I'm feeling discouraged about my pygmy cories.

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Sand isn't needed for the three pygmy Cory species. They swim mid water, and have taken a different direction from their larger Genus mates. Sand really makes a difference with 'standard' Corys, but the tiny ones are exceptions.

Having kept them in a half sand/half gravel tank since I've had them, I can't agree, I'm afraid. They certainly interact with the sand in a way that they don't, and can't, with the gravel. They like to sit on all kinds of surfaces, of course, I don't think the gravel being in the same tank as them is harming them either, but I wouldn't keep them with no sand substrate at all. Mine feed and play on their sand beach all the time.
 
Having kept them in a half sand/half gravel tank since I've had them, I can't agree, I'm afraid. They certainly interact with the sand in a way that they don't, and can't, with the gravel. They like to sit on all kinds of surfaces, of course, I don't think the gravel being in the same tank as them is harming them either, but I wouldn't keep them with no sand substrate at all. Mine feed and play on their sand beach all the time.
How do people do a tank with two different substrates? It seems like they would get mixed when I clean.

Seriously Fish is a reliable website for species specific info.

"Not difficult to keep in a well-maintained set-up, but a display arranged to resemble a flowing stream or river, with a substrate of variably-sized, water-worn rocks, sand, fine gravel and perhaps some small boulders, is highly recommended. This can be further furnished with driftwood roots or branches, and hardy aquatic plants such as Microsorum, Bolbitis, or Anubias spp., which can be grown attached to items of décor.

Most importantly, the water must be clean and well-oxygenated with turnover preferably in excess of 10 times per hour; additional powerheads and airstones can be employed to achieve the desired flow and oxygenation if necessary. Bright lighting will promote development of biofilm on solid surfaces, upon which the fish will graze.

Since it needs stable water conditions and grazes biofilm this species should never be added to a biologically immature set-up, and a tightly-fitting cover is necessary since it can literally climb glass."

@WhistlingBadger has an amazing youtube video somewhere of his group of panda garra climbing the glass because they were climbing up through the water output, they seem to thrive in those high flow, highly oxygenated streams, and their shape is a visual clu to the type of environments they've evolved to live in.

Also from Seriously Fish:

"Relatively peaceful and makes a good subject for the well-chosen, larger community of stream-dwelling Indochinese species.

It isn’t particularly tolerant of conspecifics but normally exists in loose aggregations in the wild. If kept singly it tends to behave more aggressively with similarly-shaped fishes so we recommend the purchase of 3-4 or more should space permit. Such a group will develop a noticeable pecking order between themselves but tankmates are more likely to be left alone. What appear to be hierarchical disputes will sometimes occur and involve charging, flaring of fins and an overall paling of the body colouration."

@JackGulley Try not to be discouraged. There's tons of fish in the hobby, lots to learn, and if nothing else, it teaches you patience! Things aren't all or nothing, terrible or perfect, catastrophe nor perfect.
I did read the seriouslyfish page. I gather that they need driftwood and rocks, can have a sand or gravel substrate, are peaceful, can climb the glass, and need oxygenated water. Seems like my tank has all of that except the oxygenated water and the line, but my tank has a plastic overhang around the edge and I could get a lid if I needed one. The tank actually had a lid at first, but I sat on the glass part during maintenance not once but *twice* and was concerned about glass bits from the resulting cracks falling in the tank.
 
A few things about panda garra: They are extremely cool and likable fish. They do enjoy current, but I kept a group for several years in two different setups without a huge amount of current and they were fine. In the wild, they inhabit seasonal streams, so I suspect they are adaptable to very different circumstances. I doubt they'd climb out through an overhang. Mine only tried to climb up a stream of moving water, and that only for a few inches.

Bummer about your glass! Could have been worse, I guess. Sitting on glass can cause severe cuts in awkward places.
 
Although I would like to point out (only because I'm salty about all this right now) that I didn't just make up the stuff about them being fine with gravel, I heard it from @emeraldking on THIS forum. No one mentioned sand being crucial to their feeding when I had a whole long thread asking if they would be OK in my tank.
Correct!
Most will say that they only need sand and not gravel or substrate because they're scared that those cories will get damaged on the bottom. But I'm keeping several kinds of cories in my tanks for years and they're kept with gravel and that goes just fine. They even can find their food between the gravel. They also reproduce themselves well. And even with gravel, there are always very small particles that do the same as when you use sand. And this is why using only sand with cories is not an urge.
 
While it may have more to do with the tankmates, you can still get some sand in there. I haven't seen your tank, but you can certainly create a sandy area if you have room. Bear in mind, the sand will filter down between the larger aggregate over time, so you may need to reapply, but there is no reason you have to disrupt your cycle and redo the whole thing. Scoop out an area a bit, or a lot depending on what you feel like, and dump in sand. A plastic cup works pretty well for transporting if you don't get too crazy.
 
And even with gravel, there are always very small particles that do the same as when you use sand. And this is why using only sand with cories is not an urge.
I do have to add to this that the gravel shouldn't be too large of course. And the gravel that I have doesn't have sharp edges. But I stand with what I've mentioned. You just need to know what you're doing...
And none of my cories have damaged bodies because of the gravel all these years. That's why I dare to state this. But that doesn't mean that people should not use sand. Let that be clear...
 
Although I would like to point out (only because I'm salty about all this right now) that I didn't just make up the stuff about them being fine with gravel, I heard it from @emeraldking on THIS forum.
I apologise if I upset or offended you, I absolutely didn't mean to. The thing with this hobby is that there aren't hard and fast rules, and not everyone is going to agree. There are different niches in the hobby, people get passionate about particular favourite fish, and we're also all trying to communicate through text, where tone is easily misinterpreted. But in general, the forum culture is very much to try to be supportive, help each other out. We enjoy sharing our hobbies, and many people here want to help people that are having a problem or in crisis, or want to seek opinions on different topics.

Some things are solid, able to be scientifically tested, and everyone agrees on. That fish produce ammonia and that our job is to handle the nitrogen cycle given that we're keeping fish in glass boxes, and not in the rivers and lakes they naturally live in. We're creating an artificial environment by the very nature of the hobby, and when it comes to some topics, like substrate, we've come down to an issue that's a matter of opinion, and not everyone is going to agree on it.

If you want to see a debate get heated, look up "how big does a tank need to be to house multiple fancy goldfish". Or "minimum tank size for a betta". Those topics often get heated as people argue and share different experiences!

No one mentioned sand being crucial to their feeding when I had a whole long thread asking if they would be OK in my tank.

If it's the thread I'm thinking of, that was mainly myself and @Seisage trying to give you advice about both pygmy cories and otocinclus, but we didn't know you were planning to go and buy them the next day. Once you had them, and the otos were in poor condition (because of the natural of their capture and shipping and how they were in the store, not your fault) so we were very focused on how to get those otos fed in a new set up. So it was more of an emergency situation, and you already had the fish, so we had to work with what you already had, and what you could get hold of, like the matured driftwood in your dad's store.

Given more time, our advice would have been different, so you wouldn't have had that crisis situation. But you still handled it well, the otos survived, and we did praise and encourage you for managing to get them fed. That's not easy, and you did what you needed to!

So disagreeing about substrate doesn't mean to offend, we're all just sharing our own experiences and thoughts. Take what you find useful and makes sense to you, and works for you, and leave the rest. :)
Sand isn't needed for the three pygmy Cory species. They swim mid water, and have taken a different direction from their larger Genus mates. Sand really makes a difference with 'standard' Corys, but the tiny ones are exceptions.

I think/hope everyone knows that I have huge respect and fondness for @GaryE and @emeraldking . Both super experienced, knowledgeable, successful breeders, authors, and have their specialist interests that they're expert in. I tag them all the time to ask for help if someone needs help for livebearers or killies etc!

But even so, I have to disagree that sand isn't needed for the three dwarf cories kept in the hobby (Corydoras pygmaeus, hastatus, and hasbrosus). Their habits are different from the larger cories, yes, but they still enjoy and will filter feed through fine sand.

@Essjay I know we've discussed this before in a few threads about available substrates in different countries, and I use the Unipac silver sand (or is the other one? I know there's two from Unipac, one finer than the other, so I got the finer one), and while when in a large enough group and suitable tankmates, pygmies will absolutely swim around in midwater often. They like to sit on leaves, on decor more than the larger cories do.

But given the opportunity with a sandy area to feed and play around on, they absolutely do filter feed through the sand, play around in it, and sit around on it in groups when chilling out. If they're in a large enough number, have the sandy area available and fed on that area. Unfortunately since they're expensive, people tend to only be able to buy a few at a time, or think 2-6 of them will be enough.

I thought the same when I first got some. I literally couldn't buy enough, the supplier didn't have many at the time, store would be able to get me 3-4 at a time, when I'd wanted to start with 12.


I removed a load of gravel after deep cleaning it, a bit at a time, and added a "sand beach" at the front, moved some gravel towards the back and kept it since plants were deeply rooted, until the tank was half gravel at the back, half fine sand at the front for the cories. It's a pain to maintain to keep the gravel and sand separate, but worth it to me since the tank is working. No need to change what's working for the cories right now and remove the rest of the gravel, and I personally think the mulm that forms in that gravel, plus the oak and almond leaves I add - helps promote colonies of microcritters which I think keeps the pygmy cory fry fed between what I feed to the tank.

But that's personal experience and opinion, not a solid rule, and I'm a nobody. Just a hobbyist without anything near the experience or knowledge of @GaryE and @emeraldking . But I feel comfortable openly saying I disagree with them on this subject, since we're known each other on the forum for years, and I know they won't be offended or think I'm mad at them or something! I'm also open to being wrong and learning more from them and others, and it's okay even if we don't agree on everything. That's just life! :):drinks:
I suspect all would be well if you had 10 in there. Add them before you treat the platys, so everyone gets dewormed.
Agree with this too. Once you have a good number of them, I'd suggest 12 or more, and the more the merrier as far as the cories are concerned! Once you see a group of 20 or more swimming around, feeling secure in a large group and a suitable tank, and I saw completely different behaviour once my group bred and the numbers just kept growing until I'd have to catch and sell/gift groups of 6-8 youngsters just to avoid my tank getting too overstocked!

I wish more people could see how that looks, when they're in a large group like that. They also still act in ways similar to the larger cory species. I've watched them filter feed in the fine sand. So it's personal opinion, and we're all just sharing our views. Personally, I wouldn't keep any cory species on gravel only. Not because of the barbel issue, but because I think we should provide an environment that lets them practice their natural behaviours.

They can survive, eat, and live on gravel. Sure! I don't disgree, if the gravel is well kept and the pygmies can of course still nosey around and find food in the gravel/on plants/in the water column.


But they can't filter feed without some fine sandy area. So for me, it's an ethical issue, and one I talk about since I'm a cory loving hobbyist that keeps a few species of cories, so I'm passionate about cories and otos. We all have our personalised interests, experiences, and opinions, and that's okay. :)
A few things about panda garra: They are extremely cool and likable fish. They do enjoy current, but I kept a group for several years in two different setups without a huge amount of current and they were fine. In the wild, they inhabit seasonal streams, so I suspect they are adaptable to very different circumstances. I doubt they'd climb out through an overhang. Mine only tried to climb up a stream of moving water, and that only for a few inches.

Bummer about your glass! Could have been worse, I guess. Sitting on glass can cause severe cuts in awkward places.

Do you happen to have the video I remember you making of them doing that? The tank was amazing, and it was useful to see that behaviour!
Correct!
Most will say that they only need sand and not gravel or substrate because they're scared that those cories will get damaged on the bottom. But I'm keeping several kinds of cories in my tanks for years and they're kept with gravel and that goes just fine. They even can find their food between the gravel. They also reproduce themselves well. And even with gravel, there are always very small particles that do the same as when you use sand. And this is why using only sand with cories is not an urge.

While it may have more to do with the tankmates, you can still get some sand in there. I haven't seen your tank, but you can certainly create a sandy area if you have room. Bear in mind, the sand will filter down between the larger aggregate over time, so you may need to reapply, but there is no reason you have to disrupt your cycle and redo the whole thing. Scoop out an area a bit, or a lot depending on what you feel like, and dump in sand. A plastic cup works pretty well for transporting if you don't get too crazy.
Totally agree! That's what I did. It's possible to just swap out all the substrate at once, but it's a big job and requires a lot of prep and some knowledge to make sure the tank is okay and manage things if it does cause a mini cycle. But it's also easy and not a problem just to add a sandy area. Mixing substrates can be tricky, but a lot of people do it.
I do have to add to this that the gravel shouldn't be too large of course. And the gravel that I have doesn't have sharp edges. But I stand with what I've mentioned. You just need to know what you're doing.
And none of my cories have damaged bodies because of the gravel all these years. That's why I dare to state this. But that doesn't mean that people should not use sand. Let that be clear...


Just to illustrate the point, I found a useful slow-mo video of a panda cory filter feeding through sand. Watch the gills, and you can see the cory filtering the sand though the gills, and the sand coming out of the gills. That's why so people get so passionate about cories and substrate. Their barbels, foraging behaviours, and that the substrate is smooth and small enough that they can filter it through their gills without damaging their gills either, and they have at least an area in the tank where they can practice this natural behaviour of theirs.

Pygmy cories at least (Corydoras pygmaeus) do this too, I've witnessed that with my large group in fine sand. I haven't kept the other two species yet, but I'd be very surprised if they didn't do the same.

But this is personal opinion, no set rules in the hobby beyond some basics like cycling. You can choose your own path, take what you find useful, leave the rest. :)

 
Now let's do indoor vs outdoor cats ;)

Haha! Oh man, that's so tricky. It's really normal for cats to be allowed outside here in the UK. I'm internally very conflicted about that topic.. can't even agree with myself about that one! :lol:
 
Hi, I just found these new replies! I'm feeling a lot more optimistic about the situation now. I was worked up when I wrote last, and was more confrontational than I should've been. I'm sorry, but I'm glad to see the wholesome discussion of the topic, especially since it gives me a wall-of-text worth of information 😋.
I've decided that the pygmys will be ok, and that I should get more of them to make them happier. I would love to change the center "courtyard" of the tank to sand at some point in the future, but I feel assured that the cories will be ok if I don't do that right away.
I can see both of the ones with injured fins (I haven't seen any more injury so I guess it was from the store) still puttering around. One is almost completely healed, doing fine, and growing. The other one is laying low, but also seems to be healing and evidently is eating something, since it's lived this long.
 
I removed a load of gravel after deep cleaning it, a bit at a time, and added a "sand beach" at the front, moved some gravel towards the back and kept it since plants were deeply rooted, until the tank was half gravel at the back, half fine sand at the front for the cories. It's a pain to maintain to keep the gravel and sand separate, but worth it to me since the tank is working. No need to change what's working for the cories right now and remove the rest of the gravel, and I personally think the mulm that forms in that gravel, plus the oak and almond leaves I add - helps promote colonies of microcritters which I think keeps the pygmy cory fry fed between what I feed to the tank.
OMG, thank you for sharing this! That's how we can get sand for our Schwartzi corries in our 65 gallon. We've been dreading trying to change out the gravel with all the live plants and fish and such, so we keep putting it off. If we can create a sand beach in the front, where there aren't a lot of plants, I think we can make give our corries a space to do their thing and thus be happier! Yea!
 
I accept the experts advice that you should have a sand substrata. However I was unaware of that when I set up my tank many years ago, and have a small gravel substrata. Some of my fish would probably be best suited to a sand bottom, but seem to be perfectly happy on the gravel substrata I have. There are 4 clown loaches that are more than 10 years old, and 5 Albino Cory's that are about 6 years old. The Cory's do swim together as a group in mid water, but you do not need to worry about them just lying on the substrate as mine spend most of their time just foraging in the gravel or just laying on the gravel resting. None of them have damaged themselves to my knowledge and all seem perfectly happy.
 

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So last month I got 6 pygmy cories to add to my 20gal community tank (relevant threads) with platies, zebra danios, and cherry shrimp. I really loved seeing them school at first. But, I don't think they're doing very well. Of the 6 I bought, 2 were unhealthy and died after a day or two. Another one I later had to euthanize because it was injured to the point that it couldn't swim (I think I might've hurt it while moving decorations around).

Of the 3 I have left (which I'm sure are stressed), one of them (always the biggest) is still healthy, but the other two spend most of their time laying on the substrate, and also seem to be missing the lower fork of their tail fin? I'm not sure if this is from fin-nipping at the store or if my gravel is hurting them. I'm also having difficulties feeding them, since they're so much smaller than the other fish, and don't have safety in numbers to feel safe eating alongside the larger fish.

My intention, at first, was to get more as soon as I can (although I haven't had the money to yet), thinking that once they feel safe in a school they will be more healthy and confident. But I'm starting to feel like the species in general is just too small and fragile to fit in with the rest of my tank. I'm also starting to feel disappointed with the appearance of the fish, although that might just be because I'm not seeing them school anymore.

I'm starting to wonder if I should try to take them back and get another species (like sterbai or julii) instead. When I was initially shopping I felt like these were too big (and still do a little) but I've also realized that they would be juvenile when I bought them, and by the time they were fully grown my platies might also be a lot bigger. I also like the coloration of those species better. My only concern though is that a larger species will leave less room in the tank stocking-wise, as I would also like to eventually add a panda garra at some point and that is also a larger fish.

I'm not sure what route I should choose. On one hand I feel like the sterbai/julii would be safer and more visually appealing in the tank, but on the other hand, I feel like all this might be better if I can just fix the situation with the pygmies, since I didn't feel this way before I was having trouble with them.
 

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