Sterba’s Cory – Corydoras Sterbai

Corydoras Sterbai
Corydoras Sterbai

Popular for their attractive markings is the Sterbai Cory (Corydoras Sterbai.) Sterbai’s feature white spots on a black background on its head while the marking appear to change to the opposite of white background with black spots through the body.

Corys do not have scales, but their flanks are covered in layers of overlapping “shingles” (bony plates) They can also be recognized by the barbels round their mouths and the spines on their dorsal and pectoral fins.

Their flat bellies indicate that they live and search for food (artificial, or small live prey) on the bottom; they are active mostly at dusk and during the night. Originally native to South America, Corydoras species are ideal subjects for keeping in a tropical aquarium along with most other fish species.

Apart from being very hardy, they are a peaceful catfish, not shy in the aquarium (compared to some other catfish subjects that will often hide during times of light) and also practical in that they will help to keep the substrate clean as they vacuum up any leftover flake food or alike.

Common Name(s) : Sterba’s Cory

Family : Callichthyidae

Subfamily : Corydoradinae

Genus Corydoras

Species : Corydoras panda

Origin : South America

PH : 6.0 – 8.0

Hardness : Soft to Hard

Temperature : 16 – 26°C / 60.8–78.8 °F

Maximum Size : Male: 6cm (2.3″) / Female: 6.5cm (2.5″)

Lifespan : 5 years

Aggression Level : Peaceful (1/10)

Recommended Tank Size : 30 Litres +

Strata : Bottom


In the wild Corydoras sterbai are found in soft, acidic waters of smaller rivers and tributaries, as well as flooded forest pools. Often their habitats have swift flowing water with few plants. In the aquarium you may replicate this with a strong filter and standard 3mm or 6mm gold gravel, some live plants and a few rocks or driftwood. Most of the time they are out and about playing in the bubbles or foraging for food among the grains of gravel. It has been reported that they can be more active in darker conditions – however in my experience, Corydoras are amongst the most active of all catfish available in the aquarium trade as they rarely hide, are very durable and look great in groups.


Angelfish | Barb | Betta | African Cichlids | American Cichlids | American Dwarf Cichlids | Bristlenose Catfish | Corydorus CatfishTandanus Catfish | Other CatfishDanios | Whiteclouds | MedakasDiscusEelsFlying FoxCommon Goldfish | Fancy GoldfishDwarf Gouramis | Large Gouramis | GudgeonsGuppies | KillifishLoaches and BotiaMollies | Murray CodOscars and other large CichlidsSilver and Golden Perch | PlantsPlatys | RainbowfishRasbora | SaratogaSharks | Silver DollarShrimp / Yabbies / CrabsSnails | Swordtails | Tetras


Sinking Shrimp Pellets; Flake; Bloodworms; Spirulina


Sexing Corydoras Sterbai isn’t too difficult once you know what you are looking for. Females have a wider girth when looking directly overhead, more so than a male which will be narrower;  females will also grow to a longer size.

Corys are stimulated for breeding when cooler, oxygenated waters flow into their habitat, usually corresponding (in the wild) with the onset of the wet season. The breeding ratio that should be kept is 2 males per female. Good diet together with repeated water changes and drops of temperature are usually sufficient. However, raising the fry is not easy due to their high sensitivity. It is recommended that when fry are present, then an increased amount of water changes should be considered.

Once conditioned fish are stimulated into spawning, males begin chasing females energetically. Females begin developing eggs within their reproductive tracts, and when ‘ripe’ (laden with eggs), become receptive to the attentions of the males. Eventually, one male will succeed in courting a female, using his barbels to provide stimulation to the female, usually beginning with caresses of the female’s caudal peduncle, followed by caresses of the fontanel and the front of the head. if the female is receptive, then the male positions himself before the female, so that the female’s mouth is in close proximity with one of the male’s pectoral fins. The male then clasps the female’s barbels between the pectoral fin and the body, and this stimulates the female to press against the male’s side. When seen from above, the fishes form a ‘T’ shape when conjoined thus, hence the term ‘T position’ has become conventional in aquarium circles when describing the breeding of Corydoras catfishes.

Once the male and female are in the ‘T position’, the pressing of the female against the male’s body stimulates his release of sperm. Though the exact mechanism of fertilisation has yet to be scientifically documented, from the observations of aquarists who have been successful in breeding Corydoras catfishes, it seems likely that the female takes the male’s sperm through her mouthparts, and directs them through the gills, in a current that carries the sperm to her pelvic fins. At this point, the female releases a single egg (occasionally two), and purses her pelvic fins in order to provide a receptacle for the freshly extruded egg, which is then fertilised.

One difference observed between the adoption of the ‘T position’ in Corydoras panda, when compared to other Corydoras species, is that the exercise is frequently more acrobatic in appearance, with the ‘T position’ being adopted in mid-water, some distance above the substrate, rather than resting upon the substrate as is the case with the majority of other Corydoras.

Once the female is carrying a fertilised egg within her pelvic fins, she then seeks an egg deposition site. The choice of such a site is frequently, though not always, a mass of fine leaved aquatic vegetation. In the aquarium, the plant known as Java moss, Vesicularia dubayana, is of considerable utility as an egg repository for Corydoras catfishes, even though the plant is not a South American native, and panda catfish females will choose large clumps of this plant readily as safe deposition sites for fertilised eggs. The female is frequently pursued by one or more males as she seeks the deposition site, each male presumably seeking to be the chosen mate to fertilise the next egg. Up to 25 eggs may be produced by a single female during a single spawning, which may take place over four to five hours.


In their natural habitat, Sterba’s Cory fast flowing backwaters, and the replenishment of those rivers with meltwaters from snows at higher altitudes. This has led the fish to be adaptable to cooler temperatures than the norm for ‘tropical’ fishes—the temperature range of the fish is 16 °C to 28 °C, though the fish exhibits a marked preference for the cooler regions of this temperature spectrum, particularly in captivity.

They are a scavenger, but they will not eat decomposing food and it is never a good idea to rely on them eating any decomposed food.

These fish love to “play” in the bubbles excreted from the filter or air stone. It is quite comical to watch them play within a group swimming up into the bubbles – only to be pushed away by the force. It is like a playground within the aquarium for them.

They have a schooling nature and look great in groups of 5 to 10.