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Cory Catfish Overview, Care & 10 Best Types for Aquarium

The Cory Catfish is arguably one of the easiest species to look after, making them ideal for those who are new to fishkeeping. They have a calm, non-aggressive temperament and get along well with others.

Most of these are generally shy and probably will need time to adjust to a new tank with other fish. Some are known for getting stressed if much bigger fish surround them.

Despite their relatively small size, Corydoras catfish are resilient and will thrive in a range of conditions. They’ve got a powerful bone-like armor that runs across their bodies, providing them with adequate protection against larger fish that may mistake them for prey.

Species Overview

Level of CareVery easy
TemperamentMostly peaceful
AppearanceVaried colors ranging from red, yellow, silver, black, and blue
Life Expectancy2 to 5 years maximum
Size0.5 to 4.5 inches
DietOmnivorous and need both meat-based and vegetable-based foods
Tank Size10 gallons freshwater
Tank EnvironmentProvide tall plants and other structures
Tank MatesVery peaceful and docile species that live in communities

Around 170 species of the Corydoras catfish, but more than 100 have yet to give a scientific name. They belong to the Callichthyidae family and originate from the freshwaters of Trinidad, Argentina, the Atlantic coast, and South America. They mostly live in smaller rivers with slow, clear, and relatively shallow waters.

The water’s bottom is made of detritus or sand. The shoreline often has dense vegetation growth, offering them plenty of cover and shade from both sunlight and predators alike.

Pro Tip: Cory Catfish prefer to live at the bottom of any water body that they occupy. It means you can place them with tank mates that inhabit the middle area of the aquarium, such as the Rainbowfish.

10 Best Cory Cat Types for Your Aquarium

Albino Corydoras Catifsh

Albino corydoras catfish

They have developed from the Peppered Cory catfish. They have a pink-white appearance with red, glowing eyes. They cannot be found in the wild and are only sold by breeders.

Bronze Corydoras Catfish

Bronze cory spawning eggs

These species are medium-sized and can live up to 10 years. They are relatively active in their habitats but have been very shy compared to others.

Panda Corydoras Catfish

Pair of panda cory

They get their name because of the black spots circling their eyes. They have a base color of white with splashes of orange that may look green depending on the lighting.

These species prefer more excellent water conditions and demand a higher quality of care because they originate from mountain streams – this makes them slightly challenging to provide.

Peppered Corydoras Catfish

Corydoras paleatus closeup

They are named because of the attractive spots on their body. These are some of the most peaceful fish you’ll find. They have black patches across their body, although you can find albino varieties within this subgroup.

Pygmy Corydoras Catfish

Pygmy corydoras

They are widely considered the smallest of the Corydoras catfish and never exceed 1” in size. It means they eat smaller foods that can fit their tiny mouths.

Because of their small size, Pygmys should never be paired with bigger fish because they could be mistaken for prey. If you want to keep them with other shoaling fish, provide the tank with plenty of hiding space.

Dwarf Corydoras Catfish

Dwarf Corydoras
Image by CorydorasWorld

Don’t mistake them with pygmy catfish. These are bigger then them and their silver body with horizontal black line makes them easy to differentiate.

They are very peaceful and easy to care species.

Salt and Pepper Corydoras Catfish

Salt and pepper cory closeup

They are peaceful, small species but live very long. They have a glowy bright appearance with random black patterns all over the body.

These are also one of the three pygmy cory species.

Julii Corydoras Catfish

Two corydoras julii at the tank bottom

These species are scarce. They are small in size and have small dots with unique net-like patterns on their bodies. They also have exceptionally sharp barbels in front of their dorsal fins and under their eyes. Their most distinctive feature is being able to move their eyes in such a way that it looks like they’re winking.

Sterbai Corydoras Catfish

Group of sterbai cory catfish

They have a dark body with white spots. Their undersides may have yellow markings, and their eyes have clear rings around them. All these properties make them particularly attractive in the Aquarium.

Emerald Corydoras Catfish

Emerald corydoras splendens at tank bed

They boast sparkling colours with iridescent highlights and pink hues. It makes them the obvious choice for beginners who want to add an immediate splash of color to their Aquarium.


Cory catfish have an armored body with a flat underside and a short face. Their pectoral fins stick out and rest on the surface of their bodies. The dorsal fins are pointed upward, almost resembling a sail on a boat, but some species are known for having more rounded fins. Their tail fin is mostly forked, but the size varies depending on the species.

Males are smaller than females. Males have sharper and pointed fins, except for the caudal fin.

All cory catfish have six barbels resting on their face, which they use to gain spatial awareness of their surroundings, including detecting other fish, food, and the substrate. Their eyes are extensive, giving them more excellent peripheral vision – and an adorable appearance.

Most to these have developed an appearance that allows them to blend into the water substrate. Still, some are shimmering (such as the emeralds) and albinos (pale in color).


The size varies from 2.5 inches to 5 inches, depending on the species and the conditions provided in the aquarium. Smaller species such as the Pygmy Corydoras won’t grow beyond 1”.

Behavior & Temperament

Corydoras catfish are shoaling fish, which means they like to hang out with each other and mix well with other species. They mostly spend their time at the bottom of the tank but will venture out in the evening to socialize with other fish. These are known to surface now and then to get some air. It means you should keep a lid on the tank to prevent them from jumping out.

If you notice them surfacing a little too often, this is a sign that the water doesn’t have enough dissolved oxygen for their desired levels. You can increase oxygen levels by adding plants and air stones; doing so will minimize this behavior.

All species of the Corydoras fish are passive and are not known to attack other species unprovoked. Some species are incredibly poisonous and, if provoked, may release toxins that could poison the water and kill every living creature in the Aquarium.

If you notice that your fish are being stressed out a little too frequently, remove them from the tank and place them in quarantine until they ‘cool down’.

These are active during the daytime and, therefore, not nocturnal. Should note that other species of catfish are active during the nighttime, making them nocturnal.

Tank Mates

Corydoras catfish will shoal interchangeably with other species but prefer to hang out with similarly patterned or shaped fish. As a general rule, you can keep two to three males per female if your goal is to breed them together. But overall, the ratio doesn’t matter because males aren’t known for harassing females.

They have been found in the wild with other fish species such as snowball plecos, blue emperor tetras, phantom tetras, keyhole cichlids, giant danios or neon tetra. You can do the same in your tank and add some serious flair to the whole Aquarium.

Other ideal mates include livebearers such as swordtails, Mollies, and guppy fish. Make sure to select brightly colored fish that are passive and docile enough not to attack others.

They can also live peacefully with other catfish species such as places or ottos, filter shrimp, and snails.

Although these are armored and won’t easily get harmed by other fish, they should not be kept with aggressive species. Fish like the Cichlids and Oscars will often try to eat, injure, or straight-up bully them. And this is enough to spike their stress levels which could lead to death in the worst-case scenarios.

Cory catfish are classified as schooling fish, so you should keep them in a group of 6. They will also join other species of Corydoras and may join tetras of a similar shape and color.

Salt and pepper cory feeding

Cory Catfish Tank Setup

They mainly originate from the slow-moving waters of the East Coast in the US. Their natural habitat has shallow waters with low water movement. The substrate has very soft sediment that will not harm their frail bodies.

Water Parameters

Cory catfish are freshwater species that require warmer waters in the ranges of 70 to 80° Fahrenheit. Whichever temperature you choose, make sure it is consistent because any sudden changes will lead to elevated stress levels.

Captive ones will thrive in a pH value of between 7 to 7.8, which is neutral to slightly alkaline. However, if you caught them from the wild, make sure to note the pH value of the water and recreate the same settings in your Aquarium.

Keep the nitrate levels at about 0ppm. Anything too high will cause undue stress. High levels of stress can infect their barbels, so make sure to keep the water levels under check.


Cory catfish require a soft substrate, the best choice being sand. However, you can also provide them with small and rounded gravels for the substrate. Because these species are bottom-dwellers, you should not introduce anything too sharp; otherwise, it will cut their bodies and cause infections.

Plants & Décor

While it is assumed that they require fast-moving waters because of their natural habitats, they prefer to live in slower-moving streams and inlets and often migrate away from fast-moving waters. Ensure that the tank is well-planted to prevent too much water movement.

Plants will not only oxygenate the water but also provide shade from the light. Here are a few plant choices:

  • Java Fern
  • Java Moss
  • Amazon Sword
  • Anubias Nana
  • Moss Balls
  • Water Sprite
  • Hornwort

Food & Diet

Corydoras catfish are omnivorous species and will eat a balanced diet of meat as well as vegetables. However, their nutrition should incorporate more meats and proteins. They eat by sucking food from the ground. They’ll often dig under the substrate in their search for food, burying half their face below – this is normal behavior.

You can feed them flake food as well, but it’s probably best to feed sinking pellets that are dense enough to hit the bottom of the tank. It will replicate their natural eating habits from the wild. These will also enjoy a diet of algae wafers, bloodworms, daphnia, and shrimp pellets.

It is a good idea to change their food source every week or so to ensure they’re getting all the nutrients they can get. As a general rule, Corydoras catfish should be fed once every day.

Only provide them with as much food as they can eat within a period of 3 to 4 minutes. Any longer, and you risk changing the conditions of the water and overfeeding them. Once they are done eating, remove any leftover food from the tank to keep it clean.

Most of themm spend the bulk of their time moving around the water searching for food along the surface, detecting edible food with their highly sensitive barbels, and using their mouths to suck at the food.

Caution: Corydoras catfish will eat eggs of other species if they find them in the aquarium. Make sure to separate fish that you hope to breed and keep them in a separate tank.

Hoplo catfish looking at you

Breeding Guidelines

Cory catfish do not give birth to live fry. They are egg depositors and plant their eggs at the bottom of the tank, among plants, and sometimes on the tank’s glass.

A single spawning will result in anywhere from 30 to 400+ eggs. The final egg count depends on various conditions such as the species, and the environment (pH levels, temperature, and size of the tank).

Not all eggs will survive.

Spawning is not easy because you need to identify males and females from above. It is not easy because they are bottom dwellers.

These fish breed in groups with a male to female ratio of about 4:2. Keeping them in groups encourages natural pairing and spawning.

When they are ready to mate, the male will start chasing the female around the Aquarium. The male lies on top of the female until she is ready to lay her eggs. The female collects the male’s milt in her mouth and uses it to fertilize her eggs, and begins to deposit them in small groups in various places in the tank.

The spawning process should take no more than an hour. The mother will take small breaks between each session.

Hatching & Fry Care

The eggs will take one week to hatch. They may get eaten by adult fish, so it is good to transfer them to a special tank. Your best bet is to grow Cory catfish in a separate tank until they are big enough to defend themselves.

Keeping them in a separate tank maximizes the chance of raising a large number of the fry to adulthood after hatching.

After they first hatch, the fry will be too small to eat food meant for adults. You will have to feed them minimal amounts of food. Start with newly hatched brine shrimp because they are an excellent food for the fry.

Feed them in small quantities several times a day for the first seven days. Once the fry is old enough, you should introduce them to a diet of finely crushed flake food, daphnia, and micro-worms.

Make sure to change 5% of the tank’s water volume every week. Besides, yo9u should also add a sponge filter to the breeding tank. It will control accumulated debris and improve tank conditions for the fry. After about three weeks to a month, the fry should be large enough to eat regular food.

Where to Buy?

You can find Corydoras catfish for sale in almost all pet stores, online forums, and online stores. They will cost $5 onwards, with the rarer species fetching a price tag of about $20 or more.

Since they’re not easy to breed, expect breeding pairs to cost more than $50 depending on the species. You can buy ultra-rare species from hobbyists who are experienced at breeding them.

Wrapping Up

Cory Catfish are beautiful, low-maintenance, and active species. They’re good at socializing with other fish and entertaining to watch.

The only things you have to consider are water temperature, pH value, and tank conditions.

They’re highly recommended for both beginner and expert aquarists alike.