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Family: Callichthyidae, Subfamily Corydoradinae

Common Name: Barbatus Cory, Banded Cory

Origin and Habitat: Coastal drainages in Brazil, from the Rio Paraíba do Sul basin to the Rio Itapocu basin. Only occurs in freshwater; this and all species in the genus are endemic to small flowing tributary streams having a substrate of sand or fine pebbles [Britto & Reis, 2005].

Compatibility/Temperament: Generally peaceful, but unlike the closely-related Corydoras, males are very territorial. Best kept in a pair, or in a small group in larger tanks. Aggression between males can inflict serious injury and even death of the weaker fish. Given its size, this species will fare well in community tanks with more robust upper fish.

Barbatus Cory Diet

Omnivorous in nature, it accepts standard aquarium foods easily. These should include sinking foods of shrimp, fish meal and some algae/kelp/spirulina. Frozen or live bloodworms, blackworms, etc.


Attains 4-5 inches, with females very slightly larger than males. This is the largest of the Corydoradinae.

Minimum Tank Suggestion

3 feet in length.

Water parameters for Barbatus Cory

Soft to medium hard (2-25 dGH), acidic to slightly basic (pH 6 to 7.2), temperature 16-25C/60-78F. Optimum temperature for best health, and breeding, is 20-24C/68-76F.


This species is the largest of the commonly-named "corys" and somewhat outside the mold. Aquarists considering acquiring this fish should be aware of the issues noted under Compatibility/Temperament.

Unlike its close relatives the Corydoras, this species has external gender differences on adult fish. Males are slimmer with cheek bristles and a distinctive golden stripe on the nose whereas females are slightly rounder with the entire body peppered gray and lacking the bristles. Spawning is relative easy, even in community tanks, and follows the typical cory pattern.

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, and subdued lighting which can be partly achieved by floating plants.

The Corydoradinae 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. The fish will settle in better if the tank is established; none of the "corys" 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 corys 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 subfamily 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.

This species was originally described in 1824 as Callichthys barbatus by J.R.C. Quoy and J.P. Gaimard. Isbrucker (2001) transferred it into Corydoras where it remained until Britto (2003) resurrected Scleromystax as a distinct genus for this and three other species. Scleromystax had initially been erected as a subgenus of Callichthys by A. Gunther in 1864 but consigned to synonym status for Corydoras in 1980 by Nijssen & Isbrucker. Britto established the monophyly of the four species he assigned to this genus, distinct from the species in the rest of the subfamily; these four species are actually more closely related to Aspidoras than to Corydoras [Britto & Reis, 2005].

The genus name Scleromystax derives from the Greek sclero [= hard] and the Latin mystax [= mustache]. The species epithet is the Latin barbatus [= bearded] which refers to the cheek bristles developed by mature males.


Britto, M.R. (2003), "Phylogeny of the subfamily Corydoradinae Hoedeman, 1952 (Siluriformes: Callichthyidae), with a definition of its genera," Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, volume 153, pp. 119-154.

Britto, M.R. and Roberto E. Reis (2005), "A new Scleromystax species (Siluriformes: Callichthyidae) from coastal rivers of southern Brazil," Neotropical Ichthyology, volume 3, number 4.

Isbrucker, I.J.H. (2001), "Alphabetical review of genera and species of Corydoradinae Hoedeman, 1952 (Teleostei, Ostariophysi, Callichthyidae), including citation of type localities, type specimens, and etymologies," in I.A.M. Fuller, Breeding corydoradine catfishes, pp. 213-247.

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