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Pelvicachromis pulcher, the Kribensis Cichlid

Above A male Pelvicachromis pulcher. Photo by Sam Borstein taken at the 2007 ACA Convention.


Pelvicachromis pulcher is a substrate spawning west African cichlid native to Nigeria and the Cameroon. Pelvicachromis pulcher was first typed by Boulenger in 1901. Males get up to about 3.5–4 inches. Females are smaller, topping out at 2.5–3 inches.

Pelvicachromis pulcher is a popular aquarium fish for several reasons

  • It behaves nicely in a community tank.
  • It is easy to tell the males from the females
  • It is undemanding in water conditions and feed
  • Can be easily kept in pairs
  • Pelvicachromis pulcher won't eat your plants

Male Pelvicachromis pulcher are larger than females and have elongated dorsal and anal fins. Female Pelvicachromis pulcher have noticeably rounder bellies.

Pelvicachromis pulcher, Albino FormTwo varieties of kribensis are available

  1. Standard — Both fish are tan, pink, brown, and gold. Females have profound red-purple bellies.
  2. Albino— this variety (see picture above), are white with some bleed through. In reality, these fish may actually be amelanistic rather than true albinos.

There are numerous images of the standard variety on the web. Try this Google search to see them.


This fish is generally found in quiet, still waters such as streams and ditches with a pH in the 6.5 to 7 range with variable hardness.


Pelvicachromis kribensis is undemanding and easy-to-keep A pair can be in a ten or fifteen gallon tank. Provide caves and rockwork and diminished lighting. Plants are also nice, but not required. Water conditions are not critical— mine did great at pH 7.4.

I do recommend regular, partial water changes. I changed out 50% of the tank volume weekly.

Kribensis are rather timid and don't do well with aggressive tankmates. They do nicely with angelfish and corydoras catfish.


Pelvicachromis pulcher is a good eater. My fish eagerly ate tropical flakes, cichlid flakes, Spectrum pellets, frozen brine shrimp and mysis. These fish also love baby brine shrimp.


Most sources say that Pelvicachromis pulcher is easy to spawn. I'm probably the exception, but I had some frustrations with this fish!

Over the last few years, I have had a few pairs but couldn't get them to breed. I did have pairs spawn in a cichlid community tanks, but I wasn't able to save the babies.

Here's what I have found to be the key to spawning this fish

  1. Provide a quiet, species tank of 10–15 gallons
  2. Low lighting
  3. Lots of caves and plants
  4. Feed baby brine shrimp daily

I obtained a pair of Albino kribensis at one of GCCA's swap meets and placed them in a 20 gallon tank containing caves, rockwork and driftwood. Filtration was provided by a Whisper power filter. I kept the tank at 80F.

Pelvicachromis pulcher is a secretive cave spawner and will usually spawn on the underside of a rocky overhang, in a small flowerpot or terracotta cave.

After a couple of weeks fo settling down, I saw some precursors to spawning activity. The female's belly became noticeably redder and the colors on the male looked brighter. I observed the female hiding in a cave and the male patrolling the outskirts of the territory. Sure enough, the fish bred on the underside of a rocky overhang.

The eggs hatched in a couple of days and about five days later I saw about 25, tiny, free-swimming fry. Interestingly, there was a mix of color type in the fry in a 60–40 albino to standard ratio.

I immediately began feeding freshly hatched baby brine shrimp which the fry ate eagerly. The fry are not particularly fast growing. At two months, they are slightly over one-half inch long. The standard fry are more robust and grow a bit faster.

Retail Price

Pelvicachromis pulcher is frequently found in pet stores. Expect to pay about $7–8 per young adult fish.

Report August 2004 by Rick Borstein