Best Fish for a 10 Gallon Aquarium

For a start, it is a common mistake to assume a smaller tank such as a 10-gallon aquarium is easier to maintain than a bigger tank.

Maintaining a smaller tank is much harder due to the need to do frequent water changes.

But if you do decide to start a 10 gallon aquarium, then you should know the best fish for your small tank.

A 10-gallon aquarium

Nano Planted Shrimp Tank

What does a 10-gallon tank represent in the fish-keeping world?

It is among the smallest, however, it’s not recommended to beginner aquarists, mainly because it is more difficult to maintain in terms of proper filtration, water change, and generally keeping everything in good shape.

Do your research

One of the reasons a 10-gallon aquarium is not recommended for beginners is that they often make big mistakes when deciding what fish to stock into such a confining aquarium, especially if considering a mixed-species community.

Thus, if you are a beginner, the first thing to do is stop being a beginner and do some research on your favorite fish.

It is quite an easy thing to do nowadays with the global Internet. Only then should you go to the store, confident of your knowledge and decisions.

If you are a beginner, you should read this post: 10 low maintenance fish for beginners 

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What you should pay attention to?

There are three main things you should be aware of when it comes to fish you choose:

  • Fish care requirements
  • Space they need
  • Fish temperament

That said, you can’t keep two species comfortable with significantly different water conditions or a highly peaceful fish with an aggressive or territorial one (goes for any size of the aquarium).

And, of course, you can’t stock fish that are simply too large for a ten-gallon aquarium such as Angelfish, Gourami, African Cichlid, or Bela Shark.

Also, consider the dimension of your tank

Nevertheless, the volume of the tank is not all that matters; there are dimensions of the aquarium that should also be considered.

For example, the famous “inch per gallon rule” suggests stocking one inch of the adult fish per one-gallon of water.

That sounds like nice and simple solution but needs to be accepted with great care.

For example, you may go to your friend’s and find his school of black skirt tetras very amusing making you want to set up your own school, but you have only a ten-gallon tank.

Since adult black skirt tetras reaches two inches in length at most, the inch per gallon rule would suggest putting five black skirt tetras in your aquarium; however, thorough research of the fish explains they need at least six of their own kind in the tank and, since they are very good swimmers, nothing less than 24 inches long.

Hence, it is obvious they have no business in your ten-gallon tank.

Beginner hobbyists are also often tricked by the size of the fish in its younger stages and, as a result, stock cute little angelfish, that can reach 6 inches in length and 12 inches in height when fully grown, in a ten-gallon tank.

Reasonable choices for a 10 gallon aquarium

Tetra fish

A good start would be stocking some Tetra fish, such as Cardinal tetra, Glowlight, or Neon tetra. As far as the sizes and space requirements of these fish, they are ideal ten-gallon tank mates. They are all relatively inactive swimmers, so they don’t require much space and are small and peaceful fish. The only thing they don’t quite agree about is water temperature.

While the Neon Tetra prefers 68° to 78°Fahrenheit, Glowlight, and especially Cardinals, like slightly warmer water (74° to 80°F).

Yet this is not an obstacle since you can maintain the temperature at both sides, such as 75° to 76°Fahrenheit.

They are tolerant towards other fish species but can get nippy toward each other when stressed, so keep them in a larger school.

Species Tetra fish (multiple Paracheirodon sp.)
Size range (length) 1 to 1.5 inches
Water Parameters 70 to 81 degrees F; pH 6.0 to 7.0; Soft water under 10 dGH
Tank Level Middle
Life Span Up to 10 years

Dwarf Corydoras

Another fish you have to think about is the Dwarf Corydoras.

Dwarf Corydoras, or catfish, are interesting bottom-feeding species that get along with all peaceful tank mates but should be kept in schools of six or more of its own.

They are also handy as tank bottom cleaners because they will pick up virtually everything that falls to the bottom of the tank.

Even so, you should occasionally provide them with some sinking pellets to be sure they get all the nutrients they need.

Species Dwarf Cory Cat (Corydoras Hastatus); Pygmy Cory Cat (Corydoras Pygmaeus)
Size range (length) 1 to 1.5 inches
Water Parameters 72 to 79 degrees F; pH 6 to 7.2, soft water under 15 dGH
Tank Level Bottom
Life Span 3 to 5 years

Sparkling Gourami

The next option is the Sparkling Gourami, a small fish growing to 1.5 inches in length suitable for small densely planted tanks with lots of hiding places.

Due to their colorful look, they can be a great addition to a creatively set aquarium.

Although they can be quite shy sometimes if kept away from aggressive fish, they can be very sociable.

Species Sparkling Gourami (Trichopsis Pumila)
Size range (length) Up to 15 gallons
Water Parameters 77 to 80.5 degrees; pH 6 to 8; 5 to 18 dGH
Tank Level Top and Middle
Life Span 4 to 5 years

Guppy

Another small, vividly colored fish from the rank of livebearers that can be fun to watch in your aquarium is the Guppy.

They come in various color alternatives, so there is much space for you to be creative when choosing from these fish.

Unlike Neon Tetras and similar, guppies are very active swimmers in the aquarium’s top third, so that tank segment should not be heavily planted.

Species Guppy; Fancy Guppy (Poecilia Reticulata)
Size range (length) 1 to 2.5 inches
Water Parameters 75 to 82 degrees F; pH 5.5 to 8.58; 12 dGH
Tank Level Middle and Top
Life Span 3 to 5 years

Betta

If kept with proper tank mates, the aggressive fish species are known as the Siamese Fighting fish, or Betta can do very well in your ten-gallon tank.

However, this will only work if kept with peaceful species such as White Cloud Mountain Minnows, Corydoras, Ember Tetra, Harlequin Rasboras, or the like. This brightly colored fish, with the most magical-looking fins can be rather entertaining and a trouble-free option.

Species Betta Fish (Betta Splendens)
Size range (length) 3.5 to 5.5 inches
Water Parameters 75 to 86 degrees F; pH 6 to 8; 5 to 20 dGH
Tank Level Middle and top
Life Span 3 to 5 years

Platy fish

Platy is a beautiful fish to look at. They come in multiple colors and get along with many community fish. This fish is pretty colorful and easy to care for. They don’t need a lot of space, so you can keep more than three adult fish in a 10-gallon tank. Make sure you keep them in pairs, though, so there is no in-fighting. 

Species Platy Fish (multiple Xiphophorus sp.)
Size range (length) 2.5 to 3 inches
Water Parameters 70 to 72 degrees F; pH 7 to 8; 10 to 28 dGH
Tank Level Middle
Life Span 3 to 4 years

Common Molly

Mollies are lively-looking streaks of yellow that add a dash of color to any aquarium. They are peaceful and make for a perfect community fish. The Common Molly can live alone or in groups as well. But, they are picky about space, so make sure they have plenty of room to roam around.

Species Common Molly (Poecilia Sphenops)
Size range (length) Up to 4.5 inches
Water Parameters 72 to 82 degrees F; pH 6.5 to 8; 15 to 30 dKH
Tank Level Middle
Life Span 3 to 5 years

Least Killifish

Least Killifish are some of the tiniest fish to keep in any tank. They have a silvery-black body with a dark stripe running down their body. Their fins are translucent and shine brighter in light. They cannot challenge bigger fish, though, so be sure to keep them in a peaceful environment. In a tank as small as 10 gallons, you can save more than 15 of these!

Species Least Killifish (Heterandria Formosa)
Size range (length) 0.8 to 1.4 inches
Water Parameters 68 to 79 degrees F; pH 7 to 8; both hard or soft water
Tank Level Middle
Life Span 3 to 5 years

Dwarf Pencilfish

Dwarf Pencilfish, also known as Beckford’s Pencilfish, are ideal for small tanks. They are pretty active, and you will always find them moving about. They come in different colors like reds and golden morphs.

At just 1 inch, they are some of the smallest fish to live.

However, they are not very popular among fish enthusiasts due to their breeding patterns and their small number of eggs. If breeding them is not your goal, then they are perfect for you.

Species Beckford’s Pencilfish (Nannostomus Beckfordi)
Size range (length) 1 to 1.5 inches
Water Parameters 76 to 82 degrees F; pH 6.5 to 7.2; both soft and hard water
Tank Level Middle
Life Span 3 to 5 years

Otocinclus Catfish

Otocinclus, or Oto Catfish, are algae-eating fish. They are great if you want to keep your algae growth in check. You can keep them as a group or alone in your 10-gallon tank. They prefer planted aquariums. There are multiple variants of Oto fish, and all of them are pretty functional!

Species Otocinclus (multiple Otocinclus sp.)
Size range (length) 1 to 2 inches
Water Parameters 72 to 82 degrees F; pH 6 to 7.5; soft water under 15 dKH
Tank Level Bottom
Life Span 3 to 5 years

Kuhli Loach

Kuhli Loach has many names such as the Coolie coach or Leopard Loach. These fish look like eels with their elongated bodies. Kuhli fish is a slightly advanced fish to care for. They are very peaceful and keep to themselves. Kuhli Loaches are pretty shy and don’t usually come out in daylight. They are nocturnal and will come out at night to explore their tanks.

Species Kuhli Loach (Pangoi Kuhlii)
Size range (length) Up to 3 to 5 inches
Water Parameters 75 to 84 degrees F; pH 6 to 7; soft water 2 to 10 dGH
Tank Level Bottom
Life Span Up to 10 years

Zebra Danio

Zebra Danios are an old favorite as a shoaling fish. Zebra Danios are also called Zebrafish or striped danio because of the long stripes that cover their body. They are hardy, easy to care for, breed readily, and tolerate almost any condition. They prefer heavily planted aquariums as they are egg scatterers. 

You must keep them in shoals but be sure to regulate their numbers as having more fish will cause them stress.

Zebrafish are one of the most social and community fish that can blend easily with any kind of tank. You can house them with many danios companions like celestial pearl danios, leopard danios, etc., and even other smaller fish without any issues. 

A fun fact about zebra danios is they share 70% of the same genes as humans!

Species Zebra Danio (Danio Rerio)
Size range (length) 1 to 2 inches
Water Parameters 72 to 82 degrees F; pH 6 to 7.8; 2 to 15 dGH
Tank Level Middle and top
Life Span 5 to 8 years

White Cloud Minnow

White Cloud Minnows are tropical fish, belonging to the streams of Guangzhou Mountain in China. They have other common names like White Cloud Mountain Minnow, China Danio, and Canton Danio.  In the 1960s, the White Cloud Minnows were “poor man’s neon tetra”. This is because they look similar in their colors and marks on the body, but neon tetras were relatively rare. 

In the wild, they live peacefully with fish like Weather loaches, Paradise Fish, Cherry Barbs, Dojo loaches, Horseface loaches, and Gold Barbs. 

Today, they enjoy fame for their active lifestyle and hardiness. If you put them in a small community, they will thrive. They are peaceful and do not pick fights. 

Remember not to place them with larger fish as they might get their fins nipped, or be seriously injured.

They also come in three other common varieties like Hong Kong Minnows, Golden Cloud Minnows, and Meteor Minnows.

Species White Cloud Minnow (Tanichthys Albonubes)
Size range (length) Up to 2 inches
Water Parameters 62 to 72 degrees F; pH 7; 5 to 16 dGH
Tank Level Middle and top
Life Span 5 to 8 years

Celestial Pearl Danios

Celestial Pearl Danios are peaceful and popular among fish keepers. The reason for their popularity is that they are pretty recent! They were discovered in 2006 and make for a perfect addition to a 10-gallon tank. 

Celestial Pearl Danios can tolerate a wide range of temperatures. They are not very fussy and will thrive if you meet the conditions they need.

The fish have a metallic blue body and look pleasant as they streak across the tank. They are found in schools in the wild, and you can keep more than five together in a small tank. They act as great companions for guppies, mollies, and other small fish. They love well-planted tanks as it reminds them of their true home in South East Asia. 

When you put them in a small tank, remember to put them in pairs, and not have an imbalance male to female ratio.

As they are quite new, there is a lot about them that we don’t know yet.

Species Celestial Pearl Danio (Celestichthys Margaritatus)
Size range (length) Up to 2 inches
Water Parameters 72 to 82 degrees F; pH 6 to 7.8; 2 to 15 dGH
Tank Level Middle and top
Life Span 5 to 8 years

Harlequin Rasboras

Harlequin Rasboras are shoaling fish and are very hardy. This species is a tropical fish that belongs to the Cyprinidae family. They belong to Asia, and They have a metallic silver body with streaks of bright orange, especially over their fins. They have a black patch in the middle of their body. This patch is what gives them their name, as it is similar to a harlequin outfit.

These fish are more popular among beginner aquarists because of their beauty and easy care. 

They like moving around together in a shoal and stay happier in groups. 

But remember not to put them together with bigger or aggressive tank mates as they might bully the Harlequins.

Species Harlequin Rasboras (Trigonostigma Heteromorpha)
Size range (length) Up to 2 inches
Water Parameters 72 to 82 degrees F; pH 6 to 7.8; 2 to 15 dGH
Tank Level Middle
Life Span 5 to 8 years

FAQs

What are some non-aggressive fish for 10-gallon tanks?

As mentioned earlier, some of the best non-aggressive fish for 10-gallon tanks are guppies, platy, mollies such as balloon molly, pygmy corydoras, betta, neon tetras, and even Harlequin Rasboras. For a smaller tank, it is important to choose fish that are not inherently aggressive as they will not live well in a cramped space.

What are some best tropical fish for 10-gallon tanks?

For 10-gallon tanks, some best tropical fish are guppies, mollies, zebra danios, dwarf gouramis, and bettas.

What types of fish can live in a 10-Gallon Aquarium?

Any kind of small fish can safely and comfortably live in a 10-gallon aquarium. If you are looking to build a small fish community in your 10-gallon tank, you can house betta fish, neon tetras, and even fish such as guppies! As long as there is enough space and the fish don’t bother each other, all is well.

How to calculate the density and number of fish in the tank?

Use these parameters to stock fish in your 10-gallon tank. If your tank contains 1 to 2 medium fish or 3 to 6 small fish, it is a lightly stocked tank. If you have 1 to 3 medium fish and 5 to 10 small fish, your tank is moderately stocked. If you have four or more medium-sized fish and 12 or more small fish, then your tank is densely stocked.

Conclusion

Of course, there are lots of other species that can fit your 10-gallon tanks such as Pencilfish, Least Killifish, different types of Rasboras, Dwarf Lamprologus, Kuhli Loaches, or even other species like Apple Snails, Nerite Snails, Ghost Shrimp, and Cherry Shrimp, which can add a live splash of color to your aquarium.

Whichever fish or species you choose, do thorough research on the fish or species you think is best for your tank.

The main reason to research is that even if your fish can fit a gallon of such volume, it may not be compatible with some other fish/species you wish to add in the aquarium setup, water conditions, and behavior.

 

48 thoughts on “Best Fish for a 10 Gallon Aquarium”

    • Not recommended. Many types of fish need to school (ie be in groups of minimum 6) to be comfortable.

      Try aquarium forums for stocking suggestions and don’t overstock. It’s less work for you and less chance of your fish dying.

      Reply
    • I have a betta in with my corydoras, largish Amani shrimp, Baby bristle nose pleco(may put him in my larger tank later on), and four African dwarf frogs in a 20 gallon long. They all get along fine the betta doesn’t go after the frogs. I feed a variety -frozen bloodworms, frozen brine shrimp, pellets, flakes, algae wafers…and everyone gets fed. A lot of the food types sink quickly so the frogs all gather and eat it.

      Reply
  1. Also, I just introduced my corydoras and my betta will get near them and flare his gills but he won’t charge, is that still going to be a problem?

    Reply
    • No. I don’t think so. I have had a male betta with some cories, and my betta did the same. He never went any further than that.

      Reply
  2. Goldfish can be kept in as little as a 5 gallon aquarium. I have done it and it was successful. It will only work temporarily, so after some time they will definitely need a new home in order to survive. If you were to decide on a 5 or 10 gallon make sure your filtration is eduacate and if it is not do more water changes. I had a filter that was ok and I was doing 1 to 2 water changes and gravel cleanings per week. It will get tiresome after a while.

    Reply
      • not true i got 1 comet goldfish and two rainbow sharks and 1 tetra in a 10 galleon tank there perfectly fine but of course the bigger my goldfish gets the bigger tank i will get her but yes you can mines been in her 10 gal tank now for 6 weeks and there all doing fine there happy and enjoying life

        Reply
        • Comet and Common Goldfish can, and should live to minimum – 20 years. Of course they willsurvive for a few years, if the water is changed often and you dont overfeed. But expecting a Comet to live in anything less than a 55 gallon is like aticking a lion in a cage the size of a bedroom. It will survive – that’s all. And its lifespan will likely be greatly reduced. So why do it??? To say that the goldfish is “fine” – not you – is a bit absurd. And you know this how? Do the humane thing, and either invest in a bigger tank or take it to a reputable fish dealer; coming from someone who has kept freshwater fish for over 30 years.

          Reply
    • no, most types grow to large for a ten gallon tank, and it is a misconception that they can be kept in a one gallon tank! the most common gold fish, the comet gold fish, needs a 50+ gallon tank.

      Reply
  3. I had 3 neon tetra’s in my tank and they died the next morning. How do you keep this from happening. I also have 3 guppies In my tank to.

    Reply
    • How did you introduce your fish to the tank? Did you float the bag and slowly add tank water to it? Did you test the tank water…there are many variables that could have killed your fish. Temps, nitrogen,ammonia. Always good to keep a test kit and know what is going on in your tank, even if the water is crystal clear.

      Reply
    • you must acclimitize them by putting the bag in the tank for 15 minutes, then pour a bit of tank water in there, then wait five minutes and THEN put them in the tank. You can’t put in new fish too soon.

      Reply
  4. So, I have a 10 gal. tank and I would like to put a betta and 6+ cardinal tetras in there. Should I stock my tank differently or is this okay?

    Reply
  5. I have a planted 10 gallon that I am thinking of adding fish to. Which combo would work best.
    6 fancy guppies and 2 shrimp
    6 fancy guppies and 1 frog and 1 shrimp
    8 fancy guppies
    6 fancy guppies and 2 frogs

    Reply
  6. You forgot probably the best fish for 10gal Gold White Cloud Mountain Minnows i got a school of 10 with cory cats and Malaysian Trumpet Snails in a 20 long with tons of live plants. Finding some low tech and low light plants for beginners will help fish waste feeds the plants the plants clean the water for the fish try Java Fern as your first plant

    Reply

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