In Pursuit of the Panda Corydoras

COMMON NAME: Panda Corydoras

FAMILY: Callichthyidae

SUBFAMILY: Corydoradinae

DESCRIPTION: Short body (2 inches), stocky, with a dirty white/sand colored body, and two black stripes: one on the caudal peduncle and dorsal fins. Fins matched with body color and a slight metallic shimmer in direct lighting.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: Ucayali Province of Peru

ADULT SIZE: 2 inches – 5cm

pH: 6.5-7.3

DIET: High-quality pellets, live food (black worms, blood worms) preferred

A new breed of corydoras was originally introduced to the aquarium hobby in 1969, after being discovered by Foersch and Hanrieder. This fish would become to be known as the panda corydoras in 1971, due to an uncanny resemblance to the Asian giant panda bear . It was not until this time that it gained significant status in the aquarium hobby, after being domestically imported by Germans Nijssen and Isbrucker.

Aquarists Nijssen and Isbrucker began publicly breeding the fish in Germany in 1976 and introduced it to the rest of Europe into the early 1980’s. The acclamation surrounding the panda corydoras often vaulted the price of a single specimen to well over ₤30 with several accounts of prices soaring over ₤40. Since the success of this fish was so overwhelming in Europe, it did not take American aquarists long to import and breed the fish themselves.

This fish is a hardy species and has the most calm and best disposition of almost any fish available today. It is truly a shoaling community species and in addition to being a joy to watch, it will help pick-clean your substrate and decorations, thus adding the benefit of cleansing your tank of uneaten food and debris. It will accept nearly any food, including sunken flakes, pellets, discs or live food. I’ve never found my pandas to be picky, but notice they have an extreme love for live black worms.

The panda corydoras was discovered in the Ucayali Provence of Peru. The water temperature in which the panda corydoras originates from ranges between 74.3F (23.5C) during the day and dipping below 72F (22.5C). The water conditions in this black water are a fairly neutral pH of roughly 7.7 and a 3.1dGH. The temperature and water conditions stay consistent throughout the year.

The Rio Lullapichis River where the panda corydoras was first discovered is at the foothills of the Andes Mountains, which flow with cool waters during the mating season. The temperatures at this time may dip to 66F. There are four factors to focus on when encouraging your fish to breed: water temperature, improved water quality (replacing or adding a carbon filter for a few hours, up to a day), availability of live food and a neutral pH of approximately 7.0 (a few hundredths higher is negligible).

In my personal breeding experiences, I’ve had numerous successes in a simple, unheated five-gallon aquarium with air-driven carbon filtration, two clay pots and two fake plants. My pandas have also been successful in updated 10-gallon tanks with a sponge filter, constantly maintained 72F water with several clay pot pieces and live plants. My fish are fed once daily (at dusk), with an alternating diet of live black worms and OmegaOne shrimp pellets. The substrate is a 50/50 percent mixture of pure laterite and medium sized aquarium gravel, with two small pieces of lava rock with attached java ferns. There are also bunches of anacharis and one broadleaved anubias barteri .

My six adult pandas (five male, one female) have spawned several times and have produced well over 20 fry in just over one month. Sexing pandas can be difficult, but as adults, females are slightly larger, with broader sides. The female’s front abdomen will begin to swell with eggs when she is preparing to spawn. The fish will typically spawn on the side of the aquarium or on the underside of broadleaved plants, which is why I recommend anubias barteri as an excellent spawning plant.

When encouraging my fish to spawn, I perform a 20 percent water change, adding conditioned water that is between four to six degrees cooler than the water in the tank. If using carbon filters, change the filter, or if you have one available, run a carbon filter for a few hours to give the water an extra cleansing. I proceed and follow this water change with the continual feeding of live foods, and feed black worms soon after refilling the tank. The males will pursue the female, and when breeding, will do so in a T-shape fashion. The eggs will be fertilized and will hatch three to five days after being laid. I have not experienced any problem with the adults eating the eggs. I therefore find it best to leave the eggs with the parents, and keep them all well fed.

Upon hatching, the fry will settle to the bottom of the aquarium, and may not be visible for one week. They will typically hide under plants, beside pots or rocks or under driftwood. The fry will begin displaying the dual black banding visible on adults as early as two weeks after hatching. The newborns do not require any special food usually reserved for fry, and will be more than happy to feed on left over pellets or other food sediment. After roughly one month, the fry will be near one inch long and are ready for sale or trade within two or three.

Local aquarium and pet stores will readily accept locally bred pandas and will often offer between $3 and $5 each. This of course can be taken in cash, or the savvy investor can opt for store credit, thus eliminating money out of your pocket. I have essentially eliminated spending my own money for supplies, food or additional aquariums.

Given a few simple considerations, panda corydoras will rapidly become one of your favorite aquarium fishes. Their naturally sweet disposition and willingness to clean up after other fish make them a necessary addition to any community tank situations.


1. Ailuropoda melanoleuca

2. Egeria densa (Elodea densa). Best planted in moderate to bright light, with temperatures up to 79F. This is a fairly easy plant to care for which can grow to 20 inches tall.

3. Aracea family. Does best in low to moderate lighting, with temperatures ranging from 72F – 82F. This is an easy plant to care for, and does best with a bottom fertilizer and CO².