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 tend to have unusual appearances, can be harder to find, and may come with complicated care requirements. 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. While they are not the most colorful fish, their bold personalities more than 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 tiny bulldozers constantly rearrange their shells, dig pits in the substrate, defend their homes, and are a constant nuisance. Multis can be territorial and will often attack other fish. We recommend that you keep them in a 10 gallon aquarium with a species-only arrangement. 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. 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 like to eat smaller fish foods like baby brine shrimp, cyclops, and 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. 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
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. 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. 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 are known to be aggressive and will fight for dominance with other males, as well as chase after females for breeding. Some people believe it is safer to keep one by itself, while others say that a large school is preferred. For a 10-gallon aquarium, you can comfortably house a single dwarf puffer and let it establish the entire tank as its territory. However, most people don’t want to look at a predominately empty setup, so you can aim to keep one male and two or three females. 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.
A lot of aquarium decorations, such as rocks, driftwood and plants, can be added to the tank to provide enrichment and reduce fighting. You can feed them small snails or frozen foods such as brine shrimp and bloodworms. Consider adding vitamin supplements to the frozen foods to avoid nutritional deficiencies. You could also train them to eat Hikari vibra bites (small food sticks shaped like bloodworms). You can find more information in our comprehensive care guide on pea puffers.
Pea and 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. 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. Females are a duller, brown color and therefore are rarely sold in fish stores, so your best bet is to keep a single male or three to four of them so that the aggression is spread out. You can keep one scarlet badis in your aquarium. They tend to be at the bottom so add some calm tank mates such as clown killifish and pink ramshorn snails to serve 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. You can encourage this nocturnal bottom dweller to go out at night to hunt for food. If you have at least three to six kuhli locaches, and lots of plants and hiding spots, it will be more inclined to seek out food. 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. You can read more about how to care for kuhli loaches in our article.
For more recommendations on our favorite freshwater fish and plants, check out our top 10 lists on the blog.