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 can have unusual appearances and may require complicated care. 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. Adults are between 1-2 inches (22.5-5 cm) in length and have 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 little bulldozers are constantly rearranging their shells, digging pits in the substrate, and fiercely defending their homes. Multis are territorial fish and should be kept in a species-only 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. You can raise your pH to 7.5% or higher by using crushed corals or aragonite for the substrate. 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. 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
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. Because they are also slow eaters, use a sponge filter or other low flow filtration to prevent the food from being swept away. 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 travancoricus (also known as the dwarf puffer or pea puffer) is a 1-inch (2.5 cm) freshwater pufferfish that can sometimes be hard to keep because of their semi-aggressive nature and food preferences. 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. One dwarf puffer can be housed in a 10 gallon aquarium. It will then establish 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. Fish stores often receive juveniles that are difficult to sex so it is a good idea to obtain six pufferfish, and then return some as they get older.
You can also add many plants, rocks, driftwood or aquarium decorations to your fish tank to encourage exploration and hiding. 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. For more information, read our complete 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. This micropredator, like the dwarf puffer and other micropredators, prefers tiny live foods such as microworms and frozen food like daphnia. Males can also be territorial and will eat 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
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. The nocturnal bottom dweller is known for scavenging at night. However, you can encourage them to venture out by setting up a school of three to six Kuhli loaches. 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.
You can find more information on our top 10 list of freshwater plants and fishes on the blog.