The Panda cory, also known as Corydoras panda, is a gregarious fish that loves to keep itself busy socializing and searching for hidden treasures among the substrate.

The fish looks like China’s iconic bear, which makes it even more interesting!

But because the Panda cory easily succumbs to disease, you’ll need to know how to take better care of this species before you decide to keep one.

Panda Cory Stats

Species C. panda
Synonyms Corydoras panda
Family Callichthyidae
Genus Corydoras
Care Level Beginner
Temperament Peaceful
Compatibility
  • Loaches and other corydoras
  • Similar-sized non-aggressive top and middle swimmers
Average Size 2 inches (5 cm)
Color & Patterns Pearly white/pale pink with three black marks
Diet Omnivore
Tank Size 20 gallons
Tank Setup
  • Sand or fine gravel
  • Dense vegetation
pH 6 – 7
Hardness 2 – 12 dH
Temperature 68 – 77 F

Panda Catfish Origin and Distribution

The Corydoras panda, better known as Panda cory or Panda catfish, hails from Peru and Ecuador, where the water conditions rely upon the Andes mountain range. There, the catfish inhabits both pristine streams and blackwater rivers that flow over soft sand and fine gravel. These waters are abounding in oxygen and display a plethora of aquatic plants that provide food and refuge to other inhabitants.

When the snow caps melt, the water flow shoots up while the temperature drops to about 66 F (19 C). Since this has always been the case, the fish has developed the knack to survive in temperatures as low as 54 F (12 C). Such low temperatures, however, are ill-advised in captive rearing.

The first captive specimens were collected from Peru in 1968 by H.R. Richards. These fish came specifically from the Ucayali river system, the main headwater of the Amazon River. However, the fish had no name until Nijssen and Isbrücker christened it three years later.

Corydoras Panda Physical Characteristics

– How Big Do Panda Corys Get?

The standard Panda cory size is about two inches. Oftentimes, this length is attained by mature females. Males quite often remain smaller.

– Distinctive Appearance

In common with other members of the Callichthyidae family, the Corydoras panda is covered — not with scales — but overlapping bony plates called scutes. To give you a better idea, imagine an armadillo or the carapace of a scorpion.

Scutes and scales can be difficult to distinguish unless you give the catfish a closer look. But in some armored catfish species, the demarcation line between individual scutes is highlighted by black pigments.

Moreover, the Panda cory has three sets of paired barbels: one pair of maxillary barbels and two pairs of rictal barbels. Additionally, there is a sharp barbel under each eye, another in front of the dorsal fin, and the last one on the adipose fin. These sharp barbs serve as the fish’s defense mechanism.

– Colors and Markings

The Panda fish will embellish your aquarium with their pearly white and pale pink colors. Furthermore, certain lighting conditions will also give these beauties a faint emerald iridescence upon their flanks and opercula. Their hyaline fins look ethereal, as well.

While their heads are the same color as their bodies, these catfish have three black markings. The most prominent mark is reminiscent of the black mask of a giant panda. It begins at the top of the head, surrounding the eyes and ending in a triangular wedge.

Thus, the species received its name as an allusion to China’s iconic black and white bear.

The second black mark, moreover, is found at the dorsal fin. On the other hand, some specimens can have a large mark that covers the entire dorsal fin, leaving only translucent edges. As for the third mark, you will find it encircling the caudal peduncle.

– Gender Differences

Females are larger and broader, especially when viewed from above. Males, on the other hand, are slimmer and shorter in length.

Corydoras Panda Behavior and Temperament

The Panda cory is an energetic fish. You won’t find these vivacious fish staying still in one corner for too long. Just like little gangsters, they tear the aquarium in trios or as a large group. The species is most active at night, but they are still lively and boisterous in broad daylight.

As expected of benthic scavengers, these fish also like to scour the substrate for scrumptious treasures. While they like to forage uneaten morsels that escape the fish above, they should not be employed to keep the substrate clean. They won’t do a good job.

Panda Cory Breeding

Panda catfish do not reach sexual maturity until they are five years old. The good news is that these fish are sociable, thereby lessening the difficulty level of breeding.

But before anything else, you need to set up a breeding tank measuring 18 x 12 x 12 inches or similar. Use a box-type filtration and furnish the tank with fine-leaved plants, such as Java Moss.

To further increase the odds of successful spawning, it is recommended that you keep two males for every female. A higher male-to-female ratio is always better when breeding corydoras. Moreover, condition the group with their favorite live or frozen foods.

When the female appears bulging with ripe eggs, you’ll need to maximize oxygen levels and replenish 50 to 70 percent of the water volume with cool water. Doing so mimics the fish’s breeding conditions that occur during the wet season.

Initial spawning behavior involves increased activity and excitement. If a female decides to spawn, she will accept the advances of the pursuing male. The male would caress the female’s barbels between his pectoral fin and body before he releases sperm.

Assuming the classic “T” position, the receptive female will cup her pelvic fins to form a basket into which she deposits an egg. She then swims a way to find a suitable place to hide the fertilized egg. This cycle continues for several hours.

The fertilized Panda cory eggs will hatch within four days. You need to separate the adults prior to hatching, as they might eat their own fry. Feed the fry with infusoria until they are big enough to accept commercially prepared foods. The temperature, moreover, should not exceed 72 F. It will take three months before the black marks pop out.

Panda Cory Tank Mates

Can Panda corys live alone? Absolutely not! This species manifests a distinct requirement for numerous companions. House a minimum of 8 Panda catfish and increase the number if the space permits.

These social critters don’t mind living with other larger species as long as they are not viewed as dinner. Panda corys also associate themselves with other bottom dwellers, including loaches.

Panda Cory Care

– Panda Cory Diet

What do Panda cory catfish eat? Since cory catfish are omnivores, they need a good meal of plant and vegetable matter and a mix of meaty foods.

Panda catfish are particularly fond of:

  • Bloodworms
  • Brine shrimp
  • Daphnia
  • Small earthworms

Introducing live food will result in a feeding frenzy. So, if you have a large fish community, you have to make sure these little guys can have their fair share of food. Better yet, lodge the food underneath decorations using tongs. Sinking tablets or pellets should also address this problem.

Do Panda Corys eat algae? Yes, they may nibble some, but they are not algae eaters to begin with. If you intend to keep Panda catfish as your tank’s cleaning crew, there are much better options available.

– Water Parameters

Although the freshwater cory catfish has been classified as a tropical species, the ideal Panda cory temperature is between 68 to 77 F. This should come as no surprise since its natural habitat contains meltwater from the snow-capped Andean mountains.

For this reason, the Panda cory does not belong in a tropical aquarium. Keeping such fish in warmer temperatures could only affect its lifespan. If you want to build a community aquarium, then you must choose tankmates that share their preference for cold temperatures. On a side note, captive-bred specimens might be able to tolerate warmer temperatures.

Given the cory catfish’s native waters, the water hardness should be between 2 and 12 dGH. Likewise, maintain a pH level of 6.0 or 7.0.

– Maintenance and Equipment

For starters, blackwater rivers are dark not because of pollution but due to decaying tannin-rich timbers and vegetation. Tannins stain the water and make it more acidic.

On the other hand, some rivers are dark because of the color of the loam. Regardless, this does not affect the water quality.

  • Partial Water Changes

The Panda cory has more exigent demands for clean water compared to other Corydoras species. Therefore, a maintenance regime is crucial. You’ll need to make partial water changes every now and then, preferably 25 to 30 percent each week.

  • Filtration System

Equally important is the filtration system. As with other Corydoras species, it would be unwise to use under gravel filtration. The reason is that these catfish love to burrow, thus making them prone to lose their barbels. Losing their barbels is a huge no-no, as it could make them ill.

A canister filter or powerhead would be ideal since Panda corys thrive in environments with constant water flow. Then again, it should depend on the size of your tank and stock density.

  • Aquarium Vacuum

You should provide scrupulous attention to the cleanliness of the substrates. Get rid of fish waste, leftovers, and rotting plant matter using a good-quality aquarium vacuum. Make sure to vacuum each nook and cranny, including around the base of plants and decorations.

Health Risks and Diseases

Cory catfish are quite sensitive; they could lose their barbels due to deteriorating water conditions and soiled substrates.

These fish are also susceptible to the following diseases:

– Ich (White Spot Disease)

This is by far the most common disease that affects aquarium fish, and the Panda cory is no exception. It is caused by Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, a protozoan parasite. The disease appears as tiny white spots across the affected fish’s body, fins, and gills.

In addition to these symptoms, the affected fish will rub itself against decorations and tank walls to find relief. The burrowing parasites cause irritation and itch, similar to a mosquito bite. Redness and bloody streaks may occur in advanced stages.

Fortunately, there are now several ways to treat this dreadful disease. However, the best route is to transfer all of the fish to a quarantine tank so that you could heat up the empty tank for three to four days. Without a host, the remaining parasites will die.

At the same time, you’ll need to treat the quarantined fish using over-the-counter Ich remedies. Despite the instruction stated in the packaging, experts suggest continuing the treatment for 14 days to ensure every fish is Ich-free.

– Gill Flukes (Dactylogyrus) and Skin Flukes (Gyrodactylus)

This disease represents a serious health threat to any fish. It is often observed in overstocked aquariums with warmer temperatures or where there is a lack of hygiene. Among its telltale signs include rapid breathing, increased skin mucus, reddened and wide-opened gills, etc.

Unfortunately, the early stages can be difficult to diagnose until the parasites have reproduced large debilitating numbers. Treating the disease is likewise a challenging exercise. The reason being the eggs are resistant to treatments, and the parasites can hide deep in the gills.

To prevent this, you need to ensure the water parameters are always within the recommended range.

Panda Cory Tank Setup

– Tank Size

The swift and energetic Panda corys are always on the lookout for food. Fortunately, they aren’t so big. A 20-gallon (76 liters) tank would fit their needs, although a 30-gallon tank (114 liters) would do best. While these fish benefit from a well-planted tank, you need to make sure they have enough space along the bottom for them to whisk around.

– Substrate

Panda corys love browsing around the bottom for goodies. So, the best choice would be sand with a depth of around two to three inches.

Don’t use rough substrates. These scaleless fish use their sensitive barbels to find food. If they hover above the gravel and other abrasive substrates, they could injure themselves and lose their precious barbels.

You may use pea gravel to give them an environment similar to their natural habitat. Pea gravel is smooth and soft to the touch. My only gripe is that pea gravel is dusty; hence you’ll need to wash it before use. An excellent way to clean it is to put the substrate inside a bucket with a hosepipe. Then allow running water to cleanse it until clear.

– Plants and Decorations

As mentioned earlier, the freshwater cory catfish flourish in blackwater conditions. While it would be best to replicate an Amazon biotope, water staining isn’t necessary unless preferred.

A standard, well-planted tank is sufficient. Since Panda catfish love to swim near the bottom, carpet growing plants are discouraged. You want to leave ample room for these agile swimmers.

If you insist on designing a mini blackwater environment for your fish, then you’ll need to gather a few handfuls of alder cones, dried almond leaves, and oak leaves. Put these items in a small net bag filled with aquarium-safe peat. Allow the leaves to stain the tank water. Replace the bag with new leaves every few weeks, so it won’t foul the water.

Driftwood branches and twisted roots will also help darken the water and lower its pH level. A few rocks and caves will complete the natural feel of the Panda cory’s wild habitat, helping them feel more at home.

– Lighting

Add floating plants to provide shade. After all, these fish prefer subdued lighting.

– Availability

There is plenty of tank-bred and tank-raised Panda corys for sale in major pet store chains and online retailers. The popular corydoras are sold for around $5 each, and you can get a discounted price if you buy in bulk.

Conclusion

Panda Corys will bring excitement to anyone’s tank with their cute appearance and playful personality. That is why this species is one of the most popular all-time favorites in the fishkeeping hobby.

Here’s a recap:

  • The Corydoras panda originates from cold, blackwaters that are influenced by the Andes mountain range. The ideal water temperature for this species is much lower than the typical tropical fish.
  • The freshwater cory catfish thrives in soft and slightly acidic water akin to its natural habitat.
  • These catfish are more prone to getting their barbels damaged by gravel and other rough substrates.
  • Whatever sinks to the bottom is a fair game. But for the Panda catfish to thrive, you need to make sure these scavengers receive a varied diet consisting of high-quality tablets or pellets and a fair portion of live or frozen meaty foods.
  • The best thing about these fish is that they are peaceful community residents. But because they are only two inches long, they should not be housed with large carnivores.

Given the cleanliness of its native waters, the Panda cory can be quite demanding with its new home. But other than the water quality, this little guy won’t ask much.

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