Kuhli Loach scientifically known as pangio kuhlii is a tropical freshwater fish that originates from South East Asia.  This fish is also referred to as Coolie Loach or Leopard Loach.  This species belongs to the family of Cobitidae. This species is a great cleaner fish and they co-exist well with other fish.  They are very interesting with an appearance that stands out among others and this is what has made them popular among aquarists.

Iidkk, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

His species was first classified back in 1846 and they have a long history. This species is considered to be among the many foods that were used by Indonesians in the past. This day the species has grown in popularity among aquariums across the world and they still maintain most of the features they had in the wild.  This species is an amazing addition to the aquarium and the experience is rewarding.

They have also become so popular in the aquarium world due to the fact that they are peaceful with their sociable temperament and their burrowing behavior which is unique.  Before taking the step of adding their species to your tank you need to have some information regarding the care of this species. This guide seeks to give you extensive information on how to take care of this species.

By the end of this guide, you will have a deeper understanding of the Kuhli Loach and you will be able to determine whether it is worth being in your aquarium.


Scientific NamePangio Kuhlii
Size3 to 4 inches
ColorYellow with brown bands
Care levelIntermediate
Lifespan10 years
Tank size20 gallons
Temperature73 to 86 degrees F
Freshwater or saltwaterFreshwater


This species is not a schooling fish at all. The best tank mates to this species are more Kuhli Loaches.  They become more active and happy around about five or more species of the same variety. This species is generally peaceful and they do not bother other fish in the tank.  Therefore they will peacefully co-exist with their non-aggressive fish. If you want to include other different types of fish in the small tank with this species you can look for the fish that dwell in different sections of the tank from these ones.

This species loves dwelling at the bottom of the tank as they burrow in the substrate.  The ideal tank mates should be those that spend most of their time in the middle or upper section of the tank. This does not mean that they cannot completely co-exist with other bottom dwellers. They can but they should be peaceful ones.

Some of the deal tank mates include:

  • Tetras
  • Rasboras
  • Mollies
  • Corydoras
  • Danios
  • Non aggressive Gourami
  • Guppies

There are also some of the species that you should avoid putting in the same tank with this species such as the territorial and aggressive ones.  Also, the large fish should be avoided since they might eat the Loaches thinking it is food. Some of these species include:

  • Arowanas
  • Cichlids
  • Betta fish
  • Tiger Barbs


This fish has a slender body which is one of the most identifying features of this fish.  They are easy to confuse eels at first sight.  They have thin bodies and the fins are relatively small and can be hard to spot them. They do not have a distinguishable lateral line.  This species has a visible dorsal fin but it is situated further back compared to the other fish species.  Mostly this fin is found at the middle of the body but for this species, it can be found on their lower third close to the tail.

Most of these species are multicolored with the base having a bright pink to brassy yellow coloration.  The underside of this species is a bit lighter than the upper side.  This species also has 10 to 15 dark strips o top of the base color.  They resemble a tiger.  The dark brown lines may go round the entire body or some may stop at the belly and this depends on the individual fish.

Another unique physical trait in this species is their barbels.  They have four pairs of barbels around their mouth and they are crucial in helping them feel the food around.  Their eyes are covered by thin transparent skin.  They are able to see but their barbels help them navigate within their surroundings better.  This species also has some sharp spines below each eye. These spines will rarely be visible when the fish is relaxed but when they are threatened they will pop up.

This is a defense mechanism that helps them to ward off predators.  In case they are getting eaten they use these spines as the last line of defense to harm their attackers.


This fish is not very big and not so small and therefore it is on average.  In the wild, this species can grow to a maximum size of 5 inches during maturity but in captivity, they tend to be 3 to inches.  Due to their size, they do not need a lot of space in your aquarium and that is why they are common in home aquariums.


This species originates from South East Asia. They are mainly found frequenting the clean, slow-moving rivers and streams in Malaysia, Singapore, Sumatra, Thailand, and Borneo.  Despite the fact that this species is not a schooling one, they are social and they will often form groups in the wild.  In the wild this species is nocturnal and therefore they will spend the night scavenging the riverbeds for food.

This species is so popular in captivity and these species are mainly wild-caught instead of breeding in aquariums. They have since grown in popularity in other parts of the world.


Just like any other fish species, the lifespan of Kuhli Loach is determined by the conditions they will be provided with and the diet they are feeding. Under the optimum condition, this species can live up to 10 years. For this to be achieved the water conditions must be followed correctly and they should be fed the appropriate diet.


Despite their beautiful looks that are attractive this species is not entirely about attention.  They love staying under the radar. This is common especially when they are in a community tank with other species. When they are alone they can be a bit reclusive and shy.  You are not likely to see them must during the day even when they have others around.

This species loves staying quiet in the hiding spots. However, they will be more active and start to scavenger for food on the substrate when the sun goes down. This is a replication of any they do in their natural habitat since they spend most of their time burrowing in riverbeds and sifting for something to eat. Being bottom dwellers you will not find this species on the upper sections of the tank often.

These species are very mellow on matters to do with temperament. They are generally peaceful and will easily be compatible with other species as long as you will leave them alone.  They have sharp spikes that they use to defend themselves in case they are threatened or attacked by other species in the aquarium. They will rarely use them unless there is a need to do so.


The Kuhli Loaches thrive in their natural environment and therefore there is a need to mimic the natural conditions in captivity. The tank setup and the water parameters should be like those in the natural home. This will ensure your fish is happy and thriving.  Below are some of the points that you need to keep in mind when setting up a tank;


This species is not large in size and therefore you do not need a large tank to keep your Kuhli Loach comfortably. The ideal tank size should be at least 20 gallons and this is for a single Loach. If you want to keep multiple of them in the same tank, you should add 4 gallons for every species you add.  As you set up the tank you should keep in mind that this species is a bottom dweller and therefore the floor size of the tank is very crucial.  The bottom side of the tank should have a wide volume so as to give the fish ample space to swim and do other activities.  The ideal shape of the tank for this species should be a long and rectangular one.


In an effort to reduce the waste in the tank and keep the water well oxygenated, it is advisable to use a gravel filter. You can also opt for different types of filters such as canister and hang-on back filters although they can be a bit expensive.  You should go for a filter with a minimum turnover of ten times per hour.

Despite the type of filter that you will choose, ensure that the one you pick has a covered intake since there are many causes of the Kuhli Loaches swimming up the uncovered filters and trapping themselves to death.  This should be the main priority when setting the tank.

  • LID

These species are notorious jumpers and therefore if you eve the aquarium uncovered they are going to jump off the aquarium. To prevent this it is advisable to use a lid and cover the top of the tank. There should be a space between the water surface and the lid to prevent them from hitting the lid and getting injured when they jump. The lid also ensures the tank is protected against dirt which might contaminate the water.


In the wild, these species do not get direct access to sunlight and therefore you can try to reflect some into the aquarium.  The light should not be so bright but moderate.


As said earlier this species is a bottom dweller that spends most of the time at the bottom of the tank as they scavenge for food.  Therefore, you need to ensure the choice of substrate you make is smooth and soft enough so as to avoid injuring the fish.  In the natural habitat, this species has a varying substrate that ranges from sand to mud and even peat.  Therefore in the aquarium, you can go for a combination of fine gravel and sand it will be perfect. However, the fine gravels should not have sharp edges.


This species loves hiding especially during the day and therefore they need to have some decorations which will provide these hiding spots.  You can provide some driftwoods, rocks, caves, and twigs and the fish will be comfortable and happy. You should however ensure these decorations do not have rough surfaces and sharp edges that could get the fish injured.

When you keep the Kuhli Loach in an open tank with no hiding places they will get stressed. In a community tank, you will need to provide more hiding spots since they will serve as retreat areas whenever they are threatened by other fish and species.  You should however be careful not to overcrowd the aquarium with the decorations and deny the fish an ample swimming space.

If you are providing caves and castles as decorations in your aquarium and they have holes, ensure they are wide enough so that you do not get your fish trapped inside.


This species loves living in thick and dense vegetation.  The plants also act as hiding spots and them also dim light in the aquarium by providing shadows.  Therefore you should look for the appropriate aquarium plants.  Some of the ideal choices include cryptocoryne and java fern.  You should however trim them on a regular basis so as to avoid turning them into wild. 

It is advisable to use the live plants more but you can sometimes resort to artificial ones as long as they are not made from toxic materials.  This is when you do not want to deal with the hustle of rearing live ones.


Before adding the decorations, substrate and any other equip men into the tan ensure that they do not have any residue in them.  This can be done by cleaning using lukewarm water and a piece of cloth. You should avoid using any soap-based or chemical-based products since they may have adverse effects on the health of your fish.

Simply, you can put the decoration under running water as you clean them.  When it comes to substrate cleaning you can vacuum it to remove excess waste and food leftovers.  You should not remove any biofilm on the decorations and rocks. In order to clear the viewing pane, you can go for a magnet algae cleaner. However, it is not mandatory.


The water you are putting in your aquarium is very important since it directly affects your fish. It is therefore important to ensure that you provide quality water and your fish will have a long and happy life.  Below are some of the water parameters that you should put into consideration when setting up your aquarium;


The Kuhli Loaches are tropical fish and therefore, the water should be relatively warm with an average temperature of between 73 to 86 degrees F. You should ensure the water is always within the range, and in case of a drop, you can use a heater to warm it.


These species prefer living in water that is slightly acidic. Therefore you should ensure that the PH level ranges from 5.5 to 6.5


Ensure that you provide soft water with general hardness of between 0 to 5 Dgh.


Just like any other fish, this species makes its tank dirty due to the heavy bioload.  It is therefore important to keep replacing water on a regular basis.  The water should be changed in a fixed interval and the percentage of water that is being replaced should depend on the interval.  You can choose to go for weekly, fortnightly, or monthly intervals.

If you are planning to replace water on a weekly basis you should change approximately 10 percent of water in the aquarium. If you are going for fortnightly you should replace 25 percent and if you choose to replace on monthly basis you should go for 40 percent.

The new water that you are adding to the tank should meet all the parameters as required. From temperature, hardness, and PH level. You should not replace the water in its entirety since this will kill all the beneficial bacteria in your aquarium.


The process of introducing this species into a new tank should be slow and steady. You should not start by just directly throwing them into a new tank since this might cause a new tank syndrome and they might get stressed.  You should start by putting the bag they came in into the tank for about 30 minutes. The bag will float on water and the Loaches inside will get used to the temperatures of water.

After around 30 minutes replace around 10 percent of water in the bag with the tank water and give it some time. Continue adding water until you have replaced about 50 percent and then you can release the fish in the tank gently. The fish will be used to take water parameters and will easily adapt.


Kuhli Loaches are omnivores in nature. To thrive and have a long life they need a healthy balanced diet that is rich in protein and plant-based nutrients.  Being scavengers this species will feed on anything given to them and therefore it is upon you to ensure you feed them on the right diet.

They naturally feed on flies, worms, mosquito larvae, and bloodworms along with the plants found in the wild. The ideal diet of this species should be a combination of live foods, prepared foods, and vegetables. It is important for every aquarist to ensure the food they are feeding their fish s of high quality.

Most of the manufacturing companies produce high grain content food and this should never be your choice for any fish.  Fish species do not generally feed on wheat, corn, and soy in the wild and therefore they should not be fed on these kind of food in captivity since they may be harmful. The main reason why they need not to feed on grain foods is due to the fact that they are prone to swim bladder issues.

The diet should be free from grain foods and the ideal source of food should be live foods supplemented by fresh vegetables and freeze-dried or frozen foods.  Being bottom-dwellers it is important to ensure the food you are giving them is sinking. This is because if you feed them on floating food they will not be able to eat properly since they cannot swim on the upper section.

The fish should be fed several times a day but you should be careful not to overfeed them. The food should be into small pieces for easy swallowing.  Being nocturnal the Kuhli Loaches should be fed early in the morning or during the night when they are active.


It is a bit challenging to breed this species in captivity. They are very stubborn and will demand specific environmental conditions in order to breed. However difficult it is, it can be done but it will require a lot of patience and knowledge. The first step of breeding is sexing but it is s unfortunate that the male and female do not have any difference in their appearance when they are not breeding.  They are virtually identical. Some aquarists claim that the males have larger pectoral fins but the difference is very small.

However, as they get closer to breeding the females begin to stand out. Thus species take about 2 years to attain maturity and when they are ready to spawn the female’s balloons in size. Sometimes their ovaries can be seen through their skins. This species is a communal breeder, you do not need to pair them to breed. To increase the chances of spawning you can keep them together in large groups and put them in a specialized breeding tank.

If you want the o breed successfully you need to make them as comfortable as possible as the owner.  The best way to achieve this is by providing an environment that replicates their natural home.  This species lay eggs in shallow waters with dense vegetation. The breeding tank is supposed to have low levels of water and should also have some live floating plants. Having multiple plants in water may also enhance breeding. The light should remain dimed in the tank and the hardness should be lowered too. The ph. should be raised to around 6.5.

Once the breeding tank has been set up, you should give the fish some time to get used to it. During this period you should feed them on plenty of live foods and if they successfully pair and start breeding you should start to see the female getting bigger. Sometimes you might see some green eggs through the bellies.

When the Kuhli Loaches have laid the eggs you should act fast since they will feed on the eggs or the fries that hatch.  Keep an eye on those floating plants since the eggs are laid on the underside of these plants. The eggs have a vibrant green color and this means they should be spotted with ease.  They are laid in hundred and you should be able to identify a large clump of green. Once you see the eggs you should return the adults to the original tank.

The eggs take around 24 hours to hatch. The tiny fries should be fed on infusoria that is on the live plants in the tank.  Their meal should be supplemented with some freshly hatched brine shrimp or crushed-up flake foods.  You should ensure that you feed them on regular basis and the food should be protein-rich to support their development.


This species needs proper care in order to live a healthy life and attain the maximum lifespan. The process of taking care of this fish as said earlier is not simple and that is why they are not a good choice for beginners.  They are prone to diseases. Some of the common diseases include:

  • ICH

This species is prone to a parasitic disease called ich or the white spot disease since the body of this fish is not covered by a thick layer of scales.  This disease causes some white spots on the fish body and the fish will eventually stop eating and become lethargic. If you find out that your Kuhli Loach is infected by this disease quarantine it in a separate tank and increase the temperatures of water. To prevent this disease always ensure that your aquarium water adheres to the right conditions.


This Fish is small in size but that does not imply that they are not prone to fin rot disease. This fungal and bacterial infection can also affect this species. This infection is mainly caused by stress or poor tank conditions and it leads to ragged milky fins. To prevent this disease you should maintain the required tank conditions and avoid overcrowding the fish in the tank.

To treat this disease you should carry out a complete water change in the aquarium and use the antibiotics or antifungal medication that will be recommended by the vet.


Is the Kuhli Loach a freshwater fish?

Yes. The Kuhli Loach is a tropical freshwater fish that originates from South East Asia. They prefer living in clean, slow-moving rivers and streams.

Are Kuhli Loaches Aggressive?

No, this species is peaceful and they do not bother other species. They can easily get stressed if they are kept in the same tank with aggressive tank mates.

How many Kuhli Loaches should be kept together?

This species does not grow too big and therefore they can be kept with other species in large numbers. The number depends on the size of the tank since they should have enough space to avoid overcrowding.


The Kuhli Loach is a great creature with its peaceful temperament and curious nature.  This makes them fun and interesting to watch.  Being the scavengers they also keep your tank clean by eating all the food leftovers in the tank. They are however very sensitive and can easily contract diseases and that is why it is recommended to experienced aquarists.

With their long lifespan, you are assured of a long-lasting relationship with this fish and that is why you should consider having them in your aquarium. The guide has given you a clear and extensive guide on how to take care of this species. By following all the instructions you are assured of a healthy and happy Kuhli Loach fish.

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