Otocinclus or as I usually call them Otos, are one of those fish that many people have so many questions about. They are a species that have many issues in the hobby, most are nearly starved to death by the time they reach our tanks, and many are very picky eaters when we first get them, making the problem even worse. A lot of the time the best advice you will get is to not add them unless your tank is well seasoned and has plenty of biofilm to get them through transition. Some people have luck with feeding cucumber, or canned green beans, others have success with algae wafers and Rapashy, and still more people try all of the above, to just watch all of it go uneaten as their Otos slowly fade away.
I used to be one of those people that had difficulty keeping them alive more than a couple weeks. one of the early tricks I tried to get them through quarantine, was to set up a tote outside in i sunny spot, cover the bottom with 8 inch long pieces of driftwood add a good dose of ferts and let the biofilm start to grow, After a few days of this being set up I would purchase my Otos, put them in quarantine, and rotate the pieces of drift wood daily while offering other foods. This reduced my loses, but was still not optimal.
Then one day I stumbled across a YouTube video, it was Mark's Aquatics, and he was making shrimp food, from various plant materials he had gathered and dried. I thought to myself that I would have to try that some day for my shrimp. Later that day I stumbled across a research paper, discussing the use of various seeds, as a means to supplement Omega 3 and ^ for farm raised Tilapia, primarily the use of Chia seeds, which were considered highly palatable to Tilapia.
Well having been on a health food kick or two in my life, I knew Chia seeds to be considered a super food, and that when soaked in liquid, they form this gelatinous ball around each seed about 5 times the size of the seed.
That's when the light bulb kicked on.
I had chia seeds. I had a whole garden full of, organic greens and a few other items kicking around the fish room. Over the next few days I gathered and dried a variety of greens. and once they were dried I started by Grinding about a cup of Chia seeds in an electric coffee grinder to make a fine powder. I then used the coffee grinder on dried Kale, dreid dandelion leaves, dried peas, dried parsley, raspberry leaves , and freeze dried blood worms, and spiralina flakes. I mixed it all together and added a small amount of garlic powder to the mix.
I took about an eighth of a teaspoon of this mix and added about the same amount of water to it in a small container, and mixed it up with my planting tongs to make it into a firm dough like consistency. I used my planting tongs to smear a small amount of this onto a piece of driftwood in my Otos tank, I also offered small bits of this to my shrimp, and guppies. The shrimp and guppies devoured it immediately, the Otos took a about and hour or so to try it, but after the first bite, the devoured it. After a few days, they all had fat little bellies, within two weeks they spawned for me the first time, and the fry could be seen feeding on this mix and they flourished. This is in a species only tank, as I was focusing on finding a way to feed the Otos primarily. So the fry stayed with the parents until they were big enough to move to community tanks. As they were growing I would offer other foods in addition to this home made Oto Fuel as I call it, and being introduced to variety at a younger age, all my tank raised Otos will eat almost anything I offer now.
My original wild caught trio Spawned at least four times in the first three months I had them, until I added other fish to their tank because I was completely over run with Otos. I have them in every tank like Malaysian Trumpet snails, they were everywhere! I Sold most of them fairly easily as they got to the half inch size that i deemed adequate, to sell.
I have made several batches of this food since varying amounts of the same ingredients, and have found that the otos seem to enjoy a slightly higher amount of Kale over the other greens, other than this I haven't really noticed much difference in performance or palatability. I have discovered that all my fish that enjoy some plant material in their diet, enjoy this food, and I believe the higher amounts of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids help condition fish for breeding quicker.
I just wanted to share my experience, and experiments with the community, and I hope if anyone tries a variation of this and has success they will let me know. I think this would work well with plecos as well and the formula can be tweaked to add more protein, or less depending on the specific requirements of the species targeted. I do believe the Chia seeds as a base rather than a gelatin or agar is definitely, beneficial to the overall results,
I also have started adding a calcium powder to the mix when I feed shrimp, and snails.
Anyway sorry for the long rambling format, hopefully you pick up an idea or two before succumbing to boredom.
Until next time Happy fishkeeping.