Cory Catfish: Ultimate Guide (Care, Diet, Breeding, & More)

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Written By Matt Stevens

Hi, I'm Matt! I've been obsessed with fishkeeping for over 15 years now and created this site to share my knowledge with others.

The Cory Catfish is a beautiful species of freshwater fish, and they are also among the most popular ones out there.

Not only do they look incredibly attractive, but caring for them is relatively easy. The best part is that they also have a friendly temperament, and you will love keeping them in your home aquarium.

Whether you are a beginner or an aquarium enthusiast, you will find it easier to put them in your tank, and also care for them. They are a common part of community tanks, as they like to move around in shoals. Plus, their lively and beautiful appearance adds a splash of color to the bottom level of the aquariums.

If you are still double-minded about keeping Cory Catfish, there is no reason to worry. We bring you the ultimate care guide for them, which will help you understand how you look after them, including their habitat, water requirements, diet, tank mates, breeding, and much more.

Species Summary

The Cory Catfish is known to be a majestic and beautiful freshwater fish that has the scientific name Corydoras.

Life SpanApproximately 5 years
Color FormDifferent varieties
Care levelEasy
CompatibilityPeaceful species
Size0.75 – 4 inches
Tank SetupFreshwater with fine substrate
Minimum Tank Size10 Gallons

Moreover, they belong to the Callichthyidae family, and they are favorites among the aquarium community. All aquatic enthusiasts, from novices to experts, love to keep them in their tank.

Cory Catfish like to spend most of their time at the bottom of the tank and try to stay out of the way of other fish in the aquarium.

These fish are also called Cory cats, armored catfish, Corydoras Catfish, Cory fish, and several other names. The Corydoras genus comprises more than 165 known species for this particular fish.

These catfish are mostly found in South American countries, as well as in regions east of the Andes Mountains, all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.

Their name comes from the Greek word kory, which means ‘helmet’. Additionally, the Greek word doras means ‘skin’, and these two words represent two important characteristics of the fish.

Apart from the 165 named species, there are several other species that haven’t been named. Rather, they are given “C” numbers. Due to the versatility of their species, it is highly important for you to know how to take care of them. Moreover, finding out about their appearance, size, shape, and much more is also crucial in order to take better care of them.


Cory Catfish are among the easiest to take care of, and they have an average lifespan of five to seven years in their natural habitat. Surprisingly, they can outlive their normal lifespan in the aquarium, and some experts say that they can even live more than 20 years.

However, this depends on whether you provide them with ideal water conditions and quality in the aquarium. If you provide them with quality care, they will be able to thrive and live comfortably in captivity.


The appearance of the Cory Catfish varies according to their species. As mentioned above, the name Corydoras translates to ‘helmet skin’, and they are called this due to their armor-like body. The body consists of bony plates throughout their body, and they have a flat underside that helps them stay at the bottom levels of the water at all times.

Cory Catfish also have horizontal pectoral fins, which allow them to rest on the substrate easily. Their dorsal fin is vertical and resembles a sail. Some of the species have pointed tips at the end of their dorsal fin, while others have rounded tips.

The height and length of their tail fin also vary in different species, but it is always forked. Moreover, they have a short face with round and ringed eyes, which are the most striking feature that they have. Plus, they have three pairs of barbels that look like whiskers and help them scavenge for food among the substrate.

The various species of the Cory cats also differ in their coloration. Mostly, their colors allow them to blend into the riverbed or the substrate in the aquarium. Some of them have pale bodies, while others have a shimmery appearance.

Since there are so many different species and colors for the Cory Catfish, you have a lot of options to choose from.


Generally, Cory Catfish are smaller freshwater fish, and their size ranges from 1 inch to around 4 inches in length. However, as the female species get older, they grow up to 3 inches in length. This makes them one of the smallest fish in the aquarium community.

Types of Cory Catfish

There are several species and types of Cory Catfish out there, so you need to have ample knowledge about them in order to decide which one you want to keep in the tank. Let’s have a look at the most popular types:

Albino Cory Catfish

Albino Cory Catfish are highly sought after by aquarium owners, thanks to their interesting and beautiful appearance. Like other Albino species, they have the signature red eyes, and their bodies have a combination of light pink and white colors.

These fish aren’t available in the wild, which is why you will only be able to find them with select breeders. This species is also relatively smaller as compared to the others, but not too much.

Green Cory Catfish

This type of Cory Catfish is also highly popular among aquarists, and these fish have slight green accents on the side of their bodies. Moreover, these fish have a passive temperament, and they are even timider than other species.

Panda Cory Catfish

The Panda Cory Catfish also grab a lot of attention from aquarium owners. They are given this name due to their white or slightly orange-colored bodies, as well as the black spots around their eyes. This makes them resemble a panda bear, hence the name.

Peppered Cory Catfish

These species are hugely popular, and most people refer to them when talking about Cory Catfish in general. They are also known as the Spotted Cory Catfish, so don’t be confused if you come across any of these names.

Pygmy Cory Catfish

The Pygmy Cory Catfish are called the Corydoras pygmaeus, and they have an average length of only one inch. This is why they require extra care in the aquarium, and they can’t be paired with most of the larger freshwater species. Due to their size, they also get more stressed easily.

Julii Cory Catfish

One of the rare species is the Julii Cory Catfish, which have a spotty pattern on their bodies, as well as highly expressive and striking eyes.

Sterbai Cory Catfish

The Sterbai Cory Catfish have a dark-colored body, along with white spots on them. Moreover, their underbelly has a yellow coloration, which can also be seen in the rings around their eyes. This gives them a whole different appeal and attractiveness.

Emerald Cory Catfish

Last but not least, we have the Emerald Cory Catfish, which have a sharp appearance with a vibrant green hue that becomes more prominent in certain places as they swim around in the aquarium. They are also among the most popular types of Cory cat that you can find in the aquarium community.

Cory Catfish Care

The Corydoras have a pleasant and friendly nature, and they are also very easy to take care of. If you are looking for aquarium fish that don’t require a lot of particular care instructions, then these ones are right for you.

However, they are prone to stress when they are brought from the store into a home aquarium. Due to this, and the change in water conditions between the two tanks, the Cory fish can die. Therefore, you need to be highly cautious when you bring them home.

Moreover, you should also know about the water conditions that you need to maintain for them before bringing them home so that you can match them in your home tank. You can read up on the water conditions and other requirements in this guide.

Maintaining the conditions in the tank is the best way to keep your Cory fish healthy and happy. For this purpose, you should perform partial water changes and regular water monitoring, so that they aren’t subjected to stress or illness.

If they are stressed or ill, these fish can also release toxins that can harm other fish in the tank, while also proving to be lethal for them.

Rest assured, these species are quite social and friendly. Plus, they are shoaling fish, so you might want to consider placing a group of them together in a tank.

Let’s have a look at the particular care requirements that you need to know about.

Tank Size

The tank size that you need to have for the Cory Catfish also varies according to which species you are keeping. For the smaller fish, you will need a tank with at least 10 gallons of capacity. However, you should aim for a 20 or 30-gallon tank, as they will be able to move around comfortably in it.

With every new fish, you add to the tank, you will have to increase the tank size by two to four gallons.

Water Parameters

As the Corydoras are tropical freshwater fish, they are used to certain water conditions in their natural habitat. Even the slightest changes to the water conditions can prove to be stressful and dangerous for them.

For starters, you should maintain the water temperature between 70°F and 80°F. Moreover, the pH level should be set between 6.0 and 8.0, but you can find out a more focused range when you select a certain species.

Generally, fish that have been raised in aquariums thrive on a pH level between 7.0 and 7.8, while those in the wild can live comfortably in pH levels between 5.5 and 7.0.

As mentioned above, you will need to monitor the water quality constantly, especially for nitrate levels. The presence of ammonia and nitrate can be harmful to their health, even if it is in the smallest concentration. Therefore, you should regularly perform partial water changes to keep these levels near 0 ppm.

What to Put in Their Tank?

Cory Catfish like spending their time at the bottom of the tank. For this purpose, you will have to place at least 2 inches of a soft substrate in the tank. Choose soft sand instead of gravel or rocks, because their sharp and jagged edges can cause harm to their fins, barbels, and underbellies.

You should also arrange hiding spaces for your Cory fish, as they are peaceful and timid in nature. So, you can add rocks, caves, and driftwood for them. In the wild, they are used to slow-moving waters with a shallow depth. This can be easily replicated in the tank.

You can also place a mild filter inside the tank, as well as a lot of plants. The best types of plants you can choose include Java fern, hornwort, crypts, pennywort, Java moss, dwarf hairgrass, and also Amazon sword.

Not only do these plants provide them with shade from bright lighting, but it also helps them feel as if they are in their natural habitat. They are also used to high-flowing water in the tank and tend to prance around in the upper levels of the aquarium with others of the same species.

Since they don’t enjoy too much lighting, you should add LED lighting that isn’t too bright over the tank. Not only is it cooler and more energy-efficient, but it will also have to be changed less frequently.

Last but not least, you should also invest in an aquarium cover, since the Cory Catfish are known to be jumpers. Thanks to their intestinal lining, they can breathe oxygen from the surface of the water when they come up for food. This also helps them survive in low oxygen settings.

Even if there is sufficient oxygen in the aquarium, they might try to jump out of the tank and onto the floor. Having a cover will prevent them from doing so, and will also save you from losing a fish.

Common Diseases

One of the most common diseases among tropical freshwater fish is Ich, and Cory Catfish are also prone to get infected by it. This is also known as white spot disease, and it is caused by a ciliated protozoan called Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, which results in the formation of white and grainy spots on their bodies.

Ich is caused due to poor water conditions, as well as other infected fish in the tank. Similarly, if one of your Cory fish catches Ich, they may transmit it to other fish as well.

To prevent or treat Ich in these fish, you should perform partial water changes, and also check the water conditions for any sudden changes or spikes. You may have to quarantine the fish that have Ich and treat them with over-the-counter medication until they are cured.

If Ich isn’t treated on time, it can damage the skin and gills of the fish, spreading to their respiratory system as well. Although this is less likely, they may also die from being infected for too long.

What Do Cory Catfish Eat?

In the wild, Cory Catfish hunt for food near the bottom of the water, and they feast on worms, larvae, and small insects. They are used to digging into the substrate and sucking up the food, letting the sand fall out. Sometimes, they will dig deeper until their entire mouth is buried into the substrate.

Apart from this, Cory Catfish also eat vegetable matter that is present in the water. In the aquarium, you can feed them with sinking pellets, as these will fall to the bottom of the substrate and the fish will get to scavenge them from the sand. You can also give them bottom feeder tablets, algae wafers, and shrimp pellets, as well as flakes.

Every once in a while, you can give them bloodworms and Daphnia to fulfill their nutritional requirements. Ideally, you should feed your fish once a day, but only put enough food in the tank that they can eat within 5 minutes.

You will also have to remove the leftover food instantly, otherwise, it will start to rot in the water and hamper the water conditions. You should also know that Cory Catfish eat small eggs that other species have laid. Therefore, if another species is breeding, they should be placed in a different tank.

Behavior & Temperament

Cory Catfish are known for their friendly and peaceful temperament, which is why they are highly sought after in the aquarium community. They are usually found at the bottom of the tank, minding their own business.

They can easily be left alone in an aquarium, but they thrive when placed in larger groups that house their own kind. They will swim around in shoals and scavenge for food, and also rest together.

You will also have a lot of fun watching groups of these fish move around in the tank. They don’t attack any other fish and will hide if they are intimidated by larger fish.

Cory Catfish Tank Mates

As you might have guessed, the best tank mates for Cory Catfish are fish from their own species, as they like to shoal in a group of five or six fish. Moreover, they get along well and school with other fish species that have a similar appearance, i.e. Tetras. They are also used to doing this in their natural habitat.

Some of the best tank mates for Cory Catfish include:

Apart from these, you can also pair them with Plecos, Otocinclus, and other types of aquarium catfish. Plus, they get along well with shrimp and freshwater snails. Moreover, you should avoid aggressive and larger fish at all costs, such as Cichlids, Oscar fish, and Barbs.


Breeding Cory Catfish is quite easier, and you have to provide them with a comfortable and familiar environment in order for them to feel secure. Firstly, you can get a breeding tank and keep it bare with a very little substrate. You can separate the mating pair into this tank until the female releases her eggs and the male fertilizes them.

Once the process is complete, you can move the breeding pair back to the main tank, but leave the fry in the breeding tank until they are large enough to move around and hide when needed.

Another option is to get a dedicated fry tank while letting the pair spawn in the main tank. When the eggs are released and fertilized, you will have to transfer them to the fry tank, where they will hatch and the fry will start to grow.

The latter process is easier for you, and will also be less stressful for the adult fish. However, the fry has a better survival chance in the first method. When you want them to breed, you should start giving them small, high-protein meals, which consist of both live and frozen foods. You will notice the adult females grow as they carry eggs.

Generally, Cory fish will spawn without any intervention. You can make their work easier by replacing 25-30% of the water with colder water, typically 2 to 3 °F. This will replicate the breeding season that they experience in the wild.

Moreover, you will have to be patient when your Cory Catfish aren’t breeding, because they don’t do it right away. They usually lay their eggs among the plants, decorations, or filters as well.

Three to six days after the eggs are laid, you will notice them hatching. The newly hatched fry will self-feed from the egg sac they have, so you will have some relief there.

Final Thoughts

After reading this guide, you will be convinced that the Cory Catfish is a highly beautiful and majestic freshwater species, and they are one of the most popular choices for an aquarium.

With just a little care and consideration, you will be able to keep them safely and comfortably in your home aquarium, and they will also reward you with their friendly and playful actions in a group.

Whenever you are stuck and need to know something, you can always check this guide in order to provide them with quality care.