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 slugs – Bladder snails, Ramshorn snails, 2-3 amano shrimp (may be incompatible with bettafish)
A 10-gallon aquarium should be equipped with six aquatic plants. These will beautify and purify the water and provide enrichment to the fish. Pick taller plants for the background and foreground to ensure you can see all the plants in the aquarium. 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 Flowers (choose 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 plants (choice of two or more).
Cryptocoryne lutea Dwarf aquarium lily Anubias nana Java fern Scarlet temple Anubias golden – Staurogyne repens* – Hydrocotyle tripartita ‘Japan’*
Background Plants (pick two or more)
Moneywort Water sprite Brazilian pennywort Water wisteria Bacopa caroliniana – Ammannia gracilis* – Mayaca fluviatilis*
10-Gallons Species-Only Tank
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. This allows you to concentrate on breeding fish and observe unusual behaviors that are only found in single-species aquariums. It also makes it easier to care for animals with special needs or who require more attention. Choose one of these species to fill your 10-gallon tank.
Single Species Colony
A pair or trio breeding Gardneri killifish, (Fundulopanchax garneri). – Breeding pair (or trio) of red-striped killifish, (Aphyosemionstriatum). 3 pea puffers. 6 Neolamprologus multifasciatus Shell dweller 6 Neolamprologus Similis shell dweller. – Breeding a pair of Lamprologus Brevis shell dweller
These animals can be spawned easily in a colony environment. However, if the adults are more likely to predate on offspring, ensure that there are plenty of hiding places. We highly recommend using live plants with dense leaves or roots as shelter for the fry. Note that some species, such as shell dwellers, love digging so plants that need to be rooted in substrate might not be suitable for their aquarium. All of the plants on the following list do not need substrate.
Dense Plants For Breeding
Pogostemon. stellatus. ‘Octopus’. Guppy grass Java. – Christmas. – Amazon. frogbit. Water sprite. Water wisteria Java. fern. ‘Windelov.’ Pearl weed.
If you are designing a beautiful aquascape and want the emphasis to be on the plants rather than the animals, then a centerpiece fish may not be the right choice. 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.
High-Level and Mid-Level Schooling Fish
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
Algae Eaters – (pick 1)
2 nerite snails – Bladder snails – Ramshorn snails 2-3 amano shrimp 3-4 otocinclus catfish
When choosing aquarium plants, think about the aquascape style that you will use. Some of these designs will require that you have more than six plants in order for your vision to come to life. This article will show you three types of aquascapes that are easy to build for your next planted aquarium. 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 Banana plant Tiger lotus – Dwarf aquarium lily Baby tears Dwarf sagittaria – Cryptocoryne wendtii – green and red-bronze varieties
– Amazon sword, red-melon sword or flame blade Anubias barteri moneywort – Water Sprite – Ludwigia Repens
Cookie cutter setups offer a lot of customizability so that you can pick the perfect fish, invertebrates, and plants that fit your personal preferences. However, if you’re looking for a more concrete set of stocking ideas, we have several articles to inspire your next 10-gallon aquarium.