How to Tell if Kribensis is Male or Female?

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Kribensis cichlids are among the most popular African cichlids in the aquarium trade for their colorful presence, adaptability to life in captivity, and general easy-going attitude.

They aren’t exactly sweethearts, given that they are cichlids, after all, but they tend to be generally peaceful towards their tankmates.

The fact that Kribensis cichlids can easily adapt to community setups makes them highly valuable in the aquarium business.

Today, we will discuss Kribensis dimorphism, whether these cichlids breed in captivity, and how you should go about that.

Male vs Female Kribensis – What is the Difference?

There are several differences between Kribensis males and females, with some being more relevant than others.

Let’s take them one at a time:

Size Difference

Female Kribensis only grow up to 3 inches, but they typically stay smaller around 2.5-2.7 inches. Male Kribensis can get as high as 3.5 inches.

Make sure you compare cichlids of a similar age to prevent misgendering the cichlids.

An older female will easily outgrow a juvenile male, which can lead to some confusion along the way.

Body Shape

Male Kribensis tend to be slimmer and longer for the most part. They are more athletic, which gives them an advantage in case they need to fight other males during the spawning season.

Females are typically rounder with fuller bellies. You can notice this difference easier when observing the fish from the top. The female’s belly should protrude sideways, especially during the mating season when eggs start forming.

Again, make sure you eliminate any possibility of confusion along the way. You don’t want to mistake a constipated and bloated male for a gravid female.

Dorsal Fin Shape

Females have shorter dorsal fins, typically with a rounder tip. Males display longer, wider, and pointier fins.


While both sexes showcase similar coloration, there are some variations to consider. Both sexes possess a purple/red patch on the belly in the midsection.

The primary difference between males and females in this aspect is color intensity and spread. Males have washed-up belly coloring, typically displaying a faint pink patch.

Females showcase a bright purple or even red patch that often covers more area than males. The patch stays in the mid-section with males, sometimes going back toward the anus.

In females, the reddish coloring can cover the entire abdomen and sometimes even the lower jaw.

Males and females also display different color patterns around the eyes and tails, but these are not reliable indicators.


Males are naturally more aggressive, short-tempered, and dominant than Kribensis females. You will notice their fiery temperament more easily during spawning when males showcase increased aggression towards their tankmates.

They are also generally territorial and dominant, especially with the areas around their cave system.

These cichlids are cave dwellers who display extreme combative behavior whenever fish invade their safe spaces. Otherwise, they don’t mind the presence of other species in their tank.

The fish’s more territorial temperament is why you want to avoid other bottom dwellers that could trespass the cichlid’s territory.

At What Age Can You Sex Kribensis Cichlids?

Kribensis cichlids reach sexual maturity when they’re at least 8 months of age, but you can differentiate between the sexes far before that.

You can typically distinguish between Kribensis males and females when the fish are 3-month-old, but you might want to wait for the 4th month for a better verdict.

You don’t want to mistake a young Kribensis male for a female and add more males in the same habitat.

The result is almost always violent, given that male Kribensis are extremely intolerant of each other.

Is it Better to Keep Male or Female Kribs?

This question typically has an easy answer when discussing any other fish species. But things are complicated with cichlids and even more complicated with Kribensis cichlids in particular.

To get straight to the point, you can’t keep more than one male per tank. The tank layout, size, and degree of personalized care and monitoring don’t matter.

The males won’t tolerate each other, and you can’t keep them from crossing paths forever. Eventually, they will meet, and sparks are bound to…spark everywhere. Kribensis males are notoriously territorial and aggressive towards each other.

They will enforce a drastic hierarchical ladder, with the larger, stronger, and more dominant male constantly attacking and bullying the weaker one.

You can’t have a female-only tank either, pretty much for the same reasons. Females are not as aggressive or dominant, but they don’t do well in single-sex communities either.

Also, you can’t have one male and multiple females due to how Kribensis cichlids breed. These fish mate for life and form couples, so they won’t tolerate any outsider invading their space.

The best Kribensis setup is one male and one female. You can try one male and 2 females, but that won’t get you anywhere. The male will form a couple with one of the females, and the couple will then bully and chase the remaining female away.

This can be a bummer for aquarists looking to create a lush and expansive Kribensis community, but these cichlids are not about that life.

Will Kribensis Cichlids Breed in a Community Tank?

Yes, Kribensis cichlids breed in community tanks, but you should be cautious in this sense.

There are several issues to consider in this sense:

  • Male aggression – Males are extremely protective of their eggs and young. Both the male and female Kribensis participate in protecting the eggs upon hatching. The male is often seen patrolling the entrance to the cave where the female lays the eggs and will showcase extreme aggression and territorial behavior during this time. This can lead to frequent scuffles with other fish that swim too close to the cichlid’s territory.
  • The risk of predation – The Kribensis female can lay upwards of 200 eggs in one spawning session. Many of these will be moved around by water currents, causing them to become visible to potential egg-eating tank dwellers. Most fish will consume the eggs of other species if given the opportunity. If you want to save as many Kribensis fry as possible, you need to take measures to eliminate this risk.

The latter point is important because, despite the large number of eggs being produced, the number of the resulting fry will only be a fraction of that.

Some of the eggs won’t even be fertilized, while others will go bad and get covered with fungus. The female will either eat or remove them from the batch.

Add to this the risk of many of the eggs being eaten by other fish, and you can see why proper care is required to ensure the eggs’ safety.

Best Tank Setup for Breeding Kribensis Cichlids

While Kribensis cichlids do breed in captivity, they aren’t exactly eager to do so. These fish require more care and support in this sense to reproduce successfully.

Here’s what to consider in this sense:

  • Get a breeding tank – When the time comes, you should relocate the cichlids into a separate breeding tank. This is necessary if you have a community setup with multiple fish species that could eat your cichlids’ eggs. If not, you can allow the cichlids to breed in the main tank, provided you respect the following points to the letter.
  • Adequate water parameters – Increase water temperature slightly, preferably in the 78-80 F range. The pH should also stay around 7.0 to mimic the fish’s natural breeding conditions. Ensure water quality and parameter stability during the breeding process to keep your cichlids in the right mood.
  • A soft substrate – All African cichlids begin to dig burrows in the substrate under various rocks or logs when mating begins. This secures the eggs and allows the female to hide them upon spawning. Use a soft, fine substrate like sand to ease your male’s digging work.
  • Vegetation and caves – These are standard components of any Kribensis setup, but they’re even more important during the breeding season. Make sure your cichlids breed in a lush ecosystem with multiple hiding areas and a variety of plants and rocks. Such a setup will keep the male’s mind at ease and decrease its aggression.
  • Proper diet – You want to provide your Kribensis cichlids with more live foods during the mating season. This is especially important for the female, given that she will lose weight during the process. Brine shrimp, insect larvae, bloodworms, daphnia, and other nutritious live foods are ideal for proper nutrient intake.

Also, reduce the lighting a bit to keep your cichlids in the right mood.

How do Kribensis Cichlids Breed?

You can tell that your Kribensis are ready to breed by observing the pair’s behavior towards each other.

The female is often the one to take initiative, swimming close to the main and poking its snout with her belly. She will also exhibit a rapid vibrating motion with her body to inform the male of her intentions.

This can last for several days, during which the male will also look for the right place for the eggs.

Once the pair has reached an agreement, the female will lay the eggs in the secure burrow that the male has created (typically near or inside a cave system.)

The Kribensis female can lay between 50 and 300 eggs, depending on her age and the number of past spawns.

Females that have spawned multiple times in the past tend to produce more eggs.

The male fertilizes the eggs and begins its sentinel job shortly after. The males and females take turns guarding the eggs, with one parent guarding and the other looking for food.

It’s important to offer cichlids a good nutritious diet during this time which is a good rule to follow in general anyway.

Depending on the environmental conditions, Kribensis eggs will take approximately 3 days to hatch. The resulting fry will immediately rush to safety inside the female’s special mouth pouch.

The female will act as a protector, carrying the fry through the tank and only letting them out to eat and explore the habitat a bit.

The fry will consume tiny organic matter present in the tank water and eventually grow large enough to accept specialized fry food, copepods, and even newly hatched brine shrimp.


Kribensis cichlids are amazing freshwater fish that can adapt to a community setup. It’s generally easy to distinguish between Kribensis males and females, but breeding the pair isn’t exactly a walk in the park.

You need special conditions to breed your Kribensis successfully, but they should be manageable. Especially now that you have my today’s guide as a reference point.

Author Image Fabian
I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.
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