Cory Catfish Ultimate Care Guide: Diet, Tank Dimensions, Tankmates & Lifespan

Cory catfish are a peaceful, easy-to-care-for fish that make a great addition to any freshwater aquarium. Learn more in our ultimate care guide.

Cory Catfish – Quick Facts

In a rush? Check out the quick facts about Cory Catfish below.

Fish Info

Scientific NameCorydoras
Common NamesBlue leopard corydoras, mottled corydoras, peppered catfish
AppearanceThey have short faces, barbels or whiskers around their mouths, and pointed dorsal fins.
DifficultyCaring for cory catfish is relatively easy.
DistributionThe cory catfish has a large distribution throughout South America, where it inhabits murky, slow-moving streams, rivers, marshes, ponds, and flooded forests.
LifespanCory catfish can live for an average of 5 years.
TemperamentThe temperament of cory catfish is calm, peaceful, and non-aggressive.
Keep in Groups ofTwo to six cory catfish should be kept together in a group.
Tank MatesTetras, like the neon, cardinal and serpae tetras, Rasboras, Otocinclus Catfish, Mollies, Endler’s Livebearers, Platies, Swordtails, Zebra Danios, Cardinal and Neon Tetras, Strawberry, Harlequin Rasboras
DietCory catfish are bottom feeders that can eat algae or shrimp pellets, flakes, various worms, and most things that will fit in their mouths.
LengthThe length of a cory catfish can range from 1-4 inches, depending on the type.
Sexual DimorphismMales: Thinner and smaller
Females: Wider and deeper-bodies
Breeding DifficultyCory catfish are relatively easy to breed

Water/Tank Recommendations

Water TypeCory catfish are freshwater fish.
Water TemperatureThe ideal water temperature for cory catfish is 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit (23 to 26 degrees Celsius).
Water pHThe ideal water pH for cory catfish is between 6.0 and 7.0.
Water HardnessThe ideal water hardness for cory catfish is 5-10 dH.
Tank sizeThe minimum tank size for cory catfish is 10 gallons, but the recommended tank size is 20-30 gallons.


Cory catfish are a widely-kept freshwater fish that can be seen in aquariums globally. These small creatures are incredibly easy to care for and have few strict water requirements.

They’re also quite pretty, with their bright colors (depending on the species) providing an excellent pop of color to any tank they occupy.

This guide will teach you everything you need to know about Corydoras care. You’ll learn about their diet, lifespan, tank size, ideal habitat, compatible tank mates (and not), and much more!

About Cory Catfish

Corydoras is a genus of small, colorful freshwater fish that adapt quickly to most conditions. As a result, they are one of the most popular species for aquarists, young and old alike.

They can be found throughout South America in slow-moving streams, rivers, marshes, ponds, flooded forests, or anywhere else where the water is murky. In captivity, they do well with other non-aggressive aquarium inhabitants as long as there are enough hiding places available for them to feel comfortable.


The appearance of Cory catfish is quite simple. Short faces, barbels or whiskers around their mouths, and a pointed dorsal fin are the notable features that distinguish this fish from others.

Coloration varies depending on the type of cory catfish. This can range from silver with black spots to an intricate striped pattern.

Another common feature you might notice is their color change when stressed. Be on the look out for this and be ready to identify and deal with whatever may be stressing out your fish.

Their Length

The average cory catfish size is usually between 1 and 4 inches, depending on the type. This can be ideal for some people because they can be relatively small, meaning you can fit quite a few of them in your tank together! Some people may be wanting a larger fish, and they have various species of cory to choose from too.


Cory catfish can live for an average of 5 years. While this is not a very long lifespan, it’s plenty of time to form bonds with these fish in your tank.

That said, the lifespan of a Corydoras can be significantly shortened if they are kept in an aquarium with aggressive fish. They also have trouble adapting to sudden changes in water temperature and pH balance.

The best way to ensure that your Corydoras live a long and healthy life is by providing them with the right tank conditions. There is more detail on what these conditions are later on in this guide.

Sexual Dimorphism

One of the most noticeable differences between males and females is size. Males are smaller, slimmer, and less bulky than their female counterparts. Females are also wider in the middle area of their bodies.

Males can be distinguished from females at a mature age, but it’s difficult when they are very young.


Cory catfish are native to South America and have been found in countries including Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Brazil, and Peru. They prefer slow-moving streams with a lot of vegetation around the areas where they hide from predators and scavenge for food.

These fish also like shallow water with a lot of oxygen since they spend most of their time at the bottom looking for food. This means you will find them closer to the floor or hiding behind large rocks when in your tank.

Caring for Cory Catfish

A well-maintained tank is important for any fish, and the cory catfish is no exception. As long as you keep their habitat in good shape, these fish should have no problem thriving.

When setting up a tank for your cory catfish, the primary goal is to mimic the natural environment of South America’s Amazon River Basin. Because they are bottom feeders and scavengers that love having plants around them, an aquarium with live plant life will provide all the enrichment they need!

You can use floating or rooted plants that grow very close to the water surface (like hornwort). However, make sure there’s enough space at the bottom of your aquarium so that your Corydoras can come out during feeding time.


Cory catfish are natural algae eaters, so they’re constantly chowing down on any plant-based material in their native habitats. In captivity, you can also provide standard pellets or sinking tablets for base nutrition.

Make sure that the food is small enough to fit into the mouth of these little fish! They have no problems eating from the surface and will often filter tiny bits out of the water as they swim through it.

A lot of owners feed these fish a base diet of sinking pellets and dried foods, sometimes supplementing with various live foods. Make sure not to leave this fish to survive on leftovers or just the algae in the tank, they need some variety in their diet like any other fish.

How Often & How Much to Feed Them

For the first couple of weeks, after you’ve added a cory catfish to your tank, it’s best to feed them several times throughout the day. This helps them get used to their new habitat and promotes eating behavior in case they are shy or not yet comfortable with where they live.

As time goes on, reduce feeding time until you are only providing food once a day (depending on how much they eat). Ensure that what you are feeding them is appropriate for their size and age; if they seem underweight, increase frequency accordingly.

When choosing food, remember that these fish are bottom dwellers so avoid foods that stay on the surface of the water. Shrimp pellets work well, as do algae flakes.

Possible Diseases

There are plenty of illnesses that may be passed along to your cory catfish. The most common is ich, which is caused by the parasite Ichthyophthirius multifiliis. It’s highly contagious and fatal if not treated quickly.

It usually appears as white spots on the fish’s skin or fins. Ich often results in stress, so it’s important to keep an eye out for this and other illnesses like fin rot or fungal infections until you treat your tank with copper-based medications.

Tank Setup

Cory catfish prefer to live in groups of six or more. In the wild, these fish often roam around rivers in large numbers.

When you’re setting up their aquarium, take a cue from the natural habitat of this freshwater species. The bottom should be covered with several inches of sand or fine gravel for easy scavenging.

You can also add some driftwood branches or leaf litter for shelter and smooth rocks for hiding purposes.

Aquarium Size

The smallest tank acceptable for cory catfish is 10 gallons, but the recommended tank size is 20-30 gallons.

Note: You can keep these fish in a smaller aquarium if you’re just starting out and don’t have many other freshwater species to worry about (no aggressive fish or large plants). However, we don’t recommend this as an ongoing situation.

Give these fish the room they need to swim and feel comfortable. A space that is too small can lead to stress and disease.

Water Conditions

Cory catfish are hardy and can tolerate a wide range of water conditions. However, they do best in slightly acidic waters with temperatures between 72 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit. As long as you don’t drastically change the pH balance (pH below 6 or above 8), your corys should be just fine.

The recommended hardness for these fish is 5-10 dH, which means they can handle many different setups.

The parameters in this guide are only a rough estimate that will work for most corydoras species. For a specific type of cory, it is best if you research their individual ideal water conditions, just in case.


When it comes to water pH levels, cory catfish can tolerate a slightly wider range than other tropical fish. While most freshwater species need the water to be between 6.5 and 7.5 on the pH scale, Corydoras are more flexible.

They do best when conditions fall in a relatively narrow range of 6 and 7 but can survive in as low as 5 or up to 9 (although this is not ideal). This means you have some wiggle room, especially if you want to include them in multi-species tanks.


The ideal water temperature for cory catfish is 72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit (23 to 26 degrees Celsius).

While they can tolerate a wide range of temperatures, going to extremes on either end of the spectrum should always be avoided. This is because it might encourage bacterial growth and increase ammonia levels in their tank.

Corydoras catfish also prefer a temperature in line with the water they come from in their native South America.


The water hardness of the tank should be kept at 5-10 dH. This is on the softer side of things, so you don’t need to concern yourself with purchasing a separate test kit just for this species (although getting one would still be smart).


As mentioned earlier, cory catfish prefer to live in low-flow environments. However, they do require a strong filter system that can keep the water clean at all times.

While very hardy and adaptable, high levels of ammonia and nitrates are still fatal for these fish, to avoid this problem altogether, you should use an efficient filtration system that cycles through the entire tank several times per day.

Aquarium Plants

Corydoras catfish love to spend time in plants. Not only does this give them a place to hide when they are feeling skittish, but it also gives them somewhere to graze on accumulated algae.

You can use all kinds of aquarium plants for these fish, but the best choices tend to be bushy and broad-leafed varieties (like Anubias). These species will help prevent your tank from becoming too cloudy while providing shelter and food for your Corydoras.

Behavior and Compatibility

Cory catfish are active throughout the day and very social creatures. They can spend much of their time at the substrate, scavenging for food or swimming around with its mouth open to search for something good to eat.

Corydoras feed on algae that grows on surfaces such as plant leaves and driftwood. They also use their barbels (the whisker-like appendages surrounding their mouths) to feel along surfaces in search of food.

How Many to Keep Together

As mentioned earlier, the recommended number of Corydoras to keep together is 4 to 6. More than that could create a lot of competition for food and space at feeding time, which can lead to aggression. However, if you have a large tank, you can keep more (and we recommend this).

Note: Generally, the larger the tank size and water volume are, the more Corydoras you can keep together without causing one another harm.


The cory catfish is an active and peaceful community fish that does well in groups. It’s a shoaling fish, and so it likes to have the company of other similarly-sized Corydoras species around.

These are shy creatures, so they prefer to stay hidden in cover throughout the day while others go about their business! When you do see them, they will likely be grazing on some algae or scavenging for food at the bottom of your tank.

Tank Mates

When choosing cory catfish tank mates, you should consider their relatively docile nature when considering which fish to keep with them.

Any species of non-aggressive fish will do just fine! This means several different freshwater species can cohabitate with your Corydoras. These include:

These fish are not the best tank mates for large or aggressive species. You will want to avoid aggressive catfish, cichlids, and any known freshwater predators as well.


Most Cory species can be bred in the same way. Start by setting up a breeding tank with a fine substrate. Use a filtration that wont suck up the fry such as a box-type filter. Provide some vegetation, java moss is good.

A water temperature of around 75 degrees Fahrenheit and a pH of 6.5 is a good aim for water parameters. For the best results, have a ratio of 2 males to 1 female in this tank.

Once the females are full of eggs, do daily water changes (aim for 50%) daily until the fry spawn.

Are Cory Catfish Fish a Good Choice For Your Tank?

Cory catfish are a wonderful choice for your aquarium. They’re easy to care for and require very little attention and work on your end.

This makes them great fish for beginners (especially considering how many people get into the hobby by starting with just one small aquarium). Because of this, they’re one of the most popular freshwater species in existence!

While they are a great fish to have in your aquarium, you should still be prepared to make some adjustments occasionally. Like any other animal, these catfish can get stressed and unhappy if things aren’t right.

You shouldn’t have any issues as long as you monitor the water conditions and diet (and provide them with a healthy tank)!


Cory catfish are extremely hardy and easy to care for. They can do well in a broad selection of environments and won’t require much effort on your part to keep them healthy.

The peaceful nature of these fish means that they do not cause problems with other species or act out within the tank. This makes adding them to an existing community easier without worrying about possible aggression issues (as long as there aren’t any aggressive fish in their tank).


Cory catfish are a very hardy and easy-to-care-for species. They’re also low-maintenance!

However, there are some downsides to owning these fish that you need to be aware of:

  • Corys can get big. Although some species stay very small their whole life, some can grow up to 4 inches, which may cause a problem in your tank if you aren’t prepared for it.
  • Too many cory catfish in a small tank is not advised due to aggression issues between males. This issue comes from too much competition over food and space inside the tank


Cory catfish are a wonderful and low-maintenance addition to any freshwater tank. Their peaceful temperament, fun colors, and unique looks will make them stand out in pretty much any aquarium!

We hope that this guide was helpful and encourages you to get some for yourself. These fish are quite popular, but the aquarist community still underrates them!

If you have any questions or ideas concerning the care of Cory catfish, don’t hesitate to leave a comment. We love talking aquariums!

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