The pygmy salt and pepper cory is a small fish native to the upper Río Orinoco basin in eastern Colombia and western Venezuela. This species occurs in the Llanos Orientales region, which is a vast tropical grassland plain traversed by the Orinoco and some of its major left bank tributaries. Large swathes of these plains become flooded during the annual wet season, forming an enormous wetland. These fish grow to an adult length of about 1.2 to 1.4 inches long. Adult females tend to grow larger than males and are noticeably broader and deeper bodied.
Pygmy salt and pepper cories are facultative air breathers and possess a modified, highly vascularised intestine which has evolved to facilitate uptake of atmospheric oxygen and aid survival in oxygen deprived environments. In the aquarium they may be occasionally seen rising to the surface to take in gulps of air.
Like all cories, pygmy salt and pepper cories posses stiffened pectoral fin spines that are capable of piercing human skin and causing a ‘sting’ that can be very painful indeed, so care should be exercised when handling them. It is thought that secretions from the axillary glands at the base of each spine may even be mildly toxic or venomous.
The pygmy salt and pepper cory should be kept in an aquarium of 20 gallons or larger as it should be kept in groups of at least 4 to 6, but ideally groups of 10 or more. A biotope style aquarium could consist of a sandy substrate (CS6631) with driftwood roots and branches (ZM2000), leaf litter (CS706), and live plants.
The pygmy salt and pepper cory prefers a water temperature of 68° to 79°F, a pH range of 5.5 to 7.5, and soft to moderately hard water of 2 to 10°H.
The pygmy salt and pepper cory is a foraging omnivore feeding primarily on small insects and insect larvae. In the aquarium, pygmy salt and pepper cories are generally adaptable and will accept most good quality prepared foods (AL166) as well as live or frozen blood worms, daphnia, brine shrimp, and black worms, but should be offered a varied diet. It may be beneficial to soak live or frozen foods in a food supplement such as Vita Chem (BE2450) to enhance the nutritional profile of the food and ensure good health. An appetite stimulant such as Hyper Garlic (SIC542) and probiotics (AL169) may also be beneficial. Under no circumstances should they be expected to survive exclusively on ‘left overs’ from other inhabitants of the aquarium or relied on to ‘clean’ the aquarium.
Pygmy salt and pepper cories are peaceful and gregarious. If possible, maintain them in groups of 10 or more. Good tank mates include many tetras, rasboras, smaller loricariid catfish, other Corydoras catfish, and peaceful dwarf cichlids such as apistogrammas or rams. These small cories are also relatively safe for most ornamental shrimp.