Kuhli Loach Feeding Guide – How to Feed Your Loaches?

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Kuhli Loaches are notorious as the perfect community tank fish, keeping a low profile as bottom-feeders and coming with a shy, friendly, and cautious behavior.

They are the most welcoming addition to any community tank with likewise friendly and easy-going fish species.

To better understand the Kuhli, here is its profile through the lens of several fast facts:

  • Slender and colorful body, easily mistaken for an eel were it not for its stripped, golden body
  • The Kuhli is capable of growing up to 4 inches in captivity
  • The ideal water temperature for the Kuhli Loach is around 73 to 86 °F, making this a tropical tank species capable of adapting to a variety of environments
  • You can pair the Kuhli with pretty much any other tank mate, thanks to the former’s easy-going personality
  • The Kuhli Loach can live up to 10 or even 14 years in optimal water parameters and with proper care
  • Kuhli Loaches are not schooling fish, but they have a well-developed social behavior, which means they will feel more comfortable in moderate groups of several individuals

Now that we’ve set the basics, let’s discuss Kuhli’s diet since this species’ feeding behavior tells a lot about its lifestyle.

What do Kuhli Loaches Eat?

Kuhlis live mostly on riverbeds and will consume pretty much whatever they can find and digest. They rank as omnivorous scavengers, which means that they get most of their meals from the river floor.

The same happens in an enclosed environment like a tank.

Your Kuhli Loaches will spend most of their lives on the tank’s bed, feeding on food residues, plant matter, and even small aquatic creatures like crustaceans, insect larvae, etc.

They are, in many ways, the tank’s natural filtering system since they consume organic matter and food leftovers sinking from the top that would otherwise decay and poison the water.

Kuhli’s presence will improve water quality and lower the need for more strict tank maintenance work. You can even boost their potential by having several Kuhli Loaches in the same tank, so long as you limit the number of males.

At times, they can get territorial and fight over space and food, risking injuries, infections, and death.

That being said, you shouldn’t rely on Kuhli’s scavenging behavior to provide the fish with all the necessary nutrients. The tank is an enclosed environment with limited opportunities for leftover food and almost no opportunities for live food growing naturally in the tank.

So, your Kuhli Loaches need your intervention to get the food and nutrients they require daily.

Providing them with a balanced diet is essential to keep the Kuhli Loaches satisfied and healthy over the years to come.

How Often to Feed Kuhli Loaches?

Kuhli Loaches feed as much as they can in the wild, but there’s a catch. They don’t have access to a lot of food on the spot. They need to actively look for it and spend energy in the process, part due to the scavenging process and part due to food competition with other loaches and fish.

The situation isn’t the same in an enclosed tank, where food can be at their disposal with minimal effort.

I’m mentioning all these things as an effort to prevent overfeeding. You should feed your Kuhli Loaches 2 times per day in most cases and only small portions that they can consume within 2-3 minutes.

Anything more than that will lead to overfeeding, causing your Kuhli digestive problems.

Overfeeding also results in a lot of food waste which wouldn’t be a problem if your loaches wouldn’t be full already.

Since they can no longer eat the remaining food, the leftovers will decay and contribute to ammonia buildup, poisoning the tank water. That’s obviously not an ideal scenario.

Adult loaches won’t need more than 2 meals per day, especially if they live in a community tank. In the case of the latter, they will have a lot of food residues at their disposal.

I recommend keeping your loaches in community tanks because of it. Just make sure you pair them with peaceful and easy-going fish like mollies, guppies, tetras, zebra danios, etc.

Any peaceful fish species will work, so long as they share the Kuhli Loaches’ water parameter preferences.

Do Kuhli Loaches Eat Snails?

This topic is currently under debate, unrightfully so, I would say. The hard truth is that, yes, Kuhli Loaches can kill and eat smaller snails.

A similar hard truth is that these loaches won’t consider larger snail species as food, primarily because they can’t eat them. They don’t have specialized tools to penetrate their shells.

So, you shouldn’t rely on your Kuhli Loaches to take on the job of a real snail killer like species of loaches and catfish.

The confusion on the topic is explained by the fish’s behavior. The Kuhli Loach is a nocturnal fish that only goes out to feed at night. Or mostly goes out at night, to be more accurate.

This means many aquarists can’t keep track of what the fish is eating during the darker hours.

Another aspect contributing to the confusion is the fact that these loaches can live in peace with larger species of snails. This can suggest the idea that Kuhli Loaches won’t attack snails.

The truth is in the middle. Kuhli Loaches will consume smaller snails that they can kill and thrash around with minimal effort.

This makes them decent at controlling the snail population since they will eat snail offspring during their infant phase.

They won’t do so on the regular, however, which means they aren’t quite effective at the job.

Do Kuhli Loaches Eat Plants and Algae?

Fortunately (and unfortunately) no. Kuhli Loaches will, at most, consume dead plant matter that happens to accumulate on the tank bed.

They won’t nip at live plants and won’t consume algae, so don’t rely on the Kuhli to control the algae population. This goes to show that Kuhli Loaches can’t function as full-time scavengers.

They need extra nutrients to support themselves, precisely due to their rather specialized diet.

Fortunately, Kuhli Loaches are omnivorous and quite flexible when it comes to their diets. They will consume a variety of foods, so long as they pack their necessary nutrients, vitamins, and minerals and they sink.

Don’t rely on floating flakes and pellets since Kuhlis will never go to the water’s surface to feed.

Best Food for Kuhli Loaches

Kuhli Loaches require a balanced diet, consisting primarily of animal-sourced protein.

In the wild, these loaches consume tiny shrimp, various species of worms, insect larvae and eggs, plant matter, and any microorganisms and tiny insects they can find.

They do so by scraping the floor and getting mouthfuls of sand to sift for food residues.

But, as you know by now, Kuhli Loaches can’t rely on environmental resources to fulfill their dietary needs in a tank. You need to step up and provide them with adequate nutrition, which should consist of a variety of foods.

Here are some good commercial options you can try:

  • Tetra Shrimp Wafers – This product is ideal for loaches and catfish that specialize in bottom-feeding. These tiny pellets contain all the nutrients your loaches need and display a porous consistency, allowing them to soften up and sink to the bottom fast. This is ideal for Kuhli Loaches since it brings food right to their nose. These Tetra wafers are rich in shrimp protein, which means you should only feed them to your loaches sparingly. Once every 2 or 3 days should be enough to satisfy your Kuhli Loaches’ protein appetite.
  • HIKARI Sinking Wafers – These sinking wafers offer a more complete content, comprising of multiple vegetable nutrients combined with animal-sourced protein. Expect spirulina, krill, wheat germ, alfalfa meal, and silkworm protein, along with vitamin C and other minerals essential for your loaches’ health. The fiber content also eases digestion, allowing loaches to better digest the food, minimizing the resulting fish waste.
  • Aqueon Bottom Feeder Tablets – This is another specialized product designed with bottom feeders in mind. The Aqueon tablets maximize nutrient intake, result in less fish waste, and keep the tank water cleaner. They also contain optimal nutrients that attract the fish and improve their natural coloring while also boosting their immune system. Aqueon tablets are ideal for fish of all sizes, including Kuhli Loaches. And you can break them into smaller pieces to avoid overfeeding. As a plus, they dissolve slowly in the water, providing the fish with more food over extended periods of time.

Aside from these commercial options, you can also provide your Kuhli Loaches with home-prepared meals, mainly live foods.

To ensure the food’s safety and fresh factor, I recommend keeping live food cultures of daphnia, brine shrimp, bloodworm, tubifex worms, etc.

You can easily purchase specialized kits specifically designed for this purpose, allowing you to grow these live cultures at home with minimal effort.

Such a setup will allow you to feed the entire tank and fulfill the nutritional requirements of multiple fish species, not only loaches.

Can Kuhli Loaches Eat Betta Food?

The answer is complicated, as both ‘yes’ and ‘no’ are true. Unlike Kuhli Loaches, bettas are primarily carnivores and will consume animal-sourced protein more than anything else.

The problem is that Kuhli Loaches don’t do well with animal protein. They do need it in their diet, but only in moderate quantities.

This means you should expect your Kuhli Loaches to consume food residues from bettas but don’t rely on them to survive on them. They still require specialized food to meet their nutritional needs.

With that out of the way, it is possible to pair bettas and Kuhli loaches, despite their diet incompatibility.

The main reason for that is their preference for occupying different areas of the tank. Kuhli Loaches will remain near the substrate. Preferably in hiding during the day, while bettas will remain in the tank’s upper zone.

That’s because bettas will often go to the water’s surface to breathe atmospheric air and eat.

This means that Kuhli Loaches will only get access to several food residues, which won’t make up too much of their diet. The only concern you might have should relate to betta aggression, but even that isn’t too serious.

Bettas will rarely interact with anything living on the substrate. And Kuhli Loaches aren’t particularly fond of swimming around the tank either. So, the interactions between the 2 species should remain minimal.

Do Kuhli Loaches Eat Other Fish?

Fortunately, no. Kuhli Loaches are rather small fish, only growing up to 4 inches, best-case scenario.

This makes them slightly larger than guppies. They also display no predatorial behavior since they’re natural scavengers. This means they’re not interested in hunting other fish. Which is why they’re ideal for community tanks, even ones containing several fish species.

That being said, you should remain wary of Kuhli’s behavior when pairing it with egg-laying fish.

Egg-scatterers can spread their eggs throughout the tank, including the substrate, rocks, and plants, and these may attract the loaches. The same goes for unlucky fish fry swimming near the Kuhli, provided they are small enough for the loaches to eat them.

To counter these problems, I suggest investing in a breeding tank if you want to keep the fry. Other than that, Kuhli Loaches are peaceful, omnivorous scavengers that couldn’t care less about the presence of other fish in their tank.

Provided they are also peaceful and welcoming or, at best, indifferent to the loaches’ presence.


Kuhli Loaches are adaptable and friendly scavengers that are easy to satisfy in terms of water parameters and dietary needs. I would say loaches in general, and Kuhlis in particular, are great assets for any community tank.

They will consume residual food escaping other fish, along with any other organic matter that they can digest.

Their presence is beneficial for the aquatic ecosystem, delaying and decreasing the production of ammonia and nitrites and keeping the habitat cleaner and more stable.

Just make sure you provide your Kuhli Loaches with a well-rounded diet to complement their scavenging behavior, and they will thrive.

Author Image Fabian
I’m Fabian, aquarium fish breeder and founder of this website. I’ve been keeping fish, since I was a kid. On this blog, I share a lot of information about the aquarium hobby and various fish species that I like. Please leave a comment if you have any question.
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