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Family: Callichthyidae, Subfamily Corydoradinae

Common Name: Sterbai Cory

Origin and Habitat: The type specimen was collected in the Rio Guapore; the fish occurs in streams, creeks, small pools and flooded forest of the Guapore basin (Brazil and Bolivia) and the Mato Grosso in Brazil.

Compatibility/Temperament: Peaceful, well suited to a community aquarium of non-aggressive fish. One of the few Corydoras species that manages in higher temperatures (80-84F) and is thus a good bottom fish for discus, blue rams and dwarf cichlids requiring warmer aquaria. Must be kept in a group, preferably five or more, but in smaller tanks not less than three.

Sterbai Corydoras Diet

In its habitat it feeds on worms, insect larvae and small crustaceans; in captivity it accepts most any sinking food like tablets and pellets, with frozen bloodworms or live worms for a treat.


May attain 3 inches but usually around 2.6 inches.

Minimum Tank Suggestion

20 gallon long.

Water parameters for Sterbai Corydoras

Soft to moderately hard (hardness to 15 dGH), acidic to slightly basic (pH to 7.6) water, temperature 24-28C/75-82F. Most fish will now be commercially raised and suited to the given parameters; wild-caught fish require soft, acidic water.


This is a popular cory species, widely available due to commercial breeding. The colour and pattern is very similar to Corydoras haraldschultzi. The head patterning is distinctive: C. sterbai has a dark head with light spots, while C. haraldschultzi has a pale head with dark spots. The pectoral spines of both fish are bright orange.

A well-planted tank containing some pieces of bogwood and some open substrate (small gravel or sand, provided it is smooth-edged) will suit this fish. As with all corys, mature females are rounder when viewed from above. Though this species will swim mid-water to browse wood and plant leaves, it spends most of its day foraging the substrate.

The Corydoras are quite sensitive to water parameters and quality, and highly intolerant of salt, chemicals and medications. Signs of stress usually begin with rapid respiration, then lethargy (often just "sitting" on plant leaves, wood or the substrate respirating heavily, sometimes near the surface) and sometimes rolling onto one side. At such signs, a partial water change of at least 50% with a good water conditioner should immediately be made, and appropriate steps taken to remove the cause. Any sudden fluctuation in water chemistry or temperature often induces shock, causing the fish to "faint" and fall over on its side. Corydoras introduced to new aquaria will settle in better if the tank is established; corys do not adjust well to a new aquarium with still-unstable water conditions and fluctuations.

The dorsal, pectoral and adipose fins are each preceded by a spine which is actually a hardened and modified ray; the pectoral fin spine can be "locked" into position by the fish; care must be taken when netting corys not to entangle these spines, which can also give the aquarist a nasty jab. They are believed to be a defense adaptation, to lodge the fish in the throat of a predator.

All species in the genus will periodically and fairly regularly swim quickly to the surface for a gulp of air. The fish swallows the air and blood vessels in the hind gut extract oxygen from the air; it is then expelled through the vent the next time the fish breaks the surface for another gulp of air. This adaptation is believed to have evolved so that the fish can survive in poorly-oxygenated water such as drying pools during the dry season. It is however essential to the fish's well-being that it regularly swallows air.

This species was described and named in honour of Dr. Gunther Sterba by J. Knaack in 1962, who also at the same time described the look-alike species C. haraldschultzi, named in honour of that species' discoverer, Harald Schultz. The name of the genus, which was erected by B.G.E. Lacepede in 1803, is derived from the Greek cory [= helmet] and doras [= skin, incorrectly used here for "armour"]; it refers to the dual row of overlapping plates (instead of scales) along the body, comparable to a suit of armour.

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