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. You may be up to the challenge, but you have limited space. Here are our five favorite oddball fish that you can keep in a 10-gallon tank.
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. Although they may not be the most colorful fish, their bright personalities make up for it. These fish, along with others, are known as “shell dwellers”, because they live, breed and rear their babies in empty shells. These little bulldozers are constantly rearranging their shells, digging pits in the substrate, and fiercely defending their homes. 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. One exception is the Malaysian trumpet snail. This nocturnal insectvertebrate can burrow in the substrate and will not be hurt if the multi moves it to another side of the tank.
Since multis are Lake Tanganyikan cichlids, raise your pH to 7.5 or higher if needed using crushed coral or aragonite as the substrate. They are a popular choice for hobbyists. However, they can be difficult to sex as juveniles so make sure you get at least six. Adults prefer smaller fish foods such as baby brine shrimps, cyclops, or mini sinking pellets. 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. These shell dwellers are a great alternative to your typical planted community tank. You’ll be amazed at their antics and will not be able stop staring at them.
Neolamprologus multiifasciatus, or “multis”
2. Freshwater Pipefish
The African freshwater pipefish (Enneacampus ansorgii) is an advanced species that we typically only recommend for veteran fish keepers because of the time investment and specialized diet they required. Their cousins the seahorses, they love to hang their tails on objects and bob their heads around. Give them plenty of aquarium plants or decorations to anchor their heads. Their food needs are a problem because they have small mouths. They prefer tiny, live foods that move like baby brine shrimp or daphnia. Because they are also slow eaters, use a sponge filter or other low flow filtration to prevent the food from being swept away. Most tank mates should be avoided since they will outcompete the pipefish during mealtime, but snails may be useful as clean-up crew members to pick up leftover 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 freshwater pufferfish measuring 1-inch (22.5 cm). They can be difficult to keep due to their semi-aggressive natures and food preferences. Feisty males like to fight with other males to establish dominance and chase females for breeding. Some people believe it is safer to keep one by itself, while others say that a large school is preferred. One dwarf puffer can be housed in a 10 gallon aquarium. It will then establish its territory. A predominately empty aquarium is not something most people want to see. You can keep two to three males and one or three females. If you find that you have more than one male, you will need to purchase six pufferfish to keep them all.
A lot of aquarium decorations, such as rocks, driftwood and plants, can be added to the tank to provide enrichment and reduce fighting. Give them fresh foods, such as small snails, and freeze foods like brine shrimps 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. Our complete care guide for pea puffers can be found here.
Pea, or dwarf puffers
4. Scarlet Badis
Dario dario is a 1 inch (2.5 cm), oddball nano fish. It is famous for its vivid red coloration and vertical stripes on the body. 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. You can only keep one male, or three to four, of these micropredators. This will ensure that there is less aggression. If you choose to keep just one scarlet badis, they tend to stay near the bottom of the aquarium, so you could add some peaceful tank mates like clown killifish swimming up top and pink ramshorn snails as the janitorial staff. For this species, a 10-gallon aquarium with plenty of cover plants will be a wonderful home.
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. You can encourage them to be braver if they are surrounded with calm tank mates, like green neon tetras or ember tetras. For more details on how to care for them, read our article on kuhli loaches.
You can find more information on our top 10 list of freshwater plants and fishes on the blog.