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. These tropical fish require a heater or filter. If you’re not sure which one to buy, check out our 10-gallon aquarium checklist. Then once your aquarium is set up and has begun the cycling process, take a look at our list of recommended combinations that you can mix and match.
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. Select one bullet point below from each subcategory to create your ideal community aquarium.
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. Pick taller plants for the background and foreground to ensure you can see all the plants in the aquarium. Most of the choices below are for low light tanks, but the plants marked with an asterisk (*) specifically do best in 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 Flowers (pick 2 or more)
Cryptocoryne lutea Dwarf aquarium lily Anubias nana Java fern Scarlet temple Anubias golden – Staurogyne repens* – Hydrocotyle tripartita ‘Japan’*
Background plants (pick 2 or more)
Moneywort Water sprite Brazilian pennywort Water wisteria Bacopa caroliniana – Ammannia gracilis* – Mayaca fluviatilis*
10-Gallons Species-Only Tank
Sometimes it is more rewarding to maintain an aquarium that only has one species, rather than a tank full of many animals. It allows you the freedom to breed fish, observe unique behaviors, and care for more difficult-to-keep animals. These species are the best for your 10-gallon aquarium.
Single Species Colony
A pair or trio breeding Gardneri killifish, (Fundulopanchax garneri). – Breeding pair (or trio) of red-striped killifish, (Aphyosemionstriatum). 3 pea puffers. 6 Neolamprologus multifasciatus Shell dweller 6 Neolamprologus Similis shell dweller. – Breeding a 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. We highly recommend using live plants with dense leaves or roots as shelter for the fry. Note that some species, such as shell dwellers, love digging so plants that need to be rooted in substrate might not be suitable for their aquarium. All of the plants on the following list do not need substrate.
Dense Plants for Breeding
Pogostemon stellatus ‘octopus’ – Guppy grass Java moss – Christmas moss – Amazon frogbit Water sprite Water wisteria Java fern ‘Windelov’ Pearl weed
A centerpiece fish is not the best choice if you want to create a stunning aquascape where the focus is on the plants and not the animals. Let’s keep the focus on the beautiful foliage and hardscape by choosing a schooling fish to fill the top half of the aquarium and bottom dwellers to fill the lower half.
Mid-Level to Top 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 Dolls (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
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. Many of these designs may require you to get more than just six plants in order to accomplish your vision. 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 Banana plant Tiger lotus – Dwarf aquarium lily Baby tears Dwarf sagittaria – Cryptocoryne wendtii – green and red-bronze varieties
– Amazon sword, red melon sword, or flame sword Anubias barteri Moneywort – Water sprite – Ludwigia repens
Cookies can be customized to make it easy for you to select the right fish, invertebrates or plants. If you are looking for more specific stocking ideas for your next 10-gallon tank, we have several articles.