Purple Cichlid ~ Rainbow Krib ~ Pink Kribensis Cichlid

Family: Cichlidae Kribensis, also called the Purple Cichlid, Rainbow Krib, or Pink Kribensis CichlidPelvicachromis pulcherPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough
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I have a pair of these I've had them for a couple of months now I had them in a community tank but they attacked a couple of my little fish so moved them into a... (more)  Jeremy

   One look at this beautiful African cichlid and you can see why the Kribensis was an immediate hit when first introduced!

   The Kribensis is still a popular fish today, and a great choice for a new hobbyist interested in keeping cichlids. Beauty is one of their most attractive features and they have interesting behaviors. Being small in size makes them more manageable than many of the other cichlid species. They can be kept in a smaller aquarium and are relatively undemanding in their water chemistry as long as it is consistent. They are easy to keep, easy to feed, and are fairly easy to breed. We had a pair that promptly started spawning in a 10 gallon aquarium within a week of arriving.

   Though they vary in appearance depending upon the place of origin, the scientific name for the Kribensis says it best. This is a beautiful cichlid with a colorful belly. Other names for it in the hobby are the Purple Cichlid, Rainbow Krib, or Pink Kribensis Cichlid. In Germany it is called the 'King Cichlid' and the 'Magnificent Purple Cichlid'. Today they are nearly all captive bred, and albino varieties have been bred for several decades

   The Kribensis is a relatively peaceful and tolerant fish that can be kept in community aquariums. They like a heavily planted aquarium and though they burrow, they will not touch plants. They need an open swimming area but also plenty of places to retreat among rocks and wood. These fish form pairs and a closely knit family. The family will school together with the parents leading the school.

What's in the name?
  Pelva + chromis means  'belly' + 'color'
  pulcher means  'beautiful'

For more Information on keeping freshwater fish see:
Guide to a Happy, Healthy Freshwater Aquarium

Geographic Distribution
Pelvicachromis pulcher
Data provided by
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Cichlidae
  • Genus: Pelvicachromis
  • Species: pulcher
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Distribution:    The Kribensis, also known as the Purple Cichlid, Rainbow Krib, or Pink Kribensis Cichlid, was described by Boulenger in 1901. They are found in Africa inhabiting waters of southern Nigeria, the drainage area at the mouth of the Ethiop River. They are also found in the coastal zone of Cameroon. These waters can vary greatly from soft to hard and from fresh to brackish. They feed primarily on worms, crustaceans, and insects. Most specimens in the hobby are captive bred as wild caught fish are only occasionally imported.

Status:    This species is not listed on the IUCN Red List.

Description:    The Kribensis is a small colorful fish. They generally have a brown body with violet to deep purple iridescents and red blotches on the lower side. The dorsal and caudal fins have light or yellow edges and often have black spots surrounded in yellow. They vary in appearance depending upon the place of origin, with various color morphs such as yellow, red, green, and blue.

Kribensis, also called the Purple Cichlid, Rainbow Krib, or Pink Kribensis Cichlid
Photo © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough

   The female is the most colorful and when spawning her belly turns to a beautiful brilliant cherry red. Albino varieties of this fish have been bred for several decades. They can live up to 5 years.
   All cichlids share a common feature that some saltwater fish such as wrasses and parrotfish have and that is a well-developed pharyngeal set of teeth that are in the throat, along with their regular teeth. Cichlids have spiny rays in the back parts of the anal, dorsal, pectoral, and pelvic fins to help discourage predators. The front part of these fins are soft and perfect for precise positions and effortless movements in the water as opposed to fast swimming.
   Cichlids have one nostril on each side while other fish have 2 sets. To sense "smells" in the water, they suck water in and expel the water right back out after being "sampled" for a short or longer time, depending on how much the cichlid needs to "smell" the water. This feature is shared by saltwater damselfish and cichlids are thought to be closely related.

Size - Weight:    The male grows to a length of 4" (10 cm), females are smaller reaching only 3" (7 cm).

Care and feeding:    Though the Kribensis is an omnivore, it primarily feeds on worms, crustaceans, and insects in the wild. In an aquarium it will generally eat all kinds of live, fresh, and flake foods. To keep a good balance give them a high quality flake food or pellet everyday. Feed brine shrimp (either live or frozen) or blood worms as a treat. Feed 2 to 5 small pinches of food a day in smaller amounts rather than a large quantity once a day. This will keep the water quality higher over a longer time. All fish benefit from vitamins and supplements added to their foods.
   A minimum 20 gallon tank is suggested. They do fine in either freshwater or brackish freshwater with good efficient filtration. Provide a substrate of fine dark gravel along with rocks, driftwood, and clay pots to create plenty of caves for retreating. They need some open space with plenty of swimming room on the bottom of the tank. They do enjoy densely planted aquariums. Make areas for them to "defend" by having natural divisions in the aquascaping.
   The Kribensis is a rewarding specimen to keep. It is easy to care for as it is relatively undemanding in its water chemistry as long as it is consistent. As most of these fish are captive bred, try to match the water parameters to those it was raised in. Otherwise use the water that you have available, just be consistent. Do water changes of 10% to 20% biweekly or weekly, more or less depending on stocking numbers. If water quality is ignored, as with all cichlids, disease and death can occur. One common problem is Ich. It can be treated with the elevation of the tank temperature to 86° F (30° C) for 3 days.

Water Region: Top, Middle, Bottom:    These fish will swim in the middle and lower parts of the aquarium.

Acceptable Water Conditions:    Hardness: 8-15° dH
   Ph: 6.5 to 7.5
   Temp: 75-77° F (24-25° C)

Social Behaviors:    They are a non-aggressive community fish. They like to live as pairs and will defend a territory. They like to burrow but do not disturb plants. They can be kept with their own kind as well as other peaceful fish, however they will tend to nip the fins on slow moving fish such as Angelfish.

Sexual Differences:    Though the male is more slender, he is noticeably larger with a broader forehead and has pointed dorsal and anal fins. The female has rounder fins, is more colorful, and will get darker at breeding time.

Breeding/Reproduction:    The Kribensis, Purple Cichlid, or Pink Kribensis Cichlid are egg layers and prefer to spawn in slightly acid water. The female is a sheltered substrate spawner and prefers spawning in caves where she will place 200-300 eggs on the cave roof. You can use an overturned clay pot or something similar in the aquarium.
   The female guards the eggs and the fry while the male defends the territory. The fry should be left with the parents until they spawn again. See the general description of how to breed Cichlids in Breeding Freshwater Fish.

Availability:    The Kribensis, also called the Purple Cichlid, Rainbow Krib, or Pink Kribensis Cichlid, is readily available both online and in fish stores and will range between $5.00 to $20.00 USD, depending on size.

Author: David Brough, CFS
Additional Information: Clarice Brough, CFS
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Lastest Animal Stories on Kribensis Cichlid

Jeremy - 2014-10-03
I have a pair of these I've had them for a couple of months now I had them in a community tank but they attacked a couple of my little fish so moved them into a tank of their own my females gets her spawning colours but that as far as they go and haven't breed they have plenty of hiding spots for breeding but don't spawn am I dont something wrong

  • Clarice Brough - 2014-10-08
    Make sure you do in fact have a male/female pair. The males are much larger than the females and also have a pointed pelvic fin, while the females is rounded. Males also have less gold coloring in the dorsal fin, though that is pretty subtle. You need to mimic their natural environment as closely as possible. A sand or very small gravel substrate and lots of hiding places for their very secretive nature. They need a soft to medium  water with a lower the pH of 5.5-6.5. Make sure they have a cave to spawn in; rock cave, clay pot turned on it side, or even a piece of PVC pipe will work.
Marianne - 2013-04-16
I have a huge problem... here is some background: I have been breeding Kribensis for a long time but today I have noticed that one of my batches male that is 8 months has a black and red face on 1-side! does anyone no what it is or should I get rid of it before it infects the other fish?

  • Clarice Brough - 2013-04-17
    Off the top of my head I don't know what the heck it is. But... I would isolate the fish (quarantine/hospital tank) until I resolve what is going on with this fish. That way you will be avoiding a condition that could affect other tank inhabitants. Better to be safe than sorry:)
  • Axl D - 2014-04-04
    That happened to my oto. Died after 5 months.
kye turnbull - 2013-04-17
i have a problem! my kribensis bloated up and looked like he was going to explode! all in 30 minites! then he died, hen i flushed him! then he exploded in the toilet!

  • kye turnbull - 2013-05-07
    please can someone help me please! i dont want it happening again!
  • Clarice Brough - 2013-05-07
    That's a sad story. African Bloat, also called 'Malawi Bloat' is believed to be a protozoal parasite that is common in African Cichlids. If the fish becomes stressed (shipping, handling, poor water conditions, etc.) there becomes an imbalance which allows the parasites to multiply and start punching holes is the intestine which causes the bloat. It can happen quickly and is fatal if not caught and treated right away. There's more information about this illness, as well as treatment, on the Fish Diseases page here:  Fish Diseases: Bloat
  • kye turnbull - 2013-05-08
    THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!1 ive been looking everywhere ever since! i hope my tandanus catfish doesn't get it! luckily no other fish got it, almost all the fish were in the same tank!
Desire - 2011-11-16
Here in Holland we called them Cherry Belly Cichlids, because of the cherry coloured-and shaped- dot on their... belly...

  • Jane - 2013-01-15
    Dude, right on there brother.
  • kye turnbull - 2013-04-17
    makes more scence :)