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Kuhli loach is a small eel-like freshwater fish belonging to the loach family. The species is hardy and long-lived in the aquarium environment and get along well with their own kind.
Kuhli loaches are suited for household aquariums and can be kept alone in the tank. However, they are more active in a group, which closely relates to their wild practice.
Keep kuhli loach in a tropical freshwater aquarium, preferably one with sand or finely-grained gravel substrate.
The fish prefer water with a ph between 5.5 and 6.5 but will tolerate up to 7.0. Add soft water in your kuhli loach tank with a hardness of 5.0 dGH and a temperature range of 75°F to 86°F.
That said, let’s look at everything else you need to know to keep kuhli loach in your pet-tropical-aquarium. You will learn the best size tank, water condition, compatibility, how to care for leopard loach and more.
Kuhli Loach Overview
Kuhli loach is scientifically identified as Pangio kuhlii, but in the fish keeping hobby, it’s commonly referred to by any of these names: coolie loach, giant coolie loach, slimy loach, and leopard loach.
This eel-like species is native to Indonesia and the Malay peninsula from Malaysia, Southern Thailand all the way to the Southernmost tip of Myanmar.
Kuhli loaches inhabit sandy beds of slow-moving rivers and clean- mountain streams.
Given proper conditions, coolie loaches can live for up to 14 years in the wild and an average of 10 years in captivity. Their life begins after breeding between two adult fish with a few hundred greenish-eggs hatching into fry.
From when they are young, the loaches are bottom dwellers that prefer fine-gravel aquariums, plus they are nocturnal only feeding at night. However, it’s possible to train your kuhli loach to feed during the day.
In fish tanks, coolie loaches can be very timid so you will notice them dart underneath tank ornaments occasionally or bury themselves in the substrate.
It’s also not uncommon for these loaches to burrow or remain hidden for a long time. Sometimes to an extent new kuhli loach owners assume their fish are dead, only for them to reappear when the substrate is disturbed.
Kuhli Loach Appearance
The wild species has a slender snake-like body that is slightly compressed on the sides with three pairs of barbels around the mouth. They also have eyes that are covered in transparent skin.
The loaches fins are small with the dorsal flipper starting behind the middle of the body and the anal fin well aft.
Kuhli loaches have banded bodies with 10 to 15 dark-brown to black vertical bars and gaps between them that are salmon pink to yellow with a light underside.
Male and female loaches look eerily similar though the boys tend to have a more muscular dorsal fin and their pectoral fins tend to be larger and more puddle shaped. They also often have some pigment on them.
Nevertheless, breeding females may become stocky than males, but can easily be identified by their greenish ovaries seen through the skin before spawning.
Kuhli Loach Size—How Big Do Coolie Loaches Get?
Cooli loach reach maturity at 2.7 inches but continue to grow up to a maximum length of 4 to 5 inches. However, in a fish tank, they mostly don’t grow longer than 3.5 inches.
For this reason, kuhli loaches will live anywhere from a 10-gallon aquarium, but maintain them in a bigger fish tank if you want to keep a bigger school.
Kuhli Loach Tank and Water Conditions
As mentioned above, the natural habitat of kuhli loach is sandy beds of slow-moving rivers and clean mountain streams in the tropical climate.
Therefore, your fish tank should best replicate this environment.
The minimum size tank requirement for one kuhli loach fish living alone is 10-gallons and 20-gallons when kept in a school. Your tank should be heavily planted and have a fine gravel substrate.
However, kuhli loaches are pretty small, fairly easy to care for and quite hardy so you won’t need special aquariums conditions.
Also, their bioload is small which means you can go easy on the water changes especially if you don’t plan on adding other fish species with the loaches.
Nonetheless, the fish love water change and bubbles and will do the traditional kuhli happy dance when they like the conditions in your tank. They are also active and social and will venture out more when the aquarium is clean and healthy.
Add a few accessories like driftwood for your fish to hide and live aquarium plants because coolie loaches lay eggs among the roots of floating plants.
Use soft tap water that is slightly acidic to neutral in your fish tank but be sure the water is not too cold for your kuhli loach. Otherwise, you’ll need to get a heater for the tank.
Compatibility and Tankmates — Are Kuhli Loaches Aggressive?
Kuhli loaches are completely peaceful fish species that don’t express any form of aggression to tankmates.
They like to hang out at the bottom of the tank, and though can be kept alone, they are typically found in small clusters.
Therefore, keep your kuhli loaches in a species or community aquarium in groups of 4 to 5 fish. But it’s good to understand they are not schooling fish, they are just social species that loves company.
Moreover. kuhli loaches are cautious by nature and feed near the bottom around obstacles at night hence can be kept with mid-level and top dwelling fish that will rarely bother them.
Kuhli loaches are also compatible with small, docile species like white cloud mountain minnows, harlequin rasboras, guppies and neon tetras. Other good companions include bettas, gouramis, swordtails, tiger barbs and zebra danios.
Khuli Loaches and Shrimp
There is a chance kuhli loach will eat your shrimp when kept in the same fish tank. The loaches mostly flip shrimp over before ripping them out of the shell, the same way they do with snails.
It’s worse when an aquarist is not aware of this fact because loaches are nocturnal and live at the bottom with shrimp, so you most likely will never catch them in the act.
Plus both pets love heavily planted aquariums which means it is normal to assume your shrimp is just hiding, but in reality, they made a quick snack.
Therefore, if you must put kuhli loaches and shrimp together, know they are only compatible until the loaches grow large enough to eat the shrimp.
Another hack that could work is avoiding shrimplets with kuhli loach, instead, go with adult shrimps that won’t easily fit in the loaches mouth.
That being said, any shrimp you put in a fish tank is an expensive dinner, whether you have kuhli loaches or not. Many big carnivorous and some omnivorous fish will eat shrimp no problem.
Kuhli Loaches and Snails
If you put kuhli loaches with snails, you will most likely get mixed results because not all loaches are willing to eat snails especially if they are big.
So, in case you were wondering, kuhli loaches are not the most helpful fish at reducing adult snail populations.
However, there is a high likelihood your loaches will eat snail eggs and small snails.
To reduce snail crowds effectively, consider keeping kuhli loaches with other snail-eating species like assassin snails, yoyo loaches and ghost shrimp.
On the flip side, if you have small pet snail with kuhli loach in your tank, exert caution because your loaches may decide to whip them from their shell and make your pet an easy snack.
Nonetheless, the extent at which snails disappear from your tank will depend on the number of kuhli loaches you keep.
A big school will definitely cause more damage if all you have are pet snails but will help you take back your tank when staring at a pest snail invasion.
Kuhli Loach Food
Coolie loaches are omnivorous fish but mostly prefer meaty meals, so their diet should be supplemented with frozen and ideally live foods like bloodworms, mosquito larvae, and brine shrimp.
But for an everyday meal, feed them pellets and flake foods.
Kuhli loaches should be fed meaty food 2 to 3 times weekly, this will help them boost their protein levels. To balance the diet more, feed them vegetables which are rich in vitamins.
Moreover, the fish are known scavengers that usually sieve through the substrate in search of food. They rarely hunt food but instead, wait for pellets to sink from above the water then locate and it to eat.
For this reason, you will have your kuhli loaches feeding sufficiently from food left to fall by mid and top dwelling fish.
Put simply, in the fish tank, kuhli loaches are not fussy feed feeders and will eat a host of food including bloodworms, microworms, flake food, daphnia and foods that are designed to sink like loach pellets.
Besure to not only put floating food in the aquarium because kuhli loaches won’t reach the food thus you risk starving them.
Hope you enjoy the hobby