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. Whether you are interested in schooling fish, breeding fish, or oddball animals, there’s something for everyone. A majority of tropical fish will require a heater as well as a filter. Please refer to our 10-gallon aquarium checklist for help in choosing the right size. 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 an unusually-looking or colorful fish that catches the eye of the viewer. It is usually paired with smaller schooling fish. To keep your aquarium clean, we also recommend adding a cleaning crew of bottom dwellers and algae eaters. To create your ideal community tank, choose one bullet point from each category below.
Centerpiece Fish (pick 1)
Betta fish – Female powder blue dwarf gourami Honey gourami
Middle Level Fish
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. Most of the choices below are for low light tanks, but the plants marked with an asterisk (*) specifically do best in high light tanks.
Foreground plants (pick 2 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 plants (pick 2 or more)
Moneywort Water sprite Brazilian pennywort Water wisteria Bacopa caroliniana – Ammannia gracilis* – Mayaca fluviatilis*
10-Gallon Tank for Species
It can be more rewarding to keep a single species of fish than to have a large tank. 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. Pick one of these species for your 10-gallon aquarium:
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.
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. As shelter for fry, we recommend living plants with dense roots or 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” – Guppygrass Java moss, Christmas moss- Amazon frogbit water sprite Java fern Windelov’ pearl weed
A centerpiece fish is not the best choice if you want to create a stunning aquascape where the focus is on the plants and not the animals. To keep the attention on the gorgeous foliage and hardscape, let’s pick a schooling fish for the upper half of the aquarium, bottom dwellers for the lower half, and a few algae eaters to keep the plants clean.
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. Read this article to take a look at three different kinds of easy-to-build aquascapes for your next planted tank. 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. We have many articles that will help you create a 10-gallon aquarium.