Panda Cory (Panda Catfish): Information and Care Guide

Panda Cory in the bottom of a tank

The Panda Corydoras, popularly known as Panda Cory, is a petite yet delightful addition to any freshwater aquarium.

A native to the cool rivers of Peru, these aquatic gems are renowned for their distinctive black and white patterns, resembling a panda. They are sociable and playful and seamlessly blend with other peaceful fish species.

Keep reading if you are curious if the Panda Cory is the aquarium fish perfect for your community tank! This guide contains everything you need to know about this cute cory fish.

Panda Cory Overview

Scientific Name:Corydoras panda
Common Names:Panda Cory, Panda Corydoras, Panda Catfish
Origin and Distribution:South America (Peru & Ecuador)
Size:2 in (5.08 cm)
Temperament:Sociable, calm
Lifespan:5–10 years
Care Level:Intermediate
Minimum Tank Size:10 gal (38 L) 
Water Temperature:68–77°F (20–25°C)
Water pH Level:6–7

What Is a Panda Cory?

Panda Cory in an aquarium

The Panda Cory, also known as the Panda Catfish or Panda Corydoras, is a captivating species that resembles a panda due to its black and off-white color. These fish are calm and sociable, making them the ideal addition to community aquariums.

These Corydoras get along well with other aquatic species and display an energetic persona that can be a delight to observe.

The Panda Cory is a fantastic choice for any freshwater aquarium. With proper care, these fish can bring both beauty and harmony to your community tank.

Their easy-to-care-for nature and charming personality make them one of the more popular cory catfish choices among fish keepers globally.

Understanding its needs is paramount if you want to learn how to care for Panda Cory. Although they are fairly easy to care for, they have specific needs regarding habitat, tank size, water temperature, and feeding.

Panda Cory Origin and Distribution

The Panda Cory, renowned for its unique coloration akin to a panda, is predominantly found in Peru’s Ucayali River system, which is the primary headwater of the Amazon River.

It was first collected in 1968 by H.R. Richards and was later named Corydoras panda by Nijssen and Isbrücker in 1971, in tribute to the beloved giant panda of China.

These cory fish are also found in some parts of South America, from Peru to Ecuador, where the environment changes when snow from the Andes Mountains melts. This makes the river water colder and faster.

In their native environment, Panda Cories live in a fast-moving river with lots of oxygen. They prefer areas with many plants and a soft sandy bottom, which helps them hide from predators and avoid too much light.

This freshwater fish can live in clear and dark waters full of leaves and soft sand. So, making the environment in your tank similar to their natural home is key to keeping these fish happy.

Panda Cory Appearance

Panda Catfish hiding on aquatic plants

The Panda Cory, a small armored catfish species, stands out with its unique physical attributes.

Unlike typical fishes, Panda Corys are scaleless. Instead, they have two overlapping rows of bony plates, called scutes, providing a protective shell-like layer.

Panda Cories also have special features around their mouth that look like whiskers. They use these to sense things around them. These whiskers, along with some fins on their bodies, have tiny defensive barbs.

These fish are so small that they used to fit perfectly in my 10-gallon tank. My Panda Cories usually only grew to only about 2 inches long. However, some Panda Corys can exceed this range, especially the ones living in the wild.

But what makes them appealing is their color. I observe their bodies to be usually very light colored, like off-white or pale pink.

They have black markings on their bodies that make them look like Giant Pandas; hence, the name Panda Cory. You can see these black markings around their eyes, on their dorsal fin, and at the base of their tail.

The size of these black markings, particularly the one at the tail base, may vary among Panda Corys.

Panda Cory Temperament and Personality

Panda Corys are known for their peaceful demeanor and can be friendly additions to many aquarium setups. These sociable schooling fish thrive in the company of their species.

They are not just social with their kind but also mingle with other bottom-dwelling species.

Nonetheless, their friendly nature doesn’t mean they’re idle. Panda Corys are dynamic and rarely stay put.

They exhibit a unique blend of energy and calmness, showcasing their vibrant personalities as they energetically navigate their surroundings, especially at night.

However, I have also noticed that despite their nocturnal peak activity, my Panda Corys are also lively and playful during the day, bringing constant movement to my tank.

Alongside their vibrant personalities, I also observed them to be dedicated scavengers, always looking for food scraps in the substrate.

However, their foraging shouldn’t be mistaken for cleaning duties. They are inefficient at keeping the substrate clean, but their activity adds an exciting dynamic to the aquarium environment.

Recommended Tankmates for Panda Corys

Panda Cory staying in the bottom of an aquarium

Panda Corys are known to be good neighbors, making them a top choice for a peaceful community aquarium. However, their energetic behavior might not suit all tank mates, especially shy ones.

When choosing tank mates for your Panda Corys, it’s best to opt for peaceful fish that aren’t easily intimidated.

Neon tetras, hatchet fish, danios, and rasboras are all great options. Similarly, loaches and gouramis can also coexist peacefully with these busy fish.

Panda Corys particularly enjoy the company of other Corydoras species due to their similar behaviors.

However, it’s important to avoid housing your Panda Catfish with large, aggressive fish or known fin-nippers, such as Tiger Barbs. These types of fish might bully your Panda Corys, causing stress and potential harm.

Nonetheless, while Panda Corys coexist well with shrimp and other invertebrates, it’s worth noting that they might snack on Dwarf Shrimps.

Therefore, if you’re planning to breed Dwarf Shrimp or large fish, keeping them in a separate tank is best. Overall, the best tank mates for Panda Corys are those that match their peaceful yet active demeanor.

How to Take Care of Your Panda Catfish

Panda Cory looking for food

Panda Corys are considered to be intermediate in terms of maintenance. Nonetheless, they still have specific needs that should be met for them to live comfortably and healthily.

Lifespan and Common Diseases

The typical lifespan of Panda Corys ranges from 5 to 10 years, with some living longer than the given range with attentive care.

These fish, however, are vulnerable to several health issues, primarily parasitic infections, such as ich and flukes, bacterial infections, and fungal infections.

White spot disease (ich) is a common ailment marked by tiny white spots appearing on the body, fins, and gills.

Another common health threat for Panda Corys is gill and skin flukes, usually noticeable by rapid breathing, increased skin mucus, and reddened gills.

Regular water changes and maintaining optimal water conditions can help prevent these diseases, as they are often associated with poor water quality and overstocked tanks.

Recognizing these diseases early can help protect your Panda Corys, so look out for symptoms like spots, ulcers, fin damage, swelling, or behavioral changes like itching, lethargy, or loss of appetite.

It’s crucial to quarantine and treat any sick fish to prevent the spread of disease in the tank.

Habitat and Tank Conditions

Maintaining an appropriate habitat is key for the well-being of Panda Corys. As they’re bottom dwellers, they prefer a soft, sandy substrate or very fine gravel, which prevents injuries to their delicate underbellies and barbels.

Including live plants in the tank mimics their natural environment and provides cover and hiding places. Driftwood, rocks, and caves can also create an engaging environment for these active explorers.

Water quality is important for Panda Corys, requiring regular changes and efficient filtration.

Aim for slightly colder water temperatures than other tropical fish, between 68 and 77° F (20-25°C), pH levels of 6.0 to 7.0, and water hardness of 2 to 12 dGH.

Their natural river habitat has a steady current, so a filter that simulates this water flow is also recommended.

As for the tank size, a minimum of 10 gallons is suitable for one, but a school of 6 Panda Corys would be more content in a 20-gallon tank.

Diet and Feeding

Panda Corys are scavenging omnivores, spending much time scouring the tank bottom for food. Despite their scavenging nature, they require a balanced diet of both plant-based and meaty foods.

They’ll enjoy flake foods and relish protein-rich meals of live or frozen foods like bloodworms, crustaceans, insects, shrimp, and daphnia.

Ensure your Panda Corys get their share of the meals in a community tank. Since they are bottom dwellers, sinking pellets or food tablets can be useful, or you could use tongs to place food directly on the substrate.

Given they are more active at night, feeding them right before you sleep ensures they get their fill.

Remember, overfeeding can cause health issues, so only provide as much as they can consume within a few minutes. While they eat some algae, Panda Corys aren’t suitable as primary algae-eaters in your tank.

Watch this informative video to learn more about Panda Cory care:

Panda Cory Catfish Care: A GREAT Addition to a Community Aquarium!

Breeding Panda Corys

Breeding Panda Corys may seem complicated initially, but you can successfully breed them at home with patience and the right breeding conditions.

The first step in breeding Panda Corys involves preparing a breeding tank. Ideal setups include fine-leaved plants, such as Java moss, that provide a suitable surface for egg deposition.

Feeding Panda Cory breeders a rich diet of live foods like bloodworms, brine shrimp, or daphnia is key to getting them in the right condition for spawning.

To mimic their natural breeding cues, induce spawning by performing a partial water change using cooler water. This simulates the rainy season conditions in their native habitats and initiates mating behaviors.

When the female Panda Cory is laden with eggs, the male and female assume a unique “T” position that is quite typical among Corydoras species.

The female releases one or two eggs, which the male promptly fertilizes. She then seeks a secluded place to deposit the sticky egg, typically on the tank’s vegetation.

This entire process may last several hours, with the female laying and the male fertilizing up to 100 light yellow, sticky eggs.

After roughly four days, the eggs hatch. The fry, sensitive to their environment, requires a water temperature not exceeding 72°F (22°C).

Feed them infusoria initially, and if needed, feed them commercial fry foods. Maintain consistent water parameters for healthy growth. 

By three months, the fry displays the panda coloration, but sexual maturity isn’t reached until one year old.

A peculiar trait of Panda Corys is their tendency to consume their eggs. Therefore, you should remove the parents once eggs have been laid to ensure the brood’s survival.

Male vs. Female Panda Corys

Recognizing the differences between male and female Panda Corys can be quite straightforward once you know the signs.

From an overhead view, females stand out with a wider body compared to the narrower form of males. The increased girth is especially noticeable in mature females, as they tend to be larger overall.

Females also sport a more rounded belly, which can cause their heads to hover slightly off the tank’s bottom. In contrast, males appear sleeker and shorter, enhancing their more streamlined shape.

Behavioral differences are observed primarily during the breeding period. Male Corys become more active, noticeably pursuing females around the tank.

Conversely, females display unique behavior — they gently nudge males with their heads, forming a ‘T’ shape when viewed from above.

Frequently Asked Questions

Panda Catfish side view

How Many Panda Corys Should I Keep Together?

Panda Corys, as social fish, are best kept in a group of six or more. Their peace-loving nature makes them a great fit with other calm species like pencilfish, tetras, and rasboras.

If you’re tight on tank space, a minimum of four Panda Corys can suffice. However, larger schools are always better, making your aquarium a lively spectacle of swimming Panda Corys.

Do Panda Corys Breed Easily?

Panda Corys are relatively straightforward to breed. However, it’s crucial to understand their breeding behavior and requirements to ensure successful breeding.

External stimulation through water temperature change is usually needed in breeding Panda Corys. You should also be keen on observing their behavior, as Panda Corys are notorious for eating their eggs.

Are Panda Corys Hardy?

Panda Corys are hardy aquarium dwellers, friendly with other peaceful species. They easily adapt to different environments, thriving in well-planted tanks with buddies.

Nonetheless, this species is not the toughest among beginner fish, especially compared to other Corydoras species.

How Many Panda Cory Catfish Can You Have in a 10-Gallon Tank?

You can successfully raise four to six Panda Corys in a 10-gallon tank. However, the ideal population is around three to five. Keeping the number low is optimal since there would be more space for the fish to swim and less waste in the tank water.

How Many Panda Cory Catfish Can You Have in a 20-Gallon Tank?

The rule of thumb is you need 2 to 3 gallons of water for every Panda Cory. Considering this, you can have 6 to 10 Panda Corys in a 20-gallon tank for an optimal aquarium environment.

However, raising less than six Panda Corys in a large tank is not ideal since these fish are social creatures and feel safe in large numbers.

Do Panda Corys Eat Fish Waste?

Panda Corys do not normally eat fish poop. However, they are known to be scavengers, eating leftover foods and scraps that end up in the bottom of the tank.

Are Panda Corys Aggressive to Other Fish?

Panda Corys are peaceful and friendly fish and are not aggressive toward other fish species. In fact, they are great additions to aquarium setups comprised of small fishes and other friendly aquatic species.

Do you have any experiences with Panda Corys you’d like to share? Join the conversation in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!

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