Can Corydoras Live With African Cichlids?

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Corydoras are peaceful bottom dwellers that operate as the tank’s cleaning crew. They are generally small, up to 4 inches, and timid, spending most of their time in caves and around the substrate.

They’re also known as sand sifters, as this is their primary scavenging method.

On the other hand, African cichlids rank as the ‘very’ fish. Very active, very aggressive, very hungry, very territorial.

They also rank as semi-bottom dwellers, given that they enjoy the tank’s lower regions for the most part. They are also cave dwellers and like to live in large groups.

So, can Corydoras and African cichlids share the same habitat? Let’s have a look!

Do Not Keep Corydoras with African Cichlids

That’s right, corydoras and African cichlids are not compatible. There are a lot of reasons to highlight, so let’s point them all out.

African Cichlids are Very Aggressive

These fish are omnivorous but act more predator-like than actual predator fish. They are extremely aggressive and territorial and will attack any fish species that happen to swim in their turf.

African cichlids are probably some of the most territorial species you can get.

They use their environment’s layout to set up their territorial boundaries and will attack anything that wanders in their proximity.

Since Corydoras are bottom dwellers, they will inadvertently share the same living space, and you can see where that is going.

The only way to mitigate some of the notorious cichlid aggression is by keeping cichlids in larger numbers. The more there are, the calmer and more stable the cichlid group will become.

Naturally, this approach comes with its own problems, given that you will basically have even more predatorial cichlids that your Corydoras have to worry about.

African Cichlids Grow Big in Size

African cichlids vary drastically in size, depending on the breed itself, environmental conditions, and diet.

They vary between 2 and 12 inches, although the average is around 6-8. This is more than double the size of your typical Corydoras, which can only reach 4 inches maximum.

The size difference is important in this context because African cichlids are known to attack and eat all fish smaller than them.

This can lead to 2 potential outcomes. In most cases, the Corydoras will die a fast death. In the other, the cichlid itself may die. We’ll discuss the latter shortly.

More importantly, don’t think you can circumvent this problem by adding more caves and hiding spots. Cichlids also use them to rest and explore their environment, so your Corydoras have nowhere to hide.

And even if they do, they have to come out eventually to eat, and guess who’ll be waiting for them outside?

Difference in Water Parameters

Let’s check some data.

Corydoras water parameters:

  • Temperature range – 74-80 °F
  • pH – 5.5-7.0
  • Water hardness – 5-10 dGH

African cichlids water parameters:

  • Temperature range – 75-85 °F
  • pH – 7.8-8.6
  • Water hardness – 12-30 dGH

These parameters show pretty clearly that the 2 species are virtually incompatible. Maybe you can make it work, but one species will have to give up its comfort for the other.

This will result in poorer quality of life, health problems, and a shorter lifespan for either Corydoras or African cichlids.

Difference in Diet and Feeding Behavior

Corydoras are opportunistic scavengers that sift sand in search of food residues, plant matter, detritus, worms, etc.

They like to take their time when eating, keeping their energy levels low.

African cichlids also rank as omnivorous, but they’re pretty much carnivorous. They thrive on live foods and only consume plant matter when they need to.

This dietary difference is already an issue, given that cichlids will mostly produce live food residues. These are suboptimal for Corydoras, given that this species needs a mixed diet with a variety of veggies and plant matter.

It’s also worth noting that cichlids are very messy and aggressive eaters. They often disturb the environment when feeding and tend to eat in groups, causing a literal disaster in the process.

This is sure to stress your Corydoras significantly, especially given that African cichlids eat a lot and eat often.

Corydoras Have Spines

That’s right, your Corydoras can become dangerous to cichlids themselves in some cases. This is primarily due to their subtle fin spines that you may not notice with the naked eye.

The catfish use these spines to deliver a mild toxin when attacked or threatened. The toxin won’t kill the cichlids attempting to eat the catfish, but the spines themselves will.

It’s very likely that the cichlid will experience throat damage when swallowing a catfish which can prove fatal fast.

And make no mistake about it, the cichlid will hunt down the small Corydoras if the size difference between the 2 species is significant.


These 2 species are incompatible; however, you would look at it.

They share the same space, which is bad news due to cichlids’ territorial behavior, their feeding behavior is vastly different and they require different water parameters.

You should choose your cichlids’ tankmates carefully, and Corydoras shouldn’t be on that list.

Author Image Fabian
I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.
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