Are Otocinclus catfish baby shrimp safe?

Ever found yourself scrolling through forums, seeking the ultimate answer to whether Otocinclus catfish are shrimp safe? you will get tons of different answers and conflicting opinions. Some say they’re shrimp safe, while others disagree. What’s the truth? This Is my opinion.

Otocinclus Catfish are Not 100% Shrimp Safe.

Hey, shrimpfam! I’ve been breeding shrimp and Otos together for over 15 years and keeping aquariums for 40+ years and let me tell you, the waters are murky regarding this topic. I’ve seen firsthand that Otos can and will snack on baby shrimpOpens in a new tab. if given the chance.

I also used to condition my female Otos with live bloodworm and brine shrimpOpens in a new tab., and if they can eat those, they can eat baby shrimp.

Now, I get it. You’ve never seen your Otos eat shrimp, but consider this: baby shrimp are about 2mm in size—pretty easy to miss, right? I’ve kept them together successfully, but it’s crucial to know that Otos are opportunistic regarding food.

Otocinclus Catfish: The Shrimp Safety Debate

Otos have a diverse diet, and yes, they can consider baby shrimp as a potential snack. I’ve conditioned my Otos with live bloodwormOpens in a new tab. and brine shrimp, which has expanded their dietary range.

This means that even if you’ve never seen your Otos munching on shrimp, those tiny 2mm baby shrimp could be at risk. It’s essential to understand that Otos are opportunistic feeders, and when it comes to food, they can be quite versatile.

Ottos do better in groups
Ottos do better in groups

The Dynamics of Tank Coexistence

Sharing a tank is not just about cohabitation; it’s about creating a balanced ecosystem where each species can thrive. Otos are primarily algae grazers, often too engrossed in their biofilm buffet to even notice your shrimp.

But nature is unpredictable. If a baby shrimp happens to cross an Oto’s path during its foraging, it might not hesitate to make a meal of it. The key to successful coexistence lies in understanding the behavioral patterns of both species.

Otos are generally peaceful but can become opportunistic when food is scarce like most animals. Therefore, monitoring their behavior is crucial, especially during feeding times.

Big fat Otto
Big fat Otto

Otocinclus Diet: What’s on the Menu?

While Otos are algaeOpens in a new tab. lovers, they are not strict vegetarians. They have a varied diet that includes algae, biofilm, and, occasionally, protein-rich foods.

This is an important consideration because what Otos eat directly impacts the safety of your shrimp. Adult shrimp usually don’t face any risks due to their size and agility, but baby shrimp could be at risk. Baby shrimp are not as fast or as agile as their adult counterparts, making them an easier target for Otos that are looking for a quick snack.

Newborn shrimp just 2mm in length
Newborn shrimp just 2mm in length on Biofilm

The Vulnerability of Baby Shrimp

Baby shrimp are especially vulnerable due to their small size and lack of experience in evading predators. Their size, just 2mm, makes them an easy target for any fish that doesn’t mind a little protein in their diet.

Otos that have been conditioned to eat protein-rich foods like bloodworms or brine shrimp pose an even greater risk to these tiny crustaceans.

The risk is not just theoretical; it’s based on years of observation and experience. If you’re planning to breed shrimp, it’s crucial to consider this and plan your tank setup accordingly.

Strategies for Risk Mitigation

Reducing the risk of Otos eating your baby shrimp involves a multi-faceted approach. First, consider the layout of your tank. Create distinct zones using aquatic plants, driftwood, and specialized shrimp hides.

These serve as both grazing surfaces for Otos and safe havens for shrimp. Second, diet plays a crucial role. Regularly feeding your Otos with algae wafers or blanched vegetablesOpens in a new tab. like zucchini and spinach can keep them satiated, reducing the likelihood of them considering alternative food options.

Lastly, maintaining stable water parameters is essential for the well-being of both species. Regular water changes, proper filtration, and water quality monitoring can go a long way in ensuring a peaceful coexistence.

Cherry Shrimp with shrimplets
Cherry Shrimp with shrimplets

Additional Tips for a Harmonious Tank

Beyond the basics, there are additional steps you can take to ensure a harmonious tank environment. Consider adding more vertical spaces like tall plants or rock formations. These can act as additional barriers and hiding spots, further reducing risks. Also, consider the social dynamics of your tank.

Otos are social fish and prefer to be in groups, which can sometimes reduce their interest in exploring other food options. Similarly, shrimp are more comfortable and less stressed when they have plenty of hiding spots, which makes them less likely to venture into risky areas.

Conclusion: The Final Verdict on Otos and Shrimp

In summary, while Otocinclus catfish and shrimp can technically share a tank, it’s not without its challenges. Otos are opportunistic when it comes to their diet, and baby shrimp are particularly vulnerable.

However, with meticulous planning, a well-designed tank, and a deep understanding of each species’ dietary and behavioral traits, you can create a balanced and harmonious environment.

If you have further questions or need additional insights, feel free to reach out. I also actively participate in the Aquarium Shrimp Keeping Facebook groupOpens in a new tab., Just make a new post, and I or one of my moderators will see it.

Happy Shrimp and Oto Keeping! 🦐


Q. Can I keep otocinclus with shrimp?

A. Yes, you can keep Otocinclus catfish with shrimp, but it requires careful planning and understanding of both species’ dietary and environmental needs to minimize risks, especially to baby shrimp.

Q. Are Otto’s shrimp safe?

A. Otocinclus catfish are generally considered safe for adult shrimp but can pose a risk to baby shrimp due to their opportunistic feeding behavior.

Q. Are catfish safe with shrimp?

A. It depends on the species of catfish. While Otocinclus catfish can be kept with shrimp under certain conditions, other types of catfish may be more predatory and not suitable for a shrimp tank.

Q. What catfish won’t eat shrimp?

A. Otocinclus catfish are among the safer options when it comes to catfish that won’t actively hunt shrimp. However, no catfish can be considered 100% shrimp-safe due to their opportunistic feeding habits.

Q. Will algae eaters eat my shrimp?

A. Algae eaters like Otocinclus catfish primarily focus on algae but are opportunistic feeders. While they are unlikely to eat adult shrimp, they may snack on baby shrimp if the opportunity arises.


Mark has been passionate about aquariums for over 40 years.

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