Kribensis Care Guide: Tank, Feeding & Breeding

Written By Lewis German  |  Tropical Fish  |  0 Comments

What are Kribensis?

Kribensis are a species of dwarf Cichlid – they belong to the genus Pelvicachromis, which contains around 11 or so species of small similarly shaped Cichlids.

In this article, we will be focusing on Pelvicachromis pulcher or the Rainbow Kribensis, which is the most common Pelvicachromis in the aquarium trade. It is characterised as a long, slim-bodied Cichlid, that reach around 4” in size, with black and yellow bands across its top half and a pinkish red hue underneath.

Where are Kribensis from?

Kribensis are an African Cichlid, although they are not a Rift Valley species like many others in the aquarium trade, and are found in West Africa, in parts of Nigeria and Cameroon.

Today however, Kribensis are usually captive bred. It is hard to come across a wild caught Kribensis in fish stores.

Water parameters for Kribensis

Kribensis are found in coastal areas of Africa. The waters they come from are subject to variation in mineral contents throughout the year, which means they are highly tolerable of different levels of pH and hardness.

However, they will always prefer slightly acidic, softer water and will benefit from having a generally low pH.

pH6.0 – 7.5
HardnessLow KH and GH
Temperature22C – 28C (72F – 82F)
Ammonia (NH3)0 ppm
Nitrite (NO2)0 ppm
Nitrate<5 ppm

Feeding and diet of Kribensis

Kribensis is an omnivorous fish that swings more towards the carnivorous side.

Their diet should have a high protein content, as in the wild, they consume many small invertebrates, like bloodworms, water fleas, baby snails and even some amounts of carrion.

They will however, also appreciate some level of vegetable matter in their diet in the form of canned green beans, boiled cucumber and broccoli. Kribensis are quite easy to feed as they are not picky eaters, and will take a wide range of dry fish foods, but be sure to provide them with some variety.

Best tank mates for Kribensis

Kribensis are a reasonably peaceful cichlid, however, they can become territorial and need a place in the tank which they can occupy as their territory, so a decent sized tank is needed to house them with other fish.

Anything upwards of 125 litres works best for this, as the Kribs can find their own little corner in the tank without being bothered by the other fish.

Black Phantom Tetra

Black Phantom Tetras

Black Phantoms make ideal tank mates for Kribs as they are peaceful, yet can hold their own and get away from the Cichlids if they decide to become territorial. Black Phantoms are fast and slim, being able to get out of the way quickly.

They also prefer the same water parameters, enjoying slightly acidic, soft water at about 25C / 77F and will take the same foods as the Kribs.

When housed together, Black Phantoms also tend to stay near the mid and top levels of the tank, whereas Kribensis like to stay along the bottom and lower areas amongst rocks and cover, meaning the two species will not often encroach on each other’s space.

Bronze Corydoras

Bronze Cory Cats make great tankmates for Kribensis. They are peaceful and will mind their own business, searching for food amongst the sand. They are also quick moving and armoured, meaning they are not easy targets if the Kribs become defensive.

Bronze Corydoras enjoy the same acidic water parameters as Kribs and can be kept at their preferred water conditions in a community setting.

If you house them together, just make sure that enough food reaches the bottom of the tank so that the Cories have enough to feed on.

Congo Tetra

Another fish from Africa, Congo Tetras make ideal tank mates for Kribensis. They like the same water parameters, occupy different areas of the tank, can defend themselves against attackers and will eat most fish foods.

Congos do however, get fairly large and need big open spaces to swim and school in, so a 55 gallon tank is the minimum size we would recommend for this setup.

If you have a large tank, this can be a very rewarding community aquarium.

Dwarf Gourami

Gourami go very well with Kribensis. They stay near the upper region of the tank, out of the territory of the cichlids, mind their own business, yet can defend themselves against attack.

They are also more on the carnivore side and enjoy a diet rich in protein, bloodworms, daphnia and brine shrimp, but will also enjoy grazing on veg from time to time, much like Kribensis do.

Dwarf Gourami also like the same water parameters as Kribs, although they can sometimes be particularly susceptible to foul water, so keep on top of water changes or have your tank heavily planted for the best results.

How to breed Kribensis

Kribensis are one of the easiest fish to breed in the hobby, as they do most of the work in the raising of the young by themselves, you just need to provide them with a good environment and feed them good food.

To condition Kribs is fairly easy; keep the water clean and the pH close to neutral or slightly below 7.0, feed them well with high protein foods like bloodworms and high protein cichlid pellets, anything above 40% protein works well.

They are also best kept on their own as a pair, with no other tankmates to disturb them or eat their young once they hatch. You should also provide a hide or small cave for your Kribs, which they will use to spawn and raise their young within.

But first, you will need a male and female:

How to sex Kribensis

Kribensis are easy to sex as they are a sexually dimorphic species; females are smaller than the males and possess a large, round, bright red or pink belly.

Males do not have as bright red on their underside and tend to have longer dorsal and anal fins.

Male Kribs also tend to have more flecks of blue and purple on them.

Rationing Kribensis

If you want to breed Kribensis, it is best to acquire just 2: a male and female pair.

If you want to colony breed them however, which is doable in a large tank, ideally over 4ft long, then you can house multiple pairs together which will breed in their own areas of the tank.

Kribensis are monogamous and stay with the same partner, usually their whole lives, so as long as there are an equal number of males and females in a 1:1 ratio, they will breed.

Kribensis spawning and fry

As long as there is a safe place for the fry to live, both of the parents will raise them on their own, and don’t worry, they are in very good hands. Cichlids are some of the best parents in the animal kingdom.

They will however, need you to provide them with food if you want them to all survive.

Luckily, baby Kribensis will eat most foods and will take crushed fish flakes the moment they leave the nest and become free swimming.

When the parents are raising the fry, it is important not to stress them out. Keep the water clean, keep them well fed and avoid scaring the fish. Keep pets and children away from the aquarium.

When stressed, Kribensis, like many other cichlids, can eat their young. They do this as a means to preserve themselves when things get tough, re-stocking their energy and starting again when the environment is safe again.

So, keep the parents comfortable.

What tank size do Kribensis need?

A pair of Kribs can be housed in a tank as small as 50 litres, although it is better to house them in something larger, as they are territorial and like their own space.

If you wish to house them in a community tank however, they will need a much larger tank. Anything upwards of 125 litres is best, as it allows them to get away from the other fish and find their own space.

  • Upwards of 10 gallons for a single pair.
  • Upwards of 25 gallons for a pair in a community tank.

What plants are best for Kribensis?

Kribensis are found in areas with dense vegetation and aquatic plant life, so are used to living in a setting with lots of greenery.

In the aquarium, Kribensis thrive in heavily planted tanks with lots of cover. Plants with thick, board leaves are great for the adults to conceal themselves within.

Here are our recommendations for ideal plants to go with Kribensis:

  • Anubias barteri
  • Java Fern
  • Amazon Sword
  • Cryptocoryn
  • Ludwigia repens

Tips and tricks for Kribensis care

One of our tips when it comes to Kribensis is to give them a proper hide, either a hollow coconut, bundle of pebbles/rocks or a small cave which they can call home.

In the wild, these types of cichlids will find a small cave or crevice and will occupy it, spending most of their time cleaning and protecting it. Out in the open, Kribensis will feel vulnerable to attack and can become stressed; they need some place to hide.

If you really want your Kribensis to settle in and feel comfortable in your tank, give them a good space to live in the corner of the tank and provide them with a cave.