Join Date: Jan 2013
Location: The Boonies, Arizona
Last month one of my otos began to get red near his fins and gills. After googling like a madwoman I discovered that one of the reasons is as keepsmiling says, ammonia. But many, like me, had no ammonia present- it was just one of those mysterious oto illnesses that no one could figure out. I lost Batman Fish (my red oto) last week, but not to illness- he was getting better. Sweet little bugger got himself stuck in an empty snail shell.
Know that these guys are extremely sensitive due to the way that cyanide is used to catch them in the wild and their dietary needs. It is very common for the most experienced fishkeepers with the most established tanks to lose half a batch. The first month is the critical period. Once you can get them past that first month, they are out of the danger zone.
For this reason, it can be very difficult to introduce otos to an immature tank. Water parameters must be spot on, and there should be a good buildup of biofilm for them to eat, which is usually not present in an immature tank. Otos are wild caught and it can take them a while to figure out that the food we supplement them with is actually food. Add to this the fact that the poor guys probably haven't eaten anything at all during transport and at the LFS (I once bought otos at Petsmart and asked the employee what they feed their otos. She said, "well they just eat the algae." Goodness, have you ever seen those scrupulously clean, bare tanks?! Algae, what algae?!)- well, they're probably starving by the time they get to us. And if an oto doesn't eat for a long enough time, his gut bacteria will die off, leaving him unable to process food even if he does start to eat again.
So, keeping new otos alive in an uncycled tank. Check water params every single day and do a WC immediately upon seeing ammonia or nitrites. Supplement with food, even if they are not eating it, keep it in there at all times. They'll figure it out at some point. Blanched zucchini, carrots, spinach, peas- otos often wait till veggies have been in the tank for a day before they'll start noshing, so leave the veggies in for two days. I have never seen it affect my water params, just make sure it isn't falling apart or getting fungus. My otos adore Repashy's Super Green, and now refuse to touch veggies. They are fat, fat, fat- which is a good thing in otos. If you get algae wafers, make sure they are vegan. Most algae wafers contain fish/seafood and otos cannot process this- they are strict herbivores. Keep an eye on their tummies- they should look rounded, not sunken.
So, spotlessly clean water, supplemented food. But know that sometimes otos just die in the first month, despite your best care.
"People have forgotten this truth," the fox said. "But you mustn't forget it. You become responsible forever for what you've tamed."
-Antoine de Saint-Exupery