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 tend to have unusual appearances, can be harder to find, and may come with complicated care requirements. If you are up for the challenge but have limited space, check out our 5 favorite oddball fish that can be kept in a 10-gallon aquarium.
1. Shell Dwellers
The Neolamprologus multifasciatus, also known as “multis”, is one of the smallest African Cichlids you can keep in your 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 are always rearranging their shells and digging holes in the substrate to defend their homes. Because multis are so territorial towards other fish, we highly recommend giving them a species-only setup if you choose to keep them in a 10-gallon aquarium. One exception is the Malaysian trumpet snail. This nocturnal insectvertebrate can burrow in the substrate and will not be hurt if the multi moves it to another side of the tank.
Multis are Lake Tanganyikan-cichlids. You can raise your pH to 7.5% or higher by using crushed corals or aragonite for the substrate. They are a popular choice for hobbyists. However, they can be difficult to sex as juveniles so make sure you get at least six. Adults prefer smaller fish foods such as baby brine shrimps, cyclops, or 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 multifasciatus or “multis”
2. Freshwater Pipefish
The African freshwater pipefish (Enneacampus ansorgii) is an advanced species that we typically only recommend for veteran fish keepers because of the time investment and specialized diet they required. Their cousins the seahorses, they love to hang their tails on objects and bob their heads around. Give them plenty of aquarium plants or decorations to anchor their heads. Their food needs are a problem because they have small mouths. They prefer tiny, live foods that move like baby brine shrimp or daphnia. To prevent food from getting swept away, you can use a sponge filter (or other low flow filtration) to keep them in check. Most tank mates should be avoided since they will outcompete the pipefish during mealtime, but snails may be useful as clean-up crew members to pick up leftover crumbs. They are difficult to find in the aquarium hobby so it is best to inquire at your local fish store about ordering them.
3. Pea Puffer
Carinotetraodon Travancoricus, also known as the dwarf puffer or Pea puffer, is a freshwater pufferfish measuring 1-inch (22.5 cm). They can be difficult to keep due to their semi-aggressive natures and food preferences. Feisty males are known to be aggressive and will fight for dominance with other males, as well as chase after females for breeding. While some people feel it safer to keep one individual, others believe that larger schools are better. 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. If you find that you have more than one male, you will need to purchase six pufferfish to keep them all.
Another way to minimize fighting and provide greater enrichment is to add lots of plants, rocks, driftwood, or aquarium decorations for them to explore and hide behind. You can feed them small snails or frozen foods such as brine shrimp and bloodworms. You can add a vitamin to freeze the food or train them to eat Hikari vibra bites (small food sticks that look similar to bloodworms) to prevent nutrient deficiencies. Our complete care guide for pea puffers can be found here.
Pea or dwarf puffers
4. Scarlet Badis
Dario dario is a 1-inch (2.5 cm) oddball nano fish that is known for its vivid red coloration with vertical striping on the body. Like the dwarf puffer, this micropredator prefers to eat tiny live foods like microworms and frozen foods like daphnia, and the males can be quite territorial towards each other. You can only keep one male, or three to four, of these micropredators. This will ensure that there is less aggression. One scarlet badis can be difficult to keep in an aquarium. If they are kept alone, they will tend to remain near the bottom. You could also add other peaceful fish like clown killifish or pink ramshorns to the tank as janitors. Add lots of live aquarium plants for cover, and your 10-gallon aquarium will become a beautiful home for this stunning species.
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 looks like a miniature eel with vertical bands alternating between tannish-yellow 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. They also become braver when surrounded by peaceful tank mates that won’t bully them, such as green neon tetras, ember tetras, chili rasboras, or even cherry shrimp. Learn more about caring for them in our article on Kuhli loaches.
You can find more information on our top 10 list of freshwater plants and fishes on the blog.