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Pelvicachromis pulcher


Kribensis - Pelvicachromis pulcher

Male Kribensis

Tino Strauss
Kribensis - Pelvicachromis pulcher

Female Kribensis

Tino Strauss
Kribensis - Pelvicachromis pulcher

Juvenile Kribensis

Tino Strauss

Scientific Name: Pelvicachromis pulcher
Other Names: Kribensis, Purple Cichlid
Family: Cichlidae
Origin: Africa
Adult Size: 3-4 inches (8-10 cm)
Social: Peaceful
Lifespan: 5 years
Tank Level: Bottom dweller
Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallon
Diet: Omnivore, eats most foods
Breeding: Egglayer
Care: Easy
pH: 6.5
Hardness: 8-12 dGH
Temperature: 75-77 F (24-25 C)


As is often the case with common names, debate exists over which species 'kribensis' truly is. Technically kribensis refers to the species Pelvicachromis taeniatus. However, in the aquarium trade Pelvicachromis pulcher is the fish usually sold under the name kribensis. Ideally the fish should be referred to by its scientific name, thus eliminating the issue of the common name. For the sake of clarity, this profile will refer to Pelvicachromis pulcher or P. pulcher, rather than Kribensis.

P. pulcher is an easy to care for and colorful fish that falls into the category of dwarf cichlids. One look it all it takes to understand how it got it's name. The Latin translation of "Pelva" meaning 'belly,' "chromis" meaning 'color,' and "pulcher" meaning 'beautiful', describes the fish quite well. During spawning season the female sports a brilliant cherry red colored belly.

Even when not spawning they are an attractive fish, and may be found in a variety of color morphs such as yellow, red, green, and blue, in addition to the albino variety which has been bred for several decades. In addition to being colorful they remain small, a trait that makes them popular with those who don't have the space for, or interest in keeping large fish. Adult males reach up to 10 cm ( 4 inches), while females grow no larger than 7 cm ( 3 inches).

P. pulcher was originally described by Boulenger in 1901, and first imported into Germany in 1913 by Christian Bruening. From there the plot thickens. When, and which species was first introduced to the trade is still debated. However it's safe to say that for several decades this species has been available under various names, including Kribensis, Niger Cichlid, Purple Cichlid, and Pallette Cichlid. Virtually all specimens now sold in the aquarium trade are captive-bred rather than wild-caught.

Albino Varieties: Albino varieties have been bred for several decades and are often offered for sale in shops. Owners have reported that even normally colored males prefer albino females, yet all females prefer normally colored males. It is believed the red belly present in females who are ready to spawn is a powerful attractant to the male, and it shows up better on an albino female.


P. pulcher is an undemanding fish when it comes to water conditions, which is another reason it's so popular. It originates from the drainage area at the mouth of the Ethiop River, Niger delta, where a variety of water conditions can be seen. The water of the low lying blackwater streams is acidic and very soft, while the delta waters are slightly brackish, more alkaline, and far harder than the streams that feed it. For this reason P. pulcher sometimes isn described as a brackish-water fish.

The ideal way to decide upon the water pH and hardness is to match it to the parameters of the tank from which your fish was raised. Ask the storeowner a few questions before purchasing your fish. If you are unable to determine its history, use the water you have available at home. That way you don't have to adjust it, and the fish will be more likely to have consistency when you perform water changes. Sudden changes in water chemistry is one stress factor that contributes to fish disease.

P. pulcher is often kept in a community tank, however care should be taken in choosing tankmakes. Although they are a peaceful fish, they may nip the fins of slow moving fish such as Angels. If other cichlids will be in the community tank, choose a species that is not bottom dwelling. That way they will not compete for the same territory. Avoid keeping them with another cave dwelling species, as P. pulcher love their caves.

Speaking of caves, even if you are not planning to spawn your P. pulcher, it is wise to provide them with caves. Rock formations or flowerpots are the most commonly used materials. To create a rock cave, select rocks that fit well together and glue them in place with silica gel or approved aquarium glue. This creates a solid structure that will not collapse on the fish. The cave need not be large, and ideally allows in minimal light and has only a single entrance. Clay or ceramic flowerpots may be used to fashion a cave, however make sure there are no chemicals on or in the pot and that the edges are smooth. A flowerpot turned upside down with a small opening, or a pot cut in two works very well. Even plastic pipes, coconut shells, or driftwood can be used to create suitable caves.

Substrate is also an important factor in creating a comfortable habitat for P. pulcher. They favor fine darker gravel, which they will quickly rearrange to suit their tastes. The tank itself should be well planted with real or artificial plants. Because they like to burrow they may uproot plants, however they are generally not destructive to the vegetation.


In addition to caves and plants to provide cover, an area for open swimming should be available. Characteristic of other cichlids, Kribensis are fast swimmers who can change direction in an instant and stop on a dime. They are territorial and if cramped may become aggressive, so take care to avoid overstocking the tank.


Feeding P. pulcher is easy. They are omnivorous and will accept flake or pellet foods, frozen brine shrimp, freshly hatched brine shrimp, daphnia, mosquito larvae, bloodworms, and even vegetables such as zucchini. To maintain them in good health, feed them a variety of foods. Keep in mind that by nature they are bottom dwellers, so be sure to provide some foods that will sink, such as sinking pellets. When conditioning fish prior to breeding, provide plenty of live foods.


Continue to Part 2 for breeding info


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