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 (or “multis”) is one of the most tiny African cichlids you could keep in a 10 gallon tank. The adults range in size from 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) and are covered with narrow vertical stripes. While they are not the most colorful fish, their bold personalities more than 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 tiny bulldozers constantly rearrange their shells, dig pits in the substrate, defend their homes, and are a constant nuisance. 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. Malaysian trumpet snail is an exception to this rule. This nocturnal invertebrate, which can burrow into the substrate, will not be hurt by multis if they move it to another tank.
Multis are Lake Tanganyikan-cichlids. You can raise your pH to 7.5% or higher by using crushed corals or aragonite for the substrate. 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 like to eat smaller fish foods like baby brine shrimp, cyclops, and mini sinking pellets. However, the fry won’t leave their shells until they’re bigger, so to increase their survival rate, make sure you feed plenty of powdered fry food and crushed flakes that can float inside their shells. If you are looking for something different than your regular planted community tank, these shell dwellers will amaze you with their antics.
Neolamprologus multifasciatus (or “multis”)
2. Freshwater Pipefish
Because of their complex diet and time investment, the African freshwater pipefish Enneacampus Ansorgii is a highly advanced species. We recommend it only to experienced fish keepers. They are cousins to seahorses and like to attach their tails to objects while their heads move around. Provide them with plenty of fish tank decorations or aquarium plants to anchor to. The difficulty comes in their food requirements since they have small mouths and like to eat tiny live foods that move, such as baby brine shrimp and daphnia. Because they are also slow eaters, use a sponge filter or other low flow filtration to prevent the food from being swept away. They are best avoided as they can outcompete pipefish at mealtime. However, snails might be helpful in cleaning up after meals to collect any crumbs. 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. While some people feel it safer to keep one individual, others believe that larger schools are better. For a 10-gallon aquarium, you can comfortably house a single dwarf puffer and let it establish the entire tank as its territory. However, most people don’t want to look at a predominately empty setup, so you can aim to keep one male and two 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.
A lot of aquarium decorations, such as rocks, driftwood and plants, can be added to the tank to provide enrichment and reduce fighting. Feed them live foods like small snails and frozen foods like bloodworms and brine shrimp. 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, a 1-inch (22.5 cm) oddball nanofish, is well-known for its bright red coloration and vertical striping. Like the dwarf puffer, this micropredator prefers to eat tiny live foods like microworms and frozen foods like daphnia, and the males can be quite territorial towards each other. You can only keep one male, or three to four, of these micropredators. This will ensure that there is less aggression. One scarlet badis can be difficult to keep in an aquarium. If they are kept alone, they will tend to remain near the bottom. You could also add other peaceful fish like clown killifish or pink ramshorns to the tank as janitors. Add lots of live aquarium plants for cover, and your 10-gallon aquarium will become a beautiful home for this stunning species.
5. Kuhli Loach
If you’ve ever thought it would be cool to own a snake but your family members don’t approve, kuhli loaches might be a good alternative. Pangio Kuhlii looks a bit like a miniature Eel, with vertical bands that alternate between dark brown and tanish-yellow. 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. You can encourage them to be braver if they are surrounded with calm tank mates, like green neon tetras or ember tetras. For more details on how to care for them, read our article on kuhli loaches.
For more recommendations on our favorite freshwater fish and plants, check out our top 10 lists on the blog.