Almost any freshwater aquarium can benefit from an algae eater like the dwarf sucker catfish. Ideal for nano tanks and planted communities, the small herbivores of the genus Otocinclus are peaceful and active algae eaters. Between Otocinclus vestitus and vittatus, is the Silver or the Common Oto a better choice for your tank?
Otocinclus Vestitus VS Vittatus – Quick Overview
|Otocinclus vestitus||Otocinclus vittatus|
|appearance differences||Upper half of body gray and mottled with a thin horizontal lateral line running from snout to base of caudal peduncle||Horizontal dark line running along lateral line from snout to caudal peduncle, with bold white line just above|
|Ideal water temperature||77 to 86°F||70 to 79°F|
|Location of native populations||Tributaries of the Ambyiacu River in Peru||Tributary system of the Paraguay River in Brazil|
Introduction to Otocinclus Algae Eaters
When it comes to algae-eating fish, there are few that can match the small, friendly and shy herbivores of the genus Otocinclus. Native to small rivers and streams in South America, these peaceful and easy-care fish are an ideal choice for community planted aquariums 10 gallons or larger.
What are Otocinclus fish?
Otocinclus (pronounced Otto-sin-klus), referred to as Ottos or Otos in the aquarium trade, are a genus of small herbivorous sucker fish in the family Loricariidae or armored catfish. They are a popular choice for aquariums of all sizes due to their peaceful nature, entertaining shocking behaviors, and algae eating abilities.
These fish are highly regarded for their ability to consume problematic diatomic (brown) algae and are often purchased in groups or schools of 3-6 to prevent algal blooms. They are rarely or never bred in captivity, so the fish available in stores are usually caught as juveniles from native populations.
Since most of the fish come from wild populations, they are often identified by the generic name “Otocinclus” instead of being properly labeled by species. Even when species names are used in stores, they are often incorrect. Many novice aquarists (and sellers) have no idea that multiple species of otos exist!
How many species of Otos are there?
Otos are practically essential fish for planted aquariums, as algae are so easily introduced along with live plants and sprouts can be difficult to deal with once they take over. But what kind of Oto should I look for? Does it matter in terms of its size, appearance or algae eating performance in your tank?
There are 19 recognized species in the genus Otocinclus, but only a few are typically available in the U.S. aquarium trade. These algae eaters generally grow 1 to 2 inches long and have a mix of brown, gray, and brown markings. and silver. The five species you are most likely to encounter in the US include:
- The Common Oto (Otocinclus vittatus) is, as its nickname suggests, the most common species you’re likely to see for sale in pet stores and online, and it typically has brown and white markings with a white belly.
- The small Dwarf Oto (Otocinclus macrospilus) is another popular nano fish and usually tops out at about 1 inch in length as an adult. They are similar in coloration to common and goldfins, but can be distinguished by markings on their caudal (tail) fin.
- The Golden Oto (Otocinclus affinis) is almost identical to the Common but has subtle browns of gold in color. This species is difficult to find in the US and is frequently and almost universally misidentified in pet stores.
- The distinctive black and white marked Zebra or tiger oto (Otocinclus cocama) is the most easily identifiable member of the genus and is one of the rarest species to see in stores.
- The Silver Oto (Otocinclus vestitus) closely resembles the common, golden, and dwarf otos, but displays a more silvery coloration amid brown on the upper body.
What species of oto is the best algae eater?
There is no appreciable difference between the species in terms of their algae consumption or personalities. I’ve noticed that many big box stores don’t even identify what species they’re selling and instead only carry generic «Otocinclus» tanks, so you may not even know what type(s) you have in your bank.
It can be difficult to tell the species apart in a mixed tank, and in some cases almost impossible without using a microscope to examine your lateral line for small differences. Let’s take a second to compare the common Oto and the rarer Silver Oto in terms of their appearance and care requirements.
What is the difference between Otocinclus vestitus and Otocinclus vittatus?
O.vittatus (Common Oto) has a thick horizontal line that follows the lateral line from the snout (nose) to the caudal peduncle (base of tail) with a bold white line just above it. O.vestitusOto de plata) has a mottled gray and brown upper body with a thin lateral line running from the snout to the caudal peduncle, and lacks the white stripe.
The ultimate way to correctly identify Otocinclus species from one another depends on knowing where they were collected from in the wild. While otos populations are found in streams throughout South America east of the Andes, the species inhabits distinct territories with little-known overlap:
Care Requirements and Temperature Preferences
There are not many differences between Otos species in terms of their care requirements. Aquarium algae cannot provide them with a balanced diet, so supplement your Otos with commercial algae wafers and spirulina granules, and provide regular treats of fresh blanched vegetables such as zucchini, peas, and cucumber.
The one notable difference between the species is their preferred temperature ranges, which vary somewhat depending on their location of origin. In general, Otos do well in water between 72 and 82°F. But the Common Oto does best in water cooler than 70 to 79°F, while the Silverback prefers things a little warmer than that. 77 to 86°F.
It doesn’t really matter which species of Otocinclus you end up with, as both the Common and Silver Otos are similar in size, behavior, temperament, and diet. . You may prefer to search for the rarer silver species. if your tank temperature is above 80°F, as they like it warmer, but either species is a great choice for planted aquariums!