Panda Cory Catfish for Your Aquarium

Corydoras panda

Panda Cory
Panda Cory. Haplochromis

The Panda Cory is a South American species of catfish, Corydoras panda, with a black and off-white coloration pattern similar to a Giant Panda. Explore how to give this species a good home in your aquarium.

Basics of the Panda Cory

  • Scientific Name: Corydoras panda
  • Common Name: Panda Catfish, Panda Cory, Panda Corydoras
  • Family: Callichthyidae
  • Origin: Peru; Ucayali river system
  • Adult Size: 2 inches (5 cm)

Origin and Distribution for the Panda Catfish

This popular Corydoras species originates from Peru, where it is found in the Ucayali river system, the main headwater of the Amazon River. First collected by H.R. Richards in 1968, the species wasn't given its name until three years later when it was assigned the name Corydoras panda by Nijssen and Isbrücker. The name was given in honor of the Giant Panda of China, who has a pale body and black markings over the eyes and extremities, which are mimicked by this attractive Cory.

The region from which the Panda Cory originates is known for blackwater conditions, the waters being on the acidic side and quite soft due to lack of minerals.

Additionally, these waters are a bit cooler than other tropical areas, running in the mid to low 70's on average. When initially introduced to the aquarium hobby, specimens were wild caught, causing them to be rather expensive to purchase. Eventually captive breeding programs greatly reduced the price, and as a result, the species has become not only quite inexpensive but also hugely popular.

Description of the Panda Cory

As previously stated, the Panda Cory was named after the Giant Panda, due to similarities in coloration. The body of the Panda Cory is off-white to a faint pink in color, with three prominent deep black markings. The first begins at the top of the head and covers the eyes, much like the black markings around the eyes of the Giant Panda. The second black marking covers the dorsal fin, and the third is at the base of the tail, known as the caudal peduncle. The size of this third spot at the base of the tail varies and has given rise to the Big-spot and Small-spot morphs of this fish, each being named for the size of the tail spot.

Like other members of Cory family, this fish has two rows of overlapping boney plates known as scutes, rather than scales. Panda Corys have three sets of paired barbels, as well as several sharp barbs that serve as a defense mechanism. One barb is located under each eye, another in front of the dorsal fin and another on the adipose fin. Adults can grow up to two inches in length, but quite often they remain smaller than that.

Tankmates for the Panda Catfish

Panda Corys are extremely peaceful fish that enjoy the company of their own kind.

They should always be kept in groups, preferably of a half dozen or more, but at least three or four if space is limited. Pandas are highly social and are known to tag along with other bottom dwelling species, most notably Clown Loaches.

Although they get along well with virtually all species, it is not wise to keep them with large or overly boisterous fish that might pick on them or appear to be threatening. Tiger Barbs, for example, are not a good companion due to their tendency to nip at other fish. Small to medium sized Tetras, Danios and Rasboras are good companions for Panda Corys. Other small catfish such as Aspidoras, as well as any Cory species, are also suitable

Habitat and Care for the Panda Cory

Like other Corys, the Panda Cory needs good water quality. Regular water changes are important, as is a good filtration system.

In other words, err on the side of over filtering with this species. Water should be soft and slightly acid to neutral in pH. Published water temperatures of 72°F (22°C) for this species are slightly lower than typical warm-water species. This is because this species originates from a region with slightly cooler water than other tropical species. However, almost all Pandas sold now are captive bred, so they can tolerate warmer temperatures.

The substrate should be soft and fine, either fine gravel or sand. Live plants are ideal, but not required as long as there is plenty of decors that provides shade and hiding places. Caves, rocks, and driftwood all are excellent means to make this catfish feel comfortable and at home. Floating plants, either real or artificial, are helpful to provide shade.

Diet for the Panda Cory

Panda Corys are great scavengers that snap up any food that falls to the bottom. However, if housed in a community tank with other fish, care should be taken to ensure that sufficient food reaches the bottom of the tank for the Corys. Sinking food tablets or pellets are a great option.

A varied diet is important for optimal health. Include meaty foods when possible, either live or frozen. Shrimp, worms, insects and any crustaceans will be welcomed. They are particularly fond of bloodworms, brine shrimp and daphnia. Several prepared food tablets are formulated specifically for Corys and are a great food choice for Panda Corys. Keep in mind that this species is active at night, so consider dropping a few food tablets in the tank just before turning off the lights for the day.

Sexual Differences

The female Panda Cory is larger and has a more rounded underbelly, and is much wider than the male when viewed from above. Often the rounded belly of the female causes their head to sit a bit off the bottom of the tank. Makes are more sleek and shorter in length than the females.

Breeding the Panda Cory

Breeding of this species was initially thought to be quite difficult, but time has proven that breeding is possible in the home aquarium.

The breeding tank should be furnished with Java Moss, or other fine leafed plants for the eggs to be deposited upon. The breeders should be well conditioned with live foods, such as bloodworms, brine shrimp or Daphnia. Spawning can be triggered by a partial water change with cooler water to mimic breeding conditions in nature that occur during the rainy season.

When the female is ripe with eggs, she will accept the advances of the male, and they will assume the classic T position seen in many Corydoras species. The female will cup her pelvic fins together and drop one or two eggs, which are subsequently fertilized. She then seeks a place to hide the sticky egg, generally on vegetation. This process will continue until for several hours until as many as one hundred eggs are laid and fertilized. These eggs are adhesive and light yellow in color.

In approximately four days the eggs will hatch. They are quite sensitive to water temperatures, which should be no higher than 72°F (22°C). Fry do best with infusoria, but may also be fed commercially prepared fry foods if necessary. Water quality is critical, and water changes should be performed only with water that exactly matches the water parameters of the fry tank. It will take up to three months before the fry achieves the "Panda" coloration of the adults.