Apistogramma and Kribensis: Compatibility & Which to Choose?

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Apistogramma and Kribensis are two types of dwarf cichlids that are popular among aquarists. They are both beautiful and fascinating to observe. So it is not surprising that many fish keepers are interested in keeping them together in the same tank.

However, can these two fish from different continents and habitats co-exist peacefully in a community aquarium? If not, which one is right for your setup?

Apistogramma and Kribensis Coexistence

Pelvicachromis pulcher: Kribensis

The Common Kribensis (Pelvicachromis pulcher) is native to the River Ethiope drainage in the Niger Delta of West Africa, where it inhabits low-lying streams with soft water, low conductivity, and an acidic pH (ranging from 5.6 to 6.9). However, near the sea, the water in the Niger Delta region is harder, more alkaline, and can even be brackish.

That said, Kribensis are quite hardy and can thrive in a wide range of water conditions, from soft and acidic to hard and alkaline. This is particularly true for tank-raised specimens that have been acclimated to higher pH and alkalinity. Some individuals are even able to tolerate up to a pH of 8.5.

On the flip side, Apistogramma species originate from the clear water and blackwater streams in South America. They prefer soft, acidic water and live in flooded forests and slow-moving streams with abundant vegetation.

The adaptability of Kribensis cichlids to soft and acidic environments is one of the underlying reasons why the question of the compatibility of Apistogramma and Kribensis cichlids arises. However, why do many dwarf cichlids enthusiasts say this is not a good idea?

Can I Keep Apistogramma and Krib Together?

It is neither safe nor appropriate to house Apistogramma and Kribensis cichlids together as both are bottom-dwelling fish, so they will compete for the same territory. Additionally, Kribensis fish tend to grow larger and are known to be more aggressive than most dwarf cichlids, including Apistogramma. 

To ensure the health and well-being of both species, it’s wise to keep Apistogramma and Kribs in separate tanks.

Of course, some of you sole Apistogramma or Kribensis cichlid owners might need more proof that these colorful dwarf cichlids cannot live happily in the same tank. Let’s lay out the facts in detail.

They’re Bottom Dwellers

No matter the specific species, Kribs and Apistos are bottom-dwelling fish. They lend interest to the bottom region of the aquarium. 

Despite being relatively peaceful cichlids, this can pose serious conflicts, as they will both compete for the same space and food.

Even if you have a large aquarium, the conflict may continue. It can be life threatening when either fish is ready to spawn, especially the Kribensis; they will become extremely territorial and aggressive while guarding their fry.

Choosing fish that prefer different water levels is the key to creating a more attractive community aquarium. 

Along with similar adult sizes and the same water conditions requirement, consider those top and middle dwellers when it comes to cohabitation Apistogramma or Kribensis cichlids.

Size and Aggression Levels

Kribensis are slightly larger than Apistogramma, with males reaching up to 4 inches (10 cm) and females up to 3 inches (7.6 cm) long, while the average full-grown size of an Apistogramma is around 3 inches (7.6 cm) in length.

In general, African cichlids are more aggressive than South American cichlids, and Kribensis are no exception to this rule, as they are known for their territorial nature. 

Due to their larger size and aggressive behavior, Kribs can easily intimidate the Apistos in a community setup.

For more compatible Apistogramma tank mates, make sure to check out our list here: 15 Best Apistogramma Tank Mates (Breeding & Community)

Kribs or Apistogramma, Which Species Is Right for You?

Apistogramma Vs Kribensis

Apistogramma and Kribensis are great options for a community aquarium, but which one is right for you?

Many considerations need to be taken when picking out the potential candidate for your display aquarium, so let’s take a closer look at each one and see which fish comes out on top as the winner.

Care Level (The Winner Is Kribensis)

Both Kribs and Apistogramma are relatively easy to care for, but Kribs are less demanding and more forgiving of water quality issues, making them good choices for people new to the world of dwarf cichlids.

Depending on the species and your tap water chemistry, some blackwater Apistos can be a bit challenging for novice aquarists. To achieve their desired water parameters, you will need to invest in an RO/DI unit, along with specialized water additives for breeding purposes. 

Apistogramma are definitely not fish for lazy aquarists. They do require some extra work to maintain their bright colors and good health, as well as to encourage breeding.

Author note: Newly set up aquariums are not suitable for both fish. 

Cost (The Winner Is Kribensis)

Owning a pet fish is going to cost you money. Depending on the type of fish and size, prices may vary. 

Kribs usually cost around $5 for a single fish, a bonded pair could cost you up to $40 or more. The majority of specimens available in the aquarium trade are captive-bred, from commercial fish farms rather than wild-caught.

Apistogramma is more expensive than Kribs, which will likely cost you anywhere between $10 and $15 for more common color morphs. The rarer, wild-caught specimens fetch a heftier price tag, up to hundreds of dollars.

Considering the tank setup requirements and the cost of both fish, Kribensis are more suitable for those on a tight budget.

Regardless of the species you decide on, be sure to purchase from a reputable breeder whenever possible.

Color and Appearance (The Winner Is Apistogramma)


Apistogramma and Kribensis make beautiful additions to your community aquarium with their vibrant colors and amazing patterns.

The scientific name of the Kribensis dwarf cichlid, Pelvicachromis pulcher, which means “beautiful belly,” can give you an idea of what to expect. Females can be identified by a bright red or purple belly when they are ready to spawn.

As the largest South American cichlid genus, Apistogramma offers more variety in terms of color and pattern. From the dazzling Apistogramma agassizii “Fire Red” to the sparkling Apistogramma panduro (Blue Panda Dwarf Cichlid), the possibilities are endless.

The stunning colors and beautiful finnage of Apistogramma make them the clear winner for showmanship in a planted aquarium full of greenery.

Wrapping Up

While Apistogramma and Kribensis cichlids are both beautiful and fascinating fish, keeping them together in the same aquarium is not recommended. The fact that they’re both bottom-dwellers tends to aggravate territorial behavior and can lead to aggression.

In the end, it will come down to your personal preference and budget, but if you’re looking for an easy-to-care-for showstopper of a fish, Apistogramma are definitely worth considering. Who knows, you may even find yourself with a breeding pair in no time!

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Ivan Yeoh
Ivan Yeoh

I’ve been working with fish for the past 12 years, and I can honestly say that it has never been a dull day. In my time, I’ve worked at the largest fish farm in Singapore – so you could say I know a thing or two about keeping things running smoothly in watery environments.

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