Pelvicachromis pulcher (Common Name; Kribensis)
Max size: 10 cm
If there was one fish that I would advise anyone to get, or for that matter only if I could only own one fish, it would be Kribs. Bags of personality, small size, fantastic colours and so easy to breed that you might be trying to stop them breeding after the first few batches of fry, what’s not to love about these African Cichlids.
Like most cichlids Kribs are smarter than your average fish. They will come to recognise you, although probably only as the food source. Unless they are breeding they are relatively peaceful and will get on with most other fish. As with all fish if it can fit in their mouths it most likely will at some point, as a dwarf cichlid most fish are too big for Kribs to have a go at, but other larger fish may be a risk to the Kribs themselves.
Pelvicachromis refers to the colours of the fish, especially when breeding, and pulcher is the Latin for beautiful, an apt name for this little fish. A black stripe on a creamy white body, a deep red or purple belly especially on breeding females and flashes of blue on the pelvic fins. Add to this a green or blue tint near their cheeks and a healthy Krib is one of the prettiest dwarf fish available in the hobby. Often in the fish shop tanks they are stressed out and washed out, but let them settle down and they’ll start to show their true colours.
Native to southern Nigeria and coastal areas of Cameroon, there are some as of yet isolated populations in other parts of the world after people have released fish from their aquariums. In their natural environments they inhabit patches of dense vegetation in still and slow moving water. The waters they inhabit are normally warm (24-26°C) and soft and acidic (pH normally 5.6 - 6.2).
As a dwarf they can do well in 100 litre aquariums, a pair will normally establish a territory. They will put up with a wide range of water parameters but do seem to prefer soft and acidic waters. Sand is a better substrate than gravel as they like to burrow, dig and even build little walls at the entrances to their caves.
Provide a cave or two to allow them to hide, as with many fish the more hiding places the more you’ll see of them. Bog wood can be a great addition as the tannins that will each out will tint the water slightly, providing both antiseptic properties and making the water look more natural. Plants will be appreciated and a planted tank with a central swimming area will make a great showpiece tank to show off your Kribs. But be aware that they will dig and may uproot plants.
Omnivorous Kribs will eat most of what you put in the tank, feed a good quality cichlid pellet and conditioning with live food is the best way to go. Since they are small and tend to stay close to the bottom they can be out competed by other larger fish, so it may be worth target feeding them a couple of times a week.
Numerous fish breeders, myself included, started out by breeding these little guys. They will often breeding in a community tank, where their only problem becomes apparent, when defending their young Kribs will take on and occasionally kill much larger fish. Fast moving dither fish will normally manage to stay clear, but other cichlids will often try and stay around and be battered by these protective parents.
To get yourself pair of fish it’s easiest to buy 6 or more young fish and grow them on and allow a pair to form. However this means that you need to rehome or find tank space for 4 other fish, who may have also formed pairs. It is possible to select a male and female from a shop tank, males are normally larger with more pointed fins. Pick the largest male and the most brightly coloured female.
As cave spawners they will select a cave, the female will lay eggs on the roof of the cave, the male will follow her and fertilise the eggs. After this he will tend to drive off any intruders into the territory and she will stay in the cave and guard the eggs. Wild caught pairs tend to make better parents, however farm bred fish may be overly aggressive, with females sometimes attacking and killing the male after they’ve started to guard the eggs, so keep an eye on them, and allow plenty of cover for the male to escape from the female.
A few days after they’ve laid the eggs you may be rewarded by a small shoal of fry following the female around, it is probable that they have evolved to recognise their mothers purple belly. Again wild pairs seem to be better at sharing parentage, whilst tank bred fish tend to have the fry stay with the mother. Young pairs may eat their first couple of spawns, especially if they feel threatened.
Feeding the fry is easier than with many species as they are relatively large compared to other fish fry species. Newly hatched baby brine shrimp, food for fry, or once they are a few weeks old crushed flake food can all be great food. As with any diets it’s best to try and feed the best variety.
The similarity in natural conditions to South American fish species means that you can cohabit Kribs with numerous other species. Giving the Kribs the centre of attention can make a great show tank, a group of dither fish such as a school of tetra or similar will make the Kribs feel more secure and more likely to come out. If you’re planning to breed them it may be worth keeping them on their own. Bottom feeders may eat the eggs, but if the plan is just to have a lovely pair of fish then as long as the tank isn’t overstocked and they are the only cichlids you really can’t go wrong.