Kribensis Cichlid 101: Care, Size, Tank Requirements…

The Kribensis Cichlid is a freshwater fish that doesn’t get nearly enough attention. With so many other beautiful species out there, many aquarists tend to overlook this one!

So let us sell you on them:

Kribensis Cichlids are beautiful, peaceful, and very easy to care for. Their unique color pattern and relatively high activity level make them one of the most spectator-friendly species out there.

This guide will teach you the fundamentals of Kribensis Cichlid care, and why you should seriously consider getting some for your home tank.

Species Summary

While many fish in the Cichlid family are notorious for being bullies, that’s not the case with the Kribensis Cichlid. The Kribensis Cichlid (scientific name: Pelvicachromis pulcher) is a peaceful dwarf species that does well in community environments.

A Kribensis Cichlid swimming in a freshwater aquarium

With the right level of care, Kribensis fish have the potential to be one of the most breathtaking Cichlid species around. They have a unique appearance filled with a variety of eye-popping colors.

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Most of the Kribensis Cichlids in the fish trade are captive-bred. But, these freshwater fish originally came from Africa. They are found in coastal areas in Southern Nigeria and Cameroon.

Thanks to their unique natural habitat, Kribensis Cichlids are hardy enough to adapt well in most aquariums!

Average Kribensis Cichlid Size

The average Kribensis Cichlid size is around 4 inches in length for males and 3 inches in length for females.

That makes these dwarf Cichlids not very large at all, especially when you compare them to some of their larger relatives. 


The lifespan of a Kribensis Cichlid is usually no more than 5 years when kept in captivity. This age is usually only attainable when they’re kept in pristine conditions and given great care.

Like any other fish in the aquarium trade, Kribensis Cichlids can respond poorly to dramatic water changes and a suboptimal habitat. While they might be hardy, it’s important to provide them with the best care possible. Doing so will keep these fish healthy and help maximize their lifespan.


Kribensis Cichlids have that familiar Cichlid profile. This includes the tall height, slim shape, and rounded head.

When it comes to coloration, the Kribensis Cichlid has a lot going on! These fish have a base coloration that varies from gray to white. Accenting that base color is a prominent black stripe that runs from the eyes to the tail. You might also see black coloration on the top of the head.

The most identifying feature for females is the reddish pink belly. This red belly becomes more vibrant during the breeding season. While males don’t have the pink hue, they do have some interesting fins.

Males have long and pointed fins. The dorsal fin, in particular, is curved to a dramatic point towards the back of the body. For males and females, the dorsal and tail fins are edged in yellow and red.

Many Kribensis Cichlids also have black dots. It’s a form of mimicry that looks like eys. You might see these dots on the tips of the dorsal fin and on the top of the fan-shaped tail fin.

Long pelvic fins are pretty common with this species as well. Many fish have brightly-colored pelvic fins covered in streaks of metallic blue.

One male Pelvicachromis pulcher

Overall, there’s a lot of variety with Kribensis Cichlids! In most cases, these fish appear more subdued when they’re being sold at pet stores.

But once you bring them home and put them in a well-maintained environment, all kinds of colors can start to appear.

Author Note: Their bright coloration is actually a good indicator of overall health. So, a vibrant and colorful fish is always a good sign.

Kribensis Cichlid Care

Whether you’re a seasoned fish-keeper or a newcomer to the hobby, Kribensis Cichlid care is quite manageable. These fish are relatively undemanding and adapt well to a range of environments.

Of course, there are still important needs you have to meet when keeping them in captivity. Stick to the following care guidelines and you shouldn’t have any issues keeping your Kribensis Cichlid in good shape!

Tank Size

Kribensis Cichlids don’t need a massive tank to stay healthy. But, the size of their tank could have an effect on their stress levels and happiness.

We recommend an aquarium that can hold 20 to 30 gallons. Some owners have seen success housing single Kribensis Cichlids in smaller 10-gallon tanks, but larger is always better.

With a larger tank, you can keep a bonded pair together or create a small community. That extra space can prevent territorial behavior as well.

Water Parameters

The interesting thing about Kribensis Cichlids is that they come from a natural environment with many different water conditions. These fish helm from the mouth of the Ethiope River. This area has everything from brackish waters to soft and acidic waters.

Oftentimes, Kribensis Cichlids will move to these different water conditions throughout their life. This is beneficial for you because it means that this species is quite tolerant of a variety of conditions.

As long as you stick within a certain temperature, pH, and hardness range, your Kribensis Cichlid should not respond negatively. Maintain conditions and try to keep things as stable as possible. While they won’t mind slight fluctuations here and there, they will not fare well during major changes.

Here are some basic water parameters to follow:

  • Water temperatures: Around 75°F to 79°F
  • pH Levels: 5.0 to 8.0 (a neutral pH balance is preferred)
  • Water hardness: 5 to 20 dGH

It’s a good idea to do fairly frequent water tests when you first get this species. This will help you keep the water parameters consistent and make it easier for these fish to get settled in. 

Setting Up The Rest Of Their Tank

There are a couple of things that you can add to keep your Kribensis Cichlids comfortable. First, add plenty of dense vegetation to the tank. You can use artificial or real plants. Kribensis Cichlids aren’t known to eat plants, but they may uproot some.

Author Note: Feel free to get creative and add as many unique cultivars as you want. Just make sure that the plants are secure.

As for the substrate, you should use fine gravel. These fish tend to stick to the bottom of the tank and will often dig around. This is especially true during the breeding season. Fine gravel is easy to move around and is safe enough for the fish to handle.

Next up, implement hiding spots!

Caves are one of the most important things you need in a tank with Kribensis Cichlids. These fish love caves and will use them to breed.

Add a few different caves throughout the environment. You can use artificial caves or make them out of natural decor. Driftwood, flat rocks, coconut shells, and even clay pots are all good choices. Just make sure that the opening has smooth edges to prevent injury.

A Kribensis Cichlid looking for food in the tank

As always, a strong filtration system is appreciated. Kribensis Cichlids are quite sensitive to ammonia and nitrates. Your filter should be able to get rid of those contaminants effectively.

These fish aren’t too crazy about water flow or strong lighting. Keep the current relatively gentle and set the lights to a moderate level. With plenty of hiding spots, these fish should be able to control their exposure to light on their own.

Potential Diseases To Watch Out For

For the most part, Kribensis Cichlids are quite resilient to disease. However, they can still suffer from many of the common freshwater diseases.

Most diseases that affect freshwater fish are directly caused by poor maintenance. When the water conditions start to fall, fish will get stressed. This leads to common diseases like Ich, Dropsy, and fin rot.

Author Note: The good news is that all of those conditions are easily preventable. Stay on top of the water conditions and perform water changes every week.

If you notice your Kribensis Cichlids getting ill, quarantine them immediately. Many diseases are contagious and can easily spread throughout the community. Once quarantined, provide some over-the-counter medications and keep a watchful eye as they recover.

Food & Diet

Natural omnivores, Kribensis Cichlids appreciate a diet with lots of variety.

The easiest meal you can provide is sinking pellets. These fish stay at the bottom of the water column, so choose pellets that are dense enough to make it down there.

To provide protein, offer up some live, freeze-dried, or frozen foods. You can try things like brine shrimp, bloodworms, daphnia, mosquito larvae, and more.

Kribensis Cichlids are known to accept vegetables, too. They enjoy mashed peas and small chunks of zucchini.

No matter what you’re feeding, make sure that you don’t overdo it! Provide only enough food that they can eat in a couple of minutes. Remove any excess to preserve the quality of the water.

Behavior & Temperament

Kribensis Cichlids are peaceful and non-aggressive. They get along with most like-minded species and can easily cohabitate a tank with others.

The only thing you might have to worry about is fin-nipping. This fish is known to chase freshwater species with long flowy tails.

You might also encounter territorial disputes around caves.

Kribensis Cichlids should not be kept with other cave-dwelling species. They are highly protective of the area. This behavior is even more noticeable in times of spawning.

Tank Mates

There are many different species that you can introduce into the tank! Kribensis Cichlids do very well in bonded pairs, but you might encounter some problems when more than one male is in the area.

To keep safe, we recommend keeping more females to males.

You should also avoid any slow-moving fish with long fins. As we mentioned earlier, these fish love to chase and nip fins if the opportunity is present!

The best tank mates for the Kribensis Cichlid are going to be other peaceful fish species that are similarly-sized. You can choose fish that occupy other parts of the water column to ensure that no problems occur.

Here are some tank mates to try out:


Breeding Kribensis Cichlids is actually pretty simple. These fish willingly breed in community tanks. Plus, they exhibit very strong parental instincts.

To improve the chances of survival for the babies, we recommend setting up a separate breeding tank.

In this tank, raise the temperature to about 80°F to get a larger clutch. Also, modify pH levels and aim for a 7.0.

Use fine gravel as a substrate and place a spacious cave in the tank. Then, introduce the bonded pair.

Condition the couple with live foods. Eventually, the female will develop that red belly and swell up with eggs. You might witness some interesting behaviors from the two fish.

The pair will choose a cave and start emptying it out for the eggs!

When she’s ready, the female will lay between 200 and 300 eggs inside the cave. She’ll stay in there with the eggs until they hatch. Meanwhile, the male stays closeby to guard the cave.

The eggs will hatch in a few days. At this point, the fry will survive off their egg sac. The parents will guard them the entire time.

When they become free-swimming, you’ll notice little baby fish following the parents. You can provide infusoria, powdered fish food, or liquid fish food to help them grow.

The parents will continue watching the baby fish as they develop. Keep an eye out for any aggression and remove the parents if problems start to occur.            

What Do You Think?

Now that you know more about Kribensis Cichlid care (and the species in general), what do you think? Are you considering getting some for your home aquarium?

These fish are simply gorgeous and very fun to watch. You’ll find yourself spending a surprising amount of time observing them each day!

If there’s anything about this species you think we should add, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We try our best to respond to messages on FB and email as fast as we can.

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