Three Stripe Cory Fish Species Profile

Characteristics, Origin, and Helpful Information for Hobbyists

Three Stripe Cory Fish

Buchling / CC BY-SA 3.0 / Wikimedia Commons

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. As with all of the cory catfish, their breeding rituals is an interesting display of parental investment, although these fish do not rear their young.

Species 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
Social Peaceful, keep in small schools
Tank Level Bottom
Minimum Tank Size 10 gallon
Diet: Omnivorous, accepts all foods
Breeding Egglayer
Care Easy
pH 5.8 to 7.2
Hardness to 18 dGH
Temperature 72 to 78 F (22 to 26 C)

Origin 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 related species that bears similar markings.

Colors and Markings

Corydoras trilineatus 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, and 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. This fin feature can be problematic when netting this species, so some owners find it easier to catch them in a solid, transparent container rather than a net.


Like all Corydoras, this species should be kept in schools of 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 catfish species.

Three Stripe Cory Habitat and Care

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

Three Stripe Cory Diet and Feeding

An omnivorous species in the wild, the three-lined cory feeds on insects, inverts, worms, and plant matter. Although they benefit greatly from live foods whenever they are available, their diet in the home aquarium should include a high-quality sinking tablet or pelleted food. They will scavenge the bottom for food that is leftover from the surface and from the mid-water feeders, but that will not be sufficient to keep them healthy. Supplement the pellets with frozen live foods or small live worms fed on tongs when they are available.

Gender 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 even when viewed from the side.

Breeding the Three Striped Cory

Three-striped corys are relatively easy to breed, using the techniques for breeding other cory species. Ideally, set up a breeding tank separate from the main tank 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 a very fine smooth gravel or a sandy substrate. A bare bottom is also suitable. Water should be soft with a slightly acidic to neutral pH (6.5 to 7.0) and maintain 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 to two females is suitable. Condition the breeder group 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, repeat these daily large water changes as previously described. Increasing aeration also aids to trigger spawning.

Spawning typically begins with increased activity, with the males actively pursuing 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 that 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 to attach these adhesive eggs. This process will continue until 100 to 150 eggs have been laid.

The adults will neither guard nor 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 become infected with 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 it will quickly spread. Cherry shrimp may be kept in the grow-out tank, as they will consume any fungused eggs while leaving healthy eggs untouched.

Eggs will hatch in three to five days and should then 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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