15 Best Cory Catfish Types for Your Aquarium

Group of Cory catfish swimming in fresh water

Exploring different types of Cory catfish can be an exciting part of setting up an aquarium. These small fish are known for their armored bodies and calm nature and are very popular with fish enthusiasts and for good reason. 

They are usually seen at the bottom of the tank, scavenging for food. Not only do they help keep the tank clean by eating leftover food and algae, but they also get along well with other fish. 

In this article, we will look at 15 of the best types of Cory catfish for your aquarium. Here, you’ll find information about each type of Cory as well as some useful trivia and tips.

What Are Cory Catfish?

Corydoras catfish in a home aquarium

Cory catfish are small freshwater fish popular in home aquariums. They are known for their armored bodies and peaceful nature, making them great community fish. 

These catfish are bottom-dwellers, often seen scavenging for food along the substrate. They are also appreciated for their ability to help keep tanks clean by eating leftover food and algae.

15 Best Cory Catfish Species

Cory Catfish come in many varieties, each known for their distinct looks and calm nature. If you’re thinking of adding them to your aquarium, understanding the different types is important. 

1. Pygmy Cory

Pygmy Cory
Common Name:Pygmy Cory
Scientific Name:Corydoras pygmaeus
Origin:South America (Madeira River, Nanay River, Aguarico River)
Adult Size:Up to 1.2 inches
Lifespan:Around 3 years
Minimum Tank Size:10 gallons
Hardness:2–15 dH, preferably below 8
Temperature:72–79°F (22–26°C)
Recommended Tankmates:Neon Tetra, Ember Tetra, Dwarf Gourami, Guppies, Molly Fish, Cherry Barb, Chinese Algae Eater, and other small, peaceful fish

The Pygmy Cory, a small and serene fish from South America’s rivers, is a catfish perfectly suited for smaller aquariums. Growing to a mere 1.2 inches, they are ideal for tanks of 10 gallons or more. 

With a lifespan of about three years, these Cory Catfish require specific water conditions: a pH range of 6.4 to 7.4 and temperatures from 72 to 79°F

They coexist well with other small, peaceful species, such as Neon Tetras, Ember Tetras, and Dwarf Gouramis, making them a popular choice for aquarists with limited space.

Interestingly, Pygmy Corys are renowned for their exceptionally small size, being among the smallest members in the Corydoras genus. This makes sense, as the term “pygmy” refers to something that is dwarf or miniature.

2. Bronze Cory

Bronze Cory
Common Name:Bronze Cory
Scientific Name:Corydoras aeneus
Origin:South America
Adult Size:Up to 3 inches
Lifespan:Up to 10 years in the wild, 3 to 5 years in aquariums
Minimum Tank Size:10 gallons
Hardness:5–19 dH
Temperature:72–79°F (22–26°C)
Recommended Tankmates:Glowlight Tetras, Dwarf Gouramis, Dwarf Corydoras, Peaceful Livebearers like Guppies, Platies, and other community fish

The Bronze Cory, found mainly in the waters of South America, is a great choice for a freshwater aquarium. These hardy fish grow to about three inches and do well in tanks that are 10 gallons or larger

They’re easy to take care of, which makes them a hit with both new and experienced fish owners. They live for about 3 to 5 years and are generally peaceful.

Good tankmates for Bronze Corys include Glowlight Tetras, Dwarf Gouramis, and small livebearers like Guppies and Platies. Their adaptability and friendly nature make them a popular pick for aquariums.

Appearance-wise, Bronze Corys sport a metallic bronze color, often showing a hint of green. This glow is especially eye-catching under aquarium lights. 

Moreover, they have a smooth, streamlined shape with a flat belly, perfect for living at the bottom of a tank.

3. Panda Cory

Panda Cory
Common Name:Panda Cory
Scientific Name:Corydoras panda
Origin:Amazon River tributaries, Ucayali River basin, Pachitea River
Adult Size:Around 2 inches
Lifespan:Up to 10 years
Minimum Tank Size:20 gallons recommended, 10 gallons minimum
Hardness:2–15 dH
Temperature:72–78°F (22–26°C)
Recommended Tankmates:Pristella Tetra, Honey Gourami, Neon Tetra, Ember Tetra, Pygmy Corydoras, and other non-aggressive small or medium fish

The Panda Cory is another excellent choice for freshwater aquariums. Native to the Amazon River’s tributaries, they adapt well to smaller tanks and coexist peacefully with similar non-aggressive species. 

These fish are known for their unique black markings reminiscent of a panda bear, a feature that makes them popular among aquarists.

First collected in Peru by marine researcher Randolph H. Richards in 1968, Panda Corys are characterized by their defensive bony plates and sensory barbels. 

Typically nocturnal, these catfish thrive on an omnivorous diet and demonstrate scavenging habits. Meanwhile, when it comes to lifespan, they can live up to ten years with proper care. 

Fun Fact: Many Cory species, including the Panda Cory, breed in an interesting way. During mating, they use a ‘T-position,’ where the fish align themselves perpendicularly, with the male releasing sperm and the female collecting it. 

To learn more, watch this video of Panda Corys mating in the T-position: 

Panda Corydoras t position spawning

4. Sterbai Cory 

Sterbai Cory
Common Name:Sterbai Cory, Sterba’s Cory
Scientific Name:Corydoras sterbai
Origin:Guaporé River region, South America
Adult Size:Around 2.5 inches (some growing up to 4 inches)
Lifespan:15–20 years
Minimum Tank Size:20–25 gallons
Hardness:0–15 dH
Temperature:73–82°F (23–28°C)
Recommended Tankmates:Betta Fish, Other Corydoras, Gouramis, Danios, Barbs, Tetras, Apistogramma, and other community tank mates

Hailing from South America’s Guaporé River region, the Sterbai Cory is another charming addition to community aquariums. These fish stand out with their distinctive spotted patterns and lively behavior. 

They are marked by a striking spotted pattern and have a robust, rounded body. Additionally, their coloration is quite unique, combining dark shades with lighter, shimmering spots that create an eye-catching contrast.

Size-wise, they grow to about 2.5 to 4 inches and flourish in tanks of at least 20 to 25 gallons

Sterbai Corys are amiable and compatible with various tankmates, including Betta Fish, Danios, Tetras, and other Corys, making them a great choice for a balanced community tank.

5. Julii Cory

Julii Cory
Common Name:Julii Cory, Leopard Catfish
Scientific Name:Corydoras julii
Origin:North-East Brazil, Province of Piauí
Adult Size:Less than 2 inches
Lifespan:3–10 years
Minimum Tank Size:20 gallons
Hardness:4–8 dH
Temperature:73–79°F (23–26°C)
Recommended Tankmates:Tetras, Zebra Danio, Swordtails, Apistogramma Ramirezi, Angelfish, other Corydoras species, and other peaceful community fish

Next up on our list is the Julii Cory. Also known as the Leopard Catfish, this species is a peaceful fish ideal for most freshwater aquariums. 

Originating from North-East Brazil, specifically the Province of Piauí, these small fish grow to less than 2 inches and thrive in tanks of at least 20 gallons

They are known for their compatibility with other peaceful community fish like Tetras and Angelfish. 

Regarding lifespan, Julii Corys can live from 3 to 10 years, making them a relatively long commitment for aspiring owners. 

Interestingly, Julii Corys are often confused with their close relative, Corydoras trilineatus or the Three Stripe Cory. The two species share closely similar patterns that may look identical to the untrained eye. 

Pro Tip: To distinguish between the Three Stripe Cory and the Julii Cory, look at their side stripes. The Three Stripe Cory has distinct, solid stripes, whereas the Julii Cory’s stripes are fainter and more fragmented.

6. Emerald Cory

Emerald Cory
Common Name:Emerald Cory
Scientific Name:Corydoras splendens
Origin:Amazon River freshwater basins in South America
Adult Size:2.5–3 inches
Lifespan:5–7 years
Minimum Tank Size:At least 20 gallons for 3 fish, 55 gallons for larger schools
Hardness:5–15 dH
Temperature:72–78°F (22–26°C)
Recommended Tankmates:Hatchetfish, Dwarf Gouramis, Cardinal Tetra, Ember Tetra, Rasbora Galaxy, Betta fish, and other non-aggressive mid-level swimmers

The Emerald Cory is a small and colorful fish originating from the Amazon River in South America. These fish are a top choice if you’re looking for peaceful inhabitants in community aquariums. 

True to the “emerald” in their name, they sport a bright green coloration on top of their sleek, curved bodies. They also have round noses and thin, whisker-like barbels. 

Interestingly, these fish are social and like to be in groups, thriving in a tank with other gentle fish like Hatchetfish, Dwarf Gouramis, and Cardinal Tetras. 

A trio of Emerald Corys can live happily in a 20-gallon tank, but if you have a larger group, a 55-gallon tank is a more suitable space. Size-wise, they grow to about 2.5 to 3 inches when fully mature. 

These charming fish can be a part of your aquarium for a long time, living between 5 and 7 years

7. Dwarf Cory

Dwarf Cory
Image credit: aquablogger.de / Instagram
Common Name:Dwarf Cory
Scientific Name:Corydoras hastatus
Origin:Native to South America
Adult Size:About 1 inch
Lifespan:3–5 years
Minimum Tank Size:10 gallons
Hardness:2–12 dH
Temperature:72–78°F (22–26°C)
Recommended Tankmates:Tetras, Dwarf Shrimps, Bettas, Dwarf Cichlids, Rasbora, Oto Catfish, and other small, peaceful fish

Another type of Cory catfish to look at is the Dwarf Cory. Native to South America, these fish are known for their petite size, growing only to about an inch, making them suitable for smaller tanks.

In terms of appearance, Dwarf Corys stand out with their elongated bodies, which is a bit different from other Corydoras. Their color varies from translucent white to olive, with a slim dark stripe along their sides. 

They also have a white crescent marking at the base of their tail, surrounding a black spot. In terms of lifespan, Dwarf Corys live to around 3 to 5 years

I’ve had the opportunity to keep Dwarf Corys in my home aquarium for several years, and I’ve noticed something unique about them. 

Unlike other Corys, which are mostly bottom-dwellers, they often swim higher up in the middle of the tank.

They also display rapid fin movements and have a faster breathing rate. This behavior tends to make them seem somewhat restless and “nervous” most of the time.

8. Salt and Pepper Cory

Salt and Pepper Cory
Common Name:Salt and Pepper Cory
Scientific Name:Corydoras habrosus
Origin:Upper Río Orinoco basin, Colombia and Venezuela
Adult Size:1–1.3 inches
Lifespan:3–5 years
Minimum Tank Size:20 gallons
Hardness:2–10 dH
Temperature:68–79°F (20–26°C)
Recommended Tankmates:Guppies, Platies, Mollies, Swordtails, Neon Tetras, Angelfish, Zebra Danios, Oto Catfish, Bristlenose Pleco, Tiger Barbs, Aquarium Snails, and other community fish

The Salt and Pepper Cory is a small, eye-catching fish, easily identified by its unique speckled appearance. These fish have compact and streamlined bodies, measuring just about 1 to 1.3 inches.

They get their common name from their pattern resembling a dusting of salt and pepper. They also display a mix of soft, earthy colors, with their speckles providing a unique contrast. 

As they swim, Salt and Pepper Corys use their smooth and slender shape to navigate the water. They are known for their calm demeanor, making them ideal companions for a variety of community fish. 

These catfish are among the smallest on this list; however, since they live in relatively large groups of 6 to 12, they do not thrive well in super-small tanks. In terms of lifespan, they typically live between 3 and 5 years.

9. Peppered Cory

Peppered Cory
Common Name:Peppered Cory
Scientific Name:Corydoras paleatus
Origin:Southern Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina
Adult Size:Around 2.5 inches
Lifespan:5–10 years
Minimum Tank Size:10 gallons
Hardness:Around 12 dH
Temperature:72 – 78°F (22 – 26°C)
Recommended Tankmates:Neon Tetras, Harlequin Rasboras, Guppies, Platies, Mollies, Dwarf Gouramis, Cherry Barbs, and other peaceful tankmates

The Peppered Cory, native to Southern Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Argentina, is another Cory catfish species favored by many. 

These small, peaceful fish, growing up to 2.5 inches, are well-suited for tanks as small as 10 gallons. They have a lifespan of 5 to 10 years, making them a long-lasting addition to your aquatic family. 

Moreover, they are compatible with other peaceful species, such as Neon Tetras and Dwarf Gouramis. 

They are also adaptable to various environments, making them a versatile and attractive option for both novice and experienced fish keepers.

Known for their unique peppered appearance, these charming fish add a distinctive touch to any aquatic setting. However, many people confuse them with their look-a-like — the Salt and Pepper Cory.

Pro Tip: To tell Peppered Corys (Corydoras paleatus) apart from Salt and Pepper Corys (Corydoras habrosus), just remember that the former are larger, reaching up to 2.5 inches, and have more robust bodies.

Peppered Corys also have more distinct, darker pepper-like spots. In contrast, Salt and Pepper Corys are smaller, usually about 1.5 inches, and have a slender build with finer, more subtle speckling.

10. Bandit Cory

Bandit Cory
Common Name:Bandit Cory
Scientific Name:Corydoras metae
Origin:Brazil and Peru
Adult Size:Around 2 inches
Lifespan:5–7 years
Minimum Tank Size:20 gallons
Hardness:5–15 dH
Temperature:72 to 78°F (22 to 26°C)
Recommended Tankmates:Cardinal Tetras, Glowlight Tetras, Guppies, Dwarf Cichlids like German Blue Rams, and other small or medium non-aggressive fish

This list of Cory catfish species wouldn’t be complete without the Bandit Cory Catfish, a peaceful fish originating from Brazil and Peru. 

These small fish, growing up to 2 inches, are suitable for tanks starting at 20 gallons. Known for their peaceful demeanor, they coexist harmoniously with other non-aggressive fish like Cardinal Tetras and Dwarf Cichlids. 

The Bandit Cory stands out with its unique dark stripe that runs from its tail base all the way to its snout, going right through its eye. 

This stripe looks like a mask, similar to those worn by classic bandits, which is how this fish got its name.

In terms of lifespan, Bandit Corys can live between 5 and 7 years. For them to stay healthy and lively, they require stable water parameters.

11. Skunk Cory

Skunk Cory
Common Name:Skunk Cory
Scientific Name:Corydoras arcuatus
Origin:Upper Amazon region, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia
Adult Size:Around 2 inches
Lifespan:3–5 years
Minimum Tank Size:20 gallons
Hardness:2–12 dH
Temperature:68-77°F (19–25ºC)
Recommended Tankmates:Guppies, Platies, Mollies, Swordtails, Neon Tetras, Amano Shrimp, Gouramis, Betta Fish, Oto Catfish, Tiger Barbs, Aquarium Snails, and other small or medium fish

The Skunk Cory, native to the upper Amazon regions of Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia, is another Cory catfish worth looking into. 

These small fish, typically around two inches in size, are well-suited for tanks of 20 gallons or more. They are known for their ability to adapt to various home aquarium environments, contributing to their popularity.

Skunk Corys boast a lifespan of 3 to 5 years. Temperament-wise, they are peaceful, making them excellent tankmates for small- to medium-sized community fish like Guppies, Platies, and Neon Tetras. 

What sets them apart is their distinctive black stripe running along their back and down the caudal peduncle, reminiscent of a skunk’s stripe. 

Fun Fact: Did you know there are species that look similar to the Skunk Cory? Two notable ones are C. urucu and C. narcissus

These fish, known as ‘super arcuatus longnose’ and ‘super arcuatus,’ resemble the Skunk Cory but have distinct features. 

C. urucu has a rounder nose and a black stripe that doesn’t go through its eye, while C. narcissus is notable for its longer nose.

12. Three Stripe Cory

Three Stripe Cory
Common Name:Three Stripe Cory
Scientific Name:Corydoras trilineatus
Origin:Amazon basin: Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Suriname
Adult Size:2.5–3 inches
Lifespan:5–8 years
Minimum Tank Size:20–30 gallons
Hardness:2–15 dH
Temperature:72–78°F (22–26°C)
Recommended Tankmates:Mollies, Swordtails, Neon Tetras, Angelfish, Zebra Danios, Betta Fish, Oto Catfish, Harlequin Rasboras, Tiger Barbs, Aquarium Snails, and other peaceful community fish

The Three Stripe Cory is a great choice for medium-sized freshwater aquariums. 

These small catfish, originating from the Amazon basin, are known for their three distinctive dark stripes that not only look unique but also help them blend into their natural environment.

Three Stripe Corys are often mistaken for the Julii Cory, given the similarities in their pattern. But between the two, Three Stripe Corys have more pronounced stripes.

They grow to a manageable size of about 2.5 to 3 inches and are generally peaceful. Given their size, they need a tank of at least 20 to 30 gallons to have enough room to swim and explore. 

These catfish are adaptable and add a unique visual element to your aquarium setup. In terms of lifespan, they usually live to around 5 to 8 years.

13. Barbatus Cory or Bearded Cory

Barbatus Cory
Common Name:Barbatus Cory, Bearded Cory
Scientific Name:Scleromystax barbatus
Origin:Southeastern region of Brazil.
Adult Size:2.5 to 3 inches
Lifespan:5–7 years
Minimum Tank Size:20 gallons
Hardness:2–25 dH
Temperature:72–79°F (22–26°C)
Recommended Tankmates:South American Dwarf Cichlids, Tetras, Tiger Barb, Siamese Algae Eater, most types of Plecos, and other non-aggressive species

The Barbatus Cory, or Bearded Cory, is a kind of Cory catfish hailing from southeastern Brazil. This small species, growing up to 3 inches, is ideal for a 20-gallon community tank. 

Their unique “bearded” look, created by elongated barbels around their mouth, is what earned them their name. These barbels, other than being a captivating feature, are also used for sifting food from the substrate.

Interestingly, the Barbatus Cory is part of the Scleromystax genus, not the Corydoras, which distinguishes it from most of its catfish cousins. 

While they share many similarities with Corydoras, such as bottom-dwelling habits and peaceful temperament, the Scleromystax genus represents a slightly different lineage within the catfish family.

Fun Fact: Did you know that not all fish with “Cory” in their name belong to the Corydoras genus? 

This naming quirk arises because the aquarium trade often uses “Cory” as a shorthand for any catfish resembling the well-known Corydoras in appearance and behavior. This leads to some interesting but potentially misleading names!

14. Orange Laser Cory

Orange Laser Cory
Common Name:Orange Laser Cory
Scientific Name:Corydoras aeneus (CW010)
Origin:Upper Amazonian rain forests, eastern Peru
Adult Size:Males up to 2.5 inches, Females up to 2.75 inches
Lifespan:Around 5 years
Minimum Tank Size:30 gallons
Hardness:2–12 dH
Temperature:71–79°F (21–26ºC)
Recommended Tankmates:Tetras, Guppies, Mollies, Platies, Swordtails, Neon Tetras, Endler’s Livebearers, Corydoras Catfish

The Orange Laser Cory, from eastern Peru’s Amazonian rainforests, is another delightful choice for freshwater aquariums. 

Appearance-wise, these small fish sport vibrant orange-gold stripes from head to tail and a unique gold patch on the operculum. They are small in size, with males up to 2.5 inches and females a bit larger.

Orange Laser Corys thrive in at least 30-gallon tanks and have a lifespan of about five years. They are also peaceful, making them great companions for other friendly fish like Tetras, Guppies, and Mollies. 

Fun Fact: The designation “Corydoras aeneus (CW010)” refers to a specific type or variant within the Corydoras aeneus species. The “CW010” is a code used to identify this particular variety. 

In the world of fishkeeping, especially when dealing with species that have numerous varieties or strains, these codes are commonly used to differentiate between them. CW stands for Corydoras World.

15. Fireball Cory

Fireball Cory
Image credit: darth_trajano / Instagram
Common Name:Fireball Cory
Scientific Name:Corydoras hephaestus
Origin:Upper Rio Machado, Rio Madeira Basin, Rondônia State, Brazil
Adult Size:Up to 1.75 inches
Lifespan:Up to 5 years
Minimum Tank Size:20 gallons
Hardness:5–10 dH
Temperature:72–79°F (22–26°C)
Recommended Tankmates:Suitable for community tanks with small South American characins or smaller varieties of Asian Rasboras.

The Fireball Cory, recently discovered in Brazil in 2014 and first appeared in a scientific paper in 2016, is one of the most recently recognized types of Cory catfish. 

These Corys originate from the Upper Rio Machado and grow up to 1.75 inches, requiring a well-maintained tank of at least 20 gallons.

In terms of appearance, Fireball Corys feature a deep, rich brown body with a shimmering metallic finish and a cream-colored belly. Their vivid orange-red fins add a stunning pop of color, especially under aquarium lights. 

Known for their peaceful nature, these fish thrive well with small South American characins, Asian Rasboras, and other peaceful tank inhabitants.

With a lifespan of up to five years, Fireball Corys are interesting additions to any aquarium.

Watch this video to see Fireball Cory in action:

Corydoras hephaestus

Frequently Asked Questions

Corydoras aquarium fish in a freshwater aquarium

What Is the Best Type of Cory Catfish?

The “best” type of Cory catfish varies based on individual preferences and aquarium conditions. 

However, the most popular choices include the Bronze Cory (Corydoras aeneus) for its hardiness and the Panda Cory (Corydoras panda) for its distinctive markings.

What Is the Easiest Cory Catfish to Keep?

The Bronze Cory (Corydoras aeneus) is often recommended for beginners due to its resilience and adaptability to various water conditions. 

Other alternatives include the Peppered Cory and the Pygmy Cory, both of which are known for their hardy nature and suitability for beginner aquarists.

What Is the Rarest Cory?

The Vulcan Cory (Corydoras sp. CW111) is considered the rarest Cory Catfish due to its one-of-a-kind appearance and limited availability. 

Found in South America’s upper Rio Curuá, its rarity is heightened by Brazil’s export restrictions. 

Other notable rare species include the Pantanal Cory (Corydoras pantanalensis) and the Characidium Cory (Corydoras sp. CW153).

So, what do you think about these different types of Cory catfish? Do you have a favorite? Do you have any questions about any of those listed? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

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