Do Kuhli Loaches Dig Substrate? Lookout For Them!!!

Have you been in a situation where you are not being able to find your Kuhli loaches in the tank? I have been there so many times that I am now used to it. Some of the habits of Kuhli loach make people wonder if they took the right decision about keeping them in the tank. And the missing and hiding habit always gets on my nerve too. But they are often seen down buried in the sand. This raises the most important question if Kuhli loaches dig the gravel.

Do Kuhli Loaches Dig?

Yes, Kuhli loaches do dig in the substrate in order to bury and hide. These Kuhli loaches like to burrow in the sand present in the tank and hide there. It can be their defense mechanism to save themselves from danger.

The hiding and missing thing along with the habit of Kuhli loaches to dig in the tank is beyond likes and dislikes.

You have to be extra careful with the things you are doing for your Kuhli loaches and the maintenance of the tank

You have to get into all the details about the habit of Kuhli loaches to dig as well as hide. Here is an article to help you understand this thing more.

Let’s dive in.

Do Kuhli Loaches Dig?

Yes, your Kuhli loaches dig the substrate and make it harder for your aquarium plants to stay rooted. It is a common feature of Kuhli loach to dig out of the blue and disappear like they were never there.

If the substrate you have in the tank is loose enough to dig in, then there is a cent percent chance that these Kuhli loaches will dig within.

This might be something they do out of habit and thanks to their eel-like body to make it possible to dig like an earthworm.

Like the earthworm goes around the soil digging their way in and out, Kuhli loaches do the same in the tank.

If your tank has sand on the bottom of the tank, then there is no doubt that your Kuhli loaches will go missing once in a while.

You cannot go against nature and stop your Kuhli loaches from digging around. But you can try to prevent it by giving these Kuhli loaches a happy, safe, and comfortable environment.

Do Kuhli Loaches Bury Themselves?

Yes, Kuhli loaches are known to make a hollow ground on the substrate and bury themselves there. It is quite common practice and this has been a real headache for aquarists.

You will often hear aquarists complain about the way Kuhli loaches disappear out of the blue. I have been in this situation before.

One day when I was checking on the fish of the tank, I could not see Kuhli loaches anywhere. I first thought that they were hiding during the day.

But even after few days of a constant dim-lit environment, I couldn’t find them. I, then, thought that they got eaten by the bigger fish present in the tank.

While I forgot about my missing Kuhli loach, I tried to clean the substrate of the tank. When I moved the sand here and there to take out all the leftovers and waste products present in the bottom, there reappeared the Kuhli loaches I had lost.

I was so shocked at that moment as I was new to fishkeeping and even new to keeping Kuhli loaches in the tank. It was definitely one of my first beginner’s mistakes so I hope you don’t repeat that.

Hence, I found out later that they have done so to protect themselves from the larger predators present in the tank.

So, whenever you come across a Kuhli loach that is busy burying themselves, check the tank conditions and the tank mate’s compatibility immediately.

Do Kuhli Loaches Burrow In Gravel?

Your Kuhli loaches can be quite extra when it comes to digging and burrowing. It can be weird yet fascinating to see your Kuhli loaches digging around the tank.

Hence, do not associate rabbits only when it comes to burrowing. You will be surprised to see how well Kuhli loaches will dig to create a burrow.

Even if the substrate has gravel in it rather than the sand, your Kuhli loaches will burrow as soon as they feel like they need to hide.

Remember to keep the gravel that will not injure or harm your loaches while they are busy digging. They have this common feature to go into hiding whenever they feel unsafe and scared.

There are many instances where people have lost their Kuhli loaches into the thin air. This happens because you will not be able to see your Kuhli loaches for days once they go into hiding.

However, do not panic when you find your Kuhli loaches trying to burrow their way through gravel. It can be tiring though, so be considerate with this nature and give them substrate that are easier to burrow in.

Why Do Kuhli Loaches Dig?

The main question you need to ask when your Kuhli loaches start to act strangely is why they are even doing it in the first place.

No fish wakes up and thinks to go digging or hiding or even start that out of the blue. There are some circumstances that will force your Kuhli loaches to dig.

As I have mentioned earlier this can be their defense mechanism over the things that are happening in the tank.

Hence, you have to understand the main cause behind your Kuhli loaches acting strangely. Here are the things that might play a role of a factor to make your Kuhli loaches behave the way they are doing.

Incompatible Tank Mates

Most of the time, the digging of Kuhli loaches is directly proportional to the tank mates they have in the tank.

If they are swimming around with the fish that will most probably bully and harm them, they will almost immediately start digging and go into hiding.

Digging can be their way to save themselves from getting bullied and most probably death. Most fish can’t handle the presence of predators and get sick.

You will often find small fish dying out of stress due to the presence and bullying of larger fish. But when it comes to Kuhli loaches, they take a new direction and find a way to save themselves.

Digging and going missing are their ways to save themselves from predators. They will make a hole in the sand and stay there till they feel safe to come out.

These loaches will most probably come out when everyone else is sleeping in search of food. Hence, if you can’t find your Kuhli loaches in the community tank, research their compatibility with other fish presents there immediately.

Excessive Lighting

Your Kuhli loaches come from a place where it is quite darker even when there is sunlight. Thus, these loaches ask for the same type of environment in the aquarium that is quite similar to the wild.

You have to mimic the wild and make sure the environment in the darker is quite darker and has very minimal lighting.

Now, you might say that they will be fine even when the lighting is high. But you will be wrong and most certainly killing your Kuhli loaches.

One of the reasons for them to go digging is the excessive lighting in the tank. You will be surprised to see their reaction to lighting that is way brighter than necessary.

These loaches hate when the lighting goes over the head and is brighter than they prefer. Hence, they will dig a hole in the tank in order to go into hiding and escape the lighting.

Here is an article on How Many Kuhli Loaches Can You Put in a 10-Gallon Tank?

Do Kuhli Loaches Like To Hide?

Yes and No. I have two different versions of answers for this question because this one is beyond the likes or dislikes of a living being.

Kuhli loaches are nocturnal living beings. This means they will hide during the day and will appear back during the night. So, the way they hide when there is light around them is not something they like or dislike.

It is simply the way they are built and born. Hence, for this, you can say that they like to hide. However, when it comes to digging and missing, Kuhli loaches have a different story to tell.

The way they dig up in the tank suggests that something is wrong in the tank. Most often you won’t be able to see your Kuhli loaches digging or burying.

They will just disappear into the thin air with no clues whatsoever. This is their way of coping with the danger surrounding them.

The hiding, digging, burrowing, burying themselves, all come under the term defense mechanism of Kuhli loaches.

So, No, Kuhli loaches don’t prefer to hide and there is nothing that is likable about this. Protect your Kuhli loaches at any cost to keep them away from hiding and disappearing.

Or else, you will find your Kuhli loaches after years hiding under the rocks just like the way I did. I was so sure about the death of Kuhli Loaches that I didn’t even bother to search them.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are answers to some of the most asked questions that are related to Kuhli loaches and their habit in the tank. Hope this will help you as well.

Do Kuhli Loaches Uproot Plants?

Yes, Kuhli loaches can uproot your plants if the roots of those plants are not firm in the substrate. You see, your Kuhli loaches have the habit to dig up all the things present in the bottom of the tank.

While they are hiding from the predators or any other scary factors of the tank, they will dig deep into the soil to make a burrow.

They will stay there till they feel safe again to come out or for food. Hence, they will loosen up the compact substrate with all that digging.

This digging is, in reality, the main culprit that will uproot the aquarium plants present in the tank with weaker roots. Making the substrate lose by digging is the main thing that Kuhli loaches which will, in turn, result in the uprooting of plants.

Try to use some plant weight till the roots of those plants are firm enough in the substrate of the tank. It will be harder for your Kuhli loaches to weaken those roots and to uproot the plants.

What Should I Feed My Kuhli Loach?

Kuhli loaches are easier to feed as they are omnivores and also a proud member of a clean-up crew. I am sorry for confusing you with the term clean-up crew but it is a fact.

Your Kuhli loaches will happily feed on the leftover that is present in the tank. While they will clean the tank and get rid of leftovers, this will not be enough for them.

How can someone be full by eating the food that was left behind by someone else? And the leftovers are not always there.

Hence, you have to feed your Kuhli loaches the foods they like. Your Kuhli loaches will happily eat up veggies such as cucumber, zucchini peas, and live as well as frozen foods too.

You can feed them mosquito larvae, tubifex, bloodworms, brine shrimp, algae wafers, etc. Similarly, Kuhli loaches will happily eat some algae present in the tank as well as small snails and shrimps too.

Sinking pellets or sinking flakes are better options for the fish such as Kuhli loaches which stay on the bottom of the tank.


In conclusion, Kuhli loaches do dig and are often seen making a burrow where they can hide. Most aquarists complain about the way these Kuhli loaches go missing out of the blue. As a matter of fact, they will bury themselves in the bottom of the tank by digging the sand below. These Kuhli loaches will most likely appear back on the tank when they will feel safe and comfortable. The digging and hiding are the defense mechanism of these fish to save themselves from the danger present in the tank.

Try to maintain the water quality optimum and keep the bullying tank mates away from these loaches. They will swim happily in the tank while they are still feeling comfortable and safe.

Also, let them be. Let them dig up a well in the tank if that’s what makes them happy. You cannot control them and go against their nature.

If you still have queries related to Kuhli loaches, drop them in the comment box below. I will get back to you when the comments are moderated.

Do not panic when your Kuhli loaches start to dig!!

Good Luck!!!

Happy Fishkeeping!!!

Recommended Articles:

  1. Ammonia Poisoning in Fish Tank | How to Get Rid of It
  2. How Long Can Fish Live in a Bag: Shocking Facts!
  3. How To Maintain The Oxygen Level In Aquarium?
  4. 10 Best Freshwater Fish For Those New To Fishkeeping | Beginners Guide