable source -- to see if my problems are my own creation or not. I'm disappointed my water quality wasn't quite perfect to start out, but now I think I have stability and perhaps the road will be easier from here on.

Some people like you do say that otos' fragility is overstated and they have no problems - especially after the first few weeks. But judging from the internet chatter i think many people do have problems. I'm not yet in the clear. Also I happen to have a 10 gallon quarantine with no substrate or live plants (only my plant cuttings from the other tank and some fake plants/wood to provide some cover) - so very challenging to begin with; while the glass was covered with algae to start, it's impossible to keep enough algae in there to keep this many otos fed after the first few days even with the lights on full time - I think it will be easier to keep an algae stock going in my permanent tank. I'm curious how big your tank is and whether it's full of live plants. And did you quarantine to start in a different tank with different conditions?
 

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It's 10 gallons, and I'd say moderately planted. I didn't do any quarantine but I also only had a single guppy in there before them. Now it's the guppy, 2 GBR, and the 5 otos. Here's a photo: IMG_0282.jpg

As you can see, it's kinda just left to do its own thing.
 

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I quarantine in a 30L (about 8g) but not bare - established with gravel base, wood and plenty of plants. Only a few at a time though - in hindsight I'd do a big batch of otos in one go. My quarantine tank is basically a regular tank I just move fish though - that way it's cycled, has plenty of bacteria, algae for shrimp or otos and good plant cover for nervous fish. It just means any issue is contained to that batch of fish.

It also means I can match my quarantine tank water to my LFS water (hard tap) and then I have weeks to adjust them to my tank water (RO).

My otos are fairly inactive during the day. They wiggle around when the sun hits the tank first thing, chill during the day and then get active again in the evening. I wonder if part of that is the regular evening meals though - means they don't have to spend all day hunting for algae. Or it could be my lights start to dim then and they like it less bright.
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Ah the fully furnished quarantine tank. Sometimes I worry about substrate and plants if I ever had to medicate… Or when I need to break down a tank if I am not planning on having anything in there for a while. But it sure would be nice to have that when you have otos.

I continue to notice that the otos are dormant/still whenever they know that there isn't that much food around. This goes for day or night. Every time I throw in a couple of fresh leaves w algae in there they start to perk up and swim around even when the tank is brightly lit. This seems to be serving me well, especially since a few of them aren't as fond of veggie or wafer or Repashy.

Nice tank Uddeball.
 

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Only thing I've had to medicate for is ich/white spot. Didn't have a problem with the plants/substrate, though I did do a good syphon of the surface of it to help. I sort of look at it like any other fish tank. If your main tank had a problem you'd treat that plants/substrate and all and once it was cleared up continue on happily without clearing everything out after. Most of the plants are off cuts not unique, gravel and rocks could be scrubbed so I could nuke it if I really really had to.

I expect what I'll do when I get to stage of no more plans for more fish is pop a half dozen small ones in and if I did want it empty again to quarantine new ones then I could temporarily house them in the main tank. Might just be an excuse to have multiple tanks ;)

Glad the otos are doing well :)
 
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