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. There’s something for everyone, whether you’re interested in breeding, schooling, or just keeping an oddball animal. These tropical fish require a heater or filter. If you’re not sure which one to buy, check out our 10-gallon aquarium checklist. Once your aquarium has been set up, you can start the cycle by looking at our recommended combinations.
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. We also like adding a clean-up crew consisting of some bottom dwellers and algae eaters to help keep the aquarium looking nice. Pick one bullet point from each subcategory below to put together your ideal community tank:
Centerpiece Fish (pick 1)
Betta fish – Female powder blue dwarf gourami Honey gourami
Middle Level Fish
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 snails – Bladder snails – Ramshorn snails – 2-3 amano shrimp (may not be compatible with betta fish)
A 10-gallon aquarium should be equipped with six aquatic plants. These will beautify and purify the water and provide enrichment to the fish. To make sure you can see all of the plants in the aquarium, pick some short plants to put in the foreground of the tank, slightly bigger plants for the midground, and tall plants for the background. While most of these plants are suitable for low light tanks (the ones marked with an *) work best in high-light tanks.
Foreground Flowers (choose two 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 (pick two 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
Instead of keeping a community tank with many different animals, sometimes it can be quite rewarding to set up an aquarium with only one species. 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
– Breeding pair, or trio, of Gardneri killifish. (Fundulopanchax garneri). – Breeding pair, or trio, of lyretail killifish. (Aphyosemion australe). 3 pea puffers. Breeding pair of Apistogramma dwarf Cichlids. – 10 white cloud mountain minnows. 10-20 cherry shrimp. 6 Neolamprologus multifasciatus shell occupant. – Breeding couple of Lamprologus brevis.
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. 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 of the plants in the list below do not require substrate.)
Dense Plants For Breeding
Pogostemon Stellatus ‘octopus” – Guppygrass Java moss, Christmas moss- Amazon frogbit water sprite Java fern Windelov’ pearl weed
A centerpiece fish might not be the best choice for aquascapes that place the emphasis on the plants. To keep the attention on the gorgeous foliage and hardscape, let’s pick a schooling fish for the upper half of the aquarium, bottom dwellers for the lower half, and a few algae eaters to keep the plants clean.
Top to Mid-Level Schooling Fish (pick 1)
6 Endler’s Livebearers – 6-8 green neon Tetras 6 Cardinal Tetras6 ember Teetras8 ember Teetras8 ember Titras8-10 Chili Rasboras8 white cloud-mountain minnows8 lambchop (or espei), 3-5 Pseudomugil Rainbowfish 3-5 fancy Guppies – 6 Marbled Hatetfish 8 clown Killifish 6 celestial Pearl Danios – Trio teacup plates (1 male and 2 women)
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
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. As before, plants intended for higher light aquariums are indicated with an asterisk (*).
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 cutters allow you to pick the fish, invertebrates and plants you want. However, if you’re looking for a more concrete set of stocking ideas, we have several articles to inspire your next 10-gallon aquarium.