Salt and Pepper Corydoras: Care, Size, Lifespan & Breeding


Scientific NameCorydoras Habrosus
Common Name(s)Salt and Pepper Cory / Dainty Cory / Checker Cory / Rio Salinas Cory / Venezuelan Pygmy Cory
OriginInland waters of South America in the Rio Orinoco Basin in Eastern Columbia and Western Venezuela (more specifically, left bank tributaries)
Temperature Range72° – 79° F
Water ParameterspH: 6.2 – 7.2, KH: 6 – 10 dKH
Adult size0.75 inches up to 1.4 inches
DietOmnivorous forager

Salt and Pepper Corydoras Facts:

  • Corydoras get their name from the Ancient Greek word korus, meaning ‘helmet’, and dora, meaning ‘skin, hide of an animal’. It is in reference to the rows of bony plates on their sides.
  • The name habrosus comes from the Ancient Greek word habrós, meaning ‘graceful, delicate’.
  • The genus Corydora is among one of the largest, and it contains over 150 different types of catfish.
  • In the wild, these fish are protected from predators by their body armor and their sharp venomous spines. Due to this defense they are generally left alone by predators.
  • Unlike most Corydoras, they are active during the daytime and the evening rather than night.
Salt and Pepper Corydoras. D.W., CC0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Salt and Pepper Corydoras Care

There is a lot of conflicting information about these little fish out there, and they are described as an intermediate level difficulty to keep and breed among aquarium hobbyists.

Color pattern is somewhat varied among the Salt and Pepper Corydora fish. The fish can be identified by its light tan body covered with black and shiny silver spotting and broken striping. This is a much smaller species than the similarly named Peppered Cory Catfish, and when doing research about the Salt and Pepper Corydora the information could be easily confused between the two species.

Salt and Pepper Corydoras are facultative air breathers, this means that they will go up to the top to take a breath of air not because they have to, but because they want to. They possess a modified, highly vascularised intestine which has evolved to facilitate uptake of atmospheric oxygen and aid survival in oxygen-deprived environments. In the aquarium you’ll occasionally see them rising to the surface to take in gulps of air.

They have stiffened pectoral-fin spines on their bodies, and they are capable of piercing human skin. The pain is described as a stinging feeling and it can be very painful. Caution and care should be exercised when handling them.

It is thought that secretions from the axillary glands at the base of each spine may even be mildly toxic or venomous.

As with all nano fish kept in aquariums, it is important to observe them and make sure that they are comfortable and eating well. They are a peaceful species of bottom dwellers who are well suited additions to any aquarium with other non aggressive nano fish.

Food and Diet

Salt and Pepper Corydoras are foraging omnivores. In the wild, the main food source for them is bottom-dwelling insects, insect larvae, and various worms. They also feed on some vegetable matter, and on small crustaceans.

In captivity, the Salt and Pepper Corydoras will readily accept sinking dried foods. It is recommended that they are fed a varied diet, as that is as close as possible to their diet in the wild. Frozen or live foods such as bloodworms, blackworms, and brine shrimp are a good choice for feeding.

The important thing when feeding these fish is to give them foods that sink to the bottom of their aquarium. The Salt and Pepper Corydoras will avoid foods that stay toward the top of the tank.

Size and Lifespan

The Salt and Pepper Corydoras is a small freshwater fish that can grow up to 1.4 inches in length at full maturity. With proper care, diet, and tank setup, aquarists should expect their fish to live up to 5 years.

Tank Requirements

It is recommended that the Salt and Pepper Corydoras is kept in a minimum 10 gallon tank. Since they are a bottom dwelling fish in their natural habitat, they would be more comfortable in a size 20 gallon long tank. For a fish that spends its time on the bottom of the tank, the dimensions of the bottom are much more important than the dimensions of the top. They need to be kept in groups with a minimum of 6 or more, adding in 2 gallons for each additional fish added to their tank.

A clean tank is key to the health of the Salt and Pepper Corydora. Their tank requires an excellent filter, and there are many different kinds on the market that would be suitable for their setup. A peat filtration system is recommended to help keep the water acidic, and the tannins released into the water will help bring out the coloring of the fish.

Fine sand mimics their natural habitat, but smooth gravel can be used in their aquarium setup, provided that it is kept very clean.

With the aquarium setup, you have your choice of whatever decor you want to put in the tank with them. The Salt and Pepper Corydora require some cover for comfort, with cave hideaways, driftwood, and many plants providing them with dark shaded areas to hide.

It is important to be careful when choosing decorations and substrate for the Salt and Pepper Corydora. Anything sharp can damage the fish’s sensitive barbels. Barbels are small fleshy filaments that grow out of the mouth or snout of the fish, and they use them to constantly root through the substrate for food.

Behavior

The Salt and Pepper Corydora is a peaceful fish that behaves in a similar way to other Corydora fish. They can be tank mates with tetras, danios, and some small cichlids. They are a calm fish that rarely show aggression to each other, even during mating.

They often like to rest in a motionless position on the bottom of the tank, and this behavior along with their small size could make them an easy target for a more aggressive fish.

Breeding

In breeding the Salt and Pepper Corydora, you should expect them to have similar breeding needs to other Corydora species. The females tend to be larger, and are more noticeably broader and deeper bodied than the males. A ratio of 2 or more males per female is required if possible.

When the females are ready to spawn, they will be visibly full of eggs and growing rounder. When this happens, performing a large water change with soft, cool, water and oxygenating it should be repeated daily until they spawn. This may have to be done several times before it triggers spawning.

The Salt and Pepper Corydora fish become very active during spawning. They mate in a T-shape position. The female releases her eggs, and holds them between her fins as they are fertilized. Spawning can occur several times between several different pairings of the fish.

Female fish will usually lay their eggs on a flat surface. You can expect to find their eggs attached to the glass of the aquarium, plants, or even the tank filter. Either the eggs, or the adults should be moved to another tank once the spawning is done. Salt and Pepper Corydoras will breed on their own if they are kept in a large enough group. While they can breed in their own tank, a specified breeding tank with the same water parameters as their main tank should be set up for them.

Incubation is normally 3-4 days and once the fry have fully-absorbed their yolk sacs they are able to eat small live foods. They are not the easiest to raise, and some aquarists may have trouble providing the required excellent water quality they need. Most breeders add a few drops of methylene blue, or an alder cone or two at this point in order to prevent the eggs from developing a common fungus.

Are Salt and Pepper Corydoras Algae Eaters?

The Salt and Pepper Corydora fish are a fish that spend most of their time on the bottom of the tank foraging for food, and as a result you will notice that your tank is cleaner. They should still be fed a varied diet and not relied on to keep the aquarium clean.

Fish Laboratory

With decades of collective fishkeeping experience, we are happy to share the knowledge that we've picked up along the way. Our goal at Fish Laboratory Aquatics is to keep publishing accurate content to help fishkeepers keep their fish healthy.

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