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Top 7 Colorful Fish for a 10-Gallon Aquarium

10-gallon aquariums are so popular because of their small footprint and low cost, so what kind of fish can you put in them? As a follow-up to our article on the 7 best fish tank ideas for a 10-gallon stocking ideas, we’ve come up with more suggestions to help you pick the 7 most colorful fish to brighten up your 10-gallon setup.

1. The Killifish Aquarium

Killifish are a very colorful, underrated fish that enjoy temperatures below 78°F (26°C) and can live in an unheated aquarium. There are hundreds of species to choose from, but to fit in a 10-gallon tank, select a fish that stays 3-4 inches (8-10 cm) or smaller – such as the steel-blue or Gardneri killifish (Fundulopanchax gardneri), orange lyretail killifish (Aphyosemion australe), or red-striped killifish (Aphyosemion striatum). They are notorious jumpers, so keep a tight lid on the tank to prevent escape. Also, some killifish are semi-aggressive and have large mouths that can swallow smaller fish, so try keeping a species-only tank with a breeding pair (or trio of one male and two females) that has lots of cover and live plants to minimize aggression. Killifish enjoy meaty foods of all types and will readily take bloodworms, brine shrimp, and krill flakes.

red-striped killifish (Aphyosemion striatum)

Red-striped killifish (Aphyosemion striatum)

2. The Betta Fish Tank

How about upgrading your betta fish from a tiny bowl to a 10-gallon paradise? Despite their territorial personalities, Betta splendens can live in a community aquarium if given enough space and the right kind of tank mates. Choose a small, peaceful schooling fish like green neon tetras to contrast with your red betta, or go with orange-colored ember tetras to complement a blue betta. Bottom dwellers like snails, smaller corydoras, and kuhli loaches would be useful for cleaning up excess food that slips past your betta fish. While your betta may enjoy floating, protein-rich foods like blood worms and brine shrimp, use micro pellets for the schooling fish and sinking wafers for the bottom dwellers.

red betta fish

A red betta fish stands out more when placed among green aquarium plants and complementary-colored tank mates.

3. The Nano Rainbowfish Aquarium

Naturally, rainbowfish rank as one of the most colorful fish in the freshwater hobby, but most of them are too big for a 10-gallon aquarium. Thankfully, Pseudomugil rainbowfish usually stay under 2 inches (5 cm) in size. Go to your local fish store to see if they have P. luminatus (red neon rainbowfish), P. furcata (forktail blue-eye rainbowfish), or P. gertrudae (Gertrude’s spotted blue-eye rainbowfish). Like most rainbowfish, they prefer pH above 7.0 and harder water with minerals, but they are quite hardy and can live in a wide set of water parameters.

Because of their high energy level, a 10-gallon fish tank can hold a group of 3-5 rainbowfish (of the same species), as well as some bottom dwellers like smaller corydoras or kuhli loaches. Feed these nano fish tiny foods such as daphnia, cyclops, and Easy Fry and Small Fish Food. Dwarf rainbowfish have relatively short life spans around 2-3 years long, but thankfully they are easy to breed. Make sure to get more females than males so that the males show off their best breeding colors and dancing behavior. Then provide lots of dense aquarium plants or spawning mops for the females to lay their eggs on. For more details, read our forktail rainbowfish care guide.

forktail rainbowfish

Forktail rainbowfish (Pseudomugil furcata)

4. The Apistogramma Breeding Tank

These South American dwarf cichlids are known for their vivid coloration and interesting breeding behavior. The easiest ones to breed include the Apistogramma cacatuoides and A. agassizii, and both species come in many stunning color variations. Set up a cozy environment with a pH of 6.5-7.2 and warmer temperature between 82-84°F (28-29°C). Add a boy and a girl, and provide an apisto cave or coconut hut with a small hole that the male can barely fit inside. Feed a well-balanced omnivore diet with frozen bloodworms, brine shrimp, Repashy gel food, and sinking pellets. Once the male fertilizes the eggs, the female displays parental care by guarding the eggs and protecting the fry once they hatch. For more information about apistogrammas, read our full care guide.

apistogramma cacatuoides

Cockatoo dwarf cichlid (Apistogramma cacatuoides)

5. The Fancy Guppy Aquarium

Poecilia reticulata is a beautiful, energetic livebearer that comes in almost every color of the rainbow. If you’re a beginner, start with a trio of one male and two female, and they will quickly make more babies. Guppies prefer high GH or harder water, so if you have soft tap water, use crushed coral, Wonder Shell, or Seachem Equilibrium to boost the aquarium’s mineral content. They also eat almost any fish food, whether it is Fancy Guppy pellets, flakes, or frozen foods. If you wish to produce lots of guppies for your friends or local fish store, add plenty of shelter or live plants, such as guppy grass, java moss, dwarf water lettuce, and Pogostemon stellatus ‘octopus’. If you are overrun with fry, simply remove some of the cover and hiding spots in the aquarium, and the adults will help with population control. Read our complete care on guppies for more information.

fancy guppy

Male fancy guppy (Poecilia reticulata)

6. The Cherry Shrimp Tank

If you’re looking for another incredibly rewarding species to breed, Neocaridina davidi is a stunning ornamental shrimp that readily reproduces and always seems to be in demand. They come in amazing colors such as fire red, orange sakura, yellow golden back, green jade, blue velvet, chocolate, black rose, and more. Because of their 1-inch (2.5 cm) size and small waste load, you can start with 10 to 20 shrimp and easily grow to a colony of 100 to 200 within a few months. Adult cherry shrimp do not predate on their offspring, but for maximum survival rate, do not add any other species as tank mates. Provide powdered foods, algae, catappa leaves, and minerals in the water to keep the baby shrimp growing well. When you stop seeing as many new babies being produced, reduce the population by selling some to your local fish store and use the money to fund your newfound shrimp addiction. Learn more about freshwater shrimp in this detailed article.

cherry shrimp

Cherry shrimp (Neocaridina davidi)

7. The Dwarf Platy Aquarium

Most platy fish grow to 2-3 inches (5-7 cm) in size, but the dwarf platy only reaches a little over 1 inch (2.5 cm) and can live in a smaller tank. The most commonly available varieties are solid red or red wag, but more colors will likely be produced in the future. For a 10-gallon aquarium, we recommend getting a trio of teacup platys with one male and two females. Males are eager to breed, so having more females and lots of cover will help divert his attention. Platies are always hungry and will eat any crumbs of fish food or tufts of algae they find, so no need to get any clean-up crew members for them. These livebearers also are capable of eating their own offspring, so provide tof dense aquarium plants like water sprite and moss for the babies to hide in. See our platy fish care guide for more details on their care requirements.

Dwarf red coral platy fish

Dwarf red coral platy fish

If you enjoyed this article and are looking for even more stocking suggestions, check out our blog post on the 7 Best Fish Tank Ideas for a 10-Gallon Aquarium. Best of luck with your fish tank, and enjoy nature daily.


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