Pygmy Cory Care: Size, Tank Mates, Diet & More!

Pygmy Cory Catfish are a popular freshwater choice for aquarists of all experience levels. They’re cute, straightforward to care for, and a lot of fun to watch!

This guide will teach you everything you need to know about Pygmy Cory care. We cover diet, tank size, water conditions, tank mates, and much more!

Species Summary

The Pygmy Cory Catfish (Corydoras pygmaeus) is one of the smallest tropical fish in the trade, making them a wonderful choice for aquarists interested in nano fish.

These pint-sized creatures don’t require much room at all, favoring well-decorated environments filled with decor. A shoaling species, these fish also require many like-minded companions to stay healthy (more on that later).

This species is native to rivers in South America. They are most commonly found throughout the Madeira River, the Nanay River, and the Aguarico River. Somewhat finicky in terms of water conditions, they can be a handful to take care of. But with a well-established tank and proper care, these freshwater fish are playful and fun to watch.


The Pygmy Cory is a member of the Corydoras genus. For a while, these fish were automatically lumped in with other small species of the Genus. Even today, it’s not uncommon to see Pygmy Corydoras with the wrong label at fish stores!

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These fish have a couple of defining characteristics that will help you identify them. Like others in the genus, they have a unique teardrop-shaped body with a large head. An under-turned mouth with barbels helps them find food at the bottom of their habitat.

One Pygmy Cory Catfish swimming in a freshwater aquarium

In terms of color, Pygmy Cory Catfish have a well-defined stripe of thick black. It runs from the snout and stretches all the way back to split on their caudal fin.

On top of the stripe, these fish have a metallic silvery sheen. You may also see some subtle vertical stripes of black. Below the stripe, the fish have white bellies.

Author Note: Males and females are nearly identical in appearance. The only main difference is size. Females tend to be a bit bigger. Plus, they have a more bulbous shape that’s more noticeable when viewed from above.

Average Pygmy Cory Size

As their name would imply, these fish are very tiny! The average size of a Pygmy Cory Catfish is about one inch. 

On the large end of the spectrum, they may grow to lengths of about 1.3 inches. But, those instances are rare (requiring a mix of luck and excellent care).

Author Note: Females are usually around one inch long, while males typically hover closer to 0.75 inches.


The Pygmy Cory has a relatively short lifespan. On average, they only live for around three years.

Of course, there are no guarantees when it comes to lifespan. There’s a certain degree of luck involved. However, the quality of care you provide comes into play as well.

Poor husbandry, substandard living conditions, and a lackluster diet can quickly lead to disease and premature death.

Pygmy Cory Care

Pygmy Corys are a favorite among aquarists who want small fish that are fun to watch. They have quirky personalities and do well in smaller community tanks.

While Pygmy Cory care isn’t very difficult, these fish do have some unique care requirements that you need to be aware of. They have a relatively narrow comfort zone, requiring a reasonable amount of attention if you want them to thrive.

Below are the most important care guidelines to follow.

Tank Size

The best thing about keeping Pygmy Corys is that you don’t need much in the way of tank size! They do just fine in aquariums as small as 10 gallons. That should suffice for a smaller group.

Author Note: When choosing a tank, select one that’s longer than it is tall. These freshwater fish are fairly active and prefer to have more lateral swimming space to explore.

Water Parameters

Mimicking the Pygmy Cory’s natural habitat is always going to yield the best results. These fish live in rivers and tributaries throughout South America. The waters are warm, fairly cloudy, and full of life.

The flow of water is moderate, providing them with plenty of resistance (but nothing too crazy). The water is often enriched with tannins, which facilitates a slightly acidic environment as well. However, they can do fine in neutral conditions as well.

The Pygmy Cory Catfish has a narrow range of comfort compared to other fish. As a result, it’s important to keep monitor conditions regularly to avoid undue stress. Here are some important parameters to aim for:

  • Water temperature: between 72°F and 79°F
  • pH levels: 6.5 to 7.5.
  • Water hardness: 6 to 10 dKH

Author Note: Because of this narrow window you need to maintain, it’s essential for you to invest in a reliable and accurate water test kit for your aquarium. This will allow you to easily monitor the state of the tank and make adjustments if needed.

What To Put In Their Tank

Like any other fish, Pygmy Corydoras do best when kept in a natural-looking environment that stimulates their native habitat. These freshwater fish love richly decorated tanks filled with hiding spots and points of stimulation.

Start by creating a safe foundation for these fish. Pygmy Corydoras will spend a lot of time searching for food on the lower part of the water column. To keep their delicate barbels safe, avoid gravel or rocks. Instead, stick to fine sand.

A shoal of Pygmy Corydoras

The sand is safe, helping the fish avoid unnecessary injuries. Not only that, but it’s easier for them to dig through, which only creates more opportunities for observable fun!

Next, add plants and driftwood. In the wild, Pygmy Corys typically hide among plants and fallen trees that sink to the riverbed.

Keep things natural and varied. Add tall background plants, floating plants, and small foreground plants. As long as everything is soft and safe enough for your fish to frolic in, it should work.

These fish are particularly fond of grasses and shrimp flats as well. If you have the space, we definitely recommend them!

Author Note: Because of their small size, pay special attention to the filtration equipment. If you have large inlet tubes, consider adding sponges to prevent accidents. Also, keep the output slow so that the flow doesn’t overwhelm them.

Potential Diseases

Pygmy Corys are susceptible to all the usual freshwater ailments. They can encounter the same diseases and infections that other species encounter.

However, the Pygmy Cory Catfish is thought to be more susceptible to a condition called red blotch disease. This health issue causes red bloody sores to appear all over the body.

This disease is typically a byproduct of stress. Pygmy Corydoras can experience stress when water conditions become unstable. They may also suffer from Ich, which is highly contagious and potentially lethal.

Check the water conditions regularly and perform weekly water changes to keep things safe and reduce the risk of disease..

Food & Diet

This species, as well as others in the Corydora genus, are well-known algae-eaters. They have a healthy appetite for the green stuff and will actively consume any they come across!

But contrary to popular belief, Pygmy Corys cannot survive on algae alone. They require some protein-rich food sources periodically as well. The key to achieving good health is to provide a well-balanced meal that contains a full nutrient profile.

Nutrient-dense foods will keep their immune systems’ strong and ready to tackle diseases.

Omnivores through and through, these fish do very well on traditional pellet or flake foods. You can also provide long-lasting algae wafers, brine shrimp, bloodworms, mosquito larvae, and more. 

Author Note: The only thing to remember is that these fish have small mouths! They aren’t always capable of breaking apart larger chunks of food, so keep things small.

Behavior & Temperament

As a whole, Pygmy Corydoras are very peaceful. They’re not known for exhibiting any signs of aggression. You may witness some playful fighting here and there among a group, but it’s never serious.

Even with other species, the Pygmy Cory Catfish is a sociable fish that gets along with everyone (more on that in the section below).

Pygmy Cory swimming next to plants

Most fish will spend their time hiding and playing in plants. While they spend a lot of time on the bottom of the tank, Pygmy Corys like to occupy the middle of the water column most. They will also venture up to the surface, where you can observe a unique behavior.

This species is capable of using its intestines to take up oxygen! It looks like they’re breathing, which is an interesting sight to behold!

Author Note: This behavior is perfectly normal. But if it becomes a regular thing, it may be a sign of poor water conditions. Do some water tests if you notice your fish breathing at the surface more often than normal.

Tank Mates

Peace-loving by nature, Pygmy Corys don’t have a problem cohabitating with others. However, a potential problem is that they are often seen as prey by larger and more assertive fish.

If you want to make these fish a part of a community, you must keep things peaceful and small. Choose similarly sized species that are less than an inch in size. You can also try shrimp and snails.

Here are some good tank mates to consider for the Pygmy Cory:

Of course, the best companion is other Pygmy Corys. These freshwater fish often live in shoaling groups of thousands in the wild. In captivity, we recommend a group of at least eight.

The Pygmy Cory needs a shoaling group to stay healthy. When kept alone, they fall prey to the unhealthy symptoms of stress. They’ll spend most of their time in hiding and exhibit sporadic behavior.

With a larger group comes confidence and playfulness, which is what you want in a community fish.

Author Note: Keeping a Pygmy Cory with a betta fish is not something we recommend. They are too aggressive and will pick on your little catfish!


Pygmy Cory breeding is fairly easy and often occurs naturally in well-maintained tanks. As a general rule, these fish are more likely to breed when it’s part of a large group. 

To encourage spawning, you can provide a protein-rich diet and slowly decrease the water temperature. This simulates the weather changes that occur with the breeding season.

Females will hold onto a few eggs at a time and wait for the male to fertilize them. Once done, she’ll deposit them on a smooth surface. Usually, they’ll stick them onto the glass walls of the aquarium.

The female will repeat this process, eventually laying a hundred eggs or so.

Once she’s done, remove all of the adult fish. The Pygmy Cory Catfish doesn’t display any parental behavior, treating eggs and baby fry as lunch!

As the eggs develop over the next few days, watch them closely. Remove any that develop fungus, as the fungus can spread to other eggs and kill them.

Before you know it, the fry will emerge. The baby fish will eat the egg sac until they are free-swimming. At that point, you can provide tiny foods like infusoria and baby brine shrimp until they’re ready to consume the same foods as the adults.

Wrapping Up

As you can see, Pygmy Cory care is not something to be afraid of. Even though these fish require a little more attention than a classic “low-maintenance” species, the process is still rather straightforward.

In return, these fish will provide you with tons of entertainment and fulfillment. Caring for these cute little catfish truly never gets old.

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