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Kuhli Loaches (Pangio Kuhlii)
The main problem I found with the Neon Tetras was that they didn't tend to eat flake food once it had sank to the bottom of the tank. The accumulating uneaten food was starting to go mouldy and I was worried that this would lead to all sorts of complications with the tank.
Although the usual solution to this is to get something like a catfish, I was intrigued by the curious snake-like Kuhli Loaches on offer at the fish shop. I bought a couple of them and they seemed to settle in well, so I got another two as they seem to like company - in the fish shop they were all huddled in a big heap. The good news is that they will happily eat any flake food left at the bottom of the tank. I'm not sure what else they eat, but they spend a lot of time probing around the gravel for things. Occasionally they also climb up the Elodea plants I have growing in the tank. Since I got them, the bottom of the tank has looked very clean.
They seem to be quite a peaceful fish. The only problem I have encountered is that they do not like sudden noise/vibration - accidentally slamming a cupboard door for instance causes them to race around the bottom of the tank in blind panic. They are fine with other disturbances like curious Neon Tetras having a little nibble at them, and will tolerate the gravel being cleaned around them. Apparently they are supposed to be nocturnal, but mine seem to be fairly active during the day as well. I hope I never have to catch them in a net, because their speed when disturbed is really impressive.
Unlike many other tropical freshwater fish, their size and appearance (colouration and markings) can vary significantly, so it is very easy to tell each one apart. Some tropical fish retailers also sell the black kuhli loach.
Kuhli Loaches are known for the odd behaviour, and mine are no exception. A few times a day they will spend 10 - 20 minutes swimming in circles up and down around the edge of the tank. I'm not sure what it signifies, but they all seem to do it from time to time. Occasionally they will swim in pairs, and sometimes all four will swim together.
They are particularly fond of this wide leaved plant growing at the edge of the tank, and will take it in turns to slide down the leaves:
I bought some minature clay pots to decorate the bottom of the fish tank. Much to my surprise, when the Kuhli loaches had a panic over some noise or disturbance, one of them hid in a pot. I don't know how the rest of his/her body managed to fit in there:
If panicked, they will sometimes try and hide away under the gravel in the fish tank:
I can recommend adding a sandy area to the bottom of the fish tank. Kuhlis seem to like this as they sometimes burrow in it, ingesting the sand then squirting it out through their side gills. They are presumably able to filter out the food particles from the sand. It is very entertaining to watch!
A Sorry Tale :-(
I moved house once, which necessitated moving my fish tank. About a week after I moved house I became convinced there were less Kuhli Loaches than there should be in the tank! After a comprehensive search of the tank the truth dawned - one Kuhli was missing!!!
I think when I was catching my fish one of the Kuhlis must have burrowed deep in the gravel at the bottom of the tank and in my panic of catching the fish (which is a traumatic experience I must say!) I must have overlooked the final Kuhli!
So when I next move house I will be sure to count my fish. If you move house with your fish, be sure to count yours also!
More Kuhli Loach Pictures