Stocking A 10 Gallon Fish Tank




Stocking 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 stockย a 10 gal with. 10 gallons is not a lot of roomย 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!

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

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.

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33 thoughts on “Stocking A 10 Gallon Fish Tank”

  1. We currently have a 5 gallon tank (new fish people). Unfortunately, we were given terrible advice got fish and most have died in a week. So sad for them us. I think it was multiple advice/errors that caused this unfortunate series of events. We are now thinking of upgrading to a 10 gallon and try again. The lone survivors in our tank now is one mystery snail, one panda cory and one small guppy that somehow survived. I’ve read a lot of articles and reading yours it seems none of these are suitable for even a 10 gallon tank correct? My next questions is after we get and cycle correctly a 10 gallon tank what is your opinion for the best stock for my kids to have enjoy and learn to care for together? I’m intrigued about the dwarf puffer, but what else could go along with it for beginners? Or is it better to have one species that we could have multiple fish in the tank together? Just a mom really hoping to do it right this time!

    • Hi Sissy!

      Don’t feel bad. This hobby is a learning process and I’m still figuring things out.
      Honestly, I have panda cories in a 20 gallon high and I still feel like it’s too small for them, so I would not recommend them in a 10 gallon (also, they’re very expensive so maybe go with some cheaper alternatives until you’re more sure about yourself.).
      The mystery snail and guppy would be fine in a 10 gallon, but you’re then limited with what you could do. A tank filled with guppies is really beautiful, but they breed like crazy and it can be difficult to keep up with. For the most part, though, they can be kept with any other community fish.
      If you choose to start all over in terms of livestock, I would go with the hardiest fish possible. Sadly, many fish come in with diseases so be prepared to treat ich or fin rot if you don’t have access to a quarantine system. Otherwise, look into platies, tetras, and rasboras. Possibly a dwarf gourami, though they can sometimes be aggressive. Most of these fish will need to be kept in schools.

      Puffers are definitely one of the most fun fish you can have in the hobby, be it freshwater or saltwater. They can be a little more challenging than your typical community tank due to dietary needs and setup, but they’re definitely worth it. You could do a couple in a 10 gallon.

    • Hey there sissy, I’m not sure if you have this 10 gallon tank set up yet but if you wanted to go with guppies again go with endlers, yes they breed a lot but they will be able to stay in the tank forever. I have a ten gallon aquarium as well that I had endlers in (which I upgraded to a 29 gallon because I wanted a bigger tank) but I had and still have easily 45 endlers, both adults and babies so you should be fine picking up 10 to start off with, 4 males, the ones with brighter colors, and 6 females, the duller colors. The. If you wanted a clean up crew to eat the leftover food go with five corydoras as well. If you have Cory’s use sand or a finer substrate instead of the big pieces of gravel, include hiding places for the Cory’s and add in some fake floating plants for the guppy fry. I gave you what went well for me. But I’m 15 now and had the endlers and catfish in the 10 gallon since I was 13 so if you want to take out the catfish just in case that means you’ll need to vacuum the substrate more. I hope this helps

  2. How about African dwarf frogs? I have been looking into getting 2-3 of them in my 10 gallon tank, followed eventually by a betta. I want a betta tank but I thought having some extra critters would be fun. Thanks!

    • Hi Daniel!
      Some hobbyists strongly believe that African dwarf frogs should be kept in a species-specific tank because their poor eyesight can lead to fin nipping and they are often outcompeted for food. That being said, lots of other hobbyists have been successful with this type of setup. If you’re really wanting to try this combination, I would make sure that the tank is well decorated and has several ‘levels’ where the frogs can rest on their way up to the surface to breathe. I would also make sure that you have several methods of feeding so that food gets to the bottom and your hungry betta doesn’t steal it all.
      While the African dwarf frogs would do best in a tank by themselves, if you set it up properly, then you should have some good chances for success.

  3. 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?

    • 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!

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

    • Oh nvm didnโ€™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!

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

      Hope that helps! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. 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.

    • 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.

      • 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

        • 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 ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. 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.

  7. 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!

    • 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!

  8. 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.

    • 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! ๐Ÿ™‚

    • 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.

    • 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. ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. 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?

    • 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. ๐Ÿ™‚


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