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Thanks for this post! In a wild-eyed fit, I just got 6 otos, a cobalt stiphodon goby, and a Florida flagfish for a 16g hair algae-infested tank (it was that, or smash the thing with a hammer--I was sick of it). I will be curious to see what works for you with the otos. So far mine have survived almost a week, but I've been warned they could still drop at any time. I wonder if it isn't internal parasites that do them in?
 

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Discussion Starter #22
Sorry to post a bleak update here, but I'm pretty depressed about it. In the last week, 1 oto died (reasons unknown). The water started turning green - algae bloom. I did partial water changes daily and turned down the lights, but it was getting hard to see the fish. After 3 weeks in quarantine, I transferred the 6 healthy otos out of the quarantine tank into my planted tank, which is currently stocked with ember tetras, amano shrimp, 1 nerite snail, and 1 SAE. Parameters were good, and the fish should have been acclimated to the water because in the past few days I had been gradually putting some of the mature tank water into the quarantine. I put a Poly Filter in the tank to smooth over the transition.....

First 48 hours - things seemed ok. They otos were not swimming around lazily and freely, so they were stressed. But I was hoping for the best. I saw signs of eating - it was an algae bonanza for a while for them. Then. After 3 days, two of the otos were floating on the top of the tank, dead. The next day, two more were dead. Now I only have 2 left out of the original 8, and I have no hope they will survive either. They don't look happy.

EPIC FAIL!

The whole point of this post is so that others, and I, can learn what to do better next time. I will provide any clues I can as to what went wrong this time. Clearly, I need help because despite all my precautions and lessons learned along the way, I have not succeeded.

1. The otos that died were well fed. In fact, some were fat. I wonder - too well fed? Did they have indigestion caused by some water parameter change or stress from the move? Death through constipation?
2. Ammonia spike? Not so sure about this - the Poly filter doesn't show the bright yellow color for ammonia. All the other fish are swimming around without sign of stress. But I think an undetectable ammonia spike could be to blame because a few of the amano shrimp have died in the last few days along with the otos. Maybe it was not a good idea to add all 6 at the same time. I thought I was ready though - the tank has plenty of plants and I have two mature filters that have been going for many months, plus the Poly Filter, and the tank was already stocked for months with a dozen tetras, the SAE... The nitrates and nitrite levels are undetectable right now.
3. Injury from the water circulator? Probably not but throwing it out there. It is near the top of the tank and 3 of the 4 dead otos were floating at the top of the tank (which is fairly unusual in my experience - the corpses usually aren't so buoyant - maybe it's just the flow of this tank).
4. Disease? I didn't see ich spots or any signs of disease before they died - not even clamped fins. I did notice in the quarantine that some of the poop was getting long - but it was dark, not white or clear, so I wasn't too worried.
5. Co2 problem? I had turned down the co2 to give them time to get used to it, but I wonder if the fluctuations in ph are too much for these guys.
6. Back to the amanos: why did I see several amanos die around when the otos died? Seems like it has to do with either the veggies I was feeding that these guys grazed on, or a water condition issue - like ammonia. These are more susceptible than the others to slight water condition problems.
7. Stress from two tank moves within 1 month. I could have left them in the quarantine for another few weeks. I moved them after 3 weeks because they seemed healthy and I was about to have a string of visiting guests use the room where the tank was and I didn't want to be having to get in there while it was occupied. Sigh.

Larger issue: this tank has now seen otos and shrimp and snails die inexplicably, while the tetras and SAE are doing very well. Something is not healthy in there for certain species - I am still struggling for an answer. Maybe in a few days I'll reflect on some more things that could be harming them. I'm just sad about it all right now. I really tried hard to keep them healthy.
 

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Sorry to hear that, usually if they make the first couple of weeks they do well :(

The fact you had a bacterial and then algae bloom suggest there could have been something up with the quarantine tank/water. Which may have in turn caused stress or effected their immune system so even transferring them to the more stable tank water may have been too late.

I'm surprised you had such high death in the tank itself too though. That you lost shrimps/snails which are also sensitive - I think you are right to be concerned something more going on.

Otos are like cories in that they gulp air sometimes so they are more likely to float when they expire.
 

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Discussion Starter #24
Another oto died. It got bloated belly and that was that. So I have one lonely oto left. So much for keeping them in quantities! Another few days have passed and I am still pondering what happened. And also why my amano shrimp happen to be dying too. I think I'm choosing to think of these as unrelated things.

For the otos, clearly the switch to their permanent home did not go well. There must have been some significant difference in water quality that was not smoothed over during transition and acclimation. Maybe they got sick and could no longer digest and process food. Also my quarantine environment was not as ideal as it could have been-- lesson learned there....

For the shrimp--i actually found two on my floor yesterday-- I am wondering about the CO2, the dosing of PPS pro macro aand micro nutrients, the use of CaCl and epsom salt to harden water, and overly quick or voluminous water changes as possible reasons. Hard to figure out which of these is the most likely culprit. Thoughts from those who keep shrimp in high tech planted tanks? (Apologies - I know this was/is an oto related conversation ...)
 

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Discussion Starter #27
Hi all. It's been so long since my original post. Silver lining is that the one oto I had left from over a year ago made it through and is still with me. I swore off otos for the past year because I didn't think it was humane knowing that I don't have the right parameters or conditions. But I didn't want to keep the remaining oto in isolation forever (which makes him super shy - he has a dark spot he goes to whenever the light turns on). So I broke down and got another one a week ago. So far so good. My other oto went nuts and has been following around the new one everywhere at night - so interesting. Two notes: 1) I ditched the quarantine for the oto, while putting other new acquisitions in quarantine. I didn't want to subject the oto to 2 water changes, and clearly my existing quarantine either didn't have enough algae buildup or the right conditions in the past, so I took the risk. 2) I noticed some stress after day 2, so I killed the light and co2. This helped. I also did a water change and slightly lowered my Gh (which is higher than the LFS). Oto is OK after 1 week....but I know this is only half the battle...I won't feel good unless it survives another 2-3 weeks. Its stomach seems not full, but not empty. Hasn't taken to zucchini or Repashy yet as far as I can tell. It has nibbled on glass and plant algae....
 

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I've had reasonably luck with otos, but it seems like I always lose one or two out of each batch of four to eight I purchase. The rest strengthen up and do fine. I've tended to write this off to the reputation they have for being in poor shape by the time they reach my LFS.

It helps to have a LFS you trust. Oddly, mine is a Petsmart. I know, but the help in the aquarium section all have their own aquaria, and are knowledgeable, and their fish are always well stocked and seem to be in good shape. My other choices include a Petsmart half the distance away that is not well run. I go there only for rush supplies and packaged fish food, not for live fish. Their plants are okay ... when they have any decent ones in stock.

We have a very local chain (two locations) that ought to be good, and I do go by occasionally, but I am put off by their tendency to keep a few guppies in the plant tanks. Why??

But I've gotten a batch of ich even from my favorite LFS. It's too easy for a fish to pick up ich further up the supply chain, and not be obviously ill in the LFS. I picked up my last batch of ick that way. I've been skeptical of quarantine, but I don't dare not do it any more, and my new 20-gallon quarantine tank just arrived and I set it up last night. Seeded it with water from my old tank, let its bio filter sit in my display tank filter for a couple of days to inoculate it as well, and then spiked the water to 4 ppm ammonium to get the cycle going. I'll post pictures tonight.
 

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@miktrebor how did that new Oto come along?

I recently got my first Otocinclus. Acclimated for an hour and it was dead by the next morning... Then I found out about its reputation when I was googling to see what was wrong. I definitely noticed it wasnt eating, kind of just stuck to the glass or other flat surfaces. Since it was the last one at my LFS I decided I probably just got an already sick one.

A few days ago I got 3 more from a different LFS that had just got them in that day. I put them into my cpd 20 gallon breeder tank that had an algae bloom and so there was a LOT of algae for them. This time I noticed them actually eating, pooping and moving around. I was pretty stoked when I found them still alive the next morning.

Frustratingly though, 3 days ago (so 4 days since I bought them) I found one dead and then today another has died. I dont think their bodies looked abnormal or sickly in anyway. The 3rd and last one alive seems to behaving normally.

Its a bit of a bummer, especially when here in Australia these fish cost up to $25! (~$20USD)
 

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Discussion Starter #30
Sorry to hear about the oto deaths. I am no expert. I think there is a lot out of our control, including their care and transport before they arrived at - and also at - our local fish store. I am happy report that I have had two healthy otos for a year+ now with no issues. After witnessing multiple oto deaths I can say it is so true that once they get through the first few months they are so easy. (And I almost never have any other fish deaths- they almost always live for years- just otos, in the first couple of months.) I wish I had more so they would feel more comfortable swimming around during the day, but my planted tank is too small to accommodate more.

In the future, should I get more otos, I am going to focus on proper acclimation to their new tank water and making sure the quarantine tank is optimally hospitable. Even though I have had a 20g quarantine tank running on and off for years with live plants and algae growth, it doesn’t always have the best conditions for sensitive fish like otos. My observation is that quarantines (or main display tank) need to be super mature, with lots of water flow, space, plants, microorganisms and stable water conditions - the more like a “real” tank the better. True for all fish of course but especially otos in the first several months. Good luck in the future!
 

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Discussion Starter #31
Also it is like threading a needle getting otos at an LFS. If you snatch them up when first available at the LFS they likely still haven’t adjusted from their incredible journey from wherever. And if you wait too long, they may succumb soon after arriving at your home because of extended time under poor conditions typical of many LFS tanks. Sigh.
 

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I’ve been an oto buff for a long time, and the two keys I’ve found to keeping them them repeatably healthy have been to deworm them heavily on purchase, and to feed them properly like any other fish. Foraging otos are hit or miss, but I’ve kept 30 in a 20 long with no issues for a year by just feeding them properly.

My water here is on the hard side (8.2, tds 280 ish), but I’ve had at least a half dozen spawns over the last year and have had fry raise up to adulthood.

My last batch started with a brand new uncycled barebottom tank, and after a month I still had 17/19. Uncycled was because I didn’t have an aquarium going at the time to steal media from, and bare bottom is intentional to force them to eat “people food”, or non algae food. Once they know veggies are food, theyre still effective tank maintenance staff but they don’t starve out. Diet is a rotation of Repashy Soilent Green and a bit of community mixed in, red pepper, and zucchini. Three rounds of PraziPro separated by 4-5 days, change water as needed.

According to the oto paper referenced earlier it should be impossible to breed them at this pH, but it isn’t. The adults stay healthy too.
 

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I read somewhere else of someone stating that deworming their otos on purchase helped a lot, so will definitely keep that in mind next time!
 

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Hello all,

I noticed my Otos are more active and eating more aggressively now that I've lowered water temp to 74.
 

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I've had good luck with a school in the past, I think that a lot of these So. American Loricarids, really need some fiber in their diet, and the best is from driftwood. They will continually clean and scour driftwood, and from what I've read from breeders of Bristlenose and other plecos is that most of these suckermouth fish primarily eat the biofilm that forms on driftwood.

I have a few photos of my 50 tall from back in the '90's which had a few good sized pieces of river driftwood gathered from a local river.

This image has a lone Cory Pygmaeus but the branch behind it was the Cory and Oto condo and both were very industrious about working it over.
when not resting within the tangle of Java Fern.


At the lower edge of this shot, below the Male Dicrossus beating a retreat into the plants, you can see the edge of a large piece of driftwood that spanned the front of the tank. It was often times ragged with diatoms and green film and spot algae and the Cories and Otos loved grazing this piece. I think it was an old piece of Alder as it was a little soft in spots and it slowly lost it's volume to the action of the Otos over a few years time.


I also grew a lot of Oakleaf Water Sprite in this tank and it's older leaves were regularly munched to stubs by the Otos.

 
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