Otocinclus Catfish

15 Great Otocinclus Tank Mates for Aquatic Harmony 2023

Are you a proud owner of Otocinclus, commonly known as the “Oto” or “Dwarf Sucker Catfish”? These small, peaceful fish are beloved for their ability to control aquarium algae. However, keeping Otocinclus alone can sometimes be dull. That’s where suitable Otocinclus tank mates come into play! This article will explore 15 great Otocinclus tank mates that can coexist harmoniously, creating a vibrant and balanced aquatic community.


Otocinclus, native to South America, are fascinating little catfish that add beauty and functionality to any aquarium. Their primary role is to keep algae growth in check, making them valuable members of an aquatic ecosystem. While they can thrive on their own, introducing compatible tank mates enhances the tank’s visual appeal and promotes a more dynamic and engaging environment.

What are Otocinclus tank mates?

Otocinclus tank mates are fish species that can cohabit peacefully with Otocinclus in the same aquarium. These companions share similar environmental requirements, behavior traits, and temperament, ensuring a balanced ecosystem within the tank. Selecting the right tank mates is crucial for the well-being of Otocinclus and the other fish species in the community.

Factors to consider

When choosing tank mates for Otocinclus, several factors should be considered to ensure compatibility and a healthy living environment. These factors include:

1. Tank size: The size of your aquarium plays a vital role in determining the number and types of fish you can keep. Otocinclus, being small in size, require a minimum tank size of 10 gallons. This provides adequate space for them to swim freely and find hiding spots if needed. A larger tank also minimizes territorial disputes and ensures ample oxygen supply for all the inhabitants. It allows for the inclusion of other species, whether small fish like zebra Otocinclus or larger fish compatible with Otocinclus.

2. Water parameters: Otocinclus are sensitive to water conditions, so maintaining suitable parameters is essential for their well-being. They thrive in a freshwater aquarium with a pH level between 6.5 and 7.5, a temperature range of 72-78°F (22-26°C), and a moderate water flow. Consistency in these water parameters is vital for the health and happiness of Otocinclus and their tank mates, whether they are other freshwater fish, dwarf suckers, or catfish species.

3. Temperament of Otocinclus: Otocinclus are peaceful and social fish, making them ideal candidates for a community tank. Their calm nature and preference for living in groups make them compatible with other small fish species with similar temperaments. It’s important to avoid keeping Otocinclus with aggressive or territorial species that may cause them stress or threaten their well-being. Choosing tank mates such as Siamese algae eaters or other small, peaceful fish ensures a harmonious coexistence within the community tank.

Creating the ideal community tank

When selecting tank mates for Otocinclus, considering their natural habitat and replicating the right conditions is crucial. Otocinclus thrive in aquariums that mimic their natural environment, with live plants providing hiding places and opportunities for grazing. The presence of live plants, such as Java Moss or Anubias, not only enhances the aesthetic appeal but also contributes to the overall health of the aquarium by maintaining water quality and oxygen levels.

In addition to their primary diet of algae, Otocinclus can be offered specialized foods such as algae wafers and fresh vegetables. These supplements ensure they receive a well-rounded diet and meet their nutritional needs. Tank mates that also benefit from plant-based diets, like brine shrimp or small freshwater fish that consume plant matter, make excellent additions to the community tank.

Regular water changes and monitoring of water parameters are essential for maintaining clean water and optimal oxygen levels. This helps create the conditions for Otocinclus and their tank mates to thrive. Providing hiding places, such as caves or rough surfaces, caters to the natural behavior of Otocinclus and creates a sense of security in the aquarium.

When it comes to breeding, creating the ideal conditions for Otocinclus to reproduce can be challenging. They require shallow water and ample hiding places for their breeding process. Setting up a separate breeding tank with appropriate substrates and hiding spots is often the best way to encourage successful breeding.

It’s important to note that Otocinclus are susceptible to diseases like any fish. Proper care, regular observation, and good water quality are crucial in preventing common diseases affecting them and other fish in the community tank. Monitoring the overall health of the fish, providing a balanced diet, and addressing any issues promptly are important aspects of Otocinclus catfish care.

15 Great Otocinclus Tank Mates

When selecting tank mates for Otocinclus, it’s important to consider compatibility regarding temperament, water parameters, and overall care requirements. Here are descriptions of each of the recommended tank mates and why they make great companions for Otocinclus:

Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi)

Otocinclus tank mates - Neon Tetras

Neon Tetras are vibrant, small-sized fish known for their stunning blue and red coloration. They are peaceful and non-aggressive, making them excellent Otocinclus tank mates. Their active nature and schooling behavior add liveliness to the tank, creating a visually appealing and harmonious aquatic community.

Ember Tetra (Hyphessobrycon amandae)

Otocinclus tank mates - Ember Tetra

Ember Tetras are another popular choice as Otocinclus tank mates. These tiny, orange-colored tetras contrast the Otocinclus and add color to the aquarium. Their peaceful temperament and schooling behavior provide a lively atmosphere while coexisting harmoniously.

Pygmy Corydoras (Corydoras pygmaeus)

Pygmy Corydoras

Pygmy Corydoras are miniature catfish known for their adorable appearance and peaceful nature. They are bottom-dwelling fish that share similar requirements with Otocinclus. Their small size and non-aggressive behavior make them ideal tank mates. Pygmy Corydoras also exhibit schooling behavior, which adds an engaging element to the aquarium.

Cherry Barb (Puntius titteya)

Otocinclus tank mates - Cherry Barb

Cherry Barbs are colorful, active fish that can thrive alongside Otocinclus. These vibrant red fish are known for their peaceful nature and compatibility with various tank mates. Cherry Barbs create a visually appealing contrast to the Otocinclus, and their playful behavior adds excitement to the aquarium.

Harlequin Rasbora (Trigonostigma heteromorpha)

Otocinclus tank mates - Harlequin Rasboras

Harlequin Rasboras are lively, peaceful fish that form tight-knit schools. Their attractive orange and black patterns make them eye-catching additions to any aquarium. With their calm demeanor and compatibility with Otocinclus, Harlequin Rasboras contribute to a visually dynamic and socially engaging environment.

Endler’s Livebearer (Poecilia wingei)

Otocinclus tank mates - Endlers

Endler’s Livebearers are small, colorful fish with similar care requirements to Otocinclus. These fish are known for their energetic nature and unique color patterns. With their peaceful temperament, Endler’s Livebearers add activity and diversity to the tank, making them suitable companions for Otocinclus.

Celestial Pearl Danio (Danio margaritatus)

Otocinclus tank mates - Celestial Pearl Danios

Celestial Pearl Danios, or Galaxy Rasboras, are stunning fish with iridescent blue and red markings. They are peaceful and small-sized, making them compatible with Otocinclus tank mates. Celestial Pearl Danios are known for their schooling behavior and active nature, providing an interesting and visually appealing dynamic to the aquarium.

Dwarf Gourami (Trichogaster lalius)

Otocinclus tank mates - Dwarf Gourami

Dwarf Gouramis are beautiful, colorful fish that can coexist peacefully with Otocinclus. With their vibrant hues and flowing fins, Dwarf Gouramis create an elegant and visually captivating presence in the aquarium. Their peaceful temperament and compatibility with Otocinclus make them an excellent choice for a harmonious community setup.

Bristlenose Pleco (Ancistrus cirrhosis)

Otocinclus tank mates - Pleco

Bristlenose Plecos are small-sized plecos with a unique appearance characterized by their bristle-like facial appendages. They are efficient algae eaters, like Otocinclus, and their presence ensures effective algae control in the tank. Bristlenose Plecos are peaceful and work well as Otocinclus tank mates, creating a symbiotic relationship that benefits the aquarium ecosystem.

Zebra Nerite Snail (Neritina natalensis)

Otocinclus tank mates - Nerite Snails

Zebra Nerite Snails are popular invertebrate tank mates for Otocinclus. They are small, highly efficient algae eaters that help maintain a clean and balanced aquarium. Zebra Nerite Snails are peaceful and have a striking black and yellow striped pattern, adding visual interest to the tank.

Crystal Red Shrimp (Caridina cantonensis)

otocinclus tank mates - Crystal Red Shrimp

Crystal Red Shrimp are small, eye-catching species known for their red and white coloration. They are peaceful invertebrates that add a unique and delicate touch to the aquarium. Crystal Red Shrimp are efficient algae grazers and contribute to the overall cleanliness of the tank. With their peaceful nature, they can coexist harmoniously with Otocinclus.

White Cloud Mountain Minnow (Tanichthys albonubes)

Otocinclus tank mates - White Cloud Minnow

White Cloud Mountain Minnows are small, active fishes that are great as Otocinclus tank mates. They have a silvery-white body with red fins, adding color and movement to the aquarium. White Cloud Mountain Minnows are peaceful and easy to care for, making them suitable tank mates for Otocinclus.

Kuhli Loach (Pangio kuhlii)

otocinclus tank mates - Kuhli Loaches

Kuhli Loaches are eel-like fish with a peaceful temperament. They have a unique appearance with their long, slender bodies and intricate patterns. Kuhli Loaches are primarily bottom-dwellers and make great tank mates for Otocinclus. Their presence adds diversity and activity to the lower regions of the aquarium, creating a visually captivating and engaging setup.

Platies (Xiphophorus spp.)

otocinclus tank mates - Platy Fish

Platies are small, colorful live-bearing fish that can coexist peacefully as Otocinclus tank mates. They come in various colors, including red, orange, yellow, and blue, adding a vibrant touch to the aquarium. Platies are known for their friendly temperament and adaptability to different water conditions, making them suitable companions for Otocinclus.

Honey Gourami (Trichogaster chuna)

otocinclus tank mates - Honey Gourami

Honey Gouramis are peaceful and beautifully colored fish that can thrive as Otocinclus tank mates. Their golden or amber hues and unique patterning make them visually striking additions to the tank. Honey Gouramis are known for their calm demeanor and compatibility with other peaceful fish, creating a serene and captivating aquatic environment.

By selecting these compatible tank mates, you can create a harmonious community with Otocinclus, enhancing your aquarium’s visual appeal and overall health.

Incompatible tank mates

While it’s important to focus on suitable tank mates, knowing which fish should be avoided as Otocinclus tank mates is equally vital. Here are a few fish species that are generally considered incompatible with Otocinclus due to various reasons:

Angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare)

Incompatible tank mates - Angelfish

Angelfish are known for aggressive behavior, especially during breeding and territorial disputes. They may perceive the small size and peaceful nature of Otocinclus as a potential threat or food source. The size difference between Angelfish and Otocinclus also poses a risk of predation or injury, making them incompatible Otocinclus tank mates.

Tiger Barb (Puntigrus tetrazona)

Incompatible tank mates - Tiger Barbs

Tiger Barbs are notorious for their fin-nipping behavior, particularly when in small groups or in inadequate tank conditions. They may target the delicate fins of Otocinclus, causing stress, injury, and potential health issues. The active and sometimes aggressive nature of Tiger Barbs makes them incompatible with the peaceful and smaller Otocinclus.

Betta Fish (Betta splendens)

Incompatible tank mates - Betta Fish

Betta Fish, also known as Siamese Fighting Fish, are known for their territorial and aggressive nature. Male Betta Fish, in particular, are known to be highly territorial and may attack tank mates, including Otocinclus. The slow-moving and peaceful nature of Otocinclus makes them vulnerable to aggression and fin damage from Betta Fish, making them unsuitable companions.

Cichlids (Various species)

Incompatible tank mates - Cichlids

Cichlids encompass a wide range of species, and while some may exhibit peaceful behavior, many are known for their territoriality and aggression. Cichlids can become highly territorial during breeding or when establishing dominance, posing a threat to the peaceful nature of Otocinclus. Additionally, Cichlids often require different water parameters and tank conditions, making them incompatible with the requirements of Otocinclus.

Goldfish (Carassius auratus)

Incompatible tank mates - Goldfish

Goldfish have different care requirements than Otocinclus, particularly regarding water temperature, filtration needs, and diet. Goldfish produce a significant amount of waste, leading to higher ammonia levels in the water, which can be detrimental to the sensitive Otocinclus. Additionally, Goldfish tend to grow larger, creating a risk of accidentally swallowing or injuring the smaller Otocinclus.

Considering the aggressive behavior, different care requirements, and potential risks posed by these fish species, it is generally recommended to avoid keeping them together with Otocinclus in the same aquarium.

Creating a harmonious community

Introducing new Otocinclus tank mates to an existing Otocinclus setup requires careful planning and implementation to ensure a smooth transition. Here are a few key steps to follow:

  1. Proper acclimation: Gradually introduce new fish to the tank, allowing them to adjust to the water conditions over time. This helps minimize stress and prevents sudden changes in the tank’s ecosystem.
  2. Tank setup and decorations: Provide plenty of hiding spots and vegetation to create territories and add visual interest. Dense plantings, caves, and driftwood are excellent choices.
  3. Feeding strategies: Ensure all fish in the community receive adequate nutrition. Otocinclus primarily feed on algae, while other tank mates may require a combination of dry, frozen, or live food. Supplement their diet accordingly.
  4. Monitoring behavior and health: Regularly observe the tank mates for signs of aggression, stress, or illness. Early detection can prevent potential conflicts or health issues.

By following these steps, you can establish a harmonious community that promotes the well-being and happiness of all inhabitants, including Otocinclus.

Benefits of having Otocinclus tank mates

Having suitable tank mates for Otocinclus provides numerous benefits for the fish and the aquarium ecosystem. Some notable advantages include:

1. Algae control: One of the primary benefits of having Otocinclus tank mates is effective algae control. Otocinclus are renowned for their voracious appetite for algae, making them natural aquarium cleaners. Their constant grazing on algae helps maintain a clean and balanced environment by preventing excessive algae growth. With Otocinclus and their tank mates working together, the need for manual algae removal is significantly reduced, saving time and effort for the aquarium hobbyist.

2. Stress reduction: Otocinclus are social fish that thrive in the presence of their kind and other compatible tank mates. When kept in a community tank, the presence of suitable companions helps alleviate stress and enhances the overall well-being of the fish. Otocinclus feel more secure and comfortable interacting with their species or other peaceful fish. This sense of companionship reduces stress levels and promotes natural behavior, resulting in healthier and happier Otocinclus.

3. Visual appeal: Introducing tank mates to accompany Otocinclus adds a layer of visual appeal to the aquarium. Each species brings unique colors, patterns, and characteristics, creating a visually captivating and dynamic aquatic display. The combination of Otocinclus with other small, colorful fish or contrasting species enhances the overall aesthetics of the tank, making it more visually pleasing and enjoyable to observe.

4. Balanced ecosystem: Creating a thriving aquatic community is visually appealing and contributes to a balanced ecosystem within the aquarium. Each fish species plays a specific role, and when chosen wisely, the combination of Otocinclus and their tank mates form a symbiotic relationship. While Otocinclus control algae growth, other fish may contribute by consuming excess food particles or organic matter, maintaining the ecological balance. The different species interact and create a microcosm of natural behaviors, promoting a healthy and functional aquatic environment.

5. Educational and engaging experience: Having a diverse community tank with Otocinclus and their tank mates offers an educational and engaging experience for aquarium enthusiasts. Observing the interactions, behaviors, and hierarchy among the different species provides valuable insights into the natural world. It allows for a closer look at the intricacies of fish behavior, feeding habits, and social dynamics. This enriching experience fosters a deeper appreciation and understanding of the fascinating world of aquatic life.


Choosing suitable Otocinclus tank mates enhances the aesthetics of your aquarium and contributes to the overall well-being and happiness of these fascinating fish. Considering factors such as tank size, water parameters, and temperament, you can create a harmonious community where Otocinclus and their companions thrive together. Monitor the behavior and health of all fish regularly to ensure a balanced and enjoyable aquatic environment.


1. What size tank is suitable for Otocinclus?

Otocinclus require a minimum tank size of 10 gallons to ensure ample swimming space and a healthy living environment. The larger the tank, the better, as it provides more room for the Otocinclus to explore and exhibit natural behaviors. A larger tank also allows for the inclusion of suitable tank mates and helps maintain stable water parameters.

2. Can Otocinclus live with aggressive fish?

Keeping Otocinclus with aggressive fish species is generally not recommended. Otocinclus are peaceful and may become stressed or harmed in the presence of aggressive tank mates. Aggressive fish may chase, nip, or even injure the small and delicate Otocinclus. It is important to select tank mates with similar temperaments to ensure a harmonious and stress-free environment for the Otocinclus.

3. How do I introduce new tank mates to Otocinclus?

When introducing new tank mates to Otocinclus, proceeding cautiously to minimize stress and ensure a smooth transition is important. Gradual acclimation is key to successful integration. Start by placing the new tank mates in a separate quarantine tank or a breeder box within the main tank. This allows the fish to observe each other while preventing direct contact. Over several days, gradually expose the tank mates to each other’s presence by removing barriers or opening the breeder box. Monitor their behavior closely during this process to ensure compatibility and minimize aggressive interactions.

4. What should I do if my Otocinclus becomes sick?

If your Otocinclus shows signs of illness, it is important to take immediate action to prevent further disease spread and provide proper care. Firstly, isolate the sick Otocinclus in a separate quarantine tank to avoid contamination and to closely monitor its condition. It is recommended to consult a knowledgeable fish veterinarian or seek guidance from experienced aquatic professionals who can provide a proper diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment options. Early intervention and prompt treatment are essential to maximizing the chances of recovery for the sick Otocinclus.

5. Are there any alternatives to Otocinclus tank mates?

If Otocinclus tank mates are not suitable for your specific aquarium setup or if you prefer alternative methods for algae control, other options are available. Consider introducing snails, such as Nerite or Mystery Snails, which can contribute to algae consumption. Additionally, certain shrimp species, like Amano shrimp or Cherry shrimp, are known for their algae-eating abilities and can make compatible tank mates for Otocinclus. However, it’s important to research these alternatives’ specific requirements and compatibility before introducing them to your aquarium.

Always consider the specific needs of your Otocinclus and choose tank mates that promote a peaceful and healthy environment for all inhabitants.

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