Kribensis Cichlid Care Guide

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If you’ve never heard of this species, you’re not alone. Many people haven’t, in part due to them having been renamed a few times over the years.

The kribensis cichlid is a colorful African cichlid recently popularized by beginner and experienced aquarium hobbyists alike for its easy care requirements.

These dwarf fish don’t grow to be very big, but they are one of the most visually appealing and affordable species of cichlid available.

Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about kribensis cichlids and how to keep these beautiful fish in your own home aquarium.


Pelvicachromis pulcher, commonly known as the kribensis cichlid, is most often referred to as kribs. But where did kribensis’ nickname come from? 

These African cichlids were originally categorized as Pelmatochromis pulcher and therefore often misidentified as Pelmatochromis kribensis. After that, the misnomer just stuck. 

Later on, kribs were recategorized as Pelvicachromis pulcher, which translates into “perch-like fish with a beautiful belly.” How many other species are given a compliment as a name?

Natural habitat

Kribs are African cichlids and, as the name implies, come from specific regions of western Africa such as Nigeria, Cameroon, and Benin. However, some populations have been established in Hawaii due to the aquarium industry.

Generally, they stick to slow-moving waters, but they can occasionally be found in faster currents and even brackish water conditions

In the wild, the kribensis cichlid is a slow-moving fish and lives in softer, acidic water among other species of cichlid such as jewel cichlids (Hemichromis fasciatus) — water conditions that contrast those commonly kept in the aquarium trade. We’ll discuss this in detail later.

Being a small fish, kribensis has a fair amount of natural predators, mainly larger fish like the Nile perch (Lates niloticus). They often hide in aquatic vegetation and cave systems when threatened. 


Kribensis Cichlid

Kribensis is a colorful fish named for its unmistakable rose-colored belly which grows in vibrancy during breeding and spawning times. They also have two dark lateral lines running from their faces to tails, with bodies that have a color range from green to yellow.

There are also a few different variations of the fish, namely those from Southern Nigeria like Pelvicachromis pulcher, meaning”Nigeria yellow,” whose body leans more yellow in its base color, or Pelvicachromis pulcher, “Nigeria red,” with a deeper red underbelly that often extends to the lower portions of the face. Because of this, they have earned the name “rainbow krib.”

Male vs female kribensis cichlids

Identifying the sex of your kribensis cichlids is especially important if you’re looking to use them for fish breeding. Luckily, telling them apart is rather straightforward, making it easier to find a compatible pair.

Male kribensis are significantly larger than females, growing to about 4-5 inches (10.2-12.7 cm). In contrast, females usually reach a maximum length of around 3 inches (7.6 cm). 

Unlike other fish and animals, the females’ color is more pronounced than males during spawning periods, with their pink flush darkening to a red or deep purple belly. Generally, the female fish have bodies that are rounder and fuller than males’ as well.

Furthermore, males will typically have noticeably pointier dorsal, anal, and tail fins.

Kribensis tank requirements

If you only plan on keeping one pair of kribensis, with no other fish or invertebrates, then a 20-gallon tank (75.7 L) is the standard size for an “African cichlid tank” and should provide plenty of space for them to breed comfortably. 

If you want to keep different fish, snails, or other creatures in the tank, however, you will likely need a minimum tank size of at least 50 gallons (189.3 L) for your aquarium.

As cichlids, kribensis can be rather territorial and aggressive, though they tend to be one of the more peaceful fish species available. To help diminish their aggression, give them suitable caves made from rocks and flowerpots.

These bottom-dwelling fish are diggers and will regularly disturb and rearrange substrate. As such, using a gravel substrate or sandy substrate is key to taking proper care they don’t injure themselves.

Since the natural habitats for these wild fish are heavily-planted ecosystems, it is strongly recommended to keep a wide variety of live plants in the aquarium as well to mimic that dense vegetation.

Though your fish generally won’t eat these plants, they will try to uproot them so make sure to keep all plants weighted down and secured to prevent a mess!

Water parameters

As mentioned before, kribensis cichlids naturally live in areas with acidic, soft waters. However, in the aquarium setting, cichlids are largely kept in harder, alkaline waters.

It’s important to know what conditions, especially water hardness, your fish are being kept in before dropping them into your home’s aquarium water. As we’ll discuss later, rainbow cichlid spawn better when kept in their natural, preferred conditions.

Generally speaking, though, kribensis are a tropical cichlid species and need warm water with constant temperatures between 72-82° F (22.2-27.8° C). 

Although they’ll adapt to most conditions, we recommend keeping them in water with a pH between 6.0-8.0. 

Kribensis tank mates

Not only is kribensis a popular aquarium fish due to its bright colors, but it also fits well into the community tank setup.

Hobbyists have had success keeping this relatively peaceful species of cichlids with a variety of tropical fish, ranging in aggression. We say relatively because, for the most part, these fish do best with smaller or similar-sized species with the similar or less aggressive temperaments. 

Some of the best tank mates will be non-bottom dwelling species — or those that stay out of the lower and middle sections of the tank, where common kribs will spend most of their time. 

There is also a delicate balancing act that goes into stocking a kribensis cichlid tank. While they aren’t necessarily aggressive, they can become territorial if they feel threatened. 

If you add too many fish, or fish that have high activity levels, it can start to put stress on your kribs and make them react negatively, leading to an aggressive tank. Because of this, it is always best to plan the tank stocking around your kribensis.

Some good kribensis tank mates would be:

Remember, in order to keep more than a single kribensis pair, you’ll need a larger tank. In addition, give them plenty of space, live plants, and hiding spots so they feel at home.

Can you keep a single kribensis by itself? 

Yes, kribs can be kept by themselves with no problems. They aren’t exactly social fish, so they’ll be just as active by themselves as they would be within monogamous pairs.

Kribensis behavior

Kribensis like to stick towards the bottom of the tank and will take advantage of any caves that they can claim as their own.

Though they’re active fish, they can be quite reclusive, especially if there are larger, more active species in the tank.

As mentioned before, they are likely to rearrange decorations and disturb the substrate. For their safety, make sure all large items are secured somehow.

Kribensis cichlids can often be aggressive during breeding times. Females, especially, are noticeably more aggressive when they are carrying eggs. Before and during this time, when their eggs hatch, their characteristic pink bellies will also appear more red or purple in color.

Kribensis diet

Kribs are easy to keep, especially since they easily adapt to a variety of foods.

Kribensis should be given a varied diet consisting of both meaty foods and plant-derived ones. As omnivores, these fish will eat live, freeze-dried, and frozen brine shrimp, Mysis shrimp, and bloodworms as well as algae flake foods and blanched vegetables, from time to time.

In order to keep costs low and to give your fish the variation they need, a high-quality cichlid flake or pellet should be the basis for the diet. 

Will kribensis eat guppies? 

Kribensis can become aggressive, but would they purposely go after baby fish in the aquarium for food? 

There are a few reasons not to worry about your kribensis going after guppies.

Firstly, guppies are too large for kribensis to eat. Remember, these cichlids are tiny in comparison to other, more capable cichlids. Some guppies can grow to be about 2.5 inches (6.4 cm) — half the size of the average kribensis.

Secondly, guppies are top-dwellers. There is little reason for a kribensis to travel to the top of the tank, and it’s equally rare that your guppies and dwarf cichlid would ever meet for extended periods of time. 

While there’s little to no chance for your kribensis to eat your guppies, there is still always the possibility that guppies become your fish’s favorite snack.

We should also note that female kribs are more than capable and willing to eat a guppy during breeding and spawning periods.

Breeding kribensis

Kribensis are uncomplicated fish to breed in a home ecosystem. 

The first step to breeding kribensis is to make sure you have a male and female pair. They can easily be differentiated by color and size, though it can still take some trial and error to get a compatible breeding pair.

Generally, rainbow cichlids breed readily within the aquarium, and not much needs to be done to make them start breeding. 

If you find that your fish aren’t breeding, try slowly increasing the water temperature to about 80° F (26.7° C). Lower the acidity and soften the water if you’re currently keeping your kribs in basic, harder conditions. 

Furthermore, kribs are great parents. Once they lay and fertilize up to 300 eggs in a cave, they will spend almost all of their time guarding them and making sure they’re safe from predators.

The eggs usually hatch after about 2-3 days, after which the fry will usually be moved to another area of the tank via their parents’ mouths until they are big enough to venture out on their own. The parent cichlids will defend them and make sure there are no threats present before letting them out. 

During this time, the female can become incredibly aggressive. It isn’t unheard of for them to turn on the male in some cases, causing injury.

If your kribs are successful, then they will keep the fry fed until they’re about 0.5 inches (1.3 cm). At this point, the juveniles can be removed and the pair can breed again.

If the fry are removed too prematurely, however, there is a risk that the male will harass the female as he is ready to breed but she is not.

There is always the chance for the spawning to be unsuccessful, too, especially if the pair is young. Each time, though, your kribs will become better parents and come to breed regularly.

Do kribensis eat their own fry?

Despite kribensis being fairly good parents, they can sometimes make mistakes and eat their own fry.

This is usually the result of the parents being too young or another source of stress in the tank. There isn’t much you can do to prevent this, but making sure water parameters are ideal and tank mates are behaving should offer some reassurance in this regard.


Kribensis are a popular species of cichlid due to their easy care requirements and likelihood to breed. These dwarf cichlids can be comfortably kept in nano tanks but will need slightly larger setups if placed in a community tank setting.

Otherwise, these fish will start to breed in a matter of weeks after introducing them.

If you have any questions about kribensis, other species of cichlid, or have had experience breeding a pair of kribs of your own, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below! 

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