- 1 10 Gallon Fish Tank
- 1.1 Preparation is Essential – You cannot rush this!
- 1.2 10 Gallon Tank Size and Dimensions
- 1.3 What to Buy
- 1.4 Adding Fish to a 10 Gallon Fish Tank
- 1.5 The Best Fish for 10 Gallon Tanks
- 1.6 The Best 10 Gallon Fish Tank for Beginners
10 Gallon Fish Tank
If you are looking to start fish keeping, or simply need a small tank to fit in your room then the 10 gallon fish tank is a very common aquarium and is ideal for many reasons. Especially if you want to keep the budget lower.
There is a good selection of 10 gallon tanks available, and as they are seen as a potential beginner tank they often come with the equipment needed to get you up and running, such as an LED light and a filter built in.
This guide will tell you about buying, setting up and stocking a 10 gallon tank. It also includes our ideas on what fish to keep in them.
It finishes with reviews for one of the most popular childrens 10 gallon fish tank kit, an affordable starter kit and a more expensive frameless and seamless curved 10 gallon fish tank kit.
Preparation is Essential – You cannot rush this!
But before we get started, it is important to clarify that there are a lot of things to consider before simply buying a tank with lights and filters and nice fish – you have to prepare the tank properly otherwise you could easily end up with dead fish very quickly and have wasted a lot of money and had a lot of unnecessary stress.
You MUST make sure the tank is clean, the water is right, and it is able to stay that way after the fish arrive.
We have written articles to help with all of these issues and suggest that you read these before you fill your new tank with water.
- Beginners Be Aware Before Buying Your Fish Tank – Size Matters
- Easy Steps To Setting Up Your Own Aquarium At Home
- Filtration – Keep Your Fish Tank Clean Your Fish Need It
- Nitrates can kill fish
- Water hardness matters – chemistry made easy
10 Gallon Tank Size and Dimensions
A typical 10 gallon tank is around 20” x 10” x 12” in size. If you read our article ‘AQUARIUM DIMENSIONS: Typical Sizes and our Aquarium Calculator’ you can see the different tank sizes and weights. Note that this small 10 gallon tank is going to weigh 110 lbs. when fully filled with water, sand or gravel, plants and fish.
10 Gallon Fish Tank Dimensions, Size and Weight (Inside tank measurements 20″ x 10″ x 12″)
Fish Tank Dimensions
L x W x H
Fish Tank Size
Water, Rocks, Plants
20” x 10” x 12” High
50.8 x 25.4 x 30.5
|Full to the Top Rim
20” x 10” x 10” Water
50.8 x 25.4 x 25.4
|Water up to 10” High
‘Reality’ measurement assumes that the tank will not be filled to the very top rim.
Allows for water to be 2 inches lower so that it does not spill and there is room for the light and feeding the fish too without making a mess.
There is also an aquarium calculator to help you work out the exact size of your tank using inches or centimeters – ideal if you buy a tank that is different in length, width and height to the example size used in this section.
What to Buy
It’s also important to familiarize yourself with the various types of equipment, gadgets, and accessories you may need. It can be a little intimidating at first. But the best thing to do is to start making a list of the pieces of equipment and any other elements you may need.
Glass or Acrylic Tank
In simple terms, glass is more durable and acrylic lighter. Glass is more popular, as it has been around longer, and people consider it more robust. Glass tanks are usually cheaper too. However, as it’s a small tank, the difference between glass and acrylic prices is usually less than $10 for this size.
There are some very good acrylic tanks that look awesome with no frames and curved edges but need to be carefully cleaned to keep them that clear. See article ‘30 Gallon Fish Tank – Perfectly Clear Acrylic’.
Glass is harder to scratch. When cleaning acrylic tanks, you must be careful that your products are acrylic-safe to avoid scratches.
Acrylic can develop a yellow tinge when exposed to direct sunlight for many years.
An acrylic tank will be lighter than a glass tank, which means the stand does not have to take so much weight. But as you can see in our dimensions, sizes and weights table the bulk of the weight is in the water and contents of the tank rather than the tank itself.
Whatever tank you buy needs to be cleaned before use. Use a clean, water-dampened cloth to wipe down the tank – inside and out – and remove any dust that has accumulated. Never use any kind of soap. The residue is enough to kill your fish.
Aquarium Stand and Location
The larger the tank the more important the stand becomes as there is a lot of water to clean up if it fails, not to mention any lost fish. Stands are available for most tank sizes from 10 gallons upwards.
Although a new fish keeper starting out with a 10 gallon tank may not buy a stand for their tank. Often it is placed on top of a piece of furniture. If this is what you intend to do then make sure that it is a solid worktop, or bespoke furniture that can hold the weight of the tank – approximately 99 lbs. to 110 lbs.
It’s important to locate your aquarium where it helps keep the fish healthy. Do not place it near to a window where direct sunlight can warm up the water. The water temperatures should remain fairly constant. Too much sunlight can cause excessive algae growth and that’s a problem for fish tanks.
It needs a power outlet for the light, filter and any other accessories.
Avoid setting up too close to a vent. Dust from heating and air-conditioning systems can make it much more difficult to maintain and can alter the water temperature. Some fish are particularly susceptible to water temperatures, while others can withstand a greater variation.
A gallon of freshwater at 4ºC and a specific gravity of 1.000 weighs 8.3454 lbs.
A gallon of saltwater at 1.025 specific gravity equals 8.554 lbs.
Heaters are not usually included in a starter kit. Basically, they heat the water to a set temperature and should keep it at that temperature. In a small tank be careful to get the right size of heater and type to suit your fish.
Aggressive fish may attack the heater and so it needs to be robust. You don’t want it getting damaged by your fish. We suggest that in a small tank that you should be opting for non-aggressive fish and so this should be less of a problem.
The main problem with heaters is that over a period of time they ALL fail. The good ones work for many years without any problems, although even good brands have faulty goods sometimes. If they stop working the water goes cold and it may kill your fish. If they malfunction and overheat the water your fish will boil.
Recommended heater for 10 Gallon Tank:
Usual Price Range: $18-$20
We recommend buying a thermometer if one is not provided. Placing a thermometer at the opposite side to your heater allows you to check that the whole tank is being kept at the desired temperature. It is important that the water temperature remains fairly constant. Even small changes in temperature can kill your fish. Our recommended heater includes a built-in LED temperature reading – so that a separate thermometer is not required.
Water Test Kit
It is critical for the health of your fish that the water chemistry is correct for them. You can easily purchase all sorts of test kits online and in stores to check each week the water balance for pH, and whether you have soft and acidic water or hard and alkaline water.
We strongly recommend that you read about water chemistry before making any major mistakes that will be fatal for your new fish. See our article ‘Water hardness matters – chemistry made easy‘.
Substrate, Plants, Driftwood and Other Equipment
Substrate and decorations, such as driftwood, should be carefully considered because you need to take into account the preferences of your fish and the limited tank size. The selection of substrate really is important, you don’t want your fish choking on sand if they are not able to cope with it. Maybe gravel is better!
Adding plants as well as being decorative, also help to oxygenate the water for the fish as they photosynthesize. Thickly planted with small species of Cryptocoryne, Anubias, and Java moss (all of which do well under moderate lighting) will give a great environment for your fish. You can also add an air pump to add oxygen.
As always when setting up an aquarium, you should already have decided which fish and plants you are going to add to it before you set it up. This is important for lighting your tank too. Different fish and plants will prefer different light levels.
Many 10 gallon fish tank sets include a light in the aquarium hood, but is it the right light for your selected fish – you need to research this for each fish you want to keep.
Other equipment that will be used often includes a pad to scrub the inside walls of the tank to remove algae and debris. Equally you may need an aquarium gravel vacuum to clean up debris that has fallen into the substrate. And don’t forget the fish net to remove unwanted debris floating in the water and any fish that need to be removed.
Adding Fish to a 10 Gallon Fish Tank
Before jumping into the fish options, it is important to stress that after buying all of the equipment that the tank is correctly set up. It must be cleaned properly, the water must be cycled, the right bacteria need to grow for the filter to work efficiently. The pH and hardness levels are right for the fish that you intend to put in your new tank.
When the tank is prepared, cycled and ready for fish then the way to introduce the fish to the tank is only by adding a few at a time so that they do not produce too much waste for the system to cope. Before you add them you need to ensure that the water is at the correct temperature, that the heater if you have one has kept the water just right for your fish. Check it with a thermometer to make doubly sure it is right.
Your new fish will be in a bag or other container, with water that is different to the tank water. The pH will be different, the temperature will be different and even the light levels and intensity will differ from your tank. You do not want to shock your fish by just dropping them into a completely different environment.
Turn off your tank light. Place the fish in their bag or container on top of the tank for at least 15 minutes to allow the water temperature in the bag to match the tank temperature. Then add a little of the tank water to the bag., about half a cup every 15 minutes for an hour. This will help the fish get used to the tank water.
DO NOT EMPTY the bag water into the tank at any time.
You do not want to risk adding any diseases or contaminants in the bag water to your tank water.
Use a net to lift the fish out of the bag and release them into your tank after completing the above process. Leave the tank light off for at least another hour or longer to allow the fish to get used to the tank.
The Best Fish for 10 Gallon Tanks
It is obvious that the fish need to be the right size to fit in the tank. What is less obvious is the adult size of the fish when you buy them from a store and they have not reached full adult size.
As a simple rule of thumb for beginners, start with one small fish (neon tetra size) per gallon – so that is 9 maximum in your tank. Remember most 10 Gallon Tanks sold actually hold less than 9 Gallons if you do not fill it fully to the top rim of the tank.
When you have successfully set up your tank, learnt how to look after and maintain it and the fish are thriving, not just surviving, you can double the number of fish. But not all at once.
Equally important is do they get on with other fish. Some fish are very aggressive, and they will kill and eat any other fish that gets in their territory.
Fish that need a lot of swimming space, larger fish will not be happy in a restrictive 10 gallon fish tank. Territorial aggressive fish like dwarf pufferfish will need to be left out as well.
If you are a beginner, it is probably best to go for small and less active, non-aggressive fish.
These make excellent starter fish as they are hardy and more tolerant to changing water conditions. This is a rare trait for fish so small. They are shoaling fish and will be stressed if their numbers are too low. But be very careful that you buy the right barb. A one inch barb in a store tank can grow to be 8 or 12 inches in size depending on the actual barb species (there are over 500 species of barb – the largest being the Giant Barb that grows to 10 foot long).
We recommend the Checkered barb, which is a wonderful fish for beginners. It is small, up to a length of 2 inches, and so ideal for the aver
age beginner’s tank and being hardy can withstand some early mistakes. This barb is also completely non-aggressive. What more could any beginner want for easy success.
They prefer to be in slightly cooler water, making them perfect for smallish, tropical or unheated, indoor tanks – which is how many beginners start off.
The Cherry barb is more popular than the Checkered barb, probably as it is more colorful. The bright, brilliant red of mature males is spectacular. It’s another non-competitive, peaceful, small, hardy and inexpensive fish that is happy in a tropical or unheated indoor tank.
See our article ‘Barbs are a great option’ here.
These are some of the most popular fish in the industry. Their vibrant colors and shoaling nature makes them an attractive addition to the tank.
Neon tetras are relatively inactive and will hang out under a bushy plant and just wait for some food to come their way.
Cardinal tetras are similar to neons in shape and color, but a little bit larger. Cardinals prefer slightly warmer water than neons. Cardinals prefer 74° to 80°F; Neons prefer 68° to 78°F. You can keep both happy at 75° to 77°F.
Glowlight tetras are slightly larger than cardinals. They are mostly transparent, with a copper-colored band running along the midline from nose to tail.
All three of these tetras look their best in dark tanks that mimic the blackwater streams of their natural habitats.
These are easy to care for and usually liven up the lower levels of the tank if they are sharing it with other fish.
Corydoras habrosus, grows to about 1½ inches in length as an adult. They are shoaling fish, so keep them in a group of six or more. Another to consider are the Corydoras hastatus which is even smaller, about an inch long when fully grown. Unlike other corys they are a mid-water fish. If you keep them with larger fish, they will stay out of sight, hidden among the plants and any decorations; but if their tank mates are of similar size, they will dart all over the tank, hovering in the current and twitching their fins and whiskers.
The sparkling gourami has brilliant blue spangles on a pinkish-brown body. Approximately 1½ inches long. Ideal for a 10 gallon tank which is thickly planted so that they can swim about at all levels but mostly close to the top. Keep them away from aggressive fish if you want to see them all over the tank.
A 10 gallon fish tank can easily house four or five specimens, especially if there are lots of hiding places. When kept in groups they can be surprisingly noisy, making croaking and purring sounds that are used as threats or to attract mates. Definitely something to listen for!
Alternatives to sparkling gouramis include honey gouramis Trichogaster chuna and female Siamese fighting fish Betta splendens. Dwarf gouramis Colisa lalia are best avoided, though. The males tend to be rather aggressive, and in recent years, farmed fish have been plagued with a viral infection that causes lethargy, body sores, and eventually death.
Kuhli loaches are small and usually slither around the bottom of the tank looking for morsels of food. Unlike most other loaches, kuhli loaches are completely peaceful and need the company of their own kind. Keep them in groups of four or more for best results.
Ghost shrimp, Cherry shrimp and Nerite Snails
Well these are not fish. But it is a good idea to have a little help with keeping the tank clean.
The Ghost shrimp, a crustacean that helps lighten the load when cleaning the tank, has a transparent body that captivates you while watching its insides as it works.
Cherry shrimp add a splash of color and they are algae eaters and scavengers. Around an inch long, they are sociable and best kept in groups. They seem to do best in moderately hard water with a neutral to slightly alkaline pH.
In a planted tank with lots of hiding places, at least a few shrimps will survive to maturity. A big lump of Java moss seems to suit cherry shrimps perfectly. Shrimps reach maturity after only a couple of months. Looked after properly, you will soon be able to share them with your friends.
Nerite snails are excellent algae eaters, and they never harm aquarium plants. They come in a wide variety of shapes and colors. Make sure that you buy a true freshwater snail species such as Clithon, Neritina and Vittina.
Other fish to consider
There are many other fish that can be kept in a 10 gallon fish tank, I have named only a few of the most popular and easy to keep.
Generally, you can keep any peaceful fish within a 1-2 inch size range. Avoid species with a reputation for harassing others.
Make sure that you know the adult size of any fish you buy to prevent them growing too big for your tank. Research this yourself as pet store staff do not always give reliable advice.
The Best 10 Gallon Fish Tank for Beginners
The Children’s Favorite, that Adults like too!
The GloFish® 10 Gallon Aquarium Kit contains everything you need to get started with your GloFish® experience. Perfect for beginners and hobbyists alike. This is great for children and anyone starting out.
It is bright and really shows off the color of the fish.
Complete kit features:
- 10 gallon fish tank – glass
- Low-profile hinged hood with LED energy efficient lighting system
- Tetra® Internal Filtration System with a medium Tetra® Whisper® Bio-Bag® Filter Cartridge
- GloFish® fluorescent plants
- 50-watt aquarium heater and thermometer
- Fish food and water conditioner sample
- Set-up guide
- Perfect for beginners and hobbyists alike.
- The glass aquarium is brought to life with the blue and white energy-efficient GloFish LED lights. Choose between moonlight mode with all blue LED lights on or sunlight mode with white and blue LED lights turned on.
- The hood reduces water loss from evaporation and helps keep fish from jumping.
- The Tetra Internal Filtration System provides an effective combination of mechanical, chemical and biological filtration for clean water and healthy fish. The kit also contains Tetra® AquaSafe® water conditioner sample that makes tap water safe for fish, TetraMin® Tropical Flakes sample and an aquarium background.
- It’s easy to set up and appears to be high quality. I say ‘appears to be’ because there are a few reviews by others that say it leaked on them after a few months. I suggest that it is very unlikely that your tank will suddenly start to leak, you would be one of the very few unlucky customers. A deterioration of the joints in that time frame suggests that the tank was cleaned with something that caused them to perish. DO NOT use chemical cleaners inside your tank – it is bad for the fish as well as the tank sealants.
- The only thing I think should be mentioned is that the Whisper filter provided is only sufficient to support about 10x Danio’s (the smaller Glofish). The tank is capable of quite a bit more fish capacity, but you will need to upgrade the filter if you want more fish in your tank.
The links below take you to the official GloFish website:
Most Affordable Starter Kit
This 10 gallon fish tank is perfect for beginners who want to start keeping fish. It is ideal for either a child’s first tank or a first-time hobby tank.
If you are looking for a complete kit, this set is great.
Complete kit features:
- 10 gallon fish tank – glass
- Low-profile hood
- Energy-efficient LEDs to mimic the natural sunlight for your fish
- Tetra internal filter that keeps fish healthy and the water crystal clear
- Integrated cut-outs for easy filter cartridge changes and feeding without removing the hood
- TetraCare guidance booklet
- Samples of Tetra food and water car
- Low profile slim hood.
- Complete set up for a cold water tank.
- Powerful yet quiet filter.
- Good quality tank.
- Cut-outs allow easy feeding and filter cartridge changes.
- Plenty of advice for setting up the tank and some Tetra samples
- Lighting can be quite bright.
- You will need a heater if you want a tropical set up.
- The hood / lid is not hinged, so you have to remove it to clean the tank. Cannot clean through the cut-outs as they are too small for this.
Premium Starter Kit
This aquarium has a unique bent glass design that is frameless and seamless in front for unobstructed viewing on all sides including top.
This sleek design is perfect to fit into the modern home and allows you to see the fish from all angles.
This kit is a fantastic quality premium set that is made with the highest quality glass to ensure durability and longevity.
Complete kit features:
- a 10 gallon RADIUS curved corner glass aquarium
- LED light
- Cascade internal filter
- Rubber mat
- Hinged plastic lid
The LED lighting can be positioned anywhere along the back of the tank to light up the aquarium.
This aquarium measures 12 ⅝ inches high by 11 ¾ inches wide and 17 ¾ inches and is perfect for a large variety of fish.
- Beautiful aquarium with a simple yet sleek design.
- Comes with an easy mountable LED light for the best viewing regardless of night or day.
- Clear plastic lid allows the light to filter in and another unobstructed view. Allows for secure holding and easy access.
- It comes with a mat to minimize stress on uneven surfaces.
- Filter has two customizable chambers.
- The LED lamp adds another 4 inches to the height. The bigger issue is that it is not very bright and unlikely to be sufficient to help plants grow. I would buy another lamp.
- No on/off switch for the light, you have to turn it off at the plug. I would buy another lamp.
- You can’t open the lid without moving the light. Did I mention that I would buy another lamp?
- The filter is also fairly powerful and maybe too strong a current is set up for many of the fish that are best suited to this tank i.e. under 2 inches long. A sleeve can be put in front of the filter to reduce the flow in the water. Or simply change the filter.
- No heater with this kit – you will need one if going tropical or saltwater.
- The lid leaves a 1 inch gap on the back of the tank, so any jumpers might get out. Means you really need to keep the water level a little lower to prevent the fish escaping.