A 10-gallon tank may seem small and unimpressive, but it presents a wide array of opportunities for every fish keeper. This is one of the most common sizes for beginners and also for professionals who use smaller aquariums as breeder tanks.
As a beginner, you should not underestimate smaller tanks as they require the same amount of maintenance and it is common for people to make unnoticed mistakes especially with the choice of fish.
With this said, which are the best fish species for a 10-gallon tank?
Before anything else, you should forget about larger species as they normally require 10 gallons of space per fish or more. A 10-gallon tank does not possess enough space to satisfy the needs of most species. Instead, you should consider smaller fish like Danios, Tetras, and Guppies.
Recommended 10 gallon Fish Tank: Marina 10 Gallon Aquarium Kit (link to amazon)
Before you even consider putting the actual fish in the tank, you should research the needs of each species that you want to own. In some cases, you may need to reconsider your choices as some species do not live well together.
Therefore, always make sure that your fish are compatible and also that they have everything they need in your 10-gallon tank in advance.
We have prepared a thorough list of the best fish for a 10-gallon tank that you can see below.
We have also added a small guide on how to set the tank in the most perfect way and answers to popular questions that could be useful for your future experience.
Best Fish for a 10 Gallon Tank:
1. Neon Tetras
When it comes to the smallest of fish, Neon Tetras are among the most popular choices.
They come in a variety of color combinations that will make your aquarium glow. The most important thing to know about Neon Tetras is that you shouldn’t put just one or two in an aquarium. Instead, you should consider getting a school of them as this is a species that feels best when in a larger group of its kind.
Neon-only tanks are quite popular nowadays and with the addition of some good lighting, it leads to an absolutely beautiful picture. If this is the case, you can house up to 10 of them as otherwise, it would get too crowded and it could lead to aggressive behavior and problems.
If there will be other species of fish with the Neons, stick to a small school of 5 to 6 which is just about the perfect number for them to feel safe and happy.
Guppies give you countless options when it comes to colors and you can also stack large numbers of them without worrying about getting your tank overcrowded.
They are also easy to maintain. Guppies are quite active and they rarely go to the lower layers of the aquarium. You will not have to spend extra on hiding spots or any particular accessories.
If you think that Guppies are the perfect choice for your 10-gallon tank, we suggest that you do not add any other types of fish. If you do, however, be careful not to add larger species as Guppies are a common meal for bigger fish.
3. Dwarf Corydoras
Dwarf Corydoras are extremely peaceful bottom-feeding species that will get on perfectly well with most tank mates. They are easy to look after as they will eat all the fallen food on the bottom of your tank. This also means that they are great aquarium cleaners.
The most important detail about Dwarf Corydoras that you need to consider is that you cannot simply put one or two in your aquarium. Like most Tetra species and the Neon Tetras we discussed above, Dwarf Corydoras should be kept in schools of at least 5 or 6.
4. Sparkling Gourami
This miniature species of fish is suitable for community tanks that do not have any aggressive species.
Of course, you can add them to most small aquariums but you have to make sure they have more than enough hiding spots. The perfect setting for Sparkling Gourami is a densely planted tank with fish of their size.
Keep in mind that this is a relatively shy species and that it may take time for them to settle well and become sociable.
5. Betta Fish
Even if you are a beginner, you have most certainly heard that Bettas should be kept separated from most species. In most cases, people give the entire tank to the Betta fish but there are species that it can co-exist with.
Nevertheless, your safest option as a beginner is to leave the Betta by itself in a 10-gallon tank. This is a very territorial species that will most likely cause a lot of trouble if put with unsuitable tank mates.
Even so, Betta fish are exquisitely beautiful to the point that they can look magical if kept in the right conditions. One last thing in mind, never put two male Bettas in a single tank. They will fight until one of them perishes.
6. Red Cherry Shrimp
Make sure you add a lot of plants to your tank before you add any shrimps as they can easily become a meal to any larger species. If there is one shrimp that stands out among the shrimp species, it has to be the Red Cherry. You can guess why it is so popular – its beautiful color.
Besides the color, however, the Red Cherry Shrimp is among the most active algae eaters. It is extremely easy to keep species that requires almost nothing from you apart from a densely-planted tank.
7. Pygmy Corydoras
Like the Dwarf Corydoras, the Pygmies should be kept in groups of around 10. Unlike most of the previous fish we discussed, Pygmy Corydoras are extremely pretentious when it comes to aquarium settings and conditions.
Before anything else, Pygmy Corydoras need a densely planted tank with as many hiding spots as possible. Also, the substrate you choose for your tank should be sandy. Then, they require frequent water changes due to their sensitivity to nitrate.
Overall, this is not a suitable choice for beginners but nevertheless, a valuable option as long as their tank mates will be other miniature species like Barbs or Tetras.
8. Dwarf Gourami
This species gives you many options as it can be kept in different ways.
You can either dedicate your entire 10-gallon aquarium to them and keep up to three together or you can have a single one with a school of other fish.
Male and female Dwarf Gourami have different colors for you to choose from. If you want to make their vibrant colors shine, you should choose a substrate with a darker color for your tank.
Other than that, Dwarf Gourami flourish in well-planted aquariums with a variety of plant species. They are peaceful and perfect for larger community tanks as well.
9. Zebra Danio
Zebra Danios are among the most common species for small tanks and they can easily thrive in aquariums as small as 5 gallons. Nevertheless, these fish are extremely active and I would suggest giving them more space. In this case, you can keep up to 10 in a 10-gallon tank but the perfect number is either 5 or 6.
Danios require little to none maintenance as long as they are in a school of at least five. If the number is lower, it could lead to stress and aggression as with most schooling fish species.
This is another extremely popular species that is suitable for both beginners and advanced fish keepers. Many people get them with the sole purpose to breed them which is not as hard as with most fish.
The cool thing about Platy fish is that they come in literally every color in the rainbow.
This gives you infinite opportunities to match them for your aquarium. They require little to no maintenance and can also live with most small peaceful species in a community tank.
11. Nerite Snail
If you are a beginner, it may surprise you that you can keep snails in your aquarium and that there are dozens of species to choose from. The most popular one, however, is the Nerite Snail which cannot be beaten in keeping an aquarium clean of algae.
Nerite Snails will improve the conditions in any tank.
They are also quite interesting to watch. You will always find them on the move and at a different location, even on the lid. They will not add any additional cares to your mind as they will rarely run out of food and they do not have any specific requirements.
Swordtails are uniquely beautiful with their extended black tails. They are the perfect fish for a beginner simply because they accept a wide range of water conditions and will survive in most habitats. Their temperament is also extremely peaceful which is why you can put them next to almost any other fish species.
13. Harlequin Rasbora
These may not be the most striking fish when it comes to coloration but they are among the best choices for beginners. They are extremely easy to look after and have almost no requirements.
All you need to do is keep the tank clean and give them food regularly.
Harlequin Rasboras are perhaps the most popular shoaling species because of their interesting group behavior and movement. Get yourself a small group and they will add a cool touch of color to your aquarium as well as a lot of activity.
14. Golden Dwarf Barbs
Golden Dwarf Barbs are not as common as most species on our list but make for a perfect 10-gallon tank fish due to their size and minimal requirements. They are smaller than most Barbs and are suitable for the smallest tanks.
Like most species on our list, Golden Dwarf Barbs are schooling fish and should be kept in groups. To give them their perfect environment, add a variety of plants and driftwood.
15. Ghost Shrimp
The Ghost Shrimp is easily the other most common species of shrimp out there and also a perfect choice for any peaceful tank that has no aggressive fish in it.
It requires almost no care but has to be in a group of at least a few. Also, do not forget about the vegetation as you cannot just add shrimps without it.
Ghost Shrimps are suitable for any aquarium enthusiast but if you are a beginner and you want durable species, settle for a different kind of shrimp. Ghost Shrimps live only for about a year.
16. Otocinclus Catfish
Our last choice for today is the Otocinclus Catfish which is suitable for any tank as long as it is not alone. Make sure to always have at least a small group of them as this is not a sociable species but instead one that prefers to stay with its kind.
An Otocinclus Catfish is the perfect aquarium cleaner. It will make sure that every bit of space is thoroughly clean including the vegetation. Overall, it requires no care from your side but makes your aquarium far better in terms of water condition.
Additional Information: How to Set a 10 Gallon Tank?
Although a 10-gallon fish tank is smaller than most, it is definitely not easier to maintain. Surprisingly, right? Smaller tanks can get polluted easier and faster which is why you should maintain it daily and change the water weekly.
Recommended 10 gallon Fish Tank: Marina 10 Gallon Aquarium Kit (link to amazon)
For the equipment that you will need, there are literally dozens of brands for every budget. Since this will be a 10-gallon aquarium, it will be far cheaper than if you had something larger to equip. Most importantly, you need a filter, a heater, and some good lighting.
When you consider which filter to purchase, always make sure that it is more powerful than your aquarium requires. Of course, never purchase a filter for a 50-gallon tank or so. Just make sure that your filter is good enough for a 15 or 20-gallon tank.
My biggest advice is to choose your fish before you choose any of the inner objects like gravel and plants.
Based on our list above, you now know which species require more plants and which can do without any. Of course, you will have to do a little bit more research in order to know if your fish of choice has some special requirements.
As for setting up the tank, you always start with the gravel.
Make sure to clean it thoroughly before adding it to the aquarium. Then, you follow up with the plants and decorations and you have to make sure that they are stable before you add the water.
As soon as you add the water, you have to start the cycling process.
For this, you should consider getting a testing kit in addition to ammonia supplements. Cycling it the process of converting ammonia to nitrite and then once again into nitrate which is the only one out of the three that is not toxic to fish in small quantities.
The cycling process will need at least 2 to 3 weeks to the minimum.
This is why you will need a test kit to test the water for ammonia levels. If you have a pet store near you, you can alternatively bring them water samples and they could do the checking for you. However, this is quite inconvenient.
Once the nitrite and ammonia are at 0ppm, you can proceed to add the fish to your tank.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What Are Some Good Fish Combinations for a 10-Gallon Tank?
When it comes to combining several small species, your choices are practically unlimited. Even with a 10-gallon tank that is suitable for not more than three types of fish at a time, you will have a variety to choose from. Here are a couple of suitable matches that we can safely guarantee for:
- Platies & Tetras
- Tetras & Corydoras
- A single Dwarf Gourami & 3-4 Rasboras
Of course, you can always add a snail to the mix, or shrimps if you have a densely-planted tank on your hands. Corydoras can also be tank mates with almost all species, therefore, consider them an option for every tank as well.
How Many Fish Can You Put in a 10 Gallon Tank?
It all depends on the species you want to put in the tank. As we already discussed, it is important that you stick to the smallest species for such a small aquarium. In this case, most fish will be schooling which means that they need to be in groups of at least 5 or 6. As long as the species allows it, you can put up to 10 small fish in a 10-gallon tank.
If you consider some of the larger species, however, you would most likely have to limit yourself to two or three to the most. Such fish is the Dwarf Gourami which is also on our list.
Can You Keep Cichlids in a 10-Gallon Tank?
The correct answer is both yes and no.
No, you cannot keep African Cichlids in a 10-gallon tank. It is too tight even for a single specimen and it would not survive long. You literally need at least 20 gallons for the smallest Cichlids and at least 30 for the full-sized larger ones.
However, you can always settle for a couple of Dwarf Cichlids in a 10-gallon tank. If Cichlids are a necessity for you, there is a variety of species to choose from for such a small aquarium. Keep in mind, however, that even they grow quite large and shouldn’t be overcrowded.