Cory Catfish: Care Guide with Pictures

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If you’re looking for a friendly and easy-to-care-for freshwater fish, then you might want to consider the Cory Catfish.

Cory Catfish are bottom-dwelling scavengers that are often described as “armored catfish” due to their rows of bony plates that run along their bodies. They come in a variety of colors and patterns, making them a colorful addition to any aquarium.

These fish are also known for their playful and social behavior, often seen swimming in groups and interacting with each other.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Cory Catfish care, including their diet, tank requirements, and compatible tank mates.

So, let’s dive in and learn more about these charming little fish!

Species Summary

Cory catfish, also known as corydoras, are small freshwater fish that belong to the Callichthyidae family.

These adorable fish are native to South America and are best known for their peaceful nature and their ability to clean up debris in your aquarium.

There are over 170 types of cory catfish, each with its unique appearance, size, and behavior.

Some of the most popular types include Albino Cory Catfish, Bronze Cory Catfish, Panda Cory Catfish, Peppered Cory Catfish, Pygmy Cory Catfish, Julii Cory Catfish, and Sterbai Cory Catfish.

Scientifically known as Corydoras, these fish are found in regions all across South America, from the Andes Mountains to the Atlantic coast.

They live in slow-moving, clear shallow streams with sediment and a sandy riverbed.

This natural habitat is partially shaded from light by dense overhead foliage, and plants grow abundantly in the waters.

Cory catfish are relatively small, with an average size of 2-3 inches long.

They are peaceful and social fish that thrive in groups of 6 or more.

They are bottom dwellers and spend most of their time scavenging for food on the substrate of your aquarium.

With so many different types to choose from, you’re sure to find one that fits perfectly into your aquarium setup.

Cory Catfish Care

Appearance And Size

Cory Catfish are small, friendly freshwater fish that come in a variety of colors and patterns.

They have a distinctive, flattened body shape and a rounded head.

The fish have a pair of barbels on their upper jaw, which they use to search for food in the substrate.

Cory Catfish come in many different colors, including bronze, albino, black, peppered, and panda.

Some species have a solid color, while others have intricate patterns or stripes.

The coloration of the fish can vary depending on their habitat, age, and breeding.

Cory Catfish have a dorsal fin and an adipose fin, which is located on their back near the tail.

The fins are usually clear or translucent, but some species have a darker coloration on their fins.

The fish also have a pair of pectoral fins, which they use to swim and navigate their environment.

The size can vary depending on the species.

Most Cory Catfish are less than 7 centimeters in length, or about 2.75 inches.

However, some species can grow up to 12 centimeters in length, or about 4.75 inches.

Pygmy Cory Catfish are the smallest species, only growing up to 2.5 centimeters in length, or less than an inch.

Types Of Cory Catfish

Here are some of the most popular types of Cory Catfish that you can consider adding to your aquarium.

Albino Cory Catfish

These bottom dwellers prefer to live in groups of six or more.

The Albino Cory Catfish, a variant of the Bronze Cory Catfish (Corydoras aeneus), is a unique member of the Corydoras family due to its striking albino coloration.

Albino Cory Catfish

Its lack of pigmentation results in a white or pinkish body with red or pink eyes, a feature that sets it apart in any aquarium.

This species is known for its hardiness and adaptability, making it an excellent choice for beginner aquarists.

Despite its different appearance, the Albino Cory shares the same active and social nature as its Corydoras counterparts.

This fish’s albino status does not affect its dietary or environmental needs, which are similar to those of other Corydoras species.

Bronze Cory Catfish

The Bronze Cory Catfish, known scientifically as Corydoras aeneus, is a charming addition to the Corydoras family.

Its name stems from its shimmering bronze coloration, which can add a touch of metallic brilliance to any aquarium.

Bronze Cory Catfish

Native to a wide range of habitats across South America, the Bronze Cory is known for its adaptability and resilience, making it a popular choice for both novice and experienced aquarists.

This species is a sociable creature, often seen engaging with other tank mates.

Its active nature and bottom-dwelling habits make it an effective cleaner, helping to maintain the health of the aquarium environment.

Despite its common appearance, the Bronze Cory’s hardiness and lively behavior make it a delightful presence in any freshwater tank.

Panda Cory Catfish

This is one of my favorite cory’s.

Panda Cory Catfish, also known as Corydoras Panda, are small and cute.

It’s named for its distinctive black and white markings that resemble a panda bear’s.

Panda Cory Catfish

This species is popular in the aquarium trade due to its attractive appearance and active, social behavior.

They thrive in well-planted tanks with plenty of hiding spots and prefer soft, slightly acidic water.

Panda Corys are omnivorous, feeding on a diet of both plant matter and small invertebrates.

Peppered Cory Catfish

The Peppered Cory Catfish, scientifically known as Corydoras paleatus, is another popular species in the Corydoras family.

Originating from Argentina and Brazil, this species is known for its speckled, pepper-like pattern, which gives it its common name.

Pepper Cory

Unlike the Panda Cory, the Peppered Cory has a more elongated body shape and can tolerate cooler water temperatures, making it a good choice for unheated aquariums.

It’s an active scavenger that helps keep the tank clean by consuming leftover food and algae.

Its diet is similar to that of other Corydoras species, consisting of a mix of plant-based foods and small live or frozen invertebrates.

Pygmy Cory Catfish

The Pygmy Cory Catfish, or Corydoras pygmaeus, is a unique member of the Corydoras family due to its notably small size.

Unlike its larger relatives, the Pygmy Cory typically reaches a maximum size of just 1 inch (2.5 cm) in adulthood.

Pygmy Cory Catfish

Originating from the rivers of South America, this species is known for its silver body with a black line running longitudinally across its flanks.

Despite its diminutive size, the Pygmy Cory is a lively addition to any aquarium, often seen darting around in small schools.

It’s particularly well-suited to nano aquariums due to its small size and peaceful nature.

As with other Corydoras, it’s a bottom-dweller and an efficient scavenger, but its smaller size may require it to be fed smaller food particles.

Julii Cory Catfish

The Julii Cory Catfish, scientifically known as Corydoras julii, is a distinctive member of the Corydoras family.

It’s often recognized by its unique pattern of fine spots and lines, which create a maze-like design on its body.

Julii Cory Catfish

This pattern, combined with a base color that ranges from silver to cream, gives the Julii Cory a captivating appearance.

Native to the tributaries of the Amazon River in South America, this species is a bit more elusive in the wild compared to its Corydoras counterparts.

In an aquarium setting, the Julii Cory is an active participant in community tanks, often seen exploring the bottom for food.

Its peaceful nature and striking appearance make it a favorite among aquarists.

Sterbai Cory Catfish

The Sterbai Cory Catfish, or Corydoras sterbai, is a standout species within the Corydoras family.

It’s instantly recognizable by its dark body contrasted with white spots and a bright, white underside.

Sterbai Cory Catfish

Another distinctive feature is its orange pectoral fins, which add a splash of color to its overall appearance.

This species hails from the clear waters of Brazil and thus prefers well-oxygenated aquarium conditions.

The Sterbai Cory is also known for its ability to tolerate higher temperatures than most Corydoras, making it a suitable companion for warmer tropical tanks.

Its active and friendly demeanor, coupled with its striking appearance, makes the Sterbai Cory a popular choice among fish keepers.

Cory Catfish Care

Cory catfish are hardy and easy to care for but here are some important things to keep in mind when caring for your cory catfish.

Preventing Disease

Preventing disease is key to keeping your cory catfish healthy.

  • Keep the water clean and well-maintained.
  • Make sure the tank is properly cycled before adding your fish.
  • Quarantine new fish before adding them to your tank.
  • Avoid overcrowding your tank.
  • Keep the temperature and pH levels stable.

Average Lifespan

Cory catfish can live up to 5 years or more with proper care.

Recommended Tank And Water Conditions

Cory catfish are social creatures and should be kept in groups of at least 4-6.

Here are some recommendations for tank and water conditions:

  • Minimum tank size: 20 gallons for a small group of cory catfish.
  • Water temperature: 72-78°F (22-26°C).
  • pH levels: 6.0-7.5.
  • Water conditions: Soft to moderately hard water with low to moderate flow.
  • Substrate: Sand or fine gravel.

Food & Diet

Cory catfish are omnivorous and will eat a variety of foods.

Here are some recommendations for feeding your cory catfish:

  • Offer a variety of foods, including high-quality sinking pellets, frozen bloodworms, and live or frozen brine shrimp.
  • Feed your fish once or twice a day, only what they can eat in a few minutes.
  • Avoid overfeeding, as this can lead to health problems.
tank mates corydoras

Behavior & Temperament

Cory Catfish are known for their friendly and peaceful nature.

They are bottom-dwelling fish and spend most of their time scavenging for food on the substrate.

They are also known to be shy, especially when they are first introduced to a new environment.

Cory Catfish are schooling fish, which means they prefer to be in groups of at least six individuals.

When kept in a school, they will be more active and display their natural behavior.

They are not surface dwellers but you will notice them quickly darting to the surface of the water to gulp in some air.

They are not aggressive and will rarely bother other fish in the tank.

They are also not territorial and will not fight over food or space.

In terms of temperament, Cory Catfish are considered to be peaceful and friendly.

They are a great addition to community tanks and will get along with most other fish.

They should not be kept with aggressive or predatory fish.

If you are looking for the perfect tank mates for your Cory Catfish, there are plenty of options available.

Tank Mates

Cory Catfish are peaceful and community-oriented fish that can get along with a variety of other non-aggressive species.

  1. Neon Tetras
  2. Guppies
  3. Harlequin Rasboras
  4. Cherry Barbs
  5. Otocinclus Catfish
  6. Kuhli Loaches
  7. Dwarf Gouramis
  8. Zebra Danios
  9. Endler’s Livebearers
  10. Platy Fish

These tank mates are all peaceful and non-aggressive, making them great companions for your Cory Catfish.

They also have similar water requirements and can thrive in the same aquarium environment.

When choosing tank mates for your Cory Catfish, consider their behavior and temperament.

Avoid adding any aggressive or territorial fish to the tank as they may harm your Cory Catfish.

In addition to the above-mentioned fish, you can also add some invertebrates to your aquarium as tank mates for your Cory Catfish.

Snails and shrimp are great options as they are peaceful and won’t harm your corys’.

Breeding cory catfish

Breeding

Breeding these fish can be a rewarding experience for any fish enthusiast.

Here are some tips to help you get started.

Dedicated Breeding Tank

Setting up a dedicated breeding tank is essential if you want to keep the fry.

The tank should be at least 20 gallons and have a sponge filter and heater.

There should not be any substrate so that it is easier to clean the tank.

You can also add some plants and caves to provide necessary cover and for the cory’s to lay their eggs on.

The water temperature should be between 75-80°F and the pH should be between 6.5-7.5.

The ideal male to female ratio is 1:2 or 1:3. The group size should be at least 6-8 Cory Catfish.

It is important to have a mix of males and females in the group.

Conditioning Your Fish

Breeding cory catfish successfully hinges significantly on one crucial aspect – conditioning.

Essentially, conditioning Corydoras involves preparing them for spawning.

This preparation includes feeding them an appropriate diet and altering the tank conditions to stimulate readiness in the fish and egg production in females.

While conditioning your fish requires time, the more thoroughly and longer you condition your fish, the greater your likelihood of success.

This process also leads to a higher yield of eggs.

The task of conditioning cory catfish is relatively straightforward, albeit requiring a bit of additional effort.

Over a period of 2-3 weeks, provide your cory catfish with high-protein live foods.

Aim to do this at least twice a day, if possible.

The best live foods are blackworms, bloodworms, grindal worms, daphnia and brine shrimp.

Spawning

Cory catfish in their natural habitat breed in cycles, specifically during the rainy season.

Given that the Amazon, their home, experiences two seasons – dry and rainy – it’s necessary to replicate these conditions in the aquarium.

The dry season in the Amazon is characterized by scarcity, with elevated temperatures, reduced water, and limited food.

To simulate this, drain 50% to 75% of the tank water and maintain this condition for a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on your cory catfish’s spawning readiness.

During this period, raise the temperature slightly.

After the high feeding stage, you can reduce feeding significantly or stop it altogether during this stage.

This will push the Cory Catfish into a true survival mode!

After a period of intensive conditioning followed by simulated drought, your cory catfish will anticipate a rainy season.

To simulate the rainy season and encourage spawning, follow these steps:

Start by refilling the tank with water that is slightly cooler and ideally softer.

This mirrors the natural conditions in the wild, where Cory catfish inhabit puddles with increased salt and mineral content, leading to higher pH, KH, and GH.

The onset of the rainy season brings fresh rainwater, diluting these pools.

In your aquarium, you can achieve this by adding RO water or clean rainwater (ensure it’s free from pollution).

If your Corydoras don’t spawn immediately after the first attempt, repeat the whole process.

These changes in water conditions will typically excite the cory catfish.

Don’t be alarmed if you observe your fish swimming energetically around the tank and against the glass.

This behavior likely indicates that something exciting is about to happen!

The process of breeding typically takes a few hours.

In this period, the male and female engage in the characteristic “T”-position.

The male, positioned at the base, releases sperm, which the female swallows.

Throughout this phase, the fish exhibit energetic swimming behavior across the tank.

Females have developed a method to transport the sperm through their digestive system to fertilize the eggs.

The location where the female lays the eggs and the quantity varies depending on the species.

Some species produce extremely adhesive eggs that are laid in tight clusters.

Other species lay less sticky eggs that are dispersed more widely across the tank.

The latter typically inhabit slower-moving rivers, where egg adhesion is less critical.

For instance, Corydoras aeneus lays its eggs simultaneously in large numbers.

Conversely, I’ve seen C. trilineatus lays its eggs over several days or weeks, rather than all at once.

The chosen location for egg deposition also varies by species.

Some species exclusively lay their eggs on plants, while others prefer sand or glass.

Dedicated Fry Tank

The fry tank should be at least 5 gallons and have a sponge filter to prevent the fry from getting sucked up in the filter.

It is important to keep the water clean by doing daily water changes of 10-20%.

Also include an airstone placed near the eggs to ensure good water flow.

Once spawning is done, allow approximately 1-2 hours before handling the eggs.

This waiting period ensures the eggshells have sufficiently hardened for safe removal.

The most secure method for egg removal involves gently rolling the eggs off the glass using your finger.

Rest assured, the eggs are quite tough, so they should not burst or be damaged.

If any eggs do burst, they were likely not fertile to begin with.

They will hatch in about 3-5 days.

You can add an anti bacterial medicine like Methylene blue to the tank to stop the eggs developing fungal or bacterial infections.

Tip – Add some shrimp to the tank as they are known to eat organic material and will clean the eggs. They won’t eat the eggs themselves.

You won’t need to feed the fry for the first 24-48 hours as they will still be feeding off their yolk sack.

After this, the fry should be fed small amounts of baby brine shrimp, micro worms or powered flakes several times a day.

Breeding Cory Catfish can be a fun and rewarding experience.

With the right setup and care, you can successfully breed and raise healthy fry.

Diet for cory catfish

Why Every Tank Should Have These Fish

Cory Catfish should be at the top of your list.

These freshwater catfish are not only adorable with their mustache-like whiskers, but they also serve a valuable purpose in your aquarium.

One of the main reasons why every tank should have Cory Catfish is that they make excellent members of a clean-up crew.

They have a natural inclination to sift through the substrate and eat any bits of uneaten food and other debris that may be lurking in your tank.

This helps to keep your aquarium clean and healthy for all of its inhabitants.

In addition to their cleaning abilities, Cory Catfish are also compatible with a variety of other freshwater fishes and make great tank mates.

They are peaceful and non-aggressive, so you don’t have to worry about them getting into fights with other fish in your tank.

If you have live plants or aquarium plants in your tank, you’ll be happy to know that Cory Catfish won’t harm them.

They are not known for nibbling on plants, so you can rest easy knowing that your plant life is safe.

Consider adding them to your tank today and see the benefits for yourself!

FAQ’s

How many Cory Catfish should I keep in my tank?

Cory Catfish are social creatures and thrive in groups. It is recommended to keep at least six Cory Catfish in a tank, but the more, the better. Keeping a larger group of Cory Catfish will not only enhance their social behavior, but it will also help to keep the tank clean.

Are Cory Catfish good for beginners?

Yes, Cory Catfish are great for beginners. They are hardy fish and can adapt to a wide range of water conditions. They are also easy to care for and do not require any special attention. Additionally, they are peaceful and can live with a variety of other fish.

Do Cory Catfish need tank mates?

Cory Catfish are social creatures and do best when kept in groups. They can also live with a variety of other peaceful fish, such as tetras, guppies, and rasboras. However, it is important to avoid aggressive or territorial fish that may harm the Cory Catfish.

Can Cory Catfish live with other bottom feeders?

Yes, Cory Catfish can live with other bottom feeders, such as plecos and loaches. However, it is important to ensure that there is enough space and food for all the fish in the tank. Overcrowding can lead to stress and disease.

Can Cory Catfish eat other fish?

No, Cory Catfish are peaceful and do not eat other fish. They are bottom feeders and primarily eat algae, leftover food, and other debris in the tank.

Do Cory Catfish clean the tank?

Yes, Cory Catfish are great at cleaning the tank. They are bottom feeders and will eat leftover food, algae, and other debris in the tank. This helps to keep the tank clean and reduces the need for frequent water changes. However, it is still important to maintain proper tank hygiene and perform regular water changes.

Photo of author

AUTHOR

Irma Bense is the founder of BetterFishkeeping.com. She has over 42 years of experience in keeping fish. She has kept both freshwater and saltwater fish through the years. She has extensive knowledge in breeding numerous species of fish from Show Guppies, Cory Catfish, German Blue Rams to Apistogrammas. You can learn more about Irma on the 'About' page.

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