Freshwater Fish

Kuhli Loach – Pangio Kuhlii: Care Guide

If you want an efficient cleaner fish that doesn’t get too big and is a peaceful member of the community, the Kuhli Loach (Pangio kuhlii) might be what you’re looking for.

Kuhli loaches live on the bottom and come out at night to scour the substrate for food debris. These attractive fish can be very sensitive to water conditions and fish medications, so we recommend that you have some experience keeping fish if you want to keep them.

To learn more about these colorful eel-like fish and how to care for them, keep reading!


Scientific name Pangio kuhlii
Common name (species) Kuhli Loach, Coolie Loach, Giant Coolie Loach, Leopard Loach, Cinnamon Loach
Family Cobitidae
Source Southeast Asia; Sumatra, Singapore, West Malaysia, Java, Borneo, and Thailand.
Diet Omnivore, prefers live foods.
level of care Intermediate
Exercise Active bottom-dwelling scavengers
Life expectancy Up to 10 years
Temper peaceful community fish
tank level Bottom dweller during the day, all areas at night
Minimum tank size 20 gallons
Temperature range Tropical 73° to 86° Fahrenheit
Hardness of water 0 – 5 dGH
pH range 5.5 to 6.5
Filtration / Flow Rate Likes clean, well-oxygenated water and a good flow rate
type of water Sweet water
Breeding Egg layer, difficult to breed in home aquariums
Compatibility Peaceful with small, non-aggressive community fish.
OK, for planted tanks? insurance with plants


The Kuhli loach (Pangio kuhlii) was previously known as Acanthophthalmus kuhlii and was first described by Achille Valenciennes in 1846.

Today, Kuhli loaches are found in Southeast Asia, Singapore, Sumatra, West Malaysia, Borneo, Thailand, and Java. The species is not currently listed or evaluated on the IUCN Red List of Endangered Species.


In their wild environment, these loaches inhabit slow-moving mountain rivers and streams. The substrate here is predominantly soft and sandy and is covered with leaf litter that falls from the shaded forest canopy and protrudes.

Although they are not natural schooling fish, Kuhli loaches are often found living in small groups of their own kind.


The body of the fish is pinkish-yellow, crossed by 12 to 17 dark vertical bands, and there are three dark bars on the head. The head of the Kuhli loach is scaleless. The eyes are covered by transparent skin and protected by a small spine in front of them. Kuhli loaches have three pairs of whiskered barbels. The dorsal fin of the loach is far back and the anal fin is located at the end of the dorsal.

Kuhli loaches can also be found in albino form, known as Albino Kuhli loaches. The albino form is artificially created through captive breeding and is not believed to occur naturally in the wild population.


Kuhli loaches are small, worm-like creatures that typically grow to between 3 and 4.5 inches in length, although they are often slightly smaller than aquarium loaches.


Kuhli loaches generally live up to ten years in captivity, provided they receive good care and a high-quality diet.


Kuhli loaches are peaceful fish that get along with most other species in the community.

These fish are primarily nocturnal, emerging when the aquarium lights go out to search for food at the bottom of the tank. Kuhli loaches are incredibly active fish, swimming throughout the aquarium at night and putting on quite a show that you can see if you have a moonlight feature on your LED lighting unit.

During the day, loaches hide in caves and crevices, leading to calamity if you leave your filter inlets unprotected and the worm-like loaches wriggle inside to seek shelter.

Kuhli loaches also enjoy burrowing in the substrate.



Although they are not school fish by nature, loaches are more relaxed and settled if they are kept with a few companions of their own kind. Another reason to offer your Kuhli loaches is that they can be very shy creatures when left alone, so you have a better chance of seeing them if they have a few trusting friends.


Kuhli loaches are peaceful and docile fish that spend most of their time swimming around the bottom of the tank. So while other small, peaceful catfish species like corydoras may be suitable companions in a large, spacious tank, loaches tend to do better with other social species that hang out high in the water column, like tetras, danios and rasboras.

It can also include invertebrates such as shrimp and larger peaceful fish, including the community dwarf gouramis.


To ensure harmony in the tank, do not add large territorial fish species such as Oscars and cichlids. Bullies and pliers are also best avoided, including tiger barbs and angelfish.

Although the small snails can be useful as algae feeders, they do not mix well with Kuhli loaches which may see the molluscs as a food source.


A crucial aspect of fish farming is feeding your fish the correct, high-quality diet in the correct quantity.


Kuhli loaches are omnivorous. In the wild, fish eat small crustaceans, plant matter, and insect larvae that they find in the substrate.

In captivity, these fish are scavengers, spending much of their time foraging at the bottom of the aquarium and eating any morsels of food that fall from above. A good diet for Kuhli loaches includes high-quality fish flakes or pellets, live and frozen meaty foods, such as bloodworms, daphnia, grindal worms, brine shrimp, and micro-worms.


When feeding your loaches, remember that they are most active at night. Therefore, the best time to feed the fish is just before the lights go out and first thing in the morning. If you moonlight in your tank, you will be able to enjoy watching the frenzied activity that will ensue when you drop the loach food into the water.

I suggest that you feed your loaches twice a day, offering them enough food to last them a couple of minutes or so.


All species of fish thrive best when kept in an environment that replicates their natural, wild habitat. So keep this in mind when setting up a tank for your loaches.


We recommend a tank of at least 20 gallons for Kuhli loaches, allowing three to five gallons of water per loach.

Since loaches are lively bottom dwellers, it’s best to use a rectangular tank with plenty of floor space rather than a tall, deep setup.

Kuhli loaches can jump, so choose a tank with a slip-on lid or a well-fitting lid.



A soft, sandy or fine gravel substrate is the best choice for bottom-dwelling Kuhli loaches.


In the wild, the natural habitat of loaches is highly vegetated, so the aquarium should provide a large number of lush plants. The bodies of water in which the loaches inhabit are usually hung by the forest canopy and the substrate is covered with leaf litter. You can use dried almond leaves or peat moss to produce a similar effect in the aquarium.

Loaches like to hide during the day, so include some driftwood, caves, tangled roots, and large rocks.



Kuhli loaches like clean, well-oxygenated water, so we recommend that you use a gravel filter with a pump that provides a turnover rate of at least ten times an hour. It’s also a good idea to add a powerhead or canister filter to provide the ideal stream for these loaches.

Be sure to cover the inline and outlet piping of your filter system so loaches cannot swim in and become trapped.


water temperature

Kuhli loaches are tropical fish that need a water temperature of 73° to 86° Fahrenheit.

pH range and water hardness

Aquarium water should be soft with a hardness between 0 and 5 dGH, and the pH should be slightly acidic in the range of 5.5 to 6.5.

Turning on

To replicate their natural habitat, the lighting in the Kuhli loach’s tank should be dim. You can help diffuse light by using a series of floating plants.


Kuhli loaches need pristine, extremely well-oxygenated water to thrive. For this reason, we recommend that you do 30% water changes every week.

You can help keep the water clean and reduce the biological load in your biological filtration system by deep cleaning the substrate once a week with an aquarium vacuum. Pay special attention to hot spots, including under decorations, around the bottoms of plants, and in the corners of the tank.

Clean and replace filter media and sponges regularly according to each manufacturer’s recommendations.


Due to the Kuhli Loach’s sensitivity to water conditions, I do not recommend introducing these fish to a new or immature aquarium. In general, it’s best to wait until your tank has had a chance to fully settle and stabilize before adding loaches.

To set up your tank from scratch, start by assembling all the items you need:

  • Sandy or fine gravel substrate
  • lighting unit
  • Filtration system
  • Heater
  • aquarium thermometer
  • Decorations, including driftwood, twisted roots, rocks, and caves
  • dried almond leaves
  • Floors


  1. Rinse the substrate under running water to remove dust and dirt. Even primed and rinsed substrate tends to have a fair amount of loose dirt, so it’s always a good idea to wash it first.
  2. Place clean substrate in your tank to a depth of about two to three inches.
  3. Install the heater and filter unit in the tank, but do not turn them on yet.
  4. Next, fill the tank with water. To avoid displacing the substrate when you pour the water into the tank, place an upside down container on the substrate and slowly pour the water over it.
  5. To start the nitrogen cycle in the biological filter medium, the water must contain ammonia. Therefore, treat your tap water with a water conditioner to remove harmful chlorine or chloramine, and then add a few drops of pure ammonia, a pinch of fish food, or some substrate from an established tank.
  6. Wash the tank decorations to remove dust and add them to your tank.
  7. Cut dead stems and trim brown or dead leaves from your live plants. Leave enough space between plants so they can spread out and grow properly, placing low-growing varieties at the front of the tank and taller species at the bottom.
  8. Turn on the filtration system and heater, and then let the tank run for at least ten days before introducing your fish. If you have included live plants in your setup, turn on your tank lights for eight to ten hours per day.
  9. After ten days have passed, test the water. Ammonia and nitrite levels must be zero and nitrates must be a maximum of 20 ppm. If the levels are higher than that, the tank is not fully cycled, so give it a few days before testing the water again.


Although Kuhli Loaches are fairly hardy fish, they are not recommended as a beginner fish. These fish have very small body scales and no head scales. That makes the fish more susceptible to disease, as well as making them very sensitive to most medications.


Kuhli loaches tend to hide during the day and come out at night to search and socialize with their group.

These loaches are generally extremely lively and active at night, running around all areas of the tank in search of food.


There are a few red flags that can alert you to health problems in your loaches, including:

  • not eat
  • They appear mainly during the day.
  • Night inactivity.
  • Swellings, ulcers and reddened areas of the skin.
  • Rubbing against objects in the tank or on the substrate.


Health problem Symptoms or causes suggested action
Ich (white spot disease) Ich is a common disease of tropical and cold water fish that is also called white spot disease. Ich is caused by a protozoan parasite, manifesting as a rash of white spots on the body, gills, and fins of the fish. Fish with ich usually hit objects in the tank in the early stages of the disease. Raise the water temperature to 82o F for three days and treat the water with a loach-safe over-the-counter medication.
skin and gill flukes Flukes are parasites that attach to the body and gills of fish. Infected fish rub against the substrate and solid surfaces within the tank, as well as secreting excessive mucus. Treat the entire tank with loach-safe deworming medication.
fungal infections White cotton-like growths. Fish affected by quarantine; Treat the water with a loach-safe antifungal medication.
Bacterial infections Reddened spots on the skin, ulcers. Fish affected by quarantine; Dose the aquarium with a loach-safe antibacterial treatment.
skinny disease Flaca disease commonly affects loaches. If the fish are eating well but are losing weight, Skinny’s disease is likely the cause. Internal parasites cause the disease. Treat the tank with a loach-safe antibacterial medication.


Although it is very difficult to breed Kuhli loaches in the home aquarium, it can sometimes be done if a spawning tank is used.


Loaches are communal breeders, so you have a better chance of success if you keep a mixed group of specimens. So how do boys differ from girls?

In sexually mature male Kuhli loaches, the first pectoral fin ray is thickened and branched. Fully grown female specimens are generally heavier and larger than their male counterparts. Egg-carrying females are fatter than males.


In the spawning tank, the lighting should be dim and the water should be shallow.

Include plenty of floating plants to diffuse lighting and provide a place where the females can lay their eggs. Dense vegetation also helps encourage spawning.

Keep pH levels around 6.5.

Offer the fish a lot of live food so that they are in the best conditions for reproduction.


When the females are almost ready to lay their eggs, you may be able to see the eggs through the fish’s skin.

When the bright green eggs are laid, they attach to the underside of floating plants and hatch after about 24 hours. The adult fish will eat the eggs and fry them, so be sure to remove the adults once they have laid their eggs.

Feed the fry commercially prepared brine shrimp, infusoria, and fry foods.


You can find Kuhli loaches for sale at most good fish stores and online for just a few dollars per specimen.


  • a grid
  • algae magnet
  • aquarium thermometer
  • aquarium vacuum cleaner
  • Books on tropical fish farming
  • Filtration system
  • Fish tank (minimum size 20 gallons)
  • Heater
  • High quality tropical fish flakes or pellets
  • lighting unit
  • Plants, including floating species
  • Rocks, driftwood, twisted roots, caves
  • Sandy or fine gravel substrate
  • Frozen food selection
  • water conditioner


I hope you enjoyed our guide to caring for the fascinating Kuhli Loach.

Can you keep Kuhli loaches? Have you raised these fish in your home tank? Tell us in the comment box below.

And please share our article with other fishing enthusiasts if you enjoyed it!

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