Corydoras Lifespan: How Long Do Cory Catfish Live?

Pepper Cory resting on a rock
© boban_nz/Shutterstock.com

Written by Sarah Psaradelis

Updated: June 26, 2023

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How Long Do Corydoras Live? infographic
The average lifespan of Corydoras is 3 to 5 years old.

The Corydoras or cory catfish are fascinating freshwater catfish that are often kept in tropical aquariums. However, wild cory catfish can be found in South America where they inhabit slow-moving streams and rivers. Most cory catfishes don’t live more than five years in total, although some species are an exception to this rule.

Whether you are planning to add cory catfish to your new aquarium, or you are purely fascinated by these fish, this article will keep you informed.

About Corydoras

A cory catfish.

Cory catfish can be found in a range of patterns and colors, such as bronze, albino, or pepper.

©iStock.com/Borislav

Corydora is a genus of small catfish that spend most of their time at the bottom of rivers, lakes, and streams. They belong to the Callichthyidae family, and the Corydoradinae subfamily and make up one of the largest genera of Neotropical fishes. Cory catfish don’t get much bigger than 4 inches in size. This makes it easier for many fish keepers to house them in groups.

While the exact number is unclear, its believed that there are over 170 valid species of Corydora. However, only a few of the species are kept in captivity and are popular in the trade. They are considered to be peaceful bottom-dwelling fish that forage for food at the bottom of the aquarium. Cory catfish prefer to spend most of their time with their own species, as they are highly social fish. So, if you plan to keep them in an aquarium, be sure that you house them in groups.

Appearance

Aside from the cory catfishes appealing temperament to fish keepers, their appearance is another noteworthy attribute. A cory catfish’s appearance can vary greatly depending on the species. Their colorations can range from brown, black, bronze, and albino, to green, golden, and even orange. You can also find cory catfish boasting various patterns and markings. Some of the more popular patterns include spots, stripes, bands, and multi-colored markings.

Nearly all cory catfish have three pairs of barbels located on the sides of their mouths. These barbels allow cory catfish to navigate their environment, such as locating food and other fish or identifying different plants and substrates. When these fish are kept in aquariums, they are quite fascinating to watch, and their appearances make them stand out in comparison to many other fish.

The Average Lifespan of Corydora

A cory catfish’s lifespan can vary according to three factors. This includes their species, genetics, and overall lifestyle. While the average lifespan of cory catfish is up to five years in captivity, many cory catfish don’t live that long. This is because poor breeding habits, disease, and inadequate care can drastically shorten this fish’s lifespan. In the wild, most cory catfish live for three to five years on average. This is the expected lifespan of most male and female cory catfish, regardless of their size.

An albino Cory Catfish on the bottom of an aquarium

Most cory catfish don’t live very long, and they have an average lifespan of three to five years.

©JuanCarlosPalauDiaz/Shutterstock.com

Their lifespan can be affected by their species because some species don’t live as long as others. It’s unknown as to which species of cory catfish live the longest, and researchers still aren’t sure of the exact number of cory catfish species out there as well. Some cory catfish can live longer than others, even if they were part of the same spawn. This could be due to the care they receive as well since a well-cared-for cory catfish is going to live longer than one that is poorly cared for.

Understanding Corydoras Life Stages

A cory catfish goes through similar life stages to many other freshwater aquarium fishes. With a generally short lifespan, most cory catfish grow and mature into adults fairly quickly. You can expect your cory catfish to be fully grown within six to nine months.

Now, let’s take a look at a cory catfish’s various life stages below, and what you can expect during each one.

Egg

Corydora aeneus female spawning with eggs in tropical freshwater aquarium

Female cory catfish have sticky eggs that can attach to flat surfaces like aquarium glass.

©JuanCarlosPalauDiaz/Shutterstock.com

A female cory catfish will lay around 10 to 50 eggs during a single spawn. These eggs are typically laid on leaves, substrate, rocks, decorations, and even along the glass of an aquarium. Cory catfish eggs can be identified as small, milky clusters of sticky eggs. After three to five days, any viable eggs will begin to hatch.

Fry

Once the eggs have hatched, several tiny cory catfish fry will be swimming about. They prefer to hide together because they feel safer in numbers. Within the first few weeks of the fry hatching, they will be difficult to see and have little to no resemblance to their parents. Cory catfish fry will spend most of their time hiding and avoiding predators while being difficult to spot if you aren’t paying close attention. The fry won’t eat the adult’s food yet and primarily feed off brine shrimp, micro worms, and other finely prepared foods.

Juvenile

After two to three months, the cory catfish fry will have developed into juveniles. They aren’t old enough to be sexually mature yet, but they will have started to develop their adult colors and markings. If you are a cory catfish breeder, you will be able to determine what they will look like as an adult.

Adulthood

After six months, the cory catfish will be considered adults. Most cory catfish will be sexually mature at this age and ready to reproduce, but some may still mature until nine months. Depending on the species, most adult cory catfish are 2 to 3 inches in size. However, there are some that can reach up to four inches as an adult. Certain cory catfish will only be fully grown at a year of age, especially if their environment and diet aren’t allowing them to grow at a normal rate.

How to Prolong Your Corydoras Lifespan

With only a short lifespan of three to five years, it is understandable that you may want to prolong your cory catfish’s lifespan. Fortunately, it is possible for you to keep your cory catfish healthy and happy enough to live up to their expected lifespan, or even exceed it.

Here are five tips that you can use to prolong your cory catfish’s lifespan:

Keeping them in groups

A trio of Julii Cory feeding on the bottom of an aquairum

Cory catfish are highly social and benefit from being kept in large groups of their own species.

©staras/Shutterstock.com

Ensure that your cory catfish are kept in groups of six or more. They should be in groups of the same species as they are highly social fish. If your cory catfish are kept alone or in pairs, they may begin to get stressed and spend more time hiding. Cory catfish that are always feeling stressed may be at risk of disease or a shortened lifespan.

A Spacious Tank

Cory catfish require a spacious tank, and not a small bowl or vase. You should ideally aim for a 20-gallon or larger rectangular tank or larger. The tank should have more horizontal than vertical room since cory catfish will spend most of their time at the bottom of the tank. Larger tanks not only give your cory catfish more space, but allow you to add more plants, decorations, and equipment that can keep them active and enriched.

Add a Heater

Cory catfish are tropical fish, so they require a heater in their tank. A heater is important because it keeps the water at a stable, warm temperature and prevents stressful fluctuations. The heater should be set to their optimal temperature range, between 70 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

Good Water Quality

Keeping your cory catfish’s water in good condition will help prolong their lifespan. Poor water conditions with high ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels can kill your cory catfish within a few hours. The aquarium should be fully cycled before placing any cory catfish inside. It should also be equipped with a suitable filtration system. Regular water changes can also keep the water in pristine conditions and dilute potential pollutants in the water.

A Good Diet

Lastly, cory catfish should be fed a high-quality omnivorous diet every day. This ensures that your cory catfishes are receiving all the nutrients and minerals they need to stay healthy. As bottom feeders, you should opt for a sinking pellet rather than a flake food for cory catfish. You can also give your cory catfishes an occasional treat like algae wafers or boiled green peas.

With an appropriately sized tank, heater, filter, and good water quality, most captive-raised cory catfish can live for up to five years. If you are luckily, some cory catfish will live slightly longer than this.


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About the Author

Sarah is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering aquatic pets, rodents, arachnids, and reptiles. Sarah has over 3 years of experience in writing and researching various animal topics. She is currently working towards furthering her studies in the animal field. A resident of South Africa, Sarah enjoys writing alongside her pets and almost always has her rats perched on her shoulders.

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