Kribensis : Everything you need to know
Kribensis (Pelvicachromis pulcher) inhabits a range from Benin, into Nigeria and Cameroon, but mostly Nigeria..
It was first introduced into the hobby in the 1950s and immediately became a big hit with aquarists.
In the wild kribensis breed in the side of river banks by digging away soil between roots to create a cave. Wild kribensis live on the riverbed between roots and leaves.
Kribensis are omnivorous, eating a mix of animal food and vegetable matter. Algae is good for them.
In the aquarium they readily eat flake or dried food with ease, but the occasional piece of veggie matter such as cucumber slice or lettuce or even algae is relished. Live food can be used to prime them when you want to start breeding them.
To get the best from your kribensis supplement their diet with plenty of fresh greenery such as blanched spinach and dandelion, flaked pea, and any of the seaweed products frequently marketed for marine keepers.
Kribensis are a little shy and need peaceful dither fish. They also need lots of hiding places such as caves made from clay pots or half coconut shells and plants to make them feel safe. This will encourage them to come out so you can see more of them.
Although kribensis are mostly found in rivers, they do not like a fast water flow. That is explained by the fact they inhabit the bottom of the river on the river bed amongst roots, rocks and caves where the waterflow is very slow. They have a good knowledge of their surroundings, which means it is better to not change the aquarium set up as this unsettles them.
Male kribensis are larger than females. In the aquarium the biggest males are about 4 inches and the biggest females about 3 inches. In the wild specimens have been found just under 5 inches long.
Males are long with a gently curved underneath from head to tail. Females are stubbier with a rounded red/purple belly. Males might have a red/pink patch near the throat
Female kribensis fins are rounded while kribensis males fins have longer and pointed fins.
Kribensis have a black/dark stripe on a creamy background running along the side and another dark stripe on their backs that extends into a dark dorsal fin edged in yellow. Both males and females have blue in their pectoral fins and other lower fins, especially when they are breeding. Females become more yellow especially above the stripe when they are breeding. Most kribensis have an eye spot in the top of the tail fin and at the rear of the dorsal fin. Some male kribs have multiple eye/egg spots in the tail fin.
These eye/egg spots being on the dorsal and tail fin are thought to help in coordinating egg fertilisation during the upside down laying of eggs onto the breeding cave ceiling.
When in breeding mood the area between the red belly and the tail darkens on the female. This accentuates the females red/purple belly.
Water conditions for kribensis
They like slightly acid and soft water from the wild but most aquarists keep them in neutral ph water. Because of the
long time that kribensis have been kept and bred in captivity with few wild specimens coming through, they have become adapted to a wide range of waters conditions. They are capable of breeding in a wide range of ph values.
The temperature ideally should be at 77F but kribensis are happy any where between 75-80F
How and where to buy kribensis
A good place to buy is from online sources such as gumtree, aquarist classified, craiglist from a private breeder. You can also buy from your local aquarium store. Be wary of buying from your large pet chain which will usually have untrained staff. Remember young fish will have less colour than more mature fish so they might have disappointing colours when you buy.
Check all your different sources for buying fish and try to buy from two or three sources a few fish each to give a better genetic mix for your fish.
Do not just choose the largest fish from a brood or you will end up with just males. Sometimes you can tell males and females by body shape when the young are larger but smaller fish you can’t really tell so size is a reasonable indicator.
Kribensis tank set ups
Kribensis cichlids can be kept and even bred in a community aquarium, a species aquarium or even in a West African biotope aquarium
Kribensis in the community aquarium
Make sure you don’t get fish that out compete them for food. With Kribs being bottom feeders, they usually wait until the food goes lower before eating especially. It is best to avoid tankmates that snap up their food near the surface before the kribensis get a chance to feed. This is most noticeable when the kribensis are small and hide a lot.
Kribensis rely on dither fish such as a school of small tetras to tell them whether it is safe to wander out of hiding. A few peaceful dither fish will encourage them to come out and explore instead of hiding so that you get to see them and admire their beauty.
Avoid other bottom feeders such as catfish which will disturb the kribensis, especially when they are breeding.
Kribensis species aquarium
Having a tank of just kribensis can come about if you have had a breeding pair and kept all the offspring. The tank must be quite large at least 160 litres. You need to kit it out with plants, dark sand and many cave like structures such as half coconut shells or half clay pots. The kribensis males will form harems, dispelling the myth that kribensis form monogamous relationships.
Kribensis biotope aquarium
If planning on biotope, then sand, branches and cobbles are the prime choice of décor. For planting, provide opulent growth. Tangles of Crinum species and banks of Cyperus, Ceratophyllum and Ceratopteris, plus ample Anubias and Bolbitis fastened to the wood will provide abundant cover.
For authentic fish, think of Brycinus longipinnis tetra, and Pareutropius buffei catfish. Aphyosemion gulare killifish are abundant in the same areas as kribensis and make a pleasing enough companion. Also jewel cichlids are found in kribensis territory in West Africa
Kribensis breeding set up
-24/30in long aquarium
-2 x mature sponge filters
-2 or 3 half clay pots or half coconut shells
-plants unlike other cichlids they are not great plant uprooters. However they may nibble on plants.
-dark sand substrate or very fine dark gravel
-low wattage light to provide dim lighting at night
Preparation for breeding kribs
Buy 6 or more young kribs. Be careful to not just buy the larger fish in the tank as these are usually males. Remove any other bottom dwelling fish from the aquarium such as catfish. Kribensis prefer soft neutral water but can breed in a wide variety of water conditions. So just keep the aquarium water parameters stable and clean. Note: Higher ph tends to increase the ratio of females to males born whereas lower ph gives you more male to female offspring.
Prime the pair by feeding plenty of live foods including chopped earthworms. Keep the temperature at about 76F. If they fail to start breeding then raise the temperature a couple of degrees to encourage breeding but not go higher than 80F
Kribensis breeding behaviour
Kribensis can become very territorial when breeding and caring for young so be careful of other inhabitants. The female’s red belly will become solid red/purple. The top of her body between the dark stripes will become yellow. Her throat will also become yellow. Both fish will develop bluish pectoral and ventral fins and they will also develop a blue edge to the gill plate.
The female will bend her body sideways exposing her red belly to the male. If he is interested he will follow her to the breeding cave. They will then go through a ritual of shimmying behaviour to each other. They will
then take it in turns to go into the cave and come out again possibly spitting out some substrate outside the cave. This mimics the behaviour in the wild where they dig holes in the soil at the side of the river to create a cave. Each time they come out they will shimmy to each other.
Kribensis females usually lay about 200 eggs. Young kribensis mothers lay less eggs.
The female will usually lay her eggs on the roof of a cave but sometimes they are laid on the floor if it is suitable. The eggs are large and adhesive so stick to the cave wall. The female mouths them to keep them clean until they hatch. She will not leave her cave until they hatch. They hatch after 3 days and the fry will not become free-swimming until after another 7 days. Do not feed the fry until they become free-swimming.
Raising the kribensis fry
Kribensis parents co-operate in protecting the eggs and herding the young. The female will usually be closer to the young while the male will skirt around the perimeter protecting from threats.
In the wild kribensis are known to co-opt other kribensis fry into their own brood. It is thought to raise the survival rate of the baby kribs. The reason could be safety in numbers and as a backup for stray fry.
Harmless dither fish can help the parents to co-operate in looking after their brood. The parenting kribensis will focus their attention on protecting their fry from an external threat rather than considering each other as a threat.
Sometime, however one parent might get nervous of the other parent and push her/him away especially if there are no other fish in the aquarium. This is usually the male that is seen as a threat but sometimes the female will be pushed out. It is best to remove the harassed parent from the tank.
To protect the male(or female) from the overprotective parent then provide plenty of hiding places and a bigger aquarium. This should keep them safe. You could also consider moving him/her to another tank if the bullying gets too much.
Surprisingly for such a small fish, they lay quite large eggs and when the fry hatch they are quite large and can eat brine shrimp from birth. This makes raising the fry a lot easier for the beginner. The fry also pick at microscopic life forms growing on algae growths on the glass and on sponge filters.
keep a low wattage night light on so that the parents can protect the fry especially if there are other fish in the aquarium. Daily water changes of 5% and having many plants will keep the nitrate levels down.
As the fry grow you can start feeding flake food. You will also need to thin out the brood by selling on the young or moving them to another tank, depending on how many young fish you have.
Relatives of the kribensis
Most Pelvicachromis are readily bred in the aquarium. Breeding behaviour and care is similar to P.pulcher.
Historically this was the original kribensis but has been replaced by the popularity of pelvicachromis pulcher. There are many colour variations and patterns in males of all species of Pelvicachromis, Several populations of each species appear to co-exist in different regions. Pelvicachromis taeniatus are sometimes offered with names hinting to which region they were caught from. You might see P. taeniatus ‘Nyete’ or ‘Moliwe’ which will differ substantially to P. taeniatus ‘Niger red’.
The males are less colourful than normal kribs but the females are quite interestingly coloured having a dark collar between the head and the red belly and another dark area the other side of the red belly. The tails have a yellowish net pattern in them.
Other “kribensis species from the Pelvicachromis family include:
- Pelvicachromis drachenfelsi
- Pelvicachromis kribensis
- Pelvicachromis roloffi
- Pelvicachromis silviae
- Pelvicachromis sacrimontis
There is also an albino version of the kribensis that is not a true albino and does not breed true. The albino will have pink eyes and a mostly white body but the female will still have the red belly. Both male and female will have yellow edging to the fins.