Kuhli Loach – Habitat, Care, Feeding, Tank Size, Breeding

The Kuhli Loach is a member of the Cobitidae family, and it is also known as the cinnamon Loach, Leopard Loach, or the Coolie Loach. They are excellent aquarium cleaners and will spend a lot of time scavenging for food around the tank.

The loaches are more suited for intermediate and expert aquarists since they are vulnerable to diseases. The fish is more active at night, and it dwells at the bottom of the tank.


The slender body of the Kuhli Loach makes it resemble more of an eel than a fish. While it can grow to five inches, it will mostly reach three inches in the aquarium. It has small fins, and its dorsal fin is located close to the tail rather than the middle of their body.

Many individuals are multi-colored, and their bodies are mostly pink yellow. The underside is slightly lighter, and there are 12-17 broad dark stripes either around the whole body or up to the belly.

The Kuhli Loach is also characterized by four pairs of barbels around its mouth. They use these barbels to scavenge around their surroundings, looking for food. Under each eye of the fish is a pair of sharp spines that discourage predation.


The Kuhli Loach has been recorded in freshwater streams located in Southeast Asia. Its populations have also been identified in Java and Borneo Islands, Malaysia, Sumatra, and Singapore.

The Kuhli Loach has adapted to slow-moving forest streams characterized by muddy bottoms. There is low penetration in these waters as they are surrounded by thick forests and have a lot of fallen leaves. These streams are acidic with a PH range of 3.0-4.0 and a low mineral content.


In the wild, Kuhli Loaches practice an omnivorous lifestyle that includes plant material, larvae, and small crustaceans.

Being bottom-dwellers, you should give the loaches sinking pellets and granules. You can provide frozen or live daphnia, tubifex, brine shrimp, and bloodworms. The fish will easily dig out any meals that gets into the substrate. You can also include vegetables in homemade recipes to sustain a balanced diet.

Feed your Kuhli loaches several times a day, but only enough to be eaten in two to three minutes.

Water & Tank Requirements

Kuhli Loaches are social fish, and you should keep three to six of them in a single tank. Such a group will quickly outgrow a small container, and it is recommended to keep them in a minimum of 20 gallons. The fish have a reasonably low bio-load, but they will be more comfortable in a large tank.

Temperature & PH

Kuhli loaches prefer slightly acidic water, and the ideal PH range is 5.5-6.5. Being tropical fish, the temperature should be between 73 to 86ºF. The fish are adapted to softer water with a range of 0-5 dGH.


Kuhli loaches require a soft substrate since they like burrowing into a tank’s bottom. You can use sand or fine gravel and avoid substrates with sharp edges with the potential to injure the fish.

The loaches lay eggs between the roots of plants, and you will need a well-planted tank. Some aquarists spread peat moss in their shells, and you can include common aquatic plants like the Java Fern. Driftwood, stones, and large rocks will provide hiding spaces for your loaches.

Water Conditions

Although the loaches produce a relatively small bio-load, you will still need to invest in a filter. You can opt for a canister model or a hang-on-back filter for your tank.

An under-gravel will help with waste reduction while also promoting oxygenation. Cover the intakes of the filters since Kuhli Loaches are notorious for getting stuck in them.


The Kuhli loaches are noted for being actively social. They should be kept in numbers, and the larger, the better. As long as they are in groups, you will spot them interacting with each other. They will be shy when kept alone, and will spend a lot of time hiding.

It is ideal to couple your loaches with small and non-aggressive fish like tetras, Corydoras, guppies, white cloud mountain minnows, and rasboras. You should particularly look for species that occupy the top and middle areas of the aquarium.

Fish like gouramis are perfect tankmates because they swim in the middle. If you keep the loaches with other bottom-dwellers, ensure they are peaceful species like the Red Cherry Shrimp.

You should not pair Kuhli Loaches with territorial species and bullies, including Tiger Barbs, Cichlids, Angelfish, bettas, and Red-Tailed Sharks.

It is not recommended to keep Kuhli Loaches with shrimps since the former loves to snack on the latter. The loach commonly flips the shrimp over and rips it out of its shell.

The loaches will also feed on small snails and snail eggs but will generally leave bigger snails alone.


Male Kuhli loaches exhibit a thick and branched first ray on the pectoral fin, but females are generally thicker than males.

It is rare for Kuhli loaches to breed successfully in captivity. There is no specific trigger for the spawning of the fish since it loves to hide and is a nocturnal species by all accounts.

Most aquarists will condition the loaches as they do with other fish, which means feeding them high-quality meals and maintain pristine water conditions.

To improve the chances of success, you can keep a group of loaches in a specialized breeding tank. The aquarium should have many live floating plants and a lower water level to mimic the shallow waters of its natural habitat.

Some aquarists stimulate spawning via injections of gonadotrophin, after which the process begins in six to eight hours.

The females will get larger if the spawning is successful, and they will lay 500 to 700 eggs. The eggs are typically laid on the underside of plants, and they have a vibrant green color to them.

Remove the parents to discourage them from feeding on the eggs and wait for the eggs to hatch in just 24 hours.

The fry starts swimming after four days, and they feed on infusoria, brine shrimp, or tiny pieces of flake food. The young loaches become striped in a month and reach sexual maturity in 8-12 months.


If you are looking for active aquarium cleaners, consider keeping Kuhli loaches. They are small and peaceful and have a small bio-load.

The loaches are nocturnal, and you can fail to spot them during the day when they hide. The demands of Kuhli loaches are, however, more suited to experienced aquarists.

Updated: March 2, 2020

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