Top 5 Oddball Fish for a 10-Gallon Aquarium
If you’ve been in the aquarium hobby for a while, you have probably owned a majority of the most popular fish sold at pet store chains. Keeping oddball species is a great next step for advancing your fish keeping knowledge. Oddball fish tend to have unusual appearances, can be harder to find, and may come with complicated care requirements. You may be up to the challenge, but you have limited space. Here are our five favorite oddball fish that you can keep in a 10-gallon tank.
1. Shell Dwellers
The Neolamprologus multifasciatus, also known as “multis”, is one of the smallest African Cichlids you can keep in your 10-gallon tank. They are small, measuring in at 1-2 inches (2.5-5cm) and covered in narrow vertical stripes. Although they may not be the most colorful fish, their bright personalities make up for it. They (along with other similar species) are called “shell dwellers” because they live, breed, and raise their babies in empty snail shells. These little bulldozers are constantly rearranging their shells, digging pits in the substrate, and fiercely defending their homes. Multis can be territorial and will often attack other fish. We recommend that you keep them in a 10 gallon aquarium with a species-only arrangement. The exception to the rule might be the Malaysian trumpet snail because this nocturnal invertebrate can burrow into the substrate and won’t be harmed if a multi decides to move it to the other side of the tank.
Multis are Lake Tanganyikan Cichlids. If you need to raise your pH, use crushed coral or aragonite. Most hobbyists like to breed them but they can be a little difficult to sex as juveniles, so get a group of six to ensure you have both males and females. The adults prefer to eat small fish foods like baby shrimp, cyclops and mini sinking flakes. But fry won’t go outside their shells until their bodies are larger. To increase survival, you should feed them lots of powdered fry food as well as crushed flakes that can float in their shells. These shell dwellers are a great alternative to your typical planted community tank. You’ll be amazed at their antics and will not be able stop staring at them.
Neolamprologus multifasciatus or “multis”
2. Freshwater Pipefish
The African freshwater pisci (Enneacampus andorgii) is a complex species. Because of the extensive diet required and the time involved, we recommend this fish only for experienced fish keepers. As cousins of seahorses, they like to hook their tails onto objects as their heads bob around to investigate their surroundings, so provide them with lots of aquarium plants or fish tank decorations as anchor points. Because they are small-mouthed, their food preferences can be difficult. Daphnia and baby brine shrimp are two examples of tiny live foods that they will eat. They are slow eaters so a sponge filter, or another low flow filter is recommended to stop food being washed away. Snails are good for cleaning up after the tankmates, as they will compete with pipefish. Because of their difficulty, they aren’t readily available in aquarium hobby. You may have to ask your local fish shop if they can order them.
3. Pea Puffer
Carinotetraodon, also called the pea puffer or dwarf puffer, is a 1-inch (2.5cm) freshwater pufferfish. They are semi-aggressive and have a preference for certain foods. Feisty males love to fight other males in order to assert dominance and chase down females for breeding. Some believe it is safer to have one, while others prefer a larger school. For a 10-gallon aquarium, you can comfortably house a single dwarf puffer and let it establish the entire tank as its territory. A predominately empty aquarium is not something most people want to see. You can keep two to three males and one or three females. Fish stores often receive juveniles that are difficult to sex so it is a good idea to obtain six pufferfish, and then return some as they get older.
You can also add many plants, rocks, driftwood or aquarium decorations to your fish tank to encourage exploration and hiding. Give them fresh foods, such as small snails, and freeze foods like brine shrimps and bloodworms. To avoid nutrient deficiencies, consider adding a vitamin supplement to soak the frozen foods or try training them to eat Hikari Vibra Bites (little food sticks that look like bloodworms). You can find more information in our comprehensive care guide on pea puffers.
Pea or dwarf puffers
4. Scarlet Badis
Dario dario is a 1 inch (2.5 cm), oddball nano fish. It is famous for its vivid red coloration and vertical stripes on the body. This micropredator, like the dwarf puffer and other micropredators, prefers tiny live foods such as microworms and frozen food like daphnia. Males can also be territorial and will eat each other. You can only keep one male, or three to four, of these micropredators. This will ensure that there is less aggression. If you choose to keep just one scarlet badis, they tend to stay near the bottom of the aquarium, so you could add some peaceful tank mates like clown killifish swimming up top and pink ramshorn snails as the janitorial staff. Your 10-gallon aquarium can be transformed into a sanctuary for this beautiful species by adding lots of aquarium plants.
5. Kuhli Loach
Kuhli loaches could be a great alternative if your family isn’t keen on the idea of owning a snake. Pangio kuhlii is a miniature eel that has vertical bands of alternating tannishyellow and dark brown. You can encourage this nocturnal bottom dweller to go out at night to hunt for food. If you have at least three to six kuhli locaches, and lots of plants and hiding spots, it will be more inclined to seek out food. They also become braver when surrounded by peaceful tank mates that won’t bully them, such as green neon tetras, ember tetras, chili rasboras, or even cherry shrimp. Learn more about caring for them in our article on Kuhli loaches.
For more recommendations on our favorite freshwater fish and plants, check out our top 10 lists on the blog.