Cookie Cutter Setups for 10-Gallon Freshwater Aquariums
Everyone loves 10-gallon fish tanks because they are small enough to sit on a kitchen counter or kid’s bedroom dresser but big enough to give you many options to choose from. Whether you are interested in schooling fish, breeding fish, or oddball animals, there’s something for everyone. A majority of tropical fish will require a heater as well as a filter. Please refer to our 10-gallon aquarium checklist for help in choosing the right size. After your aquarium is up and running, we recommend that you take a look through our recommendations for combinations you can use.
10-Gallon Tank with a Centerpiece Fish
A centerpiece fish is a colorful or unusual-looking fish that really captures the attention of the viewer, and it is oftentimes paired with smaller schooling fish. To keep your aquarium clean, we also recommend adding a cleaning crew of bottom dwellers and algae eaters. To create your ideal community tank, choose one bullet point from each category below.
Centerpiece Fish (pick 1)
Betta fish – Female powder blue dwarf gourami Honey gourami
Middle-Level Fish (pick 1)
6-8 neon tetras 6-8 green neon tetras 6-8 ember tetras 8 chili rasboras 4-6 Endler’s livebearers 6-8 white cloud mountain minnows 6-8 lambchop (or espei) rasboras 8 exclamation point rasboras
4-5 panda corydoras 6 pygmy corydoras – 6 habrosus corydoras – 6 hastatus corydoras 4 kuhli loaches – Malaysian trumpet snails
2 nerite slugs – Bladder snails, Ramshorn snails, 2-3 amano shrimp (may be incompatible with bettafish)
A 10-gallon aquarium should be equipped with six aquatic plants. These will beautify and purify the water and provide enrichment to the fish. You will be able to see every plant in your aquarium if you choose short plants to place in the front, middle, and background. The majority of the options below can be used in low-light tanks. However, the plants marked * are best suited for high-light tanks.
Foreground plants (pick 2 or more)
Marimo moss ball Moss Cryptocoryne parva Cryptocoryne lucens Anubias nana petite Bucephalandra ‘green wavy’ – Dwarf hairgrass* – Dwarf baby tears* – Monte carlo* – Micro sword*
Midground plants (choice of two or more).
Cryptocoryne lutea Dwarf aquarium lily Anubias nana Java fern Scarlet temple Anubias golden – Staurogyne repens* – Hydrocotyle tripartita ‘Japan’*
Background Flowers (choice two or more).
Moneywort Water sprite Brazilian pennywort Water wisteria Bacopa caroliniana – Ammannia gracilis* – Mayaca fluviatilis*
10-Gallon Species-Only Tank
It can be more rewarding to keep a single species of fish than to have a large tank. It allows you to focus on breeding fish, observe unique behaviors only seen in single-species setups, and care for harder-to-keep animals that have specialty requirements. Choose one of these species to fill your 10-gallon tank.
Single Species Colony
– Breeding pair or trio of Gardneri killifish (Fundulopanchax gardneri) – Breeding pair or trio of lyretail killifish (Aphyosemion australe) – Breeding pair or trio of red-striped killifish (Aphyosemion striatum) 3 pea puffers Breeding pair of Apistogramma dwarf cichlids – 5 African dwarf frogs (and maybe 1-2 larger mystery snails) 10 white cloud mountain minnows 10-20 cherry shrimp 6 fancy guppies (2 males and 4 females) – 6 Neolamprologus multifasciatus shell dweller 6 Neolamprologus similis shell dweller – Breeding pair of Lamprologus brevis shell dweller
These animals can be spawned easily in a colony environment. However, if the adults are more likely to predate on offspring, ensure that there are plenty of hiding places. For the protection of the fry, it is a good idea to use live plants with thick roots or dense leaves. However, note that certain species like shell dwellers enjoy digging, so plants that must be rooted in substrate may not be as suitable for their aquarium. (All the plants in this list don’t require substrate.
Dense Plants to Breed
Pogostemon stellatus ‘octopus’ – Guppy grass Java moss – Christmas moss – Amazon frogbit Water sprite Water wisteria Java fern ‘Windelov’ Pearl weed
A centerpiece fish might not be the best choice for aquascapes that place the emphasis on the plants. Keep the eye on the hardscape and beautiful foliage by selecting a schooling fish in the upper portion of your aquarium. Bottom dwellers are for the lower part. A few algae eaters will keep the plants healthy.
Top to Mid-Level Schooling Fish (pick 1)
6 zebra, leopard, or blue danios 6 Endler’s livebearers 8 green neon tetras – 6-8 neon tetras 6 cardinal tetras 8 ember tetras 8-10 chili rasboras 8 white cloud mountain minnows 8 lambchop (or espei) rasboras 5-6 harlequin rasboras 3-5 Pseudomugil rainbowfish 3-5 fancy guppies – 6 marbled hatchetfish 8 clown killifish 6 celestial pearl danios – Trio of dwarf or teacup platies (1 male and 2 females)
Bottom Dwellers – (pick 1)
2 larger mystery snails – Malaysian trumpet snails – 6 rosy loaches 4-5 panda corydoras 6 pygmy corydoras – 6 habrosus corydoras – 6 hastatus corydoras – 4 kuhli loaches 2-3 scarlet badis
Algae Eaters (pick 1)
2 nerite snails – Bladder snails – Ramshorn snails 2-3 amano shrimp 3-4 otocinclus catfish
As for aquarium plants, consider the type of aquascape style you plan on using – such as Iwagumi, nature, Dutch, or jungle style. You may need to purchase more than six plants to achieve your desired design. You can find three easy-to-build aquascapes to help you build your next plant tank in this article. The (*). asterisk is used to indicate plants that are suitable for high-light aquariums.
Anubias nana petite – Java moss – Christmas moss Cryptocoryne lucens – Micro sword*
Anubias coffeefolia Tiger lotus – Dwarf aquarium Lily Baby tears Dwarf Sagittaria – Cryptocoryne Wendtii – green and red-bronze variety
– Amazon sword, red melon sword, or flame sword Anubias barteri Moneywort – Water sprite – Ludwigia repens
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