Can You Keep Cory Catfish With Gravel? Is It Safe?

It is not recommended to keep Cory Catfish with gravel in your aquarium, Cory Catfish are bottom feeders and they could damage themselves as the gravel will be sharp and pointy and could damage their barbels.

Cory Catfish With Gravel

Cory Catfish are bottom feeders and spend most of their time scavenging the aquariums floor for food. For this reason it is very important to select the correct substrate for them.

Why Is Gravel Bad

As mentioned above the gravel will be sharp and pointy and this could lead to the cory catfish cutting or bruising their barbels (Wiskers)

If their barbels are bruised or cut then they can get infected and this could in the worse case lead to the fishes death.

If the barbels fall off they will grow back if the water conditions are good.  If the water is dirty they are more likely to get a bacteria infection.

Is small gravel ok for cory catfish? Small gravel is safer than larger gravel, but you will still have the same issue of sharp and pointy gravel harming your fish.

What Substrate To Use

The best substrate to use for cory catfish is fine sand.  This is the perfect substrate to use for these fish as it is easy for them to dig in to and search for food.

They love to scavenge for food in sand as you can see in the below video

It is recommended to use silica sand in your aquarium because this is one of the safest and finest sands you can get and is the most friendliest for your cory catfish.

Silica sand comes in white or beige colour and will look amazing in your aquarium. If you are looking to add sand to your aquarium you should add a thickness of 1.5 – 2 inches.

Substrates To Avoid

It is very important to know the substrates you need to avoid, They are

Sharp Sand

Sharp sand should be ok for your cory, but it is possible that over time the sharp sand will damage your fishes barbels and around the mouth.  The cory will not ingest the sand so their internal organs should not get damaged with this sand.

Black Sand

I am not sure about black sand, I have seen people advise not to use it as the grains are a little large for the cory fish and could do damage, Whilst other people have said it has caused issues.

If you do plan to use black sand monitor your cory catfish barbels to make sure they look healthy.

black aquarium sand


As we covered above it is not a good idea to use gravel because it is sharp and could do damage to your fish.

What To Feed Cory Catfish

As you can imagine cory catfish depend on food to fall to the floor so they can feed on it.  They have been known to come to the surface to feed when they are very hungry.

It is important to feed them a balanced diet and not just live of food scraps that have sunk to the bottom of the tank.

It is best to feed them food that will sink when put in to the water.  The food I recommend to feed cory catfish are

  • Blood Worms (Only as a weekly treat)
  • Pellets
  • Bottom Feeder Tablets
  • Tropical Granules


One of the best things you can do for your cory catfish is to give them a substrate they can thrive in.  They will love to spend hours just digging in the substrate to find food.

It is also very important to keep the substrate as clean as possible because food will deteriorate in it and if your fish then eat the food they can become ill.