Are you thinking of adding Kuhli Loaches to your fish collection, but, on the fence about deciding? Or do you feel challenged about caring for your Kuhli Loaches? Then this article is for you. Let us start with the basics first.

Kuhli Loach is a small eel-like. Some call it the“Slimy Loach” due to its slippery skin.

It is a scale-less fish with bright stripes or bands on its body, giving it a unique look.

Kuhli Loach stays at the bottom of the riverbed or fish tank and likes to hide in caves or plants in groups. It is peaceful and gels with all the other fishes.

Kuhli Loach thrives on leftovers and bio-waste at the bottom, keeping the water clean. However, it generates very little bio-waste, making it a popular tank cleaner.

Its peaceful nature, peculiar appearance, and natural ability to scavenge make it a valued addition to your home aquarium.

This article provides all the vital information you need to know about Kuhli Loaches care.

Generic Facts about Kuhli Loach

Table 1 – Generic facts
Scientific Name PangioKuhlii, Acanthophthalmus Kuhlii
Other popular names Coolie Loach, Slimy Loach, Leopard Loach, Giant Coolie Loach, etc.
Family Cobitidae
Origin Asia (Indonesia and Malaysia)
Life Span 7–10 years in closed environments
Size 3–4 inches or upto 12 cms
Type Freshwater Fish
Generic Facts about Kuhli Loach


There are many variants of Kuhli Loaches, and it is often difficult to differentiate between them. However, a mix of all these is also generally called Kuhli Loaches.

The below table describes them. Which one do you have or plan to have? Alternatively, you may have an assorted collection.

Table 2 – Types of Kuhli Loaches
Name Native Description
Kuhli Loach Indonesia Stripes are on the top only, light and thin compared to other species, and may have spots in the stripes. Are upto 4 inches
Eel Kuhli Loach West Malaysia, Borneo, Sumatra, parts of Mekong Basin No stripes. Shiny silvery sheen. Can be between 4-10 inches. Some have patches on the sides. Are upto 4 inches
Pangio cf. anguillaris Indochina, West Malayasia Sumatra, and Borneo Similar to Eel Kuhli Loach. Just that these are dull brown in color. Their skin is not shiny or bright. Are upto 4 inches
Pangio cuneovirgata West Java, Sumatra, Malaysia They are upto 2 inches (tiny). Pale brown or sand-colored. A pink patch behind their fins is their unique identification mark
Golden Eel Kuhli Loach West Malaysia, Borneo, Sumatra, and parts of Mekong Basin Similar to Eel Kuhli Loach, except that these have shiny pink to a golden sheen
Black or Chocolate Kuhli Loach All over Southeast Asia Upto 3 inches. It is completely black or brown
Cinnamon Kuhli Loach India Similar to Black Kuhli Loach. However, these are upto 2.5 inches only
PangioPiperata Indonesia and Malaysia Similar to Cinnamon Kuhli Loach. However, these have round patches sideways
Pangiofilinaris Pahang basin and Terengganu (Malaysia) These are similar to the Black Kuhli Loach, except that they are orange to sand-pink colored.
Malaysian Kuhli Loach Malaysia, Borneo, Thailand, Sumatra Upto 3 inches. They have none or very few small stripes that are incomplete and more unequal
Half-Banded Loach or  Red Coolie  Loach Terengganu (Malaysia) Similar to Kulhi Loach but has 9-12 stripes only on the top portion
Calico Kuhli, or Leopard Kuhli, or Shelford’sKuhli Loach Southern Malaysia and Indonesia Their pattern is like a leopard and not stripes. Upto 3 inches
Panda Kuhli Loach Thailand This is a rare species. It is similar to Black Kuhli Loach except that its face has a mask that resembles a “panda”
Borneo Kuhli Loach Borneo and Indonesia Upto 3 inches. It has fewer vertebrae than other Locahes and is distinguished by its later dappling

Habitat and Origin

Kuhli Loach is a tropical freshwater fish found in Asia. Although it comes in different types listed above, they all need similar care, making it easier for the owner.

They are schooling fish and love to live in groups.

Physical Attributes and Size

Kuhli Loach is like a long worm in shape, with small fins and whiskers around its mouth. It is slippery like eels. It has asymmetrical stripes all over its body on the top.

Different varieties have fascinating combinations of colors like black, white, reddish-brown, orange, pink, silver, golden, and beige.

Some have shiny skin, while others have dull skin. A few varieties have no or very few stripes (listed in Table 2 above).

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The Leopard Kuhli Loach’s skin pattern resembles a leopard. There is also a Kuhli Loach with a facemask resembling a panda (listed in Table 2 above).

The average size of Kuhli Loach is 3-4 inches, though some loaches (listed in Table 2 above) are as small as 2.5 inches.

Male Vs. Female

A Female Kuhli Loach looks more rounded compared to its male Kuhli Loach. Besides, a male Kuhli Loach has bigger fins that are paddle-shaped and more pigmented than its female counterpart.  


The US imports Kuhli Loaches. However, stocks sell out quickly due to high demand. They are sold only after growing to a size of 2 inches.

It can cost anywhere between $13 to $20 each, approximately.

Many commercial websites sell Kuhli Loaches online. Compare their credibility and after-sale support. Alternatively, you can source it from your regular fish breeder for added assurance.

Care Guide

Table 3 – Care overview
Care level Easy
Temperament Peaceful
Social Shy. Gels with all fishes, but eats shrimps
Diet Omnivore
Breeding Difficult in captivity

Kuhli Loaches come from wild waters, so deworm them before adding them to your tank to avoid the risk of any parasitic infection to other fishes.

Read in detail about the Acclimation process to keep Fish healthy before introducing them to the Home tank.


Kuhli Loaches love to eat high-protein fish food (like live bloodworms and shrimps). Frozen food and fish pellets can be fed, provided they sink to the bottom of the tank to reach them. Feed them several times a day. Keep the lights dim while feeding them.

Being shy bottom-dwellers, they come out at night to scavenge the waste from the bottom of the tank.

They eat almost anything from the bottom. They even eat other fish eggs that fall to the bottom,  including their own!

Typical Behavior Patterns

Unlike other fishes, Kuhli Loaches rarely swim. They are nocturnal and use their mouths to sift.

As nocturnal introverts, they prefer to hide in caves and plants. However, they enjoy being with other Kuhli Loaches.

Their peaceful demeanour makes them an apt addition to a community tank.


Once the above parameters for caring for Kuhli Loaches are in place, you will notice them coming out and happy. Maintain the quality of tank water regularly.

Kuhli Loaches start breeding at the age of 12 to 18 months. Breeding them in captivity is a tad difficult.

You need to provide them a feel of their natural environment with dim light and thick plants (similar to riverbeds). They feel safe in groups with a lot of hiding spaces.

Happy Kuhli Loaches have better chances to breed. There is no need to pair them in a separate tank. They pair themselves and are group breeders.

Mating indicators

The female Kuhli Loach fills with eggs and swells. Sometimes you will be able to see the green ovaries through the skin of a pregnant Kuhli Loach.

Fish will swim restlessly up and down the tank.

In the dim light, the pair swims close together, entwining mutually and rubbing each other on the sides while swimming.

Allow some mulm to accumulate at the bottom of the tank during this phase, as the newborn fry will eat it initially.

Kuhli Loach eggs

The pregnant Kuhli Loach will release green-colored eggs onto floating plants.

These eggs fertilize while floating. They are sticky. Slowly, they will sink and stick to the plants and moss.

Adult Kuhli Loaches will eat the eggs that fall at the bottom.

Moving the adult Kuhli Loaches or the plants and moss with eggs stuck on them in another tank enhances the chances of fertilization.

Care for Newborn fry

The eggs will hatch after a few days.

The newborn fry will begin to eat once they can open their tiny mouths. They eat the sludge at the bottom of the tank and the micro-fauna from plants and moss. 

Add some fish food supplements that sink in the water to feed them.

After 4-5 days, feed the fry with frozen micro-worms. A week after, you can feed them newborn brine shrimps. The fry will grow up to 1 inch in 6 weeks.

Each spawn cycle can reproduce up to a hundred fry. After six weeks, you will need to move them to a separate tank to give them space to grow.

Maintaining the quality of the tank water at its best is vital.

Breeding Kuhli Loaches is a demanding job and requires a lot of patience. Once the newborn grows up to 2 inches, you can sell them or trade them with other fish pet-owners for another fish type.

Kuhli Loaches are always in high demand.

Read more about caring for Fish Eggs and Feeding Fish Frys.

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You must keep an eye on your Kuhli Loaches to ensure they are healthy.  A sick fish will always behave differently, indicating it needs attention.

Being scale-less, they are easily affected by water temperatures and the tank environment.

They can also get wounded by rough surfaces in the tank decor or sharp gravel while sifting. They are equally prone to diseases from parasitic infections, malnutrition, or overfeeding.

Their diseases can get fatal unless treated promptly. We will discuss the most common health issues found in Kuhli Loaches here.

The intention is to empower you to identify diseases and promptly know the possible treatment. It is always advisable to consult a fish expert at the earliest.


You will notice a white dot on the body of your Kuhli Loach. That is why Ich is also known as the White Spot disease. This disease impacts their respiratory system.

Poor quality of tank water causes Ich. The infected Kuhli Loach is likely to keep rubbing its skin against the tank objects.

It will develop a white spot(s) on the body. It will be uneasy, lazy, and stop eating.

You can buy over-the-counter medicine for this disease and follow the instructions. Make sure you fix the quality of your tank water.


As the name indicates, your Kuhli Loach looks bloated and might develop red line(s) on the body. Sunken eyes and swelling near the fins are other symptoms of bloating.

Its stomach gets bloated with air. Scales expand as if they will explode, causing red lines on the body.

Bloating can be caused by overeating and constipation. It could also indicate intestinal parasites or bacterial infections inside the body.

Parasitic or bacterial infection might have set in much earlier, but external symptoms are visible only at later stages.

Treatment involves dipping the infected fish in salt water for some time and placing it back in normal water. Repeat this process several times as required.

It is essential to have the right concentration of salt water. Being a freshwater fish, your Kuhli Loach might be shocked in saltwater. Hence it has to be done gradually.

Hence, it is best to call a fish expert to treat bloating.


If your Kuhli Loach looks skinny despite proper feeding, it needs attention.

Its internal parts might start protruding and are easily visible from the external skin.

The reason for your Kuhli Loach losing a lot of weight is unknown. It could be suffering from malnutrition despite feeding or even have other multiple complications.

You can improve the nutritional value of their feed. Keep the skinny Kuhli Loach in a separate tank to feed them. If it is eating the feed, but the issue persists, consult a fish vet.

The treatment varies after proper analysis. A Fish expert will try several approaches, identify the root cause, and fix it.

Swim Bladder issue

In a Swim Bladder Issue, your Kuhli Loach swims strangely, loses balance while swimming, or remains at the bottom. It is unable to move normally.

It is a bacterial infection impacting the natural ability to balance in the water.

Swim Bladder issue is difficult to cure unless detected early and treated promptly.

Treatment involves feeding protein-rich foods to build muscle strength. Additionally, increase the temperature of your tank water slightly, forcing the infected Kuhli Loach to move from its place.

External wounds

Keep an eye for any external injuries or wounds on your Kuhli Loaches’ bodies.

Timely detection and treatment are necessary to avoid complications. It also keeps other fishes safe.

Also, identify the cause of the wound. It could be an aggressive tank mate or a decor with a rough or edgy surface. Take it out of your fish tank to avoid a recurrence.

Prevention of Diseases

As a pet owner or breeder, you also become solely responsible for their health and well-being.

It is heartbreaking to see your pet suffer. Surely you will not like to lose a pet to a controllable cause.

Kuhli Loaches can live for 7-10 years. Below are a few simple tips to keep your Kuhli Loaches happy and healthy.

  • Use a broad tank to give them enough space to move as they grow.
  • Take care of their special needs like soft sand, fine gravel, smooth surfaces of all decor inside out, and any hole in the tank should be wide enough for them to swim through.
  • Provide a lot of hiding spaces for them to move freely in groups.
  • Maintain good tank water quality and tank environment.
  • Maintain a good oxygen supply to the tank to reduce stress.
  • Feed them a protein-rich fish diet that can sink to the bottom to reach them.
  • Use a variety of food as they are omnivores and eat almost anything.
  • Observe them physically as well as behavior-wise to identify any issues and fix them promptly.
  • Find complete details on Fish Diseases and Preventions here.
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Tank Recommendations

Table 4 -Tank requirements overview
Size 56 liters or 15 US liquid gallons
Water temperature 24-30 degrees celsius (75-80 degrees Fahrenheit)
PH level 5.5 to 6.5
Water hardness 5.0 dGH (degrees of General Hardness) or 89.5 PPM
Lighting Dim
Kuhli Loach Tank Setup, Size and Recommendations

Tank Size

Kuhli Loaches grow up to 4 inches in length. Hence, they need broader tanks to move freely. The breadth of the tank with the desired water capacity should be preferably more than its height.

Tank Setup


Soft sand, fine rounded gravel, and deep caves or cavities are ideal substrates to help them scout the bottom with their mouth and hide in groups.

Dense plantations and more hiding places resembling their natural environment provide safe grounds for them to come out and swim freely during the day.


Avoid bright light, as it disturbs your Kuhli Loaches.

Minimize the tank light using tannin-stain water or add more floating plants. Besides, providing more hiding spaces encourages them to move freely in the tank.


Java Fern, Ice Plant, Java Moss, Duckweed, and Dwarf Sword Fern are suitable for your Kuhli Loaches aquarium.

These plants provide hiding spaces and cover from aquarium light. Aquarium plants also keep the tank water clean by trapping waste and do not require additional care. Besides, aquarium plants help maintain the water temperature.

Since the Dwarf Sword Fern can grow up to 2 to 4 feet tall, add it only if the tank size permits.


Kuhli Loaches tend to hide in holes and cavities they find. They are mouth-sifters and patrol the bottom of the tank.

Hence, their delicate mouths, eyes, whiskers, and soft under-belly skin call for safer decorations.

Use decors with smooth surfaces inside out to avoid injuring them. Clay pots, PVC pipes, and ceramic caves fit the requirements.

Any holes in the decor should be wide enough to allow the Kuhli Loaches to swim through. Use a sponge pre-filter for your filtration pipe, as they might try to enter it.

The plants discussed above also form an integral part of your tank decor.

Oxygen and Filtration

All fish tanks must have filtration to maintain the quality of tank water. There are biological filters, mechanical filters, and chemical filters.

Mechanical filtration traps solid physical waste from the tank water. This filtration should precede the biological filtration.

Biological filters are a must for any fish tank. In this process, good bacteria are added to the tank water to reduce ammonia and nitrate levels.

Do not add fish to a new tank before starting the nitrogen cycle. It takes 6-8 weeks. This process is known as breaking the tank.

It is advisable to have fewer or no fish in the tank during this process, as you will need frequent water changes to maintain low ammonia and nitrate levels.

Once you break the tank, you can safely add new fish to the tank.

Chemical filtration is a need-based filtration used to remove fish medicine from the water after solving the purpose.

Kuhli Loaches breathe in the air. An air pump is needed to supply oxygen to the tank water. Insufficient oxygen can raise their stress levels, leading to other complications.

Water temperature in the Kuhli Loach tank should be maintained at 24-30 degrees celsius (75-80 degrees Fahrenheit), as mentioned above.

Tank Mates

Do not add other aggressive bottom-dwellers that might injure your Kuhli Loaches. Aggressive fishes that eat Kuhli Loaches (like Cichlids, Tiger Barbs, Betta fish, Arowanas, etc.) should not be kept in the same tank.

Tetras, Gourami, and Corydoras are good tank mates for your Kuhli Loaches.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

This section covers the most commonly asked questions. Their responses can be handy when in doubt.

What is the life span of a Black Kuhli Loach?

Black Kuhli Loaches can live up to ten years.

How big do banded Kuhli Loaches grow?

Kuhli Loaches typically grow to be 3- 4 inches long. However, some varieties of Kuhli Loaches (like Pangio cuneovirgata and Cinnamon Kuhli) grow up to 2.0 to 25 inches only.

Can I add a single Kuhli Loach to my tank?

Kuhli Loaches are shy, but they enjoy being in groups. It is advisable to add at least 6 of them to your tank to keep them happy and healthy.

Do Kuhli Loaches eat algae?

Kuhli Loaches eat algae wafers only. They do not eat algae and other plants in your home aquarium.

Do Kuhli Loaches eat shrimps?

Yes, they do. Do not keep shrimps in the same tank.

My Kuhli Loach has got a white spot/patch. What should I do?

Your Kuhli Loach is infected with Ich if it develops white spot(s). It is mainly due to poor tank water quality and affects the respiratory system.

Newly imported fish get stressed in the new environment and develop white spot(s) due to reduced immunity.

Fix the tank water quality first. If the issue persists, you can use an over-the-counter medicine to treat your Kuhli Loach.

How many Kuhli Loaches should I keep in a 10-gallon fish tank?

A 10-gallon tank is small for Kuhli Loaches. The minimum requirement is 15 gallons of US aquarium water. You can add up to 6 Kuhli Loaches in a 15-gallon tank.

They grow 3-4 inches in size. Just ensure the tank is broader. As Kuhli Loaches grow, they will need more space to move freely. Height doesn’t matter.

What do Kuhli Loaches eat? / What should I feed my Kuhli Loaches?

Kuhli Loaches are omnivores. They scavenge and eat almost anything from the bottom of the tank, including fish poop, dead fish, and fish eggs (including their own).

Ensure that you use foods that can sink to the bottom for them to eat.

Kuhli Loaches need high-protein fish food (like live bloodworms, blackworms, or shrimps).

You can also feed frozen foods like fish pellets (ensure it sinks to the bottom) and vegetables (like cucumber).

Are Kuhli Loaches hardy?

Yes. Kuhli Loaches are hardy but sensitive to changes in water temperature, as they are scale-less.

They are mouth sifters. Their delicate under-belly skin, eyes, mouth, and whiskers call for special tank requirements.

Everything in the tank must be smooth and rounded to avoid injuring them. Even the substrate has to be of fine sand and rounded gravel.

Do Kuhli Loaches eat snails?

Yes. Kuhli Loaches eat snails that are smaller than them.

Can Bettas live with Kuhli Loaches?

Yes. You can keep Bettas and Kuhli Loaches in the same tank safely.


Kuhli Loaches can be a valuable addition to your fish collection. A unique eel-like look and a colorfully striped body set them apart.  

They are non-aggressive and gel with other fishes, making it safe for you to add them to your community tank.

Popular as natural tank water cleaners, Kuhli Loaches eat almost anything from the bottom of the tank. But they don’t eat your fish tank plants.

They are easy to care for if you provide them with a tank environment resembling their natural habitat.

You also need to take special care to protect them from injury, as they are scale-less.

Kuhli Loach has a lifespan of 7-10 years and starts mating from 12 to 18 months, providing rich returns on your investment.

There are wide varieties of Kuhli Loaches with different fascinating colors. Which one would you choose to bring home? Or would you have an assorted collection?

Also, visit to find care details about another Tropical Freshwater Fish – Clown Loach.

About the Author

Victoria Lamb

Victoria is a freshwater aquatics specialist, fish keeper, and amphibian enthusiast. She has had more than 6 years of experience caring for aquariums and keeping several fish species, and her home boasts of 3 aquariums and a garden pond. Her goal is to educate fish owners on raising healthy and happy aquatic pets. Career Highlights:…

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