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Family: Cobitidae, Subfamily Cobitinae

Common Name: Kuhli Loach

Origin and Habitat: Pangio kuhlii occurs only on Java (Kullander, see further under Description), with P. semicinta in Malaysia, Sumatra and Borneo. Occurs in slow-moving streams shaded by forest canopy, usually blackwater, and peat swamps. Sand or mud substrates.

Compatibility/Temperament: Peaceful. Must be kept in a group, 3 is probably absolute minimum but 5 or more would be best. Should not be kept with aggressive or large fish which may eat them; good tankmates are small rasbora, cory cats, small tetras, small danios, hatchetfish, peaceful barbs.

Kuhli Loach Diet

Naturally feeds on insect larvae, small worms and crustaceans, sifting through the substrate for these. Sinking prepared foods will be accepted, but for best health include live or frozen worms, brine shrimp and daphnia.


Attains 3 to 4 inches.

Minimum Tank Suggestion

24 inches in length.

Water parameters for Kuhli Loach

Soft (< 10 dGH), acidic (pH below 7), temperature 23-29C/73-84F.


The serpentine body of this loach is very distinctive. Kuhlis are excellent at hiding even in the most awkward places so do not be surprised if you find them resting inside filter intakes.

The aquarium should have a substrate of sand, with several pieces of bogwood containing crevices and tunnels. Dim lighting, partly achieved with a cover of floating plants, is essential, as this species is naturally nocturnal. A layer of dry leaves will be appreciated; in their habitat this fish is frequently found in clusters under leaves. Not too strong a current from the filter is best, and all filter intakes must be screened to keep the fish from entering. Tanks should be securely covered as these fish will jump especially if startled or stressed.

Kuhlis are less sensitive to dissolved organics than other loaches, and do fine in a tank with a layer of mulm. That said, they are more sensitive to the various nitrogen bearing toxins than other loaches and should only be put in a well cycled aquarium. Note that kuhlis will wriggle into tight places and with their tiny to non-existent scales have little or no protection from sharp edges. Kuhlis will slit themselves open on sharp rocks and such.

There is considerable variability in the pattern of this fish, possibly due to misidentification. Many sources consider the normal "kuhli" species to be Pangio semicinta, and not P. kuhlii. Kottelat determined the two are distinct species, and further that P. kuhlii is only found in Java. This is not likely to be the common "kuhlii" in aquaria. There are some 25 species described, and several of these may well be among the "kuhlii" loaches.

A. Valenciennes described Cobitis kuhlii in 1846, and the more probable true "kuhli" species P. semicinta was originally described as Acanthophthalmus semicinctus by A. Fraser-Bruner in 1940. Both of these, along with several closely-patterned species, appeared in the genus Acanthophthalmus for a time before Kottelat (1993) determined this genus was synonymous with Cobitis and placed the "kuhli" species in Pangio, a genus erected by Blyth in 1860. There is a good summary by Matt Ford of the very complex classifications of these fish in the Seriously Fish knowledge base under the species Pangio semicinta for those who may be interested.

Contributing Members

The following members have contributed to this profile: jack26707, Byron


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