Caresheet: Pygmy Cory | Corydoras Pygmaeus, Hastatus, Habrosus




Pygmy Cory

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If you’re in search of a schooling fish with adorable looks that are also peaceful, fun to watch, and can live in fairly small aquariums, look no further! Corydoras pygmaeus, C. hastatus, and C. habrosus, better known collectively as pygmy Corydoras, tick all these boxes. These small fish make a perfect choice for any community tank! 

Keep reading for more information on pygmy Corydoras care and keeping pygmy Corydoras in your own aquarium.

Minimum tank size10 gallons (38 L, long)
Temperature72-79 °F/22-26 °C
Size1″/2.5 cm
Pygmy Cory Care Guide


When it comes to scientific names, the pygmy cory is only Corydoras pygmaeus. However, in the aquarium trade, ‘pygmy cory’ may wrongly include Corydoras hastatus and Corydoras habrosus as well. As we’ll discuss later, these other species have their own common names.

Natural Habitat

The pygmy cory originates from the freshwater tributaries and flooded areas of South America. Specifically, they mainly come from the Rio Madeira basin in Brazil. The water in these tropical areas can be pretty varied when it comes to temperature, flow, and turbidity (cloudiness of water). You’ll mainly find these small fish in large groups with other types of cory and bottom-dwelling fish hiding among plants and fallen branches near the bank of the river.


The real pygmy cory looks just like most other Corydoras catfish, with the exception that they don’t grow bigger than 1 inch (2.5 cm). They are often mislabeled as C. hastatus or C. habrosus in fish stores, but it is no surprise that these small fish are often confused with each other as they look so similar and are all about the same size.

You may also hear ‘dwarf Corydoras‘ being used interchangeably with ‘pygmy cory’; in actuality, this specifically refers only to C. hastatus. Even aquarium stores might not always take the time to tell the species apart, so it is good to do some research so that you know what you’re looking for before going out and buying one for your tank.

So how do you tell the three types of ‘pygmy cory’ apart? Here is what you should look for when picking out your fish:

C. pygmaeus (pygmy cory)

This small fish features an unbroken black line that runs the entire length of the side of its body. Above this black line will usually be a darker grey while the bottom portion is typically a white/cream color.

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 overall than their male counterparts.

C. hastatus (dwarf Corydoras/tail-spot pygmy cory)

These fish grow to about 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) and have a more elongated appearance than other Corydoras. Their whole body is a light silver with olive hues and may have a distinguishable light horizontal stripe that runs along the side; however, this line does not break up the silver coloring in any way. Most notably, these fish have a black spot on their tail surrounded by a white crescent outline, hence their second common name.

Females also tend to be larger, broader, and rounder when viewed from above when compared to males.

C. habrosus (salt and pepper cory)

The salt and pepper cory also grows to about 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) and looks similar to C. pygmaeus with a black line that runs the length of its body with darker grey on the top and whiter underbelly. The main difference is that this line is broken and fragmented. Another big give away is that this fish has lots of black spots on its back, as well as on its dorsal and tail fin.

Again, females tend to be larger and rounder than males.

Pygmy cory requirements

Pygmy cories are one of the only Corydoras species that can be kept in small aquariums. A minimum tank size of 10 gallons (38 L) is usually recommended, with a longer tank being better than a taller one since they are so active.

Like all Corydoras species, these fish should always be kept in larger groups of at least 8; in the wild, it is typical for them to be together in the hundreds or thousands. If the shoal is not large enough, the fish will often become skittish and stressed and won’t be front and center in the tank. 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 your tank for these fish 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 and maintain their health. In especially bad cases, this can even lead to rot, which can be very dangerous since it is so close to the face of the fish. Cories that are kept on the sand are also just much more fun to watch! You’ll see your fish 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 fish. They are definitely not a species that will do well in the presence of large and aggressive fish. Good tankmates include shrimp, dwarf cichlids, and small tetras, such as neons.

Pygmy cory diet

Contrary to popular belief, none of the members of Corydoras are strictly algae eaters and can’t thrive on just plant-based foods. In fact, they’re omnivores that also 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 your fish can choose when it’s the tastiest size!

Will pygmy Corydoras eat shrimp?

Since these fish are omnivores, there is always a chance that they will try to eat anything meaty in your tank; this could include small shrimp as well. But remember, these fish are small! So anything that they would try to eat has to be smaller than their mouth. If you’re really wanting to keep small invertebrates in your tank, make sure they are an appropriate size to prevent them from becoming a quick snack.

If you really want to try your hand at raising fry or shrimp in your tank, it would also be safe to assume that these cories will eat any eggs that become available.

Pygmy cory behavior

Pygmy cories show very interesting behavior and are fun to watch in a tank setting 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 a worrying sign in most fish species but actually completely normal in this case. Fascinatingly, cory catfish can breathe air! They use their intestines to take up oxygen, which in the wild comes in handy 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, though. This could be a sign that there is too little oxygen in the water or those water parameters (ammonia, nitrite, nitrate) are too high.

Contrary to most Corydoras, this species doesn’t spend all of its 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 and cause territorial issues.

Theyare also known as the more shy species of the three dwarf cories. C. habrosus and C. hastatus mostly stick to the bottom and can be a bit more outgoing than their cousin.

Watch how all of these fish move together and search for food in unison (and definitely not just sticking to the bottom of the tank)!

Breeding pygmy cories

Breeding 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 glass on the side of the tank. 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 and transferring them.

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 and/or crushed flakes until they are big enough to accept bigger meals.


I kept a group of C. 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 frequently saw them digging around the planted aquarium substrate and darting around.

They’re 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!

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20 thoughts on “Caresheet: Pygmy Cory | Corydoras Pygmaeus, Hastatus, Habrosus”

    • Hi J,

      At this point, your tank is actually overstocked. Mollies have a very large bioload and 15 gallons is just too small. The minimum tank size you should have for mollies is 30 gallons.

      Happy fishkeeping!

    • Can you do a 15 gallon? I don’t really recommend Betta tankmates under that size. The Cories do combine well with Bettas so you’re good in that department. You can read more about Betta tankmates here if you’re interested 🙂

    • Hi! Fake plants are fine, but I just love using live plants and they do have a few advantages. Is there a reason you don’t want to use real ones?

  1. Hi there,

    Thanks for the great article.

    I’ve recently set up a cozy planted 10 gallon nano tank and have some pygmy corys set to arrive within the next couple of hours.

    Sadly, I’m realizing I have a substrate problem. I have gravel. Not sand.

    In researching, I’m a bit confused on the type of sand to get to sprinkle over the gravel. It seems they would like a very fine sand, but I fear it clogging up the filter.

    I would be very grateful for a bit of advice.

    • Hello,

      I’m so sorry I didn’t see this earlier. Did you manage to figure it all out? In case you haven’t, I would recommend using a regular aquarium sand that you can buy at the aquarium store or something like pool filter sand. And don’t worry, it won’t clog your filter!

      Good luck with the Cories, they’re such a fun species 🙂

  2. Hello,

    I’ve been looking into getting some fish recently and really love the pygmy cories and red rasboras. How many of each should I have with a twenty gallon tank (the tank has to be on the small side). I was thinking of maybe 8 cories, but I don’t know how many rasboras. Can these two fish live together peacefully if they’re introduced at a young age? Also, our their needs sinilar enough that they could both be stress free with the same heat, etc? For example, do rasboras mind sandy substrate? Do they need the same ph levels? If you think these fish would be difficult for a first time owner do have a specific species you’d recommend? I already looked at your list of beginner recommendations. Finally, on average how mich money will they cost me at first and then by year?


    • I’m dreadfully sorry for my english. English is my fourth language after French, Italian, German y Spanish. English I learned in high school so I much worse conpared to the rest of my lagunages.

      • Hello Andrew! I know this is quite a while after your initial comment. I was wondering if you decided to go with these guys? I have chili rasboras and pygmy corydoras and they do well together. The rasboras tend to stay at the top/middle of my tank and sometimes one will venture out on its own. The corydoras stay on the bottom in a group and sometimes i will catch them racing across the bottom of the tank! Otherwise they are pretty shy. I have changed my tank decor since I first started and added some live plants. The corydoras are really loving it!

    • Hello!

      As for your other comment, your English is fine! It’s my third language as well 🙂
      Great to hear you’re doing your research, that’s the key to successful fishkeeping! The cories and rasboras are a good beginner choice and if you cycle your tank well before introducing them I wouldn’t expect any problems.

      In a 20 gal, I would go for a little more than 8 pygmy cories, maybe 10. They’re very small and they do better in a bigger group! Red rasboras (harlequin rasboras) are in my list of easiest beginner fish so they’re very peaceful. They can live together with pygmy cories just fine as far as I know, the species are from totally different continents but they’re both very peaceful and they both like a lower pH. They both have a wide possible temperature range (around 77 °F would be okay) and rasboras are not substrate dwellers so they don’t really care what substrate you use! A school of 8-10 would do well.

      I’m not sure how much your aquarium will cost, it depends on how warm your home is (how hard your heater has to work), how much you spend on plants, how expensive your pet store is etc. I always get my aquariums used – a used 20 gal costs around $50-80 here. A good filter costs around $25-30 and a heater around $20-25 (get an adjustable one for sure!). The fish are $2-4 each depending on your aquarium store. How much money you spend on plants and other equipment is mostly up to you, you can get good deals on used stuff as well. I always keep an emergency fund of $30 or so in case something goes wrong or fish get ill. Electricity costs here are 60 Euro a year (not sure how much that is in dollars!) for our 30 gal, water costs are minimal.

      Sorry about the wall of text! Good luck doing research and setting up your tank, I hope this helps but if you have any more questions feel free to ask.

  3. Yes they definitely love to venture upwards, quite amusing! I really like the mosquito rasboras as well. I know they’re typically blankwater fish though. Would the Cory mind the black water?

    • I don’t think they would! The water in the video in this caresheet looks at least slightly stained as well, and most sources claim these cories do well with a pretty low pH (I listed 6.4 here). Looking at caresheets of both species, I think their natural habitats are actually pretty similar! You could try adding indian almond leaves, they stain the water a very nice color and are also sometimes claimed to help prevent fungus.

  4. Hi!
    While I don’t have these little guys, I do have a dwarf relative of theirs, Corydoras habrosus. And was wondering how many i could comfortably keep in a 10 gallon tank by themselves, or how many with another small schooling fish (tetras, rasboras etc).

    • Corydoras habrosus are indeed very similar (almost identical) to Corydoras pygmaeus. A 10 gallon is a great place to start! I’d go for 5-8 cories depending on the amount of floor space. When keeping them with other small schooling fish, keep in mind that these cories don’t just stick to the bottom of the tank but also use the other water layers. Things could start looking a bit messy, but with a small school of cories and a small school of maybe rasboras (I love love love mosquito rasboras personally) I think you’re fine. If you don’t want them all using the same water layers, you could also look into shrimp, snails and small fish like otocinclus.
      Good luck! These cories are fantastic to keep 🙂

  5. Ah, your video is so sweet! I have a group of bronze corys in my Amazon tank who spawn a few times each spring, and I recently added some pandas to the mix.

    Your tank is so beautiful. I have a large light over my tank, but I want to replace it someday with the spotlight-type lights to make the water look more natural while still allowing for my plants to grow (the Amazon swords in my tank are monsters).

    Keep up the wonderful work. Your pets must love you!

    • The video isn’t mine, unfortunately! I wish that was my aquarium, haha, I agree that it looks absolutely gorgeous with the darker water and dimmed lights.
      How do you like the panda cories so far? I’m interested in getting some cories for another tank but I’m not sure whether I should go for pygmies or pandas!

    • Hi!
      Although I have never seen my dwarf crayfish show any signs of aggression, I would not recommend this combo. I’m not sure how cories sleep at night, and if the crays will try to hunt them when they do. You could try it, but I unfortunately can’t guarantee succes! Pygmy cories and rasboras would do great with shrimp, though, if you really want to keep inverts. Amano shrimp and cherry shrimp are great cleaners and very interesting to watch!


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