Sterba’s Corydoras (Corydora Sterbai): A Guide to the Sterbai Corydoras Armored Catfish

sterba's corydoras, corydoras sterbai. sterbai corydoras

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Sterba’s Corydoras (Corydora Sterbai): A Guide to the Sterbai Corydoras Armored Catfish

Sterba’s Corydoras, scientifically known as Corydoras sterbai, is a captivating and popular freshwater fish that has become a beloved addition to many aquariums around the world. These armored catfish, often referred to simply as Sterbai Cory or Cory catfish, are cherished for their unique appearance, peaceful nature, and ease of care. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the origins, appearance, and care requirements of Sterba’s Corydoras, shedding light on why they are among the top choices for both beginner and experienced aquarists.

Common NamesSterba’s Corydoras, Sterbai Cory, Cory catfish
Scientific NameCorydoras sterbai
Size of the Fish2.5 to 3 inches (6 to 7.5 cm)
Difficulty ScoreEasy
Minimum Tank Size20 gallons
Best Compatible Tank MatesPeaceful community fish such as tetras, rasboras, gouramis, and other non-aggressive species. Avoid aggressive or nippy fish.
DietOmnivorous – High-quality sinking pellets, frozen or live food (e.g., bloodworms, brine shrimp), and vegetable matter (e.g., blanched spinach)
Temperature Range72°F to 79°F (22°C to 26°C)
pH LevelSlightly acidic to neutral (6.5 to 7.5)
Tank SubstrateSoft, fine sand
FiltrationEfficient mechanical and biological filtration, gentle flow rate
Recommended Heater BrandsEheim Jager, Fluval E Electronic Heater
Suitable PlantsJava Fern, Anubias, Amazon Sword
Breeding BehaviorLay adhesive eggs on flat surfaces (broad leaves, smooth rocks)
Additional ConsiderationsCreate hiding spots with driftwood, caves, and smooth rocks. Maintain a well-balanced aquascape with open swimming areas and sheltered zones. Handle them minimally to reduce stress. Regular water changes (20-30% every two weeks). Provide powdered or liquid fry food for young fry.

Origin of Sterba’s Corydoras

Originating from South America, Sterba’s Corydoras can be found in the Rio Guaporé and Rio Paraguay basins in Brazil and Bolivia. Their natural habitat consists of slow-moving rivers and tributaries, where they thrive in the warm, tropical waters of the region. These hardy bottom-dwelling fish have adapted to various water conditions, making them well-suited for aquarium life.

Appearance of Sterba’s Corydoras

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source: cu auquatics

Sterba’s Corydoras is renowned for its striking appearance, characterized by a distinct pattern and armored body. Let’s explore their physical attributes in more detail:

Body Structure

  • Armored Fish: One of the most distinctive features of Sterba’s Corydoras is their armored body. Their scales are reinforced, providing protection against potential threats and making them less vulnerable to injuries.


  • Distinctive Markings: These Cory catfish exhibit a captivating contrast of colors. Their body is primarily covered in a creamy-white base color adorned with bold black stripes that run horizontally from head to tail. A black spot is also present at the base of the dorsal fin, contributing to their eye-catching appearance.


  • Moderate Size: Sterba’s Corydoras typically reach a size of 2.5 to 3 inches (6 to 7.5 centimeters) when fully grown. This moderate size makes them suitable for a wide range of aquarium sizes.
Body StructureArmored fish with reinforced scales
ColorationCreamy-white base with bold black stripes and a black spot at the base of the dorsal fin
Size (Adult)2.5 to 3 inches (6 to 7.5 centimeters)
Lifespan5 to 8 years in proper care
BehaviorPeaceful, bottom-dwelling, schooling fish
DietOmnivorous, consuming both plant matter and small invertebrates
TemperamentGentle and non-aggressive
CompatibilitySuitable for peaceful community aquariums with non-aggressive species
Preferred Swimming LevelBottom of the aquarium

Care Guide for Sterba’s Corydoras

One of the key reasons behind the popularity of Sterba’s Corydoras is their ease of care and adaptability to various tank conditions. Whether you are a novice aquarist or an experienced enthusiast, these peaceful, schooling catfish can be a fantastic addition to your aquarium.

Setting Up Your Sterba’s Corydoras Tank

Creating the ideal habitat for Sterba’s Corydoras is crucial to their health and well-being. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the essential elements of setting up your tank, including tank size, filtration, substrate, plants, and heaters. By paying attention to these details, you can ensure that your Cory catfish thrive in their aquarium environment.

Table: Tank Setup Recommendations

Tank SizeMinimum 20 gallons for a small group of Sterba’s Corydoras; larger for more individuals or other fish species
SubstrateSoft, fine sand substrate to mimic their natural habitat
FiltrationEfficient mechanical and biological filtration with gentle flow rate
Recommended Filter BrandsFluval AquaClear Power Filter, Eheim Classic External Canister Filter
Aquascape and DecorDriftwood, caves, smooth rocks for hiding spots; open swimming areas
PlantsJava Fern, Anubias, Amazon Sword, with the addition of root tabs
HeaterMaintain water temperature at 72°F to 79°F (22°C to 26°C) using a reliable heater
Recommended Heater BrandsEheim Jager, Fluval E Electronic Heater

Tank Size

The first step in creating a suitable home for Sterba’s Corydoras is selecting an appropriately sized tank. These peaceful, schooling fish require space to move and interact comfortably. A minimum tank size of 20 gallons is recommended for a small group of Sterbai Corys. However, if you plan to keep a larger school or include other fish species, consider a larger tank to accommodate their needs.


Choosing the Best Filters for Cory Catfish: A Comprehensive Guide to the Best filters: Sterba’s Corydoras (Corydora Sterbai): A Guide to the Sterbai Corydoras Armored Catfish

Efficient filtration is vital for maintaining water quality, as Corydoras are sensitive to poor water conditions. When choosing a filter, consider options that offer both mechanical and biological filtration. The Fluval AquaClear Power Filter and Eheim Classic External Canister Filter are reliable choices. These filters provide mechanical filtration through sponge or floss, as well as biological filtration with ceramic media. Ensure that the filter’s flow rate is gentle, as Cory catfish prefer calm water.


Selecting the right substrate is essential, as Sterba’s Corydoras are natural bottom-dwellers that enjoy sifting through sand in search of food. Opt for a fine, soft sand substrate to mimic their native environment. CaribSea Super Naturals Aquarium Sand and Seachem Flourite Black Sand are excellent choices. Avoid sharp or coarse substrates that could harm their delicate barbels.


Live plants not only enhance the aesthetic appeal of your aquarium but also provide important benefits for Sterba’s Corydoras. They offer hiding spots, help maintain water quality, and create a more natural environment. Consider easy-to-care-for plants such as Java Fern, Anubias, and Amazon Sword. These plants are hardy and do not require intense lighting. Root tabs like Seachem Flourish Tabs can be added to promote plant growth.


Maintaining a stable water temperature within the recommended range of 72°F to 79°F (22°C to 26°C) is crucial for the well-being of Sterba’s Corydoras. To achieve this, you’ll need a reliable aquarium heater. Brands like Eheim Jager and Fluval E Electronic Heater offer precise temperature control and are known for their durability. Position the heater near the filter outlet to ensure even heat distribution throughout the tank.

Aquascaping and Decor

Enhance your aquarium’s aesthetics while providing enrichment for your Cory catfish by incorporating driftwood, caves, and smooth rocks. These decorations offer hiding spots and mimic their natural habitat. Create a layout that includes open swimming areas and sheltered zones to accommodate the needs of Sterba’s Corydoras. Additionally, consider adding broad leaves for them to lay their adhesive eggs on if you plan to breed them.


  • Omnivorous: Sterba’s Corydoras are omnivores, which means they consume both plant matter and small invertebrates. Offer a balanced diet that includes high-quality sinking pellets, frozen or live food such as bloodworms and brine shrimp, and vegetable matter like blanched spinach.

Behavior and Compatibility

  • Peaceful Schooling Fish: Sterba’s Corydoras are known for their peaceful nature and thrive in groups. Keeping them in schools of at least six individuals is essential for their well-being.
  • Tankmates: They are compatible with a wide range of peaceful community fish, including tetras, rasboras, and gouramis. Avoid aggressive or nippy species that may stress or harm them.

Other Cory Catfish also make good tank mates like the:

Maintenance and Water Changes

  • Regular Maintenance: Perform regular water changes of 20-30% every two weeks to maintain optimal water quality and remove waste.
  • Avoid Stress: Handle them minimally, as they are sensitive to stress. Use a gentle net when necessary and provide a calm environment.


  • Breeding Behavior: Sterba’s Corydoras exhibit interesting breeding behavior. They lay adhesive eggs on flat surfaces, which should be provided in the form of broad leaves or smooth rocks.
  • Separate Breeding Tank: To increase the chances of survival for fry, consider setting up a separate breeding tank with suitable conditions.
  • Feeding Fry: Feed the fry with powdered or liquid fry food until they are large enough to consume regular food.


In conclusion, Sterba’s Corydoras, also known as the Armored Catfish, Cory catfish, or Sterbai Cory, is a captivating and hardy freshwater fish that is easy to care for and popular among aquarium enthusiasts. With their distinctive appearance, peaceful demeanor, and adaptability to various tank conditions, they make an excellent choice for both beginners and experienced aquarists. By following the care guidelines outlined in this article, you can create a thriving environment for these fascinating bottom-dwelling fish and enjoy their charming presence in your aquarium. Sterba’s Corydoras is a true gem among the many options available to aquarium hobbyists, and their vibrant stripes and engaging behavior will undoubtedly make them a beloved addition to your aquatic collection.

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Lee Johnson

Lee Johnson

Aquarium Enthusiast

I love sharing my knowledge about all things aquarium related. I have been keeping aquariums for over 20 years and cannot imagine a life without an aquarium. 

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