My real passion in tropical fish is corydoras but like most fish keepers I can't resist the odd non cory, consequently my tanks now hold many types of characin, dwarf cichlids, a few discus and some Otocinclus. The otocinclus were obtained from three separate sources, 2 shops and an auction, the idea being that they might keep one of my stock tanks free from algae. I soon learned that you would need to fill the tank with Otocinclus to regulate the algae growth, as my nine fish seemed to graze all day with no effect at all!
After a major reshuffle in my fish room, a suitable breeding tank became available for the otocinclus so they were caught up and transferred to the breeding tank. This was set up using an air driven foam filter with several pieces of Java fern on bogwood and a thin layer of play pit sand. Water conditions were a temp of 25° C. slightly acidic and soft, this is my usual starting point for South American species. Food at this time was Tabimin, frozen bloodworm and mysis shrimp,(the bloodworm and mysis were both grated whilst still frozen). It soon became apparent that not all the fish were the same type, a size and marking difference led me to believe that I had two types of Oto's, so out with the books to identify them. At this point a major problem cropped up, firstly there does not seem to be much information about Oto's and secondly as they started to come into condition their colour and markings changed significantly, making it even more difficult to find them in my books or on the net. But after much searching I believe I have O. vittatus and possibly O. vestitus (maybe!).
During the search I had hoped to discover more about the natural environment for these fish, water conditions, food, etc. but my water conditions were close anyway, so that left food;- my book said they eat auwfuchs, but I don't think my local shop stocks auwfuchs and I'm not sure I dare ask them!
The Oto's were split into species groups and housed in two tanks with exactly the same conditions. I now started to try lots of different foods as well as the food already mentioned. I tried newly hatched brine shrimp, microworms, grindal worms and chopped white worms. Also a very fine high protein fry food which the fish would harvest from the plant leaves as they searched for algae, all of which were readily eaten. I also tried cucumber, lettuce and potato but the oto's ignored them preferring to eat algae. It should be remembered that heavy feeding can quickly pollute the water, so I started changing 10% of the water every day and 50% once a week.
After a couple of weeks of this regime my oto's had undergone a complete change. The females showed full abdomens and the males competed to be next to them pushing each other out of the way to be near the largest female. I did not witness a spawning but it became obvious when it was about to happen as the males would chase all around the tank to be the one to fertilise the eggs, which were always placed on the plant leaves and usually out of sight. Unlike corydoras I never found an egg on the sides of the tank.
After a few days young fry could be seen all over the tank, on the glass, on the plant leaves and on the sand base. The fry were very small and I was concerned as to what they would eat, but it became clear they were grazing on the bio film that occurs naturally in an established tank.(Bio film probably consists of algae, bacteria and micro organisms, the nearest I could get to aufwuchs). They grew at a good rate and were soon eating the same food as the adults.
Every few weeks a new hatch would appear and it soon became obvious that I would have to stop the adults spawning or run out of space for them! I therefore moved all the adults back to the stock tank to allow the youngsters room to grow, and grow they did. Within a few months I had two very full tanks of young Oto's to find homes for. Eventually all were sold at auctions and I hope they gave their new keepers as much enjoyment as they did me.
Copyright; Article and photos, Dave Bent.
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