Do Kuhli Loaches Eat Snails? Diet, Tank Conditions, & Care

    fish staying at the bottom of the tank

    Do Kuhli Loaches Eat Snails?

    The Kuhli Loach is a very popular freshwater tank fish, but do you really know everything about this cute eel-like scavenger? In this article, we will talk about the specifics of this species and the popular question – do Kuhli loaches really eat snails? If this interests you, continue reading to find out!

    What Are Kuhli Loaches?

    Kuhli Loach
    Photo Credit: AJ Cann (Flickr)

    The Kuhli Loach (Pangio kuhlii) belongs to the loach family (Cobitidae), and they also can be found by the names such as the Coolie Loach, the Leopard Loach, or the Cinnamon Loach.

    The Kuhli is a small and peaceful freshwater fish that looks like an eel, and it is a bottom dweller that likes to feed on dead organisms, which makes it a very popular scavenger for tanks.

    The natural habitat of the Kuhli loach is the sandy, slow-moving rivers and clean streams of Indonesia. They are often found in small clusters as they are very social; however, they are also very easily frightened and scared. In tanks, if startled suddenly, they tend to hide beneath the ornaments or bury themselves if there is a fine substrate.

    The Kuhli is also a nocturnal fish, which means that it likes swimming and searching for food during the night and resting during the day.

    The Kuhli is eel-shaped with barbels around the mouth, small fins, transparent eyes, and a slender body that is covered with brown or black vertical bars.

    Unless the fish is actively breeding, the differences between males and females are insignificant; however, the males tend to have bigger fins. During the breeding season, the females grow larger.

    The Kuhli can live up to 14 years in good conditions. It is considered very cute and is popular among tank enthusiasts who like bottom dwellers. As for the size, the Kuhli can grow up to 4 inches (10 cm), making it a medium-sized tank species.

    When it comes to their behavior and interaction with other tank mates, they are peaceful, cautious, suspicious, and easily frightened. They usually spend days resting or hiding in caves and holes, so they prefer to become active during the night.

    There is not much interaction with other tank mates, though, but what is sure is they won’t attack or damage any other species as they will usually just do their thing while trying to be in the spotlight as little as possible.

    Do Kuhli Loaches Eat Snails?

    The Kuhli is a known scavenger, but what makes people really wonder is do these loaches actually eat snails. The thing is, the responses and experiences of tank owners have always been mixed. Some claim they do; some claim they do not. So what is the truth?

    First, we need to establish the fact that even though the Kuhli is essentially a peaceful fish – it is also opportunistic, meaning they will eat anything smaller they can find on the bottom, be it a smaller fish, or yes – even a small snail.

    The biggest problem with finding the truth is that the Kuhli is a nocturnal fish. So unless you look at your tank 24/7 or record it, you won’t be able to observe their behavior and feeding patterns.

    According to the survey we mentioned above, some tank owners bought the Kuhli fish on purpose, in order to get rid of snails. Some of them did not notice the Kuhli eating the snails, but they did notice that there weren’t any snail eggs in the tank, which means the loaches probably ate them during the night and might have even consumed the smallest grown snails.

    The possible snail species that these loaches might enjoy eating are typical pond snails, Rams Horn snails, and Malaysian Trumpet Snails. The thoughts on how they might be killed are mixed – some believe the loaches eat on snails that have cracked shells or might be dying; the others think they do actually kill smaller snails because they could not find another culprit in the tank that would be responsible for the decrease of snail population.

    So, do Kuhli Loaches eat snails? The conclusion we can draw from this is that some Kuhli loaches might be able to attack smaller or baby snails and eggs, as long as they reach the snail’s body and pull it out at least partially. However, this is not a consistent behavior, and the Kuhli loach should not be considered the real snail killer.

    So, if you have a huge problem with snail overbreeding in your tank, you might try to find another reliable snail killer who would help you get rid of snails for good.

    How To Remove Snails From Your Aquarium

    As we have established that the Kuhli might not be the reliable option for snail removal, we will go over a few ways that actually work.

    First, you could try a manual removal. This probably already sounds bothersome, but if you want to go completely natural and avoid using chemicals or predators, then arm yourself with patience because it will take your hours, or even days, to actually remove sails by hand.

    The other way is to use bait and trap. This could be a category of manual removal. You can use a lettuce leaf as a sort of bait – the snails will flock to it, and then you can remove them in the morning. Just note that it is highly unlikely you will remove them all.

    You could also try prevention. This means you should keep all snails out of your tank, but it is easier said than done. Snail eggs are really hard to spot, and they can be anywhere. Meaning, if someone gives you aquarium plants or ornaments, they could be attached to them and a few weeks later, your tank will be filled with snails. Soaking the plants and ornaments in saltwater for 20 minutes before putting them in your tank might help.

    Buy a snail killer. There are many affordable and interesting predator fish, and even other snails, that might help you out. Catfish, Cichlids, goldfish, Physa, Clown Loach, Yoyo Loach, Gourami, Betta fish, Cory Catfish, Bala Shark, Green Spotter Puffer, and even Assassin Snails hunt snails, just make sure these fish are peaceful for other tank mates.

    Use chemicals, but make sure they are safe to use with fish and plants. For example, Gastropex can stop both snails and diseases for your fish.

    What Else Do Kuhli Loaches Eat?

    Kuhli Loaches love to eat bloodworms!

    Kuhli Loaches are omnivorous fish, which means they will eat almost anything, as long as it is small enough to eat and can be found on the bottom of the tank.

    They enjoy searching for food by sieving through the gravel and sand. They are not really hunters but scavengers – they search for food and scraps instead of attacking. However, as we already mentioned, they might eat small snails, eggs, or perhaps really tiny, sick fish.

    They enjoy frozen, dry, or live food, and they might not be fussy, but they do prefer a meat-based diet. If you want to go for dry food, flakes and pellets are good because they will sink down to the substrate and will be easily eaten by loaches.

    They love Daphnia, Bloodworms, Microworms, and Grindal Worms. You could also try out some homemade recipes if you want to experiment. Feed them several times a day, but make sure there is no food left to make the water dirty.

    Ideal Tank Conditions For Kuhli Loaches

    As with most fish, it is of utmost importance to keep the water clean and well-oxygenated. The Kuhli loaches love softer substrate or even sand because they like to bury themselves in it and search for food. It is not good to have no substrate at all or to have just stones.

    The water should be soft (0-5 dGh), slightly acidic (5.5-6.5 pH), and the temperature should be between 73-86°F (22-30 °C). The lighting should be moderate.

    As for water movement, you will need a good quality filter in order to manage a turnover of 10 times per hour. You should also make sure to cover over inline pipes so the loaches do not swim inside and get stuck.

    Their natural habitat is tropical – it means lots of vegetation and places to hide (wood, stones, and caves). The Java Fern and Cryptocoryne are good choices. Some owners even like to spread moss because loaches love spending time in leaf litters. Twisted roots of wood, caves, and rocks are good hiding places and, they will appreciate them.

    The tank size should be a minimum of 20 gallons / 75 liters.

    Kuhli Loach Tank Mates

    As for interaction with other fish species, we did mention that these loaches are peaceful and shy, but that does not mean you should not consider other fish and how they would react to Kuhli. In fact, we have an entire post on the subject of Kuhli Loach tank mates. Check it out by clicking here!

    They should be kept with other non-aggressive species such as the following:

    Corydoras Danios Rasboras
    Tetras Gouramis Shrimp

    These species occupy the upper portions of the tank (except Corydoras) so there will be enough space for everyone.

    Do not mix them with Bettas, Blue Gouramis, Arowanas, Cichlids, Tiger Barbs, Angelfish, Chinese Algae Eaters or Red-Tailed Sharks, as they are territorial and often very aggressive.

    How to Care for Kuhli Loaches

    Check out this informative video about how to take good care of your Kuhli Loaches!

    Unfortunately,  Kuhli Loaches are unfortunately susceptible to various diseases, as they do not have head scales and not many body scales. They are also susceptible to stress due to their shy nature. You should be careful when you introduce them late in a full aquarium as they can be stressed. This stress can decrease their lifespan.

    They are also very sensitive to medications, so go easy with treatments for algae, snails, or cures for other fish. The most common disease is the Itch (Ichthyophthirius) or the “white spot disease.” The loaches always get attacked first and most likely die if left untreated.

    Another common problem is the skinny diseases, caused by another type of parasite, which affects the weight of your fish, even if it is acting and eating normally. This disease can be treated easily with medication, but as we said, use it carefully. If you do it, you can cause a contra effect.

    In a nutshell, try to maintain good water quality and go easy with chemicals.

    How To Breed Kuhli Loaches

    It is very challenging to breed Kuhli Loaches. However, it can be done as long as you follow the rules of setting up the breeding tank properly and follow all of the parameters.

    The breeding tank should be set up as following: keep the light very dim, and the water level low. Females will need floating plants to lay their eggs, which means that dense vegetation is a plus, and it will promote spawning. The water hardness should be 6.5 Ph.

    Unless they are stressed, they will manage to spawn successfully. You should also feed them regularly, especially live food, as that will encourage them even more.

    Once you spot the females growing large, that means they will lay their eggs soon. You might even see them through her skin. Once she lays them, they will be of bright green color and will be attached to the underside of floating plants.

    Remember that you will need to remove the parents after they attach the eggs because they will eat them. After 24 hours, you can start feeding the fry. Breeding the Kuhli is not easy, so beginners should not be disheartened.


    To sum up, we have talked about the basic characteristics of loaches called the Kuhli and the burning question – do they eat snails? The answer is both yes and no, but hopefully, you have learned more about this interesting freshwater fish as it is very fascinating and beautiful to watch.

    It might be an eel-like little scavenger that is not often seen during the day, but it is unique and worth your care.

    Have you ever owned a Kuhli Loach? If yes, what is your experience with this fish? If not, has this article interested you in owning one? We hope so!

    Thanks for reading!


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