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. It’s a great way of expanding your knowledge about fish keeping by getting into oddball species. Oddball fish are more difficult to find and require special 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. They are covered in narrow vertical stripes and range in size between 1-2 inches (2.5-5cm) Although they aren’t very colorful, their bright personalities more than compensate. They (along with other similar species) are called “shell dwellers” because they live, breed, and raise their babies in empty snail shells. These little bulldozers will constantly be rearranging and digging into the substrate to protect their homes. Multis are territorial and can only be kept in 10-gallon tanks. If you do choose to keep them, it is best to give them a species exclusive setup. The exception to the rule might be the Malaysian trumpet snail because this nocturnal invertebrate can burrow into the substrate and won’t be harmed if a multi decides to move it to the other 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 shrimp, mini sinking pellets, and cyclops. You should make sure that the fry don’t get out of their shells unless they get bigger. 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
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. Seahorses are their cousins. They love to use their tails as anchors, and will often bob their heads to explore the surroundings. The difficulty comes in their food requirements since they have small mouths and like to eat tiny live foods that move, such as baby brine shrimp and daphnia. You can prevent them from eating by using a sponge filter or low flow filtration. 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. Because of their difficulty level, snails are not easily available in aquarium hobby. Ask your local fish store if you can get 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 enjoy fighting with other males to establish dominance, and to chase down females for reproduction. While some people feel it safer to keep one individual, others believe that larger schools are better. One dwarf puffer can be housed in a 10 gallon aquarium. It will then establish its territory. It isn’t something that most people would want to see, so keep one male and two to three females. Unfortunately, fish stores usually receive juveniles that are hard to sex, so you may need to get a group of six pufferfish and then return some of them as they grow older if you determine you have more than one male.
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 frozen food 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. You can find more information in our comprehensive care guide for pea puffers.
Pea or dwarf puffers
4. Scarlet Badis
Dario dario is a 1-inch (2.5 cm) oddball nano fish that is known for its vivid red coloration with vertical striping on the body. Like the dwarf puffer, this micropredator prefers to eat tiny live foods like microworms and frozen foods like daphnia, and the males can be quite territorial towards each other. The females are darker and more aggressive than the males. They are not often sold in fish shops. Keep in mind that if you keep only one scarlet buis, they will stay at the bottom of your aquarium. Instead, you can add peaceful tank mates, such as clown killifish swimming up the top, and pink ramshorns snails serving as the janitorial team. For this species, a 10-gallon aquarium with plenty of cover plants will be a wonderful home.
5. Kuhli Loach
Kuhli loaches may be an alternative to snake ownership if you have ever considered owning a snake cool but your family doesn’t agree. Pangio Kuhlii looks a bit like a miniature Eel, with vertical bands that alternate between dark brown and tannish 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 at minimum three to six Kuhli loaches. Also, make sure to provide lots of hiding spots and plants. They also become braver when surrounded by peaceful tank mates that won’t bully them, such as green neon tetras, ember tetras, chili rasboras, or 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.