Small cory catfish often referred to as dwarf cory catfish are perhaps even more cute than their bigger siblings. Being that they can live in many tanks and are relatively easy to care for, many small Corydoras species are a great choice.
This list contains some of the smallest cory catfish types, for in your tank.
Small cory catfish species
There are several small cory catfish that do well in small aquariums. Here are my 5 favorite small Corydoras types:
Pygmy cory catfish
0.8 inch (2.1cm)
Tail-spot cory catfish, dwarf cory catfish
Salt and pepper cory catfish
1.0 inch (3.8cm)
Smudge spot cory catfish
1.5 inch (3.2cm)
Shy cory catfish
0.9 inch (2.3cm)
1. Pygmy cory catfish (C. pygmaeus)
Madeira basin, Brazil
This small species is perhaps the most popular on this list. It’s very similar to the tail-spot cory catfish and can live in nano tanks.
What makes this species unique, is that they not only live in the bottom layer of the tank. They are often seen sholing around in the middle layer of the tank, making them very fun to look at.
It’s easy accessible for most beginners, because it’s sold in most aquarium pet stores and sometimes in general pet stores, too. They cost around $5.
This species is very peaceful and can live with most other nano fish, including betta fish (read our article on keeping betta fish and cory catfish together here).
However, it’s not a great choice for busy community tanks, because it can be outcompeted or get stressed easily.
Overall, the pygmy cory is a hardy Corydoras species that certainly deserves a spot in your tank!
2. Tail spot cory catfish (C. hastatus)
Amazon Basin Brazil, Paraguay
Corydoras hastatus is a rather rare seeing in the hobby. Remarkable, considering it’s one of the most widely spread species within the genus. It lives in a big part of the Amazon basin and in parts of Paraguay.
This cory catfish species is very similar to the pygmy cory and it often gets confused with it. However, once you know the differences it’s easy to distinguish them.
The easiest way is by looking at the stripe through the body of the fish. Pygmy cory catfish have a black stripe, while Tail spot cory catfish don’t have such stripe. Secondly, C. hastatus didn’t steal its name (tail spot cory catfish). In comparison to pygmy cory catfish, they have an almost full black tail-base.
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3. Salt and pepper cory catfish (C. habrosus)
Río Orinoco basin, Colombia and western Venezuela
>10 gallons, but 15 is recommended
1.5 inch (3.8cm)
Even though this species is often referred to as Dwarf Corydoras, it actually doesn’t belong to the dwarf lineage (lineage 4). It is part of lineage 9, along with other known species like C. adolfoi and C. panda.
Unfortunately, this species has been marked as “Near threatened” in the wild by The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Luckily it’s still readily available in the aquarium hobby, and it’s suited for beginners.
It gets slightly bigger than pygmy and tail spot cory catfish, making this species better suited for a 15 gallon tank, although 10 is possible.
Sometimes, this species gets confused with C. hastatus and C. pygmaeus, but it’s easy distinguishable by a quick look. C. hastatus has a brown color, and is covered by black spots (hence its common name, salt and pepper cory catfish).
4. Smudge spot cory catfish (C. similis)
Río Madeira basin, Brazil
>10 gallons, but 15 is recommended
1.5 inch (3.8cm)
Another less-known species on this list. which is commonly named after the small variating spots throughout its body.
Because its pretty sensitive towards water parameter fluctuations, the smudge spot cory catfish is less suited for beginners.
It can be confused with the Julii cory catfish or the false Julii cory catfish, because of the spot-pattern. It is however more colourful and in my opinion, on of the most beatiful cory catfish species to keep.
5. Shy cory catfish (C. gracilis)
At first glance, this species might not even look like a cory catfish but more like a type of loach. It is though! Looking closely at the shy cory, we can see that it has evolved to be camouflaged between twigs and leaves.
For this species, a biotope tank is thus the perfect natural environment. They will look great on sand covered with leaves and driftwood.
How big do cory catfish get?
Cory catfish reach an average size of 2-3 inch, although this highly depends on the species you are keeping. Some species even get 5 inches, while others like you read in this guide, barely reach one inch in size.
If you want to read more about cory catfish and their size, I highly recommend reading my full article on it. It covers many cory catfish species and their size, and how to keep them. Read the guide here.
What are the biggest cory catfish species?
Here are three of the biggest cory catfish species and their size:
Emerald Cory Catfish (C. splendens) – 4 inches
- Scleromystax barbatus – 5 inches
- Robust cory catfish (C. robustus) – 3.5 inches
Are female cory catfish bigger than males?
Cory catfish show sexual dimorphism, meaning both sexes can be distinguished based on visual appearance. Males are smaller than females and tend to be more streamlined. Keep in mind that in this guide, I’ve stated the average size. It can be that males are a little smaller and females a little bigger.
If you want to know everything about sexing cory catfish, please read the guide I wrote on it. It not only covers size differences, but also differences in fins and behavior. Read it here.
- “Corydoras hastatus” Seriously fish (https://www.seriouslyfish.com/species/corydoras-hastatus/)
- “Corydoras pygmaeus” Planet Catfish (https://www.planetcatfish.com/common/species.php?species_id=283)
- “Corydoras gracilis” Planet Catfish (https://www.planetcatfish.com/common/species.php?species_id=283)