Panda cory care guide

Panda cory (Corydoras panda) is one of the most glamorous catfish among Corydoras species. This is a peaceful, not demanding, schooling freshwater fish. It eats all types of food and behaves very actively in a tank.

Habitat in the wild

The panda cory inhabits in Ucayali river basin, in Peru (upper Amazon river). It can dwell both in clean and muddy waters of streams and tributaries, quite often it swims near sandy bottom. In this area rivers are filled with meltwater flowing down from the snowy Andes, that’s why panda cory is used to fast water flow and quite low water temperature (about 19 °C).

The first person to keep this fish was Randolph H. Richards in 1968. However, this unusual fish has been living without any name for 4 years more. Only in 1971 the catfish got its easy to remember name – panda cory.

Scientific NameCorydoras panda
Common NamesPanda cory; panda fish; panda catfish
Ease of keepingEasy
Lifespan5 years and more
Tank size40 liters (8.8 gallons)
Tank typeCommunity of fishes
DietOmnivorous bottom feeder
Temperature72-78 °F (22-26 °C)
Water hardness9–20 dGH
Size2 inches (5 cm)


The panda cory has a nice pattern on its body. It’s a combination of dark and light stripes, that resembles giant panda coloring (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), which actually gave the name to the fish. Its body color varies from white to pale pink with three clearly seen dark spots.

The first one starts on the upper side of the head and covers its eyes, like a black spot around real panda’s eyes. The second dark spot covers the dorsal fin and the third one is where its tail begins.

The catfish belongs to Corydoras family – it has two rows of horny scales along its body. The name of the kind consists of two Greek words: Cory – a helmet and Doras – skin.

Just like all other representatives of Corydoras family, the fish has two rows of overlaying scales and three pairs of barbels. The fish has quite fat and flattened from sides body. Maxilla and mandible of the catfish inferior mouth have a pair of barbels each. The dorsal fin is bilobular. It is black which is transparent from top. Female has it rounded and male’s dorsal fin is pointed and longer than that of the female.

Adult panda cory species can be up to 2 inches (5 cm) long, however, quite often they are smaller than that. The lifespan is about 3-5 years.

Difficulties in keeping

This catfish is the best choice for a beginner aquarist. It is peaceful, enduring and easy to keep and breed.

Panda cory used to be a very expensive and highly demanded fish, when it first appeared on the market at the end of 1970-s. The fish is still extremely popular, though it has become far more available.

Keeping in a tank

This fish will feel great in a tank created to be like Amazon river biotope, which is quite easy to do. Minimal tank capacity should be from 40 liters (8.8 gallons). You should use river sand or small rounded gravels (not to damage the fish barbels) as the tank bottom substrate and add some branchy snags into the tank.

Put a handful of dry leaves (oak or beech leaves will do) – they will complete the natural look of the tank. Panda cory will feel comfortable in thickly planted tank, where it can hide among the plant leaves. Also you should leave empty areas in a tank with free access to the tank bottom to feed the fish.

Catfish as a rule dwells in the bottom water layer.

To make the tank conditions closer to the natural ones (black water) you can add a small clean bag with peat for tanks into the filter and use dim tank lighting. Despite the fact that all Crydoras species in the wild inhabit in soft water, in tanks they easily adapt to almost any water hardness.

However, the panda cory doesn’t like the presence of sodium chloride or sea salt in the tank water.

Having free access to the water surface is a must for Corydoras catfish, since it has intestinal respiration. Which means that it can breathe with atmospheric air if necessary. This is possible due to its modified intestinal tract that ensures oxygen intake from the atmosphere.

This feature helps the fish to survive if for some reason the oxygen content in the water is low. In a thank this may show as the fish goes up to the tank water surface to get some atmospheric air. Thus, when tank water conditions get worse it is quite natural, that the number of times the fish does up to the water surface increases.

It is important to maintain proper tank conditions – to perform weekly water renew of about 30% of the total water amount. The fish is sensitive to improper care and dirty tank substrate, so it may even lose its barbels.

The thing is, that ammonia and nitrates accumulate in the near bottom layer and fishes that dwell there become the first to suffer from the contamination.


Panda cory is an omnivorous fish and you won’t have any trouble with feeding it. You can give it special dry food (pellets and flakes) as well as live and frozen food (tubifex, daphnia, brine shrimp, bloodworm) as an addition to the main diet.

Tank mates

Panda cory is a very calm, not aggressive schooling fish that should always be in a group of its kind (not less than 3-5 species). This peaceful fish will do for most of home aquariums.

You may choose its tank mates from: guppy, platy, honey gourami and dwarf gourami, betta, various kinds of peaceful catfish and others. The fish you definitely shouldn’t keep together with cory is all kinds of aggressive fishes like oscar, green terror, jaguar cichlid.

Gender differences: male vs female

The panda cory female is larger and it has more rounded abdomen. If you look from above, you can see that females are fatter than males. Also we should mention that male body is more smooth and it is shorter.


You will need a tank of 30-40 liters capacity with dim lighting for breeding. But you can make the place where the female will lay eggs brightly lightened. As a rule this is a tank wall or plants with wide leaves.

Tank water parameters for spawning should be the following: temperature 20 – 26°C, hardness 4-15°, pH 6.0-7.2. Pay attention to aeration, filtration and water renew.

The latter should be performed every day. It should be 30-50% of the total tank volume, the water should be cool. This is done to make the water temperature in the tank 1-3 °C lower.

Another good spawning trigger is atmospheric pressure decrease. It is desirable to keep the males and females separately for a week. Put 1 panda cory female and 2 males into the tank. The males start haunting the female all over the tank. One of the males clasps the female over so that its urogenital opening is near its mouth.

The panda cory takes the milt into her mouth and greases the substrate with it. Spawning occurs the next morning. In average the female lays about 70 milky-yellow eggs about 1-2 mm in diameter. Remove the fishes from the tank after the spawning is over. The egg stage lasts for 4-6 days.

Juveniles start to swim and feed the very next day after hatching. You should start feeding them with brine shrimp nauplii, small zooplankton, micro sized food.

When panda cory breeding you may either remove the couple from the spawning tank or remove the eggs into the tank for incubation. At that the latter must contain the same water as the spawning tank.

Wherever you place the tank it’s better to put a few drops of methylene blue into the water to prevent fungi growth. This is usually a preventive measure. Some aqua hobbyists use another efficient way – some species of freshwater shrimps remove fungi spores from the healthy eggs.

Cherry shrimps will do this task perfectly well. They will eat the infected eggs, but leave the healthy ones safe and sound.