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Stocking A 10-Gallon Community Tank

by TFH Magazine on December 16, 2011 at 10:23 am

The celestial pearl danio is a great choice for a 10-gallon tank. Photograph by Gary Lange.

By Shari Horowitz

The 10-gallon community tank is among the most popular for beginners, but few of them know how to stock it correctly. In many ways, stocking a 10 gallon is harder than stocking, say, a 55-gallon tank. Here are some tips to keep in mind, along with some fish to keep.

How Big Does It Get?

We say this all the time in the magazine, but it still bears repeating: How big will your fish grow to? An oscar that grows to well over a foot in length will never be appropriate for a tank that is 20 inches long but only 11 inches wide—how will it turn around?

Good choices are fish that stay fairly small, including various tetras, livebearers, dwarf cichlids, and dwarf gouramis.

What Level Does it Occupy?

Keep in mind the level of the tank each fish species will occupy. Having a bunch of fish dashing across the middle of the tank is not as visually compelling as having some fish flitting about the surface, some playing in the middle, and a bunch crawling around on the bottom.

For example, hatchetfish (both marble and silver), African butterflyfish, and glass catfish will all stay at the surface of the tank. Cory cats, Otocinclus catfish, and loaches, all pretty much remain on the bottom.

What Is Its Personality Like?

Even as a small juvenile, the oscar mentioned earlier would be ill-suited to a 10-gallon community because of its aggressive nature. Generally speaking, 10-gallon tanks should have peaceful fish or become a species tank, as the small space allows less aggressive species fewer opportunities to get away from or hide from their tankmates.

Most livebearers are peaceful as long as only one male is included of each species, as are many species of tetras, cory cats, rasboras, and oto cats.

How Many Can You Keep?

Even the most peaceful fish can become aggressive if it is crowded in with far too many neighbors, and in a 10 gallon, that is all too likely a possibility. The number of fish you can keep depends on the mix of species and the ultimate size each fish can reach.

For example, you might be able to keep a dozen or so neon tetras in a 10 gallon because neons reach slightly less than an inch in length and are very slim-bodied animals. Conversely, you might only fit two dwarf gouramis because they reach 3½ inches in length and have much deeper bodies than the tetras. You can include both fish in the same tank, since the gouramis prefer the surface and the tetras are more mid-water swimmers, but then you would reduce the number of tetras to somewhere between five and seven, as that should give everyone plenty of room to move around.

Plan Ahead

One of the best ways to find out what works is to see if it has worked in the past. Find out what has worked for other people. Also, look up everything you can about the fish you want to keep. If you plan ahead, you can create a great 10-gallon tank!


Wood, Kathleen. 2007. Adventurous Aquarist Guide: The 101 Best Tropical Fishes. T.F.H./Microcosm Professional Series. Neptune City, New Jersey.


Posted in From the Editor and Shari Horowitz by TFH Magazine on December 16th, 2011 at 10:23 am.

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