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. You can take your fishkeeping knowledge to the next level by keeping oddball species. Oddball fish can have unusual appearances and may require complicated care. Our 5 favorite oddball fish can be kept in a 10-gallon aquarium if you’re up for the challenge and have limited space.
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. They are small, measuring in at 1-2 inches (2.5-5cm) and covered in narrow vertical stripes. While they are not the most colorful fish, their bold personalities more than make up for it. They, like other species, are also known as “shell-dwellers” since they live, breed, raise and care for their babies in empty snail shells. These tiny bulldozers constantly rearrange their shells, dig pits in the substrate, defend their homes, and are a constant nuisance. 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. Malaysian trumpet snail is an exception to this rule. This nocturnal invertebrate, which can burrow into the substrate, will not be hurt by multis if they move it to another tank.
Multis are Lake Tanganyikan Cichlids. If you need to raise your pH, use crushed coral or aragonite. Although they are popular among hobbyists, it can be difficult for them to sex as young animals. To ensure that you have both males AND females, get six. The adults prefer to eat small fish foods like baby shrimp, cyclops and mini sinking flakes. But fry won’t go outside their shells until their bodies are larger. To increase survival, you should feed them lots of powdered fry food as well as crushed flakes that can float in their shells. If you’re looking for something a little different from your usual planted community tank, try these action-packed shell dwellers because you won’t be able to stop staring at their antics.
Neolamprologus multiifasciatus, or “multis”
2. Freshwater Pipefish
Because of their complex diet and time investment, the African freshwater pipefish Enneacampus Ansorgii is a highly advanced species. We recommend it only to experienced fish keepers. As cousins of seahorses, they like to hook their tails onto objects as their heads bob around to investigate their surroundings, so provide them with lots of aquarium plants or fish tank decorations as anchor points. Because they are small-mouthed, their food preferences can be difficult. Daphnia and baby brine shrimp are two examples of tiny live foods that they will eat. To prevent food from getting swept away, you can use a sponge filter (or other low flow filtration) to keep them in check. They are best avoided as they can outcompete pipefish at mealtime. However, snails might be helpful in cleaning up after meals to collect any 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, also called the pea puffer or dwarf puffer, is a 1-inch (2.5cm) freshwater pufferfish. They are semi-aggressive and have a preference for certain foods. Feisty males like to fight with other males to establish dominance and chase females for breeding. Some believe it is safer to have one, while others prefer a larger school. A 10-gallon aquarium can house one dwarf puffer, and it will establish the tank as its territory. Most people won’t like to see a tank that is empty. Instead, keep at least one male and at least two or three women. 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. Feed them live foods like small snails and frozen foods like bloodworms and brine shrimp. To avoid nutrient deficiencies, consider adding a vitamin supplement to soak the frozen foods or try training them to eat Hikari Vibra Bites (little food sticks that look like bloodworms). You can find more information in our comprehensive care guide on pea puffers.
Pea or dwarf puffers
4. Scarlet Badis
Dario dario, a 1-inch (22.5 cm) oddball nanofish, is well-known for its bright red coloration and vertical striping. The micropredator is similar to the dwarf puffer. They prefer tiny live foods, such as microworms, and frozen foods, like daphnia. However, they can be territorial towards one another. Females are a duller, brown color and therefore are rarely sold in fish stores, so your best bet is to keep a single male or three to four of them so that the aggression is spread out. 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. Your 10-gallon aquarium can be transformed into a sanctuary for this beautiful species by adding lots of aquarium plants.
5. Kuhli Loach
Kuhli loaches could be a great alternative if your family isn’t keen on the idea of owning a snake. Pangio Kuhlii looks a bit like a miniature Eel, with vertical bands that alternate between dark brown and tanish-yellow. This nocturnal bottom dweller likes to scavenge for food at night, but you can encourage them to come out more by getting a school of at least three to six kuhli loaches and providing lots of plants and little nooks to hide under. They are more confident when they have a group of calm tank mates who won’t bully them like green neon Tetras, ember Tetras, chili Rasboras, and even cherry shrimp. Learn more about caring for them in our article on Kuhli loaches.
Check out our top 10 lists for more suggestions on freshwater fishes and plants.