Peppered Corydoras Care Guide

Peppered Corydoras Care Guide

Peppered corydoras, or peppered corys, are a small catfish species from South America. Most common in southern Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay in the Río de la Plata basin, they're better adapted for colder water than most corydoras species. They make for interesting aquarium fish, creating new activity on the bottom of the aquarium. They're available in albino and traditional colouring. Albinos are completely white, sometimes yellowish white, but can be distinguished from albino bronze corys by their taller dorsal fin spine. Some of them are bred to be "longfins". Regular peppered corys have grey bodies with brown speckles and iridescent blue/silver patches.

This guide will provide you with the information you need to care for these fish. Please note that much of the information here, though based on evidence and experience, is still a matter of opinion. Good fishkeeping requires thorough research and each source may provide a different viewpoint.

Throughout the article, this species will be referred to as C. Paleatus to avoid confusion with the very different salt and pepper corydoras (C. Habrosus).

Species Profile


Scientific Name: Corydoras paleatus
Difficulty: Easy
Tank Size: ~20 gallons (about 76 litres)
Size: up to 3 inches (7.62 cm)
pH: ~5.5-8.5
GH: ~3-14
Temperature: ~60-74°F (~15.6-23.3°C)
Diet: Omnivore
Temperament: Docile and sometimes shy; should be kept in groups
Lifespan: 10-20 years, up to 25 years in exceptional cases

Tank Conditions

C. Paleatus do best in a tank of at least 20 gallons, with tank footprint being more important than height. For this reason, a shallow tank of slightly less than 20 gallons is often acceptable for them. They like to sift through substrate, so it's best to use a sand substrate, or at least have a patch of sand somewhere in the tank. If gravel is used, ensure it's rounded and not abrasive; corys are prone to losing or damaging the barbels around their mouths. Like all corydoras species, they do best in groups, preferably around six or more. Larger groups will make them less timid and stressed, generally speaking, but if they're too densely packed, they'll probably become stressed.

Highly oxygenated water is good, but corys can survive lower oxygen levels by breathing atmospheric air from the surface. It's quite common to see corys dashing to the top of the tank for air, even in highly oxygenated tanks.

Tannins from Indian almond leaves, alder cones, oak leaves, organic rooibos tea or another source will benefit corydoras greatly, but they aren't a necessity. Live plants are the same; not necessary but highly beneficial. Having plenty of cover is always a good idea for this species as they like to hide and play, so consider driftwood, rocks, terracotta pots or any other non abrasive ornaments.

They do well with other peaceful subtropical fish, such as white cloud mountain minnows, rerio danios, livebearers or neon tetras. C. Paleatus are one of the few corydoras species that can easily be kept with more docile goldfish, preferably fancy goldfish. Single-tailed goldfish have a better chance of outcompeting them for food. They'll do well with shrimp and snails, but very small ones may get eaten.

A model habitat for C. Paleatus. Note the large group, peaceful tankmates (danio rerio), plentiful hiding spots, live plants and sand substrate.


C. Paleatus, as with other corydoras species, are primarily carnivorous, but do eat plant-based food on occasion. Sinking meat-based wafers or pellets are the best staple. Along with this, it's best to supplement with live and frozen foods like daphnia, seed shrimp and bloodworms. They will also eat excess food that their tankmates miss, plus small amounts of algae and dead plant matter.

Many corydoras species are bought as "algae eaters" or "clean-up crews", but this isn't the case. They eat little to no algae, and more fish means more maintenance in almost every case.

C. Paleatus eating a sinking wafer.


Corydoras aren't prone to any known specific diseases, but they're a bit more sensitive to tank conditions than scaled fish. Avoid adding any medication containing copper to your tank, and check your water source and tank for copper. They're also slightly more prone to infection due to barbel loss, so water changes should be frequent and large to keep pathogens and water quality-related stress at bay.

Coating food in garlic juice before feeding acts as a probiotic, and if there is trouble getting them to eat, the garlic smell and flavour will make the food more appealing to them. Live foods are a good starter food too, if there's difficulty feeding.

Sexing & Breeding

C. Paleatus will readily breed, or at least spawn, under the right tank conditions as listed above. Some measures can be taken to encourage breeding/spawning however. They're typically seasonal breeders in the wild, breeding during the rainy season around March. Females are bigger and rounder than males, who are slimmer and smaller.

Two female C. Paleatus (centre & right) with one male (left).

To encourage breeding behaviour, these are some of the measures that can be taken:

-Have optimal water and tank conditions
-Feed more live foods, and food in general
-Do more regular water changes, adding slightly cooler water to simulate rain
-Decrease the temperature, if using a thermostat

Corys' spawning behaviour involves the female forming a T-shape with the male, then releasing the eggs and carrying them to a suitable surface using her clamped pelvic fins.

Once eggs are laid, the best course of action is to scrape as many as possible from the glass and ornaments and place them in a small incubation container. If not, most or all of the eggs will be eaten, along with many surviving fry. Eggs can be removed with a razor or sterilised plastic card. Make sure not to expose them to air.

Once in the new container, treat them with methylene blue or malachite green to prevent fungus, and remove any white eggs. The container should have high flow, provided by either an egg tumbler, air stone or filter. This also helps to prevent fungus growth. Change some water everyday.

After about three days, the eggs will begin to hatch, so transfer them to a new bare-bottom container (~5-10 gallons) with clean water and a cycled filter that won't catch any fry. A sponge filter is best, but a pre-filter can be attached to hang-on-the-back or internal filter. They could be specifically designed as a pre-filter, or fashioned using a clean sock or pantyhose. It's good to add some easy live plants like java moss and guppy grass as these will provide shelter and infusoria for fry.

For the first few days, there's no need to feed the fry as they're still feeding off their yolk sac. When it's depleted, start to feed finely powdered fry food, small amounts of hard-boiled egg yolk or small live foods like vinegar eels or microworms roughly twice a day. Don't just feed one type of food, make sure to alternate between several different kinds. Daily water changes are best. A fry-safe vacuum siphon can be fashioned using a clean sock, fine mesh or pantyhose so that you can vacuum any detritus on the tank bottom.

After about a week or two, the fry should be ready for slightly larger live foods like baby brine shrimp, seed shrimp and daphnia. When they reach about 1/2 an inch, they can safely be added to the main tank, provided they're big enough to avoid being eaten or sucked into the filter.


Peppered corys are a great beginner fish with the right conditions, and make for very entertaining pets in home aquariums. Breeding-wise, they are quite a natural next step for those who've
successfully bred livebearers and are ready to move on to something (slightly) more challenging.

Thank you for reading! Feedback and reviews are appreciated :)
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Absolutely perfect, thanks for taking the time to write this. I cant find anything to criticize.
Spot on! I will use this when I get peppered corydoras in the future!
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