The Panda cory, also known as the Panda catfish, is probably the cutest of the 161 recognized species of corydoras catfish. Panda corys are a South American species of small catfish that have a black and white pattern that resembles that of a giant panda, hence the fish’s common name.
But are corydoras very big and are they easy to keep? If you want to add a school of these peaceful, social little fish to your tropical freshwater community setup, you’ll need to know how to care for them.
In this complete guide, we tell you everything you need to know about caring for Panda corys.
QUICK FACTS ABOUT PANDA CORY
- Scientific name: Panda corydoras
- Common name (species): Panda cory
- Family: Callichthyidae
- Origin: Ucayali river system, Peru
- Diet: Omnivore: tropical flakes, pellets, bloodworms, brine shrimp, daphnia, frozen foods
- Care level: Beginner / Easy
- Activity: Active bottom-dwelling foragers
- Life expectancy: up to 10 years
- Temperament: Pacific community fish
- Tank Level: Bottom Dweller
- Minimum tank size: 10 gallons
- Temperature Range: Tropical 68° to 77° Fahrenheit
- Water hardness: 2-12 dGH
- pH range: 6.0 to 7.0
- Filtration/Flow Rate: Likes well filtered water and a moderate flow rate
- Breeding: Egg laying
- Compatibility: Peaceful with most species of small and sociable fish.
- Is it ok for planted tanks? insurance with plants
The Panda cory hails from Peru, specifically from the main headwaters of the Amazon River, the Ucayali river system. This species of corydoras catfish was first collected in 1968 by HR Richards, but the Panda cory was not officially named until three years later, when Nijssen and Isbrücker assigned it its name.
Take a look at one of these super cute minnows and you’ll immediately see how the fish got its name. Panda corys are named after China’s giant panda, reflecting the iconic bear’s white body with black markings around its eyes and on other parts of its body.
The first specimens of the hobby of fish farming were caught in the wild, and consequently, their purchase was somewhat expensive. However, captive breeding programs have meant that the Panda cory is no longer a rare and unusual fish, so the price has dropped accordingly and the species is now even more popular than ever.
The Ucayali river system has black water conditions. That means the water is slightly acidic and quite soft, since it doesn’t contain many minerals. Also, although the Panda cory is classified as a tropical species, the waters here are quite cold, usually between 70 and 70 degrees Celsius.
The waters are relatively fast flowing and well oxygenated, and the substrate consists of fine gravel and soft sand. The vegetation is quite lush and helps provide shelter for the corys.
The Panda cory has a whitish-pink body with three obvious black markings. The fish’s head has black markings around the eyes, much like a giant panda’s. The second black mark extends over the dorsal fin and the last one covers the caudal peduncle at the base of the tail. Interestingly, there are variations in the size of the tail marking, giving rise to large and small spotted variants of the species.
Instead of scales, the Panda cory has two rows of overlapping bony plates called scutes. Like most corys, Panda corys have three sets of two barbels and a few sharp spikes that the fish uses for defense, found in front of the dorsal fin, on the fat fin, and below each eye.
The Panda cory generally grows to around two inches long in captivity, although wild specimens can grow to be slightly larger than that.
Panda corys have a life expectancy of up to ten years if cared for properly.
ACTIVITY LEVEL / TEMPERAMENT
Panda corys are the life and soul of the bottom of your tank! These active little fish spend most of their time alternately moving around the substrate, looking for morsels of food or resting in groups, apparently taking a nap.
From time to time, you will see corys darting to the surface of the water and taking a deep breath.
COMPATIBILITY AND TANK MATES
The cory species, in general, is a peaceful social soul that is the perfect addition to any community tank.
Panda corys enjoy the company of their own kind and therefore should always be kept in small groups, ideally six or more, but definitely at least four.
Large, aggressive species are best avoided, as they can sting placid corys. That said, given the Panda cory’s defensive quills, sometimes the aggressor comes off worse! So good tank mates for corys include tetras, rasboras, gouramis, and other species of corys.
Panda corys are typical scavengers, spending much of their time scavenging the substrate for scraps of food that fall from above.
For that reason, if you keep your corys in a community tank, you’ll need to make sure they have enough to eat. Don’t forget about the little ones because they are out of sight at the bottom of the tank!
WHAT TO FEED YOUR PANDA CORYS
Panda corys are omnivores, so their diet should include some plant and vegetable matter and a good portion of meaty foods as well. My corys love live bloodworms and daphnia, and introducing a few to the tank always results in a feeding frenzy!
It’s a good idea to feed your Sinking Panda corys pellets or wafers and live bloodworms that automatically make their way to the bottom of the tank and try to hide in the gravel where the corys can grab them.
It should also offer high-quality fish flakes and frozen foods.
HOW MUCH AND HOW OFTEN TO FEED
Although your corys will be active during the day, they are especially busy at night, so the best time to feed them is right before the lights go out.
Offer only the amount of food that the fish will eat in a couple of minutes. Uneaten food will disappear into the substrate, where it will gradually break down and contaminate the water.
Panda corys are very hardy and adaptable, making them extremely easy to care for.
Panda corys are small enough to be happy in a 10-gallon tank, but remember that these fish are happiest in small groups, so a larger aquarium is preferable. A 20 gallon tank is perfect as it allows you to keep a larger school of these little social fish.
As Panda corys live on the bottom, a soft sandy substrate or fine gravel is the best choice. That said, my corys live in a community tank that has a gravel substrate and they live happily without any ill effects.
As bottom dwellers, Panda corys enjoy having plenty of live plants in the tank in which they can hide. Some rocks, twisted roots, driftwood and caves also replicate the corys’ wild habitat and help them feel safe and secure.
In the wild, Panda corys live in a river environment where there is a constant flow that keeps the water clean. In the aquarium, you’ll need to provide a decent stream throughout the tank, and the best way to do this is with a canister filter or powerhead.
Although Panda corys are classified as tropical fish, the water in their natural habitat is cooler and they prefer a water temperature of 68° to 77° Fahrenheit.
pH range and water hardness
The water hardness should be between 2 and 12 dGH, and the pH range should be between 6.0 and 7.0.
These fish prefer moderate to normal lighting levels. Additional shade can be provided if required with floating plants.
Panda corys are relatively easy to care for, as long as you provide them with clean, well-oxygenated water.
You will need to remove fish waste, uneaten food, and decaying plant matter from the aquarium each week by using an aquarium vacuum to clean the substrate and areas around the base of plants and under decorations.
Additionally, you should change 25% to 30% of the aquarium water to keep ammonia, nitrate, and nitrate levels at acceptable levels. Rinse filter cartridges and media in tank water to remove sludge and remember to change worn filter cartridges according to manufacturer’s instructions.
First of all, gather all the items you need for your aquarium:
How to set up your aquarium:
- Aquarium substrate is often dusty, so you’ll need to rinse it clean under running water before use. I find the best way to do this is to put the substrate in a bucket with a hose and let the water run through the gravel until it runs clear.
- When the substrate is clean, add it to your tank to a depth of around two to three inches.
- Install your filtration unit and heater, but don’t turn them on yet.
- Place an upside down container on the substrate and fill the tank with tap water, pouring the water over the container so it does not displace the gravel. If you intend to cycle your tank before introducing your corys, don’t use a water conditioner. The ammonia contained in untreated tap water is necessary to start the cycling process by starting the nitrogen cycle and starting your biological filter.
- Wash your tank decorations to remove dust and add them to your aquarium.
- If you are using live plants, cut off any dead leaves and broken stems before adding the plants to your tank. Don’t place the plants too close together; you want to leave enough room for bottom-dwelling corys to swim. For that reason, plant species that grow in mats are not recommended.
- Turn on your filtration system and heater. Now let the aquarium rebound for at least ten days before introducing your Panda corys.
- Before adding your fish, test the tank water to make sure it is free of ammonia and nitrites. You will find low levels of nitrates, but that is quite normal and not a problem as long as the levels do not exceed 20 parts per million (ppm).
HEALTH AND SICKNESS
The Panda cory is very robust and hardy. In the past I have had outbreaks of common fish diseases in my tanks and the corys were completely unaffected.
SIGNS OF GOOD HEALTH
Panda corys are usually very active and lively little fish, keeping themselves busy at the bottom of the tank, socializing and searching the substrate for morsels of food.
There are some warning signs that could indicate possible health problems, including:
- loss of appetite
- Do not jump periodically to the surface of the water.
- Swellings, ulcers, torn fins
- Rub against tank decorations and substrate.
COMMON HEALTH PROBLEMS AND TREATMENT
|Health problem||Symptoms or causes||suggested action|
|Ich (white spot disease)||Ich is probably the most common disease in aquarium fish. Ich is caused by a protozoan parasite, Ichthyophthirius multifiliis.Ich appears as a rash of small white spots on the fish’s body, fins, and gills. Affected fish move or rub against tank decor and substrate and breathe rapidly.||Raise the water temperature to 82°F for several days and use an over-the-counter white spot disease remedy.|
|skin and gill flukes||Skin and gill flukes are aquatic parasites that attack the gills or body of fish. Affected fish develop reddened skin or gills, rub on substrate and tank décor, breathe rapidly, and secrete excess mucus.||Correct the conditions of the water in your tank and treat it with a specific medication for each condition.|
|fungal infections||White, fluffy, cotton-like growths.||Affected fish in quarantine; Treat the water with an antifungal medication.|
|Bacterial infections||Reddened skin, skin ulcers.||Fish affected by quarantine; Treat the tank with a proprietary antibacterial treatment.|
Panda corys are egg layers.
Although these fish can be bred in captivity, it is a difficult exercise.
Panda corys or their tank mates often eat the eggs before they hatch, so a separate breeding tank needs to be set up. Also, sexing corys is not easy. Both sexes look pretty much the same, except males tend to be slimmer and slightly smaller than females.
Corys do not reach sexual maturity until they are 12 months old. Attempting to breed them before then is extremely stressful for the fish and can cause serious health problems and even death.
Panda corys are widely bred in captivity, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding plenty of specimens at most good fish stores or online.
As mentioned above, the availability of the Panda cory means that its price is relatively low, usually a few dollars per fish. You can often buy a group of fish at a reduced price.
- Fish tank (minimum size 20 gallons)
- Filtration system
- aquarium thermometer
- water conditioner
- lighting unit
- High quality tropical flake food
- Frozen food selection
- Sandy or fine gravel substrate
- Rocks, driftwood, twisted roots
- Books on tropical fish farming
- a grid
- aquarium vacuum cleaner
- algae magnet
I hope you enjoyed our Panda cory catfish care guide.
If you have Panda corys, tell us all about them in the comments box below. And please share our article with your fish-loving friends if you find our guide to keeping Panda corys helpful.