10 Best Small Loaches for Aquarium (1″ to 4 ” with Pictures)

Small loaches

Loaches, the most diverse family of freshwater bottom dwellers, are known for their unique bodies and playful personality. Most of them are social fish and prefer to be kept in groups. For many species, loneliness hurts and will make them pine away.

As you might know, there are 1249 species of loaches. From the diminutive Mini Dragon Loach (Schistura pridii) to the giant Imperial Flower Loach (Leptobotia elongata), they come in a wide variety of sizes – the smallest loaches only grow to about an inch in length, while the largest can reach two feet or more.

So you’re thinking about getting small loaches for your tank, but you’re not sure what kinds to choose? Never fear— here’s a list of our favorite small loaches available in the hobby today.

Whether you’re looking for something active and playful, or something more mellow and subdued, there’s sure to be a perfect small loach for your tank!

So, without further ado, let’s get started!

Kuhli Loach (Pangio kuhlii) – 4″ (10 cm)

The Kuhli Loach, also known as the Coolie Loach and Leopard Loach, is a small, eellike fish that reaches a maximum length of four inches. It’s a popular choice for aquariums because of its attractive striped pattern and fascinating burrowing habits.

These fish are native to the streams in Southeast Asia. Several subspecies are available in the aquarium trade, but they all require the same basic care.

Kuhli Loaches are most active at night while hiding in dark places during the day, so they should be fed at night. In the home aquariums, you will notice they often burrow into the bottom and sift for things to eat.

Fairly peaceful by nature, Kuhli Loaches do best in groups of six or more fish. They can be kept with other small, non-aggressive fish, such as tetras, danios, rasboras, and other bottom dwellers.

Blackline Loach (Yasuhikotakia nigrolineata) – 4″ (10 cm)

Photo: Emma Turner

This is a vulnerable species of loach found in the Mekong basin in Southeast Asia, which often inhabit creek with a sandy bottom and moderate current.

This small fish can only grow up to 4 inches (10 cm) in length. They get their name from the two black lines on the body. One runs along their body from snout to tail, and another close to the top of its back.

The Blackline Loach is a shoaling and shy fish, so it’s best to keep them in groups of 5 or more. Also, they are handy fish as long as you provide a finely tuned environment.

These fish are not recommended for beginners simply because their tiny scales make them particularly vulnerable to disease and very sensitive to the medications to treat any bacterial, fungal, or parasitic infections in your tank.

Eel Loach (Pangio anguillaris) – 4″ (10 cm)

One of the smaller members of the Pangio family, P. anguillaris, is commonly found in still and clam areas of the medium to large-sized rivers in Indochina, Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, and Borneo.

In their natural habits, they spend most of their time buried in the sand or silt substrates in debris and decaying vegetation. They are known as very active burrowers in the aquarium, so a suitable soft substrate is a must.

Pangio anguillaris are different from other loaches in having long and slender bodies. Its scientific name, Pangio anguillaris, is derived from the Latin word anguillaris, meaning eel-like, referring to an elongate body.

Zebra Loach (Botia striata) 3.5″ (9 cm)

This is my all-time favorite loach owing to its unique pattern. The Zebra Loach (Botia striata) is native to the clear mountain rivers and streams of Maharashtra and the Western Ghats in India.

It’s worth noting that many fish stores often mislabel them with their much larger cousin, “Clown Loaches” (Botia macracantha), which are around 12 inches when fully grown.

The Zebra Loach sports a brown body with yellow and black stripes that run horizontally along its flanks. These beautiful fish can grow up to 3.5 inches (9 cm) in length. Its relatively small size and peaceful nature make it a perfect candidate for community tanks.

Skunk Loach (Yasuhikotakia morleti) 3.3″ (8.3 cm)

Photo: Lerdsuwa

Sometimes called a skunk botia or Hora’s loach, the Skunk Loach (Yasuhikotakia morleti) is a unique and small botiid loach that hails from freshwater streams in Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand.

Like other Botia loaches, these fish are quite pretty and can be easily distinguished by the four pairs of barbels around their mouths. They have a creamy tan to the brown base with a black line that runs from the nose to the base of the tail along the back, which gives its common name, skunk botia.

Skunk loaches hide during the day and become active only at night, foraging for food. Though they stay small, this is actually a very feisty loach and can get aggressive towards each other if there are not enough hiding places, which may not be suitable for community aquariums. 

Java Loach (Pangio oblonga) – 3″ (8 cm)

The Java Loach or Black Kuhli Loach is a perfect alternative if you like the swimming pattern of Kuhlis but want a fish with a bit more streamlined appearance. It is sometimes referred to as chocolate Kohli and cinnamon loach in the fish stores.

Like all Pangio species, java loaches have a long-bodied shape with small eyes set high in the skull, but the body of the java loach is slender and is uniform in color, ranging from a reddish-brown to chocolate brown to near black on its body and head, while slightly lighter on the underside.

Like many other loach species, these fish often don’t breed in captivity without certain hormones and must be kept in large groups of five or more.

Reticulated Hillstream Loach (Sewellia lineolata) – 2.5″ (6.35 cm)


Looking for a small loach that eats algae? The Reticulated Hillstream Loach (Sewellia lineolata) is considered one of the best algae eaters for aquariums, particularly for cold freshwater aquariums.

Besides that, Reticulated Hillstream Loaches are one of the coolest fish in the aquarium hobby. They have an unusual, streamlined body shape covered with intricate patterns, including their fins, which give them a reticulated or net-like appearance. 

These fish are native to Vietnam and can be found in fast-moving, highly oxygenated hillstream composed of gravel, bedrock, and sand. These little fighters stay small and only grow to a maximum size of 2.5 inches (6.35 cm).

They are quite hardy and do require some special care. If you’re interested in keeping this loach, check out our care guide.

Dwarf Chain Loach (Ambastaia sidthimunki) 2″ (5 cm)

The biggest challenge when it comes to keeping loaches is their boisterous and often destructive nature when kept in groups that may stress out other timid fish in the aquarium, especially in nano tanks.

Dwarf Chain Loach (Ambastaia sidthimunki), however, is an exception. This fish is indigenous to rivers in Thailand, and it’s one of the smallest loaches that only grow up to 2 inches and make excellent community tank mates.

They have a pretty appearance and inquisitive personality, so they may sniff new fish and explore their tank mates, but they are more chill than other loaches. Unlike other loaches, these loveable pygmy loaches are energetic and active during the daytime.

What attracted fish keepers the most is dwarf chain loach will often kill and eat pest snails, making them the perfect addition to smaller planted aquariums.

Mini Dragon Loach (Schistura pridii) – 1.5″ (4 cm)

Photo: Thiti Ruangsuwan

The Mini Dragon Loach is a rare find in the aquarium trade. They are endemic to a vulnerable habitat in Thailand and is currently listed as “Endangered” by the IUCN. 

Because of their unique and rare appearance, they are highly sought after by loach enthusiasts and command a high price tag. They have a long, slender body that is white with eye-catching crisp black spots.

Being a stone loach, they often hide amongst rocks and pebble substrates. If you’re lucky enough to find them for sale, make sure to check out this care guide to ensure they have a long and happy life in your aquarium.

Rosy Loach (Petruichthys sp. ‘rosy’) – 1 inch (3 cm)

Rosy Loach

We end our list with the Rosy Loach, the smallest loach you can find in the aquarium trade. This rare loach stays around 1 to 1.2 inches (2.5 to 3 cm) when they reach full maturity, making them a beautiful candidate for small planted aquariums.

This species can be found in eastern Myanmar and northern Thailand, where they live in shallow, flooded grassland surrounded by grassland.

In terms of appearance, they have a vibrant red or orange coloration body with a black line that extends from the nose to the tail. The fins are also transparent with a tinge of orange.

These fish are omnivorous micropredators and require a diet of meaty foods, such as live/frozen Daphnia, Moina, micro worm, etc.

Closing Thoughts

Small loaches make great additions to any aquarium, whether it be a coldwater or tropical setup. However, some species are not recommended for beginners as they need pristine water conditions.

Many are great algae and snail eaters that can help you keep on top of algal and pest snail explosion issues. Others are active and playful, often engaging in play with their tank mates.

We hope you enjoyed this article and found it informative. If we missed any of your favorite small loaches, let us know in the comments below.

Rosy Loach Care 101: Tank Size, Diet, Tank Mates & More


The Rosy Loach is a wonderful freshwater fish that we recommend to heavily-planted aquariums. Many aquarists haven’t heard of them since they are not commonly found in the trade.

These rare fish are actually easy to care for and a joy to watch. They’re very active and outgoing personalities as well as attractive appearances.

But even though these beautiful are quite adaptable, it’s important to provide them with the right environment and diet if you want them to truly thrive.

So, in this article, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about Rosy Loach’s care.

Species Summary

The Rosy Loach (Petruichthys sp. “Tuberoschistura arakanensis”) a fairly new species to the hobby, which has not yet been officially described by scientists. It was first imported into the UK in September/October 2006 and has been sold under the Latin name “Tuberoschistura arakanensis” given by the suppliers ever since.

However, this species doesn’t have many similarities with other Tuberoschistura species, so a new name is likely to be given in the future.

This species is native to Eastern Myanmar and northern Thailand, where it’s found in shallow waters (12 inches deep) with dense aquatic plants, including weed-choked ponds and shallow wetland areas.

Rosy loaches are unique among loaches because they spend most of their time foraging for food on the bottom or perched on plants and decorations. Additionally, these fish are known to be schooling fish and exhibit sophisticated social behavior. All of which, combined with their small size, it wouldn’t be hard to believe that these nano fish might ultimately be booming in the aquarium trade.

Scientific Name:
Common Name:Rosy Loach
Care Level:Beginner
Origin:Myanmar and Thailand
Lifespan:5 to 7 years
Max Size:1 inch (3 cm)
Temperature:72ºF to 79ºF (22-26°C)
PH:7.0-7.8 (7.3 is the sweet spot)
Water hardness:8 to 20 dKH
Minimum Tank Size:30 gallons


On average, the Rosy Loach lifespan is somewhere between 5 and 7 years in captivity. This number is based on proper Rosy Loach care, which we will go over in more detail later on. Many seasoned aquarists have had their Rosy Loach live for much longer than that.


Rosy Loach male
Male Rosy Loach (Photo: loaches.com)

There’s no denying that Rosy Loaches are gorgeous little creatures.

These fish have a long and slender body shape that is common among loaches. This particular species is sporting a red/orange hue along its body with a black line that goes from its snout all the way to its tail. The color intensity depends on each individual, but it’s usually deeper around the lateral stripe.

Females are quite similar to Pygmy Corydoras in terms of size and color. However, Rosy Loaches are longer and tend to have smaller, clear fins.

Male Vs. Female

Male Vs Female (Photo: loaches.com)

Sexually mature female rosy loaches are typically larger and rounder-bellied than males, and they often take on a light grey base covered with fine irregular dark dots, plus the lateral line may be broken into many blotches.

As for color and pattern, males exhibit a red/orange body color but turn to almost bright orange when ready to spawn, particularly on the posterior part of the body.

Rosy Loach Size

Rosy loaches only grow to an average total length (TL) of about 1 inch (3 cm) and are quite underweight. On the large end of the spectrum, they may reach a size of 1.25 inches (3.2 cm), but that’s pretty rare in captivity.

Their size is pretty small, which is one of the reasons they’re so popular among aquarium enthusiasts.

Rosy Loach Care Guide

Contrary to what you might think, small fish are delicate and not as hardy as their larger counterparts. Rosy Loaches are no exception to that rule.

While Rosy Loaches are quite adaptable and can live in a wide range of water conditions, they’re still sensitive creatures that require proper care if you want them to thrive in captivity.

This section will cover everything you need to know about Rosy Loach’s care, from tank size and water parameters to diet and common health problems.

Tank Size

Our recommended tank size for Rosy Loaches is 30 gallons (36″ x 18″ x 12″). Some people say you can get away with as small as a 5-gallon tank, but we believe that’s too small for these fish.

Rosy Loaches are extremely active schooling fish, and these tiny critters should be kept in school of at least 8- 10 individuals. This is necessary for them to feel comfortable and secure in their environment. A small tank will not give them enough space to swim around and school properly.

Being a highly sociable species and they have their own social hierarchy, where each fish constantly tries to compete to be the Alpha by swimming faster than others. In a small tank, there simply isn’t enough space for Rosy Loaches to do that.

Unlike many African cichlids types, this behavior doesn’t involve real fighting but is only a means of establishing social dominance. As a result, this can help boost their coloration and activity.

Moreover, a small tank is more likely to experience water quality issues, which Rosy Loaches are also quite sensitive to when first imported. 

Lastly, Rosy Loaches prefer to live in densely planted tanks with plenty of shady hiding places to mimic their natural habitat. A small tank will not give you enough space to create a proper setup for these fish, let alone a beautiful, original aquascape.

Water Parameters

Replicating Rosy Loach’s natural habitat is always going to be the best way to keep your Rosy Loaches healthy and happy.

Here are some important water parameters to aim for:

  • Water temperature: 72ºF to 79ºF (22-26°C)
  • pH levels: 7.0-7.8 (7.3 is the sweet spot)
  • Water hardness: 8 to 20 dKH

The small size of the Rosy loach makes it relative hardiness when first introduced, so they are only being suitable for a ‘mature’ aquarium. 

These fish come from high-oxygenated, low or moderate water flow ponds where the water is medium-hard with a neutral pH. A small air-powered sponge filter with a medium flow is ideal. 

Because of the narrow range that Rosy Loaches can tolerate, we recommend investing in a reliable water test kit that will help you easily monitor these parameters on a regular basis.

  • Contains one (1) API FRESHWATER MASTER TEST KIT 800-Test Freshwater Aquarium Water Master Test Kit,...
  • Helps monitor water quality and prevent invisible water problems that can be harmful to fish and cause...
  • Accurately monitors 5 most vital water parameters levels in freshwater aquariums: pH, high range pH,...
  • Designed for use in freshwater aquariums only
  • Use for weekly monitoring and when water or fish problems appear

It’s also very important to perform regular water changes of roughly 25% weekly to keep the tank clean and the water parameters in check. 

Plants & Substrate

Rosy Loach Care (Photo: fishstagram.ottawa)

Their natural habitat is covered by live plants, mostly from the family Hydrocharitaceae, including Elodea spp. (Tape-Grass Family), Egeria spp., and Blyxa spp.. So, if you want to create a natural-looking Rosy Loach tank, you need to include plenty of live plants.

Plenty of hiding places created by driftwood roots or branches are appreciated. Some leaves and floating plants can also add to the natural feel of the tank.

Rosy Loaches are burrowers by nature and love to dig through the substrate in search of food. A sand substrate is ideal as it’s soft enough for Rosy Loaches to dig through without damaging the delicate sensory barbels.

Given that Rosy Loaches stay small, there is a chance they’ll get trapped under rocks or other decorations while digging, so be sure to create an open area in the middle of the tank for them to swim around.

Rosy Loach Food & Diet

Despite their small size, Rosy Loaches are omnivorous micropredators. In the wild, they mainly feed on small insects, crustaceans, worms, and vegetable matter.

In the aquarium, they will require a variety of appropriately sized meaty foods regularly. Frozen/live baby brine shrimp (BBS), daphnia, and mini-bloodworm will work great.

Rosy Loaches will accept most sinking pellets or crushed flake fry foods. You can also offer them some plant or algal material to supplement their diet. 

A varied diet is always the best way to ensure your fish get all the nutrients they need.

Tank Mates

Unlike most loaches, Rosy Loaches also frequently flutter around mid-level or even at the top of the aquarium. As long as the school includes at least 8-10 fish, they don’t have a problem cohabitating with most small schooling fish of a similar disposition.

If the Rosy Loach is kept singly or in a group of less than 5, they may become stressed and aggressive. 

You can also keep them with other bottom-dwelling fish in a large tank. Ensure these fish will not be too timid to come up for food, or they will starve.

Rosy Loach Breeding

Since these fish are rare in the hobby, Rosy Loach breeding is seldom successful in the home aquarium. Even if you’re lucky enough to stumble upon a Rosy Loach pair, getting them to successfully spawn is next to impossible.

According to a few reports, females will lay tiny, mildly adhesive eggs scattered over plants or other surfaces. The parents will not guard and take care of their offspring. Instead, they will eat them, so you may need to remove the parents or raise the fry in a separate tank. 

The eggs should hatch in 24-36 hours, and the fry should be free swimming after another 24-36 hours, depending on the temperature.

Once the fry are free-swimming, they can be fed with infusoria. As they grow, you can start to feed freshly hatched brine shrimp or other small live foods.


Do Rosy Loaches Eat Snails?

Rosy Loaches may eat snails if they’re small enough. Don’t expect them to make much of a dent in a population of medium and larger snails due to the obvious reason – their small size.

Do Rosy Loaches Eat Algae?

Rosy Loaches do not specialize in eating algae but may nibble on it from time to time, especially if there’s not much else to eat. If you’re looking for an algae-eating fish, Rosy Loaches are not the best choice.

Do Rosy Loaches Eat Shrimp?

Rosy Loaches will eat baby brine shrimp (Artemia nauplii).

Where to Buy Rosy Loaches?

Rosy Loaches are not commonly available in local pet stores but can be found online from time to time. When buying Rosy Loaches, or any fish for that matter, be sure to purchase them from a reputable source to ensure they’re healthy and properly cared for.

Wrapping Up

Although Rosy Loaches are colorful and lively nano fish, they’re not suitable for small tanks. They’re best kept in a school of at least 10 fish in a tank no smaller than 30 gallons.

Rosy Loach care is not challenging and is a good choice for beginner fish keepers. They’re not fussy eaters and will accept most sinking pellets and flakes. Be sure to supplement their diet with live/frozen foods such as brine shrimp, daphnia, or bloodworms.

If there’s anything you think we missed or if you have any questions about something we covered, please leave us a comment below. As always, happy fishkeeping!

Reticulated Hillstream Loach Care: Tank Size, Food, Lifespan, Tank Mates

reticulated hillstream loach

The exquisite reticulated hillstream loach is becoming more and more popular among aquarists.

Sure, they’re a fairly recent introduction to the aquarium trade, but the popularity of reticulated hillstream loaches is definitely on the rise.

Here’s why:

First, these oddball fish are one of the coolest-looking loaches you can get your hands on. Their unique body shape and patterning easily make them stand out from other standard loaches in the aquarium. When I first saw them in a local fish store, I was immediately hooked.

They’re also easy to care for and stay small. Reticulated hillstream loach care is pretty something that even beginner fishkeepers can handle.

And last and most importantly, this fish is an amazing algae eater that can help to get the algae outbreak under control.

However, like other hillstream loach species, they do have some specific needs that you need to be aware of.

So, if you’re thinking about getting one (or a group) of these little fish for your aquarium, read on. In this article, I’ll go over everything you need to know about reticulated hillstream loach care.

Species Profile


Reticulated hillstream loaches (Sewellia lineolata), also known as gold ring butterfly sucker and tiger hillstream loach, are one of the most common hillstream loaches in the aquarium hobby.

There are 202 species in the hillstream loaches (Balitoridae) family. Most species are rheophilic, meaning that they inhabit moderate to swift currents thanks to their flat, streamlined bodies and evolved ventral fins used as suction cups that help them stay in place against the strong currents, particularly these Sewellia species.

Native to Vietnam and Laos, Reticulated hillstream loaches are found in fast-flowing, highly oxygenated small streams with submerged plants, as well as in larger rivers where current velocity may exceed 1 m/sec.

In their natural habitat, they prefer to live in clear water bodies with high dissolved oxygen levels. In such an environment, rich biofilms covering the submerged surfaces can provide the residents shelter and abundant nutrients.

Scientific Name:Sewellia lineolata
Common Name:Reticulated Hillstream Loach, Gold ring butterfly sucker, Tiger Hillstream Loach
Care Level:Beginner
Lifespan:8 to 10 years
Max Size:2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm)
Temperature:68ºF to 75ºF (20-23.8°C)
Water hardness:10-15 dGH
Minimum Tank Size:20 gallons


Reticulated hillstream loaches have a lifespan of 8-10 years in captivity. Like all fish, this number can be lower if they’re not kept in optimal conditions.

As with these fish, providing them with clean, well-oxygenated water with a fast flow whilst maintaining water parameters in good shape will help them reach their maximum lifespan potential. We’ll get into the details of how to do that a little later on.


Reticulated hillstream loaches

It’s not hard to see why reticulated hillstream loaches are on the rise in popularity. These fish are absolutely unique and beautiful!

First things first, don’t confuse them with Cobitidae and Loricariids. The former is the true loach family that contains around 260 species, and they have similar barbels around the mouth. The latter, on the other hand, are a group of freshwater fish that share certain traits with reticulated hillstream loaches but are actually suckermouth armored catfishes. 

Also, these oddballs are often mistaken for the smallest freshwater stingray because of their very similar body shapes.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s get back to reticulated hillstream loaches. They have a reticulated (or net-like) pattern on their bodies that can vary in intensity from light gold to dark brown. This intricate reticulation is what gives them one of their other common names, the gold ring butterfly sucker.

Look closely; you will notice 3-5 pronounced longitudinal lines on both sides of the body. Pelvic and pectoral fins are also covered with bold submarginal stripes. The stripes tend to be linear on the caudal fin. The rest of the body is accented with these intricate patterns.

They have a streamlined body that is built perfectly to withstand fast currents with the help of their well-developed and unique ventral fins. To assist them further in staying anchored against the fast current, their evolved fins feature needle-like fin spines.

Otherwise, like many other catfish, they have a flattened belly and a smaller sucker mouth.

Males Vs. Females

Photo: loaches.com

The reticulated hillstream loach (Sewellia lineolata) is sexually dimorphic, so it’s pretty easy to distinguish between males and females.

As with many other species of fish, female reticulated hillstream loach tends to be larger and broader than males, whereas the males are slender when viewed from above. 

Sexual maturity males develop a much squarer snout, and their pectoral fins run almost at right angles to the body, while the pectoral fins on females are positioned at a more rounded or softer angle. 

You’ll have to pay attention to their upper surface (the surface of the head) and the edge of their first few pectoral-fin rays, where mature males will develop small tubercules called ‘fences’ in the hobby. These structures are much smaller or absent in females.

Reticulated Hillstream Loach Size

The standard length of reticulated hillstream loach is around 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm) when fully grown. Compared to other popular types of loaches, they are quite small.

Reticulated Hillstream Loach Care

The biggest consideration when keeping a reticulated hillstream loach in the home aquarium is providing a high-velocity water flow since these fish require a high level of oxygen.

This is what you find fish keepers talk about most, and for a good reason. They are obligate stream fish, so they require moving water to thrive, and lots of it!

However, that’s not the whole story.

Current & High Oxygenation

In captivity, you’ll never have a chance to see them show their behavior as they would in the wild, owing to their highly adaptable nature.

Theoretically, replicating their natural environment by adding an extra powerhead to return flow from the filter will provide them with everything they need in terms of water movement. 

But, you’ll quickly find out that’s not the case. They still tend to spend most of their time congregating near the power-head outlet or around the airstone because of the high oxygen concentration in these areas.

So, what’s the solution?

River-Tank Manifold Design
Photo: Martin Thoene

This can be achieved by constructing a river-tank manifold. I must say it looks really cool and would probably be much better than a regular tank setup, simply because it produces the unidirectional flow, like a river. Check out this video or article for more information.

Of course, you don’t have to go this route. Reticulated hillstream loaches are already used to gentle water movement when sold in pet stores, so a sponge filter with an output that produces a moderate flow should do the trick. But it’s something to consider if you really want to provide them with the best possible environment.

Tank Size

Because reticulated hillstream loaches are so small, they don’t need a ton of space. A 20-gallon aquarium is sufficient for a group of 3-4 fish.

But don’t forget that these little oddballs need a lot of water flow, so you might want to take that into account when deciding on tank size. It’s nearly impossible to provide a highly concentrated flow in small tanks, so the next best thing is a longer tank with a large footprint.

Water Conditions

You may already hear from other aquarists that reticulated hillstream loaches are one of the best cold water algae eaters. Generally, cold water can hold more dissolved oxygen than warm water, so this fish may be more susceptible to stress at high temperatures.

As for water parameters, you should aim for the following:

  • pH: 7.0-7.8
  • Temperature: 68ºF to 75ºF (20-23.8°C)
  • Hardness: 10-15 dGH

As with other freshwater fish, reticulated hillstream loaches appreciate good water quality and stable water parameters. So, be sure to perform regular water changes and closely monitor your aquarium for signs of ammonia or nitrite spikes.

Tank Decor

Your goal is re-creating a unique river environment. Choose aquarium décor that will help you achieve that.

Their native habitat – the river beds mainly consist of sand, gravel, and various sized rocks, which provide them with the perfect hiding spots and grazing grounds.

It’s best to use fine gravel with smooth pebbles as substrate. You can mix sand in sheltered areas to provide a more natural look. Decorating them is entirely up to your preference; just make sure to provide a large rock that allows algae to grow on as a grazing spot.

To encourage biofilm/algae growth, you will need moderate to bright lighting, which also encourages tall aquarium plants to grow and improve water clarity. Floating plants are unnecessary as they will block out too much light.

And lastly, don’t forget to include a well-suited lid on the aquarium; you know they have the ability to run up walls and escape.

Food & Diet

In the wild, reticulated hillstream loaches spend most of their time grazing on benthic algae and microorganisms (aufwuchs). Sometimes, they also take on insect larvae that cling to the rocks on an opportunistic basis.

Firstly, you will grow some algae on rocks in the aquarium to provide a constant food source. However, they cannot live on algae alone and will require a varied diet, so make sure to feed them a well-balanced diet. 

As for commercial or home-made foods, they will accept the most good quality flake, sinking pellets, and algae wafers. For long-term success with these fish, you should also supplement their diet with vegetable matter and live foods, such as frozen Bloodworm, Brine Shrimp, and blanched kale leaves or zucchini.

Because of their small mouth size, you might want to go for a micro pellet or powder form.

Reticulated Hillstream Loach Tank Mates

Reticulated hillstream loaches are peaceful social species that can be kept singly or in groups of at least 6 fish with other small to medium-sized peaceful community fish of a similar size and share the same water requirements.

Some of the potential reticulated hillstream loach tank mates include:

In the wild, they tend to be territorial and aggressive towards each other. So, it is best to purchase at least 6 reticulated hillstream loaches to allow them to form their own social hierarchy and feel more secure in the aquarium to show their most interesting, natural behavior. But if you have a larger aquarium, you can increase the number of fish accordingly.

Furthermore, this species comes with a high price tag and may cost around $15 for each fish, so you will need to factor that into your budget as well.


Breeding of reticulated hillstream loaches is considered very challenging in captivity, but it is still possible. In order to successfully breed them, you will need to provide them with the perfect breeding conditions, including the river flow tank set up, water parameters, and live foods. Even if you can provide all that, they still might not spawn.

Males are known to perform a unique courtship ritual with fluttering displays and chasing the female, who will watch him for a while and then either accept or reject him. If she accepts him, then the male will ‘dance’ around her in circles and lightly nibble her dorsal. This ritual will last for several minutes before they finally embrace it.

Then the pair will rise up into the water column. You may notice their bodies are rigid and pectoral fins are spread out as they touch ventral to ventral and release their eggs and sperm. It is still unclear how long this embrace lasts or how many eggs are being released as this species is not often bred in captivity.

Young fry often hover close to the external filter, where there is more flow and oxygen. They are very similar to adults in body shape and coloration.


Can you keep reticulated hillstream loaches in a 20 gallon?

They can be kept in small groups in a 20 gallon aquarium, but larger tanks will be more suitable due to their oxygen and water flow requirements.

Where to Buy Reticulated Hillstream Loach?

You can purchase reticulated hillstream loaches from online retailers or specialty fish stores.

Do reticulated hillstream loaches need a filter?

Yes, they need a filter that can provide them with high water flow and oxygenation.

What’s the difference between Reticulated hillstream loach vs. hillstream loach?

The reticulated hillstream loach is a member of the hillstream loach. 

What’s the Difference Between Borneo Suckers Vs. Reticulated Hillstream loach?

Borneo Suckers or Borneo Loach (Pangio shelfordii) and Reticulated Hillstream loach (Sewellia lineolata) are two different species, but they require fairly similar care – high water flow, high amount of oxygenation, and colder water temperatures.

Does Reticulated Hillstream loach eat snails?

This species doesn’t eat snails. It only feeds on aufwuchs, a layer of algae, diatoms, and other microorganisms that grow on surfaces in freshwater habitats.


Reticulated hillstream loaches are beautiful, unique freshwater fish that make a great addition to any peaceful community aquarium. These oddball algae eaters are hardy little fish that are relatively easy to care for as long as you provide them with the proper tank setup and water conditions.

If you’re looking for a smaller algae eater for a cold water tank, then reticulated hillstream loaches might be the perfect fit! They do a great job at cleaning algae off flat surfaces and decorations in the tank. Their active, playful personalities will also add a lot of interest and activity to your aquarium.

If there’s anything you think we missed or have any questions, feel free to post them in the comments below. Our mission is to help make fish keeping as fun and easy as possible, so we’re happy to help however we can. Thanks for reading!

How Big Do Kuhli Loaches Get? (Ideal Kuhli Loach Tank Size)

Kuhli Loach size

The Kuhli Loach is a hardy and unique fish that does well in most aquariums. They are peaceful bottom-dwellers that prefer to stay hidden among plants and rocks. Kuhli Loaches are active and playful and make great tank mates for other similar fish.

The most common questions hobbyists have about Kuhli Loaches are “How big do Kuhli Loaches get?” and “What is the best Kuhli Loach tank size?”

In today’s article, we will answer that questions and give you some tips on helping your Kuhli Loaches stay healthy and reach their full potential.

So, without any further ado, let’s begin!

How Big Do Kuhli Loaches Get?

In the wild, Kuhli Loaches can grow to a maximum of 5 inches, though they remain between 3 and 4 inches in captivity. Their small size means that Kuhli Loaches can be kept in a wide variety of tank sizes, from medium-sized species-only tanks to large community tanks.

Black Kuhli Loach Size

Black Kuhli Loach Size

Several varieties are available in the aquarium trade. The black Kuhli Loach(Pangio oblonga) is one of the most popular. There is no difference between the black Kuhli Loaches and other varieties in size or care requirements; they simply have different colorations.

Kuhli Loaches are small fish, but the Kuhli Loach size can vary depending on a few factors, including diet, tank size, water condition, etc.

Now that we’ve answered the question “How big do Kuhli Loaches get?”, let’s move on to their tank size. 

What is the Best Kuhli Loach Tank Size?

Although Kuhli Loaches are not schooling fish, these fish are found in small groups in nature. Therefore, it’s best to keep them in a small group of 3 or more of their own kind in your aquarium. It’s pretty rare to see a singly kept Kuhli Loach.

Since these fish are relatively small and don’t produce a lot of waste, the minimum tank size for a group of 3 Kuhli Loaches is 20 gallons. If you plan to have more than three, add 3-5 gallons for each additional fish.

This species is nocturnal and is most active at night; they also tend to be quite shy in the daytime. A large tank with plenty of driftwood and rocks as hiding places will make them safe and comfortable to come out of hiding and explore.

You might be interested in this: elegant 20 Gallon Column Aquarium

How to Choose the Right Tank Size for Kuhli Loaches? 

As we mentioned earlier, Kuhli Loaches are beloved by aquarium enthusiasts for their small size. As a result, it’s possible to keep Kuhli Loaches in various tank sizes.

There are many things to consider when choosing the right Kuhli Loach tank size, such as the number of fish, filtration system, and whether you want to keep other fish with Kuhli Loaches.

Kuhli Loach Purchase Size

Generally, the Kuhli Loach you see in the store aren’t fully grown, and they’re usually between 1.5 to 2 inches. So, you need to take into account the Kuhli Loach full size when selecting a tank.

They will only grow to 3-4 inches in captivity. If you want your Kuhli Loaches to reach their maximum potential size, you’ll need to provide them with the proper diet and environment.

Number of Kuhli Loaches

Kuhli Loach

Kuhli Loaches are not solitary, and they prefer to live in groups of their own kind. In the wild, Kuhli Loaches are found in a small groups. Therefore, we recommend keeping at least three Kuhli Loaches together for the best results in an aquarium.

This way, they can feel more secure in their environment and be less likely to hide all day. A larger group will also help reduce aggression and bullying and make them more likely to live as they would in nature.

Community or Species-Only Tank

As one of the most peaceful bottom dwellers, you can keep Kuhli Loaches in both community and species-only tanks. In a community tank, Kuhli Loaches will do best with fish that occupy other areas of the aquarium.

The good tank mates include schooling fish (tetras, barbs, danios, rasboras) that spend most of their time in the middle and top levels of the tank.

Kuhli Loaches can also be kept with peaceful bottom-dwellers, such as Corydoras catfish, Otocinclus catfish, and Bristlenose plecos. It’s best to avoid keeping Kuhli Loaches with larger fish that may see them as potential food.

Some Kuhli Loach keepers prefer to keep their fish in a species-only tank because it allows them to design the perfect environment for Kuhli Loaches, where they can feel safe and thrive in a large group.

How Fast do Kuhli Loaches Grow?

Kuhli Loaches usually take 2 or 3 months to reach 2 inches and about a year or two to reach full size. They take years to reach their full size and maturity.

You will have to wait for a year or two for Kuhli Loaches to reach their mature size. However, they will start getting wide after a while though. Most of the time, they stop growing when they reach the size of 3 to 4 inches.

How Do you Make Kuhli Loaches Grow Fast?

Who doesn’t want healthy and happy little Kuhli Loaches, right? Wondering if there’s anything you can do to help Loaches grow up more quickly?

Well, it’s perfectly natural that you only want the best for your Kuhli Loaches. Here are five ways to make your Kuhli Loaches grow faster.

  • Give proper nutrition: Your Kuhli Loaches need to get a lot of healthy food that will help them grow faster. Also, don’t overfeed your Loaches, as this can just make them sick. 
  • Keep them in a larger tank: Putting Kuhli Loaches in a tank that’s too small can hinder their growth and prevent them from growing faster. Also, there might be a risk of overcrowding, leading to nitrate poisoning in the tank.
  • Maintain the quality of the tank’s water: Harmful toxins and other wastes develop in the tank water over time. They can negatively impact your Kuhli Loach’s health and prevent them from growing faster. Always monitor the water conditions of your Kuhli Loach tank. Try to stick with these parameters.
    • Temperature: 70° – 79° F (21° – 26° C)
    • pH: 5.5 – 7.0
    • KH: 2 – 10 dKH
  • Keep the tank clean: A dirty tank can not only stunt growth but kill Loaches. Always make sure the tank is clean and is free from anything that can harm your Kuhli Loaches. Frequent water changes of about 30% a week are the easiest way to make your Kuhli Loaches grow faster.


Can a Kuhli Loach Live in a 5 Gallons Tank?

Yes, a single Kuhli Loache can live in a 5 gallons tank. However, we recommend keeping them in a small group of 3 or more in a minimum of 20 gallons for the best results in aquarium.

Can You Keep a Single Kuhli Loach?

While Kuhli Loaches are not schooling fish. Kuhli Loaches are social creatures that do best in groups. A single Kuhli Loach is likely to feel stressed and become more prone to illness.

Can I Keep Kuhli Loaches in a 10 Gallon Tank?

As long as you don’t have water quality problems, a group of 3 – 6 Kuhli Loaches can be kept in a 10 gallons tank. However, we recommend a 20 gallons tank or larger to thrive.

In summary

Kuhli Loaches are small, eel-like fish that make a great addition to any aquarium. Most Kuhli Loaches only grow up to 3 or 4 inches if you provide them with the proper diet and environment, and it takes 2 or 3 months to reach 2 inches and about a year or two to reach full size.

They are also easy to care for, making them a good choice for beginner aquarists. However, Kuhlis are sensitive to changes in water conditions and can be susceptible to disease, so it is important to monitor the water quality in their tank.

If you own Kuhli Loaches or are thinking about adding them to your aquarium, be sure to follow the tips in this article to help them grow fast and stay healthy.

Happy Fishkeeping!

What Do Kuhli Loaches Eat? (In the Wild & Captivity)


The Kuhli Loach is an interesting and unique freshwater fish that many people enjoy keeping in their home aquariums. 

In addition to their attractive appearance, Kuhli loaches are also interesting creatures to watch. They are known for “burrowing” into the sand or gravel at the bottom of the tank, and they often hide among plants and rocks. 

But as a responsible owner, you want to know every essential detail about the fish before bringing it home. If you’ve been wondering what do Kuhli Loach eat, this post is for you. 

Ready to get your answers? 

What do Kuhli Loaches Eat in The Wild?

In the wild, Kuhli loaches are micro predators and scavengers. The famous bottom dwellers usually grab mouthfuls of sand and sift out insect larvae, small crustaceans, organic detritus, and plant material as their natural diet, providing them with the nutrients they need to survive their natural environment.

What do Kuhli Loaches Eat in Captivity? 

In the aquarium, Kuhli Loaches are typically unfussy eaters, and they will eat anything that reaches the bottom of their tank. Sinking pellets are the preferred diet for Kuhli Loaches. But you can feed them flake foods, algae wafers freeze-dried, or tablets. A varied diet of high-quality meaty foods such as daphnia, tubifex, and bloodworms is needed to maintain their health and coloration.

They’ll also eat the leftover foods for other fish. But it’s important that you feed your fish a balanced and dedicated diet. 

Recommend Sinking Pellets For Kuhli Loaches

New Life Spectrum Thera+A (5mm)

New Life Spectrum Thera is a high-quality fish food that contains krill, squid, and more. The ingredients are all natural and free of fillers, making New Life Spectrum Thera an excellent choice for your Kuhli Loaches.

In addition, the New Life Spectrum Thera formula is enriched with vitamins and crude fiber. These ingredients not only provide your fish with the nutrition they need to grow and thrive, but they also help to boost immunity, reduce stress, and promote healthy skin and fins.

If you’re looking for a formula-sized pellet that is sure to keep your Kuhli Loaches healthy and happy, New Life Spectrum Thera is the way to go.

New Life Spectrum Thera A Small 140g (Naturox...
  • Spectrum nutrition formula with extra garlic & omega-3 for stressed or newly acquired fish and breeding...
  • Easy to digest nutrients from whole krill, squid & seaweed.
  • High-Density nutrition for less waste & more feedings per jar
  • For all types of omnivore, carnivore & herbivore fish
  • Enhanced the full spectrum of your fish's color

What do Baby Kuhli Loaches Eat? 

As for the fry, they can be fed with newly hatched brine shrimp or micro worms. But as they grow older, you’ll need to start giving them larger food items such as daphnia or bloodworms. You’ll get a group of happy and healthy Kuhli loaches. 

How Much Should I Feed My Kuhli Loach?

What do Kuhli loaches eat in Captivity

There’s no specific amount of food I could tell you to feed your Kuhli Loaches per day. Ideally, if you’re feeding it 2 – 3 times a day, you should ensure the food is enough to last for 10 minutes. 

If you’re feeding the fish multiple times or a particular type of food at a go, the food should last 3 minutes. For the pellets, you could do 1-2 pellets for each Kuhli Loach. If you’ve got 4, that would mean a maximum of 8 pellets. 

How Often Should I Feed My Kuhli Loach? 

I would recommend you feed your Kuhli Loaches twice a day. This species is most active both in nature and in captivity at night, so always feed them at night. The good news is that these fish can be guided to eat during the day in the aquarium.

Switch off the lights even when you’re feeding your fish at night. There should be enough food in the water such that it can eat for at least three minutes.

Apart from that, Kuhlis are known as gluttonous eaters and will beg for food every time they see you. But resist the temptation to overfeed them because too much food can quickly foul your tank and lead to health problems for your fish.

It’s also possible that you’re operating under a unique set of factors that may necessitate feeding your Kuhli loaches more than the two times I have recommended. For instance, if you prefer to feed your Kuhli loaches the different types of food at different times, you might need to do it multiple times a day. 

How to Feed Kuhli Loach ?

Kuhli loaches are bottom-dwelling scavengers that like to spend most of their time hiding in the substrate. As a result, they can be pretty tricky to feed.

If you want them to enjoy feeding time, you’ll need to ensure that the food sinks to the bottom of the aquarium. Also, remember these fish need smaller foods, so make sure you’re using the right size pellets or flakes.

There are a few ways to do this. You can use a sinking pellet or place the food on a piece of vegetation or driftwood anchored to the bottom of the tank.

Another option is to use a feeding tube, which is a device that allows you to target feed your loaches without disturbing the rest of the aquarium inhabitants.

Shrimp Feeding Tube and Dish,Clear Crystal Glass...
  • Integrated and practical feeding tube feeding tray. It is easy to remove feed residues to keep the water...
  • Material: Made of high-quality crystal glass, safer and more environmentally friendly (transparent...
  • The suction cup has strong power and is not easy to fall. The length of the feeding tube: 9.8"; it can be...
  • Equipped with 2PCS suction cup, easy to install. Simply clean the suction cup and paste it on a clean...
  • RISK FREE: Since it is a glass product, it may be damaged during transportation. If it is damaged, we...

Whichever method you choose, you should observe your loaches during feeding time to ensure that they are getting enough to eat. If you notice that they are not eating, try a different method or food type.

Types of Kuhli Loach Food 

Kuhli loaches are an easy lot to feed. 

First, they’re scavengers, so they’ll feed on whatever remains and morsels that fall to the bottom of the aquarium, where they like to hang out. 

They’ll also be happy with frozen bloodworms, live blackworms, community pellets, algae wafers, shrimp pellets, etc. If they were in their natural setting, the Kuhli loaches would also feed on other dead fish that settle at the bottom of the water body.  

Any other microorganism found underneath rocks will also make good for them. And because they’re scavengers, they’ll do a perfect job at helping you clean the bottom of your tank. However, if you keep them together with other fish, make an effort to feed them so that they don’t go hungry. 

You might be interested in reading: How Big Do Kuhli Loaches Get? (Ideal Kuhli Loach Tank Size)

Do Kuhli loaches Eat or Uproot Plants?

Although they’re not picky eaters, Kuhli loaches won’t consume or uproot aquarium plants. These fish can be safe to keep in your planted tank.

However, they have a natural habit of burrowing. This might disturb your aquarium plants, particularly the newly placed ones.

But after the plants are established, the activities of your loaches won’t have a devastating effect on your plants. 


Do Kuhli Loaches Eat Algae Wafers?

Yes. Kuhli Loaches will eat algae wafers. In captivity, they will readily accept algae wafers as a substitute. In fact, some aquarists believe that feeding algae wafers are essential to keep Kuhli Loaches healthy.

Will Kuhli Loaches Eat Vegetables? 

Well, it’s not something that’s in their nature. But it’s not entirely impossible. It would be a nice experiment worth trying. The best vegetables to test would be cooked lettuce, cucumber, spinach, and zucchini. 

Do Kuhli Loaches Eat Fish Poop?

No. Kuhli Loaches don’t eat fish poop. No fish does. However, they will gladly eat the leftover food that other fish leave behind.

Do Kuhli Loaches Eat Fish?

No. Kuhli Loaches don’t eat fish. However, they will likely consume dead fish in the aquarium. 

Final Thoughts 

As you have realized, Kuhli loaches are simple to care for and feed. The most important thing to remember is that they prefer to hide at the bottom of the tank and so it’s important to ensure that they can reach their food.

Other than that, just feed them a variety of food types, and you’ll be good to go. They’re not fussy eaters, and so long as the food sinks to the bottom, they’ll be happy to munch away.

If you have any tips or experiences to share about feeding Kuhli loaches, please leave a comment below. We’d love to hear some stories from you.