Corydoras Sterbai: Diet | Sexing | Breeding | Cost

Corydoras Sterbai or Sterba’s Cory, Sterbai Cory, or Sterba’s Corydoras as they are sometimes known, are peaceful, bottom-dwelling wonderful little freshwater fish from the armored catfish species.

Look in the bottom of any good freshwater fish tank and you’ll find some type of catfish.

These little fish not only add a variety to your tank they also do a wonderful job of keeping the gravel bed clean and tidy.

Let’s have a closer look at this amazing little fish. In our Ultimate care guide for the Corydoras Sterbai.

Where Do Corydoras Sterbai Come From?

Indigenous to the upper Rio Guapore in Brazil, South America, these fish love darker, shaded river beds. These fish are mostly farm captive bred these days and finding wild specimens are very hard. The fish is native to the Guaporé River region between Bolivia and Brazil.

Farm bred Corydoras Sterbai are very hardy fish and have acclimatized to aquarium life very well. Most of the Corys on sale in the US & UK originate from Eastern Europe or the Far East. They are bred in huge numbers these days so the prices are low and availability is good.

Discovered in 1962 and Specifically named in honor of Dr. Günther Sterba. The name means Cory = helmet, doras = skin.

Corydoras Sterbai Apperance

Corydoras Sterbai is identified by their twin rows of armor plates that run along the flanks and by having less than 10 dorsal-fin rays.

It is hard to misidentify this species but it can be confused with Corydoras haraldschultzi, although they are a long nosed species where C. sterbai is the dome-headed catfish, The best way to tell them apart is that the Sterbai Cory has white spots on its head from eyes down to snout. C. haraldschultzi does not.

What Size Aquarium Do Corydoras Need?

Common NameSterba's Cory
Scientific NameCorydoras sterbai
TemperamentVery Peaceful
Size3” Max
ColorBlack, Tan, Yellow
Water Conditions70-77° F, KH 0-15, pH 6.2-7.8
OriginBrazil, South America, Upper Rio Guapore
Tank size25 Gallons+

These fish need to be in groups or shoals of 4-6 minimum. They require a tank of 40-50 Gallons to thrive and live peacefully with most freshwater fish.

They need space on the gravel bed and some nice dark shaded places to hide. Driftwood is perfect for them to hide under it will also help stabilize the pH in your tank which ideally needs to be around 6.3-7.8. They prefer softer more acidic waters similar to those found in the wild.

They are one of the one species of catfish that don’t mind higher temperatures 24.0-28.0°C or 75.2-82.4°F is perfect for these little fish.

They like darker shaded tanks so low lighting is best and will recreate that natural look with some plants and wood giving your tank a natural Amazon river bed look.

Done right these tanks can look amazing, like the tank below.

Aqua scape tank
Perfect environment for Corydoras Sterbai Catfish

The best substrate would be sand, but rounded gravel will be fine, they love to dig in the gravel bed looking for food so ensure you have suitable size gravel or even better, sand.

Floating plants, rock and arched bogwood for them to hide under and a fine gravel, sand bed is the ideal environment for these fish. It will also look amazing.

The like a fast flowing water stream so try using a SunSun JVP Series Submersible Circulation Powerhead Pump that will recreate the fast flowing river feel they love and thrive in. 

What’s The Best Food and Diet For a Corydoras Sterbai?

These fish are Omnivores and as such will eat a variety of food. Flake food and dried foods are suitable for their daily meals. Live food should be also given to add variety to their diet however only feed them live foods once a week due to the high protein levels in these foods.

As most fish are top feeders make sure your lovey Corydoras Sterbai don’t miss out at feeding times. They will mainly feed on the bottom of your tank and depending on what other fish you have in the tank there may not be a lot of food that drops to the bottom.

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We really like sinking catfish pellets like Hikari Sinking Wafers For Catfish as pictures here.

Our advice would be to feed them some bottom sinking tablets we have reviewed many types and found the Best Catfish Sinking Pellets, go have a read of our full review.

These tablets or Pellets are designed to sink straight to the bottom of the tank, perfect for bottom dwellers to feed on. Whilst all your other fish are happily feeding on the surface your catfish and other bottom dwellers will get all the nourishment they need.

Another top tip is to feed them just before the lights go out as these fish typically more active at night.

These Catfish are not good Algae eaters so don’t buy them with cleaning your tank in mind. They do a good job of keeping the bottom of your tank clean but will not eat the algae from rocks and glass.

Can You Sex Corydoras Catfish?

It is almost impossible to sex these fish when younger, but as the fish get older the females will look fuller in the body if viewed from above.

There is no other way of sexing them. In a shoal of 5 or more females should stand out from males more easily when viewed from above. Males are smaller in length than females as a rule.

The Albino Sterbai make a wonderful addition to any tank.

How To Breed Corydoras Sterbai

Many fishkeepers have bred these fish and a good breeding ratio is about 2 males per females. Good clean water and regular partial water changes will ensure the correct water conditions suitable for breeding and drops in temperature will induce the process.

Make a partial water change of 20% and add new cooler water and slowly raise the temperature to 28 Deg C this will encourage the breeding ritual to start.

The pair will adopt the classic Corydoras ‘T position’ where the male fertilizes the eggs that are held between the females’ pelvic fins. The semi-adhesive eggs will then be deposited onto plants, décor, or the sides of the aquarium etc and the process repeated.

The eggs will take about 5 days to hatch and then the fry will need a further 96 hours before the will swim freely.

We suggest once the eggs have been laid you remove the parents to another tank to give the young a better chance of survival. The young will not need any more help from the parents once hatched. Just regular feeding from yourself.

A good diet and the correct conditions will give you the best chance of breeding these fish. Farm bred Corydoras Sterbai are easier to breed as wild ones are notoriously hard to breed in captivity.

These fish are hardy but can release a chemical toxin when stressed or overcrowded normally whilst breeding and transportation. Never transport these fish in a bag with others!

The difficult part is raising the young fry, they are very sensitive and difficult to feed and raise.

Corydoras Tank Mates

Corydoras sterbai is a very peaceful fish and therefore you will offer no problems for any other fish. However, being very peaceful they will need a community tank with similar fish or they could get stressed.

Avoid any bottom feeders that will be aggressive to them, other peaceful bottom feeders and Catfish are fine.

Perfect tank mates are:

  • Dwarf Gourami (Trichogaster lalius): is a very pretty fish that has recently had its reputation tarnished. But despite changes in its popularity, this fish is still a hardy, colorful fish that should be considered for any beginner hobbyist or experienced keeper. They make the ideal freshwater community fish and add color and character to any aquarium. They will be perfect tank mates for Corydoras catfish.

  • Siamese Algae Eater (Crossocheilus Siamensis): Otherwise known as the Siamese Algae Eater, is a member of the Cyprinidae (carp) family. In the wild, they live in Thailand and the Malayan peninsula. It is a relatively hardy species to keep, as long as there are some algae in your aquarium. They would inhabit all areas of the tank and live peacefully on the gravel-bed with Corydoras Sterbai.

  • Marble Veil Angel (Pterophyllum sp): Are wonderful freshwater fish that add a bit of class to any tank. They are the start of the show with their amazing fins and Black, white and marbled body. This fish will not bother Catfish at all and make good tank mates.

  • Barbs ( Cherry Bards ): These slender-bodied barbs are beautiful little fish and add a flash of color to any tank. Best kept in small shoals these fish have been bred in many home aquarium and starts with the males going a bright fiery red color just before breeding starts.

Corydoras Sterbai Facts

They are known to ‘blink’ their eyes to the amazement of onlookers. The Cory has the ability to tilt their eye downward to examine the nearby gravel-bed and surrounding area.

They also like to come up to the top of the tank and gulp air, this is normal and you shouldn’t worry. People often think that the tank is lacking in oxygen and add more pumps and air stones. This isn’t necessary, it’s just normal behavior for this catfish.

The Corydoras Sterbai can live a long and happy life in the right environment. They have a lifespan of 15-20 Years.

Corydoras Sterbai is armored not scaled catfish and is heavy for their size. They have two rows of overlapping bony plates running down each side and large plates covering their head. In fact, its name Corydoras comes from the Greek word kory meaning (helmet) and doras meaning(skin).

The most interesting fish tanks have a variety of fish living at different levels of water. Top feeders, shoal swimmers, and of course bottom dwellers like they Corydoras Sterbai.

Just remember to keep them in groups of 4-6 and make sure they feed correctly and these fish will give you years of pleasure.

Anyone who looks into your aquarium will definitely ask ‘ What’s that fish called’? These interesting and a little mysterious freshwater fish are a must-have in any community fish tank.

corydoras sterbai

Conclusion: Corydoras Sterbai

No matter which Corydoras you add to your aquarium they will all be a good addition to your fish tank.

Having active bottom-feeders is not only beneficial to your aquarium’s ecosystem but also makes them look more interesting.

These Cory’s are just one species out of a huge family of catfish and you’re really spoilt for choice when looking for a bottom dwelling fish.

Would we recommend Sterbai? Yes, they are one of my personal favourite Cory’s.