Best Small Catfish for a 10-Gallon Tank Setup

Estimated read time 7 min read

Catfish are great additions to most community fish tanks. But beware some catfish can grow up to two feet in size and will quickly overtake a 10-gallon tank.

The problem is many catfish sold in stores are only a few weeks, maybe months old and far from full grown.

As a beginner, unless you know your catfish species really well you may accidentally purchase a common pleco catfish.

Imagine this…You get home with your small common pleco only about 1” in size add it to your 10-gallon tank.

Then, over the course of the next 12 months, it just keeps getting bigger and bigger eating everything in your tank.

Eventually, you’ll need to find a new home or worse it may die.

“BIG” mistake. Don’t let this happen to you.

Further Reading: Best freshwater aquarium fish


My Two Favorite Little Catfish For Small Tanks

Our List Of 4 Small Catfish For Your 10-Gallon Tank

Lucky for you we’ve found four of the best small catfish for a 10-gallon tank to save you from embarrassment.

Here’s the list.

1. Corydoras Catfish

Corydoras Catfish

Care level: Easy
Max size of fish: 2.5”
Temperature range: 72 – 78 Degrees Fahrenheit
PH range: 7.0 – 7.8

Corydoras catfish are a small, peaceful bottom dwelling catfish that are very social and love to school.

Most cory cats can live just fine alone but do best in groups of 3 or more, which is perfect for a 10-gallon tank.

Cory cats will bring movement and excitement to the bottom of your tank as they dart up to the surface for a gulp of air.

With the many different types of cory cats available
You’ll have a hard time picking just one for your tank.

Here are a few of the most popular Cory Cats:

  • Bandit
  • Albino
  • Bronze
  • Panda
  • Julii
  • Pepper
  • Skunk
  • Three stripe

Can Cory Catfish Live In A 10 Gallon Tank?

Yes, a Corydoras Catfish can live in a 10 gallon up. However, in a 10 gallon tank, you could have a couple of them (3-4) for as long as the tank is heavily filtered and the water quality is good. A 15-20 gallon aquarium would provide a much better environment and better affect their activity levels.

They are social fish and prefer to be in large groups of 6 or more.

How Many Gallons Do Cory Catfish Need?

You will need at least 10-15 gallons for an adult cory catfish to really thirve and about 25 gallons is better.

Cory catfish (especially when they are kept in larger groups rather than as individuals) are very active fish so they need room to swim.

How Many Cory Catfish In A 10 Gallon Tank?

In a 10 gallon tank, you can get away with keeping 2 or 3 cory catfish for a short period of time if the tank is heavily filtered, but it would be preferable to keep them in 15 gallons or more.

2. Otocinclus Catfish

Otocinclus Catfish

Photo Credit: Beer Powered

Care level: Easy
Max size of fish: 2.”
Temperature range: 72 – 79 Degrees Fahrenheit
PH range: 6.8 – 7.5

The Otocinclus catfish is another great catfish for your 10-gallon aquarium.

You may see them called everything from:
Otos, Oto Catfish, Otto Cats, Ottos, Dwarf Suckermouths, Dwarf Oto, Dwarf Ottos, Dwarf Suckers, Algae Scrapers,

Basically, they all mean the same thing.

They are very, sensitive little guys and will do best when added to an established tank.

The Oto will rarely grow larger than two inches but they do like to be kept in a group of at least 3.

They are great little algae eaters feeding on algae growing on any hard surface or plants.

So a heavily planted 10-gallon tank would be ideal for the Oto.

How Many Otocinclus In A 10 Gallon Tank?

There isn’t really enough room in a 10-gallon aquarium for more than two or three Otocinclus.

Many aquarists find that the Otocinclus they have bought quickly die when kept in small numbers, so you should consider this before making your purchase.

Also from my experience, Otto’s poop a lot and can quickly foul a small 10-gallon aquarium if you don’t stay on top of your maintenace.

3. South American Bumblebee Catfish (Microglanis iheringi)

Care level: Easy
Max size of fish: 2.”
Temperature range: 70-77 Degrees Fahrenheit
PH range: 6.5-7.5

The bumblebee catfish is a bit of a push in a 10-gallon tank as most will recommend that one bumblebee catfish should be kept in at least 20 gallons.

That said, it will only be approx 2″ full grown so it should be fine in 10 gallons with lots of hiding places and plants.

This catfish likes to hide in the lower parts of the tank in the roots of plants, driftwood, and rocks. It’s also nocturnal so typically will only come out at night to feed.

Be careful with small fish, as the bumblebee has been known to eat anything that it can fit in its oversized mouth.

So small tetras like the Neon Tetra and rasboras may disappear overnight if you keep them in the same tank.

Its regular diet is sinking pellets, frozen and freeze dried foods.

Overall it has a very quiet and peaceful demeanor great for a 10-gallon tank.

4. Upside-Down Catfish (Synodontis nigriventris)

Upside-Down Catfish

Care level: Easy
Max size of fish: 2-4”
Temperature range: 72 to 79 Degrees Fahrenheit
PH range: 6 to 7.5

The Upsidedown catfish is another option for a 10-gallon tank but you may only be able to keep about 2 of them since they can grow up to be almost four inches.

The upside down catfish is named after the way it swims…upside down. Apparently, this helps them eat easily from the surface of the water.

That said, they can be found swimming normally to eat food from the bottom of the tank.

The best type of tank for the upside down catfish would be well planted with lots of heavy broadleaf plants. Keep driftwood, rocks and caves also provide great places for them to hang out.

The upside catfish is most active in the evening and night.

Catfish To Avoid In 10-Gallon Tanks.

Most of the catfish above will be a good fish for a 10-gallon tank.

However, many beginner fish keepers can mistakingly purchase a few of the catfish below that can not only grow more than two feet in size but are also extremely aggressive not mean for most home aquariums.

Here are a few Catfish to avoid:

  • Shovelnose catfish (max size 40 inches)
  • Red-tailed catfish (max size over 50 inches)
  • Common Pleco (max size over 20 inches)

If I could give you one tip when considering buying a catfish for your aquarium. It’s always doing your research before you buy.

What catfish can live in a 10-gallon tank?

There are many different species of catfish you can keep in your aquarium, but some species can grow up to 12″ in length. Below you’ll find a few smaller species of catfish that are just perfect for a small 10-gallon aquarium.

  • Corydoras Catfish
  • Otocinclus Catfish
  • South American Bumblebee Catfish (Microglanis iheringi)
  • Upside-Down Catfish (Synodontis nigriventris)

How many catfish can I put in a 10-gallon tank?

The number of catfish you can keep in your tank will depend on the species; however, here are a few recommendations for a 10-gallon tank.

  • 2-3 Corydoras Catfish
  • 2-3 Otocinclus Catfish
  • 1 South American Bumblebee Catfish (Microglanis iheringi)
  • 2 Upside-Down Catfish (Synodontis nigriventris)

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

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