Zebra Otocinclus (Otocinclus Cocama)

Otocinclus Cocama is a freshwater armored catfish species belonging to the Loricariidae family. It is native to the Ucayali and Maranon river basins of Peru where it lives in mid-sized clear water creeks. It is an efficient algae grazer that does well in community tanks.



The body structure of Otocinclus Cocama is similar to other species of the Otocinclus genus. It is a small fish that grows only up to 4-5 cm and can live up to 5-9 years. This fish has a sucker mouth and striking white and black blotches on the body. It is difficult to identify the gender of a particular specimen, but the females are usually plumper than males of similar age.

Behavior and Compatibility:

Zebra Oto is a peaceful fish that can do well in community tanks. It is generally timid and spends most of the time grazing on algae. It is best to keep a group of a minimum of 6-8 fish exclusively in a tank of their own. When keeping Zebra Oto in a community tank, it is important to remember that its small size makes it a perfect snack for larger fish. Good tankmates are similar-sized peaceful fish like Characins, Rasbora, Boraras or Cory cats. Otocinclus Cocama can also share the tank with shrimp and doesn’t predate on baby shrimp, unlike most other fishes.

Important Notes

Zebra Otos have a terrible reputation for dying off during the initial few weeks or months in the aquarium even though the conditions required to keep them are not very difficult.

Almost all of the Zebra Otos come from the wild where they are caught by poisoning the water with cyanide (cyanide stuns the fishes). The fish are put under very stressful conditions and often, do not kept in the best water conditions or food during catching, wholesaling, shipping, and delivery processes. It weakens their immune system which can eventually lead to various bacterial infections and deaths.

Additionally, they have a symbiotic relationship with the bacteria present in their guts which help them in digesting cellulose (cell walls of plants/algae). If the fish starves for a few days, these bacteria may die. The fish may look healthy for a few weeks but then these bacteria die despite not being able to absorb nutrition properly.

If you are buying the fish from your local store, make sure to inquire about their health condition and survival rates. The fish which are actively grazing and moving have higher chances of surviving after you bring them home.

Water Parameters:

Temperature: 23-28°C
pH: 5,7 – 7,8
Hardness: 6-10 dGH

Otocinclus Cocama is very sensitive to water quality problems and needs fresh, clean water without much flow. The ammonium and nitrate levels in water should be as low as possible. The aquarium must be well planted with vegetation to make the fish feel secure.

It is important to ensure that the aquarium has abundant green algae, diatoms (brown algae) or biofilm (on leaves, glass or rocks). Before introducing Zebra Otos, Using some Bog woods, plants with large-leaves and flat rocks which provide surfaces for the growth of algae are a very good choice in decoration.


It is mainly dependent on algae for diet. Wild-caught fish will only eat algae and may not accept fish food or vegetables initially. Furthermore, it can eventually learn to eat sinking foods like algae wafers, spirulina, or kelp and boiled vegetables like spinach or zucchini. It also eats the biofilm growing on leaf litter like Indian Almond leaves or Oak leaves, so these leaves are good additions to tanks with Zebra Oto to provide a continuous food source.


Unfortunately, the exact conditions required to make Zebra Otos spawn are not known. Some aquarists report that making large water changes frequently is helpful in a neutral or slightly acidic water aquarium. The Otocinclus Cocama fry would be too small and would need tiny-sized algae or infusoria as a diet to survive. The survival rate of fry will also be higher in aged and well-cycled aquariums with competent biofilm and algae available.

Image Source: https://pikabu.ru/

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