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Tropical Fish - Keeping Kuhli Loaches - a popular tropical loach

Updated on February 26, 2017

Keeping Kuhli Loaches

The Kuhli Loach (Pangio kuhli) is an attractive yet eel-like tropical fish that has become a very popular species for keeping in community tanks. The little fish has a salmon-pink or pale orange body with 10-15 dark brown or blackish bars in contrast across it.

Kuhli Loaches live mainly on the bottom of the tank where they scavenge for whatever they can find and will sometimes dig in the sand or gravel. They can move extremely fast if disturbed or frightened.

There are many related species that look very similar and also get sold as Kuhli or Coolie Loaches. They will all live happily enough together and are sociable little fish in any case. There are at least 25 related species in the Pangio genus.

Kuhli Loach photo

Kuhli Loaches. Photo by Linton Tuleja
Kuhli Loaches. Photo by Linton Tuleja | Source

The Kuhli Loach described

The Kuhlo Loach has the alternative scientific name of Acanthophthalmus kuhli and is also sold as the "Giant Coolie Loach," the "Slimy Loach" and the "Leopard Loach." They are peaceful fish and get along fine with most other species of tropical fish.

Kuhli Loaches have barbels around their mouths like many other bottom-feeding fish and they spend a lot of their time grubbing around in the bottom substrate looking for food. In the wild they come from rivers and streams in Indonesia and Malaysia.

Kuhli Loaches grow to a maximum of around 4" (10cm) and the males look much the same as the females except when the latter are full of eggs. At these times they become fat and the tiny eggs can often be seen through the skin of the fish.

The Kuhli Loach is said to gather in numbers to spawn among floating plants in shallow water in their natural environment but in the aquarium they are very hard to breed.

Like other species of loach, the Kuhli Loach often reacts to changes in the weather and at times of thunderstorms they dash about in the tank and may rise to the surface.

Kuhli loach poll

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Kuhli loaches


The loaches are grouped in the Cobitidae and they are all bottom-feeding fish. Most species have barbels and are similar in many ways to catfishes in appearance and habits.

The loaches are found throughout Europe and Asia in freshwater. Many species are adapted to withstand low levels of oxygen and can gulp down atmospheric air from the surface. These loaches are sensitive to changes in air pressure and become very restless when there are storms and some species such as Misgurnus fossilis (European Weatherfish) are actually known as "Weatherfish" because of this.

Clown Loach

Many loaches of the sub-family Botiinae, such as the colourful Clown Loach (Chromobotia macracanthus) and the Zebra Loach (Botia striata) are often sold by tropical fish dealers. These loaches have deeper bodies and are a lot less eel-like and slender like the Kuhli Loach and many other types of loach but they still have mouths fringed by whiskery barbels.


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    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you!

    • pmccray profile image

      pmccray 6 years ago from Utah

      Never heard of this species before. Voted up, marked interesting.

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      I used to keep them many years ago! Thanks for posting!

    • profile image

      marissa 6 years ago

      I do not think I have seen many of them. Interesting though.

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Yes, they are wonderful little fish aren't they?

    • homesteadbound profile image

      Cindy Murdoch 6 years ago from Texas

      When I used to have freshwater tanks, Kuhli Loaches were one of my favorite fish, if not my most favorite. They were almost comical.

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      Thank you, Eiddwen!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

      A very interesting hub so thank you for sharing.

      Take care and enjoy your day.


    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 6 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      I am glad to hear it!

    • steveso profile image

      Steve 6 years ago from Brockport, NY

      I just bought 4 of these and I love them.