81 degrees is bad for cories, it'll shorten their life span. You gotta go to the lower end of their temperature range and keep it at 76-77F.
This probably isn't the only time this has happened. Fish act very different when their owner isn't infront of the tank. If you stand 5-6 feet away and watch for a long time you get a better idea of what goes on in the tank.
When I had my cories in with a betta he'd attack them every time they surfaced for air, otherwise he ignored them.
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