How Many Cichlids in a 10 Gallon Tank? Find Out Answer!

how many cichlids in a 10 gallon tank

Most cichlids are semi to entirely aggressive toward each other and even other species. Such characteristics are why they always require more space than other fish.

A 10-gallon fish tank is surely not a good aquarium for cichlids. It’s too small to provide spacious and comfortable space for most cichlid species to grow and swim.

How many cichlids in a 10 gallon tank? Following the thumb rule, there is 1 inch of adult cichlid fish for 2 gallons of water, which means you can have 5 inches of cichlid in a 10-gallon tank. The average size of this fish species is around 4-6 inches, so you can keep only 1 cichlid for 10 gallons.

Let’s keep reading to find out what kind of cichlids you can house in that little aquarium!

How Many Cichlids Can Be in a 10 Gallon Tank?


The number of cichlids you keep in your 10-gallon tank will depend highly on the specific cichlid. In general, you can have only one adult female cichlid less than 3 inches in a 10-gallon aquarium.

It’s fine to have some baby cichlids in a 10-gallon tank at first. But when they fully grow and reach 4-5 inches in length, you should upgrade your tank to at least 30 gallons to let your fish swim freely.

And if you want to have some cichlids and decorate your aquarium with plants and other accessories, a 55-gallon tank is necessary for your fish to get enough space to live healthily.

In general, the 10-gallon tank is not suited to keep cichlids. They are well known as aggressive species requiring more space to swim than others.

So, if you still want to keep a cichlid in that little tank, try to find one as small as possible. If not, their growth may be stopped because of insufficient space, no matter how nutritious food you offer.

Equipment You Might Need for Your 10-gallon Tank


You may have a little understanding about stocking cichlids for 10 gallon tank. Let’s go over what equipment you might need for the cichlids aquarium setup!

Here is some basic equipment that you will need to set up a 10-gallon aquarium:

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  • An aquarium heater: An aquarium heater generally warms up and creates a suitable water temperature for your fish.
  • A gravel cleaner: A gravel cleaner will help you remove dirt and fish waste from the bottom of the tank.
  • A filter: A powerful filtration system can help purify water, remove toxins, and aerate the water.
  • A fish tank magnet cleaner: Use a fish tank magnet cleaner to clean and remove algae from the glass of the aquarium inside without getting your hands wet.
  • API freshwater master test kit: Check some parameters such as pH, Ammonia level, and Nitrite and Nitrate level.


Other accessories:

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  • Airstone
  • Aquarium substrates
  • LED light


Types of Small Cichlids for a 10-gallon Tank

Some little cichlids species can be housed in a 10-gallon aquarium such as Shell Dwellers and Dwarf Cichlids. Let’s get to know them more.

1. Shell dwellers


Shell dwellers originated from Lake Tanganyika, and most of them only reach 2.5 inches at max. With this small body, you can have 2 pairs in a 10-gallon aquarium.

Here are some of the most common Shell dwellers you can find in the market.

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  • Neolamprologus Brevis
  • Lamprologus Ocellatus
  • Neolamprologus Similis
  • Multies (Neolamprologus Multifasciatus)


Following this list, Multies and Neolamprologus Similis can live in a 10-gallon cichlid tank quite comfortably. On the other hand, Ocellatus and Brevis should be kept in a larger tank like a 15 gallon tank.

In fact, they still can live in 10 gallons, but the larger, the happier they are. And if you want to have some tankmates, you will need to upgrade to at least a 25 gallon tank.

2. Dwarf Cichlid


“Dwarf cichlid” is an unofficial term to describe cichlid species smaller than 4 inches including Ram cichlids. This body feature makes them one of the best cichlids for a 10-gallon tank.

However, 10 gallons are still not large enough to keep more than 3 Dwarf cichlids less than 3 inches.

They are very beautiful with a wide range of colors. Unlike other kinds of cichlids, Dwarf cichlids are much more peaceful and really suitable to be kept in a community tank. They only show some aggressive behaviors when spawning.

Tetras and Angelfish are such good additions. Here are some of the best South American Dwarf Cichlids for a 10-gallon aquarium, let’s take a look!

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  • Ram Cichlid Mikrogeophagus ramirezi
  • Mikrogeophagus altispinosus
  • Agassizi Cichlid Apistogramma agassizii
  • Apistogramma cacatuoides


Can You Keep Cichlids in a 10-gallon?


Of course, you can keep cichlids in a 10-gallon tank. Some small Cichlid species can fit in a 10-gallon aquarium, such as Dwarf Cichlid and Shell Dwellers. Most of them are less than 4 inches.

However, raising cichlids in a larger tank is advisable for the best growth of cichlids and other particular reasons.

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  • Lack of space: 10-gallon tanks are just too small for some cichlids species to swim and grow normally. In addition, insufficient space is the main reason that leads to the fighting between all the fish species in your tank.
  • Cichlid’s nature: Most cichlids are aggressive and prefer to live in a large tank.
  • Cichlid’s growth: In general, a little small cichlid less than 3 inches can live in a 10-gallon tank, but can not grow as naturally because a 10-gallon tank is not a standard one to keep this species. A 40-gallon tank will do better.


If you still want to keep some cichlids in this super small tank after reading this, Lake Tanganyikan shell dwellers, maybe the best choice for a 10-gallon aquarium.

Most of them are tiny that are no larger than 2.5 inches. So, you can have 1 pair of males and 1 pair of females of Tanganyika shell dwellers.


Setting up your 10 gallon cichlid tank

Since both Shell Dwellers and Dwarf Cichlids can fit best in a 10-gallon aquarium, you should set up your tank condition to suit them best.

Dwarf Cichlids, for example, tend to live in soft water with many plants, caves, and rocks.

All the parameters, including temperature, ammonia, nitrite, and pH, also should be set up and checked regularly for fish health.

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  • pH level: for Victorian and Malawai Cichlids: 7.4 – 7.9, and for Tanganyikan African Cichlids: 8.3-9.3.
  • Nitrite level: 0-0.25 ppm (preferably 0)
  • Temperature: 78 – 82 °F (lower than 74 °F will be a tad too cold)


Other things that need to be considered include tank equipment such as strong filters, aquarium sand substrate, bubbler, and LED lights.

What is the minimum tank size for a cichlid?

The 30-gallon tank is the minimum tank size for cichlids. There are up to 1300 cichlid species in the world. Some of them can reach 8 inches when fully grown.

The most well-known feature of cichlids is aggression. Some of them are also territorial. Those characteristics are the main reason why they require more space than other fish species.

In addition, keeping cichlids in a 10 or 20 gallon tank may inhibit the growth of fish as they are active and play a lot. Therefore, it is recommended to purchase a tank with a capacity of 30 gallons or more to raise your cichlids.

Which cichlids cannot live in a 10 gallon tank?

While this should go without saying most Cichlids are large-bodied and aggressive fish. Keeping these cichlid species in a 10-gallon small tank will both boost the possibility of aggression and the ratio of fish dying due to the lack of space.

Only a few of them including Dwarf Cichlids and Shell Dwellers with really small numbers can live in this little tank.

And here are some cichlids that should never be kept in a 10-gallon aquarium.

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  • Aulonocara (4-6 inches)
  • Angelfish (6-8 inches)
  • Peacock cichlid (4-6 inches)
  • Jack Dempsey (12 inches)
  • Firemouth (6-7 inches)


In general, cichlids that are bigger than 3 inches should not be in 10-gallon tanks!


How many cichlids in a 10 gallon tank? Ideally, there can be ideally a pair of cichlids smaller than 3 inches in a 10-gallon tank. However, it is recommended to keep this fish species in at least 30 gallons for them to grow naturally.

Obviously, each species of cichlid with different sizes will have different requirements. Cichlid keepers should always do some deep research before releasing any fish into the tank.