Species Spotlight: Kuhli Loaches

Kuhli loaches make excellent bottom-feeders for the peaceful freshwater aquarium. If you’re looking to add these adorable and unique fish to your tank community, here are the basics:
Black Kuhli Loach
 Black Kuhli Loach Pictured Above
Kuhli loaches naturally occur in freshwater streams in tropical Asia, so this is not a loach that pairs well with more temperate fish like goldfish (unlike their larger relative the dojo/weather loach). It is best to keep their tank temperature in the upper 70s (Fahrenheit) to low/mid 80s, meaning that your kuhli loaches will be perfectly happy at the widely-suggested water temperature of 78 degrees. Their environment is on the more acidic side, often with tannins in the water (try almond leaves or alder cones to recreate this in your tank). While they can live in tanks with a pH in the 7s, which is common for most homes’ tap water, they might be more comfortable in the 6s. Most importantly, this species has very soft, unsubstantial scales and is therefore more sensitive to changes in water parameters. Keeping the conditions in your tank as consistent as possible will ensure that your loaches do not become stressed or contract diseases like ich.
Striped Kuhli Loach
Striped Kuhli Loach Pictured Above
As far as diet goes, these small loaches are omnivorous scavengers that will act as part of your tank’s “clean-up crew” eating plant matter, tiny prey items (try giving them live blackworms), and leftover food from your other fish. In addition to allowing them to scavenge, they should also receive appropriately-sized sinking pellets (catfish foods are often a good choice), and live, frozen, or freeze-dried foods throughout the week to keep their nutrition balanced. Fortunately, these items will also be appealing and healthy for the other fish in your aquarium.
Growing to a typical length of about 4 inches, Kuhli loaches should ideally be introduced to tanks 20 gallons or larger. They do well in groups, with many keepers attesting that single loaches are much shier and more elusive. You will often find your loaches all piled together under plants, decorations, or the substrate itself (especially during the day, as they are typically more active at night). Other tank-mates should be peaceful community fish that are comfortable in the same water conditions. Other tropical Asian fish like Rasboras and smaller Gourami are popular options. 

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