Kribensis Care Tips: Size, Behavior, and Tank Requirements

Kribensis (lat. Pelvicachromis pulcher) is a bright dwarf cichlid which is not very demanding as for its tank conditions. From Latin «Pelva» means «abdomen», «chromis» – is a color and «pulcher» means beautiful, so all these words describe the fish completely. Especially when spawning the fish abdomen glitters and it becomes cherry colored.

Habitat in the wild

The Kribensis, scientifically known as Pelvicachromis pulcher, is a species of freshwater fish belonging to the cichlid family (Cichlidae). This family is one of the largest and most diverse fish families, with numerous species found in various regions around the world. Cichlids are popular among aquarium hobbyists due to their vibrant colors, interesting behaviors, and relatively easy care.

Pelvicachromis pulcher, or the kribensis, is native to West Africa, particularly the Niger Delta region and the coastal areas of Nigeria and Cameroon. Water from deep residuary waters is rather acid and very soft, but in the river delta the water is brackish, more alkali with much higher hardness parameter, than the waters that feed it.

In the wild, kribensis fish are found in slow-moving rivers, streams, and swamps with vegetation. They are known for their territorial behavior during breeding, and they often dig pits or caves in which they lay their eggs and raise their young.



How big do kribensis get? Kribensis is a relatively small species of cichlid. In the wild kribensis male is larger than the female – 12.5 cm (4.9 in) against 8.1 cm (3.2 in). However, in a tank female is usually larger than the male. On average, adult kribensis male can grow up to about 4 inches (10 centimeters) in length. Males tend to be slightly larger than females and may reach closer to the upper end of the size range, around 4 inches. Females, on the other hand, are typically smaller, usually around 3 to 3.5 inches (7.5 to 9 centimeters) in length.


How long do kribensis live? In captivity, kribensis typically have a lifespan of about 4 to 8 years. The actual lifespan can vary based on several factors, including the quality of care, diet, water conditions, and genetics.


The upper side of the body is brownish with blue or violet glitter, its body sides and abdomen color varies from blue to violet with some greenish shine. There’s a long dark lateral stripe on the back and another stripe goes along the body, though it is more pronounced on juveniles’ body. Males have about 1-5 dark round spots with bright yellow border on the upper side of their tail. Female abdominal fins are wine-red and male has violet ones. There is also albino fishes which doesn’t differ from the ordinary species at all as for the keeping conditions.

The albino kribensis is a color variant of the kribensis fish (Pelvicachromis pulcher). As the name suggests, albino kribensis lack the typical pigmentation found in their species, resulting in a predominantly white or pale body with pink or red eyes. Caring for albino kribensis is very similar to caring for their non-albino counterparts.


The body of a fribensis is relatively compact and elongated, typical of cichlid species. Their body shape is somewhat oval or elliptical, with a slightly flattened profile from side to side. They have a rounded head and a tapered, pointed snout.

Scientific NamePelvicachromis pulcher
Common NameKribensis, Krib, Purple Cichlid
OriginWest Africa, Nigeria, Cameroon
HabitatSlow-moving rivers, streams, and swamps with vegetation
SizeUp to 4 inches (10 centimeters)
Lifespan4 to 8 years (in captivity)
BehaviorGenerally peaceful, can become territorial during breeding
Tank SizeMinimum 20 gallons (75 liters) for a pair
Water ParametersTemperature: 75-82°F (24-28°C); pH: 6.0-7.5
DietOmnivorous – Flakes, pellets, live/frozen foods, vegetables
CompatibilityPeaceful community fish, but can be aggressive during breeding
SexingMales are larger and more colorful; females have a red belly
BreedingCave spawners; both parents care for eggs and fry
ColorationMales: Vibrant colors (blue, red, yellow); Females: Duller
Albino kribensis male and ordinary female

Difficulties in keeping

It’s a plain and small fish, which can be kept in a community tank together with the fishes of equal size. It’s not demanding as for the feed and care, so it can be recommended for the beginners, however, please, keep in mind that the fish is aggressive towards its tank mates during its spawning period.

Care and keeping in a tank

Tank size

A minimum tank size of 20 gallons (75 liters) is recommended for a pair of kribensis. This size provides enough space for a breeding pair to establish territories and potentially raise their fry. However, larger tanks are always better, especially if you plan to keep them in a community setup or want to provide them with more room to explore and swim.

In a larger tank, you can add more hiding spots, caves, and plants, which will make the fish feel secure and reduce aggression. It will also give you more flexibility in choosing tank mates that can coexist peacefully with the kribensis.

For example, in a 30-gallon or 40-gallon tank, you can create a more diverse and dynamic aquarium, allowing you to incorporate other compatible fish species and provide a more natural and enriching environment for your kribensis pair. It’s important to provide adequate space for kribensis in the aquarium to allow them to exhibit their natural behaviors and avoid territorial disputes, especially during breeding.

Water parameters

In fact, kribensis has lived in tanks for quite a while, so the fish has adapted rather well to different water parameters and tank conditions.

Here are the recommended water parameters for keeping kribensis in an aquarium:

  1. Temperature: Keep the water temperature in the range of 75°F to 82°F (24°C to 28°C). This temperature range closely mimics the conditions of their natural habitat in West Africa.
  2. pH: Kribensis prefer slightly acidic to neutral water conditions. Aim for a pH level between 6.0 and 7.5. Avoid extreme fluctuations in pH, as stable water conditions are essential for their health.
  3. Hardness: Kribensis are adaptable to a range of water hardness, but they generally prefer relatively soft water. Aim for a general hardness (GH) level between 4 to 12 dGH.
  4. Ammonia, Nitrite, and Nitrate: Regularly test the water for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels. Ammonia and nitrite should be at 0 ppm (parts per million), as these are toxic to fish. Nitrate levels should be kept as low as possible, ideally below 20 ppm, through regular water changes.
  5. Chlorine and Chloramine: Ensure that your tap water is free from chlorine and chloramine, as these chemicals are harmful to fish. You can use a water conditioner to remove these substances before adding water to the aquarium.
  6. Water Changes: Regular water changes are essential for maintaining good water quality and diluting accumulated pollutants. Aim for weekly or bi-weekly water changes of about 20-30% of the tank volume.


Creating a suitable and enriching environment for Pelvicachromis pulcher involves incorporating various tank decorations that mimic their natural habitat while also providing hiding spots and territorial boundaries.

It’s important that the tank has lots of different nookeries – flower pots, nut shells, tubes, caves, especially if you plan to get juveniles someday. It’s better to place such nookeries in a tank corners, and if you have more than one couple, soon you’ll see them settling into their new houses.

While hiding spots are essential, make sure to leave open areas for the fish to swim freely. This provides them with enough space to display their natural behaviors and explore the tank.

Kribensis are cave spawners and appreciate having plenty of hiding spots. You can use driftwood pieces, coconut shells, ceramic caves, or stacked stones to create caves and crevices. These hiding spots not only provide shelter but also serve as potential breeding sites.

To lessen the kribensis aggressiveness it’s advisable to keep couples, since in this case the tank territory will be divided and the fish won’t fight, they’ll just demonstrate their bright coloring to each other on the edge of their territory instead. To help reduce aggression and create distinct territories, arrange the decorations in a way that divides the aquarium into separate areas. This will help each kribensis establish its space without excessive conflict.

It’s especially interesting to observe how each fish couple divides the tank space into its own home territory and the rival’s one. And then females and males meet at their territory border and demonstrate their beautiful coloring and strength to their rivals.

It is characteristic that kribensis male stand against males, and female against females.


Proper tank bottom substrate is as important, as nookeries. Krib likes sandy or small gravel bottom, which they dig all the time. Kribensis love to sift through the substrate and may even dig pits for breeding. A soft substrate will allow them to engage in their natural behaviors.


The fish may dig out some small tank plant, but in general they don’t do any harm to tank plants. Opt for hardy aquatic plants like Java Fern, Anubias, Amazon Sword, or Vallisneria, which are less likely to be uprooted by the fish.

How many kribensis should be kept together?

The number Pelvicachromis pulcher that can be kept together depends on the size of the aquarium and its ability to accommodate multiple fish while maintaining a stable and healthy environment. Kribensis are generally peaceful when kept in proper conditions, but they can become territorial during breeding or if their space is limited.

As a general guideline:

  1. Pair: The ideal scenario for kribensis is to keep a single pair (one male and one female) in a tank. In a pair, they are more likely to form a bond and engage in their natural breeding behaviors.
  2. Community Tank: If you have a larger aquarium (at least 40 gallons or more), you can keep multiple pairs or a small group of kribensis. However, you must ensure that the tank is heavily decorated with caves, hiding spots, and ample space to establish territories.
  3. Territorial Behavior: Kribensis can be territorial during breeding and while protecting their territory. If keeping multiple pairs or a group, make sure there are enough hiding spots and territories for each fish to establish its space and reduce the risk of aggression..

In summary, a pair of kribensis is suitable for most community aquariums, while larger tanks with ample hiding spots and territories can accommodate multiple pairs or a small group of these beautiful cichlids.

Tank mates

It’s highly recommended to keep kribensis without any other tank mates, since, as we’ve already mentioned above, the fish becomes rather aggressive during its spawning period and while taking care of its juveniles. In case, if you did decide to keep kribensis not alone in a tank, tank mates should be some depth or upper water layer inhabitants and the tank should be spacious enough.

Although kribensis is kept in community tanks, yet you should take seriously the process of choosing its tank mates, since it is still a cichlid, no matter that it is a small one. They become very aggressive while spawning – in my tank they used to force a school of angelfish into the tank corner and made them stay there. At that kribs didn’t do any harm to them, but still their tank mates were continuously stressed.

They may bite the fins of slow tank mates, such as angelfish, though they tend to do this in some crowded tanks because of stress and lack of space. The kribensis needs to have its own territory and hiding spots, in this case it is almost harmless. As for keeping fishes and shrimps together, they’ll definitely feed on small ones, just like Angelfish does.

In general, any fish of equal size will do as a tank mate, especially if they inhabit in different water layers. They also can get on well with other fishes. They don’t harm any tank plants, so you can keep them in a planted tank, but keep in mind that they like digging the tank bottom, especially if it is a sandy one.

Here are some suitable tank mate options for kribensis:

  1. Other Peaceful Community Fish: Many peaceful community fish can cohabit with Kribensis, provided they have similar water requirements. Some suitable options include:
  1. Bottom-Dwelling Fish: Since kribensis mainly inhabit the middle and bottom parts of the aquarium, consider adding some bottom-dwelling species:
  1. Peaceful African Cichlids: Some other peaceful African cichlid species from the same region as kribensis might work as tank mates. Just ensure that the species have compatible temperaments and space requirements.

Remember, even within these species categories, individual fish can have different personalities. Always observe the interactions between the kribensis and their tank mates carefully. If any aggression is observed or if a particular fish becomes overly territorial, be prepared to provide separate accommodations if needed.

Kribensis male and female


It’s easy to feed kribensis since they are omnivorous and they eat all types of feed: live, frozen and artificial ones. But still it’s better to feed with various foods, since it’s good for the fish health and coloring. Remember, that this fish takes its food from a tank bottom, so it’s important that the food gets there, without being eaten by other fishes in the middle water layers.

Here are some suitable foods for kribensis:

  1. High-Quality Pellets or Flakes: A good-quality cichlid pellet or flake food should form the base of their diet. Look for options specifically formulated for cichlids to ensure they receive the necessary nutrients.
  2. Live and Frozen Foods: Kribensis will relish live and frozen foods such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, daphnia, and mosquito larvae. These foods are rich in protein and essential nutrients.
  3. Spirulina: Spirulina-based foods or algae wafers are a great addition to their diet and help enhance their colors.
  4. Insects and Worms: Small insects like small crickets or fruit flies can be occasionally offered as a treat. Earthworms are also a great natural food source.

Remember to observe your fish’s behavior and adjust the feeding schedule accordingly. Over time, you’ll get to know their preferences and nutritional needs. Providing a well-balanced diet will not only keep them healthy but also enhance their natural colors and behavior.

Gender differences: male vs female

It’s quite easy to see between adult kribensis male and female. However, it’s very difficult to see the difference between the male and the female one among juveniles and young fish. There is an indirect indicator – that the male is still larger than the female one.

Here are the main characteristics that differentiate male and female kribensis:

Male Kribensis:

  1. Coloration: Males are generally more vibrant and colorful compared to females. They often have striking colors, including shades of blue, red, yellow, and black.
  2. Red Belly: Adult males often develop a deep red or orange coloration on their belly, which intensifies during breeding or when displaying courtship behaviors.
  3. Fin Shape: The dorsal fin (the fin on their back) of males is more elongated and pointed, especially during breeding. Their anal fin (the fin on their belly, near the tail) may also be longer and more pointed compared to females.
  4. Body Size: Males tend to be slightly larger and more robust than females, but this difference is not always very noticeable.

Female Kribensis:

  1. Coloration: Females have more subdued colors compared to males. Their overall body color is often a beige or brownish hue.
  2. Red Belly: While some females may have a faint red or orange belly, it is generally less intense and less prominent than that of the males.
  3. Fin Shape: The dorsal and anal fins of females are usually more rounded and shorter compared to the males. Their fins are not as elongated or pointed.
  4. Body Size: Females are typically slightly smaller and more slender compared to the males.

Please note that the sex differences may become more apparent as the fish mature. Young kribensis may not display such prominent distinctions, and it can be more challenging to identify their sex until they reach sexual maturity.


Once you’ve created proper conditions for breeding, it’s not a problem to provoke spawning. When feeding the breeders with diversified live and plant food, the fish become brightly colored quite soon and start breeding.

More often the female initiates spawning by demonstrating its bright abdomen. To tempt the male the female one will curve and wave her fins and shake her body. It can be often seen that the kribensis couple throws out gravel from its cave just before spawning. They are busy with getting their nookery ready for the future juveniles.

After that the couple starts spawning and the female will lay from 40 to 100 eggs. The female won’t leave the cave from the moment she lays her eggs and till the time the juveniles start swimming.

The kribensis male will swim around their cave guarding its female and juveniles. Juveniles growth varies depending on tank water temperature. At temperature 29 °C (84,2 °F) the juveniles grow fast and start swimming out of their cave.

It’s rather difficult to see the kribensis juveniles against the tank bottom background. However, it’s easy to see when the juveniles have left the cave – just when the female has gone out of it.

Since the time when juveniles start swimming around the tank, they can be fed with brine shrimp and artificial feed for the juveniles. When the juveniles become more active their parents usually take care of them, they mill the live feed in their mouths and thoroughly guard them.

However, in some cases only one parent takes care of juveniles completely, it even comes to the time when one parent attacks another. If this happens, you should immediately take another parent away from the tank. In 2-4 weeks juveniles will become about 1,25 cm long (0.5 in), after that they have to be set apart from their parents.

By this time the couple is ready to spawn again, if you put it into the tank with proper breeding conditions.