Freshwater Fish

Pygmy Corydora – Corydoras pygmaeus: Care Guide

The Corydora Pygmy is a popular freshwater choice for aquarists of all experience levels. They are cute, easy to care for, and so much fun to watch!

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

Summary of corydora s pygmaeus

The Pygmy corydora (Corydoras pygmaeus) is one of the smallest tropical fish on the market, making it a wonderful choice for aquarists interested in nano fish.

These pint-sized creatures don’t require much space at all, favoring well-appointed environments full of decoration. A schooling species, these fish also require many like-minded mates to stay healthy (more on this later).

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

Appearance of the Pygmy corydora

The pygmy corydora is a member of the genus Corydoras. For a time these fish were automatically grouped with other small species of the genus. Even today, it’s not uncommon to see mislabeled pygmy corydoras in fish stores!

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. A downturned mouth with barbels helps them find food at the bottom of their habitat.

In terms of color, the Corydora Pygmy catfish has a well-defined stripe of thick black. It extends from the snout and extends back to divide into its tail fin.

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

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

Average size of the Corydora Pygmy

As the name implies, these fish are very small! The average size of a pygmy cory catfish is about an inch.

On the large end of the spectrum, they can grow to lengths of about 1.3 inches. But those cases are rare (they require a combination of luck and excellent care).

Author’s Note: Females are typically about an inch long, while males are typically closer to 0.75 inches.

Life expectancy

The Corydora Pygmy has a relatively short lifespan. On average, they only live about three years.

Of course, there are no guarantees when it comes to shelf life. There is a certain degree of luck involved. However, the quality of care you provide also comes into play.

Poor parenting, poor living conditions, and a mediocre diet can quickly lead to disease and early death.

CARE OF Corydora Pygmea

The Corydora Pygmy is 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 is not very difficult, these fish do have some unique care requirements that you should 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 great thing about keeping pygmy corydoras is that you don’t need much in the way of tank size! They do well in aquariums as small as 10 gallons. That should be enough for a smaller group.

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

water parameters

Mimicking the natural habitat of the Corydora Pygmy will always give the best results. These fish live in rivers and tributaries of South America. The waters are warm, quite cloudy and full of life.

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

The Corydora Pygmy catfish has a limited comfort range compared to other fish. As a result, it is important to 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’s Note: Due to this narrow window you need to maintain, it is essential that you invest in a reliable and accurate water testing kit for your aquarium. This will allow you to easily monitor the status of the tank and make adjustments if necessary.

What to put in your tank

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

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

The sand is safe, which helps the fish avoid unnecessary injury. Not only that, but it’s easier for them to go deeper, which only creates more opportunities for watchable fun!

Next, add plants and driftwood. In the wild, pygmy corys often hide among plants and fallen trees that sink into the river bed.

Keep things natural and varied. Add tall background plants, floating plants, and small foreground plants. As long as everything is smooth and safe enough for the fish to enjoy themselves, it should work.

These fish especially like grasses and flat shrimp. If you have the space, we definitely recommend them!

Author’s Note: Due to its small size, pay special attention to the filtration equipment. If you have large intake tubes, consider adding sponges to prevent accidents. Also, keep the output slow so the flow doesn’t overwhelm them.

potential diseases

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

However, Corydora Pygmy catfish are thought to be more susceptible to a condition called red spot disease. This health problem causes red, bloody sores to appear all over the body.

This disease is usually a byproduct of stress. Pygmy corydoras can experience stress when water conditions become unstable. They can also suffer from Ich, which is highly contagious and potentially fatal.

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

Food and Diet

This species, like others of the Corydora genus, are well-known algae eaters. They have a healthy appetite for green things and will actively consume anything they find!

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

Nutrient-dense foods will keep your immune system strong and ready to deal with illness.

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

Author’s Note: The only thing to remember is that these fish have small mouths! They aren’t always able to break up larger pieces of food, so keep things small.

behavior and temperament

In general, Pygmy Corydoras are very peaceful. They are not known for showing signs of aggression. You can witness some funny fights here and there between a group, but it’s never serious.

Even with other species, the pygmy catfish is a social fish that gets along with everyone (more on that in the section below).

Most fish will spend their time hiding and playing in plants. Although they spend a lot of time at the bottom of the tank, Pygmy Corys like to occupy more of the center of the water column. They will also venture to the surface, where you will be able to observe unique behavior.

This species is capable of using its intestines to absorb oxygen! They appear to be breathing, which is an interesting sight to behold!

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

tank mates

Peace-loving by nature, Pygmy Corydoras have no problem getting along with others. One potential problem, however, is that they are often seen as prey by larger, more assertive fish.

If you want these fish to be part of a community, you need to keep things quiet and small. Choose species of similar size that are less than an inch. You can also try shrimp and snails.

Here are some good tankmates to consider for pygmy corydoras:

  • neon tetra
  • Ember Tetra
  • dwarf gourami
  • zebra danio
  • Apistogramma
  • Kuhli Loach
  • otocinclus
  • guppies
  • molly fish
  • cherry pick
  • hatchet fish
  • chinese algae eater

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

Pygmy Cory needs a small group to stay healthy. When left alone, they fall victim to the unhealthy symptoms of stress. They will spend most of their time in hiding and will exhibit sporadic behavior.

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

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

Breeding of pygmy corydoras

Breeding pygmy corydoras is fairly easy and often occurs naturally in well-maintained tanks. As a general rule, these fish are more likely to breed when they are part of a large group.

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

The females will hold on to a few eggs at a time and wait for the male to fertilize them. Once this is done, he will deposit them on a smooth surface. They will usually stick them on the glass walls of the aquarium.

The female will repeat this process and eventually lay about a hundred eggs.

Once you are done, remove all the adult fish. The pygmy cory catfish does not display any parental behavior, and treats the eggs and 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 come out. The baby fish will eat the egg sac until they are free swimming. At that time, you can provide small foods such as infusoria and brine shrimp until they are ready to eat the same foods as adults.


As you can see, Corydoras pygmaeus care is not something you need to fear. Although these fish require a little more attention than a classic «low maintenance» species, the process is still fairly straightforward.

In return, these fish will provide you with tons of entertainment and satisfaction. Caring for these cute pygmy corydoras never gets old.

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