Kuhli Loach Diet & Feeding Guide

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Feeding Kuhli Loaches is relatively easy as they’ll eat pretty much anything! However, the ideal Kuhli Loach diet is balanced and varied to make sure they get the proper nutrition.

You also need to make sure that Kuhlis get enough food when kept in a community aquarium with other fish who might get there first.

This article explains what to feed, how to feed, when to feed, and how often to feed Kuhli Loaches!

Best food for Kuhli Loaches

My recommendation for the best Kuhli Loach food is Repashy Community Plus.

Although Kuhli Loaches are bottom-feeders who will eat pretty much anything, they go wild for Repashy. It’s always a treat to see them out in the main areas of the tank when the lights are on, and this never fails to draw them out.

Most importantly, this food sinks to the tank floor after a few seconds, giving the Kuhlis every chance to get a good meal.

With flakes and other floating food, surface eaters like guppies can eat everything before it can make its way to the lower areas of the tank.

This means there’s a good chance your Kuhlis will either starve or be limited to a diet of leftovers and detritus from the substrate.

With Repashy gel, I can be confident they’re getting their share of some very nutritious fish food.

My Kuhli Loaches and their tank mates tucking into a huge block of Repashy. Don’t feed this much unless you have a huge tank with lots of fish!

The Community Plus is a mixture of animal-based protein and plant-based ingredients, including krill, squid, pea protein, and coconut meal. It’s an eclectic mix but it’s full of all the nutrients they need.

There is prep needed, as Repashy comes in powder form and needs to be mixed with boiling water and left to set to a gel.

This gel can be frozen and lasts for months, making this superfood great value for money, too.

Will Kuhli Loaches eat fish eggs?

Like most fish, Kuhli Loaches are opportunistic bottom-feeders who will eat fish eggs and fry if they come across them. This includes their own eggs and offspring, which makes them difficult to breed. They’ll eat anything they find around the tank floor, including fish eggs.

If you’re looking to breed Kuhli Loaches or one of their tank mates, there are a number of ways to handle this problem:

  1. Set up a breeding tank and only re-introduce fry once they’ve grown big enough to avoid being eaten
  2. Add a spawning mop to your tank and move the eggs before your Kuhlis get to them
  3. Provide lots of plant cover so your fish can lay eggs around the roots, where there’s more shelter

This last option isn’t ideal because Kuhli Loaches spend a lot of time sheltering around the roots of plants to find shade from the light.

With most fish, the eggs will have a small chance of going undetected, but Kuhlis are much more likely to find them here.

Are Kuhli Loaches omnivores?

Kuhli Loaches are bottom-feeding omnivores who will eat anything they find around the tank floor, even sifting sand through their gills looking for food particles. In the wild, most of their food is animal protein like larvae and crustaceans, but they also eat plant matter and algae.

This doesn’t mean you should rely on leftovers to feed your Kuhlis. You should make sure they’re getting enough nutrients by providing a specific diet in a routine that suits them.

Recommended feeding routine

I always feed my main tank in the morning with a varied mix of animal-based micro-pellets, powdered foods, and fish flakes. A small pinch of this mix allows the fish that feed at the surface to have their fill.

The various foods that make up my pre-mixed community tank feed

Some of this food will naturally make its way down to the Kuhlis on the tank floor, but I don’t like to take the chance of them not getting any.

At lights out time, I make the room as dark as possible and drop some sinking pellets into the tank. I make sure to drop these towards the back wall where I know the shy Kuhlis will be waiting below.

This makes sure the more nocturnal Kuhli Loaches, who don’t rely on eyesight to find food, have the best chance of getting a good meal.

I then supplement this feeding routine with Repashy Community Plus every 3-4 days, as mentioned above.

Repashy tends to last a long time, and granules will break off and float around the tank. This means I can skip the next morning’s feed to give my tank’s inhabitants a chance to scavenge all the left-overs from around the tank.

This also means I avoid over-feeding, which can destabilize your Kuhli Loach tank’s water parameters. This includes the risk of any ammonia spikes from uneaten food left in the tank.

Do Kuhli Loaches eat cucumber?

Kuhli Loaches will eat cucumber as they are bottom feeders who will generally eat anything once they realize it’s food! You’ll need to do some quick preparation then weigh the cucumber down so it doesn’t float. Leave in the tank overnight and remove in the morning.

To get your cucumber ready for your Kuhlis, you’ll need to scrub it with a brush under cold water to get it clean (as you would for yourself).

This is to avoid contamination from any dirt clinging to the skin that could affect water quality or the fish themselves.

Secondly, you’ll need to stop it floating, so take a metal spoon and skewer the cucumber. Don’t use a knife or fork in case your fish hurt themselves on the sharp edges and points.

Then, simply drop it into the tank and watch it sink to the floor, where your Kuhli Loaches like to eat. Do this just before lights out, as the nocturnal Kuhli Loach prefers to eat at night and rest during the day.

It may take your Loaches one or two attempts before they realize they can eat the cucumber, but curiosity will get the better of them in the end!

Until lights out, your other fish can have their fill!

Remove the cucumber in the morning before it starts to decompose too much. If the spoon is stainless steel, you don’t need to worry about having metal in your tank, but cucumber will quickly start to rot.

Top tip: to avoid having to dip your hand into the tank first thing in the morning, you can tie some fishing wire around the spoon for easy removal.

Do Kuhli Loaches eat brine shrimp?

Like most fish, Kuhli Loaches love to eat brine shrimp. It’s a high-protein food that helps juvenile Kuhlis to grow and provides lots of energy for adult fish. Brine shrimp can be raised in live hatcheries or bought in freeze-dried form if you prefer.

As well as being super nutritious in its own right, brine shrimp also contains exogenous enzymes which help digestion. This means that nutrients from other foods like pellets and flakes will be absorbed into your Kuhli Loach’s system more efficiently. 

It’s a great option for Kuhlis of all kinds (yes, there are lots of different types of Kuhli Loach!)

Do Kuhli Loaches eat bloodworms?

Kuhli Loaches are not fussy eaters and will happily eat bloodworms, which are a nutritious and beneficial food to add to your Kuhlis’ diet. Feed bloodworms to your Loaches as a treat or part of a mix of different foods, not as the only meal you give to your fish.

This is because they are protein-rich, but also high in fats and lack other essential nutrients like amino acids.

Think of bloodworms as cheese. You wouldn’t make cheese the only thing you ate, and for the same reason, you wouldn’t just feed your Kuhli Loaches exclusively on bloodworms.

I include bloodworms in the mix of foods that I add to my community tank at feeding time, which is usually first thing in the morning.

Photo kindly provided by Reddit user PancakeHandz

Varying their diet

The reason I mix different foods together is to give all the different fish, shrimps, and snails in the tank a varied diet.

This way, I can get them all the nutrients they need without changing their food all the time.

My mix contains:

  • Freeze-dried bloodworm
  • Insect & salmon-based micro-granules (Fluval Bug Bites)
  • Crushed flake food
  • Crushed algae wafers
  • Shrimp & snail pellets

Do Kuhli Loaches eat flakes?

Kuhli Loaches will eat flakes if given the chance, but this rarely happens in a community tank because flakes float on top of the water. Kuhlis are bottom feeders and their surface-feeding tank mates usually eat all the flakes before they sink to the bottom.

If your Kuhli Loaches are in a tank with surface feeders like Guppies and Platies, you’ll need to combine flakes with sinking foods like pellets. This will make sure your Loaches get a decent meal.

Kuhli Loaches and the rest of your cleanup crew will eat anything that makes its way to the bottom of the tank. However, it’s dangerous to rely on leftovers to give your Kuhlis the nutrition they need to stay healthy.

If your Kuhli Loaches don’t live in a tank with surface feeders, you can safely feed flakes knowing they’ll all make their way to the bottom.

There are flake foods designed for tropical fish, so look out for these rather than the more generic flake food. This will make sure your Kuhli Loaches are eating flakes that will give them the right nutrition.

Can Kuhli Loaches eat algae wafers?

Kuhli Loaches will happily eat algae wafers, which make good food for Kuhlis because they sink to the bottom of the tank. Kuhli Loaches only feed at the bottom of the tank, so sinking algae wafers are a better choice than floating foods like fish flakes.

Algae wafers are rich in protein and have high nutritional value, so they’re a good addition to your Kuhlis’ diet.

I don’t recommend feeding your Kuhlis algae wafers exclusively, however, as they do need a varied diet.

One of my camera-shy Kuhli Loaches

Do Kuhli Loaches eat algae?

Kuhli Loaches will eat algae that they find on rocks, plant roots, and gravel. They’re not efficient enough algae-eaters to clear your tank completely but they will snack on various types of algae and whatever else they find around the bottom of the tank.

Unfortunately, Kuhli Loaches aren’t capable of cleaning your tank completely. Even if you have Kuhlis, shrimps, and snails like me, you’ll still need to clean your tank to be relatively algae-free.

Do Kuhli Loaches eat detritus worms?

Kuhli Loaches will eat detritus worms if they come across them while exploring the gravel at the bottom of your aquarium. Most fish will eat them, but Kuhlis are more likely to find them as they’re bottom feeders and look for snacks in the substrate.

I’ve had Kuhli Loaches in my main tank for over a year now and it’s been a long time since I’ve seen detritus worms. I keep the tank fairly clean and don’t over-feed, so this is probably why, but it’s good to know I have Kuhlis there in case there’s ever an issue.

Detritus worms aren’t harmful to your tank or your fish, but they’re usually a sign that there’s leftover food and dirt for them to feed on.

If this is the case, it can be reassuring to know someone is down there trying to clean it up, but you’re unlikely to have them for long if you introduce Kuhli Loaches.

Black Kuhli Loach – photo by Mango1730 on Reddit

Kuhlis are nocturnal fish who spend most of their waking hours looking for food on the tank floor. If they come across a detritus worm, they’re likely to make short work of it.

Do Kuhli Loaches eat dead fish?

Kuhli Loaches will eat dead fish, but allowing it is not a good idea. Kuhlis are bottom-feeding scavengers who will eat anything they find on the tank floor, but if your fish died from a disease, it’s dangerous for your Loaches to feed on an infected body.

Instead, always remove the dead fish as soon as you spot it. This gives you a chance of removing the body before your Kuhli Loaches get a chance to eat it and potentially infect themselves with the same illness.

How long can Kuhli Loaches go without food?

Kuhli Loaches can easily go for a week without food, as they’ll always find something to eat amongst the substrate at the bottom of the tank. However, while Kuhli Loaches will survive for this long, it’s not ideal to leave them for a week without food.

Surviving isn’t the same as thriving, and Kuhlis ideally shouldn’t have to rely on scavenging for decomposing leftovers.

To stay healthy, they need to be fed regularly. Ideally, Kuhli Loaches would be fed small amounts of food twice per day and be left to clean up any leftovers in between.

If you’re going away on a long trip, I recommend leaving them with a good food source.

Personally, I prefer automatic fish feeders to feeding blocks, which are unreliable in terms of how much food they release at once.

Feeding blocks can often break down too quickly, which leads to over-feeding and leftover food in the tank. This inevitably leads to ammonia spikes, which is the last thing you’ll want to deal with when you return.

Instead, try an automatic fish feeder like the one pictured below, which I used last time I went away for a couple of weeks. It’s easy to set up to four feeding times per day and has an adjustable outlet hole to control how much food is released.

The barrel rotates at the specified time(s) and releases food into the tank, either via a feeding hole in the lid or if your tank doesn’t have one of those, directly into the water while attached to the tank using the clamp system provided.

I have a fat Kuhli Loach – am I over-feeding?

If one of your Kuhli Loaches looks fat, it could be one of two things. If the plumpness starts part way down the body your Kuhli could be egg-laden. However, if the whole body looks bloated, your Loach probably just gained weight from overfeeding.

A healthy Kuhli Loach should look nice and plump if they’re well fed. As long as they’re behaving normally and moving around the tank well, you shouldn’t worry.

However it is possible to over-feed and because Kuhlis are bottom-feeders, they’ll scavenge anything they can find. This can lead to over-eating so cut down on feeding if you’re concerned.

As mentioned above, if your Kuhli Loach looks more like it has a ‘pot belly’ rather than a healthy plumpness all the way through its body, it could be gravid.

‘Gravid’ is the term for an egg-laden fish. Only live-bearers can be ‘pregnant’, whereas Kuhli Loaches are egg-scatterers.

If you look closely at your Kuhli’s bloated belly, you may even be able to see the eggs inside. A gravid Kuhli Loach will also have some faded color around the stomach.

Summary – what should I feed my Kuhli Loaches?

Kuhli Loaches are bottom-feeders who will eat anything they find around the tank floor.

However, don’t rely on their scavenging for their whole diet. They still need a balanced and varied diet to get all the nutrients they need to live a happy, healthy life.

Kuhli Loaches are omnivores, so feed them a variety of plant and animal-based foods. I feed a pre-mixed feed made up of animal-based micro-pellets, powdered foods, and fish flakes.

Another of my gorgeous half-banded Kuhli Loaches

I also occasionally feed bloodworms and cucumber as treats for my Kuhlis, who feast on the food that makes its way down past the surface-feeders.

Always make sure your Kuhli Loaches are getting enough to eat if, like me, you have other fish who might get there first.

Feed your surface-feeders in the morning and let the Kuhlis take the leftovers. Then feed sinking foods at night when the lights are out and the room is in complete darkness.

This will give the more nocturnal Kuhlis, who don’t rely much on eyesight to find food, the chance to get a proper meal.