Can Cory Catfish Live With Cichlids?

Cory catfish cannot live happily with cichlids. The diminutive size and docile nature of corys mean they might get bullied or have food stolen by larger, more aggressive cichlids (particularly African cichlids). However, cory catfish can potentially reside harmoniously with dwarf cichlids. 

Knowing which fish are compatible tank mates is crucial for ensuring the fish’s health and happiness. While multi-species aquariums are beautiful and satisfying to watch, having incompatible fish like corydoras and cichlids in the same tank might end in disaster. Let’s examine why corys cannot live with cichlids.

Are Cory Catfish Able To Live With Cichilids?

Cory catfish and cichilids are pretty and intriguing aquarium fish, so it is tempting to consider keeping them in the same tank. Despite the appeal of this idea, it is not a wise idea and will probably not be in the corys’ interest!

To understand why corys and cichlids are incompatible, we must become familiar with these fish and their contrasting sizes and behavior patterns.

Cory Catfish on Gravel Close Up

Cory Catfish

Cory catfish (Corydoras sp.) are bottom-dwellers that are mostly found in the freshwater systems of South America. Their beauty, size, and behavior make corys popular among aquarium enthusiasts.

Corys are small, averaging from 1 to 4 inches in length. To compensate for their diminutive size, cory catfish have armored skin and spines that provide them some protection against larger predators.

Cory cats are social fish with a shoaling habit. The fish have a docile character and interact peacefully with other fish (regardless of the species).

In the wild, corys eat a mixed diet of bottom-dwelling worms and insects, combined with occasional meals of aquatic plants.


Cichlids are in the cichlidae family, with most species residing on the African and South American continents.

There are more than 1650 documented cichlid species, and shapes, colors, and sizes vary considerably.

The cichlid species commonly kept in aquariums include discus, oscar, and angelfish. These species are relatively large compared with corys, with their average lengths being as follows:

  • discus – 4 to 8 inches,
  • angelfish – 3 to 6 inches,
  • oscar – 11 to 14 inches.

Cichilids are territorial and can act aggressively toward other fish when kept in aquariums. These fish are most territorial during mating periods, with male cichilids typically displaying more aggression than females.

The diet of different cichlid species varies dramatically, but most consume a mix of meat and plant-based foods. Common aquarium species like angelfish, oscar, and convict cichilid sometimes predate on smaller fishes.

Lee Nachtigal [CC BY 2.0]

Problems Of Keeping Corys And Cichlids In The Same Tank

It is not advisable to have cory catfish in a tank with cichlids. These fish are incompatible tank mates and should not live together because the corys will suffer.

African cichlids are the most notorious for their aggression and insatiable appetites and pose the greatest threats to corys.

Dwarf cichlid species are the exception to the rule. These fish are significantly smaller than most cichilids and live harmoniously with cory catfish if there is sufficient space in the tank.

Harassment And Bullying

Due to their size advantage and aggressive nature, cichlids may nip or bite if corys swim too close. Cichlids require ample space and are likely to bully cory catfish in a tiny or overcrowded tank.

When cichlids are mating or brooding, their heightened territoriality may prompt them to intimidate or attack unfortunate corys in the vicinity.

In extreme cases, cichlids may eat cory catfish! This is not as common as nipping and biting because swallowing cory catfish can seriously harm cichlids due to their stiff, sharp spines.

Stealing Food

In addition to the physical threat that cichlids pose to cory catfish, they can also make it difficult for corys during feeding time.

Cichlids have a reputation for being ravenous and fairly indiscriminate eaters, so they may chase cory cats away from food in the tank. Due to their small size and tranquil disposition, cory catfish are generally unable to assert their rights to eat in a tank with large, aggressive cichilids.

The fact that cory catfish eat slower than cichilids places the fish at a further disadvantage when competing for food in the same tank.

Which Fish Are Suitable Tank Mates For Cory Catfish?

Having established that cichilids are incompatible tank mates for cory catfish, one might wonder which fish are suitable for living with corys. Fortunately, many kinds of fish will share a tank with cory catfish, whose social nature and tranquil character make them ideal for community tanks.


Gouramis are generally known as suitable tank mates for corydoras. These attractive fish vary in size but are reasonably peaceful and spend much of their time near the top of the aquarium.

Some gouramis are more docile than others. The most peaceful gouramis and the ones most suitable for keeping with corys include:

  • chocolate gourami
  • licorice gourami

Other gouramis may display aggression towards smaller fish, particularly when experiencing stress due to unfavorable water conditions or overcrowding in the tank. If an aquarium has corys, it is probably advisable to avoid the following gourami species:

  • paradise fish
  • combtail gourami


Platy are prized for their ability to live harmoniously with other fish in community tanks. These boldly-colored little fish are ideal tank-mates for cory catfish.

Platy are social fish with a markedly tranquil disposition and grow a length of roughly 3 inches at maturity. Their temperament and small size mean platy fish do not pose a physical threat to cory catfish.

Neon Tetra

Neon tetras are stunning little fish that are ideal tank mates for cory cats. These are social fish with a shoaling habit, so they are accustomed to living peacefully with other fishes.

Neon tetras are one of the smallest species in their genus, with a maximum length of about 1.5 inches. At this size, neon tetras are unlikely to hassle or bully cory catfish!

Neon tetras generally occupy the middle of the tank. Due to this preference, neon tetras rarely compete for space or food with corys at the bottom of the aquarium.

Note that larger tetra species are less compatible tank-mates for cory catfish, as they might behave aggressively towards the corys.


Cory catfish are small, docile fish that reside peacefully with many other freshwater aquarium species. Their size and tranquil temperament make them vulnerable when living with larger aggressive fish.

For this reason, corys cats shouldn’t live with fish such as cichlids, especially the African cichlid varieties. Cichlids are territorial and might bully or attack cory catfish or chase the corys to steal their food.