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Kuhli Loaches: Complete Care Guide (Diet, Tank & More)

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Kuhli loaches are a peaceful addition to any freshwater tank. They are nocturnal so typically stay out of the way of other fish throughout the day.

They are also great scavengers which means they will help clean the bottom of your tank.

Take a look at the below information to learn everything you need to know about keeping your kuhli loaches happy! 

Kuhli Loach Care Guide

Scientific NamePangui Kuhli or Acanthopthalmus Kuhlii
Common NameKuhli Loach, Coolie Loach, Leopard Loach, Pangio Kujili, Prickly Eye, Cinnamon Loach
Size3 to 4 Inches
Minimum Tank Size20 Gallons
Kuhli loach hiding in between plants

Kuhli loaches are very easy to care for which makes them perfect for beginners. They typically grow up to 4 inches and have an ee-like shape. They are peaceful bottom-dwellers that will help clean up waste. They are also nocturnal so you will not see them during the day.

Appearance & Temperament


The Kuhli Loaches have eel-shaped bodies with small fins and four pairs of barbels around their mouth. Their eyes are covered by transparent skin.

Their lack of head scales and faint body scales is what gives them the eel appearance.

In common Kuhli Loaches, they have a pink or yellow body with 10 to 15 dark bands or stripes from head to tail.

There are also other variants for the Kuhli Loaches with different colors such as the black kuhli loach or the albino kuhli loach.


Kuhli Loaches can grow up to five inches in length when they are in the wild. However, in captivity, they will only grow to about 3 or 4 inches in length in the right tank environment. 

Kuhli loach in front of tank

Gender Differences

Even though the male and female Kuhlui Loach will grow to the same length there are a few things to look out for when sexing this species. The male Kuhli Loach will have a larger pectoral fin as well as a thicker dorsal cross-section than the females.

Female kuhli loaches have rounder bellies than males do. This is especially more prominent during breeding times as they fill up more with eggs.

Another difference between male and female Kuhli Loaches is their tails. The male’s tail will curl inwards as the female’s tail is straight. Males also have more black markings than females. 

Temperament and Behavior

Kuhli Loaches are nocturnal creatures that will sleep during the day and will be active at night. They are very peaceful fish and will spend their time swimming at the bottom of the tank. 

They are more of a shy fish and tend to be more active when living with other Kuhli Loaches. It is very typical for them to burrow, they especially love burrowing through the substrate. 


Typically in captivity, with the right environment and care, the Kuhli Loach has an average lifespan of about 7 to 10 years. Some have been reported to live up to 14 years.

With the right tank environment and proper care, you can maximize their lifespan.

Kuhli Loach Diet & Feeding

Kuhli Loaches are omnivore fish and will eat almost anything. In the wild, they will eat everything from small shrimp to plant material as they scavenge the river beds for food.

They will take in mouthfuls of the sand as they scavenge for food in order to get anything that is edible. 

Kuhli Loach prefers to have protein-based fish foods. Live foods such as bloodworms, water fleas, brine shrimp, and tubifex are great options to feed your Kuhli Loach.

Frozen foods are also suitable for Kuhli loaches, or even a good quality pellet. Keep in mind that Kuhli loaches are bottom dweller scavengers, so the food needs to be able to sink to the bottom. 

It is best to feed your Kuhli Loach two or three times a day, only giving them enough food that they can consume within a  few minutes to avoid overfeeding.

As the pellet serves as a base for their diet, feed them live or frozen food every couple of days so that they are receiving a balanced diet. 

Ideal Tank Mates for Kuhli Loaches

Kuhli Loach are very peaceful creatures that do very well in a community tank.

Even though they are shy fish, they can be very sociable when living with other peaceful fish that are similar in size, especially if those fish stay more in the middle or upper levels of the tank.

Great tank mates for Kuhli Loaches:

  • Corydoras
  • Mollies
  • Guppies
  • Honey Gourami (or other non-aggressive gouramis)
  • Rasboras
  • Tetras
  • Danios (except the Zebra Danio)

They also do well with non-fish tank mates such as African dwarf frogs or red cherry shrimps for example.

Even though they are not schooling fish, having a group of 3 to 5 Kuhli Loach is a great idea as being around their own kind tends to make them happier as well as active.

It is best to avoid aggressive tank mates or ones that tend to bully slow-moving fish. It is also best to avoid fin nippers as well. This is to ensure the safety of the Kuhli Loach in the tank.

Tank mates to avoid for Kuhli Loaches:

  • Tiger Barbs
  • Red Tail Sharks
  • Betta Fish
  • Zebra Danio
  • Cichlids
  • Arowanas

It is also best to avoid putting snails in a tank with Kuhli Loach as they will eat the snails. Also, it is recommended to avoid much larger fish that may go after the Kuhli Loach as food.

Kuhli Loach Tank Size & Tank Requirements

As with any typical freshwater aquarium fish the Kuhli Loach does best with you to replicate their natural habitat.

They prefer slow currents, warmer temperatures, and slightly acidic waters. Maintaining water parameters is very important as the Kuhli Loach is more likely to get diseases.

This is because Kuhli Loaches lack scales, and their skin is more susceptible to disease. 

Ideal water parameters for Kuhli Loaches:

  • Water Temperature: 73 to 86°F
  • pH Levels: 5.6 to 6.5
  • Water Hardness: no more than 5.0 dGH

The Kuhli Loach needs a minimum tank size of 20 gallons adding 3 to 5 gallons for each additional Kuhli. Also, there will need to be some extra steps when setting up a tank for Kuhli Loach to ensure their safety.

You will want to start with a filter system that has a low flow, as this is what they are used to in the wild. On this filter system, you will need to place a mess or sponge on the inlet tube as they can wiggle inside it and can get stuck resulting in injury or death.

As mentioned earlier, the Kuhli Loach loves to burrow! Because of this, you will want to put a fine sandy substrate, as large or jagged rocks of pebbles can easily cut their body. Kuhli Loaches love to hide, and placing plenty of plants and other decorations is ideal.

Plants such as cryptocoryne, Java fern, and peat moss are excellent choices that will replicate their heavily planted natural habitat.

Adding in driftwood and a cave along with the plants will provide plenty of places for your Kuhli Loach to hide out in. 

Standard aquarium lighting is alright to use, as they are nocturnal and will sleep during the day under cover from the light. They prefer the dark when they are up in the night hours, as long as the light is off at night they will be happy. 

Breeding Kuhli Loaches in Your Aquarium

In captivity it is fairly difficult to breed Kuhli Loaches. They tend to be stubborn and require very specific requirements for their environment.

Although they are difficult to breed there are steps that you can follow to optimize your chances. 

Kuhli Loaches are communal breeders, so you do not have to pair them off to breed. The larger group of Kuhli Loaches you have in a specialized breeding tank the greater your chances are. 

Steps for Kuhli Loach breeding:

  • The first step you will want to take prior to breeding is to sex the Kuhli Loaches. You will also need to ensure they are fully mature which is only at about 2 years of age. When females are ready to spawn they will balloon in size, and sometimes you can even see their ovaries through their skin.
  • The most important part of breeding Kuhli Loaches is making sure they are comfortable. The set-up of the breeding tank is very important. The breeding tank should be densely vegetated with floating plants as well, as well as a lower level. 

You will want to raise their temperature to 82–86°F to encourage the breeding process. It is recommended to change 5% of the water daily to keep it clean, making sure it is more shallow water.

You will also want to keep the lighting slightly dim as they prefer less light.

  • You will want to select the Kuhli Loaches you want to use for the breeding process. Choosing 1 female Kuhli Loach for every 2 males. Start feeding them a highly nutritious diet of live foods prior to breeding to condition them.
  • To mimic the rainfall in their natural habitat, you will want to sprinkle water in the tank. The rainfall in the wild is what also encourages them to breed. 
  • The female is the one that will start the breeding process. She will become larger in size and when she is ready she will signal that she is ready for spawning. From there the pair will swim through the tank together. They will actually stay close to the surface of the water for spawning. This is when you can notice the green eggs in the female’s belly.
  • The female Kuhli Loach will lay her eggs when they are ready to hatch on the underside of leaves; sometimes they may sink to the bottom of the tank. The eggs are a vibrant green and will be easy to spot, they also can lay hundreds of eggs at one time, you will see large clumps of the green eggs in the tank.
  • After the eggs are laid, you will want to remove the adult Kuhli Loaches. As they do not have paternal instincts, they will actually feed on the eggs as well as the young fry. Once you notice the female grows larger with the eggs, you will want to pay close attention so you can remove them once the eggs are laid. 
  • Once the eggs are laid they take about 24 hours to hatch, you will want to feed them liquid fry food for about one week switching to baby brine shrimp after that. By the third day, they are typically free swimming. After about seven weeks, the fry can be fed the same food as the adult Kuhli Loaches. Also at the seven-week mark, they can be returned to the main tank with the other adults.

It is very important to maintain the water conditions in the breeding tank until the fry are removed. This is important to help them grow into an adult size of about 1 inch to be put into the main tank again.

This means also keeping up with the 5 % water changes until they are removed and placed back into the main tank.

Kuhli Loach Origin & Distribution

The Kuhli Loach originates from Southeast Asia in clean slow moving streams in rivers in Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Borneo, and Sumatra.

Although they are not schooling fish they are social, in the wild, they often form groups with other Kuhli Loaches.

In the wild, they will scavenge the riverbed for food at night, the Kuhli Loaches are nocturnal creatures. They are very common in the wild,  mostly the Kuhli Loaches are wild caught because of this.

They were actually discovered in Southeast Asia in 1846, in heavily vegetated rivers that are covered in leaf beds and sandy areas. The forest actually gives a permanent overshadow to their natural waters.

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