Aquariums come in all shapes and sizes, but a 10 gallon fish tank can be the perfect desk centerpiece, starter tank, or breeding tank. Being on the small side of aquariums, only the 5 gallon fish tank is available commercially as a smaller option, it is perfect to showcase the colorations and behaviors of smaller fish and invertebrates. As such this article will focus on the best fish for 10 gallon tank and also some of the invertebrates and plants you can house comfortably in this environment.

10 Gallon Tank Stocking Ideas

When searching for 10 gallon tank stocking ideas it is important to gain as much information as possible so that you get the right fish for you. It is also easy to forget about invertebrates when trying to stock a 10 gallon tank. But shrimp and snails often get lost in larger tanks so having them in a smaller tank can actually enable you to get more enjoyment out of them!

In this list we will go through what we here at CoralRealm think of as the best fish for 10 gallon tank, including some great shrimp as well! 

Betta fish

Betta fish really need no introduction; they are one of the most famous freshwater fish available. There are a number of varieties too, with the classic betta fish and the crowntail betta fish being absolutely stunning. While betta fish can be housed in a 5 gallon tank, the best tanks for bettas are 10 gallon tanks, as they have that little bit more room to move. You will see their behaviors more clearly, and they will be much less likely to be stressed. 

Bettas need a filter, and enjoy having plants in the tank as it feels more natural. They have also been known to enjoy leaves as hammocks! Be wary though, as bettas have a labyrinth organ which enables them to breathe air, and so need access to the surface. As such plants like dwarf water lettuce and duckweed shouldn’t be used. You should only keep one betta fish in a 10 gallon tank. The males have longer fins and are more colorful, so are much more popular in single fish tanks. 

Related product: Betta fish hammock

Guppies

Guppies are a fantastic option when stocking a 10 gallon tank. Small, colorful, and charismatic, they have everything you would want in a smaller tank fish. They are extremely easy to care for and are a perfect starting fish. They are also perfect for kids as they are very active and very hardy. 

Be careful to only have either males or females in the tank though, as guppies have a well-deserved notoriety when it comes to breeding. As you need to be careful with stocking limits in a 10 gallon tank, a mixed gender guppy tank will quickly breach this limit. Keeping between 5 and 10 guppies in a 10 gallon tank is the recommended limit. If you are using the tank as a breeding tank a female:male ratio of 2:1 is ideal.

Males are a lot more colorful than females, and are smaller in size. There are countless different varieties and variations of guppies widely available, with many having long flowing fins which are quite mesmerizing to watch.

Neon Tetra

Neon tetras are one of the most common and popular tropical freshwater fish, and are guaranteed to be found in all fish stores. It’s not hard to see why, as they are peaceful, easy to keep, and incredibly beautiful. They are called neon tetras due to their almost fluorescent blue coloration, which has a red stripe down the middle. 

Neon tetras grow to a maximum of around 1.25 inches in length. Being so small means that you can house up to 10 neon tetras comfortably in a 10 gallon aquarium.  They are very active and social fish, so you will see them dart quickly around the tank, creating bursts of color. 

As with most small fish, neon tetras are quite skittish, and are most comfortable with a planted tank so they have lots of hiding places. Floating plants work well with tetras as well. Driftwood and other decorations will emulate their natural habitat and make them even more comfortable. 

Try out this: Great driftwood for 10 gallon tank

Dwarf Gourami

Dwarf gouramis are a brilliant fish for 10 gallon tanks. The smallest species of the gourami family, they earn the name dwarf by growing to 3.5-4 inches in length. Dwarf gouramis are peaceful fish, making them perfect for a small community tank; 3 can be kept in a 10 gallon tank, or 1 with a few other small peaceful fish such as guppies or tetras. 

An important thing to note when considering these fish for your 10 gallon aquarium is that they have moderate care needs. This means that they aren’t suitable for inexperienced aquarists.

Dwarf gouramis display sexual dimorphism; males have alternating stripes of red and blue with a pointed dorsal fin, while the females have a silvery blue coloration with a rounded dorsal fin. 

Zebra Danio

Zebra danios are small shoaling fish which are perfect for small 10 gallon aquariums. Growing to 2 inches long, five can be kept comfortably in the tank. They prefer a tank with a soft substrate and with plenty of plants such as amazon sword. Hiding places such as caves and driftwood will also make them more comfortable.

Possessing an incredible coloration; vivid blue and gold horizontal stripes which extend from the head to the caudal fin, which are both a silvery/gold. Having these fish in a 10 gallon tank creates an amazing shimmer and flash of color, especially when you have a good LED light fixture such as Fluval plant 3.0 or Finnex planted+.

Dwarf Corydoras

Dwarf Corydoras are perfect small fish which roam the base of the tank. Credit: AquariaNR, CC BY-SA 3.0 de, WikiCommons 

One of a few species of small corydoras catfish, the dwarf corydoras catfish is ideal for a slightly different tank setup, as they are bottom dwelling scavengers who spend most of their time on the substrate looking for food.

They should be kept in a school of at least 6 individuals, and up to 10 can be kept in a 10 gallon aquarium. Very social, they are shoaling fish and will explore the tank as a group. As they forage for food they prefer a tank wider than it is tall, so they have more lateral swimming room. 

Dwarf corydoras are very peaceful in temperament and so make ideal tank mates to most fish. Keeping a group of 6 with 3 guppies can make for a great small community tank.

Platy Fish

Platy fish come in a huge range of colors!
Credit: dillow pillow, Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Platy fish are very hardy fish which are ideal for first time fish keepers. There are a huge range of colorations that platy fish can exhibit; black, red, yellow, spotted, amongst others. The common name platy fish applies to three different but very similar species in the Xiphophorus genus, which is why there is such variation in color and shape. 

Growing up to three inches in length the platy fish is perfect for a 10 gallon tank. Like guppies, they will breed very readily in the tank, so keep more females than males, or have a female only tank. They are very peaceful so will be perfect tank mates for guppies, neon tetras, or danios. You will be able to keep five platy fish in a 10 gallon aquarium; we recommend 4 females and 1 male, but be careful about them breeding and then overcrowding the tank.

Cherry Shrimp

Cherry shrimp are a great option to stock a 10 gallon tank. Shrimp are fascinating to watch, constantly moving and finding food particles to eat. Children especially can be quite enthralled by them! The trouble with shrimp in a large tank is that with so many hiding places it can feel like it’s impossible to find them. Not so in a 10 gallon tank; being a small size you will be able to find each shrimp without much bother. 

Cherry shrimp in particular are a great invertebrate to have in a 10 gallon aquarium. Their bright red coloration makes them stand out in the tank, and they are very hardy and easy to care for. Being completely passive they’ll get on with pretty much any fish you can house in a 10 gallon tank. A betta fish with a few cherry shrimp makes for an incredible tank. 

Ghost Shrimp

Spot the ghost shrimp!

Ghost shrimp are small crustaceans, growing to around 1.5 inches in length. They are fascinating creatures, being practically see-through. This means that you can see their internal organs, and can see the food working its way through their system. Being see-through and therefore hard to spot has earned them the name of ghost shrimp. In larger tanks it can be very hard to find these shrimp, as they also need plenty of plants and hiding places such as caves and driftwood. However this makes 10 gallon tanks perfect for showcasing ghost shrimp as they will be relatively easy to spot. 

About three or four ghost shrimp can be kept per gallon. This means that you could keep three ghost shrimp with a shoal of 9 neon tetras. With driftwood and plants, this would make for a unique tank setup. Ghost shrimp are extremely docile, and need to be kept with peaceful fish who aren’t going to disturb them.

Snails

Mystery Snails are fascinating to watch. Credit: Stijn Ghesquiere, CC BY-SA 3.0, WikiCommons

Adding snails into a small 10 gallon community tank setup can add a different dimension and feel, and one that isn’t too common. Freshwater snails can get a bad rap, as some like the Malaysian Trumpet Snail can breed very quickly and overrun a tank, causing issues in the filtration system as well. However snails such as nerite snails and mystery snails are perfect in freshwater tanks. Nerite snails cannot breed successfully without saltwater, and mystery snails lay their eggs at the water’s surface in a cocoon which are easy to remove if you wish. 

Nerite snails grow to an inch long, while mystery snails have a maximum length of 2 inches. They are stunning, having zebra or tiger striped patternation. Mystery snails come in a variety of colors; golden, blue, black, purple, ivory, and albino. Having one or two of either snail will fit in a 10 gallon tank, with a smaller amount of fish so it is not overstocked. 

Both of these snail species are voracious algae eaters and help to keep the tank clean. 

Tips for Fish for 10 Gallon Tank

It’s easy to think that as a 10 gallon tank can only stock a small number of fish that is doesn’t need cleaning too often. But it is actually the opposite. As there is less water, the aquarium has less buffering capabilities and so can only handle a small amount of phosphate, ammonia, and nitrite before these compounds build up to dangerous levels. 

Ammonia is released when organic matter such as food and fish feces decomposes in the tank. Through the nitrogen cycle, ammonia is converted to nitrite and then nitrate. Ammonia poisoning and nitrite poisoning can occur even when these compounds are at low concentrations, whereas nitrate poisoning only occurs when the level is very high. 

Cleaning the tank regularly, especially using an aquarium vacuum cleaner such as the python water changer to get rid of the debris on the substrate, is very important to remove the waste that will decompose. Also having the best 10 gallon filter available is important as it will remove debris, chemicals, and harmful compounds through mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration.

It is also very important to not overstock your 10 gallon tank. As tempting as it might be to have as many of the best fish for 10 gallon tank in there, only stock to the recommended amount. Having too many fish in your 10 gallon tank will first and foremost greatly stress the fish. Having more fish than recommended will also mean that the amount of waste they produce increases dramatically. As a 10 gallon tank is very small you may find that no matter what you do the ammonia and nitrite levels are elevated if it is overstocked.

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CoralRealm Staff

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