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, this list of small Corydoras types is the perfect beginner’s guide.

Small cory catfish species

There are several small cory catfish that do well in small aquariums. Here are my 5 favorite small Corydoras types:

Species
Common name
Size
Corydoras pygmaeus
Pygmy cory catfish
0.8 inch (2.1cm)
Corydoras hastatus
Tail-spot cory catfish, dwarf cory catfish
1.0 inch(2.5cm)
Corydoras habrosus
Salt and pepper cory catfish
1.0 inch (3.8cm)
Corydoras similis
Smudge spot cory catfish
1.5 inch (3.2cm)
Corydoras gracilis
Shy cory catfish
0.9 inch (2.3cm)

Fun fact: originally, there was thought only one dwarf cory catfish species existed: Corydoras habrosus. Later however, scientists realized some species had been wrongly classified and species like C. pygmaeus and C. hastatus were described

1. Pygmy cory catfish (C. pygmaeus)

Photo by Johnny Jenssen
Care
Overview
Distribution
Madeira basin, Brazil
Tank size
>10 gallons
Temperature
72-78°F (22-26°C)
Difficulty
Beginner

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.

Photo by mobile_gnome

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)

Care
Overview
Distribution
Amazon Basin Brazil, Paraguay
Tank size
>10 gallons
Temperature
72-78°F (22-26°C)
Difficulty
Beginner

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.

3. Salt and pepper cory catfish (C. habrosus)

Photo by Adam B.
Care
Overview
Distribution
Río Orinoco basin, Colombia and western Venezuela
Tank size
>10 gallons, but 15 is recommended
Temperature
72-78°F (22-26°C)
Difficulty
Beginner
Size
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)

Care
Overview
Distribution
Río Madeira basin, Brazil
Tank size
>10 gallons, but 15 is recommended
Temperature
72-78°F (22-26°C)
Difficulty
Intermediate
Size
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)

Photo by HJ Chen

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.

Related questions

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.

Resources

  • “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)