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 are more difficult to find and require special care. Our 5 favorite oddball fish can be kept in a 10-gallon aquarium if you’re up for the challenge and have limited space.
1. Shell Dwellers
Neolamprologus multifasciatus or “multis” are one of the smallest African cichlids that you can 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. 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 tiny bulldozers constantly rearrange their shells, dig pits in the substrate, defend their homes, and are a constant nuisance. Multis are territorial fish and should be kept in a species-only aquarium. 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.
Since multis are Lake Tanganyikan cichlids, raise your pH to 7.5 or higher if needed using crushed coral or aragonite as the substrate. Although they are popular among hobbyists, it can be difficult for them to sex as young animals. To ensure that you have both males AND females, get six. 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 multiifasciatus, 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. 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. To prevent food from getting swept away, you can use a sponge filter (or other low flow filtration) to keep them in check. 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. Due to their difficulty level, they are not readily available in the aquarium hobby, so you may need to ask your local fish store if they can order them for you.
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 like to fight with other males to establish dominance and chase females for breeding. Some believe it is safer to have one, while others prefer a larger school. A 10-gallon aquarium can house one dwarf puffer, and it will establish the 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.
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). For more information, read our complete care guide on pea puffers.
Pea and 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. The micropredator is similar to the dwarf puffer. They prefer tiny live foods, such as microworms, and frozen foods, like daphnia. However, they can be territorial towards one another. 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
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 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. You can encourage them to be braver if they are surrounded with calm tank mates, like green neon tetras or ember tetras. You can read more about how to care for kuhli loaches in our article.
You can find more information on our top 10 list of freshwater plants and fishes on the blog.