Kribensis – Pelvicachromis pulcher

Kribensis – Pelvicachromis pulcher


The Kribensis cichlid is a hardy fish suitable for the novice cichlid keeper.

The name Pelvicachromis pulcher is derived from three different Latin words: pelva which means belly, chromis, which means colour, and pulcher, which means beautiful. It is a fitting name for this colourful species, especially during the breeding period when the female fish sports a showy cherry red belly.    

The expected life span for Kribensis cichlids is 5 years.


Kingdom:      Animalia
Phylum:         Chordata
Class:            Actinopterygii
Order:           Perciformes
Family:          Cichlidae
Genus:           Pelvicachromis
Species:         Pelvicachromis pulcher

Geographical range, habitat and habits

Kribensis is an African cichlid living in the drainage area at the mouth of the Ethiop River in the Niger delta. In this environment, several different water conditions are present. In the delta you will find hard, alkaline and slightly brackish water due to its proximity to the sea, while the streams that feed the delta are much less hard and not affected by the ocean. The water of the low lying black-water streams is actually quite acidic and very soft.  

Size and appearance

The female can reach a size of 8 cm / 3 in while the male can be up to 10 cm / 4 in length. Even though the male is longer, the female can appear to be larger since her belly is bigger. During the spawning season her belly will take on a brilliant cherry red hue.  

Kribensis care

Kribensis cichlids will work well in community aquariums with peaceful fish of the same or larger size, but avoid housing them with slow mowing species with long and flowing fins, e.g. Angelfish, since they may nip the fins of such fish. If you wish to house your Kribs with other cichlids it is advisable to avoid species that will compete for bottom supremacy with the Kribensis. Kribensis cichlids usually take up residence in a cave, so if you plan on keeping more than one couple or house your Kribensis with other cave-dwellers the aquarium must be decorated with a lot of caves to make it possible for each fish or couple to claim at least one. Ideally use plants or other decorations to form natural borders in the tank. Kribensis cichlids will feel much more at ease in the aquarium when they have caves to retreat into, but you don’t have to purchase cave-looking caves from the fish store; flowerpots will work just as well.

Overly aggressive Kribensis is usually a sign of the aquarium being too densely stocked, especially with bottom- and cave dwellers, or not being decorated in a way that forms territorial borders and plenty of hiding spots.  

As mentioned above, plants are ideal for creating territorial borders and will also make your Kribensis cichlids feel more at home. They are known to burrow so choose hardy plant species that will survive being uprooted and/or secure the plant base well with heavy stones.

One Kribensis pair can be housed in a 50 L / 13 gallon aquarium. There must be room for caves and plants as well as for an open area for swimming.    

The Kribensis cichlid is a hardy fish that can adapt to both acidic and alkaline conditions. A pH-value in the 6.8 to 7.5 is the safest bet, but many specimens are able to adapt to more acidic or alkaline waters as long as the change is slow and gradual. In the wild, Kribensis can be found in both soft and hard waters. The recommended water temperature is 22-26 ºC / 72-79 ºF.

Feeding Kribensis

The Kribensis cichlid is an omnivore species that will accept most types of food in the aquarium. Keeping it on a varied diet is recommended since it will boost the immune system. You can for instance combine prepared foods (flakes, pellets, etc) with green foods (blanched lettuce, Brussels sprouts, etc) and occasional treats in the form of live or frozen meaty foods.  

Breeding Kribensis

Sexing Kribensis cichlids is not difficult, because the female fish is smaller, has a larger belly and displays brighter colours. During the breeding season her belly will get the characteristic cherry red colour. Another way of sexing Kribensis is to look at the fins; the dorsal fin of the male ends in a point. 

Kribensis will form monogamous pairs and once a couple has been established you can expect them to spawn and raise young over and over again. Many aquarists provide breeding couples with their own separate tank since they tend to defend egg and fry violently. If you need to coax your Kribensis couple into breeding (it’s usually not necessary), increase the water temperature up to 27 ºC / 80 ºF and feed the fish plenty of live food. Make sure they have several suitable caves to choose among.   

The Kribensis cichlid is a cave spawner and the eggs will usually be placed in the roof. The male and female fish will rare their eggs and fry together. During the initial 5-10 days after spawning, the female spends a lot of time inside the cave while the male guards the territory. After this period you can expect her to start making little excursions with her offspring in the aquarium. As soon as she senses any danger she will force them back into a cave and they will also spend all nights inside a cave, usually the breeding cave. The female does not let her fry out in the morning until she has checked the aquarium and deemed it safe. The fry stays with their parents until they are several weeks old.   

Newly emerged Kribensis fry can be fed newly hatched brine shrimp and powdered flakes. As they grow bigger, you can increase the size of the food. 

Don’t loose heart if the first couple of batches gets eaten by the parents; this is quite common and the fish will soon spawn again. Eventually, almost all Kribensis couples get it right.