Sterbai Cory 101: Care, Size, Diet, Tank & More

The Sterbai Cory is a lovely freshwater fish that flies under the radar among the aquarium community. But just like some of the more popular Cory varieties, this species is a great option for just about anyone!

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

Species Summary

The Sterbai Cory (also called Sterba’s Cory) is an easy-going freshwater bottom-dweller with unique looks and a 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 in South America. They inhabit fast-flowing rivers and streams where they prefer to stick to the bottom of the water column for scavenging.

A curious Sterbai Cory at the bottom of a freshwater aquarium

A popular choice for freshwater aquarists, Sterbai Cory catfish are widely available and pretty affordable. Pair that with their lax care requirements, and you have a fish species anyone can take care of successfully.


Like other Cory catfish, the Sterbai has a somewhat stocky profile. They are stubby little fish with rounded heads and an underturned mouth for feeding. To help with their scavenging nature, these fish also have a pair of barbels on the mouth.

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

As for color, these fish are predominantly black or dark brown. White dots adorn the body, creating a high-contrast pattern that stands out! The fins feature the same spotted look, but the dots are arranged to mimic stripes.

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

Author Note: Males and females are pretty easy to distinguish when grouped. Females are larger and more bulbous. This is especially true when eggs develop. Meanwhile, males tend to be more slender and stout.

Average Sterbai Cory Size

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

Thanks to their smaller size, Sterbai Cory catfish are a great choice if you have limited space and a more compact aquarium. That’s one of the reasons why this species is so popular!


Believe it or not, Sterbai Corys are capable of living up to two decades! The average Sterbai Cory catfish lifespan is 15 to 20 years when given proper care.

It’s 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 substandard living conditions regularly succumb to stress, illness, and premature death. By keeping them happy and healthy you’ll drastically increase the chance of them reaching their max lifespan.

Sterbai Cory Care

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

Of course, these freshwater fish do have basic needs you must meet. Fortunately, keeping Sterbai Corys 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 tank size of 20 or 25-gallons instead.

A slightly larger aquarium serves a couple of purposes. First, it offers more ground surface area to accommodate the fish’s scavenging behavior. Secondly, it provides enough room for a sizable group.

Author Note: 20 or 25 gallons is more than enough space for four to six Sterbai Corys. If you plan on keeping more, then you’ll need to go larger.

Water Parameters

A traditional Amazon River style biotope is best for Sterbai Cory. While they technically don’t come from the Amazon River, the conditions of 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 slightly more acidic. 

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

  • 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 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 not having one at all!

How To Decorate Their Tank

Start your decorating endeavors off with a nice layer of a smooth substrate. The best choice for Sterbai Corys is sand. You want to avoid rough materials like pebbles, as they can harm those delicate barbels.

Three Sterbai Cory catfish

Next, add a few dry leaves. A handful of Indian almond leaves will help to infuse some beneficial tannins in the water. If you have a larger aquarium, you can also use peat moss in a mesh bag. Just make sure to monitor the pH levels to ensure you’re not overdoing things.

Next, add some driftwood, rock caves, and plants. Sterbai Cory catfish aren’t picky about plant species. The main concern here is that you provide enough shelter and light cover.

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

Common Possible Diseases

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

The biggest issues to worry about are Ich and fin rot

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

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

Author Note: Monitor your fish regularly and act fast if you notice trouble. Many over-the-counter treatment options are available for common ailments, but don’t hesitate to consult your vet if you’re not sure how to proceed.

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

Food & Diet

Many novice fish owners make the mistake of thinking that Sterbai Corys do fine with scavenging alone. While they will eat up any food remnants that fall to the substrate, you still need to supplement their diet!

Sterbai Cory fish are omnivores that thrive with varied diets.

For most of the meals it’s best to stick with commercial foods. Nutritionally dense formulas are best. Make sure to provide sinking pellets so that the food gets down to the substrate.

Every once in a while, you can offer up some high-protein snacks. Live, frozen, and freeze-dried foods are a delight for these fish! Try bloodworms, artemia, brine shrimp, and daphnia.

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

Behavior & Temperament

Sterbai Corys 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 thing.

They can be a little shy, so don’t expect to see them being super playful around the tank. Throughout the day, most like to lurk in the shadows of plants or under a piece of driftwood.

Of course, they’re not just resting! These creatures are skilled scavengers. Using their barbels for guidance, they sift through the substrate to snack on plant detritus, leftover food, and anything else they can find.

Author Note: If you look closely, you might even see their eyes moving. Many people mistake the movement for blinking. In reality, it’s the fish looking down as they rummage through the sand!

Sterbai Cory catfish can breathe atmospheric air. The biological trait is an impressive survival tool that helps the fish reside in oxygen-depleted environments. Every once in a while, you will see your Sterbai Corys travel up the water column to the surface for a breath of fresh air.

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

Tank Mates

If you’re looking to create a biodiverse community, Sterbai Corys are an excellent addition to the mix. Thanks to their docile nature, they get along with pretty much any fish species.

It’s 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 Sterbai Corys, you can try any other similarly-sized fish. They even get along with betta fish!

The only kinds 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 excellent Sterbai Cory tank mates worth considering:


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

Use a 10-gallon tank with temperatures around 75 degrees and a pH of around 6.0. Place a bonded pair into the tank. You can also use a breeding ratio of two males per female if you don’t have established pairs yet.

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

The pair will perform a unique mating ritual. It involves a lot of chasing and a well-choreographed dance. The male will eventually fertilize the eggs as the female deposits them in a pre-chosen site. 

Typically, the female will adhere to the sticky eggs onto the aquarium’s glass near an area with considerable water flow.

The process continues for several days. Sterbai Cory catfish can lay upwards of 300 eggs! When they’re 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 another couple of days until they are free-swimming. At that point, you can provide freshly hatched brine shrimp, infusoria, or commercial fry food.

Closing Thoughts

Sterbai Cory care shouldn’t be challenging (even if you’re a beginner). As long as you focus on the core requirements we mention in this guide, you’ll be fine!

If you have any other questions about this freshwater species we’d be more than happy to answer them. Just send your question over and we’ll respond as fast as possible.

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