Even though cory catfish are easy to care for, not all tank mates are as compatible, causing possible malnutrition, fights, and early death for your fish.
Here are my 11 favorite cory catfish tank mates. I tried to make a varied list, with fish for every situation
Top-dwelling Corydoras tank mates
Hatchet fish are small lively top-dwellers that are very peaceful towards other fish. Cory catfish are bottom dwellers, so these fish make an amazing tank mate in the upper layer. It’s also a very unique fish you won’t come across very often.
Hatchet fish live in similar biotopes as Corydoras (South America) and prefer low-light setups with floating plants. They can easily jump out of the tank, so ensure a tight lid!
2. Dwarf gourami
Dwarf gouramis prefer very similar conditions to cory cats, and are a great centerpiece fish for many tanks. Gouramis are best kept in pairs or trios (one male).
Gouramis love floating plants and low-light setups. In the right conditions, the pair might make a bubble nest and breed.
A pair of dwarf gouramis can be kept in a 20-gallon tank, the ideal tank size for a small group of cory catfish.
Middle-layer cory catfish tank mates
3. Tetra species
Since tetras are peaceful fish that live in the middle layer of the tank, there are tons of species suitable to live with cory catfish. Remember to always get a group (>6 fish) Here are a few ideas:
- Cardinal tetra – These are a better choice than neon tetra since they’re hardier.
- Diamond tetra (picture) – A hardy tetra species, which shows remarkable iridescent scaling.
- Ember tetra – One of my personal favorites. Due to its small size, you can get a big group of these fish and it will look like a flame in your tank.
4. Rasbora galaxy
Rasbora galaxy is a fish that has very vibrant colors, especially males who tend to show big with their coloration. Similar to cory catfish, rasbora galaxy is rather shy towards other fish so they won’t bring in any problems.
Males can have small conflicts, which can be resolved by adding a lot of live plants and having a sizeable group.
5. Harlequin rabora's
Harlequin rasboras are small but lively fish that do well in various environments. Just like cory catfish, they prefer low-light setups.
Live plants and a good filter are a necessity for these fish. They prefer darker substrate, so in combination with cory catfish opt for black sand.
Harlequin rasboras have a similar dietary need to cory catfish. They’re also omnivores that do well on a meat-based diet consisting of crustaceans and insects.
6. Betta fish
Betta fish are great centerpiece fish for small to medium-sized aquariums. They occupy mostly the middle and upper layers of the tank. Bettas do well in low-light setups without much flow.
Keep in mind that betta fish are not compatible with other territorial fish species like cichlids. But since cories are just the opposite of that, they make for good tank mates.
Related article: Betta Fish And Cory Catfish: Tank Mate Guide
7. Rainbow fish
Rainbow fish are lively and colorful fish that originate from Australia/Papua New Guinea. They love to swim against current but do need a rather large tank. If you are looking for a Corydoras tank mate that really colors up your tank, this fish is perfect.
Just like cory catfish, they can also tolerate a wide range of water parameters.
Bottom-dwelling tank mates for cory catfish
8. Bristlenose pleco
If you’re looking for an additional bottom-dweller, bristlenose plecos are the go-to. Don’t confuse these with common plecos, these stay a lot smaller. Their average size is about 5 inches.
Bristlenose plecos are peaceful, and won’t cause problems with cory catfish. If you are looking for an extra bottom-dwelling fish that’s easy to care for, BN plecos are a great choice.
These plecos might outcompete cory catfish for food, which is why adding multiple forms of food is crucial. Meat-based foods for cory catfish and algae wafers/vegetables for plecos.
Related read: keeping cory catfish with plecos
9. Cherry shrimp
Shrimp are perhaps one of my favorite tank mates for any fish. Especially Neocaridina shrimp, which include cherry shrimp, are extremely easy to care for and have very bright colors.
Shrimp are great for any tank size, but in my opinion, they look best in small to medium-sized tanks, since you’ll just see them more. This makes them the perfect fit for some of the smallest Corydoras species, such as C. pygmaeus.
Related read: Cory Catfish And Shrimp: Tank Mate Guide
Similar to aquarium shrimp, snails also don’t require much maintenance and specific care, but they do bring some extra life into the aquarium.
There are tons of aquarium snail types to pick from. The photo above is of a mystery snail, which gets quite big (1-2 inches). You can also go for Assassin snails (these eat other small snails), Nerite snails, or Rabbit snails.
Snails are actually great algae eaters, so if you have some algae to get rid of, they are a great help.
11. Otocinclus catfish
The otocinclus catfish is one of the best, but relatively unknown algae eaters in the aquarium hobby. They are similar to plecos, but produce less waste and prefer to be kept in groups.
Otocinclus catfish have a similar character to cory catfish and are calm fish, that avoid conflicts. I do recommend this fish for the intermediate fish keeper, as they’re quite sensitive to water parameters.
Keep in mind to supplement its diet with plant-based foods and algae-wafers.
What makes a good cory catfish tank mate?
I’ve listed my suggested tank mates, but obviously, there are a lot more good companions for cory catfish not included in this list.
If you wonder whether a fish will be a good fit for Corydoras, here a the three most important things to look out for.
Although it’s certainly possible to keep fish types with different dietary needs, this does take some more effort.
If you keep a herbivorous fish like f.e. a plant-eating pleco, you will need to find a way to give both the food they need to thrive.
Especially because cory catfish are not very competitive feeders that get outcompeted quickly, you want to make sure their foods don’t get eaten by another fish that might not even need the meat-based diet.
Related read: Cory Catfish Diet Guide
Cory catfish themselves are fish that love to be on their own and mind their own business. They will never search for trouble, but this means they also like to be left alone.
They don’t do well with intrusive fish and certainly not with aggressive fish like certain cichlids, oscars, …
Too many bottom dwellers
Having too many fish occupying the bottom layer of the aquarium can cause conflicts or just too little space for your cory catfish.
Even though many bottom dwelling species aren’t aggressive, they do need enough space do dig around and hide.
I recommend not keeping more than two bottom dwelling species for cory catfish in most tanks (20-30 gallon). If you have a bigger tank, you can ofcourse add species.