Sterbai Corydoras

Sterbai Corydoras are intriguing freshwater fish closely related to other Corydoras species. Their distinctive spotted pattern and peaceful nature have earned them a special place in the hearts of aquarium lovers. These sociable fish demand straightforward upkeep, making them a superb option for community aquariums.

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Care DIfficulty


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South America

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2.7 inches (6.8 cm)

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5 years

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Table of contents

Origin, Appearance, Size, and Lifespan

The Sterbai Corydoras, or Corydoras sterbai, often known as Sterbai's Cory, is a well-loved freshwater fish that originates from the rivers of South America, particularly the Rio Guaporé and Rio Negro, which flow through Brazil and Bolivia.

In their natural habitats, Sterbai Corydoras are typically found in slow-moving, shallow waters abundant in plant life. These plants provide not only shelter but also a source of food, while the dark riverbeds accentuate their distinct patterns. These gregarious fish flourish in groups of at least six, but it's not unusual to observe them in schools of 20 or more.

Their native environment is characterized by warm, soft, and slightly acidic to neutral water. The temperature usually ranges between 72 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit (22 to 26 degrees Celsius), with a pH level of 6.0 to 7.5, and water hardness between 2 to 15 dGH. To replicate this environment in your tank, ensure a steady water temperature, employ a high-quality filtration system, and add live plants and driftwood.

By replicating the Sterbai Corydoras' natural habitat and maintaining the right water conditions, you'll be providing your fish with a healthy and fulfilling aquarium life.

Sterbai Corydoras are noted for their bold black patterns, contrasting with a white or cream-colored body. This striking pattern makes them a captivating centerpiece in aquariums. Even though they are relatively small, measuring about 2.7 inches (6.8 cm) when fully grown, their distinctive markings and quiet nature make them an excellent choice for those aiming for a lively, visually appealing aquatic environment. These endearing fish provide delight as they actively explore the tank, making them a treasured option among hobbyists of all skill levels.

Given appropriate care, Sterbai Corydoras can live up to five years. Being social creatures, they thrive in groups and are best kept in schools of at least six members. To support their well-being and guarantee a long life in captivity, it's crucial to provide a well-planted aquarium with ample hiding spots, as well as a diverse diet consisting of high-quality flakes, pellets, and live or frozen foods.

Fun Facts

Having delved into the appearance and lifespan of Sterbai Corydoras, let's now shine a spotlight on some intriguing facts about these alluring fish that make them a popular choice in the aquarium hobby. From their distinctive markings to their social instincts, Sterbai Corydoras are full of delightful surprises that will surely enamor any aquarium enthusiast.

  • Armor for protection: In the wild, Sterbai Corydoras have an interesting survival strategy. They possess a unique bony armor, which helps protect them from potential predators and increases their chances of survival.
  • Sensitive barbels: Sterbai Corydoras have whisker-like appendages known as barbels. These barbels are not just for show – they are highly sensitive and help the fish locate food in the substrate of their environment.
  • Scavenger nature: Unlike many other fish, Sterbai Corydoras are scavengers, helping to keep the aquarium clean by consuming leftover food at the bottom of the tank. This natural scavenging behavior makes them excellent additions to a community tank.
  • Breathing air: One fascinating fact about Sterbai Corydoras is their ability to breathe air. They possess a modified, highly vascularized intestine that allows them to draw oxygen from the air, a useful adaptation for living in oxygen-poor environments.
  • Schooling behavior: Sterbai Corydoras are schooling fish, meaning they prefer to swim together in groups. This social behavior not only makes them feel safe but also provides a captivating spectacle in an aquarium. Their harmonious movements and striking patterns can turn a home aquarium into a stunning underwater vista.

Now that you're armed with some fascinating facts about Sterbai Corydoras, you'll be in a better position to appreciate their unique characteristics and behaviors in your aquarium. In the next section, we'll provide advice on tank setups, ensuring your Sterbai Corydoras have a perfect environment to thrive and exhibit their captivating traits.

Recommended Tank Setups

Each suggested setup includes key components—tank, filter, heater, lighting, substrate, and more—ensuring that you can construct a fitting environment for Sterbai Corydoras and other compatible freshwater fish species in your aquarium. As you progress from economical to high-end setups, you'll also have more opportunities for personalization, visual appeal, and advanced features. Sterbai Corydoras are sociable fish and need to be housed in groups of at least six individuals to minimize stress and enhance their well-being. Generally, Sterbai Corydoras are priced between $5 and $10 per fish, though prices can vary based on factors such as size, quality, and availability.

Budget-friendly setup (around $200):

  • Tank: 20-gallon aquarium with a hood or glass canopy ($40 - $70)
  • Filter: Hang-on-back (HOB) or sponge filter rated for 20 gallons ($20 - $40)
  • Heater: 50-100 watt adjustable aquarium heater ($15 - $30)
  • Lighting: Basic LED aquarium light ($20 - $50)
  • Substrate: Inexpensive aquarium sand or small gravel ($10 - $20)
  • Decor: A few pieces of driftwood and rocks, along with low-cost live plants like Java Fern and Anubias ($20 - $40)
  • Fish: Minimum 6, maximum 10 Sterbai Corydoras ($30 - $60)
  • Thermometer: $3 - $10
  • Substrate Vacuum: $10 - $25
  • Fish Net: $2 - $10
  • Algae Scraper or Magnetic Cleaner: $5 - $20
  • Siphon and Bucket: $15 - $30
  • Test Kit: $15 - $50
  • Fish Food: $5 - $20
  • Water Conditioner: $5 - $15

Mid-range setup (around $400 - $650):

  • Tank: 20-30 gallon aquarium with a hood or glass canopy ($60 - $120)
  • Filter: Canister filter or high-quality HOB filter rated for the tank size ($60 - $150)
  • Heater: 100-150 watt adjustable aquarium heater ($25 - $50)
  • Lighting: LED aquarium light with adjustable settings for plant growth and color enhancement ($50 - $150)
  • Substrate: Nutrient-rich aquarium substrate designed for planted tanks ($20 - $40)
  • Decor: A mix of driftwood, rocks, and live plants such as Amazon Swords, Java Fern, Anubias, and Cryptocoryne species ($40 - $80)
  • Fish: Minimum 6, maximum 15 Sterbai Corydoras ($30 - $100)
  • Thermometer: $3 - $10
  • Substrate Vacuum: $10 - $25
  • Fish Net: $2 - $10
  • Algae Scraper or Magnetic Cleaner: $5 - $20
  • Siphon and Bucket: $15 - $30
  • Test Kit: $15 - $50
  • Fish Food: $5 - $20
  • Water Conditioner: $5 - $15

High-end setup (above $800):

  • Tank: 30-40 gallon rimless aquarium with a glass canopy ($120 - $250)
  • Filter: High-quality canister filter rated for the tank size ($100 - $250)
  • Heater: 150-200 watt adjustable aquarium heater with an external temperature controller ($40 - $80)
  • Lighting: Advanced LED lighting system with customizable settings for plant growth, color enhancement, and day/night cycles ($150 - $300)
  • Substrate: Premium aquarium substrate designed for planted tanks, with added root tabs for extra plant nutrition ($30 - $60)
  • Decor: A combination of driftwood, rocks, and live plants to create a natural aquascape, featuring plant species such as Amazon Swords, Java Fern, Anubias, Cryptocoryne species, and carpeting plants like Dwarf Hairgrass or Monte Carlo ($60 - $150)
  • Fish: Minimum 6, maximum 20 Sterbai Corydoras ($30 - $140)
  • Thermometer: $3 - $10
  • Substrate Vacuum: $10 - $25
  • Fish Net: $2 - $10
  • Algae Scraper or Magnetic Cleaner: $5 - $20
  • Siphon and Bucket: $15 - $30
  • Test Kit: $15 - $50
  • Fish Food: $5 - $20
  • Water Conditioner: $5 - $15

Please note that these figures are just guidelines, and you should consider other factors such as tank mates and individual fish personalities when deciding how many Sterbai Corydoras to keep in your aquarium. Prices may fluctuate depending on location, brand, and availability.

Set Up Your Tank

Having touched on the ideal tank setups for your Sterbai Corydoras in the previous section, we can now delve into the comprehensive process of setting up your aquarium. This walk-through will encompass picking the best spot for your aquarium, sanitizing and prepping the tank, installing crucial equipment, and preparing the water to make a safe environment for your fish. We'll also go over the correct acclimation procedure to guarantee a seamless transition for your Sterbai Corydoras into their new environment. By adhering to these steps, you'll be on your way to establishing a flourishing aquatic habitat for your fish.

  • Step #1: Identify the optimal location for your aquarium. The location should be away from direct sunlight, drafts, and heat sources. The surface should be sturdy and level to support the weight of the tank when it's full. If your tank requires a stand, assemble it following the manufacturer's guide and place the unfilled tank on it.
  • Step #2: Now, it's time to clean your aquarium. Rinse it with clean water (avoid using detergents or chemicals) to get rid of any dust or particles. After rinsing, dry the inside with a clean towel or paper towel. Rinse your substrate (whether sand or gravel) in a bucket until the water runs clear, then distribute it evenly on the base of the tank, creating a slight incline towards the back for aesthetic depth.
  • Step #3: Before adding water to your tank, plan your aquarium layout, including the placement of equipment such as filters and heaters. This will simplify the setup and future maintenance of your tank. Install the heater and filter as per the manufacturer's instructions. If you're using an under-gravel or sponge filter, install it beneath the substrate prior to adding water.
  • Step #4: It's time to decorate your tank. Use driftwood, rocks, and plants to provide hiding spots and to create an attractive environment while ensuring there are sufficient open swimming spaces for your Sterbai Corydoras. Carefully arrange your decorations to avoid causing damage to or obstructing the equipment. Plants can be anchored to rocks or driftwood to keep them in place.
  • Step #5: Fill the tank with water that has been treated with a water conditioner if your tap water contains chloramines or chlorine. Use a clean plate or plastic bag on the substrate while filling to prevent disturbance. Fill the tank until it's approximately 2/3 full. Mount the aquarium light onto the hood or canopy as instructed by the manufacturer. A timer for your aquarium light can be useful to maintain a consistent day and night cycle, which is crucial for the health of your fish and plants. Connect the heater, filter, and any additional equipment (like a CO2 system or air pump) to power sources, and place the thermometer in a location where it can be easily read.
  • Step #6: Complete filling your tank, leaving some space between the water surface and the top of the tank for oxygen exchange. Switch on the heater, filter, and other equipment. Monitor the water temperature and adjust the heater as necessary. Allow the tank to cycle for 4-6 weeks to establish beneficial bacteria and stabilize water parameters. During the cycling process, you may use a bacterial starter culture to expedite the establishment of beneficial bacteria. Use an aquarium test kit to monitor the levels of nitrate, nitrite, and ammonia.
  • Step #7: Once your tank has cycled and the water parameters are stable, it's time to introduce your Sterbai Corydoras. Start by floating the sealed bag with the fish in the tank for about 15-20 minutes to equalize the temperature. Then, gradually add small amounts of tank water to the bag every 5-10 minutes over a period of 30-60 minutes, allowing your Sterbai Corydoras to slowly adjust to the new water chemistry. To move the fish from the bag to the tank, use a net to minimize stress and avoid introducing water from the bag into your tank.
  • Step #8: With all your fish introduced to their new environment, establish a regular feeding schedule, supplying high-quality food suitable for your Sterbai Corydoras. Carry out routine water changes (20-30% every 1-2 weeks) and keep an eye on water parameters using your test kit to ensure a healthy environment for your fish. Be vigilant for any signs of stress or illness in your fish, particularly in the first few weeks after their introduction. If you notice anything unusual, be prepared to take necessary action, such as adjusting water parameters or seeking advice from an experienced aquarist.

By meticulously following this detailed guide and implementing the additional setup tips, you're set to establish a thriving aquatic habitat that will allow your Sterbai Corydoras to thrive in their new home.

Recommended Water Parameters

Maintaining suitable water parameters is crucial for the well-being of your Sterbai Corydoras. The following are the conditions you should aim for:

  • Temperature: Sterbai Corydoras thrive in a temperature range of 72°F to 79°F (22°C to 26°C).
  • pH: Ideally, the pH of the water should be kept between 6.0 and 7.5, providing a slightly acidic to neutral environment.
  • Hardness: They prefer soft to moderately hard water, with a hardness level of 3-10 dGH.
  • Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate: Keep both ammonia and nitrite levels at 0 ppm. Nitrate levels should be maintained below 20 ppm.
  • Lighting: Moderate lighting with some shaded areas is best for Sterbai Corydoras.
  • Water movement: These fish appreciate gentle water flow, simulating the calm streams and tributaries in their native habitat.Regular water testing and necessary water changes are crucial for maintaining a stable environment.

Routine Water Maintenance

Regular water maintenance is essential for a healthy Sterbai Corydoras habitat. Here's a recommended routine:

  • Weekly water changes: Change about 25-30% of the aquarium water every week.
  • Test water parameters: Regularly monitor pH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and hardness.
  • Use a gravel vacuum: Utilize this tool to clean the substrate during water changes.
  • Dechlorinate the water: Always treat tap water with a dechlorinator before introducing it to the tank.
  • Match temperature and pH: Ensure the new water is similar to the tank water in temperature and pH.
  • Acclimate the fish: Gradually adjust your Corydoras to new conditions after water changes.

In addition to routine water maintenance, consider the following:

  • Monitor lighting duration: Aim for a consistent 8-10 hour light cycle each day to prevent excessive algae growth.
  • Plant maintenance: Regularly trim plants and remove any dead leaves or plant matter.
  • Filter maintenance: Clean or replace filter media as per the manufacturer's guidelines, typically every 4-6 weeks.

Diet and Feeding Schedule

Sterbai Corydoras are omnivorous and require a diverse diet. Here are some feeding tips:

  • Flakes and pellets: High-quality flake or pellet food suitable for bottom feeders is a good staple.
  • Frozen and live foods: Treats like brine shrimp, bloodworms, and daphnia add variety and nutrition.
  • Vegetable matter: Blanched spinach, zucchini, or cucumber can provide added nutrients.
  • Feeding frequency: Feed them in small quantities two to three times a day, taking care not to overfeed.

Stress and Diseases

Stress can affect Sterbai Corydoras due to factors like poor water quality or inadequate tank conditions. Here's how to manage these stressors:

  • Watch for stress signs: Look out for unusual behaviors such as hiding, lethargy, color loss, or rapid breathing.
  • Check water quality: Regularly test your aquarium water and conduct water changes.
  • Monitor tank mates: Ensure your Corydoras aren't harassed by other fish.
  • Create a suitable habitat: Provide plenty of hiding spots, appropriate lighting, and an adequately sized tank.

Like other fish, Sterbai Corydoras can be prone to common diseases, such as:

  • Ich (white spot disease): Treat this parasitic infection with aquarium salt or anti-parasitic medication, and by slightly increasing the water temperature.
  • Fin rot: This bacterial infection can be treated with partial water changes, aquarium salt, and antibacterial medication.
  • Velvet disease: A parasitic infection causing a velvety coating on the fish's body, treatable with anti-parasitic medication.
  • Swim bladder disease: Affecting the fish's buoyancy, this condition can be managed by fasting the fish, offering blanched peas, and potentially using antibacterial medication.

Preventive measures include maintaining excellent water quality, providing a balanced diet, and quarantining new fish before introducing them to the main tank.


Breeding Sterbai Corydoras can be a rewarding endeavor for hobbyists. Here are the steps to follow:

  • Step #1: Set up a suitable breeding environment, ideally a separate 10-gallon or larger tank, with a pH level around 6.0-7.0, and a temperature about 75°F (24°C). Maintain soft water conditions and include hiding spots like plants for egg depositing.
  • Step #2: Choose healthy, mature Sterbai Corydoras for breeding. Males tend to be smaller and slimmer than females. Keep a ratio of two males to one female to increase breeding chances.
  • Step #3: Feed the breeding pair a high-quality diet rich in protein for several weeks to encourage spawning.
  • Step #4: Simulate rainfall by changing 50-70% of the tank water with cooler water. This simulates the rainy season, a natural spawning trigger.
  • Step #5: After spawning, eggs will be deposited on the glass and vegetation. Remove the parents to prevent them from eating the eggs.
  • Step #6: Monitor the eggs and fry. Eggs will hatch within 3-5 days. Feed the fry infusoria or liquid fry food initially, then gradually introduce crushed flake food.

Breeding Sterbai Corydoras requires patience and attention to detail, but it can be an enriching experience for aquarium enthusiasts.

Recommended Tank Mates

Here are the top 10 recommended tank mates for Sterbai Corydoras:

  1. Harlequin Rasboras
  2. Celestial Pearl Danios
  3. Platies
  4. Mollies
  5. Ghost Shrimp
  6. Kuhli Loaches
  7. Cherry Barbs
  8. Zebra Danios
  9. Black Neon Tetras
  10. Bamboo Shrimp

Avoid housing Sterbai Corydoras with large, predatory fish like cichlids, large catfish, and aggressive species, as they can pose a threat to the Corydoras. It's crucial to observe the behavior of new fish and ensure they're not causing undue stress or aggression towards the Sterbai Corydoras.


Sterbai Corydoras are a popular and fascinating freshwater fish species known for their unique appearance and active nature. These fish require specific water parameters, a varied diet, and an appropriate environment to flourish. If provided with the right conditions, they can live up to 10 years, making them a long-lasting addition to any aquarium. Choosing peaceful and non-aggressive species as tank mates is essential for maintaining a balanced community. Breeding Sterbai Corydoras can be challenging but rewarding, requiring patience and optimal conditions. All in all, Sterbai Corydoras are a dynamic and interesting species that can bring a new level of intrigue to any aquatic setting with their active behavior and distinct features.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the ideal tank size for Sterbai Corydoras?

A 20-gallon tank is the minimum size recommended for a small group of Sterbai Corydoras. A larger tank is always better, as it provides more stability in water conditions and gives your fish ample room to roam.

How many Sterbai Corydoras should be kept together?

Sterbai Corydoras are social fish and should be kept in groups of at least 6 individuals. Keeping them in larger groups not only makes them feel more secure but also encourages their engaging natural behaviors.

What water parameters do Sterbai Corydoras require?

Sterbai Corydoras prefer water temperatures between 72°F and 79°F (22°C and 26°C), a pH between 6.0 and 7.5, and moderately hard water with a hardness between 3 and 10 dGH.

What do Sterbai Corydoras eat?

Being omnivorous, Sterbai Corydoras require a varied diet. Feed them a combination of high-quality sinking pellets, along with live or frozen foods such as daphnia, bloodworms, and brine shrimp.

Are Sterbai Corydoras compatible with other fish?

Yes, Sterbai Corydoras are generally peaceful and can coexist with other similar-sized, non-aggressive fish species. Suitable tank mates include small tetras, rasboras, and shrimp species.

How can I differentiate between male and female Sterbai Corydoras?

Males are generally smaller and have a more streamlined body shape, whereas females are larger and have a more rounded belly, especially when ready to spawn.

How long do Sterbai Corydoras live?

With proper care and optimal tank conditions, Sterbai Corydoras can live for up to 10 years.

How do I breed Sterbai Corydoras?

Breeding Sterbai Corydoras can be a bit challenging, as they require specific water conditions and a stress-free environment. A separate breeding tank is recommended, and it's beneficial to condition the breeding pair with a high-quality diet before introducing them for spawning.

Do Sterbai Corydoras require a planted tank?

While not strictly necessary, a planted tank is highly recommended for Sterbai Corydoras. Live plants provide hiding spots, contribute to better water quality, and create a more natural environment that closely mimics their native habitat.

Can Sterbai Corydoras change color?

Yes, Sterbai Corydoras can experience color changes due to several factors, including stress, disease, or changes in water conditions. If you notice your Sterbai Corydoras showing a loss of color, it's crucial to check the water parameters and monitor their health closely.