New planted tank: Betta with Ottos

  • #1
HI guys, I just wanted to start a thread by way of introducing myself and perhaps receive some advice, criticism or assurances or at least some other opinions on my observations. I am a new aquarist.

I recently started a 5 gal planted tank. It has fluval volcanic soil substrate and for its size I believe it is pretty heavily planted with water wysteria, ludwigia, moss, a little hm for ground cover and a small anubia. I initially stocked with a single Betta and after a week I had visible green algae growing on plants and glass as well as lots of white jelly/fuzz on my drift wood so I introduced two ottocinclus. Since I added ottos, especially a few days after I have noticed massively accelerated growth in the wysteria.

Tank is now 2 weeks old. It was started with apI quick start. It has undergone 1x 30% water change with new water treated with quick start. Up until now all zero readings (checking every couple of days) except today ammonia is up at 0.25 (next water change due now).

The Betta is happy and feeding well and I have noticed it enjoys attention and changes to tank layout. Initially it was snapping at the otos; however now it completely ignores them.

I very gradually acclimated the 2 otos. Initially the otos started showing a behavior that was making me anxious. They tend to exclusively stick together in one or the other front corner of the tank and dart up and down quickly disturbing the substrate in either corner and messing up my hm plant. This went on for a couple days although they were also feeding on the glass. After this stage they began to start moving around front and side glass also but still seemingly ignoring the inner water column, plants or wood (all with lots of food). It seemed to me that one of the otos was always instigating the frantic up/down behavior in the tank corners and the other would follow it in doing this. Now after a few more days the 'following' oto has finally discovered all the plants and features in the middle of the tank and is now happy hiding and feeding in the inner bulk of the tank at his leisure while the 'aggravated instigator' oto still seems just to be stuck on the glass. Do I just have a 'smart' and a 'dumb' oto?

Is this normal oto behavior? Why would they ignore all the plants and wood with lots of algae and just stick on the glass? To me it seems that they are very slow learning fish with poor environmental awareness? They did not notice a blanched cucumber slice in 48 hours.

I hope the second oto calms down and starts joining his friend in the plants as the frantic behavior on the glass is somewhat disturbing the peacefulness of the aquarium and is damaging my hm foreground-cover and preventing it from growing. Perhaps I am observing the result of keeping these fish in insufficient numbers or in too small a tank? They both are feeding and there is lots of fish poo now since their introduction almost 5 days ago. I do realise they should prefer being in 3 or more in a larger tank; however like I saw my water prams are all okay and there's lots of plants/hiding places.

I do want to set up another larger tank (3ft?) soon for a simple aquascape with just a tetra school. Perhaps the ottos will have to move there while gaining a friend? I will be reluctant to add anymore fish to my 5gal, in fact in retrospect I'd prefer if it were only the Betta as I feel like the frantic nature of the otos is disrupting the calmness of the tank. I guess I am just not a fan of this fish's temperament as I have so far observed (their fault or mine?) although when they are discrete, hidden and working away, they are okay.

Seems like otos do make a lot of mess, so perhaps I'd have been better just trying shorter light period to control the algae instead, although if they help Jump Start a cycle that's not a bad thing. Silly thing is now I'll Amway's be concerned about not having enough algae!!

Anyway, thanks for any comments,


Another question: are my consistent 0 ammonia/nitrite/nitrate readings in the first 2 weeks and one 30% water change likely due to plant absorption of waste? ( it took introducing the 2 otos to bump my ammonia production to beyond my plants ability to absorb?). Or does the apI quick start have something to do with this? Should I continue using the quick start with subsequent water changes?

  • #2
Hi, and welcome to the site. I think that you are quite right, and should restrict your stocking to just the betta, as a 5 gallon is just too small for ottos, which 1)prefer to be kept in a larger school and 2) are best added to a tank that has been running for some time.
I would manage algae with manual removal, and careful management of light and water quality (ensure that your lighting is in the proper wavelengths for vascular plants and do frequent water changes).
As I start my tanks using old, clean and well seeded filter media, I can only suggest that you follow the instructions on the BB product that you used, and perhaps visit their website for more info and any other questions. Hopefully you will get a response from someone familiar with the product in due course.
All the best to you, rick

  • #3
I think 2 oto's are not enough for your oto's to feel comfortable. Really you need at least 4 and most say 6. Oto's are great little fish and I enjoy mine but they are not the best algae removers. They also need to be in a tank that has been running for a few months like ricmcc said.

If you are having an algae problem, you could use a combination of flourish excel (make sure this is appropriate for all of your plants), manual removal (I have found the mag float does a great job and is very easy), and nerite snails (they pretty much eat any algae as opposed to oto's only eating a few types). Nerites do a great job and for a 5 gallon that has plenty of algae you could probably do 2 or maybe 3. Also, how long is your lights on during the day?
  • #4
Welcome to fishlore!
As mentioned, otos get too big for a 5g, and they need groups of 6+, preferably much larger as they are found in groups of hundreds in the wild. They need a 20 gallon minimum.

Also mentioned, nerite snails are great algae eaters and will work in a 5g. Also, a betta isn't going to like fish tank mates in this small of a tank.
  • #5
What kind of tests are you using? The one that is most highly recommended is the API Master Kit. Are you familiar with the Nitrogen Cycle? Reading up on that will give you answers about where you're at, water-wise. I have never used API Quick Start. But I have had good luck with Tetra Safe Start and Dr. Tim's One and Only.

Angelfish lover 01
  • #6
Welcome! This is a great forum you will learn so much.
  • Thread Starter
  • #7
Thanks for all your replies guys, this seems like a great forum!

My lights are on for too long, around 10 hours per day. I realise this is contributing to algae and I need to get a timer. The light is at 9w led daylight color temp.

Thanks I've read a bit about the nitrogen cycle and params very interesting stuff! I'm using an apI master kit but seem to have a lot of trouble matching colours up. Could be my eyes but PH for example I can tell it's definitely a light pale green but I struggle to match it up to 6.6, 6.8 or 7, it's just as similar to all of them! The PH does seem to be locked to 7 with a hardness buffer.

I'll see what I can do about these otos. I didn't want a snail because I find them revolting. Shrimp would be cool but I'm sure the betta will eat them. Guess I'll have to do the work myself haha!
  • #8
Two things that I find help me in any colour comparison test are, 1) test under consistent lighting (I prefer daylight), and 2), if possible, have a second person give an opinion, as mine is likely to be a little biased.
Best to you,rick

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