The sparkling gourami Trichopsis pumila.
A10-gallon tank would
seem to be an ideal first step
into the fishkeeping hobby,
as they are inexpensive, not
too big, and easy to carry home. Fish
tanks of this size are especially popular
at Christmas, when people are looking for
fun but educational gifts to give (especially
But what sort of fish should you put in
one of these tanks? One obvious factor
to consider is the adult size of the fish.
Angelfish and plecos, for example, may
be sold at an appealingly small size, but
as adults, they are simply too large for a
10-gallon tank. You also need to consider
behavior. Fish such as danios that need a
lot of swimming space won’t be happy in 10
gallons. Similarly, territorial or aggressive
fish like dwarf pufferfish will need to be
left out as well.
What you want are small, relatively
inactive, and definitely non-aggressive
fish. All the species listed below will work
in a 10-gallon tank, either alone or as part
of a community. They will also adapt to
a range of water conditions, and none of
these require any specialist care, such as
the use of live foods. This should make
them viable choices even for relatively
The next question is how many small
fish can you add to a 10-gallon tank?
Initially, aim for around one small fish
per gallon of water, adding them in small
groups every couple of weeks. Once the
aquarium is mature and your skills are
honed, you should be able to keep two
neon-tetra-size fish per gallon.
This does rather depend on your
fishkeeping skills and the quality of the
filter. Look for a filter with a turnover of
40 to 60 gallons per hour, and perform
50-percent water changes every week. A
nitrite test kit is also very useful, especially
while your aquarium is being established.
Use this to check the water quality at least
once a week.
Small fish tend to be sensitive to poor
water quality, so if you can, mature the
aquarium using a fishless cycling method.
Your retailer should have a variety of
products that will help you do this.
Alternatively, take some mature filter
media from an established filter and put it
into the filter of your new aquarium. This
will jump-start the biological filtration
process, allowing you to add your first
batch of fish right away.
And so, with the above in mind, here are
my picks for 10 livestock choices that can
be properly kept happy and healthy in a
well-maintained 10-gallon aquarium.