10 Best Fish for a 10 Gallon Tank (Stocking Guide)

While not as convenient as nano tanks 5 gallons and under, 10 gallon tanks provide you with a little more breathing room. Slightly larger and more active fish are possible in a 10 gallon yet the tank is still light enough for a sturdy desk or bookshelf. Here are some stocking ideas to consider if you’re dreaming about filling your next aquarium!


Our Favorite Fish for 10 Gallon Tanks

Here are a few types of fish that we recommend for 10 gallon aquariums:

Dwarf Gourami

dwarf gourami in aquarium with blurred background

Gouramis are a very diverse group of fish that are close cousins to Bettas. While many are fairly large, the Dwarf Gourami lives up to its name and is a great fish for 10 gallon tanks.

Maxing out at 2 inches, they come in several color morphs, including sunset and powder blue. Males tend to be far more colorful than females but you’ll need a few mates to get the best color out of him.

As South Asian natives they prefer temperatures of 74-80℉ and soft, slightly acidic water chemistry.

Dwarf Gourami males are occasionally territorial towards each other. So don’t keep more than one in a tank as small as 10 gallons. However a single silvery female works perfectly and they may even breed for you.

  • Scientific Name: Trichogaster Ialius
  • Origin: South Asia
  • Size: 2 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful

Cardinal Tetra

cardinal tetra

Cardinals are very similar in appearance to the closely related Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi). However they grow slightly larger and are a little more sensitive to poor water quality.

Cardinal Tetras also have a bolder red stripe that stretches all the way to their gills. Since many are still wild-caught, they prefer soft, even blackwater conditions (pH 4.0-6.0). Above pH 7.0 they are much more prone to diseases, especially ich.

Keep water temperatures elevated as well for them 78-86℉. As micro predators Cardinal Tetras prefer small frozen foods like brine shrimp and bloodworms mixed with tiny pellets or crushed flakes.

Add a few bunches of live plants to give them shelter and always keep them in schools of 6+.

  • Scientific Name: Paracheirodon axelrodi
  • Origin: Orinoco & Rio Negro rivers, South America
  • Size: 1½ inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful; Schooling

Platy

platy fish

Platies are some of the most popular livebearing fish. They are much chunkier than their cousins the Guppy but not as long as Swordtails. This medium sized build makes them perfect fish for 10 gallon tanks.

Platies tend to lack the long finnage of Guppies, Mollies or Swordtails. However they make up for it in sheer color variety. There’s a Platy to match nearly any color combination you’re looking for.

Platies are hearty omnivores that will eat nearly anything offered to them. Algae, soft plants, tiny invertebrates, and unfortunately, their own live young, are all potential meals.

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If you intend to raise the fry, you should separate the female from the rest once her gravid spot becomes visible. After she gives birth to 10-100 live young, you can raise them in breeder traps on baby brine shrimp until they are large enough to add to the community!

  • Scientific Name: Xiphophorus maculatus, X. variatus
  • Origin: Mexico
  • Size: 2 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful

White Cloud Minnow

closeup of a white cloud minnow

White Cloud Minnows are sometimes known as the poor man’s Neon Tetra. While more subdued in color they are still beautiful, with a silvery iridescent stripe that catches the light easily.

Unlike Neons, White Cloud Minnows prefer things on the cold side as they come from mountain streams in China and Vietnam. In fact, anything above 72℉, typical tropical fish temperatures, causes them stress.

Instead they prefer water conditions to be around 62-72℉ and a pH of 6.0-8.0. These temperatures make them perfect for room temperature cold water aquariums.

As Cyprinids they are closely related to Barbs, Goldfish, and Danios. All Cyprinids are egg scatterers so provide your Minnows with fine leaved plants as they are very easy to breed when kept cool!

  • Scientific Name: Tanichthys albonubes
  • Origin: Southern China & Vietnam
  • Size: 1½ inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful; Schooling

Kuhli Loach

pangio kuhli

Most loaches are on the medium to large size; too big for a 10 gallon tank. However Kuhli Loaches are one of the smallest species and well worth a try!

Worm-like in shape, Kuhli Loaches love to burrow through the substrate looking for small invertebrates like Tubifex or blackworms. They should be kept in fine sand substrates as gravel can easily bruise their soft, scaleless flanks.

While you won’t always see them when they are burrowing they have hearty appetite and will always make an appearance at meal time. Kuhli Loaches also occasionally breed in captivity so long as you provide soft, acific water, and plenty of live plants for them to scatter their eggs in.

At up to 4 inches long they are on the larger side for a 10 gallon tank however a single Kuhli will live comfortably. Should you want a group, consider a 20 gallon or larger aquarium.

  • Scientific Name: Pangio kuhlii
  • Origin: Southeast Asia
  • Size: Up to 4 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful

Cherry Barb

cherry barb

Cherry Barbs are some of the best behaved fish for 10 gallon tanks. They have none of the fin nipping or territorial habits of Tiger Barbs and other larger species. Cherry Barbs are actually quite shy and need a ton of plant cover as well as the company of their own kind to feel secure.

Males are a brilliant ruby red that grows even more intense when competing with one another for females. Fortunately, their displays are mostly harmless and they can easily be kept together without issue.

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Like all Cyprinids Cherry Barbs are omnivores that eat quite a bit of plant matter. Provide them a mixture of plant and animal matter. Prepared foods, frozen treats, spirulina flakes and blanched vegetables like spinach or zucchini will all be accepted.

  • Scientific Name: Puntius titteya
  • Origin: South Asia
  • Size: 1 inch
  • Temperament: Peaceful; Schooling

Corydoras

Corydoras julii

Corydoras are some of the most interesting bottom dwelling fish for a 10 gallon tank. Unlike most catfish Corydoras are incredibly active. They roll their eyes, chase each other, and dash to the surface in bursts of speed and pique.

Many are quite colorful as well, with the Sterbai (Corydoras sterbai) and Emerald Green (C. splendens) being some of the most sought after. While these are larger, others such as the Peppered (C. paleatus) and Dwarf (C. hastatus) are much better choices for a 10 gallon tank.

The majority are social, schooling fish so choose a smaller species and keep them in groups of 3-6. Unlike Plecos, Corydoras don’t eat algae or plants in general. So feed them standard prepared food alongside fresh and frozen foods like brine shrimp.

  • Scientific Name: Corydoras sp.
  • Origin: South America
  • Size: 1-3 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful; Schooling

Dwarf Otocinclus

Otocinclus

Plecos are often sold to beginners with 10 gallon tanks who don’t realize how big they grow. Fortunately, there is another fish that eats algae yet stays much smaller: the Dwarf Otocinclus!

These Pleco cousins rarely grow larger than 1½ inches. In the wild they form shoals of hundreds of individuals so never keep them alone as they can be quite shy.

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Dwarf Otos are ideal algae eaters for planted aquariums because they are gentle on plants with delicate leaves like Cabomba or Water Sprite. However once the algae begins to run out, you’ll need to provide them with sinking algae wafers or veggies clipped to the aquarium wall.

  • Scientific Name: Otocinclus vittatus & related species
  • Origin: Amazon and Orinoco River, South America
  • Size: 1 to 1½ inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful; Schooling

Killifish

Lyretail Killifish, Aphyosemion australe, lyretail panchax

Killifish are a little unusual and not nearly as popular as they should be! Many are as brilliantly colored as the most beautiful reef fish. However they often have strange breeding habits and aren’t easily produced in large numbers for the aquarium trade.

Many of the most beautiful, such as the Blue Notho (Nothobranchius rachovii) are annual spawners. In the wild, they inhabit seasonal pools that only stay wet for a few months out of the year.

The killifish eggs hatch like seeds once the rains arrive and the fry mature quickly into adults in as little as a month! They quickly spawn and then they typically die once their pools dry up. Even in continually flooded aquariums they rarely live longer than 2 years.

However there are also non-annual species that breed like most other fish and live much longer as well. Many, such as the Florida Flagfish and Golden Panchax are more commonly seen in the hobby.

  • Scientific Name: order Cyprinodontiformes
  • Origin: Worldwide
  • Size: Variable
  • Temperament: Peaceful to Semi-Aggressive

Zebra Danio

zebra danios

Zebra Danios have been an aquarium staple for decades. Hardy, easy to feed, breed, and tolerant of a wide range of water conditions, they are excellent aquarium fish for 10 gallon tanks.

As egg scatterers they should have fine leaved plants like Guppy Grass or Java Moss around for their young to stand a chance. Otherwise they tend to eat the eggs soon after laying them.

Danios as a whole are great choices for 10 gallon tanks. So also consider related species like the Pearl, Leopard, and Celestial Pearl Danios!

Zebra Danios were also the first fish to be genetically engineered and brought into the hobby. These Glofish use jellyfish and coral DNA to fluoresce under UV light (blacklight). While more intensely colored they are just as easy to care for as their non-neon cousins!

  • Scientific Name: Danio rerio
  • Origin: South Asia
  • Size: 1-2 inches
  • Temperament: Peaceful; Schooling

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