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Kribensis Cichlid Care & Info | Colorful African Dwarf Cichlid

Looking for a new addition to your (community) aquarium but don’t want to settle for something boring? You’ll love Pelvicachromis pulcher, also known as the kribensis cichlid. With a pair of these feisty African cichlids, your tank will never be boring. You might even end up with some babies!

Find out everything you need to know about keeping the kribensis cichlid in your own aquarium below.

Name (common, scientific)Kribensis cichlid, rainbow krib, Pelvicachromis pulcher
Minimum tank size20 gallons (long)
Minimum group size1M 1F
Temperature75-80 °F
Difficulty levelEasy

Kribensis cichlid description & natural habitat


Also known as the rainbow krib, kribensis cichlid or purple cichlid, Pelvicachromis pulcher is a dwarf cichlid species that reaches a maximum size of around 5″ (with males growing larger than females).

This fish is appreciated in the freshwater aquarium hobby for its striking coloration. Wild-type fish sport a greyish base color with a darker, horizontal stripe running right across the body. The belly has a patch of reddish pink, while the fins feature red and yellow patterning.

When the fish are breeding, the females’ colors in particular will intensify. The lighter parts of the body can turn bright yellow, the belly will become cherry-red, and the colors on the fins are much more pronounced.

Did you know? There are different selectively bred and natural kribensis cichlid color morphs available. Keep an eye out for “super red”, “Nigeria yellow” (a naturally occurring morph), albino, blue, and more.

Natural habitat

The kribensis cichlid is naturally found in West-Africa, specifically the countries of Benin, Nigeria, and Cameroon. Here, it occurs in coastal regions, usually wetlands and even intertidal zones with brackish water.

The krib’s wild habitat is characterized by its shallow, warm waters, always with lots of vegetation. According to a 2019 scientific profile of this species, the water it inhabits can be slow to fast-moving. It ranges from soft and acidic in inland areas to rather hard and alkaline in the Niger Delta, which is closer to the sea.

The IUCN Red List considers Pelvicachromis pulcher to be a species of Least Concern, meaning it’s not threatened in the wild. It does note that some of its natural range is in need of better habitat maintenance.

Did you know? Rainbow kribs were found in the waters of Hawaii at one point, the result of released aquarium fish managing to reproduce. However, the United States Geological Survey now considers it “extirpated” in Hawaii. This means the species is gone and can no longer threaten local ecosystems. Yay!

kribensis cichlid swimming in a custom aquarium

Kribensis cichlid aquarium

One of the reasons kribensis cichlids have been around in the aquarium hobby since at least the 1960s is that they’re not fussy. The water quality in the wetlands they naturally inhabit can be pretty low. High levels of contamination and almost no dissolved oxygen aren’t unusual, so they’re not hard to keep alive in our tanks.

A nice, natural aquarium set-up idea for kribensis cichlids would be a heavily planted West African biotope tank with soft and acidic water. That being said, having been captive-bred for many generations, this species is usually highly adaptable and will thrive in a wide range of conditions.

Be sure to include plenty of hides in your aquarium décor, both for the cichlids (which will use them during breeding time) and their tankmates. A few upside-down ceramic pots, coconut caves, and lots of live plants will be greatly appreciated.


As mentioned earlier, kribensis cichlids can be kept in some types of community aquariums. We do have to note that like many other cichlid species, they tend to terrorize their tankmates to some degree when breeding time rolls around.

This means you should avoid shy or similarly territorial tankmates; the ideal choice would be species that aren’t easily impressed by the raging (soon-to-be) parents.

If you’d like to keep your kribs in a West African biotope aquarium as we described earlier, you could consider tankmates like:

  • West African tetras such as Brycinus longipinnis (longfin tetra) and Arnoldichthys spilopterus (African red eye tetra)
  • Killifish, such as those of the genus Aphyosemion or Fundulopanchax
  • Butterflyfish (Pantodon buchholzi)
  • Upside-down catfish of the genus Synodontis
  • African barbs such as Enteromius

If geographical correctness is not an issue, you can go for Corydoras or Ancistrus catfish, which are both sturdy species. Small schooling fish like tetras are also an option.

Avoid keeping more than one pair of kribensis cichlids unless you’ve got a sizeable aquarium (50 gal long minimum), as they will not treat other cichlids kindly during breeding time.

If you do have the space, there are other species in the genus Pelvicachromis that might work, as well as a bunch of further West African dwarf cichlid genera.

kribensis cichlid swimming in a custom aquarium

Kribensis cichlid diet

What exactly kribensis cichlids eat in the wild has long been the subject of confusion. A 1985 study reported mainly plant-based stomach contents, like algae. This contrasted pretty heavily with the common belief that they’re mostly carnivores that prefer worms and other bugs.

Our theory? These fish are total omnivores, feeding on whatever is available during the different seasons and in different sub-habitats. That’s good news for us aquarists, as it means they’re not picky at all.

You can feed a high-quality pellet or flake food for cichlids as a staple. Supplement with a variety of frozen and live foods, as well as veggie-based options like algae tabs and blanched vegetables,

Breeding kribensis cichlids

Kribensis cichlids choose their partner for life. If you’ve managed to obtain a healthy pair and the aquarium is set up adequately, you’ll likely soon see their colors intensify. The female’s belly will take on a cherry-red color and she’ll attempt to get the male’s attention by ‘dancing’ for him.

After a while of this, the pair generally disappears into one of the hides you provided in order to spawn. You probably won’t see them for a couple of days, but no worries: they’re taking care of their eggs in the safety of their cave.

They’ll come out soon, taking their fry with them, carefully herding them and making sure none dwell too far from the group. It’s quite beautiful to see!

Keep in mind that kribensis cichlids are quite prolific. If you don’t want to be overrun by fry, consider keeping this species with tankmates that will feed on the kribs’ eggs. Corydoras catfish make a good choice.


Whether you want to keep them on their own or in a community aquarium, with the right care you’ll love keeping this colorful dwarf cichlid. Interested in dwarf cichlids in general? You might also like the South American Apistogramma agassizi.

Worried about the work and knowledge required to maintain an aquarium? We can help. FantaSEA Aquariums can take on everything from aquarium design to set-up to cleaning, so all you have to do is enjoy your tank. Interested? Send us your inquiry here!

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Marijke Puts

Hey! I'm Marijke, FantaSEA's resident blog writer. I'm a full-time pop science author, part-time PADI diver and snorkeler, and have been keeping fish since I was a kid. When I'm not writing fish care guides, you can usually find me underwater or trying to figure out how to fit more tanks into my house.

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