Best Cichlids For 10 Gallon Tank – Top Species Guide REDDIT

In this article, we’ll show you show some really cool ideas for keeping Cichlids in a 10-gallon tank.

10 gallon tanks are small and you may not think about Cichlids as an option for small tanks but you do have some choices.

Most people see Cichlids as large aggressive fish that require lots of room to swim and become kings of their own little territory that they will defend to the death and while this is mostly true many small and peaceful Cichlids can be kept in small tanks as well as a community setup.

The trick to keeping Cichlids in smaller tanks is to provide them with lots of hiding options by using plants, rocks, and shells this allows them to feel secure and still master their domain.

At the end of this post, we will show you some great Cichlid tank ideas you can use to set up your own 10-gallon tank.

Equipment You Might Need For Your 10 Gallon Tank

  1. Aqueon 10 Gallon Fish Tank Kit
  2. Fluval M Aquarium Heater
  3. Python Pro-Clean Gravel Vacuum
  4. Marina Algae Magnet Cleaner
  5. API Freshwater Master Test Kit

Before we go any further let’s address two questions;

1. Can Cichlids Live In A 10 Gallon Tank?

Yes, there are a few Cichlids that can live in a 10-gallon tank provided you provide the minimum requirements your Cichlid requires.

A few Cichlids you may want to try are Ram cichlids and Shell Dwellers like the Brevis Cichlid.

We’ll get into each fish below.

2. How Many Cichlids Can Live In A 10 Gallon Tank?

How many Cichlids you can keep will depend highly on the type of cichlid you keep in your 10-gallon tank.

That said in most cases you’ll want to keep 1-3 in a tank this size as even small Dwarf Cichlids can grow to almost 3” in size. However, a 10-gallon tank is pushing the limit and a 20-gallon tank would be much more accommodating for the fish.

Now that you understand you do a few Cichlid options for your 10-gallon tank let’s go over a few stocking options for your 10-gallon Cichlids tank.

Types of Small Cichlids for a 10-gallon tank

Dwarf Cichlids

While Dwarf Cichlids are not an official classification the term is used by most hobbyists to classify these small Cichlids. They are typically found in South American and West Africa. Most hobbyists agree that anything smaller than 4” would fall into this group of fish.

Dwarf Cichlids are typically found in soft acid waters (Ph4 to 7) but always ensure you do some research before setting up your cichlids tank.

While there are many Dwarf Cichlids to choose from we have listed only a few popular options below.

Shell Dwellers

These small Cichlids are from Lake Tanganyika and love to live and hide in little shells stacked upon one another. In most cases, you could keep around 4-8 of them in a 10-gallon tank.

Keep in mind that these little guys love shells so plants may not be an option, just look for little shells at your Local Fish Store and stack them on top of each other. They also like to dig so some gravel and small rocks would be beneficial.

Here are 4 shell dwellers you could try;

  • Neolamprologus brevis

  • Lamprologus ocellatus

  • Neolamprologus hecqui

  • Neolamprologus multifasciatus

South American Dwarf Cichlids

Most of these Cichlids are beautifully colored and very peaceful suitable for community tanks. The Dwarf Cichlids can be found all over South and Central America spanning from the savannas to the rainforests. The range of biotopes found in this area can be comprised of clear waters, white water, and blackwater.

In most cases, the water parameters in these areas will be soft acidic.

Here are a few beautiful South American Dwarf Cichlids for your small tank;

  • Ram Cichlid Mikrogeophagus ramirezi

  • Bolivian Ram Mikrogeophagus altispinosus

  • Agassizi Cichlid Apistogramma agassizii

  • Cockatoo Cichlid Apistogramma cacatuoides

  • Borelli’s Apistogramma

  • Panda Dwarf Cichlid Apistogramma nijsseni

Cichlids That Should Never Be Kept In Small Tanks

While this should go without saying always do your research before you place a fish into a tank smaller than 10 gallons. Tanks this size are more complicated to maintain for the average person and water parameter swings can happen quickly and sensitive fish may not survive these swings.

Since most Cichlids are large, aggressive and territorial fish, placing these types of fish in small tanks will not only increase the likelihood of aggression there simply isn’t enough space and water in the tank to provide what these fish require.

Even with the Dwarf Cichlids listed above a 10-gallon tank is pushing the limit and a 20-gallon tank would be much more accommodating for these fish.

That said, I wanted to give just a few examples of the types of Cichlids you don’t want to keep in your 10-gallon tank but there are simply too many to list but here are a few;

  • Any large and aggressive cichlid species
  • Almost all African Cichlids (excluding some shell dwellers.)
  • Peacock cichlid tank
  • Jack Dempsey
  • Wolf
  • Firemouth
  • Convict cichlids

And on…And on…And on….

Setting Up Your 10 Gallon Cichlid Tank

Since most Dwarf Cichlids prefer soft water (always do research) you’ll want to ensure the water in your tank is soft.

Excluding the shell dwellers, most other Dwarf Cichlids will appreciate a heavily planted tank with lots of caves and smooth rocks which if your parameters are right will encourage some breeding.

Other than that the typical pieces of equipment like filters, lights and substrate will be required for your set up. If you would like to see how to set up a planted tank check out my post on setting up a 10-gallon planted tank.

Or if you want to set up something more challenging like an amazon biotope aquarium check out my guide on the Amazonian aquarium where you’ll see how to set up clear, white and blackwater set up.

Above all, each Cichlid species has its unique requirements and you should do some due diligence before setting up your tank.

You Can Copy These 10 Gallon Cichlid Tank Ideas

Bolivian Ram Tank Ideas

Bolivian Rams

Shell Dwelling Cichlid Tanks


Blackwater Apistogramma Tank

Apistogramma sp. "Black-Chin/Schwarzkinn"

What Is The Best Cichlid For A 10 Gallon Tank?

In my opinion I like most of the shell dwellers, while they may not be as colorful as some of the South American Dwarf Cichlids you’ll be able to have a larger community of them and they have great little personalities…if you can find them, they do like to hide in their shells a lot.

However, if I had to pick another option I like the Bolivian Ram! it’s a bit hardier than the Blue Ram so it can likely handle the water parameter swings you may see in a small tank.

You could keep a nice breeding pair with lot’s of plants a few other small tank mates for a stunning little 10 gallon planted tank.

Cichlids for a 10-Gallon Tank: Choosing the Right Tank Size and More

If you’re considering keeping cichlids in your aquarium, it’s essential to make informed decisions about tank size, compatibility, water quality, and more. This article will guide you through the key factors to consider when setting up and maintaining a 10-gallon cichlid tank.

Choosing the Right Tank Size

The tank size is a critical factor when selecting cichlids for your aquarium. While a 10-gallon tank is suitable for small cichlid species, it’s important to recognize that some cichlids, like the Convict Cichlid, can outgrow this space. For larger cichlid species, it’s advisable to upgrade to a 55-gallon tank or larger to provide the necessary space for their well-being.

Cichlids in a Community Tank

Introducing cichlids to a community tank can be a good idea, especially when dealing with smaller cichlid species. Choose cichlid species known for their peaceful nature, such as German Blue Rams or Keyhole Cichlids, to ensure harmony in your aquarium. However, always monitor their compatibility with other small fish to prevent aggressive behavior.

Water Quality and Maintenance

Maintaining excellent water quality is vital for the health of your cichlids. Regular water changes and the use of a good filtration system are essential for keeping the water clean and stable. Some cichlid species, like the Electric Blue Acara, are sensitive to water conditions, so be sure to monitor parameters like pHhardness, and temperature.

Adding Live Plants

Live plants can be a wonderful addition to your 10-gallon cichlid tank. They not only enhance the aesthetics but also provide hiding places and contribute to water quality. Consider adding species like Ember Tetras, which are small and can coexist peacefully with cichlids while adding a touch of greenery to your aquarium.

Cichlid Varieties and Compatibility

There is a wide range of cichlid species to choose from, each with unique characteristics and requirements. It’s crucial to research the specific needs and compatibility of different cichlid varieties before adding them to your tank. For example, South American Cichlids like the Keyhole Cichlid and Apistogramma species are generally good choices for a 10-gallon tank due to their smaller size and peaceful temperament.

Creating Ideal Hiding Places

Cichlids can be territorial, and providing plenty of hiding places in your aquarium is essential to reduce aggression and stress. Use rockscaves, and driftwood to create hiding spots for your cichlids. This mimics their natural habitat and makes them feel more secure in your tank.

Feeding Your Cichlids

Cichlids have diverse dietary preferences. To meet their nutritional needs, offer a variety of foods, including high-quality pelletsfreeze-dried foods, and even live or frozen options. Understanding the dietary requirements of your specific cichlid species is essential for their health and well-being.

Upgrading to a Larger Tank

As your cichlids grow, you may find that a 10-gallon tank becomes too small to accommodate their needs. In such cases, consider transitioning them to a larger tank, especially if you have cichlids known for their larger size and territorial behavior, such as Green Terrors and Peacock Cichlids. A larger tank provides more space and reduces aggression, ensuring the well-being of your cichlids.

By following these guidelines and considering factors like tank size, compatibility, and water quality, you can create a thriving cichlid community in your 10-gallon aquarium. Whether you’re a beginner aquarist or an experienced hobbyist, these insights will help you make the best choices for your cichlid fishkeeping journey.

More Info About 10-Gallon Tanks

  1. Guide to Setting up Your 10-Gallon Planted Tank
  2. 12 Hungry Algae Eaters For Small Tanks 10 Gallons & Under
  3. Stocking A 10 Gallon Tank
  4. Best Small Catfish for a 10-Gallon Tank Setup
  5. Bottom Feeder Fish for a 10-Gallon Tank
  6. How Much Gravel For A 10 Gallon Tank
  7. How Many Neon Tetras In A 10 Gallon Tank
  8. How Many Guppies in a 10-Gallon Tank
  9. How Many Goldfish in a 10-Gallon Tank
  10. Easy 10-gallon Cichlid Tank Ideas
  11. Best Powerhead for a 10 Gallon Tank
  12. What Is The Best Canister Filter For A 10 Gallon Fish Tank?
  13. Gravel Vacuum For 10 Gallon Tank & Smaller
  14. Best Stands For 10 Gallon Fish Tanks

Learn More About Cichlids

Easy 10 Gallon Cichlid Tank Ideas


Jack Dempsey
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