Kuhli Loach Care Guide: Behavior, Tank Size, Tank Mates, Breeding, etc.

Kuhli Loach is a bottom-dwelling peaceful fish that is very active at night like an owl. If you were looking for someone to clean the tank and peacefully fit in your community tank, then Kuhli Loach is the best choice for you.

But these fishes are not for beginners and only for the experienced person. Before purchasing any fish, you should know everything about them from their tank set up to the breeding process.

In this article, we have covered everything about Kuhli Loach fish. This guide will help you decide whether this fish is for you or not. Before going to details, first, take a brief look at the table –

Category Rating
Family Cobitidae
Scientific name Pangio kuhlii
Tank Set-Up Freshwater
Diet Omnivore (prefers live food)
Temperament Peaceful
Care Level Intermediate
Lifespan 10 years
Color Form Yellow and brown bands
Size 4 inches
Compatibility Peaceful fish

Kuhli Loaches Overview

Kuhli loach

Kuhli Loaches are freshwater fishes originated from the Malay Peninsula and Indonesia. Kuhli Loach is known by many names such as Leopard Loach, Coolie Loach, Pangio kuhlii, and Cinnamon Loach. These fishes are scavengers who do all their work at night and are not that active during the day.

Kuhli Loaches are often confused with Pangio cuneovirgata, Pangio semicincta and Pangio myersi. So, always confirm their scientific name before purchasing. These are small fishes that can grow up to 3-5 inches and are easily available at $3 per fish.

They are scale-less fishes; that’s why they are quite sensitive to diseases. This is why the experienced aquarists should only be kept, especially those who have previously taken care of scale-less fishes.

Kuhli Loach doesn’t produce much waste and can live for 10 years if cared properly.

Typical Behavior

Kuhli Loaches are non-aggressive and shy fishes. You won’t see much activity from them during the day but find them quite active the whole night.

At night, they can be seen dwelling at the bottom of the aquarium, scavenging for food in the substrate.

They need a lot of hiding places in the tank, such as caves and crevices, so that they can rest during the day or hide if felt threatened.

Kuhli Loaches are not schooling fishes, but a little activity in the tank makes them feel safe and comfortable. So, make sure never to leave them alone.

Kuhli Loach Appearance

Kuhli loach fish appearance

Kuhli loach size

Kuhli Loaches have a snake-like slender body that can grow up to 5 inches in the wild but will grow up to only 3 inches in the artificial setup. These oddball fishes look and move like a snake and can easily confuse anyone with their appearance.

These eel-like fishes have separate dorsal, anal, and caudal fins. This is the reason why they are kept in the category of a fish and not an eel. Their outer skin is soft and considered as scale-less.

The scales on their body are quite apart from each other, which makes them vulnerable to changes in water conditions of the tank. The medication added to the tank can also make them sick. So, make sure to consult a vet before adding anything to the tank with Kuhli Loach.

The Kuhli Loaches available for the aquarium trade have a striped pattern with a thin transparent lining on the eyes. Depending on their long body size, they may have 10 to 15 dark-colored vertical bars with yellow or pink color between them. The bellies have a burnished pink and gold coloration.

Their coloration and patterns look appealing and make them stand out. But distinguishing male from female is not easy as they look similar. The primary difference is between their dorsal and pectoral fins. The male’s dorsal fin is quite muscular, and the pectoral fin is bigger than that of females.

You can also distinguish between them during breeding as the female becomes larger, and the eggs are also visible through their skin.

  • Black Kuhli Loach

Black Kuhli Loaches are very in-demand species of the Loach family. Their whole body is covered in black-brown coloration. And looking at this appearance, people call them chocolate loaches as well. They can reach a maximum of 3.2 inches in length.

Kuhli Loach Tank Size and Conditions

Kuhli Loaches are the native of South-Eastern countries and found in the forest streams of Malaysia, Indonesia, Sumatra, and Borneo. They dwell at the bottom of the rivers having shallow, slow-moving water.

Kuhli loach tank size

The forests are covered with a dense canopy, and the river has heavy vegetation with very little light reaching its bottom. The river bed can have sand, peat, or mud. It usually depends on the location.

The mineral level is very low in these acidic waters. You have to create the same water conditions in your tank for Kuhli fishes to survive and thrive. Let’s take a brief look at the table to know more –

Conditions Parameters
Temperature 73-86°F
pH 5.5-6.5 pH
Hardness 0-5 dGH
Lightning Moderate
Substrate Soft Substrate like Sand with a mix of Fine Gravel
Plantation Cryptocoryne and Java Fern
Tank Capacity 20 gallons minimum and 3-5 gallons per loach you add

Apart from these water conditions, you should have an under gravel filter to maintain oxygen and reduce wastage level. The filter needs a covered outlet with an inline pipe. Otherwise, the Kuhli loach will swim and get trapped inside it.

They also need slow-movement in the water, so make sure to choose a filter that can do it. They need a lot of hiding places like caves, crevices, and leafy debris.

You can also use peat moss or big rocks to decorate the aquarium or to replicate the tank’s habitat to their natural one. Kuhli Loaches can often jump out of the tank in excitement, so make sure to close the lid properly to avoid any mishaps.

Kuhli Loach Tank Mates

Breeding neon tetras
Breeding neon tetras

As we discussed earlier, Kuhli Loaches are not schooling fishes, but they should not be kept alone. The little movement in the tank will make them feel safe and comfortable to come out of their shelter.

Kuhli Loaches are known to dwell at the bottom scavenging for the leftover food. Many bottom dwellers are territorial so that they can hurt or threaten your Kuhli Loach.

So, it is important to look for the fishes that are either top or middle swimmers.

Rasboras, Corydoras, Gourami, Tetras, and Danios are quite compatible with them because of their small size and non-aggressive nature. Oto Catfish and White Cloud Mountain Minnows will add variety to the tank while keeping distance with the Kuhli loaches.

You should avoid any large fishes that are aggressive like Arowanas and Cichlids. Otherwise, they will bite and bully your Kuhli Loaches over territory. Fishes like Angelfish, Tiger Barbs, Red-Tailed Sharks, Chinese Algae Eaters, Bettas, and Blue Gourami can also stress your Kuhli Loaches.

For non-fish varieties, you can keep shrimps like Cherry shrimps with them but not a snail. The Kuhli Loach will think of them as food and will try to eat them. You can also keep Kuhli Loaches in the group of six. They will show more activity in the presence of others.

Kuhli Loach Food

What do kuhli loaches eat?

Kuhli Loaches can be fed with a variety of food as they are omnivores. They usually feed on larvae, plant debris, and small crustaceans in the wild. They don’t hunt for food but are known to scavenge for leftover food at the bottom.

In the aquarium, you can feed them with both vegetables and meat to maintain the nutrients in their diet. You can also add high-quality flakes and pellets as their base diet. These pellets will easily sink to the bottom.

You can also feed them either the live/frozen food from the market or prepare it for them in the home. For a meat-based Kuhli loach diet, add Daphnia, Bloodworms, Artemia, Grindal Worm, and Micro-worms to their diet.

Does Kuhli loach eat snails?

Answer: Yes

They can be fed multiple times a day, but only the amount they can finish in 2-3 minutes. Overfeeding or underfeeding any fish is never a good thing.

Kuhli Loaches Care

Kuhli loach care

We have learned earlier that Kuhli Loaches are sensitive to change in water conditions or any medication addition to the tank. They have faint body scales, which makes them more vulnerable to diseases.

‘Ich’ or ‘White Spot Disease’ is the most common disease found in the freshwater fishes. The Kuhli Loach, because of its sensitive nature, will be the first to get this disease and infect others. This disease can be recognized by the presence of white patches on their body.

Kuhli Loaches are also prone to a parasite, which can cause skinny disease in them. The common symptom includes the loss of weight in these fishes even if they are getting high-quality food. Different medications can treat it.

The water conditions needed for the Kuhli Loach should be kept in mind before putting them into an already established community tank. Good quality water and the right diet is all they need to prevent diseases and thrive in their new environment.

Before adding any medication, consult a vet because even a low dose of medication for other fishes can harm Kuhli Loaches.

Kuhli Loach Breeding

Breeding Kuhli Loach isn’t easy and also not for everyone to do. They need changes in the parameter of water conditions and lots of patience from you to breed. It takes 2 years for them to reach sexual maturity.

Kuhli loach breeding

For encourage breeding, lower the water level and dim the lightning. Increase the number of floating plants and lower the pH level to 6.5.

The Kuhli loaches should feel comfortable to breed. So, they need plenty of food and vegetation for it. The female lays eggs on these floating plants and hide while spawning.

The female grows large, and you will see the eggs through their transparent skin before spawning. They also need to be surrounded by the same species of fish to feel safe while laying eggs.

When the female Kuhli Loach is ready, they will release bright green colored eggs attached to the floating plants. It takes around 24 hours for the eggs to hatch. You can separate the adults from the eggs as they are known to eat them.

Once the eggs hatch, fries will come out looking for food. You can feed them with premade or homemade food. Infusoria or brine shrimp are the best choices for them as their first food. The fries will need constant care and lots of food before they grow up.

You can face many challenges while breeding them, and the process can get messy. So, try it only if you have experience or if you are ready to take challenges but don’t lose hope if you can’t breed them. It’s not for everyone.


Kuhli Loaches are snake-like small fishes who live in freshwater. They are quite active during the night and can be seen taking rest during the day. Kuhli Loaches are scavengers who eat the leftover food from the substrate and keep it shining.

They have scale-less skin, which makes them prone to many diseases and sensitive to water conditions changes. But it can be prevented with the right diet and good quality water with proper filtration. If it still catches any disease, then it can be treated using medication.

They are shy and won’t show much activity if kept in isolation. So, make sure they have companions in the tank. But only those fishes who share the same temperament and size.

They are hard to breed, so don’t lose hope if they are not breeding. Enjoy their activity and movement in the tank.

Do you have Kuhli Loach in your tank? Or planning to have one? What are your thoughts on them? Let us know in the comment below.