Banded Corydoras (Scleromystax barbatus) Species Profile: Care, Tank Size, Food & Tank Mates

Banded corydoras (Scleromystax barbatus) is supported by our readers. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn a commission.

Banded Corydoras is a large schooling fish and is widely known among aquarists for its distinctive yet beautiful appearance. It is a bottom dweller, ideal for the temperate community aquarium. 

Not only do they have an exciting look that sets them apart from other species, but they are also easy to care for, which makes them an approachable option for fishkeepers of all skill levels. 

Unlike their close relatives, males Banded Corys can grow larger and be extremely aggressive towards one another, which is definitely something to be aware of.

Toady’s guide will teach you everything about Banded corydoras care, including habitat requirements, ideal tank mates, water parameters, food, and much more. 

Species Summary

Sometimes referred to as the Callichthys Barbatus, the Banded Corydoras (Scleromystax barbatus) belong to the Callichthyidae family. It is a subtropical freshwater fish native to coastal drainages in South America, from Rio de Janerio to Santa Catarina, Brazil.

The fish was initially described by Jean Rene Constant Quoy and Joseph Paul Gaimard as Callichthys Barbatus in 1824. However, it was reclassified to genus Scleromystax in 2003. Many local fish stores are still unaware of this change and may still refer to the Banded corydoras as its original name.

Because of their stunningly beautiful look and large full-grown size, Banded corydoras have been sought after in the aquarium trade for many years with many common names, including Bearded Corydoras, Banded Cory, Bearded Catfish, Corydoras Barbatus, Checkerboard Cory, and Filigree Cory.

The genus Scleromystax currently has five described species, and four of them are highly sexually dimorphic, meaning there are significant physical differences between the male and female fish. S. barbatus is one of them.

Scientific Name:Scleromystax barbatus, Callichthys barbatus (Originally described)
Common Name:Bearded Corydoras, Banded Cory, Bearded Catfish, Corydoras Barbatus, Checkerboard Cory, and Filigree Cory
Origin:South American
Aggressiveness:Peaceful; Do best in a school of 6 or more to thrive.
Size:3.5 – 4 inches (9 – 10 cm)
Lifespan:5 years
pH:5.5 – 7.0
Temperature:68 – 82°F (20 – 28 °C)
KH: 2 – 25
Minimum tank size:55 gallons


Banded Corydoras (Scleromystax barbatus)

Bearded Cory or Banded Cory is a distinctive and exceptional member of the Corydoras catfish family. Their elongated body shape, large size, and intricate markings set them apart from their several relatives. 

As we mentioned earlier, this species is dimorphic, so you can easily differentiate between adult males and females. Of course, young fish can be pretty hard to tell apart.

The most notable difference is in their dorsal and pectoral fins. On mature males, these fins are 2-3 times longer than on females. Additionally, fully grown males have developed odontodes (sharp tooth-like structures) inserted in fleshy papillae on the sides of the snout. 

They are slimmer with a gold nose stripe set and cheek bristles at the bottom edge of the gill covers. Moreover, male Banded Cory catfish are darker, having many black markings on the head and front half of their bodies. Their belly is silvery-white with stunning translucent fins adorned with black spots. 

Females, on the other hand, look like a large Pepper Cory. They are marginally larger than males and remain peppered grey throughout their life. 

Banded Corydoras (Scleromystax barbatus) Size

The Scleromystax barbatus is the largest known species of the Corydoras family.

The average adult Banded Corydoras size is about 3.5 – 4 inches (9 – 10 cm). Their exceptional size makes this species different from other members of the Corydoras family. 

Like most Cory catfish, Banded Corys have a fairly fast growth rate in the first three months of life – they can grow over one inch long. However, a lot of the time when they are sold in stores, they’re already 1 – 1.5 inches in length. It may take up to a year for Banded Corydoras to reach their full-grown size.

If you want your Banded Corydoras to grow as large as possible, you need to care for them properly and provide optimal living conditions. Stick with a high-quality diet, perform regular water changes (20 – 30% once a week), and don’t overcrowd the tank.


Like most Cory Catfish, the average Banded corydoras lifespan is up to 5 years in captivity. To ensure that your fish live up to the average life expectancy, you must maintain appropriate tank conditions and a healthy diet. 

Care & Tank Set up

Although they are found in coastal drainages, all members in the Scleromystax group are freshwater fish. They inhabit slow-moving steams or ponds that are filled with fine pebbles or sand.

Banded Cory care shouldn’t be a hassle for you, as this is a peaceful freshwater fish that remind happy and healthy if kept in appropriate tank conditions. It is adaptable to most subtropical freshwater conditions as long as standard maintenance is performed regularly. 

However, S. barbatus get larger than most Corydoras species, which is why they are less suitable for small aquaria. 

Tanks Size

The bearded catfish is a very active, large school fish that should be kept in groups.

The recommended tank size for a group of 6 or more adult Banded Corydoras is around 55-75 gallons. The minimum footprint of 47″ x 18″ ( 120 X 45 cm) or equivalent is recommended to give them ample space to swim around and hide out. 

Water Parameters

The banded corydoras lives in a subtropical climate and prefers oxygen-rich water. An appropriate water temperature is essential to maintain as it further affects dissolved oxygen levels. 

They are hardy fish that can withstand a wide range of water parameters. Try to replicate your home aquarium water conditions to their natural habitat as much as possible to keep them happy and healthy.

Check the ideal water parameters that you should maintain:

  • Temperature: 68 – 82°F (20 – 28 °C)
  • pH: 5.5 – 7.0
  • Hardness: 2 to 25 degrees
  • Ammonia: 0 ppm
  • Nitrite: 0 ppm
  • Nitrate: <30 ppm

Being a member of Callichthyidae, banded corys have a unique ability to absorb dissolved oxygen from the surface through their intestines. That’s why you often see them swimming up to the top of the tank for a gulp of air.

It is essential that the tank is well-filtered and has a decent current to provide good oxygenation levels. Furthermore, remember to have a cover on the aquarium and don’t fill the water level all the way up.

Decor (Plants and Substrate)

Like any other corys, banded corydoras love to hang around the bottom of streams and rivers, which is why a soft, sandy substrate would be ideal. They also appreciate some smooth rocks and driftwood to create hiding places in the aquarium. 

Be sure not to use any pointed decorations or harsh chemicals in the tank as it can damage their delicate sensory barbles.

Live plants that are rooted in the substrate are not recommended as they will uproot them while foraging for food. Instead, you can use robust plants such as Anubias sp. or Java Fern that can be anchored to the driftwood and rocks.


Xtreme Nano 0.5mm Sinking Pellets – High-Protein...
  • 🐟 Ideal for tetras, barbs, guppies, and more: Specially formulated to cater to community fish
  • 🌈 Nutrient-Dense for Vibrant Colors: Enriched with vitamins & minerals to bring out the natural,...
  • 🐠 High Protein, Small Portion: Fuel your fish with a protein-packed formula that promotes strong...
  • 🇺🇸 Made in the USA: Trust the quality & safety of our Xtreme Nano Pellets Fish Food, expertly...
  • 💧 Easy Digestion, Less Waste: Our Nano pellets are easily digestible, minimizing fish waste and...

It is essential to have a good knowledge of ideal banded cory food to keep the species healthy and active for a long. 

In the wild, the banded corydoras is an omnivore that feeds on small insects, benthic crustaceans, worms, and plant matter. They are not fussy eaters.

In captivity, you can feed them a variety of live, frozen, and freeze-dried foods. A diet rich in protein is essential for their growth and development. To ensure a well-rounded diet, supplement their meals with high-quality sinking pellets or wafers.

Hikari Tropical Sinking Wafers for Catfish,...
  • Superior nutrition has been scientifically proven by decades of research to meet the dietary needs of...
  • High levels of vegetable matter that bottom feeders prefer, along with highly nutritious spirulina,...
  • Unique disc shape and small wafer size accommodates a wider variety of bottom feeders; fortified with...
  • Wafers can be swallowed easily by larger fish, or will soften gradually allowing smaller fish to eat with...
  • Extreme digestibility thereby reducing the chances of water clouding

You can also supplement their diet with vegetables. They enjoy blanched spinach or small chunks of zucchini. 

Corys are bottom feeders that like to scavenge around for food. It is essential to observe that they are getting enough to eat during mealtime.

They are nocturnal feeders, so it is best to feed them at lights out. However, you can teach them to eat during the day.

It is also essential to maintain a strict feeding schedule to prevent overfeeding, which can cause water quality issues in the aquarium. 

Banded Corydoras (Scleromystax barbatus) Tank Mates

Although Banded Corydoras is considered a peaceful species, it is best to purchase a good-sized group with one male with a harem of females. If you plan to house more than one male, make sure your aquarium has adequate space, more visual barriers, and territories. 

These species can be kept safely with other species that thrive in identical temperature and water conditions. 

Here are some good tank mates for the Banded Corydoras.

  • South American Dwarf Cichlids
  • Tetras
  • Tiger Barb
  • Siamese Algae Eater
  • Most types of plecos

Bearded Corydoras Breeding

Breeding Banded Corydoras is pretty simple. These fish have been bred in captivity for many years and are easy to breed if you provide them with the right environment and food.

To increase the survival rate of the fry, it is best to set up a separate breeding tank. A bonded pair requires at least 15 gallons (24″ x 12″ x 12″) tank.

The water should be soft and slightly acidic in the tank, which helps to break the egg membrane and allow the fry to emerge effortlessly. Cautiously feeding live tubifex and chopped earthworm to condition them for breeding. 

Raise the temperature to 80°F to get a larger clutch. Also, lower pH levels and aim for 5.5 to 6.5. When you notice the female is full of eggs, you can perform a large 50 to 70 percent water change every day and increase the oxygen and flow levels until the fish spawn.

You will see the classic ‘T mating position’ where the male grasps the female behind the head with his ventral fins. The male will then release sperm, and it has been theorized that his milt passes through the female’s mouth and gills to fertilize the eggs that are already held between her pelvic fins.

Depending on the size and age of the female, she will lay 10 to 70 eggs on the aquarium glass, plants, and décor. After spawning, it is best to remove the parents to a different tank as they do not guard the eggs and will even eat them.

Eggs will hatch in 4 to 5 days, and the fry will be free-swimming after another 2- 3 days.

To prevent the fry from getting sucked into the filter, you can place a spawning mop or piece of bridal veil material in the tank.

The fry will feed on small live foods such as microworms, baby brine shrimp, and daphnia. After a few weeks, you can start to wean them onto commercial foods such as dry flakes or pellets.

Final Thoughts

That’s it, folks!! We hope our detailed guide will help you learn about all essential Banded Corydoras care fundamentals to keep the fish healthy, happy, and comfortable in their new habitat. 

It is the largest cory catfish species and generally thrives in schools in the well-planted aquarium. These fish are fun to own, and their unique look makes them a great species to spectate. These are highly peaceful and hardy addition to the subtropical aquarium. Provide them with ideal tank conditions and make your aquarium a potential centerpiece. 

If you have any questions about Banded corydoras care or breeding, feel free to ask us in the comment section below. Also, don’t forget to share your valuable experience with us.

Was this article helpful?
Jeff Colt

Jeff Colt

Hello, I'm Jeff- an aquarium enthusiast with over 25 years of experience caring for a wide array of tropical fish, including koi, goldfish bettas, cichlids and more! For me: Aquariums are like jello - there's always room for more!

Leave a Comment