Beginner’s Guide To Setting Up Of A 10 Gallon Aquarium

10 gallon is one of the most common sizes that people buy. The reason being its suitability for every household, pocket-friendliness and convenience in handling.

This size is best for those people who are looking for a small tank as an introduction to fish-keeping.

If you are one of those people, here I will guide you through everything you need to know about 10 gallon tanks, from deciding which one to buy, to its maintenance and everything that falls in-between.

Let’s begin with the setting up process!


The most enjoyable thing about setting up process is designing your aquarium. You can decorate the tank as you like.

But you have to keep in mind that a 10 gallon aquarium does not offer much space, so do not make the setup too congested for the fish to swim around.

In a freshwater setup, you can fill the tank with a bunch of decorations that you can easily buy from a petstore.

In a tropical or marine set up you don’t need to buy a heater. Some people opt for a well-planted set up, to oxygenate the tank via photosynthesis.

Saltwater set up tend to be less varied and the most common design is to incorporate corals. Corals are expensive, but you can buy cheaper decorations that look like them.

If you want to make your tank a breeder tank, you will have to look into the specific requirements for the species you want to breed. It demands an advance thorough research.

There is a procedure which needs to be followed when setting up an aquarium, no matter what the size is.

So here we go!

Firstly, you will need to have a tank!


In a 10 gallon aquarium, glass material is preferred over acrylic as it is scratch-resistant. Also, it retains its clarity for a longer period of time, while acrylic may develop a yellow tinge when exposed to direct sunlight.

So if you are planning on using the tank for a longer period, I would suggest you to go for a glass tank

Acrylic fish tanks are not bad either – they weigh less than the glass tanks. However, glass tanks are cheaper than acrylic ones.

So keep these things in mind when buying an aquarium.

Now let’s review some of the best 10 gallon aquarium models in the market.

Here Are My Top Picks

WATERBOX CLEAR 10 GALLON AQUARIUM – Best quality glass material

Waterbox Aquariums WTB01110 10CUBE 10 Gallon All-in-One Aquarium
  • Ultra Clear Glass on all Sides
  • Built in Filter Chamber in Back
  • Includes Pump and filter basket with media

Last update on 2024-07-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

With a glossy-finish glass material, Waterbox offers with one of the best-quality tanks in the market. You can buy it at a reasonable price from Amazon.

The tank even enables different levels of aquascaping for beginners and advanced hobbyists. So why should you go for anything else when you have this?


  • Starphire ultra-clear glass technology
  • Weighs 15.78 LBS without water
  • Straight edge silicon seams

AQUA CULTURE 10 GALLON AQUARIUM – Most affordable starter kit

Last update on 2024-07-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Though I would not recommend 10 gallon tanks to a beginner, it is true that they are the perfect size to go for if you are buying it for the sake of hobby or for your child.

Aqua Culture provides a complete kit, from setting up, till the maintenance of your fish tank. The kit includes an internal Tetra Filter, a low-profile hood and energy-efficient LEDs to mimic the natural sunlight.

It also includes a Tetra Care guidance booklet to help you throughout the process.


  • Low-profile slim hood
  • Powerful yet quiet heater
  • Cut-outs for easy feeding and filter cartridge changes.


  • LED Aquarium Light integrates into sleek modern hood
  • Hinges allow for easy feeding and maintenance
  • Hood is adaptable for use with heaters, filters and accessories.
  • Long lasting, energy efficient LEDs
  • No mercury in LEDs, making them better for the environment than traditional aquarium lighting

Last update on 2024-07-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

You can purchase this 10 gallon aquarium kit from Amazon.

It is one of my favorites as with this kit, all your work is done! It employs industry-leading components that have been carefully selected for compatible and reliable performance.

The aquarium uses a 3-stage Bio-wheel filtration for water-quality and a hood with energy-efficient LEDs.


  • Bio-wheel 3-stage filtration
  • LED hood boasts energy-efficient technology


PENN-PLAX Water-World Radius Desktop Nano Aquarium Kit – includes LED Light, Internal Filter, and Mat – Perfect for Shrimp and Small Fish – 10 Gallon Tank
  • CONVENIENT FOR SMALL SPACES: The Radius Desktop Aquarium Kit is perfect for small or unused spaces: a desk, dresser, or even on top of the old file cabinet that hasn’t been touched in years. This frameless tank is made from finely constructed bent glass that’s 1/8” thick. At the front, it features 2 curved corners, allowing for unobstructed views from all angles.
  • CASCADE 300 INTERNAL FILTER: This 10 gallon aquarium kit comes with a Cascade 300 Fully Submersible Internal Filter. The filter cycles water at 70 Gallons per Hour, and includes a refillable Carbon Cartridge and an internal Bio-Sponge.
  • GREAT FOR BEGINNERS: The Radius Desktop Aquarium Kit makes for a simple and easy introduction to aquarium ownership. This kit is ideal for adults and children alike, and offers almost everything you need in 1 package!
  • CONTAINS ALMOST EVERYTHING YOU NEED: This kit includes the following: 10 Gallon Glass Tank, Glass Lid, Clear Mounting Clips, Cascade 300 Internal Filter (70 GPH), Silver LED Light, and Mat.
  • MEASUREMENTS: Overall = 17.75” (W) x 11.75” (D) x 12.5” (H) / Tank Water Volume = 10 Gallons / Filter Flow Rate = 70 GPH

Last update on 2024-07-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This kit is great for you if you are concerned about the quality of your fish tank.

It is built with the highest quality glass to ensure longevity and durability. It comes with an LED light, mat, a cascade internal filter and a hinged plastic lid. 

On top of that, it is frameless and seamless which means that you can watch your fish completely without any obstruction.


  • It measures 12.5*11.5*17.75 inches
  • Simple yet sleek design
  • Quality filter with 2 customizable chambers
  • Comes with a mat to minimize stress on uneven surfaces.


COLIBROX Aqua Aquarium, 10 Gallon
  • The perfect starter aquarium or terrarium for a wide variety of fish and reptiles

Last update on 2024-07-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

It is ideal for you if you are looking to add your own equipment and design a setup from scratch. Which means that you have to be an experienced aquarist who knows which filter and heater would go with it.


  • It measures 20*12*10 inches
  • Available at an affordable price
  • Built with a high-quality sealant to avoid any leaks
  • Suitable for fish-keeping and keeping reptiles.

This aquarium is available at a very reasonable price on Amazon.

I have listed the best five 10 gallon aquariums above, so we will move on to the next step which is Setting Up!


When searching for the right stand for a 10 gallon aquarium, reliability is of utmost importance. These tanks are available in two common sizes:

  • 10 gallon leader measures 20*11*13 inches
  • 10 gallon long measures 24*9*13 inches

A 10 gallon aquarium must be durable as it will be holding 80 pounds of water or more. It should also be water-resistant as the water is bound to spill onto your stand, sooner or later.

So it should be made of durable steel that cannot decay.

Here are some best-quality stands for your 10 gallon aquarium:

Aqueon Essence Aquarium Stands 20 x 10 Inches
  • Strength and durability needed for an aquarium
  • An open, contemporary, black design
  • Spacious shelving for storage of aquarium materials or for showcasing decorative items
  • Heavy-duty fiber board
  • Water-resistant laminate covering

Last update on 2024-07-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Last update on 2024-07-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Aqueon Metal 10 Gallon Fish Tank Aquarium Stand, 20" L x 10" W x 28.25" H
  • The top shelf measures 20" long x 10" wide and fits standard 10 gallon aquariums, the bottom shelf fits 5.5 gallon aquariums
  • This stand is 28.25" high
  • Durable steel, rust-resistant powder-coated finish
  • Wood panels flip up, providing access to the bottom aquarium
  • Reversible wood panels offer two color options: black or light brown

Last update on 2024-07-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


Gravel forms the bottomost layer of the tank so it should be cleaned thoroughly before being placed.

It is a type of substrate where necessary bacteria lives and supports the nitrogen cycle to breakdown fish food and waste. This keeps the water clean for a long time.

If you have a normal rectangular-shaped 10 gallon aquarium, 10 to 15 pounds of gravel would be sufficient. It will make a 1-inch deep layer at the base, if you spread it evenly.

You can also look into other substrate option like:

Carib Sea ACS05820 Super Natural Moonlight Sand for Aquarium, 5-Pound
  • natural white creates great color contrasts
  • ph neutral ; used in salt and freshwater aquariums
  • no dyes or paints used
  • made in the USA

Last update on 2024-07-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Fluval 12693 Plant and Shrimp Stratum for Freshwater Fish Tanks, 4.4 lbs. – Aquarium Substrate for Strong Plant Growth, Supports Neutral to Slightly Acidic pH
  • Facilitates Rapid and Beneficial Colonization: Its porous structure enables swift colonization of beneficial nitrifying organisms, fostering a healthy aquatic environment crucial for the well-being of aquarium inhabitants
  • Maintains Optimal pH Levels: Designed to sustain a neutral to slightly acidic pH range, ideal for supporting the growth of various plants, tropical fish, and shrimp commonly found in planted aquarium setups
  • Offers Shelter for Newborn Shrimp: Stratum provides a safe haven for newborn shrimp, offering protection from potential predators until they reach a size where emerging into the main aquarium is viable
  • Preserves Water Quality: Ensures water clarity by preventing discoloration and effectively manages organic discoloration, especially in the presence of natural driftwood, while being specifically formulated for use in freshwater aquariums
  • 4.4 lb bag

Last update on 2024-07-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Now add water and treat it with a dechlorinator. Add filter and heater later.


You think now you can add fish to it? Wait…

Cycling is an important step of the setting up process and there is a reason behind it.

Ammonia released from fish waste might harm the fish, if you do not have enough bacteria present in the tank to break it down.

That is why you need to cycle the tank before adding fish to it, so that enough good bacteria is built-up.


Before adding fish to the tank, make sure that it has been cycled properly and the water temperature is at the desired level.

Since a 10 gallon aquarium is not at all big, it will heat up quickly. Make sure that you do not overheat it! Use a thermometer for the purpose.

There are only a few fish species that can survive in a 10 gallon aquarium, so take an idea from here.


A 10 gallon aquarium makes a great breeder tank for the experienced aquarists.

While 10 gallon tanks are pretty small compared to the other ones, there are plenty of stocking options when it comes to freshwater fish tanks. 

Due to its small size, it is important to understand how to care for each individual species as pollutants can build-up pretty quickly in this size.

Since most of the freshwater fish are schooling fish, they should be kept in specific tanks due to the size of 10 gallon tank.

If want to create a community tank, here are a few species that you may want to have:

CELESTIAL PEARL DANIOS are perfect for 10 gallon tanks as they can grow a maximum up to 1 inch. They prefer living in well-planted aquariums, with plenty of rocks, caves and driftwood. They should be kept in schools of 6-10.
GOLDEN DWARF BARBS only grows up to 1.5 inches. You can keep 5-10 of them. If you want to keep 5 Golden Barbs, keep them with a few other diminutive species like Microdevario or Trigonostigma.
NEON TETRAS should be kept in schools of 10, as they thrive well that way. They grow a maximum up to 1.25 inches only.
PYGMY CORYDORAS grow around 3cm and should be kept in species-only tank with 8-12 fish, with other tine specimens like Ember Tetras or Rosboras.
BETTAS should not be kept with similar-looking species like Fancy Guppies.
A tank full of DWARF GOURAMIS should be kept in a quiet place, with other peaceful species. You can keep just one of them with species like Neon Tetras.
You can keep GUPPIES in the ratio of one male to two females, if you want to set up a breeder tank.

Choose the species you want to keep together, wisely.

Moving on to the last part which is the maintenance of your tank.


If you think that the work is over, let me tell you that it has just begun!

The fact that smaller tanks are harder to maintain than larger ones, startles people a lot. But there is a logical reason behind it.

In smaller tanks, it is much easier for the pollutants to build up. That is why they require weekly water changes, which would hardly consume a few minutes, considering the size of the tank.

You may use a small aquarium vacuum for that purpose and fill the tank with new, conditioned water.

Temperature of the new water should be the same as that in the tank, as fish are cold-blooded, a slight change in water temperature can cause stress and disease.

If you are on a budget, you won’t find a better fish tank than this one. Especially because it comes in a kit, containing most of the things you need.

However, I would not recommend this size to beginners, as there is a lot of maintenance work involved.

Bigger tanks are more stable and can survive beginner’s mistakes easily. Just do your own research and do not rely solely on the advice from the pet store.

Let us know in the comment section below.

That being said, did you start fish-keeping with your 10 gallon tank?

Good luck with setting up of your 10 gallon aquarium!


How big is a 10 gallon fish tank?

10 gallon fish tanks are rather small. Their dimensions usually vary depending on their shape, but typically they measure around 20*10*12 inches.

How heavy can it get?

These tanks normally weigh about 11 pounds when empty, and can reach upto 110 pounds when water is added. The weight might increase further, depending on the decorations and fish you choose to go for.

Is it easy to maintain a 10 gallon aquarium?

A 10 gallon aquarium requires less amount of water, however, the low water volume makes it difficult to maintain the quality overtime, compared to larger tanks. Consequently, they need to be maintained more frequently.


[Revised and Updated for July, 2019]
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Written by Debra Hutchinson, founder of FishXperts

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