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Stocking a 10 gallon fish tank

Last Updated September 28, 2020
stocking a 10 gallon fish tank

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10 gallon (38L) aquarium kits such as this one are cheap and easy to fit into any room, which makes them a very popular choice. However, it can be difficult to figure out what fish to stock a 10 gal with. 10 gallons is not a lot of room and most fish in your local aquarium store will quickly outgrow a tank this size. Do not despair, though: there are definitely still plenty of options.

Keep reading to find out which fish and inverts will work in a 10 gallon and which are better avoided!

Fish to avoid for a 10 gallon tank

Many sites recommend fish species that actually grow too large or are too active for 10 gallon aquarium setups. The fish listed below are often labeled as suitable for a 10 gal but are actually best avoided or, at best, not ideal.

  • Fancy goldfish – grow much too large and need a minimum of 20 gallons (75L) per fish. Caresheet here.
  • Common goldfish – only suitable for ponds. Caresheet here.
  • (Neon) tetra – active schooling fish that need more room
  • Danio – too active and large. Caresheet here.
  • Corydoras – almost all Corydoras species grow too large
  • Molly, platy, guppy – these livebearers all grow too large

As you can see, most common small schooling fish are a no-go despite their size. They are simply too active and need to be kept in larger groups than can be housed in a tank of this size.

Most Corydoras species grow too large. Cory Close Up by a_wilson

Fish and invertebrates for a 10 gallon tank

Obviously, all species that can be kept in a 5 gallon (19L) aquarium can also be kept in a 10 gallon. This already gives us a few options, but be sure to keep reading for a more extensive list of species that could work well. If you’re missing a fish or invert on the list, feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this article.

When stocking your 10 gallon, try to stick to one fish species (two is definitely the maximum). Inverts have a low bioload and can usually be added to any setup.

Schooling fish for a 10 gallon tank

  • Mosquito rasbora (Boraras brigittae) – Very tiny, keep at least 7-8.
  • Least killifish (Heterandria formosa) – Small livebearer, keep in harem or larger group.

Catfish for a 10 gallon tank

  • Pygmy Corydoras (Corydoras habrosus & hastatus) – Smallest Corydoras types, keep at least 6. Caresheet here.
  • Otocinclus – Great algae eater but very sensitive. Keep at least 4, only for fully cycled setups. Caresheet here.
  • Hara jerdoni – Not very common in the hobby. Supposed to do well in small groups.

Corydoras hastatus - buscando ar

Labyrinth fish for a 10 gallon tank

  • Betta (Betta splendens) – Great option for a 10 gallon. Very small and decorative fish. Caresheet here.
  • Sparkling gourami (Trichopsis pumila) – Can be kept in pairs. Also known as croaking gourami!

Other fish for a 10 gallon tank

  • Dwarf puffer (Carinotetraodon travancoricus) – Needs specific care. Very entertaining fish. Caresheet here.
  • Scarlet badis (Dario dario) – Small but feisty and colorful! Can be kept as pair or harem.
  • Peacock goby (Tateurndina ocellicauda) – Quite unusual. Keep in small groups.
  • Clown killifish (Pseudepiplatys annulatus) – Colorful and interesting. Keep in groups.

Invertebrates for a 10 gallon tank

The best fish for a 10 gallon aquarium | How to stock your 10 gal tank

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To keep in mind…

There is still much discussion over the best way to stock nano tanks like a 10 gallon. The best way to figure out a stock is to keep in mind that the needs of your fish are always more important than your wants. Understocking is much better than overstocking and a tank with only one or two species does not have to be boring at all.

Some may find the list above too conservative but it was compiled with the well-being of the fish in mind. If you have any additional suggestions or want to share your experiences with any of the species on the list, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.

Cover photo: Weekend #chill #ruhevordemsturm #aquarium #relax (77/366) by dvux

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  • ReplyChrisMay 9, 2020 at 3:50 am

    Is there any number combo of dwarf Coreydoras and chili Rasboras that would work in a 10 gallon, or it it just too many fish?

    • ReplyJennifer DollMay 9, 2020 at 10:58 pm

      Hi Chris,
      Because they both need larger schooling numbers, ideally, you’d be looking at 12+ fish total at the minimum. Unfortunately, this won’t work for a 10 gallon. Personally, I’d probably go with 6-8 rasboras with some really nice aquascaping and small shrimp!

  • ReplyGabyJuly 3, 2018 at 3:26 am

    I wondering if maybe I could put more than one of the species listed above in the aquarium and which ones. Thank you!

    • ReplyGabyJuly 16, 2018 at 10:52 pm

      Oh nvm didn’t realize that several people had asked that already, my bad us I do have one more question. I was wondering if maybe in a 10 gallon I could keep some clown killifish and some sparkling gourami and how many of each. Thank you!

  • ReplygabyMay 6, 2018 at 7:17 pm

    How many shrimp or crayfish do you think i can have if i put one type of schooling fish in the tank?

    • ReplyMariMay 10, 2018 at 4:43 pm

      Dwarf shrimp – infinite.
      Ghost shrimp or Amano shrimp – ~5
      Crayfish (dwarf only) – 1M 2F would be good

      Hope that helps! 🙂

  • ReplyJonathanFebruary 14, 2018 at 5:24 pm

    Could you recommend a nice centerpiece fish for a ten gallon? I’ve had schools before but I’d like to branch out a bit more and have a bit of a closer relationship with my fish.

    • ReplyMariFebruary 15, 2018 at 3:17 pm

      If you want to establish a bit of a “relationship” with your fish then I’m voting for a dwarf puffer! I’ve got a full caresheet here, they’re fantastic little fish.

      • ReplyjonathanFebruary 15, 2018 at 5:07 pm

        They’re adorable! Definitely going to consider them and the sparkling gourami now that I’m looking to buy online. Thank you sooo much for your help. You’re very kind, I’ve actually referred a lot of my fishkeeping friends to your site because of how helpful these articles were! I look forward to future articles of yours 🙂

        • ReplyMariFebruary 15, 2018 at 7:11 pm

          I’m glad I could help, and great to hear you found some species you’re considering settling on! And thank you for telling your friends, that’s very nice of you 🙂

  • ReplyKiranDecember 12, 2017 at 12:07 am

    Would pygmy corydoras be okay in a tank with lots of driftwood and rock, and the eco-complete substrate from the “Choosing an Aquarium Substrate” article? What could I feed a stone catfish? This is my first tank.

    • ReplyMariDecember 12, 2017 at 1:07 pm

      Hi! I’m not a huge fan of eco-complete for Corydoras as they do seem to prefer sand – maybe you can cap the substrate with a layer of sand? It’s not a huge disaster if you don’t since eco-complete isn’t sharp, but sand will allow you to see their natural foraging behavior.

      Asian stone catfish (Hara jerdoni) need a high-protein diet as far as I know. So frozen foods would work well but live would be fantastic!

      Good luck with your first tank 🙂

  • ReplyMaddieJuly 20, 2017 at 9:26 pm

    What is your opinion on male 4 – 6 Endler’s for a 10g? Doable? Would I be able to add inverts to the mix? Thanks for pulling this article together — saved me from dooming some tetras!

    • ReplyMariJuly 23, 2017 at 11:54 am

      Hi! Glad to hear the article was helpful. As for Endler’s, I generally don’t recommend any guppies for a 10 gallon. I’ve listed Endler’s guppies as suitable for 15+ gallons elsewhere on the site if I’m not mistaken. But don’t despair! I’ve got some good other options on the list. If you’re looking for something similarly colorful that can be kept with inverts such as dwarf crays and shrimp, mosquito rasbora might be an option. I also think scarlet badis might be fun if you’re looking for a fish with plenty of personality, though these do have an appetite for the occasional shrimp fry.

      I hope that helps, good luck stocking your tank!

  • ReplyTaylorApril 16, 2017 at 4:12 am

    Hi there!
    If I wanted to add multiple species to my 10 gallon tank, what would you suggest? I’m just looking for a group of pretty fish. If not, I may just put a single male betta in there.

    • ReplyMariApril 16, 2017 at 10:44 am

      The options are very limited, but you could get a few Hara jerdoni or Otocinclus (if you’re an experienced fishkeeper) catfish and a harem of least killifish or sparkling gourami.

      If it doesn’t HAVE to be fish, you can also combine a lot of the species on the list (not Bettas or dwarf puffers though) with dwarf crayfish. Those have a ton of personality and are super fun to keep. I would personally go this route.

      Good luck! 🙂

  • ReplyKendallMarch 2, 2017 at 8:53 pm

    If I had a dwarf puffer, what other species could be kept in the tank?

    • ReplyMariMarch 3, 2017 at 11:05 am

      In a 10 gal I would just stick to maybe some shrimp with a dwarf puffer. In larger tanks there are a few more options although it’s still pretty limited.

  • ReplyHannaDecember 30, 2016 at 7:00 am

    Is there any combination you could suggest for a 10 gallon community tank that includes a betta splendens? Thank you!

    • ReplyMariDecember 31, 2016 at 1:41 pm

      Theoretically it might work with some tiny catfish such as Pygmy Cories or Hara jerdoni but I personally wouldn’t combine a betta with any other fish in a tank this small, just maybe some snails. 🙂

  • ReplyGregg MartinOctober 11, 2016 at 4:04 pm

    Very well done! Might I add true endlers?


  • ReplyBrianSeptember 28, 2016 at 8:03 pm

    What combination of these fish would you suggest for a 10 gallon community tank or is 10 gallons too small for anything other than a species tank?

    • ReplyMariSeptember 29, 2016 at 4:18 pm

      For all the schooling fish I would recommend a single-species setup, as things would get crowded real quickly is you did multiple species. There are a few possible combinations, though. You could do 1M 1F Trichopsis pumila or Dario dario and 4-5 Hara jerdoni for example. Obviously the inverts can be combined with all species as long as they’re compatible, they don’t have a large bioload. I’ve found that the dwarf crays especially can really bring some life into an aquarium. 🙂

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