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Family: Callichthyidae, Subfamily Corydoradinae

Common Name: Pepper Cory

Origin and Habitat: 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.

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.

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.


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; corys 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 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 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 name of the genus, which was erected by B.G.E. Lacepede in 1803, is derived from the Greek cory [= helmet] and doras [= 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. The species epithet is from the Latin palea which means a chaff (strips of metal foil), a feature more evident in wild fish whose flanks shimmer in the sunlight.

Contributing Members

The following members have contributed to this profile: Byron, jack26707


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