Corydoras catfish are one of our favorite bottom dwellers because of their peaceful personality, useful cleaning abilities, and adorable appearance. There are hundreds of species of cory catfish that all have different sizes, prices, looks, preferred water parameters, and more. To help narrow down your options, here are our top 10 favorite corys (in no particular order) that we can’t live without.
In terms of popularity, this is the cory that everyone gravitates towards because of their famous polka-dotted, striped pattern and orange fins. They are great tank mates for most community aquariums and are often kept with discus because of their tolerance for higher temperatures. As with most corys on this list, they can live in a wide range of water parameters and enjoy pH levels of 6.6-8.0.
One of the keys to having healthy corydoras is to make sure they get enough food. Fast-moving fish often gobble everything up at the water surface but corys only eat what falls to the bottom, so feed them sinking wafers, frozen bloodworms, and live blackworms. If their bellies are round and fat, they may start breeding and laying eggs for you.
If you have a nano tank that needs some smaller bottom dwellers, you can’t go wrong with these tiny cory catfish. This 1-inch (2.5 cm) catfish has a silvery-gray body with a black horizontal line running down the side. They sometimes get confused with the Corydoras habrosus, another little cory with a horizontal black line that gets a tad bigger and has some additional black polka dots.
To keep corydoras feeling safe and happy, get a group of six or more corys that are all of the same species. Different species don’t tend to comingle because they prefer to be in a large school of their own kind. The more you have, the more you’ll see their active and natural behavior. Pygmy corydoras get along just fine with other peaceful nano fish, but if you put them in a species-only tank (with no shrimp, snails, or other types of fish), they may breed as a colony, especially if the aquarium has tons of live plants and cover.
Want to keep a cold water tank that doesn’t use an aquarium heater? The bearded cory can live at room temperatures down to 67°F (19°C). Growing up to 3-3.5 inches (7-9 cm) long, it has a black spotted pattern with a golden stripe running down the snout of males. To encourage breeding, lower the pH and soften the water with lots of leaf litter. This special catfish runs at a higher price around $30 each, so typically we recommend barbatus corys to more advanced keepers.
Most corydoras have neutral colors like black, white, and brown, but this cory gets its name from the vivid orange stripe running down its back. Other than its striking appearance, the orange laser cory is an easy fish to keep like most corys and does not have any special care requirements. They do cost more than the average corydoras at $15 to $20, so they might be a fun fish to breed for profit. You can breed them as a colony in a heavily planted tank with dense foliage like java moss, or you can remove the eggs to raise the fry in a separate tank.
This extremely popular species has two very attractive qualities – it stays small at 2 inches (5 cm) long and its pattern looks like a black and white panda. Unlike many cories that must be kept in larger tanks, the panda cory can work well in 10- to 20-gallon aquariums (although more space is always better). They cost about $7 each, so get a school of at least six of them for $42. You shouldn’t have too many problems with this cute, little catfish as long as they get spoiled with plenty of worms and other meaty foods.
One of the most commonly available corys found in almost every pet store is the albino version of the aeneus cory. They only cost $2.50 to $5 each because they’re so easy to breed and can produce hundreds of eggs per batch. The budget-friendly price tag makes it one of the first corydoras that beginners take home, but people often only buy one or two albino corydoras. As a schooling fish, your albino cory will thank you if you get at least five to six same-species companions. Expect the adults to reach up to 2.5-2.75 inches (6-7 cm) in size with bubbly personalities that are enjoyable to watch. Finally, if you don’t like the albino, whitish-pink coloration, you can also get the normal bronze variant of this species instead.
Don’t let the common pet store name of this catfish fool you; it’s actually more accurately known as the false julii corydoras, three line cory, or leopard cory. The true Corydoras julii is a lot rarer in the aquarium hobby, but we still love this beautiful lookalike. Corydoras trilineatus is one of our best sellers because of the black squiggly lines all over its body and the horizontal stripe running down its side. As always, keep them in a group of six or more. Also, this species can go a bit cooler down to 70°F (21°C), so it can hang out with coldwater fish like hillstream loaches and dojo loaches.
The violet cory got its name for the smudged spot near the base of its tail that ranges from dusty purple to dark gray. The rest of its head and body is light-colored and covered with tiny dots. It stays on the smaller size around 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) and has a rounder face compared its long-nosed cousin Corydoras ourastigma. Although the species is mostly captive bred nowadays, it is not often seen in pet stores because of the $15 price tag per fish. Think of it like the deluxe version of a panda cory – roughly the same size and similar behavior but more uncommon and expensive.
If you’re looking for the jumbo-sized version of a corydoras, then try the hognose brochis. Growing to just shy of 3.5-4 inches (9-10 cm), this chunky catfish has a long, hog-like snout and an astounding 17 rays in its long dorsal fin. This makes it an ideal tank mate for goldfish, blood parrot cichlids, angelfish, eartheater cichlids, and other larger, docile fish that have mouths big enough to eat smaller corys. The biggest downsides are that they retail for $25 to $30 each and they do not seem to readily breed in captivity. However, this shiny, dark green bottom dweller is quite the beauty and would make a great, peaceful addition for bigger aquariums.
We couldn’t end this list without talking about the peppered corydoras and its high contrast pattern of dark and light splotches. Like the barbatus cory, it can go in cooler waters at 68°F (20°C) and grows up to 3 inches (7 cm) in length. Because of its cheaper $5 price and ease of care, the peppered cory is an excellent entry-level species for anyone wanting to try their first corydoras.
Cory catfish are universally loved because they come in so many varieties and get along with nearly all peaceful fish. To get your own corydoras, visit our Live Fish page to see a listing of our favorite online fish retailers.
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