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. A clean-up crew, which includes bottom dwellers as well as algae eaters, is a great way to keep your aquarium looking good. Select one bullet point below from each subcategory to create your ideal community aquarium.
Centerpiece Fish (pick 1)
Betta fish – Female powder blue dwarf gourami Honey gourami
Middle-Level Fish (pick 1)
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 shrimps (may not be compatible avec betta fish).
We recommend starting with 6 aquatic plants for a 10-gallon aquarium. This will help to beautify the tank, purify water, and enrich the animals. You will be able to see every plant in your aquarium if you choose short plants to place in the front, middle, and background. The majority of the options below can be used in low-light tanks. However, the plants marked * are best suited for high-light tanks.
Foreground Plants (pick 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 Flowers (pick 2 or more)
Cryptocoryne lutea Dwarf aquarium lily Anubias nana Java fern Scarlet temple Anubias golden – Staurogyne repens* – Hydrocotyle tripartita ‘Japan’*
Background Flowers (choice two or more).
Moneywort Water sprite Brazilian pennywort Water wisteria Bacopa caroliniana – Ammannia gracilis* – Mayaca fluviatilis*
10-Gallon Tank for Species
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 to focus on breeding fish, observe unique behaviors only seen in single-species setups, and care for harder-to-keep animals that have specialty requirements. Choose one of these species to fill your 10-gallon tank.
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.
Most of these animals are easy to spawn in a colony setting, but if the adults are prone to predating on the offspring, make sure to provide plenty of hiding spots. For the protection of the fry, it is a good idea to use live plants with thick roots or dense leaves. 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 on the following list do not need substrate.
Dense Plants to Breed
Pogostemon. stellatus. ‘Octopus’. Guppy grass Java. – Christmas. – Amazon. frogbit. Water sprite. Water wisteria Java. fern. ‘Windelov.’ Pearl weed.
A centerpiece fish might not be the best choice for aquascapes that place the emphasis on the plants. Let’s keep the focus on the beautiful foliage and hardscape by choosing a schooling fish to fill the top half of the aquarium and bottom dwellers to fill the lower half.
Mid-Level to Top Schooling Fish (pick 1).
6 zebra, leopard, or blue danios 6 Endler’s livebearers 8 green neon tetras – 6-8 neon tetras 6 cardinal tetras 8 ember tetras 8-10 chili rasboras 8 white cloud mountain minnows 8 lambchop (or espei) rasboras 5-6 harlequin rasboras 3-5 Pseudomugil rainbowfish 3-5 fancy guppies – 6 marbled hatchetfish 8 clown killifish 6 celestial pearl danios – Trio of dwarf or teacup platies (1 male and 2 females)
Bottom Dolls (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
Consider the style of aquarium you want to use, such as Iwagumi or nature, Dutch, jungle, or Dutch. Some of these designs will require that you have more than six plants in order for your vision to come to life. You can find three easy-to-build aquascapes to help you build your next plant tank in this article. An asterisk indicates that plants are intended for use in higher light aquariums.
Anubias nana petite – Java moss – Christmas moss Cryptocoryne lucens – Micro sword*
Anubias coffeefolia Baby teas Dwarf aquarium Liliya – Cryptocoryne sndtii – Green and Red-Bronze varieties
– Red melon or flame sword Anubias Barteri Moneywort – Water sprite Ludwigia repens
Cookies cutters allow you to pick the fish, invertebrates and plants you want. If you are looking for more specific stocking ideas for your next 10-gallon tank, we have several articles.