There are several different Kuhli Loach types available to keep in your tank, and a wide range of Kuhli Loach colors to choose from.
There is also quite a lot of overlap and contradiction online about which subspecies are which. Some of the common names for subspecies are used interchangeably and incorrectly, which can be confusing.
Some species are given alternative names in pet stores. So you won’t find the likes of the Zipper Kuhli Loach or the Tiger Kuhli Loach listed below, as they aren’t subspecies in their own right.
Hopefully, this article helps you differentiate between the various types of Kuhli Loach.
The sciency bit
The scientific name for Kuhli Loaches is Pangio Kuhlii. Pangio is the genus, from the family Cobitidae, while Kuhlii refers to the zoologist Heinrich Kuhl. The name literally means ‘Kuhl’s Loach.’
I’ve listed as many as possible of the common and scientific names for the variations of Kuhli Loaches available in the list below.
Half-Banded Kuhli Loach A.K.A. Striped Kuhli Loach, Sumatran Kuhli Loach (Pangio Semicincta)
The half-banded Kuhli Loach is the most recognizable and arguably the ‘standard’ Kuhli. That is to say that when most people talk about Kuhli Loaches, they’re talking about the half-banded subspecies.
The name of this subspecies is Pangio Semicincta, with Pangio referring to the Kuhli Loach genus and Semicincta translating as ‘half belt’.
This is the variety I currently have in my tank, and are usually slightly smaller and more slender than some of the other types of Kuhli Loach.
Leopard Kuhli Loach A.K.A. Calico Kuhli Loach, Shelford’s Kuhli Loach (Pangio Shelfordi)
The Leopard Kuhli Loach is similar in appearance to the half-banded Kuhli Loach but the two are often confused.
Leopard Kuhlis have a pattern more similar to actual leopard print, while half-banded Kuhlis have more solid, dark brown stripes. These stripes, called semicincta stripes, don’t encircle the whole body, as their underbellies are pale.
Black Kuhli Loach A.K.A. Black Kuhli Loach, Chocolate Kuhli Loach (Pangio Oblonga)
Black Kuhlis aren’t actually fully black, and like most Kuhli Loaches their underbelly is a much paler color (usually whitish or pale pink).
They grow to around 8cm (just over 3 inches) in captivity but in the wild, they can grow as large as 5 inches in length.
They’re one of the larger subspecies of Kuhli Loaches, with generally more girth than the half-banded variety.
Red Kuhli Loach
The Red Khuli Loach isn’t strictly a subspecies, but a variety of the Pangio Kuhlii with deeper coloration.
Just as the Chocolate Kuhli Loach is a Black Kuhli by another name, fish stores sometimes like to give alternative names to the same fish sometimes. Maybe just to confuse us!
Giant Kuhli Loach A.K.A. Super Kuhli Loach (Pangio Myersi)
The Giant Kuhli Loach isn’t any longer than your average Kuhli, but this subspecies has far more girth than its more slender cousins.
Named Pangio Myersi after Dr. George Sprague Myers, they are the biggest variety of Kuhli Loach, as their name suggests. Their stripes are also thicker than the half-banded Kuhli.
Silver Kuhli Loach (Pangio Anguillaris)
The Silver Kuhli Loach, also known as the Silver Eel Loach, originates in Borneo and other areas of South-East Asia.
Not only are they silver in color but they’re iridescent too, which means they’re quite reflective and shimmer at the right angle.
Albino Kuhli Loach
The Albino Kuhli Loach is simply a color variation of the more common Pangio genus. It isn’t thought to exist in the wild and is instead a result of captive breeding.
Panda Kuhli Loach (Pangio Unknown01)
Panda Kuhli Loaches are incredibly rare and were only discovered in 2006. They are unique in that they have a fully dark gray body with stripes only on their face.
Borneo Kuhli Loach (Pangio Alternans)
The Borneo Kuhli Loach is an interesting subspecies in that it has fewer vertebrae than other Kuhlis.
It is visually distinguishable by the bands on its back, which don’t extend around towards the belly, like the Half-Banded Kuhli. Instead, they stop short and meet a more speckled set of markings on the sides of the Loach.
Neon Kuhli Loach, A.K.A. Golden Eel Kuhli Loach (Pangio Doriae)
Another with an iridescent sheen, the Neon Kuhli Loach has more of a pink tint than the Silver Kuhli.
I bought two rare Pangio Doriae today. They only get 3.5 inches long and stay thin and stringy unlike other loaches. I think I’ll go back and get some more soon. pic.twitter.com/WRGhcUifqH— Nayamage64 (@Simpin4Fulgrim) July 8, 2022
Malaysian Kuhli Loach (Pangio Malayana)
The Malaysian Kuhli Loach is one of the easiest to identify as it has much smaller stripes than the other varieties, often barely any.
They’re also one of the smaller subspecies, growing up to a maximum of around 3 inches in length, even in the wild.
Cinnamon Kuhli Loach (Pangio Pangia)
The Cinnamon Kuhli Loach is arguably not as glamorous as its striped and banded relatives, but it’s no less fun.
They’re basically a shorter version of the Black Kuhli Loach, growing up to around 6cm (2.4 inches).
There are lots of varieties and subspecies of Kuhli Loaches to choose from. They all make great additions to your tank, as long as you know how to take care of them.
They’re a very social fish, so it’s important to keep them in groups of at least six but ideally ten or more. Of course, you’ll need to be sure of the right tank size for a group of Kuhli Loaches before you over-stock your tank.
Kuhli Loaches are mostly nocturnal and need plenty of hiding places to escape bright light. They also prefer sand to gravel, as they sift sand through their mouths and gills to filter out food particles (find out what food to give to your Kuhli Loaches here).
All types of Kuhli Loach thrive in the same water parameters, with a pH of around 7, general hardness below 5 and a temperature between 75-86°F (24-30°C).
Give them what they need and they’ll be a shy but fun addition to your tank. Enjoy!
Note: special thanks to Crossfire, a seemingly now inactive user over at fishforums.net for his excellent post on Kuhli Loach species which you can find here. Also thanks to loaches.com for their handy species index for help with the scientific names found in this post.