Fish & Aquariums

Cory Catfish Care Guide: Tank Mates, Behavior, and FAQ

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Eric is an aquarium enthusiast with over two decades of experience caring for a wide array of tropical fish.

The Corydoras Catfish

The cory (corydoras) catfish is one of the most popular aquarium fish in the world. With their stubby little bodies and mustache-like whiskers, they are also downright adorable. They putter around the bottom of the tank looking for bits of uneaten fish flakes or other forgotten edibles. Cories are a lot of fun to watch, but they also perform an important role as part of the “cleanup crew” in your tank.

The cleanup crew consists of fish that help keep the tank neat and tidy. Some are algae eaters, where others, like the cory, help by finding and eating bits of food that fall to the substrate. This prevents the food from decaying and fouling the water. Your cleanup crew can’t do it all, but their efforts help with routine maintenance in your aquarium.

Cory catfish grow to an adult size of two to three inches, and they do best in shoals of six or more. There are a bunch of different varieties, some common in the aquarium trade and others more exotic.

They are among the best freshwater fish for beginners. Cories are peaceful fish, excellent for community aquariums, and very easy to care for. But, there are a few things you need to know if you intend to stock them.

This article will cover the basics of cory catfish care.

Natural Habitat and Behavior

Wild cories come from South America where they inhabit slow-moving creeks and streams and shallow, calm water on the edges of rivers and ponds. Dense vegetation provides not only an ideal habitat for the corydoras to find food but also cover from predators.

They are shoaling fish, meaning they live amongst a large group of others of their same species. Wild cories forage for tiny insects, larvae, and worms and stick to the river or pond bottom to do their hunting. They are most active during the day.

Cory catfish possess a labyrinth organ, which means they can shoot up from the bottom and gulp air from the surface when necessary. In the wild, this helps them to survive brief periods in a low-oxygen environment.

Cory Catfish Care Sheet

Care Level


Adult Size

~ 2.5 inches

Minimum Tank Size

10 gallon; 30 preferred




Fish flakes, sinking pellets

Tank Region

Bottom dweller

Cories in the Home Aquarium

Cories can live in a tank as small as 10 gallons, but I recommend at least 30 gallons. That’s because, just like in the wild, cories are best kept in small schools in the home aquarium. This means a minimum of six individuals, but more is better if there is room in the tank.

You will see them group together, especially at night when they seek security, but remember they are shoaling fish, not schooling fish. They don't often pack tightly and move together in schools. Most home aquariums are small enough that no matter where they are in the tank they are always relatively close together.

Also be aware of one more type of “cory” you will see, the emerald green cory or emerald brochis. They grow larger than true cories as adults, reaching a total length of around four inches.

Ideal Water Parameters

Water Temperature

78 Degrees


7.0 - 8.0


< 30





Best Cory Catfish Tank Mates

Since they are such peaceful community fish, the cory catfish is suitable for almost any tropical aquarium inhabited by other community-appropriate fish. They can also do well in tanks with semi-aggressive inhabitants, as most fish will ignore them.

As always, be sure to research any fish you intend to stock so you know they are compatible with your cories. Here are a few suggestions that come from the same general area of the world as the corydoras.

They are also among the most fun fish to watch. These little catfish always seem to be up to something, and because they are active in the daytime, we get a front-row seat. It is no wonder these fish are among the most popular in the aquarium industry.

As with any fish you intend to stock, be sure to do as much research on the cory that you can before you bring them home. Good luck!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

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