Kuhli Loach (Pangio kuhlii): Ultimate Care Guide


Kuhli Loach (Pangio kuhlii) is a type of loach that originate from Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. They were classified in Indonesia in 1846. They have a long body that resembles an eel, but they are not actually eels. It is believed that they were originally considered a food source in Southeast Asia. In the wild, they inhabit freshwater bodies such as rivers, lakes, and streams. Today, due to their unique appearance, they have become a very popular aquarium fish.

Kuhli Loach are a bottom-dwelling fish, and they will help maintain water parameters by making sure all food gets consumed.

They are timid nocturnal fish, so expect them to be hiding a lot. They may hide behind plants and hardscape within the aquarium. They may dig a hole within the substrate as well.

If well taken care of, they will live a very long time. This guide will help you understand how to take care of your Kuhli Loach.

Kuhli Loach Care

Kuhli Loach are fairly easy to take care of, since they are peaceful that are easy to feed. However, keep in mind that these fish do not have robust scales to help protect their body. They have some soft scales on their body, but their head has no scales. This makes the fish more susceptible to fungi and bacteria. A suitable tank setup, regular maintenance, and proper handling will be required. For these reasons, Kuhli Loach aren’t recommended for absolute beginners in the aquarium hobby.

Here are specifics on how to take care of Kuhli Loach:

Kuhli Loach Temperature

The optimal temperature range for Kuhli Loach is between 75-86°F (24 – 30°C). They are tropical fish native to the warm waters of Southeast Asia. Therefore, a reliable aquarium heater and aquarium thermometer is most likely necessary for their tank.

While they do prefer warm temperatures, be sure to keep the water under 86°F. Temperatures that are too high will not be good for the fish either.

Kuhli Loach
Kuhli Loach (Pangio kuhlii)

Kuhli Loach Water pH

Water conditions are essential for any aquarium, but more so with any aquarium containing kuhli loaches. Their soft skin makes them highly vulnerable to all types of bacteria and other things that may cause illness. With that in mind, you must try to keep the pH levels of your tank in balance to give your loaches their best chance at a healthy life. Kuhli Loaches prefer slightly acidic waters, so be sure to keep your tank pH levels between 5.5 and 6.5.

Kuhli Loach Size

Their eel-like shape means that they grow long instead of wide, which you would expect from a fish. They can reach up to 4 inches in length, or about 10 centimeters. To some, that number may not sound long, but it is. But you may never get to see their entire length at once, as they tend to be timid and will hide in your tank, either behind tank decorations or in the ground itself.

Kuhli Loach Tank Size

30 gallons is the minimum tank size you should have if you plan on keeping Kuhli Loach. Thirty may sound like a lot for fish that only reaches 4 inches. But 30 is recommended because kuhli loach like to live in packs of 5. That number eases their mind and will help them feel comfortable enough to explore their tank.

Kuhli Loach Food & Diet

Kuhli Loach usually spend their time towards the bottom of their tank. That means they’ll usually feed on crumbs left by the other fish in your tank. But those crumbs are not enough to keep them satisfied and healthy. They’re carnivores which means they need to have meat in their diet. They can also eat flakes or pellets, but unfortunately, flakes and pellets do not contain all of the necessary nutrients they need. This means that you also need to supplement their diet with other food sources, such as bloodworms or brine shrimp.

Do Kuhli Loach eat snails?

Most, if not all, fish will eat anything that fits in their mouths. With that in mind, it is more than likely that Kuhli Loach will munch on any shrimp that can fit into their mouth. This is especially true of Kuhli Loach because both they and snails usually tend to be around the bottom of the tank. So, if you plan on having both kuhli loach and snails in your tank, make sure the snails are large enough not to get eaten.

Do Kuhli Loach eat plants?

Kuhli Loach are not known to nibble or eat on aquarium plants or algae in your tank. This is a good thing because kuhli loach are a timid species, which means they’ll tend to hide behind plants and other aquarium decorations. If they nibbled on the plants, then they wouldn’t be able to hide behind them.

Kuhli Loach Lifespan

Most fish kept in captivity in a tank don’t usually have the longest life span. They usually only live for a few years. Kuhli Loach is not one of those species. The average life span of a kuhli loach is ten years. That lifespan means that any kuhli loach you add to your aquarium will become a mainstay in your tank for years.

Kuhli Loach Tank Setup

A good tank setup is crucial when it comes to owning kuhli loaches. They are susceptible fish and require certain conditions to be met to avoid contracting illnesses and diseases. They’re tropical fish, so a temperature between 75- 86 and a pH level of around 5.5 is recommended. Kuhli loaches are timid fish that like to burrow in the ground or hide when frightened; because of this, you’ll need a soft substrate such as sand or fine gravel. They’re also used to plenty of vegetation in their native environments. So, Java fern would be a great choice; it would also give them more hiding places, as would rocks, driftwood, or even twisted roots. A mesh cover is also highly recommended on your aquarium filter intake because kuhli loaches are small enough to slide into the pipe and could get trapped and perish.

Kuhli Loach (Pangio kuhlii)
Kuhli Loach (Pangio kuhlii)

Do Kuhli Loach Need Hiding Places?

Kuhli Loach are a very timid and withdrawn species of fish, although they become more outgoing and open when housed with several other members of their species. They are known to burrow into the ground to hide when frightened. Kuhli loach do require hiding spots; because of this, it is recommended to have several hiding spots in any tank you plan to house them in. Rocks and driftwood make the most sense as potential hiding places, as does any vegetation, likely to be java moss in most tanks.  

Caves for Kuhli Loach

Kuhli loach are known to hide in anything they can get into or behind. With that in mind, they love to hide in caves or behind rocks or vegetation. Though, they do not require caves as long as they’re supplied with sufficient other hiding spots. Those spots can be behind rocks or driftwood or in vegetation or tangled roots. Kuhli loaches are even known to dig into the substrate of their tanks to hide.

Substrate for Kuhli Loach

The substrate is fundamental when it comes to caring for any Kuhli loach. Their thin scales make them very delicate and susceptible to irritation and illness. Due to their delicate nature, they require a loose, soft substrate. The most popular choices are very fine gravel or sand. If given regular nutrients, both substrate choices can support live plants. Kuhli loach are known to be towards the bottom of the tank, usually right up against or in the substrate. Kuhli loaches even tend to dig into them when frightened or sleeping. That is why it is essential to make sure you select one that will keep them happy and healthy.

Do Kuhli Loach dig substrate?

Kuhli loach are an extremely timid species of fish. They’re known to hide if they feel frightened or threatened, and Kuhli loach even dig into the substrate to hide in those events. They’ll hide in or behind anything they can. Their timid nature and general delicateness are the main reasons to select a substrate that they can both burrow in and won’t hurt or irritate their soft scales.

Kuhli Loach Breeding

Kuhli loach are considered not easy to breed, and it shouldn’t be attempted by anyone that doesn’t have much experience. It requires plenty of patience and a second tank to house them in to coax them along. The second tank should have pliantly of hiding spots and vegetation in it. Some recommend an aquarium heater and to keep the temperature at or above 86. If you’re lucky, your females will start to look more prominent, which signifies that they are carrying eggs. You can tell when the female is on the verge of laying her eggs because she will pair up with a male. The two of them will swim around excitedly, even heading up towards the surface. Afterward, they will intertwine with each other as she lays her eggs.

What do Kuhli Loach eggs look like?

If you are lucky and skilled enough to get your kuhli loach to breed, then you’re likely curious about what the eggs look like. Kuhli loach eggs are a bright green color and are usually laid towards the surface of their tank. They float down from the surface, attaching to any plants along the way. It is then recommended to rehouse the eggs in a new tank for them to hatch and grow.

Kuhli Loach Fry

Two days after being laid, Kuhli loach eggs hatch into fry. They can sometimes be upwards of 400 fries; they should be fed nutrient-rich food to encourage their growth. Make sure to keep the tank cleaned daily. After two months of development, kuhli loach fry should be over an inch in length; around five months is usually the age at which they are sold.

Kuhli Loach Disease

Kuhli Loach don’t have the same number of scales like most fish, with their heads completely lacking scales. Their soft, faint scales make them more susceptible to fungi and bacteria. They can get ill very quickly if your tank is not adequately taken care of. Ich is the most common disease for most aquarium fish, and kuhli loach are no exception. They are one of the first species to show symptoms of the infection, those symptoms being white spots on their bodies. They are also very susceptible to something known as skinny disease. A parasite causes it; it is sometimes easy to spot. If you’re feeding your fish well, and they seem to be eating healthy but seem to be losing weight, it is likely due to a parasite.

Kuhli Loach Tank Mates

When filling out your tanks with fish, nothing is a more suitable tank mate for kuhli loach than more kuhli loach. While they may not be a species of fish that schools together, they do enjoy the company of others from their species. But if you’d like to fill your tank with other species besides kuhli loach, then you should stick to other peaceful fish. When it comes to mild fish to pair with your kuhli loach, you may want to add peaceful fish that will live in the middle and top of your tank. For top of tank fish, any tetra or rasbora would be a great pick. As for the middle of the tank, you couldn’t go wrong with a gourmia, but if you’re looking for something to go at the bottom with your kuhli loach, then look into Corydoras or shrimp.

How many Kuhli Loach should be kept together?

Most experts or just anyone who has a Kuhli loach in their tank will tell you that they like to be together. With that in mind, you should never keep them alone as they can get lonely. Between 3 and 6 is the recommended number of kuhli loach to keep together. But be sure that you have a tank large enough to accommodate them, as they can grow up to 4 inches in length.

Are Kuhli Loach aggressive?

 Kuhli Loach are a peaceful, bottom-of-the-tank fish. They can also be highly timid; as such, they may hide behind objects or in your substrate if startled. They only tend to become more courageous when paired with other members of their species. Their timidness means they should not be housed with any aggressive fish; make sure you only keep them with other species that share their temperament.

Compatible Tank Mates for Kuhli Loach

A great option to house with your kuhli loach is neon tetras. Neon tetras are also incredibly peaceful, and their small size makes them a non-threat to most other tankmates. They also tend to occupy the middle of the tank, so they may never even come in contact with any of your kuhli loach. Another great option to put with your kuhli loach is red cherry shrimp. Red cherry shrimp make great tank mates because they’re shy and avoid most other fish, preferring to hide behind plants or other decorations. Chili Rasbora are a peaceful, schooling species that live in the middle of any tank they’re placed in. That temperament and location make them the perfect companion to any kuhli loach. If you’re looking for something to put at the bottom with your kuhli loach, then you should look no further than celestial pearl dainos. They’re bottom dwellers, but they are so small in size, only an inch at max length, that they don’t pose a threat to most fish.

Incompatible Tank Mates for Kuhli Loach

Kuhli Loach are tropical, freshwater fish with specific pH and temperature requirements. Any fish that doesn’t fit into those requirements would immediately not make a great tank mate for them. Another thing to keep in mind is their temperament. Kuhli loaches are very timid, meaning they won’t like any aggressive fish that may try to mess with them. One such fish is most species of cichlids; they tend to be bold and may try to eat your kuhli loach.

Kuhli Loach and Betta

Kuhli Loach and Betta fish should make fine tankmates. They have similar tank requirements, so that shouldn’t be an issue. Betta fish are known to be a bit temperamental and moody, and should the betta get angry, kuhli loach tend to hide in the substrate or behind plants or decorations. But if you decide to house Betta and Kohli loach together, make sure your substrate is loose enough for your kohli loach to hide and that you have plenty of other places such as plants or other things for them to hide in or behind.

 Kuhli Loach and Shrimp

The success of Housing kuhli loach and shrimp together depends entirely on the species of shrimp. Most species of shrimp are peaceful and large enough to live comfortably with any kuhli loach. Two such species of shrimp that meet those standards are red cherry shrimp and Amano shrimp. Both of them are large enough not to become food for your kuhli loach. On the other side of that spectrum are ghost and grass shrimp, both of which are small enough that your kuhli loach will eat them without any reservations. 

Kuhli Loach and Corydoras

Corydoras are a freshwater catfish species; catfish tend to live at the bottom of lakes or any tank they’re homed in. Kuhli Loach also like to live at the bottom of the tanks they call home. You’d think that both of them living at the bottom of the tank might create some conflict. That isn’t the case; Kuhli loach and Corydoras make great tank mates. They’re both very peaceful species of fish and shouldn’t come into conflict with one another.

Kuhli Loach and Guppies

Guppies and kuhli loaches are known to be great tank mates. They’re both peaceful, freshwater fish that have very similar living conditions. Guppies also grow large enough to the point where they won’t be a snack for your kuhli loaches. Just be sure to have a tank large enough to fit all of your guppies and at least 3-5 kuhli loaches. They’re a very friendly fish, and despite not being a schooling species, they do not like to be alone.

Kuhli Loach and Angelfish

Angelfish are one of the most recognizable aquarium fish. With that level of notoriety, most would wonder if they’d be a good fit for their tank. That being said, they’d be great tank mates with kuhli loaches. Kuhli Loaches and Angelfish have remarkably similar tank requirements and even more similar temperaments.  Kuhli loaches stay small and usually at the bottom of the tank, which means they shouldn’t be close to the angelfish, and they certainly wouldn’t nip at their fins as other fish may do.

Kuhli Loach and Neon Tetras

Neon Tetras and Kuhli loaches are nearly as social as one another, the difference being that neon tetras school while kuhli loaches do not. But both of these species shouldn’t be bought alone, as they both require more members of their species to gain their full effect. They also make phenomenal tank mates should you decide to go down that route. Both species are very peaceful and do not occupy the same space in a tank. This means they should never come into conflict, and even if they did, both species tend to be very passive.

Kuhli Loach and Cichlids

Cichlids and Kuhli Loaches should not be kept in a tank together. While you may find some examples of them coexisting, that is not usually the case. Cichlids tend to be aggressive and may try to eat your kuhli loaches. So try your best to avoid housing them together.

Where Can I Find Kuhli Loach for Sale?

Kuhli loach are a common fish in many different tanks, which means they’re prevalent. Because of this, they shouldn’t be hard to find, and most pet or aquarium stores should have them in stock. A single kuhli loach costs around $3, but that price can be considered deceptive because they should never be bought alone. So, when budgeting for a tank, make sure to note that you need to buy at least five kuhli loach together.

Black Kuhli Loach

Black kuhli loach are incredibly similar to the standard variety, and they both grow to around the same size and have an equal temperament. The black type are trendy because of their dark brown or completely black exterior, and this color is because they are a different species of fish than traditional kuhli loach. Black kuhli loach are sometimes better known as java loach or Pangio oblonga.

Silver Kuhli Loach

Despite their highly similar looks and origins, silver kuhli loach are not the same species as normal kuhli loach. They are known as Pangio anguillaris or eel kuhli loach, and despite their silver coloring, they are nowhere near as popular as usual kuhli loach.  Silver kuhli loach are more commonly eaten in Thailand as a delicacy than kept as an aquarium fish.

Zipper Kuhli Loach and Other Varieties

There are several species of fish that can be identified as kuhli loaches. One of them is known as zipper kuhli loach. Zipper kuhli loaches are called that because of the zipper-like pattern on their body. There is also the Panda Kuhli loach; they were relatively new, only discovered in 2006. There are also dojo loach and half-banded loach. All of these species are incredibly similar, and the one they all have in common is their long, slender bodies.

Kuhli Loach vs Dojo Loach

Kuhli Loach (Pangio kuhlii) and Dojo Loach (Misgurnus anguillicaudatus) are very similar species of fish. They both prefer to hide in the substrate when scared and have very similar diets. Dojo loaches, however, can thrive in temperatures that kuhli loaches cannot. Dojo Loaches also grow to be a bit larger than kuhli loaches do.

If you want a nocturnal, timid fish to occupy the bottom of your tank, you couldn’t go wrong with choosing some kuhli loaches. They can be entertaining and beautiful fish if adequately taken care of. Make sure to give them adequate room and enough places to hide, and I’m sure you’ll be happy with the newest additions to your aquarium.  

Fish Laboratory

With decades of collective fishkeeping experience, we are happy to share the fish care tips that we've picked up along the way. Our goal at Fish Laboratory is to keep publishing accurate content to help fishkeepers keep their fish and aquarium healthy.

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