The Pygmy Cory, also known as Pygmy cory catfish, is one of the three dwarf catfish species available in the hobby. For a long time, Pygmy cories were categorized with other dwarf species of its genus. The popularity of these dwarf catfish means you can find them in most fish stores, but some shops still put up inaccurate labels for Pygmy corydoras. That is why you must learn how to distinguish these cute little guys from their cousins.

In this article, we are going to cover the Pygmy cory diet, water requirements, and much more. Whether you are an experienced aquarist or someone new to the hobby, you will find these little guys entertaining, and we assure you, they are straightforward to care for!


Corydoras pygmaeus
Common Names Pygmy cory
Class Actinopterygii
Family Callichthyidae
Genus Corydoras
Size 0.75 to 1 inch
Diet Omnivore
Temperament Peaceful
Lifespan 5 years
Strata Bottom to middle
PH 6.5 to 7.5
Hardness 6 to 10 dKH
Temperature 72 to 79 F
Care Level Easy


New species of catfish emerged under the genus corydoras and one of them is the Pygmy corydoras. The Latin word pygmaeus translates to “dwarf” and rightfully so, as this species is among the smallest freshwater fish in the hobby. Corydoras pygmaeus, or Pygmy cory for short, can be found across the South American continent — but these fish mainly dwell in the Madeira, Nanay and Aguarico rivers. Their natural habitat is warm, cloudy, and always brimming with life.

– Pygmy Cory vs. Tail-Spot Cory

The description of the corydoras pygmaeus was published in 1966 by Joachim Knaack, a German scientist. Originally, aquarists believed there were only one miniature corydoras species and that was the corydoras hastatus, commonly known as Tail-Spot cory.

The Pygmy catfish is still often confused with the corydoras hastatus, as the two species bear a remarkable resemblance. Experts later realized that many species, including these two, had been misidentified.

Appearance and Distinct Features

What does a Pygmy cory look like? Find out in this section!

– How Big Do Pygmy Corys Get?

As the name suggests, these cory catfish are tiny. The Pygmy cory size is anywhere between 0.75 and 1 inch long. Female Pygmy cories are often bigger in length and they appear broader when ripe with eggs. Size is the only difference between male and female Pygmy cories.

– Colors and Patterns

The Pygmy cory has a teardrop-shaped body, just like other species of its genus. As expected of a catfish, they feature the signature underturned mouth with barbels to aid them when navigating and scouring food. But of course, Pygmy cories also have several characteristics that make them easy to distinguish.

In terms of color, their body is silver with a well-defined black line running horizontally from the snout up to the tail fin. This is followed by another black line stretching all the way back to split on their caudal fin, but only this time it is thinner. These cory cats have white bellies and on top of their stripes is a metallic sheen.

Although the Pygmy cory is not a colorful fish, its size offers a cute appeal to its onlookers.

Behavior and Temperament

– Pygmy Cories Keep to Themselves

Pygmy cories spend a lot of time hanging out on the bottom of the tank, poking around for food. These little guys tend to congregate with each other and for the most part, they stay away from other species. Sometimes, you may catch a glimpse of them fighting, but these are nothing but playful skirmishes.

– Can Pygmy Cories Live Alone?

One of the biggest and most important variables in keeping Pygmy cory catfish is that these little guys need to be in a school. You don’t want to keep less than six of them. Ideally, you will need to keep a group of 10 to make your Pygmy cories feel secure. Being in large numbers allows them to express their personalities. Once your cory cats feel safe and comfortable in their new environment, you will soon find out that these fish have a lot of spunk!

– Are Pygmy Cories Peaceful Fish?

When given the chance, small fishes would nip at the long fins of their much bigger tankmates, but these cory cats beg to differ. Pygmy cories are not troublemakers. As long as they are not viewed as food, they can get along well with other peaceful community fishes.

– Do Pygmy Corydoras Clean the Tank?

Bottom dwellers help clean the tank by feeding on leftovers but the Pygmy cory doesn’t make for the best cleanup crew. Due to their diminutive size, they really can’t take up a lot of uneaten food. What’s more, they don’t eat algae that grow on tank walls and decorations.

Care and Upkeep

How can you ensure your Pygmy cory is well taken care of? Simple: By reading the next section of this article!

– What Is the Pygmy Cory Diet?

Pygmy cories are omnivores and, as such, they will accept both meat and vegetable components. Now, although these critters are skilled at scavenging leftovers, you should make sure your pets are getting more than that.

As always, the easiest options are pellets and wafers, but commercially prepared foods are not the most nutritious choice for your fish. Therefore, you will want to supplement your pets’ diet.

For their source of protein, you can feed your corydoras with:

  • Brine shrimp
  • Fresh or frozen bloodworms
  • Grindal worms
  • Mosquito larvae

Pygmy cories are not algae eaters; they do not pass as a cleanup crew. Chopped-up blanched vegetables, on the other hand, are a welcome addition to their diet.

Moreover, you will want to watch your cories when eating to make sure everyone is getting their share. Their tank mates could steal all the food before it sank to the bottom. As for the frequency, you will want to feed your fish twice a day for around two minutes.

– Recommended Water Parameters

Pygmy corydoras have a narrow range of comfort compared to other species. That said, you will need to establish the tank water to avoid undue stress and aim for the ideal Pygmy cory temperature for this tropical species.

Here are the water parameters to aim for:

  • PH: 6.5 to 7.5
  • Hardness: 6 to 10 dKH
  • Temperature: 72 to 79 F

Pygmy cories are sensitive to poor water conditions. High levels of ammonia and nitrates stress these cory catfish, making them even more susceptible to disease. Therefore, control ammonia and nitrate buildup by performing weekly partial water changes.

– What Health Woes Should You Watch Out For?

Pygmy cories may encounter the usual ailments that plague freshwater species, but they are thought to be more vulnerable to a condition called red blotch disease.

Red Blotch Disease

As the name implies, it is characterized by nasty-looking lesions along the belly and flank. The infection takes a while to spread and the symptoms may continue to manifest for weeks or even months before the affected fish finally dies.

The pathogens responsible for this disease are still unknown, but environmental stress and the wrong substrate are often the major culprits. Improper use of oxygen is also a variable. Pure oxygen topped in fish bags was discovered to cause irritation not just among Pygmy cories but in corydoras in general. Therefore, experts suggest having your fish shipped in a large bag with plenty of air.

Don’t mistake fin rot for red blotch disease. Any fish can get fin rot. Red blotch disease, on the other hand, is particularly characteristic of bottom dwellers.

– Lifespan

The Pygmy cory lifespan can reach five years or significantly more when they receive optimal care. However, it is not uncommon for some Pygmy cories to die shortly after being introduced to their new home. Stress due to transportation and shifts in water parameters.

Best Tank Mates for the Pygmy Cory

Now, let us talk about what fish you can keep with Pygmy corydoras. As discussed earlier, these cory cats can get along well with a plethora of friendly species as long as they are not big enough to swallow the cories whole.

The following fish make a great fit for Pygmy cories:

  • Cherry barb
  • Chinese Algae Eater
  • Dwarf gourami
  • Kuhli loach
  • Marbled Hatchetfish
  • Mollie
  • Otocinclus
  • Swordtail
  • Tetra species
  • Zebra danio
  • Other corydoras

Invertebrates are also an interesting addition to your freshwater tank. You may also add the following shrimps and snails:

  • Amano shrimp
  • Red Cherry shrimp
  • Ghost shrimp
  • Gold Inca snail
  • Ivory snail
  • Mystery snail
  • Ramshorn snail
  • Pond snail
  • Malaysian Trumpet snail
  • Rabbit snail
  • Japanese Trapdoor Snail
  • Nerite snail

You may also keep one Siamese fighting fish among these cory cats. Pygmy corydoras are in fact popular among Vetta fish keepers because they keep them in a five-gallon tank. What you should not keep are cichlids, as they may harass or eat your tiny catfish.

Tank Setup

– What Is the Right Tank Size for a Pygmy Cory?

Many people are keeping Pygmy cories in a 5-gallon tank, but our experts would honestly tell you that a 10-gallon tank is going to be much better. Why? The reason is you want to furnish your tank with lush plants and still provide your fish with sufficient swimming area. And as these critters feel safe in large numbers, you will want to keep as many as you possibly can.

Aim for at least 20 gallons if you wish to stock a few compatible species. A 20-gallon aquarium could accommodate a school of small tetras swimming in the middle and a centerpiece fish like a Betta.

– What Substrate Type and Decorations Should You Choose?

Smooth silica sand and fine gravel are the ideal substrate choices for Pygmy cories. Avoid sharp sand and large, coarse gravel. Whether or not these substrates damage barbels is still a matter of debate, but these choices definitely inhibit the catfish from performing their natural behaviors.

As far as setup goes, Pygmy corydoras do fine in planted tanks. A carpet of Dwarf Hairgrass and tall plants like Amazon Swords and Java Fern will work well for these fish. While you don’t have to use plants, it does make for a well-rounded ecosystem.

– Equipment and Accessories

You don’t need a powerhead or any wavemaker as these fish are fine with moderate water flow provided by an efficient filtration system. What you need is a heater and thermometer as the Pygmy cory is a tropical fish. A standard tank lighting will also suffice.

When cleaning, you will want to avoid stirring up the tank bottom as this can release a large amount of biological wastes and trigger a bacterial bloom. Therefore, perform a gravel vacuum to clean the substrate without rearranging decorations.

Pygmy Cory Breeding

Pygmy corydoras can reproduce as soon as they hit eight months old. You can tell if female Pygmy cories are ready. They will look rounder as they are full of eggs. Males, on the other hand, will remain much thinner and sleeker compared to females. During this time, the males will also compete for a female and you can see them following the plump females. Once a female chooses a male, the pair will go off to breed.

– Do Pygmy Corydoras Breed Easily?

This species is fairly easy to breed. Spawning will commence naturally in a well-maintained aquarium, especially when they are fed a protein-rich diet. Performing a 50 percent water change is also encouraged.

To stimulate breeding and hasten the process, you may increase the recommended Pygmy cory temperature to a few degrees. If increasing the temperature will affect other tankmates, then it would be wise to transfer your corydoras to a 20-gallon breeding tank or larger.

– How Often Do Pygmy Corydoras Lay eggs?

One female Pygmy cory can produce up to 100 eggs. The female will hold a few eggs at a time in a pouch by the pelvic fin and wait for its male partner to fertilize them. Soon enough you will find sticky round eggs scattered across tank walls and decorations. You may remove the adult fish as soon as they are done.

– How Do You Take Care of Pygmy Cory Fry?

Unfortunately, Pygmy cories don’t display parental behavior and, therefore, you will have to take tabs on the fry to ensure a higher survival rate. Watch the eggs over the next few days. Before you know it, the fry will emerge and they will feed on their egg sac until they become free-swimming. At this point forward, you can feed the fry with infusoria and baby brine shrimp until they have grown enough to eat the same foods as adults.


The Pygmy cory size is a huge variable but as far as general care goes, it is going to be the same as other members of the genus Corydoras. The fact that most of these fish grow so small attracts hobbyists who are still starting as well as experienced aquarists who enjoy having a nano tank.

  • In a nutshell, here is what you have learned from this article:
  • Pygmy cories crave safety in large numbers. A group of 10 is ideal.
  • Pygmy cories should not be considered a substitute for proper tank care.
  • You can keep these dwarf corydoras with pretty much any peaceful species as long as they will not eat or harass them.
  • The Pygmy cory is susceptible to red blotch disease, which is typically a by-product of stress.
  • A varied diet is important to keep Pygmy cories happy and healthy with a strong immune system.
  • Add lush aquarium plants.
  • These tiny catfish use barbels to forage food, so go with sand because these catfish will constantly sift through it with their whiskers.
  • Well-fed Pygmy cories in healthy water conditions are more likely to breed successfully. The water parameters also play a significant factor in successful breeding.

As you can see, keeping Pygmy corydoras is straightforward. That is why many fishkeepers like to have them as they don’t demand any special effort. Now it is your turn to keep them, too!

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