Making my tank more pygmy cory-friendly...

Katie Dawn
  • #1
Hello All!

New cory keeper here. I currently have a 10 gallon with 2 tail spots (hastatus) and 5 pygmies (pygmaeus). (Some of you may remember I purchased 7 pygmaeus but when I got home realized they accidentally gave me 2 hastatus and 5 pygmaeus. I plan to go back and buy a couple more pygmaeus. But I digress...)

I have a betta who I would like to move to the 10 gallon and see how it goes. (Not interested in debating the pros and cons of that choice in this thread, but I do have a contingency plan in case things go south.)

Here is the tank right now:


Since I've realized that regardless of whether or not gravel is acceptable for them, my little guys would really be much happier with sand, so I'd like to make this change.
*Is any sand, as long as it's aquarium sand, ok? Is there a certain "fine-ness" I need to be shooting for?
*From looking at past threads, it looks like it may not be safe to use any non-aquarium sand (aka sand that's not sold specifically for aquariums). That's fine, it's just more expensive. But is there a non-aquarium sand that is safe?
*How deep should the sand be?
*Tell me about color. Do you find it easier to see your tiny corys in certain colors? On the one hand I would like to see them, but on the other hand I don't want a color that will make it easier for the betta to see them, so I'll have to keep all that in mind.
*Is there anything special I'll need to know about vacuuming? I do water changes with a 1" siphon. So I'll just push the siphon in and shake it a little and the waste should go up and the sand should settle back down?

Currently the corys aren't hiding but don't need to either. You may be able to see in my pic the 2 hastatus swimming around which is becoming more common, while the pygmaeus tend to chill in one spot on the bottom... sounds like that's typical for each species. They tend to like to huddle on the far side of the tank, but I think that might be because the tank is on my kitchen counter and their preferred spot is the farthest away from the hustle and bustle of the kitchen. When I add the betta I expect the corys may be more comfortable if they have a few hides. The coconut hut is for the betta. He also has a small betta log I'll move over. I have been trying to think of hides that can have a small openings that the corys can access but the betta can't.

I don't want real driftwood, but have looked at some resin hollowed out "logs". That would work, but I would have to push it down really far into the sand to make the opening small enough. Also, many of them have extra entrances on the side of the logs, which definitely won't work.

What about something like this?


*My husband thinks we could probably cut them in half (long ways). Then I could push a few into the sand just a bit to get the opening size right. However, he is concerned they might have a tendency to float, even once I buy more anubias/java fern to attach to them. Thoughts?
*Is this a hide these corys would even use? I don't know them well enough yet to know what they would or wouldn't find acceptable. Would just a straight piece of PVC be better? (So shaped like a "hollowed out log" but still much smaller and wouldn't have to be pushed in very far?)

Other Hides:
*I am VERY new to plants (the 3 in my tank are my first!) so I'm hesitant to try anything that goes into the soil. However, I keep hearing that crypts are easy plants too. Would they hide under one of the crypt varieties that stay low to the ground - almost like creating an "umbrella" of protection?
*Either way, I do plan to buy more plants to fill in the tank a little more and reduce sight lines.
*What hides have worked for you? Or what other ideas do you have?
*Have you ever put in any mid-water hides? I don't even know what options their might be there, but I wonder if it could be helpful.

I know if I do a great job at creating hides I may not see my corys very much once the betta moves over. That will be sad but it will be okay.

Thanks in advance for your help and ideas!

  • #2
I have pool filter sand in all of my tanks. I paid $5.00 for a 50# bag of it. It is a tan color. It replaced my multi-colored gravel. If it is rinsed really well before putting it in your tank it shouldn't cloud your water at all. I have to think the biggest difference between most of the sand sold specifically for aquariums and pool filter sand is the price.

Have you considered terracotta pots for hides. I had my husband cut some med. size pots in half lengthwise. He sanded the cut edges to assure there were no sharp edges. You can bury the cut side down into the sand as much as needed to make the opening as small as you want. To me these look a lot more natural than pvc hides. You could glue your plants to them to make them look even more natural. I glued java ferns to some tiny terracotta pots. After about a year I can no longer see the pots.

Crypts do very well for me and my corys love them. They are constantly grazing on them.

  • #3
As for substrate and shelter, black sand is my favorite. It makes it easier to see them, but not too obvious. I’ve found that Imagitarium black sand is fine enough for corydoras. This species also loves a lot of plant cover. More anubias and Java fern should be good, and crypts should work well too. Be aware that crypts tend to melt when you put them in the tank, so don’t be worried about them dying back. They’ll recover fairly fast. Some good crypt species are parva and wendtii
  • #4
Dense plants are my favorite for hiding places, or maybe some rocks sized and stacked so there are openings. It's personal preference, but I don't like anything man-made in an aquarium (other than filters, heaters, etc).

And I agree about pool filter sand, but make sure it's just sand. I saw some one time that was Clorox brand. It said it had some additive without specifying what it was. It might have been okay, but the "additive" and the brand didn't give me warm fuzzy feelings, so I didn't get it.

The first bag I got didn't need rinsing, but of course I haven't been able to find that brand again. The others I've bought still haven't needed much rinsing, but for me they were still worth the added cost over buying play sand or something similar. That stuff is a nightmare to get clean.
  • #5
In addition to the above, I've also used play sand (which usually only comes in white or light color). But I also tend to prefer black sand, especially with a betta (I think it shows their colors better.)

Also agree with terra-cotta pots for creating hiding spots. Another option for mid-water shelter is to get a plastic tree aquarium decoration (if you don't want to use driftwood) and grow java moss on the 'branches' (for example, stuff it between the plastic flowers that those decorations usually come with, and it will eventually cover them completely. Java moss will grow on just about anything.)

The plants you have will make good mid-water hides as well; they'll congregate in/around those if they're feeling too exposed mid-water, and you can also add rooted plants if you're going with sand (you'll probably also want to get some fertilizer tabs if you go that way, as there won't be much by way of available nutrients in newly-added sand.)

You can use fake tall plants if you're not feeling ready for real rooted plants, but there are several rooted plants that can get pretty tall and are fairly easy to keep (with the caveat that what does well for one person can be the bane of another person - for example, I have great success with cabomba, but anacharis just melts and dies; while others have the opposite results. I think it's more about finding what works best with your setup/water/etc than anything.)

In tanks with average LED lighting and no CO2 or regular fertilizer dosing, I've generally had good results with Hygrophila species such as corymbosa (usually called Temple plant) and difformis (usually called water wisteria), and with most of the Amazon swords (do use a root tab with them. I get by without tabs for swords when they're planted in mature substrate, but I also never vacuum substrate in any planted tank that has rooted plants.) As previously mentioned, crypts are also generally good.

Fine-leaved plants like cabomba or myrio can make bushy hiding spots, but overall I never really saw my hastatus gathering in them. They seem to prefer the broader-leaved plants even if they're not as dense a cover spot.
Katie Dawn
  • Thread Starter
  • #6
mattgirl Kribensis27 JettsPapa Oriongal
Thanks so much to all of you for your replies!

First and foremost: WEIRDO ALERT!!!
I choose the purple PVC specifically because I don't like a totally "natural" looking tank. I like some color! That's why I chose the blue gravel (Though the gravel is tons of color and I only need a little.) But since the gravel is on it's way out and being replaced with something natural I thought the colorful PVC might give it a little pop. But I could probably look at some aquarium decor that has some color. mattgirl I actually messaged you a few weeks ago and you were so helpful in explaining how to do the pots! I was all set on doing that, but when I realized the gravel was coming out of the tank I was looking into other options that would add color. I just took a second to look at ceramic/colorful pots but it looks like the glaze/paint could leech into the water over time. So I think I'll stick with the terra cotta pot idea and find my "unnatural" elements somewhere else.

I appreciate the sand info. I'll decide between black Imagitarium or plain (no additives) play sand. I think I'm leaning towards black, but depending on the cost I may go the other route.

You provided helpful plant info as well!
Thanks again!

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