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Selecting the best fish for 10-gallon tank can be difficult due to its limited size. And, unfortunately, many pet stores will sell fish that are unsuitable for nano aquariums.
When I bought my first 10-gallon tank, a pet store employee told me I could keep three fancy goldfish in it.
Sadly, two passed away after a few weeks, and when I looked up information about the minimum tank size for these fish, I was shocked that a single goldfish needs a minimum of 20 gallons!
This is why it’s so important to do your research when choosing appropriate fish for your aquarium. To help you select the fish for your tank, I’ll be going over some of the best species that can comfortably inhabit a 10-gallon aquarium.
Will Fish Do Well In a 10-Gallon Tank?
Whether fish will do well in a 10-gallon tank largely depends on the species and the number of inhabitants in the aquarium.
For instance, a school of 6 ember tetras is a good amount for a tank this size, whereas a school of 30 is too many.
Additionally, a single betta fish is a great pick for a 10-gallon tank, but an aquarium of this volume is far too small for a single goldfish. That’s why it’s important to select your tank inhabitants carefully.
Factors To Consider
There are also other factors to consider, such as the amount of plants or decorations in your tank and the size of your aquarium equipment. A heavily planted tank or a large internal filter will reduce the amount of swimming space your fish have access to.
Subjecting fish to an undersized or overcrowded tank can cause an array of problems, including poor water quality, disease outbreaks, stunted growth, and much more. But don’t worry, there are plenty of species of fish that are suitable for a 10-gallon tank.
One Inch Fish Per Gallon Myth
Many aquarists use the “1 inch of fish per 1 gallon of water” rule when stocking their fish tanks. It was originally created to prevent beginner fish keepers from overstocking their tanks. However, this concept should be thought of as a general guideline rather than a strict rule.
That’s because there are a lot of other things you need to consider when selecting fish for your aquarium, including the adult size of the fish, the body shape of the fish, and the bioload. Many fish sold at pet shops are juveniles, so although they may be small enough for a small tank initially, they will quickly outgrow it once they reach their adult length.
Additionally, all fish have different body shapes – discus, for example, have a laterally compressed body, whereas catfish species are much fuller and bulkier. Discus fish are as tall as they are long (around 8 inches each way), so they need at least a 55-gallon tank, especially as they are extremely sensitive to water parameters.
Plecos, on the other hand, are messy fish with high bioloads, so even dwarf species like the bristlenose pleco (adult length of around 5 inches) need at least a 25-gallon tank, ideally a minimum of 30 gallons.
Where the rule applies
That being said, the “inch per gallon” rule comes in handy for schooling fish such as neon tetras and guppies to help you select a good sized group for your aquarium. Neons normally reach around 1.5 inches in size, whereas guppies only get to 0.5 to 1.5 inches in size. You can keep 5 – 6 neon tetras in a 10 gallon aquarium.
With this rule in mind, you could have a school of 6 neons or 6 guppies (it’s best to use the maximum estimated adult length of the fish) in a 10-gallon aquarium.
What Fish Are Good for a 10-Gallon Tank?
Small fish species and invertebrates with low bioloads are best kept in 10-gallon aquariums, including neon tetras, ember tetras, dwarf gouramis, siamese fighting fish, guppies, platies, pygmy corydoras, ghost shrimp, cherry shrimp, and amano shrimp.
If you want to set up a community tank with a few species of fish, you’ll need to make sure all your inhabitants have enough space to swim. Be careful not to overstock your aquarium as this can jeopardize the health of your fish and make it difficult to keep the tank clean, even with a powerful aquarium filter.
More fish isn’t always better, especially for small tanks! Personally, for a 10-gallon aquarium, my stocking choices would be either a single betta fish or a species-only tank of 8 ember tetras.
How Many Fish for 10-Gallon Tank?
The number of fish you can keep in a 10-gallon tank depends on the size and bioload of the fish, as well as the plants or decorations you have in your aquarium.
While not a golden guideline, the “1 inch per gallon” rule is a good measure for roughly calculating how many fish you can house in a 10-gallon tank.
So, for example, if all your fish are 2 inches in length (adult size), you can keep 5 of them in an aquarium of this volume.
Here’s a helpful video…
What Is the Biggest Fish You Can Keep In a 10-Gallon Tank?
The biggest fish you can comfortably keep in a 10-gallon tank is either a betta fish or dwarf gourami. Both fish reach around 2.5 inches in length, but female dwarf gouramis can grow to up to 3 inches in size.
What Are the Best Fish for 10-Gallon Tank?
Although 10-gallon aquariums are pretty small, that doesn’t mean you’re restricted to dull species of fish – far from it! There is an abundance of lively and vibrant types of fish and invertebrates that are perfect for a 10-gallon tank, including:
- Betta Fish
- Dwarf Gourami
- Sparkling Gourami
- Ember Tetras
- Neon Tetras
- Chili Rasboras
- Platy Fish
- Celestial Pearl Danios
- Zebra Danios
- Endler’s Livebearers
- Ghost Shrimp
- Cherry Shrimp
- Amano Shrimp
- Mystery Snails
- Assassin Snails
- Nerite Snails
- Rabbit Snails
Betta fish (Betta splendens) are one of the most popular tropical fish species in the aquarium hobby, which is no doubt due to the huge number of striking colors, patterns, and fin types they come in. They are relatively small fish, reaching around 2.25 to 2.5 inches in size, which makes them suitable for a 10-gallon aquarium.
These beautiful fish are native to Asia and are found in shallow, slow-moving water such as marshes, ponds, and rice paddies. They thrive in softer water but can tolerate a GH (general hardness) of between 5 to 20 dH.
The pH should be between 6.5 to 7.5 and the water temperature should be between 75° to 85°F. If you live in a cooler climate, make sure you invest in an aquarium heater to keep their tank water warm.
These fish are carnivores, so feed them a range of freeze-dried, frozen, and live foods like brine shrimp, bloodworms, mosquito larvae, and betta pellets high in crude protein.
Bettas, especially males, are extremely aggressive fish towards their own kind, so you should never house them with another male betta fish in the same tank (other labyrinth species like gouramis are also a no-no!). While betta sorority tanks can be successful, there is no guarantee that the fish will remain tolerant of one another.
Additionally, betta fish can be territorial towards other species of fish, particularly those with vibrant colors or long fins.
This aggression is also heightened in small tanks. These fish are best housed in their own aquarium without other fish unless the tank is over 10 gallons.
Platy fish are another great fish for a small aquarium – they come in a variety of vibrant colors and only reach around 1.5 to 2.5 inches in length.
Although not considered shoaling fish, platies prefer to be kept in small groups, so try to have at least 3 in your aquarium.
They are non-aggressive and can be housed in community tanks with other peaceful fish like guppies and neon tetras.
Platies are hardy fish, making them an excellent option for a new fish keeper. They do well in hard, slightly alkaline water. Keep their aquarium water at a pH of between 7 to 8 with a GH of around 10 to 28 dH. The water temperature should be between 70° to 80°F.
Platy fish are not picky when it comes to food, accepting both meaty and plant-based foods. They will graze on algae in your aquarium as they are omnivores, but make sure you offer them other foods like high-quality fish flakes, frozen or live bloodworms, brine shrimp, and vegetables such as zucchini, cucumber, and peas (de-shelled).
Bear in mind that platies are prolific breeders, so housing male and female fish together will result in a lot of fry. If you’d rather avoid being overrun with platies, keep groups of all males.
It’s important to note that female platies can store a male’s sperm inside them for up to 6 months, so you could end up with fry even if you keep a group of females. Unless you’re certain your local fish store has kept males and females separate, you might want to steer clear of females if you don’t want babies!
Fancy guppies are stunning, tiny fish that can be found in a wide variety of colors. Females get to roughly 1.2 to 2.4 inches in length, whereas males only reach between 0.6 to 1.4 inches.
Guppies are shoaling species, so keep them in groups of at least 6. They can be housed in a community aquarium with other passive species like platies and pygmy cory catfish.
Water Parameters and Diet
As these fish are tropical, they should be kept in warm water with a temperature of 74° to 82°F. Water hardness should be between 8 to 12 dH and pH should sit around 6.8 to 8.2.
These fish species are omnivores, so you can feed them high-quality fish flakes, mosquito larvae, brine shrimp, and the occasional veggie.
Like platies, fancy guppies are easy to breed in the home aquarium, with females capable of storing a male’s sperm for several months.
However, these fish have a habit of eating their own fry, so you might want to move the babies to a breeding tank.
Alternatively, keep groups of all males if you don’t want to end up with an overcrowded aquarium.
Although not technically a fish, ghost shrimp are an interesting and unique addition to a 10-gallon aquarium. They grow to around 1 to 1.5 inches and, like their name suggests, are almost entirely transparent.
While they can be housed in a community tank, they can be a tempting snack to many species. Consider keeping them in species-only tanks or densely planted community tanks with small-sized inhabitants like ember tetras.
Ideal shrimp water parameters are as follows: 65° to 75°F, 3 to 10 dH, and 7 to 8 pH. These shrimp are scavengers and will feed on algae, decaying plants, dead fish and shrimp, and leftover fish food. However, you can also offer them algae eater wafers, vegetables, and live, freeze-dried, or frozen foods.
Reaching around 1.5 inches in length, sparkling gourami are a good fit for a 10-gallon aquarium, with the bonus of having a lovely shimmery effect to their brown coloration (hence the name “sparkling”!).
These fish can be quite timid, especially in sparse aquariums, so opt for a densely planted tank with plenty of natural cover and hiding spaces. They are relatively peaceful and social with their own kind, but males can sometimes be territorial towards other males, particularly during spawning where they will fight for a female’s attention.
Breeding and Water Parameters
Sparkling gourami are straightforward to breed – you’ll often find males and females in pairs. However, raising the fry can prove challenging due to their small size and slow development.
Aim to keep the water temperature of these fish around 71.5° to 80.5°F, water hardness between 5 to 18 dH, and pH about 5 to 8.
Despite being omnivores, sparkling gouramis need a lot of protein in their diet, so offer them a variety of freeze-dried, live, and frozen food like brine shrimp, tubifex worms, bloodworms, and daphnia.
Pygmy corydoras are perhaps one of the cutest species of tropical fish, only growing to a maximum size of 1.2 inches.
They have a metallic silver color with a defined black stripe down their middle.
Pygmy cories are schoolers, so make sure you keep them in groups of at least 6. They are passive and can be housed in a community freshwater fish aquarium. That being said, 10 gallons is a little on the small side to keep both a group of these fish and other species, so you might want to opt for a larger tank.
Water Parameters and Diet
Suitable water parameters for pygmy corydoras are a pH of 6 to 7.2, water hardness between 2 to 15 dH (ideally, below 8), and a water temperature around 72° to 79°F.
Feed these fish sinking pellets, algae wafers, vegetables, and a variety of live and frozen foods.
Ember tetras are the perfect fish for a small tank as they only get to a maximum length of 0.8 inches.
They are an attractive orange-red color, which looks even more vibrant against live plants.
Like most tetras, embers are schooling fish and should be kept in groups of at least 6.
These schooling fish do well with invertebrates and other community fish like guppies, platies, and ghost shrimp.
Water Parameters and Diet
Good water parameters for ember tetras are a pH of between 5.5 and 7, water hardness no higher than 18 dH, and water temperature in the range of 68° to 82°F.
Ember tetras thrive on a diet of high-quality fish flakes, as well as frozen or live foods like bloodworms, tubifex worms, brine shrimp, etc.
The neon tetra is a charming, small fish with vibrant white, red, and blue coloration. Adults reach about 1.5 inches in length, making them a good option for a ten gallon aquarium.
Behavior and Temperament
Despite their small size, the neon tetra is an active and lively fish – it’s best to keep them in long aquariums over tall tanks. They are avid schoolers, so make sure you keep them in groups of at least 6.
Neons are peaceful community fish and make excellent tank mates for many species, including other active fish and invertebrates.
Water Parameters and Diet
These peaceful fish are best kept at a water temperature of between 70° to 81°F, water hardness around 2 to 10 dH, and pH between 6 to 7.
Neons are omnivores and will readily accept freeze-dried, frozen, and live foods.
If you want a graceful,brightly-colored centerpiece aquarium fish for your tank, you can’t go wrong with a dwarf gourami. These freshwater aquarium fish are so vibrant and detailed, they almost look like a saltwater fish!
Dwarf gouramis come in 3 main variations: powder blue, neon blue, and royal red. They are one of the largest fish you can comfortably house in aquariums of 10 gallons, with males growing to around 2.5 inches. Females are bigger fish, reaching up to 3 inches, and tend to be a little more subdued in coloration.
Diet, Tankmates and Water Parameters
Dwarf gouramis normally prefer to be kept in pairs or small groups, but only a single fish is suitable for a ten gallon tank.
Keep their water parameters around 6 to 7.5 pH, 4 to 10 dH, and a temperature of between 72° to 82°F. You can feed them high-quality fish flakes or pellets, vegetable wafers for algae eaters, and frozen and live foods.
I hope I helped you select the best fish for a ten gallon aquarium and understand why it’s so important not to stock your tank with too many fish. More fish in a tank means more waste.
Try to stick to the “1 inch per gallon” rule when choosing inhabitants for your aquarium. It’s better to understock your aquarium than overcrowd it!
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1. Sparkling Gourami – By BEDO (Thailand) – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40262892