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A guide on raising Kuhli loaches

Kuhli loach, picture 1 Kuhli loach, picture 2 Kuhli loach, picture 3 Kuhli loach, picture 4 Kuhli loach, picture 5 Kuhli loach, picture 6

Brief Description

The article below is designed to give you some background information regarding the Kuhli Loach which we hope will prove to be interesting and we will also cover how to care for these fish and provide them with long and happy lives. It is a general article designed to newcomers for these fish and should prove to be a good basis if you are considering keeping them in your own aquarium.


The Kuhli loach originate from Asia namely Indonesia and the Malay peninsula, they have a body shape that closely resembles an eel but they are in no way related. They are a very stream lined fish with small fins which are located towards the rear of their body, the dorsal fin unusually is located towards the rear just over halfway along and the most noticeable aspect of the Kuhli loach has to be the dark barring that in the form of vertical stripes, these can range from a dark brown to black dependant on the individual and in number they range from 10 to 15. Their background colour can range from a pink right through to a yellow colouration making these fish a beautiful sight in any aquarium. The Kuhli loach does possess barbels making the choice of substrate a key issue, this will be covered in the next section in more detail but always make sure that any décor or substrate does not have sharp edges or the barbels will be damaged. The eyes of this fish are very small and they are always situated in the vertical stripe so observing the eye can be difficult but the eye ball is covered by a protective membrane.

Unfortunately many keepers purchase these fish for their colours without realising that they are nocturnal, the loach is very rarely seen in the daylight hours and some keepers even think that they may have lost their fish only for it to re-appear at a later date after hiding in the décor, keeping them in a group of at least 5 specimens will help them to settle better in the aquarium and give them a bit more confidence to emerge every now and again in the daylight hours but this will still not be a common sight.

Setting up the aquarium for the Kuhli Loach

As mentioned above these fish do possess barbels so it cannot be stressed enough about avoiding substrate and décor with sharp edges, the barbels are easily damaged and may never heal. The best substrate to use is a smooth sand or even rounded gravel but check the gravel carefully before adding it to the aquarium. The adult size of these fish varies between 3-5 inches (8-13 cm), this is quite small compared to many species of loaches so a 20 gallon (90 liters, 24 US gallons) aquarium will be large enough to house a small group of these but make sure that a tight fitting lid is in place, they are great escape artists if given the chance and can squeeze out of the smallest of spaces. The lighting should be subdued, being a nocturnal species bright lighting will only encourage them to hide.

Cooler water temperatures are preferred by the Kuhli loach, a range between 22-26 °C (72-89 °F) is ideal, more importantly is the water quality. Do not add these to a new set up, the tank must be cycled as the Kuhli loach do not like swings in the water parameters. Once cycled the ideal parameters are a pH that reads between 6.0 and 7.0, the water should be soft and acidic. The filtration should be thought about carefully as well, a steady water flow should be aimed for so you may need to turn down the filter outlet for this and make sure that the inlets are covered with a mesh or similar as noted above the Kuhli loach can squeeze into the smallest of spaces.

These fish love densely planted aquariums, they will spend most of their time at the bottom of the tank grouping up with each other around the bases of the plants, many keepers also add almond leaves as not only do these help to soften the water but they also provide extra hiding places for the loaches.

Always perform regular water changes and do not keep these fish with aggressive species as they can become intimidated. Angelfish can be a good companion as these fish tend to inhabit the higher levels as well as having a moderate temperament compared to some of the other cichlids available. Tetras and even Corydoras can be kept as well but try not to overcrowd the bottom levels if adding catfish.

Feeding the Kuhli Loach

These fish are not difficult to feed but remember that they are most active after lights out so it does pay to feed these fish in the evenings rather than during the daytime. Also take care not to overfeed the loaches as this can lead to digestive problems such as blockages, refraining from feeding one day per week will help them to clear out their systems and keep them healthy. A healthy diet for the Kuhli loach is a varied diet that contains protein as well as vegetable matter. Quality flake food or small sinking pellets provide a good base for the diet but vary this with live or frozen foods such as grindal worms, white worms. If feeding with bloodworms it is wise to only offer these once per week as they are prone to causing digestive blockages. Vegetables that can be offered are blanched spinach, cucumber, blanched peas etc., any food that hits the bottom of the aquarium will be found by the Kuhli loach, these are excellent fish for keeping the substrate clean of uneaten food.

Breeding the Kuhli Loach

To say that the Kuhli loach does not breed in the aquarium as some profiles state is not strictly true, what is correct is that breeding programs are rarely successful and more times than not the loach breeds of its own accord without the keeper realising. Tell tale signs are the male swimming around the females and intertwining with her, sexing is a bit hit and miss, the most obvious way is to observe a female with a swollen belly as she fills with eggs.

What is known is that the eggs are green in colouration and sticky, the female will spread the eggs around as she lays them and where they fall they will stick. Hatching should occur after 24 hours and the fry are very small so will require very small food such as infusoria.

The parent fish will scavenge on the eggs so it may be wise to remove the parents until the eggs have hatched and the fry have some chance of survival.

Diseases and the Kuhli loach

There are no actual diseases associated with these fish but like all fish species they will contract diseases at some stage in their lives if the water quality is poor or the aquarium is infected from other sources. They are a scale-less fish so be careful when using medications many treatments can do more harm than good so check the label or seek advice before using.


There are definitely more good reports than bad reports regarding keeping the Kuhli Loach in the aquarium. They make a great addition and even for a nocturnal species can provide movement in the evening hours. Cared for properly they will have long lives and provide hours of pleasure for their keeper!

If you have any questions that you require answering please do not hesitate to ask and advice will be freely given via this website.

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