Cory Catfish: Types, Care, Food, Tanks & Tank Mates

If you’re looking for an exciting fish species to add to your home aquarium, look no further! The Cory catfish is the fish for you! 

These freshwater fish are easy to take care of, making them a popular choice among most fish keepers. With nicknames like the cory cats and armored fish, these little creatures have much to offer to any aquarist.

I learned that as straightforward as fish keeping might seem, it requires near 24/7 attention from you as an aquarist, whether you are a beginner or not. Cory catfish are living creatures and need specific foods and water conditions to survive in their new environment.

To help you take the best care of these fish,  this care guide will give you all the information about tanks, food, and water conditions that the Cory catfish need to live a healthy life.

Species Summary

Scientifically known as the Corydoras paleatus, these are some of the most common freshwater fish at pet stores because they are easy to breed and take care of. They are a peaceful schooling species with vibrant personalities that come alive during the daytime.

Cory catfish are distributed in the slow-moving shallow streams and sandy riverbeds of South America, where they are always looking for food. These waters are full of foliage and plants that help provide shade for cory catfish in their natural habitat.

Quick Facts

The lifespan of a Cory catfish will depend on the species of Corydoras you get. Male and female Cory catfish have a lifespan of three to five years in captivity.

Their fish tank environment is a significant determinant of how long they live. This includes their tank size, water quality, and their diet.  A Cory catfish can live in a tank with good quality water and correct water temperatures for six years.

Here are some quick facts about the Cory catfish:

Size1-4 inches 
Level of CareEasy 
Minimum Tank Size10 gallons 
Life Expectancy3-5 years 
Temperature70- 78°F 
pH5.5 to 7.0 

Appearance and Size

The Cory catfish AKA the Corydoras catfish can grow to an average size of 4 inches by the time they are adults. Female Cory catfish will usually grow longer than their male counterparts.  

You’ll mostly find them in black, white, or brown colors with dark spots on their bodies. These colors also help them blend in with their substrate when hiding from predators in the wild.

Corydoras are also known as armored catfish because they have a protective layer of bony plates that keeps them safe from other aggressive marine creatures. 

In their natural habitat, you’ll find them digging for food in the substrate, so their flat underside is well adapted to protect them as they search for food. They can rest on the substrate when tired, thanks to their horizontal pectoral fins.

Another part of the body that helps them find food is the three pairs of barbels on their short faces. The barbels look like whiskers and help them find food in the substrate much faster.

Features like a Cory catfish’s tail fin will vary in length and height depending on the corydoras species.

Types of Corydoras Catfish

There are over 160 known Corydoras species, and identifying them by their appearance will help you choose the right one for your fish tank. 

Here are some of the most common Corydoras species you should know about: 

Emerald Cory Catfish

As their name suggests, the emerald Cory catfish’s colorful green tone lights up any tank, making them a favorite among aquarists.

Peppered Cory catfish

Also known as the spotted Cory catfish, these species are among the most commonly available catfish. Peppered Cory catfish are primarily brown with darker spots all over their body. When discussing getting a Cory catfish, most people might be referring to this species. So it might be the one you’re looking for too.

Green Cory Catfish

Another popular option among most aquarists is the Green Cory Catfish. You can see the green color on the sides of their bodies. These species are more peaceful and timid than other catfish species, so you can keep them in a community tank. 

Panda Cory catfish

panda cory catfish

This species of Corydoras catfish gets its name because most of its body is White with black around the eyes. Making them look very similar to Pandas. The unique coloring makes them a trendy choice among aquarists.

Pygmy Corydoras Catfish

This species of catfish gets its name because of its small size. Most pygmy Cory catfish only grow to an inch in length. If you go for a Pygmy Cory catfish, you need to take extra care of them to ensure larger fish do not eat or bully them in a community tank. 

They also get stressed much faster than other Cory catfish species, so they’ll need more of your attention.

Similis Cory Catfish

This catfish has a brown and sometimes white body with black dots. The Similis Cory catfish also has a black smudge on its tail, so you can quickly identify them. 

What to Look For When Buying Cory Catfish

The last thing you want is to take home a sick Cory catfish. To ensure you make the best choice, below are some things to consider when picking out a healthy Corydoras catfish for your fish tank.

The appearance of this fish species says a  lot about its health.

How does the Cory catfish you want to take home look? You should ensure that the one you want to buy has both eyes, no damaged fins, or other injured body parts.  

It should also have three barbels on each side of the mouth. These barbels look like cat whiskers. If you have them with larger fish in the tank, they might be nipping at their barbels, injuring them and reducing their chances of survival. 

A Cory catfish with white spots on their bodies could indicate itch disease, while ragged-looking fins could indicate Fin rot. Be extra cautious and ensure you don’t take home a sick fish because that would require additional care and medication. 

If you find a pet store with sick fish, you should consider buying your Cory catfish elsewhere.

Where To Buy Cory Catfish

There are many places where you can buy a healthy Cory catfish. Most pet stores will have a few Cory catfish species, but you can also find others online.

It will be easier to find popular Cory catfish Species like the Panda cories, Peppered cories, and Similis cories in stores in the US. You might have to buy species like the albino Cory catfish from breeders because they’re not naturally found in the wild.

Cory Catfish Care

As mentioned above, most corydoras catfish are relatively easy to take care of. They are shoaling fish who like to be together, and most of the time, you’ll find them swimming at the bottom of the tank.

They’ll be active during the day, slowly moving at the bottom of the tank, searching for food in the substrate, and sleeping at night. If you’re worried about what these fish need to thrive, don’t worry; we have you covered! 

Below is a care guide full of tips to help you out! 

Water & Tank Parameters

In the wild, you’ll find most Cory catfish in slow-moving streams filled with plenty of vegetation and plants that act as food and shelter. You must replicate their natural habitats to keep them comfortable in their new tank environment.

Tank Size

With their petite bodies, one Cory catfish will be comfortable in a tank size of at least 10 gallons. Because these fish need to be kept in groups, a 10-gallon tank typically won’t be enough for a large group, or for ideal comfort for a smaller to medium sized group. And you need to have them in groups because loneliness can cause stress and reduce their lifespan. 

A 20 gallon tank will be the best size if you’re keeping 3-6 of these bottom dwellers in one space. The larger the tank, the more space you have to add tank decorations and equipment like heaters and filters.

Tank SizeNumber of Cory Catfish 
10 gallons5-8
20 gallons12 
30 gallons18 
50 gallons20 

Their bodies have naturally adapted to sucking in oxygen from the atmosphere, so you shouldn’t be worried when they aren’t at the bottom of the tank. 

But one thing you should do is get a tank cover. These fish also spend time near the water’s surface and are known to have a habit of jumping out of the tank. 

Tank Decorations 

When setting up that tank, ensure you put some plants, lights, and hollow decorations like caves because Cory catfish like to spend most of their time at the bottom of the tank. 

The best substrate for a catfish tank is soft, easy-to-digest sediments like sand or rounded gravel. The substrate should be soft enough to avoid cutting the fish while they’re looking for pellets at the bottom of the tank.

Avoid excessively stirring the substrate when cleaning the tank or moving things around because this can release harmful bacteria which pollute the water.

Cory Catfish love plants, so don’t keep them in a tank without vegetation. The plants will provide shade when the light is too much or need to hide from other tank mates. Some plants that these fish species will like are :

  • Amazon sword
  • Hornwort
  • Java Moss
  • Java Fern

Plants not only serve as snacks for these fish but can also act as places to lay eggs when they are breeding.

Tank Lighting

You should also install aquarium lighting in their tank to mimic day and night so that their new environment is as similar to their natural habitat as possible. 

The light doesn’t need to be too bright, so LED lighting can work for their tank because it’s less harsh than traditional lighting.

Water Parameters

Like all freshwater fish, the Cory catfish needs specific water parameters to live a comfortable and stress-free life in its new tank.

They are hardy fish who can survive a lot, but poor water quality can result in stress and cause diseases for Cory cats. To be on the safe side, here are the water parameters you should maintain for your Cory catfish: 

  • Water temperature: 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit 
  • Water type: Soft water
  • Water hardness: 5-10 dGH
  • Water heater: Yes 
  • Filter required: Yes, sponge filters 

Drastic changes to these water parameters can cause significant stress and health issues. If you plan on adding more fish to the tank, you’ll also need to add 2-4 gallons per inch of fish. 

To maintain these warm water temperatures, you must add a good quality heater to their tank. The heater will keep the warm temperatures these tropical fish are used to in their natural habitat. 

The water should always be clean so regularly test for nitrates to prevent nitrate poisoning in the tank. 

Nitrate poisoning caused by increased fish waste is common in fish tanks, so regular tank cleaning is recommended for a Cory catfishes tank.

Food & Diet

Cory Catfish are omnivorous and can eat a mixture of plants and meat. In their natural habitat, these fish burrow through the substrate to find larvae, small insects, and worms to eat. They occasionally eat vegetation too. 

Almost half of their face is buried in the substrate, trying to suck up food particles.

So to offer a similar diet in their tank, you can give your Cory catfish sinking pellets so that they can scavenge through the substrate for their food.

Other foods include: 

  • Shrimp pellets
  • Bottom feeder tablets
  • Algae wafers
  • Blood worms
  • Daphnia

It would help if you changed their diet often, so they don’t get bored with their food.   They might take longer than other fish to eat, but this is because they like to work for it first. 

You don’t want to overfeed them, so one meal daily is enough to meet their dietary needs. Unlike other fish tanks, if you have a Cory catfish, you can leave food at the bottom of the tank because they’ll be in the substrate all day, so they’ll likely find and eat it. 

Typical Behavior & Temperament

Catfish are peaceful creatures making them very popular with aquarists who want to keep more than one fish in their tank. As long as they have food and the right water conditions, these fish will keep to themselves most of the time.

Their favorite activities are converging for food at the bottom of the tank and minding their own business, so it’s unlikely to find them behaving aggressively towards other fish.

Being schooling fish, the Cory catfish will be sad to be in a tank alone. They like interacting with their species while feeding and resting to feel safe and comfortable.

If you put them in groups, you’ll enjoy watching their synchronized swimming as they explore the tank you set up for them.

Suitable Tank Mates

Cory catfish are very peaceful with a sweet temperament, making them easy prey for more aggressive fish species. So you should be careful who you put them in a tank with.

Although they will be happy in groups of six, it wouldn’t hurt to put them with other species. It will also improve their lifespan if kept with good tank mates. 

Some friendly tankmates that the Cory catfish doesn’t mind sharing space with include:

  • Guppies
  • Tetras
  • Mollies
  • Swordtails
  • Platies
  • Plecos
  • Freshwater snails
  • Filter shrimp

In the wild, the Cory Catfish has been spotted schooling with other shy fish species like Tetras, so it’s no surprise they can live peacefully with the fish mentioned above.

Keeping a Cory catfish with aggressive fish can easily lead to stress or fatal injuries. Some species that you should avoid are:

  • Cichlids
  • Oscars
  • Barbs
  • Aquarium crayfish

Cory catfish usually hide and won’t fight when confronted by aggressive fish. They can get injured or even killed, so it’s important to consider who lives in the tank with them. To prevent these tense standoffs, you should keep them with friendlier fish species. 


It’s straightforward to breed Cory Catfish. As long as they feel comfortable in their new environment and the temperatures are just right, they can quickly spawn numerous Cory catfish fries.

cory catfish

The best way to get your Corydoras spawning is to feed them small meals rich in protein throughout the day and ensure the temperatures don’t drop below 65 degrees. 

Here are two ways to go about it: 

1. Setting up a dedicated breeding tank

This tank will be for breeding and nothing else. The first step is to ensure it’s clean with minimal or no substrate before bringing the adults in. With the correct temperatures in the tank, the two adults will start spawning before you know it. 

After they’ve done their business and the separate breeding tank is full of fry, you can remove the adults and return them to their main fish tank. Corydoras can quickly eat their eggs when given the chance, so you better not risk it. You can now take care of the fry in the breeding tank and provide them with the food and temperatures they need to grow healthy.

2. Setting up a dedicated fry tank

This method is different because it involves the transfer of the eggs from the Cory Catfish’s main tank to the fry tank. The adults remain in their tank, but the eggs hatch and grow in the fry tank. 

Most Aquarists prefer this method because it requires less work, and your adult Cory catfish is under less stress than moving them from one tank environment to another. 

Here are some facts you should remember when breeding Cory Catfish: 

  • Ensure you choose a pair of healthy and active male and female Cory Catfish for breeding.
  • Prepare for breeding by feeding your Catfish live foods like bloodworms and insects.
  • Introduce cooler water to imitate the rainy season in their natural habitat. It’s like setting the right mood because this season is when they actively breed in the wild. 
  • The roundness in a female Cory catfish body could indicate the development of eggs. 
  • Changing the water in the breeding tank at least three times daily will help protect the eggs from fungus.
  • You can add the Cory catfish fries to your home tank after they have grown an inch long. 

Patience is vital when breeding Cory catfish. They can take anywhere from a day to a couple of weeks to spawn, but they will eventually. 

These catfish species lay their eggs on plants, filters, or the tank wall, so you might find some eggs while cleaning the tank. Cory catfish eggs will hatch between three to six days. 

Common Diseases in Corydoras Catfish

As active and stress-free as these fish are to take care of, they are still prone to several diseases. However, they can recover and return to their everyday lifestyle with proper care. Here are some of the conditions you should know about: 

Ich Disease

This freshwater disease comes from a parasite and leaves itchy spots all over the Cory Catfish’s body. White spots on their body mainly diagnose this parasitic disease, but this can be hard to see because of the Cory catfish‘s armored body. 

Other symptoms of this disease that you can identify include your Cory catfish rubbing against rough surfaces and losing appetite. Try to keep your catfish as healthy as possible to fight this parasitic infection naturally.

Red Blotch Disease

Cory catfish are also prone to getting red blotch disease. Bacteria from poor water quality usually causes this illness. Some common symptoms of the disease include bloody red blotches on the body, blisters, and dead flaky skin. Prevention is better than cure in this case, so you should ensure you maintain the right tank conditions to reduce the risk of any bacterial infections.

Nitrate poisoning

Nitrate poisoning can easily shorten the lifespan of your Cory catfish. High nitrate levels are caused by increased fish waste and leftover food in the tank that can become toxic to your fish. 

One way to tell that your fish suffers from nitrate poisoning is if they swim very slowly at the top of the tank.

Constantly monitor the nitrate levels using an aquarium test kit and carry out 25% water changes to prevent excessive tampering with the water parameters. To prevent nitrate levels from getting this high, you should avoid overfeeding your fish to reduce fish waste in the tank.


Are Cory catfish easy to take care of?

Yes. Cory catfish are very easy to take care of because they are calm and peaceful. They won’t get into fights, and as long as you give them food and plenty of places to hide, they will be happy.

What do Cory catfish like in their tank?

These freshwater fish need aquatic plants, hiding places, warm water temperatures, food, and soft substrate at the bottom of their tank to be happy.

How many Cory catfish should be kept together?

These fish species like being together, so you should keep at least six of them in one tank. They should be of the same species to make them feel secure and comfortable in their new fish tank. 

Taking Care of Cory Catfish

As you’ve read, caring for these fish is straightforward if you know what to provide, from their tank size to diet and suitable tank mates. 

These peaceful fish species get along with their tank mates, and you only have to feed them once a day. You can have a breeze keeping Cory Catfish in your fish tank with soft substrates, numerous hiding places, and the right water conditions. 

With dozens of cory catfish species to choose from, ensure you have a budget and the time to give your Cory catfish the care they need.

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