Pygmy Corydoras

Pygmy Corydoras are enchanting freshwater fish belonging to the Corydoras family. With their tiny size and active personalities, they have captured the hearts of aquarium hobbyists. These amiable fish require low maintenance, making them an excellent choice for community aquariums.

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Care DIfficulty


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South America

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1.2 inches (3 cm)

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4 years

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Table of contents

Origin, Appearance, Size, and Lifespan

The Pygmy Corydoras, or Corydoras pygmaeus, is a beloved freshwater fish that originates from the Upper Amazon River basin in South America. You'll usually find them in the tributaries of the Rio Madeira and Rio Negro, which flow through Brazil and Colombia.

In the wild, Pygmy Corydoras are often found in slow-moving, shallow waters with plenty of plant life. These plants not only provide hiding spots but also serve as a food source, while the dark riverbeds make their subdued colors stand out. These social fish thrive in groups of at least six, but it's not uncommon to see them in schools of 20 to 30 or more.

Their natural environment features warm, soft, and acidic water. The temperature typically ranges between 72 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit (22 to 26 degrees Celsius), with a pH level of 6.0 to 7.5, and water hardness between 2 to 12 dGH. To create a similar environment in your aquarium, ensure a consistent water temperature, use a high-quality filtration system, and incorporate live plants and driftwood.

By closely mimicking the Pygmy Corydoras' natural habitat and maintaining the right water conditions, you'll be setting your fish up for a healthy and content life in your aquarium.

Pygmy Corydoras are known for their small size, featuring a silver body with a black horizontal stripe running from their snout to their tail. These modest colors make them a subtle yet attractive addition to aquariums. Despite being small, reaching up to approximately 1.2 inches (3 cm) in size, their lively behavior makes them a captivating choice for those seeking an active, engaging aquatic display. These delightful fish bring joy to observers as they playfully scavenge along the tank floor, making them a beloved favorite among hobbyists of all experience levels.

With proper care, Pygmy Corydoras can enjoy a lifespan of up to four years. As sociable beings, they flourish in groups and are best kept in schools of a minimum of six individuals. To promote their well-being and ensure a long life in captivity, it's crucial to provide a lushly planted aquarium with abundant hiding spots, as well as a diverse diet consisting of premium sinking pellets, flakes, and frozen foods.

Fun Facts

Now that we've learned more about the appearance and lifespan of Pygmy Corydoras, in this section, we'll spotlight some fascinating facts about these charming fish that make them stand out in the aquarium hobby. From their small size to their social behavior, Pygmy Corydoras are full of surprises and are sure to enchant any aquarist.

  • Size does matter: In the wild, Pygmy Corydoras are one of the smallest members of the Corydoras family. Their tiny size allows them to navigate through dense vegetation and avoid predators more easily than their larger counterparts.
  • Defensive mechanism: Pygmy Corydoras possess a unique defensive mechanism called odontoid processes. These are sharp, movable spines on their cheeks that can be extended when they feel threatened, making it difficult for predators to swallow them.
  • Air breathers: Unlike many other fish, Pygmy Corydoras have the ability to breathe atmospheric air. They possess a modified intestine that allows them to extract oxygen from the air, helping them survive in low-oxygen environments or when water quality is poor.
  • Acrobatic swimming: Pygmy Corydoras exhibit a playful and acrobatic swimming style, often darting up and down the aquarium. This endearing behavior makes them a delightful addition to community tanks and a source of entertainment for their owners.
  • Group dynamics: Pygmy Corydoras are social fish that prefer to be in groups. They are often observed swimming and foraging together, creating an engaging display in an aquarium. Their lively interactions and active behavior make them a popular choice among hobbyists.

Now that you've uncovered some intriguing details about Pygmy Corydoras, you'll be better prepared to appreciate their charm and complexities in your aquarium. In the following section, we'll provide recommendations on tank setups, ensuring your Pygmy Corydoras have an ideal environment to thrive and showcase their endearing qualities.

Recommended Tank Setups

Each setup includes the core components—tank, filter, heater, lighting, substrate, and more—ensuring that you can create an appropriate environment for Pygmy Corydoras and other compatible freshwater fish species in your aquarium. As you move from budget-friendly to high-end setups, you will also have more options for customization, aesthetics, and advanced features. Pygmy Corydoras are social fish and need to be kept in groups of at least six individuals to reduce stress and ensure their well-being. Typically, Pygmy Corydoras are priced between $2 and $4 per fish, although prices can vary based on factors such as size, quality, and availability.

Budget-friendly setup (around $200):

  • Tank: 10-gallon aquarium with a hood or glass canopy‍ ($20 - $50)
  • Filter: Hang-on-back (HOB) or sponge filter rated for 10 gallons ($10 - $25)
  • Heater: 25-50 watt adjustable aquarium heater ($10 - $25)
  • Lighting: Basic LED aquarium light ($15 - $40)
  • Substrate: Inexpensive aquarium sand or small gravel ($5 - $15)
  • Decor: A few pieces of driftwood and rocks, along with low-cost live plants like Java Fern and Anubias ($10 - $25)
  • Fish: Minimum 6, maximum 10 Pygmy Corydoras ($15 - $25)
  • Thermometer: $3 - $10
  • Substrate Vacuum: $10 - $25
  • Fish Net: $2 - $10
  • Algae Scraper or Magnetic Cleaner: $5 - $20
  • Siphon and Bucket: $10 - $25
  • Test Kit: $15 - $50
  • Fish Food: $3 - $15
  • Water Conditioner: $3 - $10

Mid-range setup (around $350 - $500):

  • Tank: 15-20 gallon aquarium with a hood or glass canopy ($40 - $90)
  • Filter: Canister filter or high-quality HOB filter rated for the tank size ($40 - $100)
  • Heater: 50-100 watt adjustable aquarium heater ($15 - $35)
  • Lighting: LED aquarium light with adjustable settings for plant growth and color enhancement ($30 - $100)
  • Substrate: Nutrient-rich aquarium substrate designed for planted tanks ($15 - $30)
  • Decor: A mix of driftwood, rocks, and live plants such as Amazon Swords, Java Fern, Anubias, and Cryptocoryne species ($20 - $50)
  • Fish: Minimum 6, maximum 15 Pygmy Corydoras ($20 - $45)
  • Thermometer: $3 - $10
  • Substrate Vacuum: $10 - $25
  • Fish Net: $2 - $10
  • Algae Scraper or Magnetic Cleaner: $5 - $20
  • Siphon and Bucket: $10 - $25
  • Test Kit: $15 - $50
  • Fish Food: $5 - $20
  • Water Conditioner: $5 - $15

High-end setup (above $600):

  • Tank: 20-30 gallon rimless aquarium with a glass canopy ($70 - $200)
  • Filter: High-quality canister filter rated for the tank size ($80 - $200)
  • Heater: 75-150 watt adjustable aquarium heater with an external temperature controller ($25 - $60)
  • Lighting: Advanced LED lighting system with customizable settings for plant growth, color enhancement, and day/night cycles ($100 - $250)
  • Substrate: Premium aquarium substrate designed for planted tanks, with added root tabs for extra plant nutrition ($20 - $50)
  • Decor: A combination of driftwood, rocks, and live plants to create a natural aquascape, featuring plant species such as Amazon Swords, Java Fern, Anubias, Cryptocoryne species, and carpeting plants like Dwarf Hairgrass or Monte Carlo ($40 - $100)
  • Fish: Minimum 6, maximum 20 Pygmy Corydoras ($20 - $60)
  • Thermometer: $3 - $10
  • Substrate Vacuum: $10 - $25
  • Fish Net: $2 - $10
  • Algae Scraper or Magnetic Cleaner: $5 - $20
  • Siphon and Bucket: $10 - $25
  • Test Kit: $15 - $50
  • Fish Food: $5 - $20
  • Water Conditioner: $5 - $15

Please note that these numbers are just recommendations, and you should consider other factors such as tank mates and individual fish personalities when deciding how many Pygmy Corydoras to keep in your aquarium. Prices may vary depending on location, brand, and availability.

Set Up Your Tank

In the previous section, we covered the recommended tank setups for your Pygmy Corydoras and other fish. Now that you have a clearer understanding of the requirements, let's delve into the step-by-step process of setting up your aquarium. These steps will guide you through choosing the perfect location for your tank, cleaning and preparing the tank, installing essential equipment, and cycling the water to create a healthy environment for your fish. We'll also discuss the proper acclimation process to ensure a seamless transition for your Pygmy Corydoras and other fish into their new home. By following these guidelines, you'll be well on your way to creating a thriving aquatic ecosystem for your fish to thrive in.

  • Step #1: Select an ideal spot for your aquarium, ensuring it's away from direct sunlight, heat sources, and drafts. Make sure the surface is level and sturdy enough to support your filled tank. If your aquarium needs a stand, assemble it according to the manufacturer's instructions and place the empty tank on it.
  • Step #2: Clean the tank by rinsing it with clean water (avoid using soap or chemicals) to eliminate dust or debris. Wipe the inside with a clean cloth or paper towel. Thoroughly rinse the substrate (sand or gravel) in a bucket until the water runs clear, then spread it evenly across the bottom of the tank, creating a slight slope towards the back for visual depth.
  • Step #3: Plan the layout of your aquarium before filling the tank with water, including the position of equipment like heaters and filters. This will simplify setting up and maintaining the tank in the long run. Install the heater and filter according to the manufacturer's instructions. If you're using a sponge or under-gravel filter, place it beneath the substrate before adding water.
  • Step #4: Decorate the tank with driftwood, rocks, and plants to create hiding spots and a visually appealing environment, ensuring there are open swimming areas for your fish. When decorating the tank, be cautious to arrange driftwood, rocks, and plants in a way that won't damage or obstruct the equipment. You can also anchor plants to driftwood or rocks to help them stay in place.
  • Step #5: Fill the tank with water treated with a water conditioner if your tap water contains chlorine or chloramines. Place a clean plate or plastic bag on the substrate to prevent disturbance while filling. Fill the tank until it's about 2/3 full. Attach the aquarium light to the hood or canopy, following the manufacturer's instructions. Consider using a timer for your aquarium light to maintain a consistent day and night cycle, which is crucial for fish and plants. Connect the heater, filter, and any additional equipment (air pump, CO2 system) to power sources, and install the thermometer in an easily visible location.
  • Step #6: Top off the water, leaving space between the water surface and the top of the tank for oxygen exchange. Turn on the filter, heater, and other equipment. Monitor the water temperature and adjust the heater as needed. Allow the tank to cycle for 4-6 weeks to establish beneficial bacteria and stabilize water parameters. During the cycling process, you can add a bacterial starter culture to speed up the establishment of beneficial bacteria in the tank. Use an aquarium test kit to monitor ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels.
  • Step #7: After the tank has cycled and water parameters are stable, slowly acclimate your Pygmy Corydoras and other fish to the tank's conditions before introducing them. Start by floating the unopened fish bag in the tank for 15-20 minutes to equalize the temperature. Then, open the bag and add a small amount of tank water to it. Continue adding small amounts of tank water to the bag every 5-10 minutes for at least 30-60 minutes, allowing the fish to adjust to the new water chemistry gradually. Use a net to gently transfer the fish from the bag to the tank, avoiding any unnecessary stress or exposure to the water from the bag.
  • Step #8: Once all the fish are introduced, establish a consistent daily feeding schedule, providing high-quality food in appropriate amounts for your fish species. Perform regular water changes (20-30% every 1-2 weeks) and monitor water parameters using a test kit to maintain a healthy environment for your fish. Observe your fish closely for any signs of stress or illness, especially during the first few weeks after introduction. Be prepared to take action if necessary, such as adjusting water parameters or seeking advice from an experienced aquarist.

By following this step-by-step guide and incorporating the additional setup tips, you can create a thriving aquatic environment that will help your Pygmy Corydoras and other fish thrive in their new home.

Recommended Water Parameters

To keep your Pygmy Corydoras healthy and happy, it's important to maintain specific water parameters in your aquarium. Here's a breakdown of what to aim for:

  • Temperature: Keep the water between 72°F and 79°F (22°C and 26°C) for optimal comfort.
  • pH: Aim for a pH of 6.0 to 7.5, with a preference for slightly acidic conditions.
  • Hardness: Soft to moderately hard water (2-15 dGH) is ideal for Pygmy Corydoras.
  • Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate: Keep ammonia and nitrite at 0 ppm, and maintain nitrate levels below 20 ppm.
  • Lighting: Provide moderate lighting with shaded areas and plants to prevent stress.
  • Water movement: Moderate water flow is best, mimicking their natural slow-moving habitat.Make sure to test your aquarium water regularly and perform necessary water changes to keep the environment stable.

Routine Water Maintenance

Water changes are crucial for a healthy Pygmy Corydoras tank. They help remove excess nutrients, waste, and toxins. Here's a suggested routine:

  • Weekly water changes: Replace 20-25% of the tank water every week.
  • Test water parameters: Check pH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and hardness regularly.
  • Use a gravel vacuum: Clean the substrate during water changes.
  • Dechlorinate the water: Treat tap water with a water conditioner before adding it to the aquarium.
  • Match temperature and pH: Ensure new water is similar to the tank water.
  • Acclimate the fish: Give your fish time to adjust to new conditions after water changes.In addition to routine water maintenance, consider the following to ensure the health of your fish and the overall appearance of your aquarium:
  • Monitor lighting duration: Keep track of how long your aquarium lights are on each day, aiming for a consistent 8-10 hour photoperiod. Too much light can lead to excessive algae growth.
  • Plant maintenance: Regularly trim live plants to maintain their health and appearance. Remove any dead leaves or plant matter to prevent water quality issues.
  • Filter maintenance: Clean or replace the filter media as recommended by the manufacturer, usually every 4-6 weeks. Avoid replacing all filter media at once, as this can disrupt the beneficial bacteria and lead to water quality issues.‍

Diet and Feeding Schedule

Pygmy Corydoras are omnivores and require a diverse diet. Here are some feeding guidelines:

  • Flakes and pellets: Use high-quality flake or pellet food designed for small bottom-dwelling fish.
  • Frozen and live foods: Offer bloodworms, daphnia, or brine shrimp as occasional treats.
  • Vegetable matter: Provide blanched spinach, zucchini, or cucumber for added nutrients.
  • Feeding frequency: Feed modest portions once or twice a day, and avoid overfeeding.

Stress and Diseases

Pygmy Corydoras may experience stress from various sources, such as poor water quality, aggression, or unsuitable tank conditions. Identifying and addressing these stressors is vital for your fish's health and well-being:

  • Watch for stress signs: Keep an eye on your Pygmy Corydoras for unusual behavior like hiding, lethargy, color loss, or rapid breathing, which may indicate stress.
  • Check water quality: Test your aquarium water to ensure it meets the ideal parameters and conduct regular water changes to maintain a healthy environment.
  • Monitor tank mates: Make sure your Pygmy Corydoras Corydoras aren't being harassed or attacked by other fish and remove any aggressive tank mates if needed.
  • Create a suitable habitat: Provide plenty of hiding spots, appropriate lighting, and a properly sized tank for your fish.

While Pygmy Corydoras are generally hardy, they can be susceptible to some common fish diseases, such as:

  • Ich (white spot disease): A prevalent parasitic infection causing white spots on the body and fins, lethargy, and appetite loss. Treat Ich with aquarium salt or anti-parasitic medication and raise the water temperature to around 82°F (28°C).
  • Fin rot: A bacterial infection that leads to frayed or discolored fins and tail. Treat fin rot with a partial water change, aquarium salt, and antibacterial medication containing erythromycin or tetracycline.
  • Velvet disease: A parasitic infection causing a yellow or brownish velvet-like coating on the fish's body. Treat velvet disease with anti-parasitic medication containing copper sulfate or formalin.
  • Swim bladder disease: A condition where fish have difficulty swimming upright. Treat swim bladder disease by fasting the fish and offering them blanched peas, and consider using an antibacterial medication if needed.

Prevent diseases in Pygmy Corydoras by maintaining excellent water quality, avoiding overfeeding, and providing a balanced diet. Quarantine new fish before adding them to the main tank and promptly address any signs of illness.


Breeding Pygmy Corydoras can be a rewarding experience for dedicated hobbyists. Follow these steps to breed Pygmy Corydoras:

  • Step #1: Create a suitable breeding environment with a separate 5-10 gallon breeding tank, a pH level of around 6.5 to 7.0, and a temperature of about 75°F (24°C). Maintain soft water (2-10 dGH) and include hiding spots like plants and spawning mops for the fish's comfort.
  • Step #2: Select healthy, mature male and female Pygmy Corydoras for breeding. You can determine the gender by observing their physical characteristics and behavior.
  • Step #3: Prepare the breeding pair with a high-protein diet of live or frozen foods for several weeks to help them build strength and energy.
  • Step #4: Encourage spawning by introducing the pair to the breeding tank, gradually raising the water temperature, and dimming the lighting. Include a spawning mop or fine-leaved plants for egg depositing.
  • Step #5: Care for the eggs and fry by removing the breeding pair after spawning. Keep the breeding tank in a dimly lit area, as the eggs and fry are sensitive to light. Eggs will hatch within 3-4 days, and the fry will become free-swimming after several days. Gradually increase the lighting duration as the fry grows. Feed them infusoria or liquid fry food initially, then gradually introduce crushed flake food.
  • Step #6: Monitor the growth and development of the fry, and separate them by size if needed to prevent larger fry from preying on smaller ones.Breeding Pygmy Corydoras can be a rewarding experience for experienced hobbyists. Patience and the right conditions are key to success.

Recommended Tank Mates

Here are the top 10 recommended tank mates for Pygmy Corydoras:

  1. Dwarf Rasboras
  2. Neon Tetras
  3. Celestial Pearl Danios
  4. Endler's Livebearers
  5. Bristlenose Plecos
  6. Cardinal Tetras
  7. Amano Shrimp
  8. Nerite Snails
  9. Harlequin Rasboras
  10. Otocinclus Catfish

It is essential to avoid large, aggressive fish like cichlids, angelfish, and predatory species, as they may harm or eat the Pygmy Corydoras. Observe the behavior of new fish and ensure they don't cause stress or aggression towards the Pygmy Corydoras.


In summary, Pygmy Corydoras are an attractive species of freshwater fish known for their small size, peaceful nature, and ease of care. These fish require specific water parameters, a well-balanced diet, and an appropriate environment to thrive in captivity. However, with the right conditions, they can live up to 3-4 years and be a fantastic addition to any aquarium. When selecting tank mates, it's crucial to choose peaceful and non-aggressive species to ensure a harmonious community. Breeding Pygmy Corydoras can be a rewarding experience for experienced hobbyists, and patience and ideal conditions are key to success. Overall, Pygmy Corydoras are a delightful and friendly species that can enhance any aquatic display with their charming appearance and peaceful behavior.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the ideal tank size for Pygmy Corydoras?

A minimum of 10-gallon tank is recommended for a small group of Pygmy Corydoras. Choosing a larger tank is even better, as it helps maintain stable water conditions and offers plenty of room for your fish to swim and explore.

How many Pygmy Corydoras should be kept together?

Pygmy Corydoras are schooling fish, which means they thrive in groups of at least 6-8 individuals. By maintaining a larger group, you'll help your fish feel safer and encourage them to display their fascinating natural behaviors.

What water parameters do Pygmy Corydoras require?

Pygmy Corydoras thrive in water temperatures between 72°F and 79°F (22°C and 26°C), a pH between 6.0 and 7.5, and soft to moderately hard water with a hardness between 2 and 12 dGH.

What do Pygmy Corydoras eat?

Pygmy Corydoras are omnivorous and require a varied diet. Feed them a mix of high-quality sinking pellets or wafers, along with live or frozen foods such as daphnia, brine shrimp, and bloodworms.

Are Pygmy Corydoras compatible with other fish?

Yes, Pygmy Corydoras are generally peaceful and can coexist with other similarly sized, non-aggressive fish species. Ideal tank mates include small tetras, rasboras, and peaceful shrimp species.

How long do Pygmy Corydoras live?

With proper care and optimal tank conditions, Pygmy Corydoras can live for 3 to 4 years.

How do I breed Pygmy Corydoras?

Breeding Pygmy Corydoras can be a rewarding experience for experienced hobbyists. Use a separate breeding tank, prepare the breeding pair with a high-protein diet, and provide appropriate water conditions and hiding spots for egg depositing.

Do Pygmy Corydoras require a planted tank?

While not strictly necessary, a planted tank is highly recommended for Pygmy Corydoras. Live plants provide hiding spots, improve water quality, and create a more natural environment that closely resembles their native habitat.

Can Pygmy Corydoras change color?

Indeed, Pygmy Corydoras can undergo color changes as a result of several factors, such as stress, illness, or alterations in water conditions. If you observe your Pygmy Corydoras experiencing a loss of color, it's important to examine the water parameters and keep a close watch on their health.