Name: Corydoras leucomelas
Origin: Upper Amazon Basin
C. leucomelas is a medium-sized cory, readily available in the hobby, and thousands are collected for export each year. With approximately 278 discrete species of Corydoras currently identified, it may be difficult to tell C. leucomelas from some of the other dotted and masked corys. C. leucomelas has an overall pattern of black dots, which may align to form irregular lines, on a pale silvery body. There is a large black spot on the dorsal fin, which continues on to the "shoulders" in some specimens, or is not as prominent in others, and a bold black mask over the eyes, which may be faint in some specimens. The leading hard ray of the dorsal fin, the dorsal fin spine, is shorter than the first two soft rays. The caudal (tail) fin is characterized by a bold vertical bar at the base of the fin, in most specimens. My group of C. leucomelas is typically marked, and was fairly easy to identify.
This species appreciates a soft sand substrate, but likes to spend a lot of time mid-water, too. Mine are often seen exploring the giant leaves of an Anubias plant or roaming through the java ferns; they seem to be active all day. One of my "leukos" likes to position himself in front of the gentle current of a small powerhead, and has been doing it daily for nearly 6 months; it doesnít seem to be harmful. Many wild-caught corys can be shy, but my group is always out there, looking for food or examining the siphon tube for goodies. Corys are very interesting fish, and each different species may have its own unique behavior quirk.
I keep my C. leucomelas in a tank with a black sand substrate, which is heavily planted and a bit like a jungle. The temperature of the water is about 26 C (79 F) which might seem on the high side, but the tank is uncovered and the water surface is cooler. Their current companions are C. habrosus, C. aeneus, Otocinclus sp. catfish, and some Physa sp. snails. It is a happy, active little tank.
C. leucomelas will search the sand for food, and will eat from every other surface, too. They can be seen meticulously examining every square millimeter of the broad Anubias leaves in search of missed morsels, and they often go to the top to skim the surface for frozen bloodworms, which donít sink.
As with all Corydoras, water quality is very important so regular water changes are a must. A good way to maintain the sandbed is to alternate piercing the sand with lightly stirring the sand; I use a wooden chopstick for both operations. Keeping the substrate fresh and clean will go a long way toward preventing bacterial infections of the barbels and mouth, which is likely to occur if the substrate is dirty and full of anaerobic pockets of toxic gasses.
Despite its popularity in the hobby, I could find no reports of C. leucomelas breeding in aquaria.
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