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Caresheet: Pygmy Cory | Corydoras pygmaeus, hastatus, habrosus

July 3, 2013
pygmy corydoras

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.

Name

Tank size10 gallons (38l)
TemperamentPeaceful
DietOmnivore
Temperature72-79°F (22-26°C)
pH6.4-7.4
Length1 inch (2.5 cm)

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.
Corydoras pygmaeus

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.
Pygmy Catfish Larva


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 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!

Cover photo: Tail spot pygmy Corydoras Corydoras hastatus by nanjenchan


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17 Comments

  • ReplySequoiaSeptember 10, 2018 at 10:26 pm

    Would a betta and 8 of these cories be okay in a 10 gallon?

    • ReplyMariSeptember 11, 2018 at 11:41 am

      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 🙂

  • ReplyAngieJune 8, 2018 at 5:35 am

    Do corydoras need live plants in their aquarium ? Are fake plants just as fine?

    • ReplyMariJune 11, 2018 at 8:00 pm

      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?

  • ReplyfreckspecksMay 5, 2017 at 7:57 pm

    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.

    • ReplyMariMay 8, 2017 at 4:54 pm

      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 🙂

  • ReplyAndrewApril 21, 2015 at 1:04 am

    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?

    Thanks,
    Andrew

    • ReplyAndrewApril 21, 2015 at 1:08 am

      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.

    • ReplyMariApril 21, 2015 at 8:08 pm

      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.
      Mari

  • ReplyDaneMay 2, 2014 at 12:35 am

    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?

    • ReplyMariMay 2, 2014 at 10:57 am

      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.

  • ReplyDaneApril 30, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    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).

    • ReplyMariMay 1, 2014 at 2:19 pm

      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 🙂

  • ReplyDaphneApril 13, 2014 at 2:26 am

    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!

    • ReplyMariApril 13, 2014 at 11:49 am

      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!

  • ReplywillNovember 19, 2013 at 5:29 am

    can pygmy corydoras and pheonix rasboras be kept in the same tank as Mexican dwarf crayfish?

    • ReplyMariNovember 19, 2013 at 4:36 pm

      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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