Pygmy Corydora: Diet, Tank Size, Tank Mates & More

Pygmy Corydora scrounging for food

It’s not hard to understand why the Pygmy corydora is regarded as one of the best freshwater bottom feeders by many expert aquarists. 

These catfish tick almost if not all the boxes of what an exciting bottom feeder should be.

First of all, because of their laid back temperament, they are great candidates for most community tanks of species within their size range. 

I don’t know about you but I like it when I’m not so restricted in terms of what I can add to the tank because of my fish aggressive temperament.

Secondly, they are convenient to keep because of their tiny size. 

You can have these little beauties in just about any room of your house as they will do well in nano tanks.

Thirdly, they are considerably easy to keep. They are easy to feed and fairly hardy.

Lastly, they have a very interesting behavior which most bottom feeders don’t have. 

In this guide, you will find out what that behavior is. And you will have all the information you will need to successfully keep the Pygmy Corydora in your tank.

Let’s dive in!

The Pygmy Corydora (Corydoras pygmaeus), also known as the Pygmy Catfish or Pygmy Cory is a nano freshwater fish from the Catfish family. 

Its genus is referred to as Corydora and its made up more than 165 species but the Pygmy Cory is undeniably one of the most popular among them.

The Pygmy Cory is native to the freshwater tributaries and flooded areas of South America. They specifically inhibit the Rio Madeira basin in Brazil. 

There are variations in terms of flow rate, turbidity and temperature across the waters they are found. However, the area generally contains huge amount of vegetation. 

Pygmy Corydoras are usually found in groups together with other similar bottom-dwelling species lurking around plants and fallen branches near the river bank.

Pygmy Corydora Care Snippet

  • Maximum fish size: 1.0 inch
  • Minimum tank size: 10 gallons
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner – Expert
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Temperature: 72°F to 79°F
  • PH: 6.0 to 8.0
  • Hardness: 2 to 25dGH
  • Diet: Omnivore
  • Care Level: Easy
  • Ideal tank mates: Neon Tetra, Zebra Danio, Guppies, Honey Gourami, Dwarf Gourami, Mollies, Cherry Barb, Chinese Algae EaterKuhli Loach, et Cetra.

Appearance

The Pygmy Corydora have the classic corydora catfish look. As you would guess, they earned their name thanks to their tiny size. 

Their body is covered in silver and a solid black line running from the tail fin to the snout. Then a second slimmer black line runs along the lower part of their body. 

Pygmy Corydora

Pygmy Corydora             Source

Although they don’t have the exciting color splashes you see in colorful freshwater fish around that does not mean they are boring to look at. That shiny silver coloration coupled with the tiny size makes them quite appealing to watch. Other corydoras are nowhere near as cute. 

When buying them, you have to be sure you know what you are looking for. 

That’s because they are often mislabeled as Corydora hastatus or Corydora habrosus at pet stores. 

While they look similar in both appearance and size understand that they are all separate species. 

Corydora hastatus is dwarf corydora while Corydora habrosus is referred to as salt and pepper cory. 

Here are the easiest features that will help you differentiate between the three.

Dwarf Corydora (Corydora hastatus)

  • They grow to a maximum size of 1.5 inches, meaning they are a bit bigger than Pygmy Cory.
  • They have black spots on their tail enclosed by a semicircular white outline which is why they are often called tail-spot pygmy.
  • Their body is covered in light silver with olive tint, this makes them darker than the pygmy. 

Dwarf Corydora       Source

Salt and pepper cory (Corydora habrosus)

  • They also have a maximum size of 1.5 inches
  • They have lots of black spots on their back.
  • Like the pygmy, they have a solid black line that extends the length of the body, but theirs is broken and fragmented.

Salt and Pepper         Source

Pygmy Corydora Size

Similar to many fish, females of this species are both longer and broader than males. In most cases, Female Pygmy Corydora will grow to a maximum length of about 1 inch while males will max out at around 0.75 inches. 

The maximum size they attain and how fast they do can be impacted by the quality of care they receive and genetics. 

In very rare cases females can grow up 1.3 inches long.

Lifespan

In ideal condition and with proper care, the average lifespan of Pygmy Corydora is around 3 years. This can lower significantly depending on the quality of care given to them. 

Just like any aquarium fish, they need ideal tank set up, first-rate water condition, excellent diet and ideal tank mates to be able to perform at their best. 

Missing any of these can stress them out and potentially impact the lifespan. 

Many owners have claimed that their corys died shortly after being introduced to the tank. 

This most likely has to be as a result of the stress of being shifted or drastic difference in water parameters between the old and the new home tank. 

So, it can not be overemphasized that you set up ideal water conditions for them. 

Temperament and General Behavior

If you are looking for a pretty laid back freshwater the Pygmy Corydoras should be on your list. 

These fish are very easy going and prefer doing their own thing. This makes them great candidates for most passive community tanks of small species.

They can be a bit shy so make sure you provide their tank with lots of hiding places. 

Interestingly unlike most corys, they don’t just stay at the bottom and that’s it. 

They occasionally swim in shoals to explore the middle section and even head up to the tank surface. 

You know how Gouramis swim up and breath in oxygen directly from the surface using their labyrinth organ. Pygmy corys do that too, only that they use intestine to take in the air instead.

This habit is not only exciting but helpful. Yes, it helps you in the sense that you will be able to understand their water quality. 

The thing is, they usually moved to the surface to gulp in air directly when the water quality is low. 

Therefore, if you see your Pygmy Corydoras making a trip to the surface more often than usual it’s a sign that the oxygen level of the water is too low. 

Or it could be that harmful level of (nitrate, nitrite, ammonia) has build up.

Another thing that’s worth mentioning is, remember not to overcrowd the middle section of the tank with other species. 

It wouldn’t be desirable if your corys could not pass freely to the surface because of other species especially if they are aggressive or territorial. Again, if you are using floating plants be sure to not overcrowd the surface with them. 

Pygmy Corydora hiding within tank decors

Water Parameters

The ideal water parameters for keeping the Pygmy Corydoras are as follows;

  • Temperature: 72°F to 79°F
  • PH: 6.0 to 8.0
  • Hardness: 2 to 25dGH

To ensure the parameters don’t fall outside of these test your water as often as possible using high-quality test kits and make use of an efficient filter.

Drastic water parameters fluctuations are bad for any fish whether hardy or not, so make sure you avoid that to the best of your ability. 

Pygmy Corys are fairly hardy and will stay healthy, happy and quiet active if their water is well taken care of. 

Tank Size

Pygmy Corydora have become one of the most recommended fish for nano tanks but I recommend you don’t keep them in anything less a 10-gallon tank. 

Even though they are small you have to remember that they are shoaling fish and will not do well in a small group. 

It’s recommended you keep a group of at least 4 of these little guys. A 10-gallons tank will conveniently house 6 to 8 Pygmy Corydora. 

You should allocate extra 2 gallons per each added fish if you want a larger group. 

Large shoals of pygmies are not only fascinating to behold, it also makes them way more active in the tank. 

They are used to hanging out in hundreds or even thousands in the wild, so you can’t go wrong by keeping bigger shoals, provided they have enough space.

Tank Requirements

After achieving the ideal water parameters, the next important thing is equipping the tank with all the Pygmy Corydoras will need to feel more at home. This involves using the right substrate, plants, decors and light to create the desirable set up.

Substrate for Pygmy Corydora

Sand is the best substrate to use in the Pygmy Corydoras tank particularly because of its softness. Gravels or any other substrate can end up scratching or injuring their delicate babels which they use when scrounging for food. 

There have also been numerous cases when these fish accidentally end up ingesting gravels into their stomach. 

I don’t have to tell you how messed up that is. 

Pygmy Corydora scrounging for food

         Source

Plants

Without plants, your Pygmy Corydoras will feel pretty exposed and will become very nervous and stressed out. 

To prevent that, include lots of aquarium plants in the tank so they can have access to lots of hiding places they can retreat to. 

Besides, plants provide other benefits such as increasing the overall quality of the water

Make sure to use highly compatible easy-care plats like Java Fern, Dwarf Hair Grass, Amazon Sword and the like. 

Tank Decoration

Tank decorations like driftwoods, caves and pieces of rocks will help a long way in also making the Pygmy Corydoras feel more at home. Combining these will form a habitat similar to what they are used to in the wild.  

Food and Diet

Many hobbyists assume that Pygmy Corydoras are complete algae eater and will survive only on a plant-based diet. The truth is they are omnivorous and eagerly accept both plant and meaty foods. 

This is a good thing because you are spoiled for choice when choosing what to feed them. 

Having said that, you still have to make sure their diet is well diversified. You can feed them dry foods like sinking pellets and wafers occasionally. 

Protein-enriched foods like brine shrimp, bloodworms and insect larvae are also common options for these fish for the sake of variation. 

They also appreciate green veggies from time to time. But whatever you feed them, make sure it’s small enough to fit in their tiny mouth. 

Feed them twice a day as much as they consume in 2 to 3 minutes each time. Don’t worry, they will clear up any food that slipped while eating, afterwards. 

Pay attention to them while fed so you can be sure each fish is eating as it should. 

Pygmy Corydora Tank Mates

Before considering any other tank mate, I highly recommend you have a group of at least 4 to 6 Pygmy Corydora in your tank. 

In order to come up with suitable tank mates, you need to consider two key factors which are size and temperament.

Regarding size, you need to stay clear of any species big enough to eat or stress out the Pygmy Corydoras. 

Examples of species that should be avoided because of this include; Giant Gourami, Angelfish, Tiger Shovelnose CatfishPictus Catfish and Firemouth Cichlid. As you can guess the list will be quite a long one considering the pygmy’s size.

Concerning temperament, we already know that these catfish are very peaceful and will be stress out by the presence of aggressive species in the tank. 

For this reason, you should avoid species such as Bettas, Tiger Barb, Dwarf Pea Puffer, Convict Cichlid and the like.

That means the ideal tank mates for the Pygmy Corydoras are peaceful species within their size range. 

Happily, this criterion leaves us with lots of awesome aquarium species to choose from. 

Examples of them include;

Aquarium Critters 

  • Mystery snail 
  • Cherry Shrimp
  • Amano Shrimp

Breeding

Breeding Pygmy Cory is fairly easy if you remove the challenge of dealing with the extremely small fry.

Granted that they are fed nutritious food and the tank conditions are ideal, these fish will mate frequently without any input.

The female could lay up 100 eggs at once during mating. She will lay most of the eggs on the glass on the side of the tank and hold the rest in a sack by her pelvic fin till the male fertilizes them.

Remove the parents from the tank to prevent them from eating the eggs and keep an eye out on the eggs for fungal infection.

Make sure to immediately remove any egg that develops a fungus to prevent it from infecting the others.

After the egg hatches, you can feed them very tiny food like crushed flakes or infusoria before they mature enough to take in the same food as the parents.

Common Diseases

Provided you are keeping a clean tank and maintaining ideal water conditions you can expect you Pygmy Corydora to get hardly attacked by diseases. 

Another thing that will help keep them healthy is a high-quality diet. 

Having said these, there are two common diseases which these fish are susceptible to that you need to watch out for.

The first one is referred to the red blotch diseases and its mainly caused by stress due to poor water conditions. Fish afflicted with this disease develop bloody looking sores on their body. 

Conducting partial water changes every other week will help prevent harmful algal growth and keep the water clean. 

The second disease you have to watch out for is ich, also known as the white spot diseases. Afflicted fish develop white spots like sprinkled salt on their body, head and gills. 

More often than not, ich are introduced to a tank by other fish or objects already containing the parasite. 

To avoid this, make sure you quarantine any fish before adding it to your tank for some time to make sure its diseases free. 

Also, make sure to thoroughly clean anything you are planning on adding to the tank. It goes without saying that “prevention is better than cure”. 

Summary

Hopefully, you have realised by now that keeping the Pygmy Corydora successfully doesn’t take a lot of work. 

It mainly entails using a 10-gallons tank (if you want to have a group of 6 or 8) and setting it up with the right water parameters.

Next to this is equipping the tank with the recommended plants, substrates and tank decors so the catfish will feel at home.

You also need to invest in high-quality filters and test kits, and make the recommended water changes to keep the water clean and within the ideal range. 

The last vital things they need after these is high-quality varied diet as I mentioned before.

In case you want to introduce other species into the tank make sure they are peaceful and aren’t big enough to stress or swallow the Corys.

This basically sums up the Pygmy Corydoras care. If you are contemplating whether to keep them or not, I highly recommend them. 

They are very low maintenance fish and will grace your tank with very unique and exciting behavior.

Many hobbyists avoid bottom dwellers because they consider them not that entertaining. 

Whether you have this same view or not Pygmy Corydoras are in no way boring. 

I mean how many bottom dwellers you know that swim up in shoals?

If you have any question, reach out. We will be more than happy if you do.

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