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Pelvicachromis subocellatus

Ocellated Kribensis




Nigeria, Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo.


It inhabits pools and slow moving streams in coastal areas. Some of these habitats contain brackish water.

Maximum Standard Length

3.2″ (8cm).

Aquarium SizeTop ↑

24″ x 15″ x 12″ (60×37.5x30cm) – 71 litres is suitable for a single pair.


The tank should contain plenty of hiding places and potential spawning sites. Clay pots and caves, roots and pieces of driftwood can all be used. Plants are not essential but the fish will appreciate the additional cover. A sand or fine gravel substrate should be used as the fish excavate pits when breeding.

Water Conditions

Temperature: 72-79°F (22-26°C)

pH: 5.5-7.5

Hardness: 5-20°H


It will accept most foods offered but live and frozen varieties should form the bulk of the diet.

Behaviour and CompatibilityTop ↑

Recommended for the general community tank but do note that the fish become territorial when breeding. Do not keep with very vigorous or large species as this is generally a shy and retiring fish. Good tankmates incluse small characins, barbs, danios, rasboras, Corydoras, gouramis and Loricariids. It can be kept with other cichlids (West African Dwarves being the ideal) but enough space must be provided for territory formation. It should be kept in pairs and a large tank is required if more than one pair is to be kept.

Sexual Dimorphism

Male fish are larger than females and develop pointed dorsal and anal fins. Females develop a characteristic pink flush on their flanks when in spawning condition and are rounder-bodied than males.


Relatively easy. Cave spawner. The fish form monogamous pairs and the best way to obtain such a pair is to buy a group of 6 or more young fish and grow them on, allowing pairing to occur naturally. There are no guarantees that simply buying a male and female fish will result in a compatible pair, and it may result in the death of an unwilling partner. If you do choose to buy a single pair, select the largest male and most colourful female from the dealer’s tank.

The breeding tank should be set up as above with a temperature of 75-79°F and pH 5.5-6.5. Make sure you provide plenty of caves to act as potential spawning sites (upturned clay flowerpots with a small piece of the rim removed work particularly well). Gentle filtration via an air-powered sponge filter or similar is preferable as the fry may be sucked into a power filter. For the best survival rate do not add any other bottom dwelling species, particularly catfish, as these may predate on the fry or eggs. However, dither fish in the form of schools of tetras, rasboras etc. are fine and will make the pair less shy. Condition the adults on a good diet of live, frozen and dried foods.

The first sign that a spawn is likely is an intensifying in the colour of both fish, but especially the female. The middle part of her flanks will darken, becoming deep pink in colour with a black patch at either side, and her dorsal fin becomes very reflective. It is usually she who initiates spawning, dancing in front of the male and displaying her pink sides to entice him to spawn with her. When ready, the pair choose a cave in which to spawn or dig one themselves under a piece of decor. They may also dig a number of shallow depressions in the substrate around the spawning site. During spawning itself up to 200 eggs are usually laid on the roof or wall of the selected cave. The female tends to these while the male defends the territory against intruders. Thus if the female disappears for a few days, this is often a good sign that spawning has occured.

The eggs hatch in 2-3 days with the fry becoming free swimming after 7-8 days. In between the hatching and free swimming stages the brood may be moved between the aforementioned pits or into different caves several times. Once they become free swimming, the female will herd them around the tank while the male continues to defend the territory borders. The pair should now be watched carefully as some females can turn on their partners at this point.

The fry are large enough to accept brine shrimp nauplii or microworm as first foods and will also browse on algae and detritus. They should be left with the parents until signs of the next spawn are seen or the male fish in particular may become aggressive towards his partner.

NotesTop ↑

This is one of the less commonly seen Pelvicachromis species in the hobby. There are a few morphs available, including “Matadi” and “Moanda”. Males and females of these should not be cross bred in order to keep the lines pure. It can be distinguished from others in the genus by it’s higher, shorter body shape and by the fact that the spotting in the upper part of the caudal fin is much lighter in this species than in others. A female inbreeding condition is hard to confuse with anything else.

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