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Cory Catfish And Neon Tetras: Can They Live Together?

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Both cory catfish and neon tetras are popular freshwater fish, which immediately raises one question: Can they share the same tank?

In this article, I’ll answer that question, and also provide some great tips on how to get them to live side by side.

So, without further ado, let’s dive right into it.

Can Cory Catfish And Neon Tetras Live In The Same Tank?

Yes, cory catfish and neon tetras can live in the same tank. The following factors make this pairing a possibility:

1. Both Species Are Peaceful

Many fish pairings fail because one of the creatures is too aggressive to tolerate company.

Fortunately, cory catfish are peaceful, social fish that are more than happy to share a tank with equally friendly neighbors of a similar size.

Even if they wanted to misbehave, cory catfish have downturned mouths that suck up food. Biting isn’t really an option for them.

Admittedly, the wrong conditions can compel even the most peaceful species to display aggressive behavior.

However, cory catfish are too shy. They are more likely to run away from conflict, even in aquariums with poor conditions. 

Neon tetras are slightly problematic, but only when you misunderstand them. Consider the following:

  • First of all, neon tetras are extremely active and playful. The creatures are fast swimmers, capable of reaching 50 miles per hour. They won’t hesitate to chase each other around. But this is not a prelude to violence. Unfortunately, some aquarists mistake playing for fighting.
  • Neon tetras will chase each other during mating. They may even nip at one another’s fins. But again, this behavior is playful. The neon tetras are trying to show off.
  • Some neon tetras are territorial. They may act aggressively towards smaller outsiders, especially if you recently introduced those outsiders to the aquarium.
  • Neon tetras are fin nippers. They may nip at the fins of new fish. If they manifest this behavior against pre-existing fish, the creatures are probably trying to show dominance. Either way, this behavior is not serious. At the very least, it won’t escalate into proper violence.
Although neon tetras are considered to be fin nippers, they are not expected to harm cory catfish.

2. They Enjoy Similar Water Parameters

Neon tetras and cory catfish enjoy similar conditions, with the most important being temperature, pH, and water hardness.

These are the ideal parameters for neon tetras:

  • Temperature: 72-76° F (22-24° C)
  • pH: 6.0-7.0
  • Water hardness: 2-10 dKH

These are the ideal parameters for cory catfish:

  • Temperature: 72-78° F (22-25° C)
  • pH: 7.0-7.8
  • Water hardness: 3-10 dKH

These are the best water parameters for a tank containing both neon tetras and cory catfish:

  • Temperature: 72-76° F (22-24° C)
  • pH: 7.0
  • Water hardness: 3-10 dKH

3. Cory Catfish Have Downturn Mouths

Neon tetras are just 1.5 inches long.[1] Usually, this is a cause for concern because cory catfish can grow to a size of four inches, and larger fish have a habit of eating smaller fish, sometimes by accident.

But cory catfish are harmless, not only because of their downturn mouths but because of the shy, timid personalities they typically present.

The downturn mouth is also the factor that allows the cory catfish to live peacefully with snails, as well as with mature shrimp.

Corydoras catfish have downturn mouths, which prevent them from nibbling and harming other fish.

How Many Cory Catfish And Neon Tetras Should I Get?

Cory catfish are timid. Therefore, they need a group of at least six to feel safe.[2] Keep them with other cory catfish.

The creatures are bottom dwellers. Even in a large group, you can trust them to stay out of the way. 

Neon tetras have similar demands. They need six or more in a school to feel safe. They are friendly enough to co-exist with other shoaling fish. 

But you must keep them in groups of their own kind. Otherwise, the stress will drive them to misbehave.

Let’s sum up. These are the ideal numbers in a cory catfish and neon tetras tank:

  • Cory catfish: six.
  • Neon tetras: six.
  • Tank size: 20 gallons or more.

What Should I Feed Neon Tetras And Cory Catfish?

Being omnivores, a balanced diet consisting of animal and plant matter will satisfy both neon tetras and cory catfish. 

They will accept brine shrimp, blanched zucchini, bloodworms, boiled peas, flakes, pellets, Mysis shrimp, etc.

You don’t have to overthink their diets. The creatures will respond positively to conventional fish food. 

Some aquarists are determined to prioritize organic meals over their commercial counterparts. 

But Robert Kasprzak, Aleksandra Gorecka, and Anna Beata Grzeszkiewicz published a paper comparing commercial flakes to natural food.[3]

They couldn’t identify any significant differences between the neon tetras they fed commercial flakes and those they exposed to lyophilized natural food. 

However, this other study in the North American Journal of Aquaculture may change your mind.[4]

It found that neon tetras fed on diets rich in marine protein sources experienced greater weight gain than neon tetras fed on plant proteins.

But that shouldn’t encourage you to waste money on sophisticated diets. Your neon tetras and cory catfish will tolerate conventional meals.

That includes commercial flakes and organic foods. I personally use the Aqueon Shrimp Pellets Fish Food (link to Amazon).

I prefer to use sinking food because it prevents my cory catfish from swallowing air at the surface, which is a significant risk factor for swim bladder disease.

A beautiful video showing neon tetras and cory catfish eating sunken food together.

How Do I Make Cory Catfish And Neon Tetras Co-Exist?

It doesn’t take much to keep cory catfish and neon tetras happy in the same tank. The following steps will maintain the peace:

1. Make Sure The Tank Is Large Enough

The tank size is critical. 

Ronald Oldfield from Case Western Reserve University explored this issue by investigating the behavior of fish (Midas Cichlids) in a crater lake (Nicaragua), an artificial stream, and a small tank.[5]

The results, which he published in the Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science, revealed that large aquatic environments reduce aggressive behaviors while smaller spaces produce the opposite effect.

Make sure the cory catfish and neon tetras have at least 20 gallons. Otherwise, they may turn against one another.

2. Adjust The Water Parameters

The wrong parameters can antagonize peaceful fish. 

A study in Science Reports proved as much when it noted that endemic cichlids in Lake Tanganyika became more aggressive when exposed to warmer waters.[6] 

Keep your fish happy by maintaining the correct temperature, hardness, and pH. As mentioned earlier, you should aim for:

  • Temperature: 72-76° F (22-24° C)
  • pH: 7.0
  • Water hardness: 3-10 dKH
  • Ammonia: 0 ppm
  • Nitrite: 0 ppm
  • Nitrate: Below 20 ppm

Temperature is easy to control if you have a suitable heater, but ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate are more challenging.

This is because you increase the tank population and risk overcrowding your tank. And when there are more fish, they produce more waste, which increases ammonia.

Be sure to perform daily water tests during the first five days of mixing the two species. If toxins are detected, perform routine water changes and vacuum the substrate.

3. Feed Them Properly

Feed the neon tetras and cory catfish once or twice a day. Make sure you only add food in amounts they can finish in two to three minutes. 

As mentioned earlier, overfeeding can make them sick. However, underfeeding will incite aggression.

You should also prioritize sinking pellets over floating flakes. They are great for both cory catfish and neon tetras.

Pellets are the best type of food for neon tetras and cory catfish, as it sinks and lowers the chances of swim bladder disease.

What Other Fish Can Live With Cory Catfish And Neon Tetras?

  • Dwarf Gourami – They stay in the middle and upper sections. At 4.5 inches, they are larger than neon tetras but too peaceful to antagonize their neighbors.
  • Otocinclus Catfish – They mirror cory catfish in size and personality, which is why they can co-exist with neon tetras as well.
  • Loaches – These are common and peaceful bottom dwellers in aquarium fish. They go well with cory catfish and will be an excellent addition to neon tetras.
  • Rummy Nose Tetras – They have a unique look that includes a tail with zebra stripes, a red face, and a white body. Their gentle personality makes the fish a perfect fit for community tanks with neon tetras and cory catfish.
  • Mollies – They reproduce quickly. Therefore, you need a large aquarium to accommodate their growing numbers or a strategy to prevent breeding.
  • Swordtails – They will maintain a friendly demeanor in a cory catfish/neon tetra tank if you keep them in groups of five or more.
  • Dwarf Neon Rainbowfish – The males are somewhat challenging because they become aggressive during mating seasons.
  • Endler’s Livebearers – These creatures are incredibly beautiful. Give them the correct parameters to prevent unnecessary hostility.
  • Fancy Guppies – They are just as friendly as regular guppies. However, their designs are more elaborate.
Kuhli loaches are a fascinating addition to a tank of corydoras catfish and neon tetras.

Conclusions

Both cory catfish and neon tetras are peaceful, making them great tankmates. They also share similar water parameters, so keeping them together is pretty easy.

Ideally, you should aim for a group of six corydoras and six neon tetras in a tank of at least 20 gallons. A smaller tank might be problematic for so many fish.

During the first five days, take daily measurements of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. If one of those spikes, do more frequent water changes.

References

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neon_tetra
  2. https://www.aquariumcoop.com/blogs/aquarium/cory-catfish-care-guide
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8697964/
  4. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1577/A08-017.1
  5. https://thedaily.case.edu/aquarium-fish-are-more-aggressive-in-reduced-environments-new-study-finds/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7676273/