Three Stripe Cory (Corydoras trilineatus)

Corydoras trilineatus
Corydoras trilineatus. Sychriscar

Three Stripe Corys are small catfish that are attractive and easy to breed. As bottom dwellers, they enjoy sifting through gravel and other substrates in search of food, which helps to keep the aquarium free of detritus. Three Stripe Corys are also very similar to other much more expensive species such as Julii Cory; you can add multiple Three Stripe Corys to your aquarium for a very reasonable price. 

Breed Overview

Common Names: False Julii Cory, Leopard Catfish, Leopard Cory, Three Line Catfish, Three Lined Cory, Three Stripe Cory, Trilineatus Cory

Scientific Name: Corydoras trilineatus

Adult Size: 2.5 inches

Life Expectancy: 10 years


Family Callichthyidae
Origin Amazon River basin; Peru, Rio Ampiyacu, Rio Acayaii, and the Yarina Cocha

Peaceful, keep in small schools

Tank Level Bottom
Minimum Tank Size 10 gallon
Diet: Omnivorous, accepts all foods
Breeding Egglayer
Care Easy


Hardness to 18 dGH
Temperature 72–78 F (22–26 C)

Origins and Distribution

Corydoras trilineatus, commonly referred to as the Three Stripe or Leopard Cory, originates from the central Amazon River basin, in Brazil, Colombia, and Peru, as well as in coastal rivers of Suriname. They inhabit small creeks, rivers, and ponds in flooded forest areas. Quite often, this species is mistakenly sold as a far less common Cory species, Corydoras julii. The two species are very similar and have been crossbred, resulting in hybrids that carry traits of both. Corydoras leopardus is another species that bear similar markings.

Colors and Markings

This species bears a resemblance to two other Cory species, Corydoras julii, and Corydoras leopardus. Each species has spotted bodies and a large black spot on the dorsal fin. However, closer inspection reveals differences between them. Corydoras julii has finer spots on the head that are not connected, and it is smaller overall than Corydoras trilenatus. Corydoras leopardus has a far more elongated head than the other two species. Most Corydoras julii sold in stores are, in fact, Corydoras trilenatus.

Corydoras trilenatus reaches a maximum adult size of 2 1/2 inches and is covered in overlapping scales referred to as plates or scutes. The body is pale silvery gray, with a narrow dark stripe that runs along the lateral line from the gill cover to the base of the tail. On either side of this stripe is a pale space, beyond which are rows of spots. The caudal fin is transparent with rows of dark spots that form stripes vertically through the tail. The dorsal fin is colorless with a large black spot on the upper portion. The adipose and anal fins are also transparent with a row of spots running through them. The head is covered in spots that combine in a mottled pattern, and the mouth is surrounded by sensitive barbels.

As with many catfish species, the pectoral, dorsal, and adipose fins have a spiny fin ray that can be locked, making them difficult for a predator to swallow them. This fin feature can be problematical when netting this species, so keep that in mind when attempting to move them. Some owners find it easier to catch them in a solid container rather than a net. Another interesting adaptation in this species is the ability to swallow air and absorb oxygen via a specialized gut. It is not uncommon to see them dart to the surface periodically to take a gulp of air.


Like all Corydoras, this species should be kept in schools, preferably a half dozen or more. They are peaceful but should not be kept with large or aggressive species. They do well with small to medium-sized companions, such as Danios, Dwarf Cichlids, Gouramis, Rasboras, Tetras, and other small peaceful catfish species.

Habitat and Care

A tank with a soft substrate, such as sand, with plenty of hiding places as well as some open spaces, make this species the most comfortable. Driftwood, plants, and dim lighting complete the habitat nicely. They tolerate a range of water conditions but prefer soft to the moderately hard water with an acidic to neutral pH. Maintaining good water quality is important for this species, as well as any Corydoras species. Contrary to what some reports state, Corydoras are not tolerant of salt, and its use should be avoided. Also, do not introduce this species into a newly set up aquarium, as they are not tolerant of changes in water chemistry.


An omnivorous species, in nature the Three Lined Cory feeds on insects, inverts, worms, and plant matter. Although they greatly enjoy live foods when they are available, the mainstay of their diet in the aquarium should be a high-quality sinking tablet or pelleted food. They will scavenge the bottom for a food that is leftover from the surface and mid-water feeders, but that rarely is sufficient to keep them healthy. Supplement the pellets with frozen live foods, or small live worms when they are available.

Sexual Differences

Sexual differences are more noticeable when this species is viewed from above. Females have a broader body that is clearly rounder than the male. Overall the female is larger. When viewed from the side, the rounder belly of the female tends to make their face side up a bit from the tank bottom.

Breeding the Three Striped Cory

Three Striped Corys are relatively easy to breed, using techniques similar to those used when breeding other Cory species. Ideally, a breeding tank separate from the main tank should be used, which can then be used to grow the fry. In lieu of a breeder tank, a grow-out tank can be set up to move the eggs to for hatching and rearing. The breeding tank should have very fine smooth gravel or sand for substrate. A bare bottom is also suitable. Water should be soft with a slightly acidic to neutral pH (6.5 to 7.0), at a temperature of approximately 75 F (24 C). Filtration should be gentle to avoid drawing small fry into the filter. A sponge filter is an ideal choice. Provide a spawning mop or fine-leafed plant such as Java Moss

As with other Cory species, when breeding, there should be more males than females. A ratio of three males per two females, or two males per one female, is suitable. Condition the breeder groups with live foods, such as bloodworms or daphnia. Use frozen or freeze-dried counterparts if actual live foods are not available. When the belly of the female becomes plump with eggs, perform a water change with very soft water that is several degrees lower than the water in the tank. This will help trigger spawning. If spawning does not occur, continue with daily large water changes as previously described. Increasing aeration also aids in triggering spawning.

Spawning typically begin with increased activity, with the males actively pursuing the females. When a female chooses to accept a male, they will assume the well-known “t position," in which the female is positioned with her head against the mid-portion of the male. The male will clasp the barbels of the female with his pectoral fins, while the female forms a basket with her pelvic fins, into which she will deposit up to four eggs. It is believed the sperm pass through the gills of the female and are directed to the eggs being fertilized. Once the eggs are fertilized, the female will find a desirable spot and attach the adhesive egg. This process will continue until 100 to 150 eggs have been laid.

The adults will not guard, or care for, the eggs once they have been laid. In fact, they will consume the eggs and must be separated from them if the fry are to be preserved. Eggs will readily fungus, and many are lost this way. Adding a few drops of methylene blue to the water will reduce the chances of losing eggs to fungus. Eggs may still fungus, so watch them closely and remove any eggs that develop fungus, or the fungus will spread and kill all the eggs. Cherry shrimp may be kept in the grow-out tank, as they will consume fungused eggs while leaving healthy eggs untouched.

Eggs will hatch in three to five days and should be fed freshly hatched brine shrimp, micro-worms, or rotifers. Very fine fry food is also an option, but with any food, you need to remove any uneaten portions promptly. Any deterioration in water chemistry can be fatal to the young fry.

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