Minimum Tank Size: 20 Gallons
Care Level: Moderately Hard
Water Conditions: 5.5-6.5 pH and Soft to Medium Hard
Temperature: 24-26 °C (75-80 °F)
Maximum Size: 4 inches (10 cm)
The Kribensis (Pelvicachromis pulcher), also known as the krib, the rainbow krib and the rainbow cichlid, is a small freshwater fish native to Africa. While mainly found in the rivers of Nigeria and Cameroon, they are also listed as an invasive species in Hawaii.
In the wild, they primarily inhabit rivers and streams, but are only found in areas that have dense vegetation. They inhabit both calm and fast moving waters, and will normally be found living in small caves that have excavated underneath plants.
They stay relatively small in the home aquarium, with males growing to about 4 inches (10 cm) in length. Females are quite a bit smaller, and their bodies are much rounder than the males. They will usually only grown to about 3 inches (7.5 cm) in length, though it’s not uncommon for them to be a fair bit smaller.
Kribensis are a relatively short lived cichlid, and usually only live for five years in an aquarium. There are reports of some living longer, but five years seems to be about the maximum age – even for ones that are well taken care of.
Kribensis cichlids are not an overly demanding fish and will thrive if they are provided with a spacious, well maintained aquarium. A 20 gallon (90 litre) aquarium should be viewed as the bare minimum, and a 29 gallon tank (131 litre) is almost always a better choice.
In their natural environment, they spend much of their time in loose groups, or in small caves that they have painstakingly dug out among the roots of aquatic plants. They will do quite well on their own in an aquarium, but if you want to enjoy all of their fascinating behavior, you should keep at least a handful together (Trust me, they’re very boring on their own.)
When setting up their aquarium, it’s important to mimic their natural environment as closely as possible. The substrate should be a small grained gravel or sand that they can excavate, and numerous small caves and hiding places should be provided.
They will happily accept artificial caves and these caves can be provided through one of several methods. One of the easiest ways to create “caves” in an aquarium, is by placing clay pots (making sure they’re not painted or glazed) on their sides to simulate a cave. Most kribensis will claim clay pots and will defend them like pit bulls for the rest of their life.
You can also build caves out of rocks, but any caves that you make should be secured with aquarium silicon. Kribs love to excavate and if your home made cave collapses or falls apart, it can squish your fish – or worse, break the glass of the aquarium. Another option is to use a PVC pipe. It can be cut in half, and using aquarium silicone, rocks or sand can be glued on its surface to turn it into a natural looking cave.
Once the setup of the aquarium is all planned out, it’s time to choose a filter for the kribensis cichlids. Usually the best choice for a small fish like the kribensis is a high quality HOB (hang-on-back) filter. I like to also use a sponge filter in conjunction with an HOB filter, since it seems that some kribensis can occasionally be a bit sensitive to water quality.
I would strongly recommend choosing an Aquaclear Power Filter for a kribensis tank. This filter combines excellent filtration with a durable design, and it will keep your tank sparkling clear for years to come. You can also read the Aquarium Tidings Aquaclear Filter Review here.
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There is a lot of controversy surrounding the question of what you should feed kribensis cichlids. Most of the information out there clearly states that kribs are ominvores, but several recent studies seem to indicate that the majority of their diet is made up of algae and plant matter.
Needless to say, whether you view them as an omnivore or an herbivore is going to make a big impact on what you feed them. Until the matter is studied further, probably the safest thing to do is feed a plant and algae heavy diet, supplemented with flakes and live or frozen food.
Their main food should be an herbivore flake or pellet food, with my personal favorite being spirulina pellets. These should be regularly supplemented with regular feedings of a high quality flake food or shrimp pellets.
When choosing a live food to feed them, their favorite live foods are blackworms, brine shrimp and daphnia. Because they spend most of their time in caves along the bottom, they tend to ignore top dwelling live food like mosquito larvae.
Kribs have similar tastes in frozen foods and their favorites are bloodworms, brine shrimp, daphina and blackworms. Any frozen food should always be warmed up before it is fed to them, and the easiest way to do this is by filling a small container with warm tank water, and allowing it to thaw for about 15 minutes.
While a high quality herbivore food is usually sufficient, they should also be fed a variety of vegetables. The only ones that I have ever gotten them interested in are zucchini medallions and shelled peas. Any others that have been offered to them are generally ignored.
Breeding kribensis is relatively easy, but because of their secretive nature, you won’t see much of what is going on. Unlike nearly all of the available African cichlids, they require soft water to breed, and in many cases won’t breed in hard water.
They are easy to sex – especially when they are older. The males are much larger than the females and also have a pointed pelvic fin, whereas the females are more rounded. Males will also have less gold coloring in the dorsal fin, but that can be hard to identify if you aren’t familiar with the species.
For spawning to occur, they have to be provided with a cave, and like earlier stated, a clay pot overturned on its side makes a perfect cave for them. Once breeding has been initiated, the female will lay long rows of eggs on the cave.
The male and female will then take up guarding the cave, though most of the guard duty usually falls to male, while the female spends most of her time caring for the eggs. You will rarely see the female during this time, though she will come out for feedings.
After the eggs hatch, both parents will protect the fry and herd them around the aquarium. They will normally care for them for about a month, and then they will drive away the fry and may start breeding again.