The Many Different Species Of Kuhli Loach

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Cogito Ergo Sum
May 29, 2011
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Many people do not know, but there not a singular species of Kuhli Loach, but in fact, many. Due to their common appearance, most fish retailers will dump all sorts of Kuhli species into one tank and label them all as "Kuhli Loach". 
This articles is a means to help any Kuhli owner distinguish what species they own, and how to care for them properly. 
Before we begin, any potential Kuhli owner should know the following requirements go for all of the known Kuhli species:
  • Kuhlis are schooling fish, and therefore should be kept in groups no less than 6. This will also encourage the loaches to be more active outside of hiding. 
  • Kuhlis, like all mouth sifters, require fine sand or smooth, rounded gravel. Sand is preferable, as it will allow the loaches to exhibit natural sifting, feeding, and burrowing behaviors without potential damage to their soft eyes, skin, and whiskers. 
  • Kuhlis patrol the bottom part of a tank, and therefore should not be kept with other bottom dwellers that can be potentially territorial and aggressive.
  • Bright and powerful lights are painful to the nocturnal loaches. Though they can be coaxed to be active during the daytime, they will not emerge from hiding if lights are searing their eyes. This can be avoided with plentiful cover and hiding places, as well as tannin stained water or even floating plants to minimize light. Look into purchasing some LED night lights and a light timer. Set the LEDs to come on 10 minutes before the main lights, so that the kuhlis have some time for their eyes to adjust to the light and not be shocked when the main lights turn on.
  • A loach out in the open is a happy loach. It signifies that they are comfortable with the amount of hiding spaces in the tank to be out in the open. If a group of kuhlis is constantly hiding, you may want to consider adding more caves, tunnels, rocks, driftwood, plants, even leaf litter to provide them with hiding spots.
  • Kuhlis won't actively hunt other fish or inverts, as they are scavengers. However, kuhlis will eat any eggs that fall on the bottom, including their own. 
  • A group of kuhlis should be kept in a tank no smaller than 15g or about 56l. Height is not important, but width and length is. Kuhli Loaches will be happier in, for example, a 30g long compared to a 30g high. 
Alrighty, after that lecture, you're ready to see the different species! 
Here they are, in alphabetic order.
Pangio alternans, aka the "Borneo Kuhli Loach"

The Borneo Kuhli Loach is found in Borneo and Indonesia. It gets 3 inches (8 cm) long and is easily identified by the beautiful later dappling. Anatomically, it has fewer vertebrae than most loaches in the genus Pangio.

Pangio anguillaris, aka the "Eel Kuhli Loach"


A very different loach, the Eel Kuhli is easily recognized by its lack of stripes and silvery-brown sheen. Some exhibit dappling across their saddle regions. They reach 4 inches or 10cm in size. They are indigineous to Malaysia, Borneo, Sumatra and parts of the Mekong basin.
Pangio cf. anguillaris

These loaches are very similar to the Eel Kuhli, however, they are not shiny and instead a dull brown. 

Pangio cuneovirgata 


In the above picture, you can see a perfect example of differing sizes among kuhlis. The large kuhli in the back is a two year old Pangio myersi (Myer's Giant Kuhli), in the midground is a Pangio kuhli, and in the front we see a still juvenile Pangio cuneovirgata. The cuneovirgata will not grow much larger once in matures.
The Pangio cuneovirgata is native to West Java, Sumatra, and mainland Malaysia. Unusually, these kuhlis stay small and grow no bigger than 2 inches (5cm). They are usually a pale beige or brown, with small, and far spaced stripes on the saddle. A telltale pink blotch behind the fins, near the "chest" is also a marker of cuneovirgata.
Pangio doriae, aka the Golden Eel Kuhli Loach

The Golden Eel Kuhli is very similar to the Eel Kuhli, although instead of a silver sheen it possess a rosy pink to golden sheen. Similarly, it grows to 4 inches (10cm) and is found in the same areas as the Eel Kuhli. 
Pangio filinaris

This Kuhli is very similar to the common Black Kuhli Loach, however, instead of black, it is a light orange to pink beige in color. This kuhli is often mistaken as an albino or leucistic color morph. It reaches 2 inches or 5cm in length, and is endemic to Pahang basin and Terengganu in Malaysia.
Pangio kuhli, aka the Kuhli Loach

The most common one and the original for which all others are named, Pangio kuhli, grows to a maximum of 4 inches. Native to Indonesia, they are identified by the stripes. Notice how their stripes aren't too thick or dark, like other upcoming species. Their stripes also don't encompass the whole body. Some may have spots in their stripes, and stripes may be asymmetric. 
Pangio malayana, aka the Malaysian Kuhli Loach

Pangio malayana gets to about 3 inches (8 cm) and is easily identifiable by the apparent lack or minimum number of stripes. Though similar to Pangio cuneovirgata, the key difference is that malayana's stripes are incomplete and more asymmetric, as well as shorter. Found in Malayasia, Borneo, Thailand, and Sumatra.
Pangio myersi, aka the Giant Kuhli, Myer's Kuhli, or Myer's Giant Kuhli Loach.

True to their names, these are the biggest of all Kuhlis. Though not longer than the average kuhli, they have girth beyond any other species. Don't let their apparent chunk fool you, that is all pure muscle. These monsters always attain 4 inches (10 cm). They are also identifiable in their thick black bars, sometimes even encompassing the entire body. 
Pangio oblonga, aka the Black Kuhli, or Chocolate Kuhli Loach

The Black Kuhli Loach, is completely black to brown in appearance. Reach 3 inches, and are found all over Southeast Asia.
Pangio pangia, aka the Cinnamon Kuhli Loach

Originating from India, they are completely identical to the Black Kuhli. The only difference is that the Cinnamon Kuhli is shorter, growing to about 2.5 inches or about 6cm. 
Pangio piperata

Nearly identical to the Cinnamon Kuhli in length and appearance. The only difference is that the piperata will have lateral and saddle dappling. 
Pangio semicincta, aka the Half-Banded Kuhli Loach

The Half-Banded Kuhli Loach, looks very similar to Pangio kuhli, but have 9-12 black stripes that don't fully circle the body. Also a very common species to find in shops. Reaches 4 inches (10cm).
Pangio shelfordii, aka the Calico Kuhli, Leopard Kuhli, and Shelford's Kuhli Loach.

The Calico Kuhli Loach does not have stripes. Instead, it is covered in a reticulated or dappled pattern. There are several different pattern varieties of the Calico Kuhli. These loaches will grow to about 3 inches (8cm) and are from southern Malaysia and Indonesia.
Pangio unknown01, aka the Panda Kuhli Loach

This brand new species was discovered in Thailand in 2006, and though rare, has entered the hobby. They appear similar to the Black Kuhli and the Cinnamon Kuhli, however, posses a white "panda" mask on the face (hence the name). They grow to about 3.25 inches, or 8.25cm. 

Citations (in order of appearance) N.p., 10 Dec 2010. Web. 30 Dec 2013. <>.
"Pangio anguillaris." Seriously Fish. N.p.. Web. 30 Dec 2013. <>.
"Pangio cf. anguillaris." Loaches Online. N.p.. Web. 30 Dec 2013. < cf anguillaris/CIMG1418a-F.jpg>.
"Pangio doriae." Loaches Online. N.p.. Web. 30 Dec 2013. <>.
Grant, Steve. "Pangio filinaris." Seriously Fish. N.p.. Web. 30 Dec 2013. <>.
Frank, Thomas. "Pangio malayana." Seriously Fish. N.p.. Web. 30 Dec 2013. <>.
"Pangio oblonga." Seriously Fish. N.p.. Web. 30 Dec 2013. <>.
"Pangio pangia." Seriously Fish. N.p.. Web. 30 Dec 2013. <>.
"Pangio piperata." Seriously Fish. N.p.. Web. 30 Dec 2013. <>.
"Pangio semicincta." Seriously Fish. N.p.. Web. 30 Dec 2013. <>.
"Pangio shelfordii." Aquatic Quotient. N.p.. Web. 30 Dec 2013. <>.
Turner, Emma. "Pangio unknown01." Loaches Online. N.p.. Web. 30 Dec 2013. <>.
Pictures without citations are my own personal pictures that I have taken of my own Kuhlis. 
Thank you for this, that is very informative! I've had my Kuhli Loaches for 3 years and did not know about the many different species! Seems like mine are the regular Pangio Kuhli. :)
Hehe! I love Kuhli loaches! I really hope one day I can get some! :D
I had the Pangio myersi loved watching them come out of hiding when feeding. And when they occasionally went for a mad swim around the whole tank lol
I have mainly the standard type, but there are a few giant and a few brown. They all explore together and sleep together though, despite their differences.
Hi, I have a mix of most of those species, and was just wondering how big the myersi really get? Mine are about a year now and are probably about twice the height of a standard kuhli, but yours looks freakishly huge!
I hope mine are the Giant ones! They seem to have the thicker un-broken bands, all of the other types seem to have variations in their bands.

I also have a Black Kuhli, and was hoping to get a couple more tomorrow but am now dealing with a suspected case of Ich on the coolest I currently have.
I love Kuhli Loaches such little characters, I have about 20.

Feeding time



NickAU what are the little orange pellets you feed your Kuhli? I've never seen then actually eat anything, besides cycling sand through their gills...
Hikari Carnivore Pellets and New Life spectrum pellets you might think Im overfeeding but no, With 20 Kuhlis, 2 Big mystery snails a lot of shrimp and Malaysian Trumpet snails those pellets dont last long.

And those photos were not taken on the same day.
I really liked the Kuhli Loach info! I would of liked to see the Panda Kuhli though. I had the opportunity to buy some Albino Kuhli's, but regrettably I passed them up, not to be found in fish store in several years. Though, 2 days ago, to my surprise the tiny Kuhli's I purchased were Shelfordii "Leopard" kuhlie's. I didn't realize it until I took a closer look in the car. I have been looking for these for quite some time, too.

This is my approximately 11 year old kuhli loach. It's over 4 inches long. I think it is the Giant Kuhli.


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