Sterbai Cory: How To Care For This Catfish Species

Alison Page

Alison Page


Sterbai Cory: How To Care For This Catfish Species

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The Corydoras catfish is just about the most popular species of tropical freshwater fish that’s found in home aquariums right around the world. These attractive little fish are easy to care for, making them perfect for the beginner hobbyist, and there are over 200 species of Cory to choose from, including the Sterbai Cory.

Sterbai Care Guide

What is a Sterbai Cory?

The Sterbai Cory or Corydoras Sterbai is a member of the Corydoras catfish family. This particular species of catfish was first discovered in 1962 in South America by Dr. Günther Sterba and was named in his honor. The name Corydoras translates literally from Greek as Kory, meaning helmet, and doras, meaning skin.

You can identify these popular fish by the twin rows of armor plating that runs along Cory’s flanks. Also, the Corydoras Sterbai has fewer than ten dorsal fin rays. The fish’s head and body are dark brown in color, decorated with horizontal rows of white spots. The tail and fins are opaque with black spots.

Like all species of catfish, the Corydoras Sterbai has a pair of barbels on the snout, which it uses for rooting through the substrate while searching for things to eat. When mature, Corydoras can grow to between two and four inches in length.

You can also find pink-eyed albino variations of the species, which make an interesting addition to your community tank.


The Sterba’s Cory is found in the upper reaches of the Rio Guarpore in Brazil and is native to the Guaporé River region of South America between Bolivia and Brazil.

The environment in these riverbed locations is typically dark and shaded, making the habitat perfect for these shy, bottom-dwelling fish.

Most of the specimens that you’ll find in your local fish store are captive bred in huge numbers in Eastern Europe or the Far East. So, the availability of the species is good, and prices are low too.

Sterbai Cory: How To Care For This Catfish Species
Picture by Amazon Aquatic Gardens

Care of Corydoras Sterbai

Corydoras catfish are extremely easy to look after and are, therefore, recommended as a great choice for newbies to fishkeeping.

Tank size

Ideally, these little catfish should be kept in shoals of four to six individuals in a large community aquarium of 25 gallons or more.

Tank decoration

Corydoras love to rummage through the substrate, foraging for scraps of food. Choose smooth gravel or sand as a lining for the tank bottom, as rough edges could damage the catfish’s barbels.

Also, you can replicate the natural environment of the fish by providing dark, shady places where they can hide. Include driftwood, rock caves, and plenty of dense planting and some floating plants for the best effect. Be sure to leave plenty of space on the aquarium floor so that the fish can move around freely.

Water conditions

Corydoras are pretty tolerant of varied water conditions, although they do like the soft, slightly acidic conditions that are found in their natural riverbed habitat. So, the water in the tank should be between pH 6 and 7.8. Also, including driftwood in the setup will help to stabilize the pH.

The fish’s natural river environment has a fairly fast-flowing current, so you should imitate that by using a pump that generates fast water flow.

Sterbai Corydoras are amenable to a range of temperatures from 750 to 820 Fahrenheit.

It’s very important that the tank bottom is kept clean. If conditions are allowed to become unsanitary, the Corydoras’ barbels may be left vulnerable to bacterial infections.


Corydoras Sterbai is omnivores and does well on a varied diet. Although the species has the reputation of being a tank bottom scavenger, Corydoras do need a balanced diet to keep them healthy, so you should offer them a mixture of live and dried foods, including sinking catfish pellets, flake, and tablets. Some form of frozen foods, including artemia, bloodworms, daphnia, and brine shrimp, should be fed to the fish once a week as a good source of protein.

As this species tends to be more active at night, it’s best to feed your Corydoras Sterbai just before lights-out.


All species of Corydoras are facultative air breathers. That means that they can breathe air if necessary, enabling the fish to survive if their environment becomes oxygen-depleted. In an aquarium setting, you’ll sometimes see your Corys darting up to the surface to gulp a mouthful of air. So, although these fish do like plants in their environment, be careful not to overdo it so that the water surface is obstructed.

Although that’s a natural behavior and not an immediate cause for concern, if the fishes’ visits to the surface become more and more frequent, that could be an indication of poor water quality.

Corys spend most of their day resting on the aquarium floor in shady, sheltered areas underneath plants or decorations. Between resting, you’ll see this cute little fish riffling around on the tank bottom searching for food.

Look closely, and you’ll see that your Corydoras Sterbai have the ability to “blink” their eyes. In fact, fish don’t have eyelids, so they can’t blink in the same way that humans can. What your Sterbai Corydoras is actually doing is tilting its eye down to check out what’s available to eat on the gravel and nearby.


All species of Corydoras are absolutely peaceful, making them the perfect companions for aggressive fish such as bettas who generally just ignore these cute little fish.

So, you can keep pretty much any fish species harmoniously with Corys, with the exception of any large bottom-dwellers that could harass and stress your Sterbai, including Oscars, Jack Dempseys, and Texas cichlids. That said, Corydoras have their own built-in armor plating, covering their head and body, giving them adequate protection if required.


Corydoras are one of the hardiest and most robust freshwater tropical fish that you can keep. If given the correct care and a good diet, these plucky little fish can live for between 15 to 20 years.

That said, the species is susceptible to a few common fish diseases, including:

Red blotch disease

Red blotch disease in Corydoras is thought to be caused by the same species of bacteria that are responsible for fin rot and fungus.

The condition appears as small bloody sores on the fish’s belly, making it difficult to spot in these bottom dwellers. Although you can use antibacterial treatment added to the tank to treat the condition, the disease is usually fatal if it’s not detected early enough.

Damaged or missing barbels

As we mentioned previously, unsanitary or dirty conditions on the bottom of the tank can lead to bacterial infections that can cause Cory’s barbels to become damaged or even drop off completely. Again, adding an antibacterial treatment to the water usually fixes this problem, although the barbels will not regrow.

Fin rot

Sterbai Corydoras can occasionally be affected by fin rot. The condition causes the affected fish’s fins to appear ragged and torn and is caused by bacteria. Treat the water with antibacterial medication to solve the problem.

Most of the problems experienced with this species are related to poor water conditions and incorrect diet. If you keep your tank clean, your filter system working correctly, and feed your fish the right food, Corys are rarely sick.


Ich is also commonly known as white spot disease. The condition is caused by the Ichthyophthirius parasitic protozoan that is present in most tanks, only causing a problem when fish are stressed, or water quality is poor.

Corydoras are resistant to Ich, largely thanks to their armored skin. However, when a whole community tank is affected, Corys can contract Ich. The condition is relatively easy to treat. Use a proprietary treatment that you’ll find in most fish and pet stores or search online and order something suitable.

Breeding and reproduction

Sterbai Corydoras are relatively easy to breed in an aquarium or special breeding tank.

Sexing the fish is straightforward; males are thinner and a little smaller than females, which tend to have rounder, broader bodies, especially when they are carrying eggs. If you have a group of Corys, there’s a high chance that you will end up with a mix of both sexes, although the fish must be a few years old before they reach breeding condition.

To provide the ideal conditions for spawning, the water temperature should be kept at around 750 Fahrenheit with a pH 6. If possible, use a box-type filter system or an air-powered sponge so that the fry won’t get sucked in. When the females are full of eggs, increase the oxygen flow through the water and perform a 50% to 70% water change with cooler water.

During spawning, males pursue females around the aquarium, frequently pausing to rub their barbels and body against the female. When the female is ready to spawn, she will search for a suitable egg-laying site and busy herself in cleaning the area once she’s found one. As the courtship ritual progresses, the female begins to chase the male in a bizarre role reversal.

Eventually, the pair adopts the classic “T” position where the male fish is at right angles to his mate with her head resting on his midsection. The male turns his body so that he can grasp the female’s barbels with his pectoral fins. At that point in the spawning process, the male releases his sperm, and the female drops one to ten eggs, which she catches with her pelvic fins.

Once the eggs have been fertilized, the female deposits the eggs at her prepared site. The eggs are sticky and adhere readily to the chosen nesting area. Spawning continues for several days, during which time as many as 300 eggs may be laid.

The eggs are usually deposited on the tank glass in an area of high water flow. Once spawning is complete, it’s recommended that you remove the fish to prevent them from eating the eggs. Treat the breeding tank with a few drops of methylene blue to kill off any fungus that may otherwise attack the eggs.

The eggs hatch within about three to five days, and once the yolk sacs have been used up, the fry will take baby brine shrimp and micro-worms as their first food.

Corydoras that are bred in a home aquarium are usually extremely hardy and acclimatized to life in captivity. For that reason, some fish stores are willing to buy them from amateur breeders, once the juvenile fish are one or two inches long.


Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions about Corydoras Sterbai that we answer for you in this next section of our helpful guide.

Q: How big do Sterbai Corydoras get?

A: Corydoras Sterbai is quite small in form, growing to a maximum size of just 2 to 2.6 inches long. Females are typically larger and rounder-bodied than males.

Q: What do you feed Sterbai Cory?

A: Corydoras Sterbai is omnivorous. The fish will eat live, frozen, and dried foods, including flake, catfish pellets, and wafer, as well as a variety of high-protein meaty foods, such as bloodworms, daphnia, and brine shrimp. The food that you offer your Corys should be easily accessible on the tank bottom where the fish spend most of their time.

As Corys are bottom feeders, you should try to keep an eye on your community tank at feeding time to make sure that all the occupants receive a sufficient amount of food.

Q: How do Sterbai Corydoras breed?

A: Sterbai Corydoras often breed spontaneously in captivity, provided that you have a shoal that includes an even distribution of both sexes, and the tank conditions are good. You can read a full review further up the page of our website on how to successfully breed Corys.

Q: Are Cory catfish hardy?

A: Yes. Cory catfish are a very robust and hardy species, although they can be susceptible to a few common fish diseases that are often caused by poor aquarium hygiene or incorrect feeding. So, if you keep conditions in good order, your fish should remain healthy.

Final thoughts

The Sterbai Corydoras is a small, peaceful, freshwater fish that has a lifespan of between ten and 15 years. These fish are easy to care for, and their small size and hardiness make them ideal for a mixed community tank. There are many varieties of Corydoras, all of which can be kept harmoniously together in a tank of a suitable size.

If you’re a newbie to the art of fishkeeping, a small mixed shoal of Corydoras catfish will make the perfect starting point for your journey.

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