Updated: May 22
One of the aquariums I care for is home to a group of gregarious panda corys (Corydoras panda). They are always active, exploring the vegetation, and have actually bred at least once. C. panda are a great addition to the right aquarium. They are entertaining to watch, are great at sifting sandy substrates and cleaning up food particles at the bottom of the aquarium. They prefer pristine water and do well in groups.
C. panda are a relatively new species to western science. They were first collected by Mr. Randolph H. Richards during a Cambridge Veterinary expedition to Peru in 1968. The species wasn’t described and named until 1971 when Nijssen and Isbrucker examined the collected specimens at the British Museum of Natural History.
C. panda have a similar shape to most Corydoras species. They are broadest at the back of the head, near the anterior of the dorsal fin. They are armored catfish of the family Callichthyidae, and have scutes (modified scales). The name Corydoras, in Greek, means helmet skin.
Like most Corydoras, C. panda have barbs in the first spines of their pectoral and dorsal fins. Caution should be used when netting this species as the barbs can easily become caught up in the netting. Soft, fine mesh nets are best.
Members of the Corydoras genus have three pairs of barbels, used for sensory reception.
C. panda have a pinkish to orange, off-white base color. They have black pigment bands over the eyes, dorsal fin, and at the base of the caudal fin (caudal peduncle).
Female C. panda are broader and slightly larger than males. Males have more streamlined bodies. This is most obvious when viewed from above. There is no fin or color dimorphism between the sexes.
Female C. panda can grow up to approximately two inches with males being slightly smaller.
C. panda are native to South America. They are found in Peru and Ecuador throughout the Aquas and Amarillae Rivers, within the Pachitea and Ucayali River systems, in the upper Amazon River basin. These waters are mineral deficient and slightly acidic.
C. panda inhabit cooler, clear, fast-flowing, and oxygenated waters. Their distribution is close to the Andes Mountain ranges which replenish the rivers with cooler waters. Their habitat’s temperature varies between 60 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. C. panda live amongst the soft sand and fine gravel of well vegetated portions of the river.
In the aquarium, C. panda prefer fine substrate, ample, live vegetation and plenty of caves, driftwood, and places to take shelter. They are most active amongst the bottom of the aquarium, seeking out food particles.
C. panda are very social and prefer to live with members of their own species. They are known to thrive remarkably better when in groups. They are peaceful toward other species as well. Depending on the size of your aquarium, a minimum grouping of six to eight individuals is ideal. The minimum tank size for a group of C. panda should be at least 50 gallons.
Aquarium Water Parameters
C. panda prefer slightly acidic water with a pH between 7 and 6.4. They do best in softer water, but can tolerate a general hardness up to 12 degrees of general hardness (dGH). Much like in the wild, they prefer cooler waters. They thrive in aquarium temperatures between 68 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit.
C. panda need pristine water. All fish should be kept in clean, non-toxic water. However, C. panda is used to fast-flowing, clear, pristine rivers near the mountains. They are not adaptable to nutrient rich waters and will not do well when nitrogen and phosphorous are allowed to accumulate.
C. panda primarily consumes animal matter. They find worms, insects, crustaceans, isopods, and other small animals amongst the substrate. They will consume a protein heavy flake flood, but should be fed a freeze dried or frozen bloodworm, daphnia, or small shrimp multiple times a week. Occasionally feeding live foods is an incredible way to enjoy the full hunting and feeding behavior of C. panda.
Like with many fish that live near the equator, the rainy season comes with cooler, well oxygenated, food-rich, waters which initiate spawning. C. panda are no exception. Although it has been noted that C. panda are less triggered to spawn by the addition of cooler water than other Corydoras species.
When spawning has been triggered, males will actively pursue females as they begin to develop eggs within their reproductive tracts. When a male succeeds in courtship, using his barbels to entice the female, the couple will take the “T-position” as it is called, with the male perpendicular to the female’s anterior, clasping her with his pectoral fins.
The female then releases one egg at a time which is then fertilized by the male before the female carefully deposits it within her nest. C. panda females seem to prefer dense, carpeted vegetation, such as java moss, but are known to deposit eggs in other mediums as well. The female can lay up to 25 eggs from multiple males over a four to five hour period. This method ensures strong genetic diversity.
Three to four days after fertilization, the eggs will begin to hatch. At four millimeters, the fry are nearly invincible. It will take 10 to 12 weeks for the fry to reach 12 to 14 millimeters, at which point they resemble miniature adults in their shape and coloration.
C. panda fry do best when temperatures are kept at or below 71 degrees Fahrenheit. Above 77 degrees will cause heat stress and death. New water during water changes should be mixed to match the existing aquarium water as closely as possible in hardness, pH, and temperature.
It is best to feed C. panda fry a mix of micro and macroscopic planktonic organisms such as protozoa, ciliates, unicellular algae, and small invertebrates. However, broods have been known to survive on prepared foods as well.
A Friendly Addition
The panda cory is a great addition to the right aquarium. If you have a well planted setup with plenty of open swimming space and places to retreat, in at least 50 gallons, consider C. panda. They do well with other peaceful community fish and love to be in decent sized groups.
The larger your tank the more individuals you can have in a group. Six to eight individuals in a 55 to 75 gallon setup is a good starting place, but if you have over 100 gallons, C. panda will thrive in groups of 12 or more. Keep track of your bioload by testing your phosphates and nitrates before each water change, or once a week. This will give you an idea of how much organic waste is accumulating in your system over time. If you are testing above 20 ppm of nitrate before your water change, your bioload might be too high. You can compensate by adding anaerobic bacterial filtration, live plants, or larger or more frequent water changes.
6.4 - 7
2 - 6 dKH
2 - 12 dGH
68 - 77 degrees Fahrenheit
Low - High
40 U.S. gallons
Peaceful toward all species.
Nijssen, H. & Isbrucker, I.J.H. 1971 “Two new species of the catfish genus Corydoras from Brazil and Peru (Pisces, Siluriformes, Callichthyidae).” Zoological Museum of the University of Amsterdam. 18: 239.
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