Pelvicachromis drachenfelsi

Female in front of male Pelvicachromis drachenfelsi pair

Pelvicachromis drachenfelsi is a beautiful dwarf cichlid from Cameroon in West Africa. They are only found in the Wouri river system and were introduced to the aquarium hobby as Pelvicachromis taeniatus “Wouri”. They retained that name for 30 years until they were described as a species in 2014. P. drachenfelsi are typical of the species in the genus Pelvicachromis. They are relatively peaceful, undemanding, very colorful, and they have interesting behavior.

Pelvicachromis drachenfelsi General Information

Pelvicachromis drachenfelsi is very similar to other species in the genus which is described in depth in our article on The Genus Pelvicachromis which has much more information.

This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. If you click on an affiliate link and choose to make a purchase, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I greatly appreciate your support!
In this male what is usually a black band at the top of the caudal fin is expressed as two spots that are nearly joined. This is unusual as it is usually a solid stripe.

They are highly dimorphic and the differences in size, shape, and coloration in the sexes are obvious. Males have a moderately elongated body shape and reach a maximum length of less than 4″. Females are an inch or so shorter and their body shape is stouter than males. Mature females can be blocky or “football” shaped and become extremely round when in pre-spawning condition.

Pelvicachromis drachenfelsi was first collected by Otto Gartner in 1984 and has frequently been available in the hobby since then. However, until 2016 it was called Pelvicachromis taeniatus “Wouri” and was distributed worldwide under this name. It also appears in the books on West African cichlids that were published prior to its description. It was long recognized that this species had significant differences from the other species included in the P. taeniatus group. In 2016, the paper “Revision of the Pelvicachromis taeniatus-group (Perciformes), with revalidation of the taxon Pelvicachromis kribensis (Boulenger, 1911) and description of a new species” both revised the taeniatus and described P. drachenfelsi. The authors noted that the species was named to honor the German aquarist Ernst-Otto von Drachenfels.

In the paper describing the species, the authors also validated the use of color patterns as identifying characteristics identifying the different Pelvicachromis species. This method of species identification was validated through the use of genetic testing. Full information is in the paper referenced above.

The most distinctive pattern that identifies P. drachenfelsi males is the outer margin markings on the caudal fin. The lower half of the fin has a black margin with a white to pale bluish submargin while the upper half has a white margin and a black submargin. These are not vivid markings and there may be some variety in the size and intensity of the bands. Sometimes the dark upper band is expressed as a row or several dots.

Pelvicachromis drachenfelsi Varieties

While there are no known distinct varieties of Pelvicachromis drachenfelsi, it is often sold under its previous name Pelvicachromis taeniatus “Wouri”. For 30 years it was considered a geographic variety of P. taeniatus but it was described as a species in the revision of the genus in 2014. If you are looking online for information about the species be sure to search for P. taeniatus “Wouri”. That’s the way you will find them listed in the printed books on West African cichlids.

Female Pelvicachromis drachenfelsi

Although there are no specific varieties, P. drachenfelsi do exhibit a range of colors and markings. However, it’s possible to get a variety of colors or patterns from the same spawn so it’s perfectly normal to find variations.

Pelvicachromis drachenfelsi in the wild

P. drachenfelsi is found in the Wouri River system in southwestern Cameroon. The Wouri has a large basin and the Pelvicachromis are found in the tributary rivers. Typically they come from water that is stained dark with tannins. Very soft water is reported in every collection account. They are usually reported to be from acidic water but most collection accounts have pH values of about 7.2. They are collected together with small killiefish, tetras and barbs.

In the species description, Dr. Anton Lamboj describes their habitat this way. The type locality is a river about 4-8 m wide, and during the dry season 40-130 cm deep with water visibility ~1.2-1.5 m. The river bottom consists of fine sand with layers of leaves from surrounding trees, detritus and mud. Some bigger rocks and fallen/sunken trees were also been observed. On some places, vegetation beds of Crinum natans and Bolbitis heudelotti occurred, on the river bank big accumulations of Anubias barteri had been grown. Some parts of the river were shaded by dense rain forest

Other collectors note similar conditions one writes; “very dark with tannins, fast flowing, and rocky, with a lot of sand between the rocks.” and “the margins of the stream have thick growths of a grass-like dwarf bamboo growing out over the water.” Another collector reports that they are “common in small rivers…. blackwater, 24 usm pH7.3 temp 80° F.”

From this we learn a lot :

  • They were found in water 18″ to 4′ deep.
  • The substrate was mostly sand with a layer of leaves and other detritus
  • Larger rocks and woody debris (sunken trees) were present
  • Beds of vegetation were present in some places and semi-aquatic streamside vegetation was common
  • Some places were in the shadow of dense rainforest

Pelvicachromis drachenfelsi in the aquarium

The aquarium care and breeding of Pelvicachromis drachenfelsi is much the same as for the other members of the genus. Rather than repeat it here, there is complete information on aquarium care, feeding, tankmates, aquarium plants, and more is found in Guide to the Genus Pelvicachromis

This female P. drachenfelsi shows the vivid yellow head that is common. Her sides are llight colored in front and behind her pink midsection. These light areas will becomve very dark during courtship and spawning and the pink will intensify significantly.

As noted from their native habitat, subdued lighting, very soft water, a sand substrate, live plants, and some hard materials (rocks or wood) will provide the best possible environment. I prefer to use a tank that is at least 24″ in length but larger is better. Water should be less than 2 dGh, pH 6.5 – 7.0, and temp around 78°F.

In my experience, Pelvicachromis drachenfelsi are not especially aggressive and forced pairings are usually accepted without too much difficulty. One collection report noted that they were found in “exceptionally high densities” so perhaps they are somewhat less aggressive. However, each fish is different and your experience may be different.

While they may form a strong pair bond, it sometimes takes a long time before they spawn. A prolonged courtship provides many hours of fish-watching enjoyment as the female shimmies and shakes while nearly bending in a circle to show off her reddening belly. Often, the front and rear sections of her entire side will become very dark from top to bottom the middle is a vibrant pink to red color, often with a golden patch on top. This coloration is similar to P. subocellatus but P drachenfelsi is not as intensely colored.

Breeding Pelvicachromis drachenfelsi

Breeding is typical for the species as we have written in our Guide to Pelvicachromis

They are cave spawners and if available, the female will select a cave with a very small opening. When she is ready she begins the egg laying and places row after row on the side or ceiling of the cave. The male pays close attention from outside the cvave and enters periodically to fertilize the eggs. After the egg-laying is complete the female assumes sole care for the inside of the cave and the male patrols an outer territory. After spawning and for the first weeks of brood care the female will usually exhibit a dark mid-lateral band across her body.

It will typically take 8 to 10 days before the fry become free swimming and the pair will jointly care for them for the next 4 – 8 weeks or so. Raising the fry is usually without problem as long as you give them good food and plenty of water changes.

Buying Pelvicachromis drachenfelsi

This is not a pet store fish and it’s very unlikely that you would ever find them in a local store. That said, they aren’t especially rare and specialty fish sellers occasionally have them on their availability list. Although they aren’t particularly hard to breed, there don’t seem to be many hobbyists offering them for sale. Your best option to find them is to contact the specialty sellers we have listed in our Guide to buying dwarf cichlids.


Most of the information I provide on this website comes from books and websites. While I don’t provide specific citations, these are the sources for most of my information.
South American Books:
Mergus Cichlid Atlas Volume 1 & Volume 2 by Dr. Uwe Römer
South American Dwarf Cichlids by Rainer Stawikowski, I. Koslowski and V. Bohnet
Die Buntbarsche Amerikas Band 2 Apistogramma & Co. by Ingo Koslowski, Translation by Mike Wise
South American Dwarf Cichlids by Hans J. Mayland & Dieter Bork
American Cichlids I – Dwarf Cichlids by Horst Linke & Dr. Wolfgang Staeck
West African Books:
The Cichlid Fishes of Western Africa by Anton Lamboj
African Cichlids I – Cichlids From West Africa by Horst Linke & Dr. Wolfgang Staeck
Apisto sites – the home page of Tom C – Global authority for identification and classification of apistogrammas – An excellent international forum with expert members who gladly share their knowledge.
Much more information is available in our complete exploration of dwarf cichlid information resources.