10 gallon tanks are the most commonly available aquarium on the market. They are sold on a massive scale all over the world, are very cheap and are easily accessible to beginners.
But are they any good? What can you put in them? Are they worth buying, and what equipment will you need if you decide to purchase one?
Is a 10 gallon fish tank a good tank size?
10 gallon tanks are an alright size considering their worth. They are fairly cheap tanks and are easy to move around and place in a bedroom or small apartment.
They make an ideal “desktop tank”, but relatively speaking, a 10 gallon is a very limiting tank size. There is only so much you can do with it, and as a beginner, they are even more limiting as they are not so forgiving of early mistakes.
A 10 gallon tank is still useful in many ways due to its small size, especially in small breeding setups, quarantine tanks and so on, but as a stand alone display tank when compared to anything larger, we would always choose a larger tank.
What do I need for a 10 gallon fish tank?
10 gallon tanks are usually sold in starter kits at most pet stores – these kits usually include everything you need to get started, however, depending on your tank, you may need additional pieces of gear.
For a 10 gallon, you will need a filter that is able to do 50 litres or more, a light to grow plants under or just to see the fish and a 50 watt heater if you decide to go tropical.
This is the main “life support” equipment for your tank to keep your fish and plants alive.
The rest is decor like plants, wood and sand. This usually doesn’t come with an aquarium kit and needs to be purchased separately. It will all depend on the types of fish you keep and what you personally want the tank to look like.
Should I get a 10 gallon fish tank?
If it is your first ever fish tank, a 10 gallon is fine, although you will have an easier time and much more fun with a 20 gallon, as mentioned, a 10 gallon tank is very limiting.
It can be exciting when getting into fishkeeping, seeing all the varieties of fish, but then to learn that none of them will be able to live in your small 10 gallon tank is often disappointing.
You are extremely limited in choice of fish when starting off with a small tank and there are often only a handful of beginner fish that pet stores can recommend to beginners with a 45 litre aquarium.
They are good tanks however, for desktops and offices as they dont take up much space and maintenance is relatively easy on a small tank.
If you plan to lightly stock a 10 gallon with about 5 small fish, then they can be a great starter tank. The key is to not get excited and try to cram 20 fish in there, a common mistake made by many beginners out there.
For this reason, they don’t make ideal community tanks. As a best case scenario, you want to add a school of small fish. The small fish like tetras that are able to be housed in small tanks, are very social and need to live in groups.
Keeping 2 neon tetras, 2 corydoras and 2 guppies in a tank doesn’t work well. We recommend having a 10 gallon tank of just 6 neon tetras or just 6 guppies. In the wild, these fish live in groups thousands strong, so a pair is not ideal living conditions for them.
With experience a 10 gallon can be used in many ways, breeding tanks, nurseries for fry and for quarantine or separation tanks, they can be extremely useful in the right hands, with the right intent.
What to look for in a 10 gallon fish tank
As 10 gallon tanks are the most common type of aquarium, there is a large market for them, meaning that there are hundreds of branded tanks to choose from.
It can be a little difficult to spot a “decent” 10 gallon tank at first, so there are a few tips we have that can better help you locate a good quality aquarium.
- Tall tanks can be difficult to perform maintenance on and do not allow for much swimming space for the fish.
- Bow fronted tanks can sometimes cause issues later down the line and can be difficult to position in certain scenarios.
- Check that the silicone job on the corners of the glass is clean and secure.
- Especially for 10 gallons, check the lights to see if they work and if they are powerful enough for what you want. Most 10 gallon tank setups have poor quality cheap lights which will not grow plants, check to see if they are bright enough first.
- Check the durability of the lid to see if it has any weak points or if it is cracked.
What are the best 10 gallon fish tanks?
Every few years, aquarium brands will release a new series of tanks. These are normally brought out as kits in various sizes.
A new branded 10 gallon tank comes out nearly every year or so, since they are the largest market in aquarium sizes.
With so much choice, it can be hard to tell which tanks are of good quality, so here are some of the best 10 gallon tanks that we recommend from recent years, listing pros and cons of each:
Fluval Flex 57
The Flex 57 is a great starter tank. It is a little over 10 gallons, although the additional water volume is held by the filter, which is a sump built into the back of the tank.
It comes with lighting and filtration, but no heater, it must be purchased separately.
- The tank has its own sump with very good filtration
- The sump has plenty of room for a heater and additional filtration
- The light is excellent for growing plant life
- The glass is well built and is of great standard
- The tank is bow fronted
Tetra Starter Line LED
The starter line led 54 litre is another good 10 gallon aquarium, it is well constructed and comes with the complete kit, heater, filter and light.
- Comes with energy efficient light and heater
- Comes with a decent hang on back filter
- Tank is well constructed and has good silicone work
- Has quite a sturdy lid
- Filter cartridges need replacing every month
The Evo is an amazing starter tank, suitable for both freshwater and marine setups, it comes with a light and built in filtration system.
- The tank is a great size, well dimensioned and constructed well
- The lights are very powerful and have a white and blue setting for plants and corals
- The filter is a built in sump with room for more filtration and a heater
- The tank is modular and can have a protein skiller fitter
- The flow isn’t great for corals
- The lights can be faulty sometimes
Marina LED 10
Marina also does a “10 gallon” tank in their LED Aquarium kit series. The tank holds 38 litres, making it just under 10 American gallons and about 8 imperial gallons, and this tank comes with a light and hang on back filter.
- The tank is well dimensioned, with a solid glass structure
- Comes with a good hang on back filter
- Comes with an energy efficient LED light that is good for growing plants
- Plastic fragile lid that can break easily
- Filter needs to have its contents replaced once a month
Aqua One Nanoreef 35
This tank is a solid 10 gallon tank, suitable for both marine and freshwater setups. It has a built-in sump filter with an attachable skimmer.
- The tank comes with a powerful lighting system suitable for plants and corals
- Comes with a built in sump filter
- Comes with an attachable protein skimmer and a heater
- Made from very strong thick glass
- Glass lid can trap lots of warmth and overheat the tank in summer
- Tank is expensive for only 35 litres
Aqueon Aquarium Starter Kit
Another 10 gallon kit that comes with a light, filter and heater. These tanks are well constructed and have a clean looking profile.
- Comes with heater, light and filter
- Comes with a quiet flow 10 hang on back filter, which is a good filtration unit
- Led lights are energy efficient and bright enough to grow plants
- Tank lid is made from fragile plastic
- Filter cartridges need replacing every month
How many fish can I have in a 10 gallon aquarium?
In short, not many. 10 gallon tanks do not hold much water at all, which means that any waste ammonia will pollute the water quicker and it will take less to make the water toxic.
Again, it is all dependent on the situation and the intent when keeping fish in a 10 gallon aquarium. Yes, someone with experience can keep two dozen guppies in a 10 gallon tank and breed them, ending up with hundreds of fish, but it is like walking a tightrope.
While someone may be able to house 60 baby fish in a 10 gallon for a brief time, it is ill advised for someone without the experience to do the same. There are all kinds of external factors, filtration, feeding, maintenance and so on.
Someone may have 60 fish in a 10 gallon, but they do 3 water changes a day as upkeep, and have extremely powerful external filters, so it is all down to experience.
- As for our recommendation, we would say to start by putting no more than 8 small fish, less than 2” or so long, into a 10 gallon tank.
What is the biggest fish size you can put in a 10 gallon fish tank?
For a tropical tank, the largest fish we would put into a 10 gallon tank is a Platy or Molly. They grow to be about 2”-3” long and a 10 gallon is the smallest tank size we would say they can live in comfortably.
In a coldwater setup, there are sadly no breeds of goldfish small enough to live in a 10 gallon tank for their whole life comfortably.
The largest “coldwater” fish we would house in a 10 gallon is a Variatus Platy, a fish almost identical to the southern Platyfish, but that can live at room temperature.
We would probably place no more than 5 Platies in a 10 gallon tank.
10 gallon marine tanks can be hard to stock, mainly for aggression reasons, as many reef fishes are highly territorial.
However, Coral Gobies are great for small 10 gallon marine tanks, more specifically Yellow or Green Coral Gobies as they do not get very large and are not active swimmers.
Coral Gobies are also fairly easy to keep and adjust to live in captivity fairly well when compared to other marine animals.
Best fish for a 10 gallon tank
As we have previously stated, a 10 gallon tank can be quite limiting in terms of what species of fish you can keep in one for their whole lives.
40 – 50 litres isn’t much water at all, and it can be difficult to find a fish that will live comfortably in a 10 gallon when fully grown.
However, here is a list of fish that are able to live in a 10 gallon, even in their adult stage.
These fish need to be small and fairly hardy to be able to survive the easily changeable environment a 10 gallon creates.
Some of the fish on this list however, will be more specialised, and so we will mention which ones are not suitable for beginners.
Coldwater fish for 10 gallon tanks
Unfortunately, we cannot recommend keeping goldfish in a 10 gallon tank their whole lives, as it is far too small a space for a fish that grows 10”, eats and defecates a lot and is a highly active pelagic species (a fish that swims in large open spaces).
However, a goldfish can certainly be housed in a 10 gallon for a period of time, it is ideal for:
- Young goldfish
- Quarantined / separated goldfish
- Sick goldfish
- Goldfish in moving
Coldwater fish we can recommend to live in a 10 gallon even as adults are usually small schooling fish that have a low waste output, aren’t very active and aren’t very aggressive. They are as follows:
White Cloud Mountain Minnow
These small Minnows are excellent for 10 gallon tanks – they are around 1 inch in length, don’t produce a large amount of waste and are easy to feed.
Mountain minnows do best at room temperature and need to be kept in groups.
In a 10 gallon, we recommend keeping around 6-8 mountain minnows for the best chances of success.
Black Widow Tetra
Widow Tetra are a species of temperate Tetra, they prefer to live at around 20C / 68F.
Again, these fish like to live in groups, so it is best to keep around 5-6 in a 10 gallon.
They are easy to feed, eating most available fish foods and are fairly hardy.
Celestial Pearl Danio
Another temperate fish very similar to the Mountain Minnow, but with much more striking colouration.
Also known as the Galaxy Rasbora, it is a fish from east asia and prefers cooler waters.
It is however, difficult to find in fish stores due to the fact they are hard to obtain at a good size.
Celestial Pearl Danios are not very easy to take care of and are one of the more sensitive fish on this list, although they can live in a 10 gallon quite comfortably, as long as the water is kept stable.
They like to live in groups of around 6-8 in a 10 gallon.
Ricefish are great for a 10 gallon tank, they are small, easy to feed and are peaceful in temperament.
They can be kept in schools of around 6-7 comfortably in a 10 gallon, but like to have lots of plant cover, as males can sometimes fight each other.
Ricefish are great for small planted tanks.
They like a pH of around 7.5 and moderate hardness level, but are highly adaptable to a range of water parameters.
Although not a fish, shrimp make excellent ornamental aquarium inhabitants for small tanks. They can cohabitate with the aforementioned fish well and are fairly simple to look after.
Shrimp will eat nearly all sinking foods, including fish pellets, veg and algae wafers.
They do however, need calcium in the water to be able to survive, so you may need to buffer the hardness with a KH buffer, which you can get from most pet stores, or you can use a small amount of bicarbonate of soda to increase the calcium levels.
Again, not a fish, but Apple Snails or Mystery Snails are very fun pets to keep in a smaller aquarium. They require very much the same care as shrimp, but prefer much higher pHs and hardness levels, so more buffering may be required.
These snails will eat live plants if they are hungry however, so be careful if you choose to add them to your planted tank.
Snails can also live with all the aforementioned tank creatures quite well.
For best success, just keep one mystery snail, as adding more will drain the food sources of the snail (algae, plants and uneaten food) or it could lead to them breeding, and you could end up with thousands of snails.
Tropical fish for 10 gallon tanks
Lemon Tetras do great in smaller tanks due to their hardy nature – they like warm temperatures of around 24C to 26C and like to live in groups of around 6 in a 10 gallon tank.
These fish are easy to feed and will take most dry fish foods.
They also like open areas to swim in as they are highly active as well as some plant cover to hide under. They also need high oxygen and low pH levels.
Very much the same as a Lemon Tetra, Neons prefer warmer temperatures of around 25C to 26C. They also need a good level of oxygen, so perhaps add an airstone for extra aeration.
Neon Tetras are one of the most commonly available fish in the aquarium hobby, they are fairly easy to look after and will take most fish foods, although they can be a little sensitive at times.
Guppies and Endlers do well in 10 gallon tanks, especially small planted aquariums. They are easy to care for, will eat pretty much anything and breed easily.
They like a higher pH and hardness than tetras, enjoying anywhere from 7.5 – 8.4 pH, but are tolerable of a range of parameters.
They are a great fish for beginners who want to get into breeding fish in small tanks.
This is a very tiny fish – they are close cousins of cichlids and follow similar care and temperament. They are highly territorial fish that usually live in pairs or small groups.
They do very well in planted aquariums, however, they aren’t the easiest fish to take care of and often don’t take to dry foods very well, only eating live and frozen foods and infusoria.
To someone with experience in keeping fish that are picky eaters however, they are an excellent choice for a 10 gallon and are very interesting colourful fish to keep and potentially breed.
This is the smallest known puffer fish in the world and one of few true freshwater puffers.
These are highly specialised fish and are not suitable for beginners – they can be difficult to feed at times, since most of them are wild caught and only eat frozen or live food.
Pea puffers are also highly territorial, so it is best to keep just one or two in a 10 gallon. They are aggressive not just to each other, but also to other fish, they are notorious for fin nipping.
In a larger space, pea puffers can live with a variety of small peaceful fish like Neon Tetras, Cory Cats and Rasboras, but for a 10 gallon, you may get some fin nipping and aggression issues, especially with a mature male Pea Puffer.
Pea Puffers are also slow eaters and will get outcompeted in a smaller tank by faster moving more boisterous fish.
They can be very rewarding animals to keep on their own, as they are highly personable and very interactive as far as fish go.
Cherry Barbs are one of the smallest barbs out there. The males are a vibrant crimson colour whereas the females are a pale amber. They are great for 10 gallons due to their small size and hardy nature.
They are relatively peaceful for a Barb and can live in smaller aquariums with other fish species.
Cherry Barbs are also easy to feed and will take most prepared fish foods.
We recommend keeping around 6-8 in a 10 gallon, as they like to stay in groups.
Harlequins are tough fish, they are very hardy and do relatively well in 10 gallon aquariums. They are easy to feed and are adaptable to a range of water parameters.
They are a peaceful fish and do well in community tanks, however, they can reach a decent size, some about 2”-3”, so we recommend no more than 5 in a 10 gallon tank.
They enjoy a neutral pH with soft water and a temperature anywhere from 22C – 26C / 72F – 78F.
Siamese fighting fish are an excellent showpiece fish for a 10 gallon. They are best kept on their own, especially the males, who will mercilessly kill each other if kept in the same tank.
They can live with other small peaceful fish like Neon Tetras and Harlequin Rasboras, but a 10 gallon planted tank housing just a single Betta can be a very enjoyable tank, since Bettas can be a very personable fish.
Marine fish for 10 gallon tanks
Coral Gobies are a family of small rock dwelling fish. They are peaceful reef safe fish that spend the majority of their lives on the bottom of the sea bed or wedged in amongst rocks and corals.
They adapt relatively well to life in captivity, they often can be moved onto frozen and sometimes even pellet or flake foods quite easily, and can live a long while in an aquarium if kept under the proper reef conditions.
Temperature 72 – 78°F / 22C – 26C, pH 8.1 – 8.4.
Alkalinity 8 – 12 dKH.
They are safe with inverts and are a peaceful community fish, great for those nano reef tanks.
Neon Blue Goby
Not to be confused with the freshwater Stiphodon Goby, Neon Blue Gobies or (Elacatinus Oceanops) is a very small species of reef safe Goby.
They are great for nano reef tanks and do excellent in a 10 gallon aquarium, they adapt well to captivity and can even be found captive bred in some places. They will often adjust to eating frozen foods quite easily and will graze on algae.
They are a very small fish, only getting to around 1.5” long and have very low bioload outputs, we would suggest keeping around 2 – 3 in a 10 gallon.
Neon Blue Gobies are also great for marine tanks as they eat whitespot, a parasite which can be a particular nuisance in a reef aquarium.
Candy Cane Pygmy Goby
Another small species of reef safe Goby, about an inch or so in length, very similar to the Neon Blue, but it is barred white and red in colour and mostly feeds on worms and infusoria along rockwork and corals.
They will often adjust to captive life quite well, and take frozen food most of the time, but can be a little more sensitive than the other two mentioned Gobies and are quite high strung.
Much like the Neon Blue Goby, keep around 2 – 3 in a 10 gallon, with plenty of rockwork and cover.
Make sure there is a lid on your tank if you decide to keep these guys, since they will jump.
A very small species of reef safe Blenny that is often sold in pet stores, they do fairly well in a 10 gallon tank and they will usually find a small area within the rocks or corals and establish a territory there.
Tailspot Blennies will mostly feed on algae and infusoria. They need plenty of rocks and surface area where they can graze on, but will often adjust to frozen foods and nori.
They aren’t a largely active swimmer and stick to the rocks most of the time, but they are very territorial, so only keep 1 in a 10 gallon tank.
The Skunk or Cleaner Shrimp is a classic marine tank inhabitant, they adjust very well to captivity and are a great addition to a marine tank.
They are reef safe invertebrates and are very much welcome guests as they help to clean, not only the tank but also the fish.
Much like Cleaner Wrasse and Neon Gobies, they are natures doctors and will remove parasites from infected fish. Keep 1 – 2 cleaner shrimp in a 10 gallon, with plenty of rocks and cover.
Best filter for 10 gallon tank
The Fluval Mini is an internal power filter, suitable for tanks up to 45 litres. It has a sleek design and doesn’t take up too much space, making it ideal for the small space.
It produces a good current and can be placed up near the surface to assist with aeration.
The filter cartridge contains a sponge which can be rinsed and reused. The filter is energy efficient and it is very easy to set up and take apart.
However, if you feed your tank a lot and have lots of fish, then it may get clogged quickly and will need rinsing out once every 2 weeks or so.
The CF1 Interpet filter is another internal power filter – this one draws water in from the base, pushes the water through a series of filter floss pads and pushes the water out the top.
This filter is very good for oxygenation as the water cascades down like a blade in a waterfall fashion.
The CF1 filter is particularly good for Betta tanks, as they do a good job of filtering, good for oxygen, but do not produce a current like some of the other internal filters.
Nicrew Internal Filter
Best suited for those small office or bedroom tanks, this is a neat little filter that runs almost completely silent. They contain a small filter sponge with some carbon and can filter up to 40 litres.
They are highly versatile and modular, being able to have the nozzle swapped and customised to fit the tanks needs.
Sponge filters, box filters and air pumps for 10 gallon tanks
Air powered filters, like sponge and box filters, are great for small tanks. They are extremely efficient at biological filtration and are very versatile, being able to work in nearly any tank.
They are ideal for breeding setups as the sponge doesn’t pull water in with force and does not produce a current that could harm tiny fry or any fish that are poor swimmers, like Bettas or fancy goldfish.
Sponge filters and box filters are run on air, which can make them very energy efficient, as you can have multiple filters running on the same air pump.
They are great if you have multiple aquariums, as you can filter all the tanks through one electrical outlet without using a sump.
Air pumps vary in size, power and quality, so choosing one can seem difficult at first, but all you need to do is correlate the size of the pump with the amount of filters or air stones you want to connect it to.
For just one sponge filter in a 10 gallon, the smallest size air pump you can find will probably do just fine. If you want to attach 2 sponge filters, perhaps go a size up. If you want 4 – 5 filters, go another size up.
- For a 10 gallon tank, we recommend a sponge filter around 4”-5” in height and around 2”-3” in width with a small air pump attached.
Aqua One Sponge Filters
Aqua One produces a wide variety of sponge filters, fitting all different sizes and shapes. They are well made and versatile, for a 10 gallon, we recommend the “30 weighted sponge filter”.
- Filters are highly versatile
- Safe for fry and poor swimmers
- Good for aeration
- Effective biological filtration
- Easy to clean
- Can be easily shredded by certain fish and large snails
- Tube on top is fragile and can break through rough handling
The APS 50 is an ideal air pump to filter a 10 gallon tank; it produces a good amount of air for its size, and can be connected to 1 – 2 sponge filters while keeping a fairly strong air output.
- The pump is small and doesn’t get in the way
- The pump is designed with rubber stands so it cannot vibrate off of a surface and move around
- The pump is sturdy
- Can be easily shredded by certain fish and large snails
- Tube on top is fragile and can break through rough handling
Best heater for 10 gallon tank
When choosing a heater, you need to look at the wattage, as it will correlate to the tank size. Essentially, to pick out the right sized heater, you correspond the wattage with the amount of litres your tank holds.
- For a 10 gallon tank, it is best to use a 50 watt glass heater as it will cover any size tank around 50 litres or below.
The interpet heaters are very reliable and easy to use, they are also widely available at most pet stores and purchasable online.
They are great glass heaters and are highly durable, with a 2 year guarantee and come with a built in thermostat.
We recommend the interpet deltatherm 50W for a 10 gallon tank.
Fluval E 50w
This is a more advanced heater, as it is digital, meaning it not only works as a heater but also a good thermometer.
This heater also comes with a built-in thermostat and can be set to specific temperatures easily, by using a dial on the top of the device.
The heater is protected with a plastic casing and comes with a 5 year guarantee!