Cichlids are popular additions to freshwater tanks due to their easy care requirements and amazing looks – and kribensis cichlid might be the most gorgeous of them all!
This little creature is all you can want in a freshwater fish. However, it isn’t as popular as some other fish such as guppies and mollies. This is why many people don’t know much about its care and how to keep it in a tank.
If you are considering getting a kribensis cichlid but don’t know where to start – this article might be a good beginning.
As kribensis cichlid was one of my first fish, I think more people need to learn all there is about them! Don’t worry, they aren’t as challenging to keep as you might think.
Let’s get started!
Kribensis Cichlid Overview
Kribensis cichlid (pelvicachromis pulcher) is a dwarf cichlid. It is often confused with pelvicachromis taeniatus due to confusion made by the aquarium trade business, but the two are entirely separate types of kribensis.
Kribensis belongs to the cichlidae family, one of the largest fish families in nature. It is believed there are more than 2,500 cichlid species out there!
If this name sounds unfamiliar but you think you have already seen this species, maybe you know it under one of its many common names, such as purple cichlid, palette cichlid, purple cichlid, niger cichlid, kind cichlid, or rainbow krib.
They owe their name to their gorgeous looks, and even their Latin name means ‘beautiful belly’.
Kribensis cichlid originates from Africa. More notably, it can be found on the coasts of Cameroon and in southern Nigeria.
As kribensis reside in shallow waters of the African delta, there is some confusion about whether they are freshwater or brackish-water fish. In general, they can live in both conditions.
It is believed this fish first came to Europe in 1913, when Christian Bruening imported it into Germany. He continued breeding the fish in captivity, and this is how kribensis became a part of our tanks.
Kribensis Cichlid Appearance
Kribensis cichlids are some of the most beautiful fish you can find, especially during the spawning period.
They have a base color, that is usually somewhere between white and gray. Most kribensis also have a strong black stripe that goes all the way from their eyes to their tail. Some morphs even have a black spot on top of the head.
Finally, the most notable color is the colorful belly of the females. The standard color is pinkish red which gets more prominent during the mating season.
On the other hand, males tend to have long, pointed fins and black dots all over their bodies.
The dorsal fin is the most prominent in both genders, as it is bent towards the body. It can also be very colorful.
Some kribensis also have rather long pelvic fins that come in metallic blue – although a few morphs exist.
There are many colorful morphs, so other than red, you can find them in blue, green, and yellow colors. There is even an albino kribensis that has been around for decades!
It isn’t uncommon for kribensis to be fairly pale while in pet stores. This is because their color is an indication of their health, and many shops don’t care too much about the fish’s well-being.
As soon as you get them home and into proper conditions, expect your kribensis’ colors to show their full potential!
Kribensis Cichlid Size
This is a fairly small fish from the cichlid family, although it is not the smallest. Still, it is considered a dwarf cichlid species.
The males usually grow up to 4 inches in size, while females tend to be a bit smaller and rarely grow to be longer than 3-inch. Of course, there might be some differences depending on the fish themselves.
Kribensis Temperament and Behavior
When it comes to their temperament, kribensis can be a bit tricky.
Most of the time, they are peaceful, non-aggressive fish that want to mind their own business. However, there are moments when kribensis can be aggressive and territorial.
First off, these fish are known to nip at fins of fish with long tails and fins – especially if they are slow swimmers that cannot escape. The reason behind this behavior isn’t known.
Another issue is that these fish are rather territorial, so issues might arise if you combine them with fish that prefer to live in the same part of the tank as kribensis.
This includes fish and shrimp that prefer staying at the bottom of the tank, as well as other fish that might attempt to live inside the caves.
Such bad behavior will worsen during the mating season, which is why most fishkeepers (myself included) prefer keeping kribensis in a breeder’s tank during the mating season.
Also, it’s advisable to keep more females than males, as males can become aggressive toward other males during the mating season.
Kribensis love to burrow inside the substrate. Most of the time you can see them playing with gravel, rearranging everything as they see fit.
They are strong swimmers and will commonly attempt to jump out of the tank. As such, you need to make sure your aquarium has a well-fitting cover that will prevent them from escaping (and probably dying in the process).
In general, they are among the most active aquarium fish you can find – especially as they are diurnal, meaning they are active during the day, when you can see them.
Potential Health Problems
Not many fishkeepers consider health issues their pets might have, although fish are just as prone to diseases as any other animal.
Fortunately, kribensis are fairly healthy fish. They aren’t prone to any breed-specific illnesses and there isn’t anything in particular you need to be mindful of.
However, they are still prone to any health disease freshwater fish might have. This includes conditions such as fin rot, ich, or dropsy.
If you notice your kribensis behaving in a weird way or that it has lost its colors, quarantine it immediately. This will keep the disease from spreading.
You can treat your kribensis using medications you can buy in pet shops or with the help of aquarium salt. If you don’t feel like spending lots of money on aquarium salt, there are many homemade varieties and substitutes you might want to try out.
As your fish recovers, keep them in quarantine for a bit longer to make sure they are fully recovered. Only then can you return your fish to the community,
Kribensis Cichlid Lifespan
These fish are rather resilient and long-lived, especially for a fish of their size. With proper care, they usually live up to 5 years of age.
Most of the time, however, these cichlids will live around 3 years.
Kribensis Cichlid Care
Kribensis cichlids aren’t demanding fish. While they might not be the best fish for beginners, this is mostly due to their temperament and not care.
They are fairly hardy and can withstand a variety of water parameters. Of course, you should still strive to provide them with the best care possible and to make sure their tank resembles their natural habitat.
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced fish keeper that hasn’t got a chance to keep kribensis before, here is how to help your cichlids thrive:
Kribensis Cichlid Diet
Kribensis cichlids are omnivorous fish. They aren’t picky eaters and will eat most types of food you give them.
- Flake foods
- Pellet foods
- Freshly hatched brine shrimp
- Frozen brine shrimp
- Mosquito larvae
Yes, kribensis will even eat veggies. My kribensis never refused zucchini! Just make sure to pick veggies that are safe for fish and that won’t pollute the water.
The biggest issue with these fish is that they’re bottom eaters. You need to pick food that will sink to the bottom.
During the mating season, it is advisable to feed your kribensis live food. This will provide them with plenty of nutrients and healthy minerals.
Feed your kribensis once a day. However, don’t overfeed them as this can lead to many issues.
While your fish won’t become fat in the same way as land animals might, fish leftovers can cause lots of problems to fish.
The main reason is that the leftovers might ruin the water parameters, leading to higher ammonia levels and dirty water in general.
Give them the amount of food they can eat in an hour or two, not more. If possible, remove any leftovers you see after this time.
Kribensis Cichlid Water Parameters
Imitating the water parameters of a kribensis natural habitat might be very challenging as these fish come from various locations, each with a different set of water conditions.
From soft and acidic waters to brackish waters, these fish can survive in many conditions. This is good news, as it means you can hardly go wrong.
Some kribensis will even switch between various water conditions during their lifetime! This means they’ll deal well with slight changes in their environment.
As such, you don’t need to take too much care about the water parameters. What you should care about is making sure the parameters are stable and without fluctuations.
A rule of thumb, however, is to ensure the water parameters are within this range:
|Water temperature:||between 70°F and 80°F|
|pH levels:||6.0 to 8.0, with neutral pH being the safest choice|
|Water hardness:||5 to 20 dGH|
Kribensis Cichlid Tank Size
While kribensis can survive in confined spaces, this is no way for them to thrive. You should provide them with spacious tanks that give them plenty of space to swim freely.
A rule of thumb is to keep your kribensis in a tank that can hold 20 to 30 gallons – or more, depending on the amount of fish you plan on keeping.
The main reason why you might want a larger tank is that this might keep kribensis from becoming aggressive towards their tank mates. The larger the tank, the smaller the chances of a fish becoming territorial.
Kribensis Cichlid Decorations
Kribensis cichlids love having plenty of hiding spots, most notably flower pots or rock caves. While they are not necessarily a type of fish that has to hide, this will resemble their natural habitat the most.
Don’t worry about the size of the caves you provide them with. They just need to be large enough for adult kribensis to fit in and have one entrance with soft edges so that not too much light can come in.
If you don’t want to buy new decorations, you can use some materials that are commonly found in your house. This includes half a coconut shell or even PVC pipes! Just make sure to cut out the entrance, if needed.
One word of caution: Make sure no decoration you use contains chemicals or artificial colors that are harmful to the fish.
Finally, when arranging decorations, make sure to leave one part of the tank open so these fish can swim freely.
Kribensis love having a planted aquarium, but it doesn’t matter too much whether the plants are live or fake.
They won’t eat live plants or any vegetation for that matter.
However, these fish love to burrow inside the substrate. This might ruin the roots of live plants. While this hasn’t happened to me personally, I guess most people would prefer staying on the safe side.
Kribensis Cichlid Filters
Filters are an essential part of every aquarium. However, when you have kribensis cichlids, it’s especially important to find a strong filtrate that will ensure the tank water is as fresh as possible, since these fish are rather sensitive to nitrates and ammonia.
However, you don’t need filters with a powerful flow. They don’t require currents and prefer swimming in fairly calm waters.
Kribensis Cichlid Substrate
Kribensis has to be kept with some type of substrate, as they love to burrow. Ideally, you should provide them with fine gravel, although they can survive with sand, as well.
It seems that kribensis prefers gravel in dark colors compared to the light one. This is a good thing for you, as well, as most morphs will appear brighter on a darker background.
Don’t waste too much time arranging the substrate. These burrowing fish will move everything around and give your tank the appearance they like the best!
Kribensis Cichlid Light Requirements
Kribensis aren’t fish that require strong light. You don’t need to give them sunlight or keep the lights on during the night. Too much light can also lead to algae overgrowth, and your kribensis won’t like this.
However, you also don’t need to ensure the light in the tank is dim. They are more than capable of staying away from the light by hiding inside caves and other hiding spots.
My rule of thumb is to make sure other fish in the tank have enough light. Kribensis will take care of themselves.
Kribensis Cichlid Tank Mates
Choosing adequate tank mates for kribensis might be tricky.
Kribensis is a friendly fish, although it isn’t the most peaceful creature out there. As such, I would take caution when keeping it in a community tank.
For example, if you plan on keeping kribensis cichlid and angelfish, keep in mind that kribensis might nip on angelfish fins. The same goes for any slow-moving fish, such as plecos.
Some peaceful fish that can live with kribensis cichlids include:
- Most tetra species
- Cherry barbs
- Tiger barbs
While some fishkeepers claim that kribensis can live peacefully with female bettas, from my experience, these two aren’t a good match. Both kribensis and bettas can become aggressive, especially during the breeding season. This is a recipe for disaster!
Kribensis Cichlid Breeding
During the mating season, kribensis cichlids form nesting pairs. They will do this naturally, but you can also ‘choose’ your own pair by putting the two fish you’d like to mate in a 40-gallon breeder’s tank.
Keep in mind that once the pair has been established, you shouldn’t bring in other fish inside the tank. Kribensis males can be competitive during the mating season and this can end in a fight.
In fact, two females can also fight for the male’s attention, so it’s better to leave the fish couple alone.
You might also want to leave the fish inside the separate tank until the fry becomes large enough to care for themselves. Unlike many other breeds, kribensis will take great care of their fry and can be aggressive toward other fish they deem dangerous for the younglings.
The water temperature and pH value can influence the male-to-female ratio. If you’d like to have a fairly even amount of males and females, make sure that the water temperature is around 80°F with a slightly soft to neutral pH of 7.
Also, place a cave or two inside the breeder’s tank, as this is where the female will lay the eggs.
To condition mating, give your kribensis plenty of live foods and slightly warm water. You’ll notice that females are ready for mating as their bellies become brighter in color.
Each female will lay up to 300 eggs. Until the fry hatches and starts swimming freely, the female won’t leave the cave too much. She’ll even eat less than usual!
Males are also protective of their offspring, as they’ll guard the cave and the female.
Caring for the Fry
As the fry leaves the cave, they’ll mostly stay close to their parents. It will take a few days to a few weeks for fish to start swimming freely.
While most of the time both parents raise the fry, sometimes one parent might become aggressive towards the other one. Occasionally, the ‘main’ parent might even start attacking the other one!
Unfortunately, the only thing you can do is to remove the secondary parent from the tank, as it will keep attempting to care for the babies while the other one will remain defensive.
Generally, the biggest concern you have regarding the fry care is feeding, as the parent fish will take care of everything else.
There are many commercially available dry foods you can use. Other options include crumbled flake foods or freshly hatched brine shrimp.
Also, don’t feed the fry the same way as you would feed adult fish. Fry needs smaller portions a few times a day.
Unfortunately, such a feeding schedule also means you need to clean the water as frequently as possible. Otherwise, you are risking their health as the water parameters might go wrong due to food leftovers.
As fry is more sensitive to stress and sudden changes in water parameters, try some of many methods to clean the water without removing the fish.
It takes up to four weeks for fry to grow up enough to become independent. This usually happens when they reach half an inch in size.
Parent fish might breed again the moment you separate them from the fry.
The Final Words
Kribensis cichlids are some of the most beautiful easy-to-care fish you can get for your tank. They are resilient and can fit in most water conditions, so you don’t need to worry too much about the parameters.
However, they are a bit more aggressive than some other species, such as guppies or plecos, even toward their own species. This is especially noticeable if the tank is too small or if there aren’t enough hiding spots.
Luckily, by giving them a large enough tank and by keeping them separated from other fish during the mating season, you can fix most of the bad behavior.
Not to mention how they’ll make up for their temperamental flaws with their amazing colors and overall looks!
If you can handle their temper tantrums, these fishies can make an amazing addition to your collection.
Hi fellow aquarists, I’m Ava and I’ve been an enthusiastic aquarium hobbyist for over four years now.
I’ve been amazed by these beautiful creatures since I was a kid and I’m thrilled to be sharing everything I’ve learned over the years with anyone who’s as passionate about the topic as I am.