Freshwater Fish

Corydoras sterbai – Care Guide

The Corydoras Sterbai is a charming freshwater fish that goes unnoticed in the aquarium community. But like some of the more popular Cory strains, this species is a great choice for just about anyone!

This guide will cover everything there is to know about Corydoras Sterbai (Sterbai Cory) care. Size, diet, tank configuration and more!

Species Summary

The Corydoras Sterbai (also called Sterba’s Cory) is a calm freshwater inhabitant with a unique appearance and quirky personality. These fish are part of the ever-popular Cory catfish family, which encompasses more than 200 different species.

This particular species is from the Guaporé River region of South America. They inhabit fast-flowing rivers and streams where they prefer to stick to the bottom of the water column to collect.

A popular choice for freshwater aquarists, the Corydoras Sterbai catfish is widely available and quite affordable. Combine that with their lax care requirements and you have a species of fish that anyone can successfully care for.


Like other Cory catfish, the Sterbai has a somewhat stocky profile. They are small, plump fish with rounded heads and a mouth without a turn for feeding. To help with their scavenging nature, these fish also have a pair of barbels on their mouths.

On the side of the body, you’ll notice two rows of plate-like armor! These scales offer tons of protection from potential predators in the wild.

Color-wise, these fish are predominantly black or dark brown. White dots adorn the body, creating a high-contrast pattern that stands out! The fins have the same spotted appearance, but the spots are arranged to mimic stripes.

Beyond the spots, the fins are all transparent. They also have lightning. The dorsal fin, in particular, has sharp rays that the fish can use for added protection.

Author’s Note: Males and females are fairly easy to tell apart when grouped together. Females are larger and bulbous. This is especially true when the eggs are developing. Meanwhile, the males tend to be slimmer and stockier.

Average size of Corydoras Sterbai

These fish are smaller. The average size of the Sterbai Cory is usually around 2.5 inches long when fully grown. Some specimens can be up to four inches long, those instances are few and far between.

Thanks to its smaller size, the Corydoras Sterbai Catfish is a great choice if you have limited space and a more compact aquarium. That is one of the reasons why this species is so popular!

Life expectancy

Believe it or not, Corydoras Sterbai is capable of living for up to two decades! The average lifespan of the Sterbai Cory catfish is 15 to 20 years. when proper care is provided.

It is impossible to know precisely how long these fish will live. Many factors come into play, but the quality of care you provide has the most significant impact.

Fish in poor living conditions regularly succumb to stress, disease and early death. By keeping them happy and healthy, you will drastically increase the chance of them reaching their maximum lifespan.

Sterbai Cory Care

Like most species in the Corydoras family, Corydoras Sterbai care is a walk in the park! Straightforward and highly adaptable, they are easy enough for even novice aquarists.

Of course, these freshwater fish have basic needs that you must meet. Fortunately, keeping your Corydoras Sterbai happy and healthy is simple if you follow the guidelines below.

tank size

Some aquarists see success keeping these fish in aquariums that hold as little as 10 gallons. However, our recommendation is to start with a 20 or 25 gallon tank size instead.

A slightly larger aquarium serves a couple of purposes. First, it offers more land area to accommodate the scavenging behavior of fish. Second, it provides enough space for a sizeable group.

Author’s Note: 20 or 25 gallons is more than enough space for four to six Corydoras Sterbai. If you plan to keep more, you will need to increase.

water parameters

A traditional style biotope of the Amazon River is best for Corydoras Sterbai. Although they do not technically come from the Amazon River, the conditions in their natural habitat are quite similar.

However, keep in mind that Sterbai Cory catfish are bottom dwellers. Down there, decaying plants and animals make the environment a little more acidic.

Beyond that, Corydoras Sterbai can adapt to a wide range of freshwater environments. As long as the parameters remain stable within accepted ranges, they will prosper.

  • Water temperature: 73°F to 82°F (between 75°F and 79°F is ideal)
  • pH levels: 6.0 to 7.6
  • Water hardness: 0 to 15 dKH

Author’s Note: Make sure you have a high-quality water test kit to monitor these parameters. Using an inaccurate test kit is just as bad as having none!

how to decorate your tank

Start your decorating efforts with a good layer of smooth substrate. The best option for Sterbai Corys is sand. You should avoid rough materials like pebbles as they can damage those delicate chins.

Next, add some dry leaves. A handful of Indian almond leaves will help infuse some beneficial tannins into the water. If you have a larger aquarium, you can also use peat moss in a mesh bag. Just be sure to monitor the pH levels to make sure you don’t overdo it.

Next, add some driftwood, rock caves, and plants. The Corydoras Sterbai catfish is not picky about plant species. The main concern here is that it provides enough shelter and light protection.

Author’s Note: Many aquarists also recommend using a high-powered water pump or filter. These fish prefer a more robust water flow.

Possible common diseases

Corydoras Sterbai are susceptible to all the usual health problems like other tropical fish. Generally, these fish are more resistant to disease than some less resistant species. However, they can still get sick anyway.

The biggest problems to worry about are Ich and fin rot.

Sterbai Corys can also suffer from red spot disease. It is caused by the same bacteria that leads to fin rot. It starts as red sores on the abdomen. If you don’t catch it early enough, the disease can be fatal.

The same goes for bacterial infections on the chins. Corydoras Sterbai catfish have delicate barbels that are easily damaged and prone to infection. Be sure to keep the habitat safe for these fish.

Author’s Note: Check your fish regularly and act quickly if you notice any problems. There are many over-the-counter treatment options available for common ailments, but don’t hesitate to consult your veterinarian if you’re unsure how to proceed.

Keeping a close eye on tank conditions is also an essential part of Sterbai Cory care. Test the water regularly and do quarterly water changes every few weeks to keep parameters stable.

Food and Diet

Many novice fish owners make the mistake of thinking that Corydoras Sterbai do well on litter alone. While they will eat food scraps that fall to the substrate, you still need to supplement their diet!

Sterbai Cory fish are omnivores that thrive on varied diets.

For most meals, it’s best to stick to commercial foods. Nutrient dense formulas are best. Be sure to provide sinking pellets so the food reaches the substrate.

From time to time, you can offer some high-protein snacks. Live, frozen, and freeze-dried foods are a treat for these fish! Try bloodworms, brine shrimp, brine shrimp, and daphnia.

Author’s note: You can feed the fish once or twice a day. Provide enough food that they can consume in two to three minutes. It is best to feed these Corys just before dark when they are most active.

behavior and temperament

Corydoras Sterbai are interesting little freshwater fish. Like most corydoras, this species is not even remotely aggressive! They like to stay out of the way and stick to their own.

They can be a bit shy so don’t expect to see them very playful in the tank. Throughout the day, most like to stalk in the shade of plants or under a piece of driftwood.

Of course, they are not just resting! These creatures are skilled scavengers. Using their barbels as a guide, they sift through the substrate to chop up plant detritus, food scraps, and whatever else they can find.

Author’s Note: If you look closely, you might even see her eyes move. Many people confuse movement with blinking. It’s actually the fish looking down while rummaging through the sand!

Corydoras Sterbai catfish can breathe atmospheric air. The biological trait is an impressive survival tool that helps fish reside in low-oxygen environments. From time to time, you will see your Sterbai Corys travel through the water column to the surface to get a breath of fresh air.

While this behavior is completely normal, it could also be a sign of poor conditions. Frequent trips to the surface often indicate low oxygen levels.

tank mates

If you’re looking to create a biodiverse community, Sterbai Corys is a great addition to the mix. Thanks to their docile nature, they get along with almost any species of fish.

It is important to keep these fish in groups of at least four to six fish. They tend to be more active and confident in the presence of others.

Beyond other Corydoras Sterbai, you can try any other similar sized fish. They even get along with betta fish !

The only types of fish you should avoid are aggressive fish and large bottom dwellers. Leave the bottom of the water column for your Sterbai Cory fish to enjoy.

Here are some great Corydoras Sterbai tankmates worth considering:


Sterbai Corys frequently breed in captivity. However, this requires a separate breeding tank.

Use a 10 gallon tank with temperatures around 75 degrees and a pH around 6.0. Place a conjoined pair in the tank. You can also use a breeding ratio of two males per female if you have not yet established pairs.

Condition the fish with protein-rich foods. Eventually the female will begin to swell with eggs. When this happens, increase the flow of oxygen in the water with an air bladder and perform a 50 to 70 percent water change.

The couple will perform a unique mating ritual. It involves a lot of chasing and a well-choreographed dance. The male will eventually fertilize the eggs while the female deposits them at a preselected site.

Typically, the female will stick to sticky eggs on the glass of the aquarium near an area with considerable water flow.

The process continues for several days. The Sterbai Cory catfish can lay over 300 eggs! When they are done, remove the adults and let the eggs develop.

It only takes three to five days for the eggs to hatch. The babies will eat the egg sac for a couple more days until they are free swimming. At that time, you can provide freshly hatched brine shrimp, infusoria, or commercial fried foods.

final thoughts

Sterbai Cory care shouldn’t be a challenge (even if you’re a beginner). As long as you focus on the basic requirements we mentioned in this guide, you should be fine!

If you have any other questions about this freshwater species, we will be happy to answer them. Submit your question and we’ll get back to you as quickly as possible.

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