Looking for the best fish for a 10-gallon tank can easily become confusing. After all, there are just so many things you have to think about, from your preferred setup to your tank equipment. What you need is a comprehensive guide about keeping a 10-gallon tank – and that’s why we’re here.
Fortunately, there are many options when it comes to stocking a 10-gallon tank. The best fish for a 10-gallon tank includes Bettas, Guppies, Mollies, Neon Tetras, Harlequin Rasboras, Lyretail Killifish, Zebra Danios, Golden Dwarf Barbs, Dwarf Gouramis, and Kuhli Loaches.
This article will discuss everything you need to start a beautiful 10-gallon tank!
Best Fish For A 10 Gallon Tank
|Scientific Name||Betta splendens|
|Size||2 to 4 inches|
|Number in 10-Gallon Tank||1|
|Lifespan||2 to 5 years|
|Temperature||78°-80°F or 25.5°- 26.5°C|
|pH||6.5 to 7.5|
Bettas are well-loved in the aquarium community exactly because of how well they can thrive in small tank setups.
These fishes are the ideal inhabitants of 10-gallon tanks because they are independent, interesting, and beautiful.
Male Bettas, and females to a lesser degree, are very territorial. They stake a claim on a wide range of territory inside the tank, so a 10-gallon setup is perfect for their personal space.
Plus, they’re also very independent fishes. They don’t need any companions to share the tank with and even prefer to live by themselves – although aquarists usually add some invertebrates like snails to their tank so Bettas wouldn’t be completely alone.
Additionally, there’s a wide variety of Bettas available in the market. Since they’re extremely varied, you can get all sorts of Bettas that differ in color, shape, pattern, and personalities.
There’s a Betta for everyone, and because they’re so beautiful you wouldn’t mind displaying them alone in a pretty tank.
As a cherry on top, Bettas are very hardy fishes. Although being bred on large fish farms has decreased their resistance compared to their wild cousins, captive Bettas are still very easy to care for. They can eat a large variety of foods and are not prone to many diseases, as long as they’re healthy.
|Scientific Name||Poecilia reticulata|
|Size||0.6 to 2 inches|
|Number in 10-Gallon Tank||5 – 10 (depends on guppy variety)|
|Temperature||72°-82°F or 22°-28°C|
|pH||7.0 to 8.0|
Guppies are also extremely popular and have their own niche in the aquarium hobby.
These small fishes do have a few more requirements than Bettas, but raising them is still very fulfilling and fun.
Guppies don’t grow to be very large, and will often stay under 2 inches. Because of that, they’re very popular in 10-gallon setups.
Unlike Bettas, Guppies tend to want to belong in groups. Keeping a Guppy alone in a tank will likely stress it out and erode its health, so it would be best to keep them in groups of two or three – at the minimum.
There are also Guppies that need to be in a full school, although that would be pushing it a little bit in a 10-gallon tank.
Male Guppies can also be territorial, but they don’t fight to the death like Bettas. Instead, they sometimes chase each other around the tank, which can create a fun scene as long as you ensure there is plenty of cover for everyone.
Did you know that there’s also a wide variety of Guppies? Guppies are also specially bred, so you can get different colorations and fin shapes.
If you’re a beginner aquarist, one precaution that you have to note about Guppies is that they breed very quickly. Females can lay hundreds of baby fishes multiple times, in close succession, which can easily overrun and crash the ecosystem of your tank.
This is good news for those who want to try their hand at breeding. Although, if you don’t want plenty of dead fish, you better try and keep only male Guppy in one tank.
|Scientific Name||Poecilia sphenops|
|Size||3 to 4 inches|
|Number in 10-Gallon Tank||3 to 4|
|Lifespan||3 to 5 years|
|Temperature||72°-78°F or 22°-28°C|
|pH||7.0 to 8.0|
Belonging to the same family, Mollies and Guppies share plenty of similar characteristics. Like Guppies, Mollies also prefer to be in a group. They need the same water parameters and have the same preferences and diet.
Plus, Mollies also breed very quickly. If you don’t want this to happen, you can take the same precautions as you would for Guppies.
Nevertheless, Mollies are also fun fishes to raise. These fishes have plenty of personalities and will interact with each other a lot.
They have bigger bodies and more streamlined fins compared to Guppies, so they’re much faster swimmers. As such, you can often observe them zooming around the tank. This means that you need to ensure a perfect balance between spacious swimming areas and cover.
However, since they grow bigger than Guppies, take care not to get more than 3 to 4 for your 10-gallon aquarium. After all, they might one day grow to be 4 inches – something that can quickly become disastrous in a small tank.
Nevertheless, caring for Mollies is pretty simple. As long as you provide them with clean water, a steady temperature, and a varied, healthy diet, Mollies are sure to thrive in a 10-gallon tank.
|Scientific Name||Paracheirodon innesi|
|Size||1 to 1.5 inches|
|Number in 10-Gallon Tank||8 to 10|
|Temperature||72–76°F or 22–24°C|
|pH||6.0 to 8.0|
Neon Tetras are some of the most well-known in the hobby as a perfect starter school for beginner aquarists. These fishes do well in a minimum of 10 gallons, and their peaceful and active personalities are a joy to behold.
Neon Tetras are small, averaging about 1 to 1.5 inches in length. This is great for nano tank setups since they’re shoaling fishes and require a group of five to six individuals to become active. The larger the group, the more secure they feel.
Due to this, although the minimum is five to six fish in one tank, the recommended number is actually at least 8 Neon Tetras. You can fit all these in a 10-gallon tank, so it works pretty well.
There’s little variation when it comes to Neon Tetra’s physical attributes, but they’re still vastly entertaining to look at. Their shoaling behavior can be mesmerizing to witness in a spacious tank, and they’re very active swimmers.
Neon Tetras also have vivid coloration. Their bright blue scales reflect the light when it hits them just right. They also have a bright spot of red on the tail-end of their bodies, creating a fantastic spectacle whenever they swim in the same direction.
Another great thing about Neon Tetras is that they’re very easy to care for. They have a peaceful nature, have a wide diet, and aren’t susceptible to many diseases.
As long as you keep their tank clean and feed them a healthy diet, they will happily live out their lifespan in your 10-gallon tank.
|Scientific Name||Trigonostigma heteromorpha|
|Number in 10-Gallon Tank||4 to 5|
|Lifespan||2 to 3 years|
|Temperature||73-82°F or 23-28°C|
|pH||6.0 to 7.8|
These hardy fishes might not be the most colorful, but there’s plenty to love in these hardy fishes.
Harlequin Rasboras get their name from the pattern on their scales. The tail end of their bodies is almost solid black, which gives them the appearance of wearing black jester suits – or harlequins. Meanwhile, their fins are typically a bright red-orange.
They’re not the most colorful, which is probably why beginner aquarists may not immediately gravitate toward them.
However, their more natural appearance is ideal for adding a pop of color to a heavily planted aquarium. They’re peaceful shoaling fishes too, and their playful schooling behavior is satisfying to watch.
Additionally, Harlequin Rasboras are also incredibly hardy fishes. They can tolerate a wide range of temperatures and pH levels, so you don’t need to be too strict about maintenance.
They also thrive on a wide variety of food, and you will often see them grazing on the greenery of a planted aquarium.
If you’re looking for a fun and lively group of fishes to liven up a planted setup, Harlequin Rasboras are an ideal choice.
|Scientific Name||Aphyosemion australe|
|Number in 10-Gallon Tank||3 to 5|
|Lifespan||3 to 5 years|
|Temperature||69-75°F or 21-24°C|
The Lyretail Killifish is one of the most popular killifish in the hobby, owing to their interesting appearance.
This fish has incredible looks, with its long body, long tapering dorsal and pelvic fins, and lyre-shaped tail. They also have very vivid colorations. The most common variation of this fish is a bright yellow, but they’re also available in albino, gold, orange, and even chocolate.
These fishes prefer a densely-planted aquarium, and will often spend their days swimming among the plants.
They’re on the shy side, and they’re not fast swimmers, so they won’t appreciate having an active tankmate. Instead, these fishes form small groups of three or five of the same species.
Another interesting aspect of this species is that they are very long-lived compared to other killifishes. While some killifish variations can live to two or three years, a Lyretail Killie within the right environment can live up to five, so expect a lot of fun times from these shy fishes.
Thankfully, they’re very easy to care for as well.
You don’t need to take any additional precautions when handling these fishes. Just keep their water parameters and temperature stable and feed them a healthy diet, and they’ll live peacefully in your heavily planted 10-gallon tank.
|Scientific Name||Danio rerio|
|Size||1 – 2 inches|
|Number in 10-Gallon Tank||5 to 8|
|Lifespan||2 to 3 years|
|Temperature||61.7–93.2°F or 16.5 to 34 °C|
|pH||6.5 to 7.5|
Also called Zebrafish, Zebra Danios are widely known among beginners to be one of the best beginner fishes around. This species gained its name because of the distinctive horizontal stripes on its body.
Zebra Danios have interesting visuals and very active personalities. Since they have a streamlined body with short and powerful fins, you can expect them to be fast swimmers that prefer wide-open spaces.
They typically have a gray body with streaks of silver, although there are also other color varieties. For instance, one variant has a golden brown body with streaks of brown or black.
This fish is also one of the first species to be genetically modified to have fluorescent scales – a variant called Glo-Fish.
Luckily, despite their activeness, they’re quite easy to care for in a 10-gallon tank. Most of them are quite shy, and you’ll probably see them darting around the tank and heading for cover.
These fishes are also very easy to care for, with standard water parameters, temperature, and diet requirements. However, they’re particularly susceptible to velvet disease, so owners must be careful.
Golden Dwarf Barbs
|Scientific Name||Pethia gelius|
|Size||1.4 – 1.6 inches|
|Number in 10-Gallon Tank||8 – 10|
|Lifespan||4 – 5 years|
|Temperature||68 – 77°F or 20 – 25°C|
|pH||5.5 – 6.5|
The Golden Dwarf Barb is not the most popular barb around, but if you’re looking for the best fish for a 10-gallon tank, you shouldn’t skip over this little fish.
Also known as the Golden Barb, these small fishes shouldn’t be your first choice in a community tank. This is because they’re shy by nature, and being smaller than other fishes, they would most likely end up as prey.
However, they do really well in a densely-planted species-only tank with floating plants and driftwood.
Golden Dwarf Barbs like to hang around in cover and spend their day swimming with their school around the middle and bottom areas of the aquarium. Take care that you don’t add plenty of water movement to their tank. Since their natural habitats are slow streams, fast flows can stress them out.
These fishes also tend to be sensitive to changes in their water parameters, so keep their tank spotless at all times.
|Scientific Name||Trichogaster Ialius|
|Number in 10-Gallon Tank||3|
|Temperature||72 to 82°F or 22 to 28°C|
|pH||6.0 to 7.5|
Dwarf Gouramis are popular among moderately experienced fishkeepers. They can be a little delicate, so preparing their tank can be somewhat of a challenge, but they’re a rewarding species to raise.
These fishes have fantastic colorations, with a bright orange body filled with unique, blue markings that seem to glow in the right light.
They also have plenty of color variations, such as bright orange, blue, and even neon blue. Their bright colors are set off by the dark substrate and background.
Another notable thing about the Dwarf Gourami is that their peaceful nature allows them to be placed in a community tank with other fishes. You can choose to keep three Dwarf Gouramis in a 10-gallon tank, but you can also have one gourami and multiple Neon Tetras.
These fishes prefer plenty of hiding spots and will be stressed out in an area with lots of noise.
Dwarf Gouramis also directly breathe surface air, so you need to ensure a location for them to surface every once in a while. This means minimizing floating plants or adding designated breathing areas.
|Scientific Name||Pangio Kuhli|
|Number in 10-Gallon Tank||4 to 6|
|Temperature||75°-86°F or 23°-30°C|
|pH||7.0 to 7.5|
Kuhli Loaches have a uniquely cute appearance and timid personality that makes them popular among aquarists.
These bottom dwellers have a unique, elongated body that resembles eels. Their body is also patterned with unique black stripes that add interest to their appearance. Essentially, these fishes look like small, yellow-and-black eels.
These nocturnal fishes are very shy and like to hide a lot, so you need plenty of covers. They also like to dig and hide in the substrate, so gravel will most likely hurt them.
However, sometimes they overcome their timid nature when they’re in a group of four or more fishes.
Kuhli Loaches can be a bit delicate and ensuring that they receive the right amount of food can be a challenge when they like to hide away so much. However, they’re a very interesting and rewarding fish to raise if you do it right.
Best Stocking Combinations For A 10 Gallon Tank
While tanks this size might not require as much care as five gallons, you still need to make sure that your tank can handle its inhabitants well.
Now that we know the best fish for a 10-gallon tank, we can decide on stocking combinations.
There are essentially two kinds of stocking options for a 10-gallon tank: community tank or species-only tank.
- Community tank. For this tank, you’re going to take different, compatible species and put them in one aquarium. The most popular examples include one Dwarf Gourami and five Neon Tetras. Lyretail Killies and Loaches are also great pairs.
- Species tank. Contrary to community tanks, tanks like this only feature one species.
When stocking your 10-gallon tank, you need to properly decide whether you want it to be a community tank or a species tank.
How Many Fish Can Be In A 10 Gallon Tank?
You can keep an inch of fish per one gallon of water as a rough measurement. Thus, for a 10-gallon aquarium, you can either have ten 1-inch fishes, five 2-inch fishes, etc.
But, that’s not everything that has to be considered; in reality, you also have to consider the following into account.
- Temperament. Whether your fish is peaceful or territorial, shy or bold, and active or slow-moving will impact how much space they consume.
- Social needs. Some fishes need to be in groups of six or more to feel safe, and keeping an inadequate number of them can lead to stress.
- Breeding tendencies. Livebearers especially breed very quickly, which can collapse the balance of your tank if you can’t prevent it.
There’s no one answer when you ask how many fishes can live in a 10-gallon tank. Instead, you have to consider a variety of factors that will impact your fishes’ life in their new home.
Fish To Avoid Putting In A 10 Gallon Tank
Not all fishes are ideal for 10-gallon tanks. Just as there are fishes ideal to raise in a ten-gallon tank, there are also some species that need to be avoided, or you’re going to cause them harm. These are the following categories.
Not only do fish need an adequate amount of space to swim in, but their size also impacts the quality of the water that they breathe in.
All fishes produce waste, but some species like the Goldfish have a very high metabolism and create more waste in a short amount of time than any other fish. Messy fish are best left out of small setups such as 10-gallon tanks.
Fishes that like to assert dominance in a group will likely find it all too easy to dominate other members of their group in such a small space. Thus, even if you can fit small angelfishes in a 10-gallon tank, we still advise against it.
Small tanks will feel the change in water parameters much quicker than larger tanks because there’s less volume of water to act as a buffer for the fish. Thus, sensitive fishes like Pygmy Corys are best left out of small setups like 10-gallon tanks.
Equipment For A 10 Gallon Tank
One of the best appeals of 10-gallon tanks is that it doesn’t need plenty of equipment to set up and maintain. If you want to start a ten-gallon tank, all you need are the following equipment.
- Tank. Sturdy, 10-gallon tanks like the Tetra Aquarium Kit and the Hygger Horizon 8 with built-in filters are great options, as they are space-saving and convenient to set up.
- Filter. If you’re buying a bare tank, sponge filters like the XINYOU Bio-Sponge Filter are best for delicate systems like a 10-gallon tank.
- Lights. Lighting is important to give you the best viewing experience for your fish. If you’re making a planted tank, you also need the right lighting for your plants. Some good options for 10-gallon tanks are the Tetra LED Aquarium Hood and the Hygger Auto Off Dimmable Light.
- Heater. You need to keep the temperature in your tank stable if you don’t want your fish to get sick easily, so you need a good aquarium heater like the Orlushy Submersible Aquarium Heater.
Aside from the equipment that you need, you can also add a colony starter to your purchase. Products like the API Quickstart Nitrifying Bacteria make it easier to establish a beneficial bacterial colony in your tank, so you can cycle it much faster.
Keeping an aquarium doesn’t have to be difficult – you can create a thriving aquarium even if you only have limited space in your house!
A 10-gallon is the perfect balance between size and manageability, so it’s one of the most popular choices for starter aquarists. As long as you maintain the aquarium properly and pick the best fish for a 10 gallon tank, your new fishes will live happily in their new homes.
Now that you’ve read this article, you know what to pick for your next 10 gallon tank setup!
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