Pygmy Cory Care Guide

Pygmy Cory


The Pygmy Cory (Corydoras pygmaeus) is a small freshwater fish known for its charm and peaceful nature. Belonging to the Callichthyidae family, it is native to South America, specifically found in Brazil, Colombia, and Peru. This species grows up to 1 inch (2.5 cm) in length and possesses unique characteristics, such as a striking black stripe along its bronze-colored body. With its shoaling behavior and ease of care, the Pygmy Cory is a popular choice among aquarists looking to add a touch of beauty and tranquility to their aquariums.

Summary Table

Common NamePygmy Cory
Scientific NameCorydoras pygmaeus
Origin / DistributionSouth America: Brazil, Colombia, Peru
SizeUp to 1 inch (2.5 cm)
Aquarium Size10 gallons (38 liters) or larger
Water ParametersTemperature: 72-79°F (22-26°C) pH: 6.0-7.5 Hardness: Soft to moderately hard (2-15 dGH)
Feeding FrequencyDaily
TankmatesSmall, peaceful community fish
BreedingEgg scatterers, require plants or fine-leaved spawning mops
Lifespan3-5 years
Care LevelBeginner
Unique Features / AppearanceSmall size, bronze body with a black stripe on the side
Conservation StatusNot evaluated
Additional NotesPygmy Corys are social and should be kept in groups of at least 6 individuals. They are well-suited for planted aquariums. Regular water changes and a varied diet will contribute to their overall health and well-being.


  • Common Name: Pygmy Cory
  • Scientific Name: Corydoras pygmaeus
  • Family: Callichthyidae
  • Order: Siluriformes

The Pygmy Cory, scientifically known as Corydoras pygmaeus, belongs to the family Callichthyidae. It falls under the order Siluriformes, which encompasses a diverse group of catfish species. The common name “Pygmy Cory” is widely used to refer to this small and peaceful freshwater fish.

Natural Habitat & Distribution

The Pygmy Cory (Corydoras pygmaeus) is naturally found in certain regions of South America. Let’s explore its geographical range and the types of environments it inhabits in the wild.

  • Geographical Range: The Pygmy Cory is native to the countries of Brazil, Colombia, and Peru in South America. Within these countries, it can be found in specific river systems and tributaries where the conditions are suitable for its survival.
  • Types of Environments: In the wild, Pygmy Corys inhabit various types of freshwater environments. They are commonly found in slow-moving rivers, small streams, and flooded areas with dense vegetation. These areas often provide them with ample hiding places among aquatic plants, submerged branches, and leaf litter.

Pygmy Corys are primarily bottom-dwellers, spending much of their time foraging and searching for food on the substrate. They are adapted to sandy or fine-grained substrates where they can sift through and excavate for small invertebrates, worms, and organic matter.

The presence of aquatic plants, such as driftwood and dense vegetation, is important for Pygmy Corys in the wild. These features offer shelter, protection, and opportunities for exploration, mimicking their natural habitat in the aquarium.

By understanding their natural habitat and distribution, aquarists can create suitable aquarium environments that closely resemble the conditions Pygmy Corys are accustomed to in the wild, promoting their well-being and natural behaviors.

Physical Appearance


The Pygmy Cory (Corydoras pygmaeus) is a small fish species, reaching an adult size of approximately 1 inch (2.5 cm) in length. Their petite stature adds to their charm and makes them an excellent choice for smaller aquarium setups.

Coloration and Patterns

Pygmy Corys exhibit an attractive coloration that enhances their visual appeal. They typically have a bronze or pale yellowish body coloration. One of their defining features is a striking black stripe that extends horizontally along their body, starting from the snout and continuing towards the caudal fin. This contrasting black stripe stands out against their lighter body color and adds a touch of elegance to their appearance.

Body Shape and Fin Structures

The body shape of Pygmy Corys is sleek and elongated, allowing them to navigate easily through the aquarium. Their streamlined physique enables them to maneuver effortlessly among plants and substrate. With a downward-facing mouth, they are well-suited for bottom-dwelling and scavenging for food.

Pygmy Corys possess various fin structures that contribute to their overall physical appearance. Their dorsal fin, located on the back, is relatively large and triangular in shape. This fin aids in stability and precise movements. The pectoral fins, situated on the sides of their body, are well-developed and allow for precise maneuverability. Additionally, they have small barbels, or whisker-like appendages, near their mouths, which help them locate food and explore their environment.

Sexual Dimorphism

Sexual dimorphism in Pygmy Corys is relatively subtle. Females generally have a slightly plumper body shape, particularly when carrying eggs. Males may appear slightly smaller and more streamlined in comparison. During breeding periods, males may exhibit a more pronounced development of bristle-like extensions on their pectoral fin rays, known as odontodes. These odontodes are used during courtship and are a visual cue for distinguishing males during breeding behavior.

While the differences between males and females may not be as pronounced as in some other fish species, observing behaviors and physical characteristics during breeding periods can provide clues for identifying the sexes of Pygmy Corys.

Behavior & Temperament

General Behavior

The Pygmy Cory (Corydoras pygmaeus) is known for its peaceful and gentle nature. These fish exhibit a calm and non-aggressive demeanor, making them an excellent choice for community aquariums. They are generally well-behaved and do not engage in aggressive behaviors towards tankmates or other species.

Social Interactions with Other Fish

Pygmy Corys are highly social fish that thrive when kept in groups. They are known for their shoaling behavior, meaning they prefer to swim and interact with their own kind. Keeping Pygmy Corys in groups of at least six individuals is recommended to ensure their well-being and happiness. In a group, they exhibit fascinating schooling behavior, moving together in synchronized movements and providing a delightful display in the aquarium.

Suitable Tankmates

Pygmy Corys are compatible with a wide range of peaceful fish species. When choosing tankmates, it is essential to consider their similar temperament and compatibility with the Pygmy Corys’ requirements. Some suitable tankmates for Pygmy Corys include small peaceful community fish, such as tetras, rasboras, guppies, and other non-aggressive catfish species.

It is important to avoid keeping Pygmy Corys with larger or aggressive fish that may pose a threat to them. Aggressive or territorial species can cause stress or harm to the Pygmy Corys, compromising their well-being.

Creating a harmonious community aquarium with appropriate tankmates allows Pygmy Corys to thrive and exhibit their natural behaviors while fostering a peaceful and cohesive environment.

Aquarium Requirements

Minimum Tank Size

The Pygmy Cory (Corydoras pygmaeus) requires a minimum tank size of 10 gallons (38 liters) or larger. Providing an adequately sized aquarium ensures that these small fish have enough space to swim, explore, and exhibit their natural behaviors comfortably.

Water Parameters

Maintaining suitable water parameters is crucial for the health and well-being of Pygmy Corys. The following are the recommended water parameters for them:

  • Temperature: 72-79°F (22-26°C)
  • pH: 6.0-7.5
  • Hardness: Soft to moderately hard water (2-15 dGH)

Regular monitoring of water parameters and maintaining stable conditions are essential to support the overall health of the fish.

Filtration and Aeration Needs

Providing efficient filtration and proper aeration is vital in the Pygmy Cory’s aquarium. A good-quality filter helps to remove waste, toxins, and impurities from the water, ensuring a clean and healthy environment. Gentle water movement and aeration support oxygen exchange and simulate the natural flow that Pygmy Corys are accustomed to in their native habitats.

Substrate Preferences

Pygmy Corys prefer aquarium substrates that mimic their natural environment. A sandy or fine-grained substrate is ideal as it allows them to sift and forage for food. The substrate should be smooth and free of sharp edges to prevent injury to their delicate barbels.

Lighting Requirements

Moderate lighting is sufficient for Pygmy Corys. They do not have any specific lighting requirements, but providing a consistent light-dark cycle helps to establish a natural day-night rhythm for the fish.

Decorations and Hiding Places

Creating a well-decorated aquarium with ample hiding places is important for Pygmy Corys. They enjoy exploring and taking cover in caves, driftwood, plants, and other types of aquarium decorations. Live plants with broad leaves, such as Java Fern or Amazon Sword, provide additional hiding spots and mimic their natural habitat.

The presence of hiding places and decorations helps Pygmy Corys feel secure and reduces stress, allowing them to exhibit their natural behaviors more confidently.

Diet & Feeding

Type of Diet

Pygmy Corys (Corydoras pygmaeus) are considered omnivores. In their natural habitat, they primarily feed on small invertebrates, worms, and organic matter found in the substrate. They also consume algae and other plant material.

Feeding Frequency

Pygmy Corys should be fed daily. Providing them with small meals throughout the day is preferable to a single large feeding. Dividing their daily food portion into two or three smaller feedings helps mimic their natural feeding behavior and prevents overeating.

Tips for Providing a Balanced and Varied Diet

To ensure optimal nutrition and a healthy diet for Pygmy Corys, it is recommended to include a variety of foods. Here are some tips for providing a balanced and varied diet:

  1. High-Quality Flakes or Pellets: Choose high-quality sinking flakes or pellets specifically formulated for bottom-dwelling fish. Ensure the food particles are small enough for the Pygmy Corys to consume comfortably.
  2. Live or Frozen Foods: Supplement their diet with live or frozen foods, such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, daphnia, or tubifex worms. These protein-rich foods mimic their natural diet and provide essential nutrients.
  3. Vegetable Matter: Include vegetable-based foods to meet their plant-based dietary needs. Options like blanched spinach, cucumber slices, zucchini, or spirulina-based sinking pellets are suitable choices.
  4. Algae Wafers or Tablets: Provide algae wafers or tablets specifically designed for bottom-dwelling fish. Pygmy Corys will graze on these foods, helping to supplement their diet with plant matter.
  5. Feeding Sinks: Since Pygmy Corys are bottom-dwellers, it is important to ensure that the food sinks to the bottom of the tank. This ensures that they have easy access to the food and prevents other fish from consuming their share.

Remember to observe their feeding habits and adjust the amount of food accordingly. It is essential to provide a balanced and varied diet to support their overall health and vitality.

Tank Mates

Compatible Species

Pygmy Corys (Corydoras pygmaeus) are generally peaceful and can coexist harmoniously with various species of fish. Some compatible tank mates for Pygmy Corys include:

  • Small peaceful community fish: Tetras (e.g., Neon Tetras, Ember Tetras), Rasboras (e.g., Harlequin Rasboras, Chili Rasboras), Guppies, Endler’s Livebearers, and other non-aggressive community fish.
  • Small peaceful catfish species: Otocinclus Catfish, Panda Corydoras, and other similarly sized and non-aggressive catfish species.
  • Dwarf shrimp: Species such as Cherry Shrimp or Ghost Shrimp can be kept with Pygmy Corys, provided the aquarium is well-established and has sufficient hiding places.

Incompatible or Potentially Problematic Species

It is important to avoid keeping Pygmy Corys with species that may pose a threat or be incompatible due to aggressive behavior, large size, or differing water requirements. Some incompatible species to avoid include:

  • Large and aggressive fish: Aggressive cichlids, large barbs, aggressive territorial fish, or predatory species that may harass or harm the Pygmy Corys.
  • Fin-nipping species: Some species, such as certain barbs or aggressive tetras, may nip at the fins of Pygmy Corys.
  • Fish with differing water parameter requirements: Species that require vastly different water parameters (e.g., temperature, pH, hardness) may not be suitable tank mates for Pygmy Corys.

Recommendations for Creating a Harmonious Community Tank

To create a harmonious community tank with Pygmy Corys, consider the following recommendations:

  1. Group Size: Keep Pygmy Corys in groups of at least six individuals. They are shoaling fish and feel more secure and exhibit natural behaviors when kept in a group.
  2. Similar Size and Temperament: Choose tank mates that are similar in size and temperament to Pygmy Corys. This helps prevent aggression or competition for resources.
  3. Compatible Water Parameters: Select species with similar water parameter requirements to ensure a cohesive and healthy environment for all the inhabitants of the tank.
  4. Sufficient Hiding Places: Provide ample hiding places and visual barriers, such as plants, driftwood, or caves. This allows Pygmy Corys and other tank mates to establish territories and retreat when needed.
  5. Monitor Interactions: Observe the interactions between tank mates closely. If any aggression or incompatibility is observed, be prepared to make necessary adjustments, such as rehoming or separating problematic species.


Breeding Behavior

Pygmy Corys (Corydoras pygmaeus) exhibit interesting breeding behaviors. During courtship, males actively pursue females, nudging and following them in a zigzag pattern. Males may also display more pronounced bristle-like extensions, called odontodes, on their pectoral fins. These odontodes are used during courtship rituals to stimulate and attract females.

Once a pair forms a bond, the female deposits adhesive eggs on various surfaces, such as plant leaves, decorations, or even the aquarium glass. Males then fertilize the eggs externally by releasing sperm to coincide with the female’s egg deposition.

Ideal Breeding Conditions

To encourage successful breeding, create ideal conditions for Pygmy Corys. Consider the following factors:

  1. Separate Breeding Tank: Provide a separate breeding tank to ensure optimal conditions and to protect the eggs and fry from potential threats by other tank mates.
  2. Water Parameters: Maintain water parameters consistent with their general requirements: a temperature range of 72-79°F (22-26°C), pH of 6.0-7.5, and soft to moderately hard water. The breeding tank should replicate the primary tank’s water conditions.
  3. Spawning Substrate: Place fine-leaved plants, such as Java Moss or spawning mops, in the breeding tank to serve as potential spawning sites. These plants provide a safe surface for the female to deposit her eggs.
  4. Dim Lighting: Reduce the intensity of lighting in the breeding tank to provide a more natural environment and to encourage breeding behavior.
  5. Adequate Feeding: Prioritize a well-balanced diet for the breeding pair, ensuring they receive nutritious foods such as live or frozen daphnia, brine shrimp, and high-quality pellets.

Raising Fry and Specific Care Requirements

After the eggs are fertilized and deposited, it is essential to remove the adults from the breeding tank to prevent them from consuming the eggs. The eggs will typically hatch within a few days, and the fry will start to swim freely after about five days.

Here are some specific care requirements for raising Pygmy Cory fry:

  • Infusoria and Microorganisms: Initially, the fry will be tiny and require infusoria and microorganisms as their primary food source. Infusoria can be cultured or obtained from specialized fry foods.
  • Gradual Introduction of Commercial Foods: As the fry grow, gradually introduce finely crushed flake or pellet foods suitable for their size. Additionally, live or frozen baby brine shrimp and micro worms can be offered.
  • Frequent Small Feedings: Feed the fry small amounts multiple times a day to ensure they receive enough nutrition and to prevent overfeeding.
  • Water Quality Maintenance: Regularly monitor and maintain water quality in the breeding tank. Perform frequent small water changes to keep the water parameters stable and ensure the well-being of the fry.

Health & Disease

Taking care of the health of Pygmy Corys (Corydoras pygmaeus) is crucial to their overall well-being. Here are some common diseases that may affect them, along with prevention and treatment strategies:

Common Diseases and Their Symptoms

  1. Ich (White Spot Disease): Symptoms include the appearance of small white spots on the fish’s body and fins, accompanied by increased scratching and rubbing against objects.
  2. Fin Rot: This disease is characterized by frayed or decaying fins, which may appear discolored or ragged. The fish may also exhibit signs of lethargy or loss of appetite.
  3. Fungal Infections: Fungal infections often manifest as cotton-like growth on the fish’s body, fins, or mouth. The affected areas may appear fuzzy or have a white or grayish coloration.
  4. Bacterial Infections: Symptoms may include open sores, ulcers, or reddened areas on the fish’s body. The fish may exhibit signs of lethargy, loss of appetite, or abnormal swimming behavior.

Prevention and Treatment Strategies

  1. Maintain Clean Water: Regularly monitor and maintain water quality by performing routine water changes and keeping the aquarium clean. Clean water helps prevent the onset of diseases and promotes overall fish health.
  2. Quarantine New Additions: Quarantine new fish before introducing them to the main tank. This helps prevent the introduction of diseases and allows you to observe and treat any potential health issues before they spread to other fish.
  3. Provide a Balanced Diet: A well-balanced diet with high-quality foods boosts the fish’s immune system, making them less susceptible to diseases. Offer a variety of nutritious foods to ensure optimal health.
  4. Avoid Overcrowding: Avoid overcrowding the aquarium, as it can lead to stress and an increased risk of disease transmission. Maintain appropriate stocking levels to provide ample space for each fish.
  5. Promptly Address Issues: If you notice any signs of disease or abnormal behavior, take immediate action. Isolate affected fish, follow appropriate treatment protocols, and consult with a veterinarian or experienced fish keeper for guidance.
  6. Use Medications with Caution: When treating diseases, follow the instructions provided with medications carefully. Be cautious when using medications and ensure they are safe for the specific species and the tank’s overall inhabitants.

Care Level

The Pygmy Cory (Corydoras pygmaeus) is generally considered a fish with a beginner-level care requirement. Their hardiness, adaptability, and peaceful nature make them a suitable choice for aquarists of various skill levels. However, there are still some special considerations and requirements to keep in mind.

Difficulty of Care

Beginner: Pygmy Corys are well-suited for beginner aquarists due to their overall hardiness and ability to tolerate a range of water conditions. They are generally easy to care for and can adapt well to various aquarium setups.

Special Considerations or Requirements

While Pygmy Corys are relatively easy to care for, there are a few special considerations to ensure their well-being:

  1. Shoaling Behavior: Pygmy Corys are shoaling fish and thrive when kept in groups of at least six individuals. This helps them feel more secure, encourages natural behaviors, and reduces stress.
  2. Substrate and Hiding Places: Provide a suitable substrate, such as fine sand, to mimic their natural environment and allow for natural foraging behaviors. Additionally, include ample hiding places, such as caves, plants, and driftwood, to offer them a sense of security.
  3. Water Quality: Although Pygmy Corys are adaptable to a range of water conditions, it is essential to maintain good water quality. Regular monitoring of temperature, pH, and ammonia levels, as well as performing routine water changes, helps keep the fish healthy.
  4. Feeding and Diet: Offer a varied and balanced diet consisting of high-quality flakes or pellets, supplemented with live or frozen foods. Provide sinking food to ensure they have easy access to food at the bottom of the tank.

Conservation Status

The conservation status of the Pygmy Cory (Corydoras pygmaeus) according to the IUCN Red List or other sources is currently unknown. It is important to note that the conservation status of fish species can vary, and new assessments may have been made since the knowledge cutoff of this AI model in September 2021.

As for legal restrictions on keeping the species in captivity, it is advisable to consult local regulations and laws specific to your region or country. Some countries may have regulations in place to protect certain fish species, control their importation or trade, or require permits for keeping them in captivity. It is crucial to adhere to local laws and guidelines to ensure the responsible and legal keeping of fish species.

Additional Information & Fun Facts

Here are some interesting facts and additional information about the Pygmy Cory (Corydoras pygmaeus):

  1. Educational Value: Pygmy Corys are popular among aquarists and hobbyists, not only for their visual appeal but also for their educational value. Observing their behaviors, such as shoaling and bottom-dwelling habits, can provide insights into the natural behaviors of fish in their native habitats.
  2. Bottom-Dwelling Experts: Pygmy Corys have evolved to be excellent bottom-dwellers. Their downturned mouths and barbels help them locate food on the substrate, and their ability to sift through sand or fine gravel makes them skilled foragers.
  3. Peaceful Community Fish: Pygmy Corys have a peaceful nature, making them compatible with a wide range of small, non-aggressive community fish species. Their peaceful temperament adds harmony to the aquarium and allows for the creation of vibrant and diverse aquatic communities.
  4. Vibrant Shoaling Behavior: When kept in groups, Pygmy Corys display captivating shoaling behavior. They swim closely together, often in synchronized movements, creating a mesmerizing spectacle in the aquarium.
  5. Association with Algae Control: Pygmy Corys have a reputation for being proficient algae eaters. While they do consume some algae, they primarily rely on other food sources for their nutritional needs. Therefore, it is still necessary to manage algae growth through proper aquarium maintenance and other algae control measures.
  6. Community Engagement: Pygmy Corys’ small size and peaceful nature make them an excellent choice for community aquariums in schools, offices, or public spaces. Their presence can create a calming and engaging environment, fostering an appreciation for aquatic life.

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