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.
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.
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
- Various shrimp species – Neocaridina (including the popular cherry shrimp), Amano shrimp (Caridina multidentata), ghost shrimp (Paleomonetes sp.), Sulawesi shrimp, rili shrimp, etc.
- Dwarf crayfish (Cambarellus genus) – Very amusing and not difficult to keep.
- Various snail species – Nerite snail, Assassin snail (Clea helena), black devil snail (Faunus ater), etc.
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.