Purple Cichlid, Rainbow Krib, Pink Kribensis Cichlid

Family: Cichlidae Kribensis, Pelvicachromis pulcher, Purple CichlidPelvicachromis pulcherPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough
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The picture of a 'female' in the Description section is actually a male.  Andreas

The Kribensis is a beautiful African cichlid that became an immediate hit when first introduced!

The Kribensis Pelvicachromis pulcher was introduced to the hobby in the 1950s. One look at this beautiful fish and you can see why it immediately became favored. It is still a popular fish today and makes a great choice for a new hobbyist interested in keeping cichlids.

Beauty is one of their most attractive features and they have interesting behaviors. They are entertaining to watch and being small in size makes them more manageable than many of the other cichlid species. They are easy to keep, easy to feed, and are fairly easy to breed. They can be kept in a smaller aquarium and are relatively undemanding in their water chemistry as long as it is consistent.

Most of the Kribensis available today are are captive bred, with wild caught fish are only occasionally imported. The captive bred specimens are far more adaptable in terms of water chemistry than the wild fish. An albino variety has also been bred for several decades. This is often the first fish bred by newcomers to the hobby as they often breed in the community tank. A pair will often promptly start to spawn 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 are the Purple Cichlid, Rainbow Krib, or Pink Kribensis Cichlid. In Germany it is called the 'King Cichlid' and the 'Magnificent Purple Cichlid'.

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

The Kribensis is a relatively peaceful and tolerant fish that can be kept in community aquariums. They can be kept with a variety of other small schooling type fish including characins, barbs, danios, and rasboras. Gouramis and small armored Corydoras catfish, and suckermouth armoured catfishes like the Plecostomus from the Loricariidae family also work well.

These fish form pairs and a closely knit family. The family will school together with the parents leading the school. They need an open swimming area but also plenty of places to retreat among rocks and wood. They like a heavily planted aquarium and though they burrow in a sand or fine gravel substrate, they will not touch plants.

For Information on keeping freshwater fish, see:
Freshwater Aquarium Guide: Aquarium Setup and Care

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Perciformes
  • Family: Cichlidae
  • Genus: Pelvicachromis
  • Species: pulcher
Kribensis Cichlid - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
  • Size of fish - inches: 4.0 inches (10.16 cm)
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gal (76 L)
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
  • Temperature: 75.0 to 81.0° F (23.9 to 27.2° C)
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Kribensis Pelvicachromis pulcher was described by Boulenger in 1901. They are found in Africa inhabiting waters of southern Nigeria, occurring in the drainage area at the mouth of the Ethiop River. They are also found in the coastal zone of Cameroon. This species is listed on the IUCN Red list of Threatened Species as Least Concern (LC) as it has a wide distribution and there are no major widespread threats identified.

The Kribensis, often simply called “Krib” by many fishkeepers, was introduced into the aquarium trade in the 1950s. This fish is known by a number of other common names as well which include the Common Krib, Pink Krib, Purple Cichlid, Rainbow Krib, Rainbow Cichlid, Pink Kribensis Cichlid, Bone Back, and Tilapia. In Germany it is called the 'King Cichlid' and the 'Magnificent Purple Cichlid'. Most specimens in the hobby are captive bred as wild caught fish are only occasionally imported. Albino varieties have also been bred for several decades

The waters they occur in can vary greatly from soft to hard and from fresh to brackish. These fish are found in shallow waters that are usually heavily vegetated. They form pairs but will maintain a closely knit family. Families will shoal together with the parents leading the school.They feed primarily on worms, crustaceans, and insects.

  • Scientific Name: Pelvicachromis pulcher
  • Social Grouping: Groups - They will form pairs, yet the parents maintain a family which will school together, led by the pair.
  • IUCN Red List: LC - Least Concern


The Kribensis is a small colorful fish. The body is moderately compressed and elongated with a continuous dorsal fin and a fan shaped caudal fin. This is a sexually dimorphic cichlid, the males grow larger and develop pointed dorsal, caudal and anal fins. Females will show a characteristic purple or red colored belly when spawning and their bodies are more rounded than the males. 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.

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. They also 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.

Kribensis (female) Pelvicachromis pulcher
Kribensis (female)

These fish 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.

The female is the most colorful and when spawning her belly turns to a dark purple or beautiful brilliant cherry red. Albino varieties of this fish have been bred for several decades.

The male grows to a length of 4” (10 cm), females are smaller reaching only 3” (7 cm). They will generally live for about 5 years, but could live even longer if well cared for with some reports of up to 10 years.

  • Size of fish - inches: 4.0 inches (10.16 cm) - The male reaches 4 inches (10 cm) in length while the smaller female grows to only 3 inches (7 cm).
  • Lifespan: 5 years - They generally have a lifespan of 5 years, but may live longer with proper care.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

The Kribensis is a rewarding specimen to keep. This is a hardy fish that can be suggested for any aquarist and is one of the best choices for fish keepers that are new to both cichlids and fish breeding. They are easy to keep, easy to feed, and are fairly easy to breed.

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.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

Foods and Feeding

Though the Kribensis is an omnivore, it primarily feeds on worms, crustaceans, and insects in the wild. In the 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 cichlid pellet everyday as a staple. Vary their diet by feeding live and frozen foods like brine shrimp or blood worms as an occasional treat.

Feed 2 to 5 small pinches of food a day in smaller amounts rather than a large quantity once a day. Generally offer 2-5 small feedings a day rather than a single large feeding 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.

  • Diet Type: Omnivore - Although these fish are omnivores, their diet consists primarily of protein foods.
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • Tablet / Pellet: Yes
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet
  • Vegetable Food: Some of Diet
  • Meaty Food: Most of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day - Generally feed 2-5 small feedings a day rather than a single large feeding for better water quality.

Aquarium Care

The Kribensis are relatively undemanding in their water chemistry as long as it is consistent. Do water changes of 10% to 20% once a week or every other week, more or less depending on stocking numbers. 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.

  • Water Changes: Weekly - Water changes of 10-20% weekly or biweekly is recommended, depending on stocking numbers.

Aquarium Setup

The Kribensis are active little fish that will will swim in the middle and lower areas of the tank. A minimum 20 gallon tank is suggested, though a larger tank will be needed if more than one pair is to be kept to provide for adequate territory. They need moderate water movement with good efficient filtration and regular partial water changes.

Provide a sandy or very small sized gravel substrate. Using a dark substrate will bring out their colors best. Include rocks, driftwood, and clay pots to create plenty of caves for retreating and potential spawning sites. They will also need some open space with plenty of swimming room on the bottom of the tank. Plants are not essential but they do enjoy densely planted areas for additional cover. When arranging the decor, make areas for them to “defend” by having natural divisions in the aquascaping.

This cichlid is found in both fresh and brackish waters, so has some salt tolerance. However it not suited to a full brackish water tank. Salinity must be less than about 10% of a normal saltwater tank, a specific gravity of less than 1.0002. For freshwater an optional practice is to add 1 heaping teaspoon of salt per 11 gallons of water. This is considered to be a simple and natural remedy for wounds, minor fungal infections and film over the eyes of fish in transit.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gal (76 L) - A minimum of 20 gallons is recommended for a pair, a larger tank will be needed for more.
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: Yes
  • Substrate Type: Sand/Gravel Mix
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate - normal lighting
  • Temperature: 75.0 to 81.0° F (23.9 to 27.2° C)
  • Range ph: 5.0-7.5
  • Hardness Range: 8 - 15 dGH
  • Brackish: Sometimes - Can tolerate a low salinity, but must be less than 10% of a normal saltwater tank, a specific gravity of less than 1.0002.
  • Water Movement: Moderate
  • Water Region: Middle - These fish will swim in the middle and lower parts of the aquarium.

Social Behaviors

The Kribensis are a non-aggressive community fish. They should be kept in pairs and they will defend a territory. They can be kept with others of their own kind as well, but the tank must have enough space for all to form individual territories. If these fish breed, the parents and fry will become a closely knit family that will school together. They like to burrow but do not disturb plants.

Kribs can also be kept with other peaceful fish, however they will tend to nip the fins on slow moving fish such as Angelfish. They are generally a shy and somewhat retiring species so should also not be kept with other very large or vigorous fish. Good tankmates include a variety of other small schooling type fish including characins, barbs, danios, and rasboras. Gouramis, small armored Corydoras catfish, and suckermouth armoured Loricariid catfish like the Plecostomus also work well.

  • Venomous: No
  • Temperament: Peaceful - They are generally peaceful, but do become very territorial when spawning.
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Yes - They should be kept as a pair, and more can be kept if the tank is large enough.
    • Peaceful fish (): Safe
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Monitor
    • Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
    • Slow Swimmers & Eaters (): Monitor
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: May be aggressive
    • Plants: Safe

Sex: Sexual differences

The male is more slender, he is noticeably larger with a broader forehead and has pointed dorsal, caudal and anal fins. The female's body is more rounded than the male, and she has rounder fins, is more colorful, and will get darker at breeding time. The female will show a characteristic purple or red colored belly when spawning.

Breeding / Reproduction

The Kribensis has been bred in captivity, in fact most available specimens are captive bred. They are very easy to breed and often spawn in the community tank. They fish form monogamous pairs. The best way to assure you have a compatible pair is raise a group of 6 or more juveniles together and allow them to pair naturally.

These fish are egg layers and prefer to spawn in slightly acid water. Similar to their normal tank parameter, the water temperature can be between 75-81°F, but the pH should be 6.5-7.0. Interestingly, if the water is too alkaline the young tend to be mostly males and if too acidic, than mostly females. The tank needs to have gentle filtration, like an air-powered sponge filter, so the fry don't get sucked up. The female is a sheltered substrate spawner and prefers spawning in caves. Make sure there are some potential spawning sites available, you can provide overturned clay pots or something similar in the aquarium.

When the pair are ready to spawn their colors will intensify and the belly of the female will darken, becoming a deep purple. The female will initiate spawning by displaying her purple belly to the male. The pair will then choose a spawning site, or dig one under the decor. They are secretive spawners, so may disappear for a few days.

During the spawn, the female will place 200-300 eggs on the cave roof or walls. The female guards the eggs and the fry while the male defends the territory. The eggs will hatch in 2-3 days and the fry will becoming free swimming after 7-8 days. The fry can be fed brine shrimp nauplii or microworms and they will also browse on algae and detritus found in the tank.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: Cichlids.

  • Ease of Breeding: Easy

Fish Diseases

The Kribensis is a rewarding specimen to keep as long as water quality is maintained. These fish are susceptible to typical fish ailments, especially if water is stale and of poor quality and has low oxygenation. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Water changes, not overfeeding, providing adequate hiding places, and observation along with feeding your fish the proper foods will keep them in optimum health.

A common problem with fish is Ich. It can be treated with the elevation of the tank temperature to 86° F (30° C) for 3 days. If that does not cure the Ich, then the fish needs to be treated with copper (remove any water conditioners). Several copper based fish medications are available for Ich. Copper use must be kept within the proper levels, so be sure to follow the manufacturers suggestions. You can also combine increasing the temperature with an Ich medication treatment. A copper test also can be used to keep the proper levels.

As with most fish they are susceptible to skin flukes and other parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.), fungal infections, and bacterial infections. It is recommended to read up on the common tank diseases. Knowing the signs and catching and treating them early makes a huge difference. For information about fish diseases and illnesses, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments.


The Kribensis is readily available both online and in fish stores and are relatively inexpensive to moderate in price, depending on size.


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

Andreas - 2017-02-04
The picture of a 'female' in the Description section is actually a male.

Dave - 2016-10-09
If anyone knows the solution to this please help. I have recently had to separate a female kribensis from my 180L tank as she had recently had some fry hatch and she was literally killing my tetras in there. I slowly acclimated her into another of my softwater tanks and in less than a day she became lethargic, then not moving, then upside down, and looks like she's given up on life! I have reintroduced her back into the main tank in hope that she recovers, but even after several hours she is very much the same, upside down, but still respirating well. Is there a sure way to get her to recover or is it hit and miss from here? (I'm not new to kribs and have been keeping various tropical fish for about 15years but this problem is new to me).

Andreas - 2016-05-04
I've kept Kribensis for 30 years in more or less every thinkable tank setup. If there is one thing I disagree on in this article, it's the part about con-specifics. This fish is VERY aggressive towards conspecifics. As calm as they can be towards other species, they are true horrors when it comes to their own species. They will hunt down and kill any tank mate of their own species within a short time, unless it's their own mate or if they are introduced to the tank at the same time and are of similar size and temper.

Christine Webb - 2015-03-13
hello all I have 2 pairs of these and have had to separate them, I am however still having problems with 1 male who has not only eaten the eggs and his own fry but also eaten my platys young and my neon tetras Can anyone offer me a reason why as my fish have a really good diet

  • Clarice Brough - 2015-03-13
    These fish have a more tolerant temperment than many cichlids, but they are still cichlids. It sounds like you have a male that is very busy defending territory, perhaps he needs a bigger tank with lots of rockwork to mellow out.
  • Anonymous - 2016-04-06
    Im with her, maybe offer a variety of different foods, in my community of angels, gouramis, and rams (dwarf central american cichlids), and three baby keyhole cichlids. They have a staple of tropical granules (meat based), veggie based flakes, an algae wafer every day, and for meat supplements I use a frozen bloodworm,brine&mysis shrimp, daphnia blend, and once a week I will buy two-three ghost shrimp or cherry shrimp which takes away from fry and smaller fish. My cherry barbs (neon tretra size)do hold their own thankfully, but I got them all small so they never really saw them as a food source. Variety gives them fulfilled nutrition and also conditions for mating. I would recommend purchasing a book just on kribs, I have a book for every species so I have it at hand, its always great too humble yourself and teach yourself more. Good luck, they also may not be old enough yet.