Help me choose a fish!

I have an extra 10 US gallon aquarium kicking around since I moved my Firebelly toads into a new home. I’d like to put a (or a few small) fish in it.

I’m a relatively experienced fish keeper. I have a larger aquarium with several fish that I’ve had for years now and have really had some sort of fish for most of my adolescent & adult life. I’ve only ever kept freshwater though.

I’ve also got a good deal of 50/50 land/water set ups with my toads so a crustacean of some sort isn’t out of the question for this tank (and I have no problems with feeding of live food).

So, what should I do? I want something that’s relatively low maintenance, at least something that’s not all that different from what I do now with my existing pets.

I’ve always wanted to do a salt water setup, but it’s always been too expensive (but oh, so beautiful!) Would it be a good idea to give it a go with this as an introductory experience into marine fish? Most equipment is for both types of water these days, no?

How about freshwater fish? If I went this route I’d want something that is immediately “odd” looking. Different. I have a tinfoil barb and some danios and tetras and what not in my other tank. I’ve had gouramis and mollies and all that stuff in the past. Head, tail, fins, normal. I want something “different” looking.

I was thinking of a spotted green puffer fish. Any thoughts on those?

How about some sort of crustacean? Lobsters (crawfish, really), crabs, shrimp?
Argh! Help!

I had a red-tailed shark who was a lot of fun, but I had to give him away as he terrorised my gouramis (I still miss you Marcel!). But if you’re going for a slightly more agressive fish setup, he had heaps of character. I also really like rams , they look like little punks.

Other than that, I’ve seen mini-puffer fish who looked great, like overfed humming birds.

What about a hermit crab? I’ve heard about people who have them, though I don’t know how active they are.

You know, I was looking at hermit crabs yesterday! I was thinking of fish for this tank, but I’d have no problem with any (mostly) dry land being like the hermit crab.

I don’t like they way they seem to be marketed towards kids, but as long as I don’t put any of those plastic pink umbrellas in there I should be good. I like to try and create natural habitats.

I’d rather not get too far into reptile territory (with thermoregulation lamps and highly sensitive environments) but if anybody has any suggestions going into this area a bit I’d be glad to entertain them.


I love, love, LOVE my clown loaches. They are extraordinarily entertaining – doing water ballet together, kissing and clicking at the surface of the water. They’re hardy, long-lived (in the right environment, up to 40 years!!), mild-mannered, fun to watch and easy to care for (no delicate fins). If you go with loaches, definitely get at least 2 though, as they’re schooling fish, and one by itself will tend to become “depressed” and hide in a corner and never play.

Speaking as a longtime aquariast, most of the fish you’ve all listed so far are ill-suited to a 10 gallon tank…

first off, saltwater tanks are very expensive and maintenance intensive, you need to keep the salinity constant, if you plan on having corals you need powerful and expensive lighting systems, salt tanks are not beginner freindly…

Green Spotted Puffers (Tetraodon Fluvitalis) are great fish, very personable and intelligent (they have the highest brain-to-body weight ratio of any aquarium fish), but they also require a large tank (30+ gallon minimum per fish, are messy eaters (carnivores, primarily snails and small crusteceans), and are brackish water fish in their juvenile stage, but full-marine in adulthood, and can grow rather large, up to 6", they’re solitary fish and do not do well in groups, some tolerate other non-puffer tankmates, others don’t, depends on the individual animal’s personality

that said, puffers are great pets, and dwarf puffers (maximum adult size 1.5") have all the endearing personality traits of GSP’s, are able to be kept in groups, and are completely freshwater fish

Red Tail Sharks (actually a member of the barb family) grow too large for a 10 gallon tank, and are very skittish

Clown Loaches are also great fish, but get HUGE, adult size is 12"+ and require a huge tank, they are also very easily stressed, and are very prone to the parasitic disease “Ick” (Icthypothyrus Multifillis)

other common fish that get too big for a 10 gallon tank;
the common Plecostomus
Pictus catfish
these three alone can get to 12" adult size each

personally, i’d reccomend either a single male Betta Splendens, or a group of 3 female Bettas, females can be housed together, males cannot

don’t judge bettas activity levels by what you see in those horrid “death-cups” at the pet store, bettas are intelligent and easily bored, yes they can live in a small amount of water, but it’d be akin to you living in a walk-in closet, just because it can be done, doesn’t mean it should be done…

i have 2 tanks with bettas in them, a 10 gallon with a large amount of Hornwort (fast growing floating plant), and a heavily planted 20 Long, each with a single betta, and let me tell you, a betta with room to spread their fins is a wonderful sight, they’re a happy, inquisitive fish, exploring every nook-and-cranny of the tank and playing the favorite betta game of “Where-Do-I-Fit?”, if a betta encounters a crevice or opening, they have to see if they can squeeze into it, it’s a specieswide compulsion

the best fish for a 10 gallon is a betta, IMHO, put in some good hardy live plants like Hornwort, or Water Lettuce, and you’ll have one happy betta, playing WDIF all day and all night

I’ll back up Mactech on the saltwater. I’ve had SW tanks for a few years and they can be pricey. 10 gallons is not recomended for a beginer due to problems keeping the water chemistry stable with a small volume.
I’ve never kept fresh water so I’m no help there.
Good luch with your new fishy pal when you get him / her / it.

Clown loaches grow very, VERY slowly, so that they can be kept in a 10 gallon tank for many, many years, depending on how big they are when first purchased, before outgrowing it, necessitating increasing your tank size or finding them a new home. And they’ll only get ick if you don’t take care of your tank well enough. In 5 years of loach-keeping, mine have gotten ick exactly once (my bad), were cured of it relatively quickly (one round of treatment) and suffered no long-term effects of their temporary ailment. I did give them a bigger home a couple of years ago (to an 18 gallon tank from a 10), and they’re still extremely happy and healthy in their environment.

Another person to say saltwater tanks are not easy to maintain.

I recommend:

You can even keep a betta with these two, as both the catfish and goby are bottom-dwellers and the betta will hang out in the middle of the tank. I have kept a betta successfully* with angels, tetras, neons, and catfish and a goby all at once. And I love catfish, they’re so cute (when little).

*It was the introduction of a female betta that triggered his homicidal instincts, causing him to devastate the tank within a week. No lie. He ate her <snerk>.

I’m a big fan of planted aquaria. You can do a low-tech setup with low lighting levels and no CO2, and get something almost as purty as marine. Are your paludaria planted?
Blue rams are nice fish, tho some find them a mite fragile.
I’m a big fan of rainbowfish.
If I set up a 10 gal, I’d probably go with cherry shrimp and Endler’s livebearers. I have a planted 3 gal hex in my office with them. Both will reproduce readily, giving the approximation of a thriving environment.