Kuhli Loach: Ultimate Guide (Care, Diet, Breeding & More)

Photo of author
Written By Matt Stevens

Hi, I'm Matt! I've been obsessed with fishkeeping for over 15 years now and created this site to share my knowledge with others.

The Kuhli Loach is a charming and active species of fish. Their attractive and unique appearance also makes them a highly popular option among aquarium owners.

They are known to be quite shy and peaceful, which makes them a suitable choice for aquariums. However, their care isn’t as easy as you would expect, which is why you need to have some experience and knowledge before you keep them.

Luckily, you don’t have to worry because we have come up with an incredibly helpful guide to help you learn all there is to know about the Kuhli Loach, including their care, habitat, water requirements, diet, tank mates, breeding process, and much more.

Species Overview

The Kuhli Loach is a species of tropical fish from the Cobitidae family with the scientific name Pangiokuhli. Also known as the Coolie Loach and the Leopard Loach, these fish are native to freshwater streams in Thailand, Malaysia, and other Southeast Asian countries as well.

Although the Kuhli Loach were identified and named in 1846, they have been around for a long time before that. In fact, it is believed that these fish were a staple food for Indonesians during the early years of their history.

Life SpanUp to 10 Years
Color FormYellow and brown bands
Care levelIntermediate
CompatibilityPeaceful fish
Size4 Inches
Tank SetupFreshwater
Minimum Tank Size20 Gallons

Now, they are a regular feature and highly popular in the aquarium community all over the world. Plus, they are known to exhibit several of the characteristics they possess while in their natural habitat.


The Kuhli Loach has quite an impressive lifespan. They are expected to live up to 10 years, which is much more than many of the other species that you can keep in your aquarium.

Of course, the number of years your fish will live depends on the quality of care and water conditions, so your pets will be around for quite a while if you take good care of them.

Some of the factors that can shorten the lifespan of Kuhli Loach are poor water quality, a low-nutrition diet, and having to cohabitate with species that intimidate them.


The Kuhli Loach can be identified from the other species due to their slim body, which also makes them resemble eels. Their fins are also quite small and unnoticeable.

On top of that, Kuhli Loach doesn’t have a visible lateral line, and their dorsal fin is located further back on their body and closer to the tail, as compared to other fish.

These species have multi-colored bodies, with a few exceptions. Their body is predominantly bright yellow or light pink, whereas their underside is much lighter. Apart from this, they have several dark stripes on their body.

Upon looking at them, you would think that their appearance is similar to a tiger’s due to their stripes. While some fish have stripes all over their body, some have stripes only up to their stomach.

Another distinguishable feature of the Kuhli Loach is how they have four pairs of barbels around their mouth. This helps them navigate around their habitat and search for food.

Moreover, they have eyes covered with transparent skin, and beneath each eye is a pair of sharp spines that are hardly visible. However, when the Kuhli Loach is intimidated or stressed, the spines protrude from their skin.

These spines are meant to protect the Kuhli Loach from predators in the wild, and these can harm attackers if they try to eat them.

Types of Kuhli Loach

There aren’t many variants or different species of the Kuhli Loach, except the Black Kuhli Loach. It is a highly popular species that are sought after by aquarium owners.

Black Kuhli Loach have a similar body shape and size to other species, and they also have a similar temperament. The only difference is that they are entirely black or dark brown, without any stripes like the other fish.


The Kuhli Loach is quite small, and they can grow up to 5 inches long in the wild. In aquariums, they can grow up to 3 or 4 inches, which is why they don’t require a lot of space.

Kuhli Loach Care

Kuhli Loach is fascinating to look at, and you may want to keep them in your home aquarium. However, their care isn’t as easy for beginners, which is why you need to be more careful.

The main reason for this is that these fish are prone to diseases and parasites, and since they don’t have hard scales to protect them from bacteria, you have to take extra care of them.

They do have soft scales on their body, but not on their heads, which is why they can contract diseases. Plus, they require highly accurate water conditions without even the slightest changes. If you have an aquarium and use chemicals with the water, it may not be suitable for Kuhli Loach.

Let’s have a look at the tank size that you need to keep in order to raise and care for Kuhli Loach.

Tank Size

Since Kuhli Loach is quite small in size, you can raise them in a tank with a capacity of between 15 and 20 gallons.

However, if you are looking to raise more than one Kuhli Loach in the tank, you should increase the tank capacity by 3-5 gallons for each fish.

Since Kuhli Loach are a peaceful and friendly fish, they will be able to coexist comfortably in the minimum sized tank. However, it is important to give them their space, as they may start to get stressed if the tank is overcrowded.

Water Parameters

The best way to prepare a tank for any fish is to closely imitate the natural habitat for them, as this would allow them to feel at home and stay healthy.

Kuhli Loach are used to the slow-moving waters of tropical rivers. Therefore, you should maintain the water temperature between 73-86°F, which gives them the perfect warm environment for growing.

Apart from this, Kuhli Loach are also used to slightly acidic waters, which is why you should maintain the pH levels of the water between 5.5 and 6.5. Moreover, its hardness shouldn’t be more than 5.0 dGH.

What to Put in Their Tank?

Apart from the water parameters, it is also important to consider what you put inside the tank for Kuhli Loach. Many aquarium owners who raise Kuhli Loach have reported that they don’t get along well with aquarium accessories.

For instance, when you place the aquarium filter in the tank, its inlet tube needs to be covered with a mesh. Otherwise, the Kuhli Loach might try to slide their way inside, thus getting stuck.

Plus, Kuhli Loach is known to jump out of the tanks when they get the chance, which is why you should also invest in an aquarium lid with standard lighting so that you can clearly see what is going on inside.

For the tank base, you can choose a soft substrate because Kuhli Loach love to wade close to them. If you choose gravel or large pebbles, it may hurt their delicate scales. You can either use soft pebbles or even fine sand for this purpose.

Apart from this, you should use aquarium decorations to make it more presentable, as well as give the fish some hiding spaces. Firstly, get some live plants for the aquarium, like java ferns and peat moss. You can also pair them with rocks and driftwood.

Then, if you have some more space, you can also consider adding caves to the tank, which serve as the perfect hiding spot for the Kuhli Loach.

Common Diseases

As mentioned above, Kuhli Loach are susceptible to diseases because they don’t have any scales on their heads. Plus, the other scales on their bodies aren’t hard enough to stop bacteria and fungi.

Plus, sudden changes in the water quality and conditions can also affect them greatly, and they are prone to get ill quickly.

One of the common diseases that Kuhli Loach suffers from is Ich, which is common in fish that live in tropical rivers. Also known as white spot diseases, Ich is caused by a ciliated protozoan by the name of Ichthyophthirius multifiliis.

Fish who are affected by Ich have small white spots on their bodies, and they tend to frequently scrape themselves against different objects. Plus, they would also experience a loss of appetite and spend a lot of time in hiding.

If the parasite or infection spreads to their tissues, the Kuhli Loach can also die. However, most fish can develop immunity from the disease. You can treat your fish by adding aquarium salt, provided that they aren’t sensitive to it.

To ensure that the Kuhli Loach doesn’t get infected by the white spot disease, you need to take very good care of them. Therefore, you should provide them with proper water conditions, a homely environment, and a healthy and well-balanced diet.

What Do Kuhli Loach Eat?

Thankfully, Kuhli Loach aren’t as difficult to feed as most other fish are. Since they are natural omnivores, these fish can eat almost anything. In their natural habitat, they are used to searching around and eating shrimp, plant-based foods, and much more.

Kuhli Loach are used to taking sand in their mouth to find anything edible, and they do the same in an aquarium.

Generally, they are used to eating protein-rich fish foods, as well as live foods. You can feed them with brine shrimp, tubifex, bloodworms, water fleas, and several other types of food. Apart from this, they can also eat frozen foods and pellets.

However, since Kuhli Loach dwell at the bottom of the tank, you need to give them food that sinks to the bottom and doesn’t float on the surface. They don’t come up to take the food, no matter how hungry they may be.

Moreover, you should feed your fish several times during the day, but you should give them enough food per serving that they can gobble up within a few minutes. If they take any longer, it means you are overfeeding them.

Make sure to mix up their diet by offering them live and frozen foods every now and then so that their nutritional requirements are fulfilled.

Behavior & Temperament

Although they are quite beautiful, Kuhli Loach is a rather shy and peaceful species that prefer to stay hidden, especially when they are alone and without any other species.

Therefore, if you don’t see them too much during the day, don’t worry at all. This is also why you should add hiding spots and caves to their environment in the tank. They become more active during the night and start searching for food at the bottom of the aquarium.

You won’t find Kuhli Loach swimming around the top or middle of the aquarium, and they are also very mellow in nature. Plus, they can get along quite well with other species, especially those that are similar in size and have a peaceful temperament.

Also, Kuhli Loach can defend themselves well against predatory fish, thanks to the sharp spines under their eyes. This doesn’t mean you should test their defenses by putting them in the same tank with larger fish.

Kuhli Loach Tank Mates

Ideally, you should keep Kuhli Loach with fish from the same species, as they will get along well together. Although they don’t swim around in groups, they like to cohabitate in groups of five fish or more.

Since Kuhli Loach are a peaceful and mellow species, they prefer to live with other non-aggressive fish of the same size as them. If you are planning to have a multi-species aquarium, you can choose species of fish that inhabit the middle and top levels of the tank.

Fish that spend more time near the surface include Tetra Fish, Zebrafish, and the different species of Rasbora fish. Plus, you can also choose from the different types of Gourami fish out there since they tend to swim in the middle of the aquarium.

If you are looking for more bottom-dwellers to join your Kuhli Loach, you can choose fish like the Cory Catfish and Red Cherry Shrimp, which are also non-aggressive.

This also means that you should avoid larger and aggressive fish at all costs, especially those belonging to the Cichlids family, as well as Betta Fish, Tiger Barbs, and Arowanas.


Breeding Kuhli Loach can be quite a challenge, as they require a certain environment. This is why aquatic experts advise beginners to prevent raising these fish until they have gained some experience and knowledge.

Firstly, you need to identify the male and female species since both of them are quite identical. However, when they are ready to breed, the females start to grow in size. It can take them up to two years to mature fully.

You don’t have to separate a pair for breeding since they are used to breeding in a large group. You can place all of your fish in a breeding tank.

To get the Kuhli Loach to breed, you also have to replicate their natural environment for spawning, which involves shallow waters and dense live plants. Moreover, you should lower the lighting a bit.

Make sure to reduce the water hardness while raising the pH level of the water to 6.5. This allows the fish to get comfortable quickly. Following this, you should feed them with live food, and the females should start growing larger any time soon.

Once the breeding takes place, you will be able to spot small and bright green eggs underneath the live plants. The females can lay as much as 100 eggs at one time, so you won’t have any trouble spotting them.

Once the eggs are laid, you will have to remove the adults from the breeding tank immediately, as Kuhli Loach don’t have parental instincts and may mistake their fry for food.

You will see the eggs hatch within 24 hours, and the fry will get to feed on the live plants you placed in the breeding tank.

Apart from this, you can also feed them brine shrimp or crushed flakes. You will have to feed them regularly so that they can receive their required nutrition and have better chances of survival.

Final Thoughts

Undoubtedly, it can be quite challenging and difficult to care for Kuhli Loach, but this doesn’t mean that you can’t simply do it.

All you need to do is to take care of certain things and ensure that their ideal conditions and environment are maintained.

Kuhli Loach are an exciting addition to any fish tank, provided that they are made to cohabitate with other peaceful species of fish who won’t invade their territory or intimidate them.

Once you have gotten the hang of things, you will have no trouble taking care of your Kuhli Loach on a daily basis. Nevertheless, they are really beautiful fish and you should definitely keep them in your aquarium if you have the chance to!