Pepper corys are small, peaceful fish that can help keep the bottom of your tank sparkling clean. They're also fun, interesting pets that can vocalize during courtship. Another habit they have is "winking" at their owners; their articulated eyes allow them to tilt the eye down and back up without moving the head.
Like other corys, this species will sometimes dart to the surface of the water and appear to gulp air. They are able to use atmospheric oxygen, so it is normal to see them do this from time to time. Best kept in small groups, they're a great addition to a community freshwater tank.
Common Names: Blue leopard corydoras, peppered catfish, peppered cory
Scientific Name: Corydoras paleatus
Adult Size: 2 to 3 inches
Life Expectancy: 5 years
|Origin||Río de la Plata Basin, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Suriname, and Uruguay|
|Social||Peaceful schooling fish|
|Tank Level||Bottom dweller|
|Minimum Tank Size||15 gallon|
|Diet||Omnivore, enjoys live foods|
|pH||6.0 to 7.0|
|Hardness||Up to 12 dGH|
|Temperature||72 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit (22 to 26 degrees Celsius)|
Origin and Distribution
Pepper corys are native to South America, where they were first discovered by Charles Darwin during his well-known travels aboard the HMS Beagle during the 1830s. Their home includes the rivers and streams of the Río de la Plata Basin, which is one of the world’s largest river basins. Peppers have been found in rivers, streams, and small lakes in Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Suriname, and Uruguay. They are among the earliest fish to be captive-bred for the aquarium trade, having first been bred in captivity in Paris, France, in 1878.
The scientific name for this fish is derived from the Latin words cory (meaning helmet), doras (meaning skin), and palea (meaning chaff or strips of metal foil), a reference to their natural coloration. Pepper corys remain one of the most commonly seen, and most popular, of the Corydoras genus in the aquarium trade. Most specimens sold in shops are captive bred by commercial breeders in Florida and Asia.
Colors and Markings
Corydoras paleatus, known commonly as the pepper cory, is possibly the most commonly kept of all Corydoras species, with the possible exception of Corydoras aenus, or bronze cory. The body of this species is rather stocky and covered with two rows of bony plates, also known as scutes. The head is also covered in large bony plates, from which its scientific name is derived. On the upper jaw are two pairs of barbels, which aid the fish in rummaging through the substrate for morsels of food.
The body coloration is pale olive to tan, with a green iridescent sheen. A network of dark green-black markings covers the body, with no two specimens looking exactly the same. The fins are relatively pale, and the dorsal fin has a dark splotch on the first few rays, while the caudal fin has a sprinkling of fine spots. This species has an adipose fin, which has a spot at the upper tip. Cultivated varieties exist in albino and a gold variety sometimes referred to as golden paleatus. Wild-caught specimens have more contrast in the patterning, as well as more iridescence than most captive-bred specimens.
Great for small to large aquariums, this species should be kept in groups of three or more. Ideal tankmates are other small fish, such as small peaceful barbs, danios, livebearers, killifish, small tetras, and dwarf cichlids. Keep in mind that this species prefers colder water, so avoid keeping with species that require the higher end of tropical temperatures. Also, don't keep them with large or aggressive fish.
As with the other members of this family, the pepper cory has razor-sharp barbs under each eye, below the adipose fin, and in the front of the dorsal fin. They are intended to deter larger fish from swallowing them. These can, however, pose problems when attempting to net this little catfish, and care should be taken when doing so. This species is very peaceful, and although quite active during the day, they are also known for sitting in one spot for long periods of time, perusing the area to spot bits of food. They prefer the company of others of their own and do best when kept in shoals.
An interesting behavior in this species is the ability to produce sound by abduction (movement away from the middle of the body) of its pectoral fins. This behavior is generally seen during courtship or in juveniles when they are socially distressed.
Pepper Cory Habitat and Care
As a bottom dweller that spends their days digging through the substrate, this species should be provided with a substrate of either sand or fine smooth-edged gravel, preferably dark in color. Live plants are ideal, but artificial plants can be used as well. The key is to provide plenty of hiding spots to make them feel safe and comfortable. Floating plants are a good option, as this species prefers more subdued lighting. Driftwood or bogwood is also a good means of giving this species places to hide.
Pepper Cory Diet and Feeding
Pepper corys relish live foods but also do well with frozen, flake, granules, and even pellet or tablet foods. Live foods can include bloodworms, brine shrimp, tubifex, and white worms. They are primarily bottom feeders, and although they will occasionally rise to upper levels to grab a tidbit, they dine almost exclusively on the bottom.
Therefore, make sure that food is reaching them. Sinking pellets or tablets are a good way to ensure they are getting their fair share of the food. Although they are active during the day, they will often feed at night, so drop a few sinking tablets in the tank just before turning off the lights to ensure they are well fed. Deliver live food items by tongs; these may be lodged around tank decor at the base.
Female pepper corys are generally larger overall than males and more rounded in the belly. When viewed from above the difference is more obvious, as the female is much wider than the male. The male has a significantly larger dorsal fin, and their anal fin is more pointed than the female. Males are often more colorful than females.
Breeding the Pepper Cory
A breeder pair or a trio of two males and one female should be selected. Some breeders favor an even higher male to female ratio to ensure success. The breeders should be conditioned by feeding small live foods such as bloodworms, brine shrimp, daphnia, and tubifex. These fish are egg layers that will eat their own eggs, which means a separate tank for spawning and raising the fry is necessary.
When ready to spawn, the female will increase noticeably in girth, and the fish will generally be more active. The belly of the female may display a reddish hue, as will the first ray of the pectoral fin. At this point, perform a large water change (approximately 25 percent) with water that is colder than the water temperature in the tank. The intention is to drop the water temperature by about five degrees, simulating the rainy season, which in turn will trigger spawning.
The initial stages of spawning are indicated by the male swimming over the back of the female, close enough that his barbels may touch her back. Males will often exhibit a shivering behavior during the spawning ritual. Eventually, the male will assume the traditional “T” position, with his body being at a right angle to the nose of the female.
This position triggers the release of sperm as well as one to 10 eggs, which the female will grasp between her cupped pelvic fins. Once the eggs have been fertilized, the pair separates and the female deposits the adhesive eggs on a surface that she has already chosen and cleaned for the purpose. This may take place on the glass, filter tubes, or plant leaves.
Once the eggs have been deposited, the males will again chase the female and the mating ritual will take place again. This is repeated until 200 to 300 eggs have been fertilized and deposited throughout the aquarium. Spawning can continue for an hour or more. Once spawning is complete, the adults should be removed from the tank. In approximately four to six days, the eggs will hatch, although this will vary depending on water temperature. Colder water may prolong hatching by as much as two days.
Once the eggs have hatched, the fry can be fed very small foods such as cyclops, freshly hatched brine shrimp, microworms, or commercially prepared fry foods. Maintain good water quality by performing frequent water changes.
More Pet Fish Species and Further Research
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