Kuhli Loaches are by far one of the most comical and unique fish in the aquarium hobby. Despite their relatively large size, reaching 10 cm in length, these loaches are completely peaceful and non-destructive. For this reason, Kuhli Loaches are often kept alongside smaller fish species.
Kuhli loaches require remarkably little space and a group of 6 can be easily kept in a 60 litre aquarium. Decor is not of particular importance and these fish will do well in a variety of setups, however, ample hiding space should be provided. It may sound counter-intuitive but the more hiding places you provide, the more likely you are to see your kuhli loaches. They are also suitable for planted tanks and will not damage plants.
Kuhli Loaches use the short sensory appendages on the front of their heads to sift the substrate for food. As such, a soft, sandy substrate should be used to prevent them from damaging themselves. Additionally, these loaches are known to bury themselves completely. Keeping them in an aquarium that contains coarse substrates or gravel will cause the fish to become stressed. It should be noted that any excavation that does occur will not disrupt rooted plants.
The addition of dried leaf litter is beneficial to these fish, as it provides additional cover and aids in simulating natural conditions.
Gentle filtration is recommended. Ensure that the filter intake is well covered, as even larger specimens are able to squeeze through impossibly small gaps. Small filter bags can be used to cover the intake pipe. Also ensure that the tank is covered as most loaches do jump at times, especially when introduced to a new environment.
Kuhli Loaches are most commonly found in shallow, slow-moving forest streams and other still water habitats. These habitats have negligible dissolved mineral content, are poorly buffered and the pH can be as low as 3.0 or 4.0.
Fortunately for the hobbyist, these conditions do not have to be replicated in the aquarium. Kuhli loaches are highly adaptable and will do well in a wide range of pH ranges. A pH of between 3.5 and 8.0 and temperature between 21 and 30 degrees Celsius will suit these fish well.
Kuhli Loaches are micro-predators in nature, feeding on insect larvae, small crustaceans and worms. In the aquarium Kuhli Loaches will accept sinking dried foods but should also be offered regular meals of live and frozen Daphnia, Artemia, bloodworm, micro worm, grindal worm, black worm, etc.
Kuhli Loaches are peaceful, both with each another and with other fish. There are no existing reports of them harming tank mates, however, they may prey on eggs or fry. In nature they are often found in large groups and will often pack themselves into a single nook, cranny or cave when at rest, even in the aquarium. A group of at least 6 individuals should be the minimum purchased. However, the larger the number of individuals kept, the more active these fish will be during the daylight hours. Thus, a hobbyist who wishes to see these fish during the daytime should keep at least 10.
I personally like to keep as many as possible!
Small, peaceful species from similar environments such as members of the genus; Boraras, Sundadanio, Rasbora, Trichopsis, Sphaerichthys and Kottelatlimia constitute the best tank mates. However, these loaches can be kept with a wide variety of other species, as long as the other species are peaceful and small enough not to consider the Kuhli loaches as food. Care should also be taken when attempting to keep Kuhli Loaches with other catfish or loach species.
In Malaysia, sympatric species include; Cyclocheilichthys apogon, C. repasson, Garra borneensis, Osteochilus hasseltii, Paracrossochilus vittatus, Rasbora argyrotaenia, R. dusonensis, R. kottelati, R. sarawakensis, ‘Puntius‘ johorensis, ‘P.‘ kuchingensis, ‘P.‘ pentazona, Sundadanio margarition, Trigonopoma pauciperforatum, Pangio anguillaris, P. piperata, Syncrossus hymenophysa, several Gastromyzon, Homaloptera and Nemacheilus spp., Betta akarensis, Sphaerichthys osphromenoides and Carinotetraodon salivator.
Adult females are typically heavier-bodied and a little larger than males, while in mature males the first pectoral-fin ray is branched and thickened.