If you’re in search of a schooling fish with adorable looks that’s peaceful, fun to watch and can live in fairly small aquariums, look no further! Corydoras pygmaeus, hastatus and habrosus, better known collectively as pygmy Corydoras, tick all these boxes. They make a perfect choice for smaller community aquariums with 2-3 species.
Keep reading for more info on pygmy Corydoras care and keeping pygmy Corydoras in your own aquarium.
|Minimum tank size||10 gallons (38 L, long)|
|Temperature||72-79 °F/22-26 °C|
Corydoras pygmaeus, Corydoras hastatus and Corydoras habrosus. Pygmy cory, pygmy corydoras, dwarf corydoras
Pygmy Cory natural habitat
South America, mainly Rio Madeira. The waters in this tropical area can be pretty varied when it comes to temperature and consistency.
You’ll mainly find pygmy Corydoras in areas with plenty of hiding places in the form of plants and (fallen) branches.
Pygmy Cory appearance
Pygmy cories look just like most other Corydoras catfish, with the exception of the fact that they don’t grow bigger than 1 inch (2,5 cm). They are often mislabeled as Corydoras hastatus or Corydoras habrosus. Not surprising: they’re easily confused with one another and the terms ‘dwarf Corydoras’ and ‘pygmy Corydoras’ are used interchangeably. Even aquarium stores might not always take the time to tell the species apart.
Corydoras pygmaeus can be told apart from the other two species by the stripe that runs down their entire body length. Corydoras hastatus has a black spot on the tail, while Corydoras habrosus has distinctive spots along the upper back.
The difference between female and male pygmy Corydoras is usually not too hard to tell. Females look rounder, especially when viewed from above. They are also usually a bit bigger than their male counterparts.
Pygmy Cory requirements
Pygmy cories are one of the only Corydoras species that can be kept in smaller aquariums. A minimum of 10 gallons (38L) is usually recommended, with a longer tank being better than a taller ones.
Like all Corydoras species, pygmy Cories should always be kept in larger groups (at least 8). If the shoal is not large enough, the fish will often become skittish and stressed. Providing plenty of hiding places in the form of aquarium plants and shrimp flats can help make them feel more at ease.
It’s very important to use a sandy substrate in the aquarium instead of gravel. If Cories are kept on gravel for too long their barbels will wear down, leaving them unable to properly search for food or behave naturally. In bad cases this can even lead to rot, which is very dangerous so close to the face of the fish. Cories that are kept on sand are also just much more fun to watch. You’ll see your pygmy Cories burying their faces up to their eyes into the sand when they’re foraging!
When choosing tankmates for your pygmy Cories, keep in mind that they are very small and peaceful. Not a species that will do well in the presence of large and aggressive fish. Good tankmates include shrimp, small tetras like neons and dwarf cichlids.
Pygmy Cory diet
Contrary to popular belief, Corydoras species aren’t algae eaters and can’t thrive on just plant-based foods. In fact, they’re omnivores that actually need plenty of meaty foods in their diet.
Pygmy Cories can be fed frozen foods (bloodworms, mosquito larvae, brine shrimp), catfish pellets, flake foods and the occasional algae pellet. Make sure the food is small enough to fit into their tiny mouth, though, or they won’t be able to eat it!
Catfish wafers come in handy here because they disintegrate, so they’ll make a great staple.
Pygmy Cory behavior
Pygmy Cories show interesting behavior and are fun to watch in the aquarium when they’re provided with a large enough shoal and plenty of hiding places. They shoal very well, only leaving the group to occasionally dart to the surface to gulp some air.
Hanging out at the surface and gulping is worrying sign in most fish species but completely normal in this case. Fascinatingly, Cory catfish can breathe air. They use their intestine to take up oxygen, which in the wild comes in helpful if water quality isn’t ideal. Do keep an eye on your water values if your pygmy Cories seem to be at the surface more than usual.
Contrary to most Corydoras, Corydoras pygmaeus don’t spend all of their time foraging on the bottom of the tank. They spend a lot more time in the middle water layer, which is something to be kept in mind when stocking your aquarium. After all, two species in one water layer can make for a messy looking tank.
Corydoras pygmaeus are also known as the more shy species of the three dwarf Cories. Corydoras habrosus and hastatus mostly stick to the bottom and can be a bit more outgoing than their cousins.
Breeding Pygmy Cories
Breeding Corydoras pygmaeus is not considered very difficult, although raising the fry can be a bit challenging due to their size. Spawning can be triggered by doing water changes with slightly cooler water. When the female is ready, the eggs will be deposited on the tank glass. The parents should then be removed, as they will try to eat the eggs. It’s also possible to remove the eggs and raise them elsewhere by gently swiping them from the glass with your finger.
Some eggs will likely start to develop fungus after a few days. Remove these as quickly as possible so the fungus doesn’t spread! Interestingly, it is mentioned on Seriously Fish that dwarf shrimp will spot and eat any eggs with fungus quite quickly, while leaving the healthy ones alone.
Once the fry hatch they should be fed with very tiny foods like infusoria or crushed flakes until they are big enough to accept bigger meals.
I kept a group of Corydoras pygmaeus for a while myself and they were fantastic little fish. While they were indeed quite shy, once the plants in the tank grew and provided some cover I could frequently see them digging around the planted aquarium substrate and darting around.
Definitely a fish I would recommend and keep again myself.
If you want to share your own experiences with pygmy Cories or if you have any additional questions about keeping them, leave a comment below. Happy Cory keeping!