Tropical Fish

Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources » Tropical Fish Profiles » Pepper Cory

Discuss the Pepper Cory in our Catfish forum.

Pepper Cory

Scientific Name: Corydoras paleatus
Family: Callichthyidae, Sub-Family Corydoradinae

About the Pepper Cory

Species Type: Freshwater Fish
Category: Catfish

Care Level: Easy. Does well in a slightly more narrow range of water parameters and shouldn't be used to cycle an aquarium. Will eat most prepared foods. May have some specific care requirements in terms of particular water parameters, social behaviors, food items etc.

Origin: Widely distributed from southern Brazil through Uruguay, Paraguay to northern Argentina. Found in rivers, streams, and standing waters such as pools and small lakes.

Compatibility/Temperament: Very peaceful bottom fish, suitable for any community aquarium of non-aggressive fishes that is not too warm; this cory does not do well at higher temperatures. Must be maintained in a small group of at least three or preferably five or more; a trio may be kept with other cory species. These fish are often seen playing if kept in groups of at least three. Otherwise, they grow timid and hide.


This species was one of two common corys in the earlier days of the hobby and is still deservedly popular; it is very hardy for the genus, and a good beginner fish. It has a life span around five years. All fish encountered in stores are likely to be commercially raised; wild-caught fish are more brightly coloured. A domestically bred albino form is also available.

This species has several claims to fame. It was first discovered by Charles Darwin during his voyage to South America on the Beagle in 1831-6, and was described by L. Jenyns in 1842 and named Callichthys paleatus. Since then it has held seven names including three genera until Nijssen & Isbrucker (1980) assigned it to Corydoras. This cory was first bred in captivity in Paris, France in 1878. Along with C. aeneus, the two species were the catfish mainstay in the hobby until the 1960's.

The aquarium should be well-planted with pieces of bogwood, a dark substrate (small gravel or sand, provided it is smooth-edged) with some open areas; this species can tolerate somewhat brighter lighting. Females are rounder when viewed from above, and have rounded ventral fins and shorter pectoral and dorsal spines.

The Corydoras are quite sensitive to water parameters and quality, and highly intolerant of salt, chemicals and medications. Signs of stress usually begin with rapid respiration, then lethargy (often just "sitting" on plant leaves, wood or the substrate respirating heavily, sometimes near the surface) and sometimes rolling onto one side. At such signs, a partial water change of at least 50% with a good water conditioner should immediately be made, and appropriate steps taken to remove the cause. Any sudden fluctuation in water chemistry or temperature often induces shock, causing the fish to "faint" and fall over on its side. Corydoras introduced to new aquaria will settle in better if the tank is established; Cory's do not adjust well to a new aquarium with still-unstable water conditions and fluctuations.

The dorsal, pectoral and adipose fins are each preceded by a spine which is actually a hardened and modified ray; the pectoral fin spine can be "locked" into position by the fish; care must be taken when netting Cory's not to entangle these spines, which can also give the aquarist a nasty jab. They are believed to be a defense adaptation, to lodge the fish in the throat of a predator.

All species in the genus will periodically and fairly regularly swim quickly to the surface for a gulp of air. The fish swallows the air and blood vessels in the hind gut extract oxygen from the air; it is then expelled through the vent the next time the fish breaks the surface for another gulp of air. This adaptation is believed to have evolved so that the fish can survive in poorly-oxygenated water such as drying pools during the dry season. It is however essential to the fish's well-being that it regularly swallows air.

The genus name is derived from the Greek "cory" meaning helmet, and "doras" meaning skin, incorrectly used here for "armour"; it refers to the dual row of overlapping plates (instead of scales) along the body, comparable to a suit of armour. This species name is from the Latin palea which means a chaff (strips of metal foil), more evident in wild fish whose flanks shimmer in the sunlight.

Pepper Cory Diet

In the wild, an omnivore feeding on worms, crustaceans, plant matter and organisms (zoobenthos) on streambeds. In the aquaria, accepts any sinking prepared food, frozen bloodworms, and live worms.


Attains 2.5 inches, possibly slightly more.

Minimum Tank Suggestion

15 or 20 gallon long.

Ideal water parameters for Pepper Cory

Soft to moderately hard (hardness below 15 dGH), acidic to slightly basic (pH to 7.5) water, temperature 22-26C/72-78F. Not suitable for higher temperatures. Wild-caught fish require cooler temperatures at the lower end of this range and soft, acidic water.

Return to top
Pepper Cory 1
Return to top
Pepper Cory 2
Return to top
Pepper Cory 3

All times are GMT -5. The time now is 08:43 AM.