One of our most frequently asked questions is “What can I put in a 10-gallon aquarium?” When you’re surrounded by hundreds of freshwater fish at a fish store, the possibilities just seem endless! Whether you like livebearers, cichlids, or killifish, check out our top 10 list of both popular and uncommon fish to help you discover a new species that you just have to try.
Let’s start off with a top-dwelling fish, which can be hard to find for a 10-gallon tank. Nannostomus eques is also called the hockeystick pencilfish and diptail pencilfish because of the way its mouth points toward the surface and its tail dips downward at a diagonal angle. The nice thing about brown pencilfish is that they are relatively cheap compared to other pencilfish species, so it’s easier on the wallet to purchase a healthy school of at least five or six fish. Like most surface dwellers, they have the tendency to jump, so you’ll need a tight aquarium lid to keep them contained. Also, they have very small mouths, so feed them size-appropriate foods like baby brine shrimp, daphnia, and Easy Fry and Small Fish Food.
Brown or diptail pencilfish
If you’re looking for fish to breed, a pair of Apistogramma dwarf cichlids (also known as apistos) in a species-only setup is a great option. Because of their striking profile and colors, many species are readily available at your local fish store, such as A. cacatuoides (or cockatoo cichlid), A. agassizii, and A. borellii. They’re also very easy to spawn; just provide lots of food and a little cave or coconut hut for them to lay their eggs. After hatching, the mother even cares for her young until they’re three to four weeks old. For more details, read our care guide on apistos.
Another fun breeding project is Aphyosemion australe, also called the lyretail killifish, orange australe killifish, or golden panchax. Usually, they’re sold in pairs, but you can also keep one male with a couple of females. Many people steer away from killifish since some kinds are known for their aggressive behavior and short lifespan, but this beautiful species is calmer than most and can live up to three years. Like many killifish, they need a tight lid to prevent jumping, and they can thrive in cooler temperatures without an aquarium heater. Colony breeding (or raising the fry in the same tank as the parents) is possible in a heavily planted tank with, for example, lots of thick moss on the ground and water sprite floating at the surface.
Male and female orange australe killifish
What’s not to love about kuhli loaches? These eel-like oddball fish come in many colors (such as zebra stripes, silver, and black), and they’re experts at scavenging for any leftover food that falls into narrow cracks. As shyer, nocturnal creatures, they feel safer in groups of at least three to six, and their peaceful nature makes them perfect company for other community fish like tetras, rasboras, and even betta fish. Feed them sinking foods like community pellets, Repashy gel food, and frozen bloodworms, and you’ll get plenty of enjoyment from these wiggly, underwater noodles.
Unlike many barbs, Puntius titteya is a very mild, friendly species that can be mixed with other community fish. Get six or more of these schooling fish, and you’ll be amazed at how brightly their red color pops against the green foliage of a planted tank. Plus, they readily breed and will lay their eggs in dense vegetation or spawning mops. If you’re looking for a lively, eye-catching addition to your 10-gallon fish tank, you can’t go wrong with the cherry barb.
Male and female cherry barbs
Tanichthys albonubes comes in regular and longfin forms, but our favorite is the golden type because of the way their yellowish-peach bodies and red fins stand out in a fish tank. This cold water schooling species can live in a non-heated aquarium, which is perfect for an office building or classroom environment. Plus, their peaceful personalities make them ideal tank mates for dwarf shrimp or even betta fish (as long as there is enough cover). As with many of the fish on this list, they’re very easy to spawn in a species-only tank, especially when given lots of aquatic plants and good food.
Golden white cloud minnows
Did you know you can keep African cichlids in a 10-gallon aquarium? These tiny shell dwellers stay between 1 to 2 inches long, and as per their nickname, they dwell and raise their fry in snail shells. Like other African cichlids, they prefer higher pH levels and harder water. Shell dwellers are so entertaining to watch because they’re constantly rearranging their home by digging pits in the sand and moving shells with their mouths. If you provide plenty of food, the babies will thrive, and soon you’ll be able to sell or share them with your friends.
This tiny schooling rasbora deserves a lot more attention among fish keepers because of its radioactive color. Iridescent green is such an unusual color that is rarely seen in the aquarium hobby. Put a group of six or more together (especially in a blackwater aquarium with tannins), and the brilliant sparkle from their scales will capture everyone’s attention, even from across the room. They may be hard to locate in your corner of the world, but you can always try requesting them from your local fish store or ordering them from a reputable online seller.
If you haven’t owned guppies yet, you haven’t lived! In our opinion, guppies are the perfect, peaceful fish for a 10-gallon tank. They come in every color of the rainbow, regularly swim up to the glass to beg for food, and are great eaters that always polish off every last morsel in the aquarium. Even though they don’t live very long, these livebearers more than make up for it with the abundance of babies they’ll give you. Feed them well, give them hard water with minerals, keep up with your tank maintenance – and you won’t regret it.
Can’t get enough of adorable livebearers? Get yourself some dwarf or teacup platies. They stay around 1 inch long and don’t get as big as regular platies, so a 10-gallon tank isn’t too small for them. Platy fish are amazing clean-up crew members because of their insatiable appetites and knack for finding half-buried leftovers in the smallest cracks. Because of their unique mouth shape, they’ve even been known to pull off and munch on algae. Dwarf platies may not be easiest variety to source, but their cute size and lively behavior make it worth the effort.
Red platy fish
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