Catfish of the Month Right December 1999

Long Nosed Arched Cory, Panzerwels (Germany), Purus Cory - Corydoras narcissus   Nijssen & Isbrücker, 1980

Article © Julian Dignall, uploaded December 01, 1999.

The last catfish of the month in this millennium was also the first new Corydoras of the 1980's. As we approach the much heralded "Y2K" I though it appropriate to feature a fish both currently available (although still expensive) yet also largely undocumented. Our new millennium will hopefully see a reversal in both situations.

In Greek mythology Narcissus (or Narkissos in Greek) was the son of the river god Kephissus. He was a beautiful youth who rejected all admirers (including the gorgeous nymph Echo) and fell in love with his reflection in a pool. After much myth and fable he was finally transformed into the flower that bears his name. Today we now know these as daffodils which, you may have noticed, are always looking downwards - like Narcissus into the reflection of his pool. From this legend comes the term narcissism, meaning exclusive love of self. Psychoanalytic theory considers narcissism a normal phase of childhood yet suggests that remnants of this phase in adulthood may be a factor in some neuroses.

How this name and the various implications thereof meant that it was chosen for this species is one of those pieces of modern aquatic legend that is always interesting to attempt to unravel. Many people have many answers to this question usually blaming assorted "characters" in the hobby or prominent figures of one sort or another. The story goes like this. In 1976 a group of collectors (H. R. Axelrod, H. Bleher, G. van den Bossche, J. Gery and A. Schwartz none the less) captured a number of then undescribed catfishes. Unfortunately somebody began referring to one of these species as C. bleheri, a name which appeared in a subsequent magazine article about the trip and quickly caught on in various wholesalers. On the positive side, a sample of these fish were later sent to Nijssen & Isbrücker (two leading scientists in the field of South American catfish icthyology) apparently with at least a strong request to name them after one of the aforementioned collectors. In 1980 they were described as C. narcissus and within that paper read "Etymology - Corydoras narcissus is named after Narcissus, son of the Greek river god Kephissus, in honour or those who recently collected undescribed Corydoras species, and kindly suggested new names for them." So, tongue set firmly in cheek, they were named after the collector, generally if not specifically!

Many a Corydoras specialist lists this fish as one of the most beautiful of the genus - it is my (probably) favourite - because of it's character and large striking appearance. On the subject of appearance, you will notice that in the picture above the fish has a stripe running from below its eye to it's snout. The picture below shows fish without this feature, with my C. narcissus this appears to change with mood.

Such a large, enigmatic and boldly marked fish without a doubt makes for a striking shoal, but be careful. This species, along with a number of the other long-nosed Corydoras, can exhibit surprising aggression amongst themselves. Males often fight each other and care should be taken to keep a much higher percentage of females to males. I kept a shoal of 6 (2 males and 4 females) in a roomy 48x18x18" aquarium and the smaller, weaker male was harried to an early death. The remaining 5 fish are now in a less expansive 36x12x12" aquarium and doing very well. There are however active in a way you would more associate with armoured catfish (Megalechis spp. etc.) than with the more demure Corydoras stereotype.

Reference: Nijssen, H. and I.J.H. Isbrücker, 1980. Three new Corydors species from French Guiana and Brazil (Pisces, Siluriformes, Callichthyidae). Netherlands Journal of Zoology, 30 (3) :494-503.

Down Cat-eLog Data Sheet
Scientific Name Corydoras narcissus  Nijssen & Isbrücker, 1980
Common Names Long Nosed Arched Cory
Panzerwels (Germany), Purus Cory
Type Locality Creek into Rio Ipixuna, 7°31'S, 63°16'W, 30 km west of Humaitá, Rio Purus system, Amazonas, Brazil.
Pronunciation kor ee doh rass (lineage one). - nar SISS uss
Etymology Cory = helmet, doras = skin. In this case it was incorrectly used to mean armour (cuirasse) instead of skin in allusion to the dual rows of plates that run along the flanks of this genus. Greek Mythology, After Narkissos, son of the Greek river god Kephissus. See catfish of the month article for a more detailed discussion.
Down Species Information
Size 65mm or 2.6" SL. Find near, nearer or same sized spp.
Identification Corydoras are identified by their twin rows of armour plates along the flanks and by having fewer than 10 dorsal fin rays. They are most commonly confused with the other genera in the sub-family, namely Brochis, Scleromystax and Aspidoras.

C. narcissus is the long snouted ''version'' of C. arcuatus and is readily identifiable by this characteristic. Two species exist that are commonly sold as C. narcissus. The real one is longer (the ratio of body height to length being significantly different), has a more pronounced concave head and a slightly darker basic colouration. The other, shorter fish is C. bethanae.
Sexing Female larger and stouter especially when viewed from above. Male has more pointed fin tips.
Down Habitat Information
Distribution South America: Purus River basin in middle Amazon River basin.
Amazon, Middle Amazon (Solimoes), Purus, Humaita (click on these areas to find other species found there)

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IUCN Red List Category Data Deficient, range map and more is available on the IUCN species page. Last assessed 2018.
pH 6.0 - 7.0
Temperature 23.0-25.0°C or 73.4-77°F (Show species within this range)
Down Husbandry Information
Feeding All prepared foods and frozen foods especially bloodworm and brineshrimp. Adults gorge on chopped mussel.
Furniture A little shading helps makes the fish feel at home. Sandy substrate brings out the best in these fish although because of the large size of the adult fish small pea gravel can also be employed.
Compatibility Peaceful and not anti-social with other catfish excepting occasional quarrels with it's own species. Youngsters appear sociable to each other but become quarrelsome with age. Rival adult males may bully each other to death if kept in too small an aquarium.
Suggested Tankmates South American dwarf Cichlids, larger Characins such as Silver Dollars (Metynnis spp.) are ideal although medium-sized Central American Cichlids and Asian anabantoids are good alternatives if you are not a biotope purist.
Breeding Unknown
Breeding Reports There is but a single breeding report, read it here.
Down Further Information
Reference Netherlands Journal of Zoology v. 30 (no. 3), pp 497, Fig. 2.
Registered Keepers Keeping this species? Why not .
There are 13 registered keepers, view all "my cats" data.
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There are 13 records of this fish being seen, view them all.
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Last Update 2021 May 10 00:42 (species record created: 1999 Dec 01 11:22)

Copyright information for the images used in this article can be found on the species' full Cat-eLog page.

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