Kuhli Loach – Feeding, Breeding and Tankmates information

kuhli loaches

Kuhli loaches are a group of small, peaceful, eel-like fish that are widely distributed slow-moving rivers of South-West Asia. 

Their tank should be densely planted and should have a sandy substrate to have something close to their natural habitat. It should be noted that this fish usually enjoy staying at the bottom of the tank. They should be provided with lots of caves and plants in the tank.

Due to their body type, they are reportedly prone to a host of diseases, which is why it may not be fitting to recommend them for beginners. Notwithstanding, as they are renowned for their tank-cleaning capability as they are scavengers.

In this article, we discuss, in detail, the care guide, features, lifestyle, lifespan and feeding habit of the kuhli loaches. Additionally, you discover more about how to breed them and the diseases that may affect their well-being.


Kuhli Loach is a fish with a look of an eel. Referred to as the Acanthophthalmus kuhlii by the zoologists, this fish has its home in the rivers of India, Sumatra, Malaysia, Singapore and in the islands of Java and Borneo. They prefer water bodies that are slow moving with a lot of foliage and are happy sticking under these without too much exposure to the sunlight.

In a tank, they prefer similar conditions and like to stick to the bottom layer all through the day. These fish are night creatures and spend most of the day in hiding. This is their natural habit and does not change until you put them in the aquarium. 

Kuhli loach can grow upto 8 to 11.5 cm long and are named among small sized loaches.

When in a tank, they slowly start coming out during the day either for feeding or to swimming around with their other tank mates. The Kuhli loach is referred to as the Coolie Loach, Cinnamon loach, giant coolie loach or the Leopard Loach in parts of America.

The kuhli loaches have worm-like bodies, pinkish yellow in color and they have around 12 – 17 brownish black lines running all over their body. Since their eyes are aligned to one of these lines, it is almost difficult to discern these, and the eel fish almost seems eyeless! 

With luminous fins and a stomach that is devoid of color, the loaches with their triple whiskers are indeed a sight to reckon in any tank. Their dorsal and anal fins are not very far apart and aligned on the straight line.

Kuhli loach tank size needs to be of 20 gallons at least as it can grow to about 11 inches long. This makes it an ideal fish to be cared for at home, as it does not grow too big like some other species. Though they are can feel at home to varying levels of pH, the most suited levels vary around 6.0 and 7.0. Loaches love to be in the water with temperatures that range from 75 degrees to 85 degrees F. Kuhli loach normal life span is about 10 years.


You can feed your loaches anything, and they will be happy to eat them. These fish do not move up, so it is important to check that the food that you drop reaches the bottom of the tank. If you have other fish in the tank that stays at the top or the bottom layer, then you will have to check that the food has reached your Kuhli loaches; else, there will be a good chance that they are not fed well.

Kuhli Loach food:

Kuhli loaches like to eat both live feed as well as the fish foods that are available over the counter in the pet shops. They will also love the mashed green foods that you can give them, so include many veggies in your fish diet. You can try giving your fish cooked spinach, lettuce and zucchini. 

Whatever you feed, ensure that it is a balanced diet full of vitamins, and that will help your fish stay healthy and active all through.

Since your loaches are going to spend most of their time at the bottom of the tank, it will be a good idea to put in a lot of soft sand so your fishes can burrow into it and find earthworms on its own. The fish will just love them and can feast on them leisurely. Kuhli loaches are also snail eaters,and it is good fun to watch them eat up the snails. 

Firstly, the loaches make an entry into the shell of the snail. While chewing on the snail, also tries to break up the shell by striking it hard on the surface.

In case you cannot feed your fish, natural feed, and are forced to buy fish food off the stores, ensure that you choose the best. Choices can be made based on the advice from the pet shop, or from other aquarium hobbyists or by reading reviews over the net. Choose foods that are well balanced and rich in proteins and vitamins to keep your fish in good shape.

Kuhli loach breeding

It takes a lot of effort to breed the Kuhli loaches in captivity. In nature, they breed naturally when left by themselves, but that is quite the opposite in tanks. One major drawback is that more often than not, the female lays the eggs, but since the male does not fertilize them, most of these eggs just go wasted, and they end up becoming the food for the other fish in the tank or get lost amidst the plants and the soft pebbles in the tank. 

Here is what you can do to get your loaches in the mood to spawn. Primarily add many plants into the tank. This serves two purposes- firstly, it creates a lot of hiding places for the loach, and secondly, it gives the female enough places to lay her eggs on. 

The hardness of the water can be reduced considerably and the pH levels maintained at 6.5. Just like humans, loaches are also more likely to spawn when there are low-stress levels. So happier the loach more the chances of the fries appearing! At this time, ensure you feed the loaches with good quality, vitamin-rich live food instead of the foods that you purchase off the counter.

So medical help can be sought for the breeding in some cases, and the fish can be put on gonadotropic hormonal injections just before they spawn. The females get a little fatter around the abdomen when they are ready to lay eggs, and the full ovaries are even visible through their green skin. This is a good indication that the fish are ready for spawning. 

From a tank requirements perspective, it is better to have about 10 gallons of water, with water reaching upto at least 20 cm. A separator net will also come in handy when you are breeding the loaches. 

An interesting point to note is that for every female fish that you choose, ensure there are two males and put them in the tank. In about 3 – 4 hours, the male fish will come closer to the female fish and will secure her using his pectoral fin. Both of them will then move very quickly to the bottom of the fish tank where the females lay about 500 – 600 eggs in one go and the male fertilizes them. It is very important to take the male and female loach outside the tank the moment the breeding is over. The eggs are of a light green color when the females lay them. 

These eggs either reach the bottom of the tank or attach themselves to the leaves of the plants in the tanks. The egg seems to be in a nest like cover, which makes it seems like the egg is placed safely inside a bubble.

After 24 hours from the time of the fertilization, the eggs break open, and there is a tank full of fries. These fries become capable of swimming in about 4 days.  The baby fish need to be fed healthy food during this time, and they will start becoming healthy. The fish become mature and capable of reproduction in about 12 weeks.


The Kuhli Loach grow to about 11 cms as we discussed earlier, so it does not mean that they do not need big tanks of water. They like to swim around in the night though they are not active during the day; so, ensure the tank is big enough for them to move around actively. 

In addition, since they are a moderate schooling fish, you will see they are happy to be in groups of five or six. They fit well in community tanks, so ideally the breadth of the tank should be more so they have more space for them to co-exist. One thing that you will notice with your loaches is that if left alone, they will be in hiding, and stick to the stones and pebbles at the bottom of the tank, but you will see a different reaction when you add more members to the tank. 

You will notice friendly fights among the fishes to grab the food that is dropped, and this makes them make their appearance during the day.  Though out in the nature, they tend to be creatures of the night, they get used to moving around in the day when they are put in tanks.

Extreme care has to be taken on what all you add into the tank of loaches. Since they like to wriggle under whatever you have placed, ensure that whatever stones or beautifications you add in are smooth and soft. Otherwise, there is a good chance that your loaches can cut themselves because of the rough surfaces of these objects. 

That is why; placing soft sand is a good option even in the substrate layers. If you are going to put in rocky stones, the loaches may get hurt as they lack the scales to keep their skin safe. You can use a siphon to remove the water from the bottom when you clean your tank, as it helps to remove sediments of ammonium and nitrates that may be accumulated there.

When they have been newly added into the tank, it is better to avoid feeding them at night. Feed them at least once a week and the best time to do that is during dusk. You may not see the fish crowding to take in the food at that time, but you can just drop them into the tanks, and they will eat it up. Like already mentioned, you have to be sure that the food reaches the bottom as the loaches will not be able to travel up to the layers in the tanks. 

Since the Kuhli loach does not have any scales, it is sensitive to any medicines that may be added to the tank. Therefore, you will have to bear that in mind when you are cleaning your water. The best protection you can give the loaches, like in the case of most fish that are devoid of scales is to increase the water temperature.  The loaches will be able to survive fine while the bacteria in the water will be destroyed.

Curiosity killed the cat is a famous saying, and we can very well substitute the cat with the loach!  These are very curious fish and can keep swimming about all over frantically for no reason, so you have to be careful when you insert filters to see that your fish does not come out through them, as they have a tendency to swim towards the filter. 

It is best to keep the tank covered at all times as they have a tendency to slip out of them in spite of being fish that can really stay at the bottom. Therefore, any cracks or openings have to be immediately covered or protected to ensure the loaches do not use them to hurt themselves and eventually die.


Being a group of scaleless fish, there is a lot of special care that is needed for the loaches. They have no scales on the head specifically, and this complicates the problem. The loaches will not react well when introduced into a new tank or a tank full of water where salt has been added directly.

You will need to familiarize the loaches to the water in the tank before they are actually introduced. In addition, anything that you add into the tank has to be washed thoroughly as you cannot be sure about the carriers of the disease. If you are introducing a sick fish into the tank, then you are running the risk of troubling all the other fish too. 

When you buy your loach, it is best to check that there are no white patches on them as this could indicate a prevailing illness in the fish. It is also important to check that your fish are happy and stress-free, as this will be directly proportional to their health. Fishes that are stressed out are more likely to succumb to diseases. 

Though there are no specific diseases that affect the Kuhli Loach, they are susceptible to the diseases that affect other aquarium fish.  Ich – one of the predominant diseases to trouble the tank fish affects the loaches as well. 

Since they do not have scales, it is important not to add any chemicals into the tank.  Instead, increasing the salt content or temperature of the water levels works the necessary magic, and the fish are back to their healthy lifestyle in no time. 

Cotton ball disease which is a fungal infection also affects the loaches, and the most effective way to keep the loaches away from the diseases is to keep the tank water fresh and bacteria free at all times.  Changing at least 30% water in the tank at least once a week leaves your loach happy and healthy. 


Your loaches come to life just when you switch off the lights in the aquarium. A nocturnal creature that they are, they tend to spend their day resting and then start appearing during the night. Never get excited and switch on the light during that time to observe your loaches. They can get terrified, and you could leave them in perennial shock and terror, so never do anything like that.

Kuhli loach can also be weather predictors, and they have been bred for this primary quality. They tend to react to adverse weather conditions and can be a good indicator of upcoming natural calamities. The loaches can become very stressed and frantic at the time of approaching storms, tsunamis and earthquakes. 

They are an inquisitive kind of fish and try to jump and swim around; therefore, ensure that there are no escape routes for your loach. Even if there are small crevices, they tend to slip out through them. So, essential care has to be taken to keep your tank intact and safe for your loaches.

Aquarium mates

When you are choosing aquarium mates for your Kuhli Loach remember to pair them up with other smaller peace loving fish. 

Kuhli loach tank mates include Tetras, Corydoras, Rasboras and Danios  as they can all happily exist in the same tank without creating any problems for each other. They are all small fish that are very happy to keep to themselves, and they understand that they are not a threat to each other. The loaches are going to be at the bottom of the tank, so the fish that occupy the top layers are their best mates. Minnows, Oto Catfishes and Gouramis that spend their time in the middle layers can also be inducted into the tanks with the Kuhli Loach.

Never ever put your loaches with Tiger Barbs, Cichlids or the Chinese algae eaters. These are big fish that are aggressive and can tend to nip off the fins of the smaller loaches and can never let them live in peace. When these bigger fish get more aggressive, when they are hungry or are mating, they even have a tendency to eat up the smaller tank mates.  Therefore, care should be taken not to add bigger fish in a tank of loaches.

Matt Hook

Matt hook has been a passionate aquarist since he was 5 and now he is professional aquarist. Through this blog he plans share his knowledge to beginners. Feel free to contact him if you have any queries.