Minimum Tank Size: 10 Gallons (38 Litres)
Care Level: Easy
Water Conditions: 6.0-8.0 pH Soft to Moderately Hard
Temperature: 64-73 °F (18-23 °C)
Maximum Size: 2.3 inches (5.9 cm)
The pepper catfish (Corydoras paleatus), also known as the peppered cory, or the blue leopard corydoras, is a peaceful catfish, that is one of the most popular corydoras to keep. It is native to Uruguay and Brazil, though there have been reports of populations in several other South American countries. At this time, its exact range remains uncertain.
They are primarily found in rivers, though it can also be found in streams, ponds and lakes. It is highly adaptable to water conditions, and is able to ingest oxygen from the surface, which allows them to live in low oxygen environments. Even in near perfect conditions, they will often dart to the surface for air, so don’t be alarmed if you spot them gulping air at the surface.
Peppered corys remain relatively small in the home aquarium, and they will grow to a maximum of 2.3 inches (5.9 cm). The males are smaller than the females, and will usually only grow to about 2 inches (5 cm) in length. On average, peppered corys will live for about ten years, though well cared for individuals have been known to live as long as fifteen years.
Peppered corys can be kept in a tank as small as 10 gallons (38 litres), but to provide them with the best possible environment, it’s recommended to provide them with at least a 20 gallon (70 litre), long tank. As they spend much of their time on the bottom of the tank, the dimensions of the bottom are more important than its height.
They are a very peaceful fish, and even during mating they rarely show aggression to each other. Because of this, they can easily be kept with any other peaceful community fish, and they are perfect for most tetras, danios and even some small cichlids.
Peppered corys are a schooling fish, and should be kept in groups of at least five or more at all time. To truly experience their natural behavior, many aquarists recommend keeping them in groups of ten or more, which will both reduce their stress levels, and provide you with impressive displays of schooling.
Because they constantly root for food in the substrate with their sensitive barbels, gravel or other sharp substrates should be avoided. In fact, anything sharp in the aquarium can damage their barbels, so choose decorations with care, and a small grain sand is usually the best choice for the substrate.
In addition to a soft substrate, their tank should also include numerous aquatic plants, with plenty of driftwood or decorations that they can hide in. They prefer a dimly lit aquarium, or barring that – one that is heavily shaded from thick plant growth.
Peppered corys are omnivores, and feed on crustaceans, plant matter, worms and insects in the wild. This diet should be reproduced as closely as possible in the home aquarium, and this can be accomplished through feeding them a high quality sinking pellet, along with regular feedings of live or frozen food.
Their favorite live foods tend to be ones that sink, and they will greedily accept blackworms and brine shrimp. And mid or top dwelling food like mosquito larvae or dapnia tend to be ignored by them.
Peppered corys will accept a much wider range of frozen food, and they enjoy bloodworms, blackworms, daphnia, brine shrimp and anything else that will sink to the bottom.
Peppered corys breed in the same manner as other corydoras catfish, and will usually breed on their own if kept in large enough groups. While they can be breed in their main tank, for better success rates they should be placed in a breeding tank, with a ratio of two males for every female.