Why Are My Kribensis Hiding? – 7 possible reasons

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Kribensis are one of the most colorful fish we can keep in our freshwater aquariums. When a pair is in their full breeding color I think anyone would be hard pushed not to be impressed by their coloration.

Kribensis are on the whole confident fish that spend much of their day out and about swimming in the open water of the aquarium. Because they are usually so confident, it can be very frustrating when your Kribensis just hide all the time.

In this article I will look at the 7 reasons Kribensis tend to hide, and what we can do to stop them from hiding all the time.

Why Do Kribensis Hide

I am a huge fan of Kribensis. I have several breeding pairs and countless babies in my fish room. In my experience, Kribensis are one of the easiest members of the Cichlid family to breed in the home aquarium.

The 7 main reasons Kribensis hide are;

  • Stress
  • Bullying
  • Not enough hiding places
  • Poor water quality
  • Lack of tank mates
  • Breeding
  • Just shy


Stress and the effect stress can have on our aquarium fish are often underappreciated by fish keepers.

There are many factors that can create stress for Kribensis. Stress can be induced by water conditions, loud noises outside the tank, or by the aquarium being positioned in a busy area.

Water temperature is one of the factors that can be most stressful to Kribensis. Kribensis come from rivers in Southern Nigeria and Cameroon. These are tropical parts of the world and the water temperature is typically around 75°F to 77°F (24°C to 25°C).

This is a relatively small temperature window, and although Kribensis can tolerate temperatures higher or lower than this range, if the temperature travels too far outside this range, the Kribensis may become stressed.

External factors like children banging on the tank, or the aquarium being situated next to a loud TV or a busy walkway can also create a stressful environment for the Kribensis.


The solution to Kribensis hiding due to stress is to try and discover the source of the stress and eliminate it. Check the water temperature using a good quality digital thermometer, then adjust the heater if necessary.

Look at the environment around the aquarium. Are there any factors that may be impacting the Kribensis’ well-being? If there are, actively change them and see if the Kribensis respond.


Although Kribensis are members of the Cichlid family, and the Cichlid family is a family of fish that have a reputation for being trouble makers, Kribensis are often surprisingly timid. Although they will defend their territory when breeding, they prefer to avoid trouble whenever possible.

If they are being kept with more aggressive fish, there is a good chance the Kribensis are being bullied. They will actively try and avoid the bully fish by staying hidden away. In the fish world, out of sight is out of mind.

Angelfish are known to bully other fish, as are some of the larger South American Cichlids like Oscars or Convict Cichlids.


To work out if your Kribensis is being bullied, take some time to observe your aquarium, especially at feeding time. It is not uncommon for fish to nip at one another when food is in the water, but if one fish is being victimized or being pecked continuously by one or more other fish, that fish may choose to hide rather than be bullied.

The only real solution to bullying is to move one or more fish. Taking out the bully fish may help, although another fish may step in and fill the role of tank boss.

Removing the Kribensis that is being bullied may be a better option, but only if you have another suitable tank.

A third option is to increase the number of line of sight blocks in the aquarium. By adding more plants, either live plants or fake ones, or increasing the number of decorations in the tank, you can make it so the Kribensis can get out of the sightline of the bully fish. This may lead to the Kribensis spending more time out and about.

Not Enough Hiding Places

I was giving a fish talk at a club recently and a man asked me, why are my fish always in the cave? When he described his tank setup to me, the problem became obvious.

In his aquarium, he had 3 or 4 fish that would choose to occupy a cave, but only one cave. This meant the fish that was in the cave didn’t dare leave it because it knew one of the other fish would take up residence.

It explained it like this; if at work there are only a couple of parking spaces, but lots of people that drive to work, at lunchtime you won’t move your car because you know when you return your space will be gone.


I appreciate the solution here seems counterintuitive, but sometimes, if you have Kribensis that hide all day long, you can encourage them to come out and about by providing additional hiding places. The Kribensis we willing to come out more because they know, that if they are spooked, there are multiple places they can hide.

I have used this to great effect in the past. I would suggest having at least one cave for every fish that would want to take up territory.

Poor Water Quality

Much like with stress, poor water quality can cause your Kribensis to hide away all the time because they are uncomfortable or the water is making them sick.

Ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate, all of which can occur in our aquariums, can create an environment that makes our fish feel uncomfortable.

When our fish go to the bathroom, their waste is high in ammonia and ammonia is toxic to fish. Fortunately, there are naturally occurring bacteria living in our filters that convert the highly toxic ammonia into the slightly less toxic nitrite.

Nitrite can still kill fish, even in very small quantities. Again, there is another strain of bacteria living in our filters that convert the nitrite into the much less toxic nitrate. Fish can tolerate much higher levels of nitrates than both nitrite and ammonia.


You can not tell how good or bad your water is just by looking at it. Water that is high in ammonia may well still be crystal clear to look at. The only way we can judge the quality of our aquarium water is by using a test kit.

I have always had good success using the API Master Test Kit. It has proved accurate for me, and it gives the results in around 5 minutes.

API FRESHWATER MASTER TEST KIT 800-Test Freshwater Aquarium Water Master Test Kit, White, Single, Multi-colored
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  • Accurately monitors 5 most vital water parameters levels in freshwater aquariums: pH, high range pH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate
  • Designed for use in freshwater aquariums only
  • Use for weekly monitoring and when water or fish problems appear

Last update on 2024-07-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

In my own fish room, I test the water around once a month, just to check everything is as it should be.

If I find my water is of poor quality, I carry out an immediate 25% to 50% water change. Carrying out a water change, and replacing the old aquarium water with fresh, dechlorinated tap water is the quickest way to improve the water quality.

Lack of Tank Mates

The majority of fish live in rivers and lakes with other fish. Kribensis are no different. They come from a diverse area with many other species of fish.

In the wild, Kribensis would see many other fish when they are swimming around. If we keep Kribensis in an aquarium without many other fish, the Kribensis may think the lack of other fish is due to the presence of a predator. Their reaction will be to hide until the predator has passed and the other fish are back.

This is a common issue when we don’t have many fish in a tank.


The solution to this problem is adding a group of smaller, active fish. These fish are often referred to as dither fish. We use them a lot in breeding tanks. Neon Tetras, Silver Tip Tetras, and Pygmy Corydoras all make good dither fish.


By far and away the most likely reason your Kribensis are hiding away is that they are spawning. Kribensis are cave spawners, and both fish will typically dig out a cave under a rock or inside a half coconut.

Kribensis are one of the easiest members of the Cichlid family to breed and they are one of the few species of fish we can spawn in a normal community setup. Generally speaking, they do not require any special setup or interaction from the fish keeper.

When Kribensis spawn, the two fish will typically dig out a cave, then the female will lay a batch of eggs, and the male will fertilize them.

Kribensis make excellent parents, and normally one of the fish will stand guard over the eggs whilst the other guards the entrance to the cave. It is not uncommon for first-time Kribensis breeders to be concerned they haven’t seen one or both of their Kribensis for several days.


The best thing to do if you think your Kribensis are spawning is just to leave them to it. They make great parents, and within a few days, they will be parading their new babies all around the tank.

Just Shy

Sometimes, despite there being plenty of caves to choose from, the water is near perfect, and the tank is full of tank mates, your Kribensis hide because they are just a shy individual fish.

The best thing to do is just continue to provide the perfect environment for your Kribensis and enjoy them when they do come out.

In Conclusion

Kribensis are one of my favorite fish. They are an easy fish to breed for-profit and they add a splash of color to any tank.

If you find your Kribensis hide all the time, work through the list above and see if you can identify one or more reasons that might be causing your Kribensis to hide.

To find out more about these stunning fish, why not read my article titled Why Do Kribensis Eat Their Babies? or What Other Fish Can Live With Kribensis?

About the Author

I’ve been keeping, breeding, and showing tropical fish for nearly 30 years. Over that time I’ve done it all! I’ve had great success and I’ve made some really foolish mistakes (like the time I bought an Asain Walking Catfish). Read more…
Richard James

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