Cory catfish pair in aquarium

Cory Catfish Care: Types, Tank Setup, Diet, And More

Cory catfish are one of the most popular freshwater fish in the aquarium hobby. The cory catfish is a small, peaceful species that spends its days happily grazing on algae and other plant matter. Understanding how to take care of a cory catfish will ensure your fish have long and healthy lives.

This guide will cover everything you need to know about caring for your Cory Catfish, including tank setup tips, diet information, and more! We’ll also be covering the different types of cory catfish so you can find the best fish for your tank!

Let’s dive in!

Recommended Cory Catfish Care Items:

Cory Catfish Overview

Cory Catfish are a group of freshwater catfish that belong to the family Callichthyidae. There are over 150 different species within this family! Within the range of species, there are many color variations available as well as fin types and shapes – making them a very unique pet to own!

Cory catfish have a lot of nicknames, including cory cat, corydoras, armored catfish, and cory fish. They’re famously peaceful and tend to hang out at the bottom of the tank most of the time. This means they will rarely cross paths with the other tank inhabitants, making them excellent community tank members.

Corys are armored catfish and tend to stay pretty small in size, ranging from 1 to 4 inches. In addition to their armor, they also have sharp spines in their fins that can produce a mild venom when stressed, which helps deter potential predators (and you should also be aware of when cleaning the tank!).

The natural habitat of the cory catfish is the tropical areas of South America. They primarily live in slow-moving rivers and lakes, along with ponds and swamps, in blackwater conditions. These tiny fish spend most of their time on or near the bottom of the tank. This is because they are primarily scavengers – they are constantly grazing on the bottom of the tank to get their meal!

Cory Catfish Appearance

Cory catfish come in a wide variety of colors and fin shapes – more of the varieties below. They’re small fish, ranging in size from 1 to 4 inches in length. They have bony plates running the length of their body, which helps protect them. They also have a flat underside which helps them efficiently search for food on the bottom of the tank.

Many corys have large, round eyes, which is one of their most endearing features. They also have three pairs of barbels on their face which help them search for food. We like to think of them as cute old man whiskers!

Corydoras come in a range of colors. Some are pale or albino, some are iridescent, and some are brown, which is helpful for camouflaging them. You have a lot of color choices when it comes to picking your fish!

Types of Corydoras

Albino Cory Catfish

One popular type of cory is the albino variety, which has a pale pink or white color with reddish eyes. Albino corys don’t occur in nature so they must be selectively bred in captivity. They tend to be slightly smaller than other options.

albino cory catfish on sand in fish tank

Green Cory Catfish

Green Cory catfish are another popular choice. They have green accents on their sides. They are known to be particularly peaceful, bordering on shy. All types of these fish are peaceful, but this type is even more so.

Panda Cory Catfish

Panda Cory cats are a newer color variation that’s super popular in the hobby right now. The pandas have white bodies and black coloring around their bright eyes. When you see them, you will understand their name. They’re cute and gentle fish!

panda cory catfish in aquarium

Peppered Cory Catfish

Peppered cory catfish are a brown color with some darker speckles all over their body. They look like pepper had been sprinkled on them – hence the name! They’re nice and peaceful, like the rest of the bunch. You might hear them referred to as “spotted Cory catfish.”

Pygmy Cory Catfish

Pygmy cory catfish are the smallest type of Corydoras available, maxing out around an inch in length. They’re also on the more expensive end, but they’re a great choice if you want something that will stay small and easy to care for. However, make sure you put them in the right environment because they can get stressed easily since they’re so little.

Julii Cory Catfish

Julii cory catfish are a newer type of cory that’s extremely popular. They’re also one of the more expensive varieties and are often regarded as designer pets. These fish have white bodies with black spots and yellow markings, making them easy to identify. They’re captive-bred and can be difficult to purchase in local aquarium stores, depending on the supply.

How long do Cory Catfish live?

Cory catfish typically live around 3 to 5 years if they are kept in a proper environment. There have been reports of these fish living up to 10 or even 20 years! Their lifespan is greatly impacted by things like proper tank conditions and a low-stress environment, so plan accordingly if you want to keep your cory cats around for a long time.

How big do Corydoras get?

Most types of cory catfish max out around 4 inches in length. This is rare though, with most corys in the 1 to 3-inch range. Of course, there are always exceptions – some have been reported to grow up to 5 or 6 inches long, depending on the species! This would require excellent living conditions over an extended period of time.

Cory Catfish Temperament

Generally speaking, Cory catfish are very peaceful fish. They’re active and inquisitive and won’t cause trouble with their tank mates. Their personality is one of the main reasons they’re so popular with aquarists. They’ll do great in community tanks with other kinds of non-aggressive fish.

They spend the majority of their time peacefully scavenging for food, resting, or hanging out with their fellow cory catfish. They’re sociable fish and much happier in the company of other corys, as they’re a shoaling fish.

Corydoras Care

​​Cory cats are easy to maintain in an aquarium. However, you must understand what you’re doing if you want to succeed. Our aquarium guide explains their ideal environment, including tank, lighting, filtration, and more.

Cory Catfish Habitat

When thinking through the ideal cory catfish tank, it is recommended to try to recreate their natural environment. When it comes to building tanks and ensuring that your fish are eating properly, this concept is effective. Recreate their natural environment for best results. 

In the wild, Corydoras are found in small streams or in the calmer edges of larger, faster rivers. They tend to hang out in slow-moving, murky waters. Most cory cats are bottom-dwellers, meaning they like to hang out and root around in sand, gravel, or detritus, looking for their next meal. Some species can handle a very small amount of salt whereas others can’t tolerate any salt in their environment and therefore do not inhabit environments with tidal influences. These are the basic principles to keep in mind when planning your cory tank.

What is the best tank for a Cory Catfish??

Because they’re small fish, a lot of species of cory catfish can live in 10-gallon tanks. However, because they prefer to live in groups rather than alone, we recommend a 20-gallon tank or larger.

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This species does very well in community tanks with other small, peaceful fish. Just be sure that everyone gets along and that your tank is large enough to handle multiple species.

How many Cory Catfish can go in my tank?

The basic formula for cory stocking is 5 cory cats per 20 gallons. For each additional fish, add an additional 2-4 gallons per fish.

Ideal Corydoras Water Conditions

Maintaining correct water parameters is critical for your aquarium inhabitants’ continued health. Keep track of any changes with an aquarium testing kit, using it regularly to check your water. Smaller tanks, in particular, need consistent water parameter checks in order to stay on top of any potential fluctuations.

Below are the ideal water conditions for your cory fish:

  • Temperature: 72-80° F
  • pH Level range: 6.5 to 7.8
  • Alkalinity3°-10° dKH
  • Ammonia: 0
  • Nitrites: 0

Keep your nitrates under control with regular, partial water changes.

What to put in your Corydoras tank

To decorate your cory tank, recreate their natural habitat as much as possible.  Include live plants in your tank as much as possible. They keep your water conditions in check and provide hiding places. Driftwood is another great option, and it can be used to provide hiding places for your fish.

Corydoras can get a little scratched up on their soft underbelly so think about rounded corners on decorations and soft substrate when planning your tank.

What is the Best Type of Substrate for Corydoras?

Sand, fine gravel, or smooth flat stones are all valid options for substrate in your cory catfish tank. Our favorite is a soft sand substrate. It is easy for them to root around and there is no risk of injury.

How Much and What Kind of Lighting do Cory Catfish need?

Corydoras do not require more than low to moderate lighting. Their natural habitats are murky so they won’t be offended in lower light conditions. If you have a planted tank, plan your lighting around your plants’ needs and you will absolutely get what you need. Check out our LED plant lighting guide for inspiration.

What Kind of Filtration do Cory Catfish Need?

In the wild, Corydoras prefer gentle water movement. You want to mimic these slow-moving and calm waters in their tank. A gentle sponge filter is perfect for cory catfish tanks. Our sponge filter guide covers everything you need to know about sponge filters.


Good decoration options for your cory tank include driftwood and smooth, flat stones. Any decorations you choose should have soft, rounded corners. Avoid rough surfaces and sharp edges as they can lead to injury for your catfish.

Don’t be surprised if you see corys poking around in the substrate and among the decorations. They like to root around and explore, so you might find them hiding out behind your driftwood or rocks.


Live plants are a must for cory tanks. They clean your water and provide hiding spots. If you’re unable to do a planted tank, be careful with silk plants though as they can be harmful if ingested (silk is not digestible!).

Java Fern, Amazon Swords, or Java Moss are all great options. They will be delighted with whatever you pick.

Cory Catfish Potential diseases

Important notice: we are not veterinarians at Aquarium Friend so the information below should be used for general awareness only. Use this information at your own discretion.

Cory catfish are hardy little fish but it doesn’t mean they’re immune to getting sick. The best way to deal with sickness is to prevent it in the first place with proper water conditions and a low-stress environment.

Two diseases that commonly afflict Corys are ich and red blotch disease.

Ich is a parasite that manifests as small white dots on the fish. You can recognize it with little white spots all over the body and fins. This parasite is caused by poor water conditions, so be sure to keep your tank clean (i.e., do regular partial water changes).

Red blotch disease is a bacterial infection that is easily recognizable by its bright red sores on the skin, particularly the stomach. This disease is contagious and can be passed from one fish to another. It mainly afflicts bottom-feeders.

As with any disease prevention strategy, It’s best to quarantine all new fish for two weeks before introducing them to your main tank.

Cory Catfish Feeding

Cory catfish are omnivorous and love to explore for food. They will consume just about anything that falls into their tanks including flakes, sinking pellets, or freeze-dried or frozen prepared foods. Sinking pellets best mimic their natural eating habits.

How Often Should I Feed my Cory Catfish?

Feed your corys twice a day. Feed them an amount of food that can easily consume in 2-3 minutes. If they clean their plates, don’t give them additional food until the next feeding time, as they can poke around the bottom of the tank for leftovers.

Cory Catfish Tank Mates

Cory catfish are peaceful fish and do well in freshwater community tanks. Make sure you keep them with other species that won’t take advantage of their friendly personalities and small size. Some possible tank mates include:

Tank mates to absolutely avoid include:

Cory Catfish Breeding

Corys are not difficult to breed. The first step is understanding how to sex cory catfish. Telling the sexes apart can be a little tricky. The general rule of thumb is male corydoras are generally smaller and slimmer, while females are larger and rounder. This difference is especially pronounced during spawning.

To get the spawning process started, feed your Corydoras several high-protein meals a day. Include both live or frozen foods and quality prepared flakes or pellets. This will get them lots of energy and get them in the mood. After a week or two, your females will likely start looking a little larger, which means they’ve got eggs on board.

Another way to trigger spawning is to replace 25% to 50% of the water with water that is 2 to 3 degrees Fahrenheit cooler. This mimics cool summer rainfall, which is their natural breeding timeline. Don’t go overboard though; your water temperature should never drop below 65 degrees.

Corys tend to lay their eggs on the tank wall but will sometimes choose plants, decorations, or your filter. Keep an eye out!

The eggs will likely hatch in a few days, typically between three and six days. Don’t worry about feeding your fry for the first few days, as their attached egg sack is their first source of nutrition.

Beyond the spawning basics, there are two good options for cory breeding strategies: a dedicated breeding tank, like a 40-gallon breeder tank, or a dedicated fry tank.

Option 1: Dedicated Breeding Tank

This method requires a separate tank. The breeding tank is usually bare with little or no soil so it’s simple to maintain. Put the breeding group in this dedicated tank, feed them nutrient-rich foods, and wait until they’ve spawned.

When spawning is complete, return the adults back to their regular tank before they’re able to eat the eggs or fry. Leave the fry in the breeding tank solo where they can grow up in peace until they’re large enough to return to the main tank.

Option 2: Dedicated Fry Tank

In this approach, your corys spawn in the main tank. Your job is to remove the eggs and transfer them to a separate fry tank where they can hatch in peace.

Overall, this approach is less stressful for your breeding fish. However, you’re likely to lose more eggs and fry in the process, which means fewer baby corys.

Cory Catfish FAQs

Will cory catfish eat dead shrimp?

Yes, cory catfish will eat dead shrimp. They are opportunistic feeders, sort of like the sweet and cute vultures of the aquarium world. In addition to dead shrimp, they might also nibble on dead fish too.

Do cory catfish need a bubbler?

Cory catfish don’t need a bubbler if there is a filter with sufficient surface agitation. Bubblers are a nice touch for additional oxygen and water movement, but not 100% necessary if you have an adequate filter.

Do cory catfish eat algae?

No, cory catfish are not algae-eaters in the sense that you will find them nibbling on algae on your aquarium walls and decorations. However, they do consume algae as part of their omnivorous diet that often includes algae wafers and other plant-based foods.

How often do cory catfish lay eggs?

Cory catfish are unique egg layers in the world of fish. They’re frequent, but low volume, egg layers. In ideal conditions, they will lay eggs almost every week. However, they will only lay about ten to fifteen eggs at a time.

Can you have a single cory catfish?

Cory catfish are shoaling fish, so it is advised that you keep them in groups. If possible, we recommend keeping a group of 5 or 6 cory cats together. This will make them happiest and most confident.

Do cory catfish clean the tank?

Cory catfish are scavengers, which means they will happily hunt for any leftover pieces of food at the bottom of your tank. They’re also omnivores, meaning they will eat both plant and animal-based foods. So yes, they do help clean your tank, but in a different way than your pure algae eaters like plecos.

Conclusion – Are cory catfish the right fish for you?

Cory catfish are easy, peaceful aquarium fish that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. They come in a wide variety of colors and styles, so you’re sure to find the perfect one for your tank!

It is important to understand their tank, feeding, breeding, and tank mate requirements in order to keep them happy and healthy. By following the tips presented in this guide, you’ll be able to provide them with a good home!

What is you favorite thing about cory cat ownership?

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