How To Set Up A 10 Gallon Fish Tank (A Beginners Guide)

One of the most popular aquariums for people to buy is a 10-gallon fish tank. The small size makes it perfect if you’re on an extremely tight budget or are looking to get started with your very first aquarium setup. There’s no need to worry about outgrowing this beginner setup as well!

One of the most significant benefits that make a 10-gallon aquarium appealing for beginners is its compact nature and affordability – even better than some starter tanks at larger sizes.

It also doesn’t take much time before they can be ready to add more features like live plants, gravel substrate (or sand), additional decorations…the list goes on!

I’ve seen 10-gallon aquariums become the best choice for many beginners for their compact size and affordability. And another reason why people choose these tanks is – many of them are available as all-in-one tanks; they come with all accessories necessary. In addition, you can place a 10-gallon size aquarium almost anywhere.

Still, if you’re just starting, I highly recommend considering something bigger like at least a 20-Gallon tank since these tanks tend to require less maintenance than smaller ones do, such as weekly water changes or filter replacements.

So, setting up a 10-gallon fish tank might be a little tricky to maintain correctly, and I am writing today about how to set up a 10-gallon fish tank to make your job easier! Keep reading.

Things To Know About A 10 Gallon Fish Tank

You should primarily consider four things before purchasing a 10-gallon tank. They are – tank dimensions, weight, material, and cost. All these points are discussed below:

Dimensions of A 10-Gallon Fish Tank

There are many different dimensions for tanks, from a standard 10-gallon tank to something nearly 2 feet deep. Some fish might prefer the depth of their home, whereas others would feel more at ease in shallow waters with plenty of surface area and light penetration.

The standard dimensions of a 10-gallon tank are – 20″ x10″ x12″ (LxWxH). And some other standard dimensions are – 20.25″ x 10.5″ x 13.3″, and taller ones like 11.8″ x 11.6″ x 17″. 

How Much Does A 10 Gallon Tank Weigh

Your fish tank can weigh between 110 to 115 pounds. You need to know what your stand or furniture will support before making the purchase and placing it on them!

How much a 10-gallon tank weigh

The weight of an aquarium can change dramatically depending on what you put in it. For example, a 10 lb tank that is empty with just water can weigh more than 90 lbs when filled! (One gallon of freshwater weighs around 8.34 lbs.)

There are many different types of substrates to consider when building or buying a fish tank. Gravel, aqua soils, and other materials all have their own unique weight that will influence the amount of water displaced in your aquarium, thus the final weight.

Cost of A 10-Gallon Fish Tank

You can get started at the low end of the spectrum by picking up a simple aquarium tank from any pet supply store in town or online shop – these will cost anywhere from $15-$50 depending on size and quality.

How much a 10-gallon tank cost

However, if you want to have the whole experience with all of its bells and whistles, then prepare yourself for a more expensive ride. A complete 10-gallon fish tank will cost much more when adding the gravel, a good filter, lighting, and conditioners. These are just some of the things that prepare for an aquarium. 

If you go the easy way with a starter kit, it will cost $100 to 400$. However, if you choose the DIY route, it’ll cost you about $150 – $200, and that will buy everything for your tank, including the stand or base.

Fish and food are two separate expenses, but it’s important to note that this doesn’t include costs like conditioning or cleaning supplies which would be considered running expenses in your new pet project.

Materials Of Construction

The two most common materials used for making a fish tank are glass and high-strength acrylic. 

Material of Construction of 10-gallon tank

Glass tanks provide an elegant look, but they can be heavier to move around than their acrylic counterparts. However, it is okay if you want your aquarium in one place all the time or just need it as decoration at home on top of furniture without any worry about them falling over.

Acrylics are hardy enough so they won’t break when dropped onto concrete. But acrylic fish tanks tend yellow over time depending on how often it’s cleaned-the less frequently; the worse off things get due to residue left behind by algae particles blocking light rays from passing through properly. In addition, acrylic tanks are costlier!

10 Gallon Fish Tank All-In-One Starter Kits

A starter kit is a budget-friendly way to get everything you need for your aquarium and start raising fish right away. However, the kits come with most of the equipment that an aquarist would use.

There are many all-in-one aquarium kits in the market. However, when picking one, all beginners have to research which type of fish they want before choosing a suitable starter kit.

What Items Make An Excellent 10-Gallon Starter Kit?

A good filter and media: The smaller the tank, the more toxic it can become. A Filter is essential to keep your fish safe from these toxins! A three-stage filtration system is ideal. 

Ensure you include spare media for quick replacement, which will save time when cleaning out a messy environment in case of an emergency.

A heater: Different fish species have different heating requirements, and a heater is a key to every starter kit. The ideal temperature for most fish ranges from 76° to 80°F (25° to 27°C). 

In colder temperatures, fish are more susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections. So, the starter kit should include a suitable heater.

An excellent starter kit may include the items

The substrate: A substrate is a substance covering the bottom of an aquarium. You need to choose what type you want, whether it be gravel or sand, that will depend on your fish and their needs.

Some starter kits provide substrate matter (typically gravel) with the box.

Lighting: Aquarium fish are more than just a decoration in your home. They require the proper lighting to thrive and look beautiful, which is why it’s important not to skimp on this essential when you’re buying a new aquarium kit.

Additionally, if you want to keep a few live plants in your tank, adequate lighting is a must.

Décor: Adding a variety of decorative items keeps fish happy, active, and healthy. In addition, it makes your aquarium visually appealing.

Starter kits may come with one or two decorative items to enhance their beauty.

Water testing kits: A water testing kit is a fundamental tool for aquarium hobbyists to test and monitor their tanks accurately. As fish tanks are subjected to different elements, such as salt or acidic substances, owners must know how much of these chemicals have been added so they can adjust accordingly by adding more pH buffer if necessary. 

The basic kits provide testers for hardness and other elements, including nitrates, indicating possible algae growth in your tank!

Water conditioner: Fish need water that is of the right softness and pH. If your tap water does not meet this, you will need to use a conditioner before adding water into the aquarium. This helps and makes sure they are in optimal comfort for their own health!

Fishnet: When you clean your fish tank, it will be a lot easier to move the fish with this nifty net. Some starter kits come with fishnets. 

Fish food: Not a good idea! Even if you were going to get food with your starter kit, there’s no way the manufacturer could know what type of fish you are planning on keeping. You should just buy some from a local store.

Should I Buy A Starter kit?

A starter kit is perfect for beginners who want to keep fish as a hobby without investing too much time in preparations and research. It will give you an easy way to keep and maintain your tank without the hassle!

On the other hand, instead of purchasing a starter kit from the store, you can research how to prepare and design an aquarium. Building it yourself will give you insights into fish needs and allow for creativity in designing something tailored specifically to them!

So the answer to the question is – it depends!

Essential Equipment To Set Up A 10 Gallon Fish Tank

If you decide to set up your DIY aquarium instead of purchasing an all-in-one starter kit, you will need the following items with your fish tank. 

Filtration System

An aquarium is a small aquatic ecosystem that is the most diverse and prolific of all habitats. Their functional complexity is unparalleled in terms of number and type, which means that they present some unique challenges for aquarists as well! 

An ideal filter should include – biological, mechanical, and chemical filtration. 

The first thing an efficient filter will help with – is providing biological filtration. A good biological filter comes with a greater surface area for your beneficial bacteria to grow on so it can start breaking down toxic ammonia into nitrites or harmless nitrogen gas before converting those same compounds again into nitrates. 

Chemical filtration offers chemical adsorption capabilities by allowing water pockets within their porous structure to trap organic materials.

There are many different options available when selecting a filtration system; hang-on-back filters provide excellent mechanical removal. Sponge filters or undergravel filters also have their unique benefits. You have to understand your need and pick the right one! 

Read more: Best Filter For 10 Gallon Tank – A Complete Buying Guide.


One important piece that goes into every setup is heaters which come in different sizes to match your tank size.

A 10-gallon tank generally doesn’t require anything higher than 50 Watts; however, some tanks can get extra chilly during winter months, so 100 watts might be necessary to heat them adequately! 

Be sure to consider how much electricity they use when considering wattage and where we live as the climate will affect whether or not our heater produces enough warmth.

A heater equipped with a thermometer for real-time temperature monitoring is proven to be very useful for fish tanks.

Read more: 


Lights are a necessary accessory for fish tanks. They make your fish look beautiful, and they’re even more important if you have live plants in the tank. Plants need light to grow food.

Nowadays, LED lights are the most popular choice for fishtanks. However, lights cost anywhere from $10-$120 depending on function, remote control features, or other options that come with it.

Read more: 


The substrate in a tank provides the perfect surface for beneficial bacteria to grow and makes it an ideal place for aquatic plants and animals. 

Aquatic bottom feeders love scavenging on top of this porous material, while others like burrowing underneath, creating new hiding spots that benefit them all.

Most people prefer gravel as the primary substrate. It’s easy to clean and doesn’t shift around like sand or soil, but it can be a little rough on fish fins. However, sands or soils as the substrate is also popular choices.

As a beginner, you may have confusion on how much gravel you need to purchase. Typically you’ll need 15 pounds for a 10-gallon tank.

You can buy a sufficient amount of good quality substrate matter within $20.

Read more: The 10 Best Substrate for Planted Tanks

Air Pumps

Air pumps and bubblers are not essential parts of a fish tank, but many people still find them useful.

Air pumps, in particular, promote surface agitation, which helps oxygen enter into the water, while bubbles often provide improved gas circulation throughout the tank.

Oxygenation of the water combats carbon dioxide buildup, which is harmful to your fishes’ health. 

You can get an air pump for about $12 – you won’t be sorry! You can also read my article on
how to add oxygen to a fish tank


Decorations are essential to enhance the beauty of your fish tank. Aesthetically pleasing aquariums are really mind-refreshing to watch. So, décors play a vital role.

The perfect mix of plants and rocks is the best natural décor for any fish tank. Additionally, you can choose small toys, structures, or items where fish can hide.

Be careful not to overcrowd your Fish tank with decorations – make sure you have enough room for all of the fish in their natural habitat!


Remember that your 10-gallon tank won’t just be filled with water; it may also contain tons of heavy decorations and gravel! So, a complete tank might weigh around 100 pounds or more.

So, if you don’t have a suitable table or desk to place the tank, plan for a stand. 

A sturdy stand for your 10-gallon fish tank will cost around $75. But the setup for a larger and heavier aquarium will be more stable. So make sure to choose one which can hold at least 150 pounds!

Lids & Covers

Some of the fish tanks come with lids for the top to protect the tank’s inhabitants! But if you don’t have a cover on your fish tank, there are many things you can do about it. 

You could get an acrylic cover which is an easy-to-clean plastic material. However, wood, plastic, or glass covers also work, and none of them would cost more than $20.


Having live plants in the aquarium is an excellent idea! Live plants can help mitigate the toxicity of waste, and they provide a pleasing aesthetic that brings you joy. 

Apart from your aesthetic pleasure, live plants promote a healthy environment for fish because they remove ammonia along with nitrates and CO2 through their natural process. 

Since beginners often use 10-gallon tanks, I will suggest growing plants like Java moss, Java Fern, Amazon swords, and Anacharis as they are easy to maintain. They can also add exciting fish or invertebrates for an added touch of creativity!

You will get more resources in my info & care guide section for plants!


With additional equipment such as protein skimmers, carbon dioxide diffusers, and a UV sterilizer, you can enjoy your hobby more.

There are tons of ways to set up these aquatic environments. Still, some equipment can help make life easier when managing waste management, like protein skimmers that filter out water impurities. 

You’ll also find other specialized gear available, including automatic feeders; just take care not to let them overfeed your pets because this could cause more harm than good. 

Read more: 

How To Set Up A 10 Gallon Fish Tank

After you have all the necessary equipment and decor ready to go, it’s time to start setting up your 10-gallon fish tank. The process begins with unboxing items and completes with adding fish. 

1) Unboxing Items

The first step in setting up your 10-gallon fish tank is to unbox all the new aquarium gear you bought. You will need a new ten-gallon glass aquarium, gravel for substrate, filter and air pump kit with hose tubing or airline tube connections (depending on which type of filtration system), decorations like plastic plants, rocks, or other décor items.

Do the task carefully so that you don’t damage anything. But before everything, you need to make a plan about – where you will put your aquarium setup.

2) Placement Of Fish Tank

You will need a table, desk, or a stand to place your fish tank.

You want a flat surface that is level and stable since the stand will be holding all of its weight when it’s full (and water-heavy). 

Step-2 Placement of the fish tank

Avoid placing on top of or near any windows if possible because sunlight can cause problems with algae growth in tanks as well as dust particles from outdoors getting inside.

Be mindful to place it near electrical outlets and water supply, and select a place where maintenance will be convenient.

3) Preparation Of The Substrate

Preparation of the substrate takes some effort, but you need to do it properly. Poor substrate preparation can result in cloudy aquarium water.

Wash the substrate:

There are two main types of substrate that people use for their aquariums, sand or gravel. Both can have their pros and cons, but it is important to clean them correctly in order to keep your fish happy! 

Step-3 Substrate preparation

The best way I found to wash gravel was a colander- put them in it and start pouring water on top until clean water comes out from the bottom. This will wash away any remaining dirt particles and debris!

Sand requires more work as it often sticks together when wet. So take them in a bucket, and you can save yourself the trouble of washing sand off your hands by burying a water hose in it. Fill up to almost the top with water, then shake and stir until you see all that dirt come out. Drain all the water when it becomes clear.

Place the substrate:

Make sure your substrate is even at the top to make for an aesthetically pleasing underwater view. Most substrates only need about one inch deep in order to keep them clean and healthy.

 But you can make a deeper sand layer on the bottom that can be used as a hiding space if you are keeping some types of bottom-feeder fish who prefer that type of habitat.

4) Add Necessary Equipment

Next, add the filter unit and heater to keep the fish tank clean and warm for your aquatic friends while they swim around. 

The most common aquarium filter type is the hang-on-back (HOB), with just a suction tube in the water. However, sponge filters are also a good choice for 10-gallon tanks.

Step-4 Install necessary equipment

If you use a submersible heater unit, it needs to be fully submerged underwater.

If you use an air pump, place the air stone or diffuser in a suitable place so that air distribution can be uniform throughout the entire tank.

Last but not least, make sure that all electrical components are correctly connected before plugging them into electricity to avoid any potential accidents.

5) Decorate

It is the creative stage of setting up a fish tank. Now that you have your substrate, filter, and heater in place, it’s time to make this thing look awesome! You can decorate with small rocks or driftwood and add plants if desired.

Step-5 Decorate the aquarium

In addition to all those fun things, though, there are some other options- like adding backgrounds on one side of the aquarium, so they create an underwater scene instead of just glass walls.

The more interesting we make our tanks, the happier our fish will be living in them !!!

6) Fill With Water And Check 

You can use tap water but ensure it is free from all sorts of chlorine compounds! If your tap water hardness is too high, it is better to use RO water for the aquarium. (You can read my article on – How To Soften Aquarium Water In 6 Steps)

Step-6 Fill the tank with water

Fill the fish tank with water slowly to make sure it is leak-free. First, fill half of the tank and check for any leaks before proceeding further. If there’s a leakage at this stage, then replace it as quickly as possible because accepting a leaky tank will lead you to more problems in the future.

Now you can check all the power equipment (filter, heater, pump) by turning them on. Once all components have been installed according to manufacturers’ instructions, turn them on one by one.

7) Cycle The Tank

Cycling your aquarium means growing the right kind of beneficial bacteria that will break down wastes like fish poops or food leftovers.

Step-7 Cycle the tank

Aquariums produce ammonia, a toxic substance that can cause harm if not dealt with in time. The nitrogen cycle aids the decomposition of this chemical into nitrates, which are much less harmful than ammonia and nitrites. This process is crucial for aquarium maintenance because it protects your fish from trouble-causing toxins!

Beneficial bacteria carry out the nitrogen cycle, so you cycle your tank means – you allow time to grow and colonize those good friends! The filter media and the substrate bed are the most suitable house for good bacteria. 

There are three standard techniques for cycling a fish tank:

  • Fishless Cycling
  • Fish-In Cycling
  • Cycling With Plants

I will suggest reading my article – Nitrogen Cycle In A Fish Tank – What It Is And How To Cycle A Fish Tank. I hope it will help you. 

The cycling process may take up to four weeks, and you have to keep testing water to check ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels until the process is completed.

When Do I Know My Tank Is Cycled?

  • The ammonia level becomes zero.
  • The nitrite level downs to zero.
  • The nitrate level is increased and stayed steady. (The ideal Nitrate level in a fish tank is below 40 mg/l. If nitrate level rises further, perform water changes.)

8) Add Fish

It is exciting when you first add a new member of the family. You want to make them feel welcome! The Fish are coming! 

Step-8 Add fish

You want to make sure the new additions have a safe and healthy transition into their new home. The most important thing is that your tank’s water temperature matches theirs, but it can take up to twenty minutes for them both to adjust. 

Place the bag in your tank for 20 minutes before taking fish out of the package with a fishnet and putting them in the tank’s water.

Once your tank is established and adding new fish to it, I suggest using a quarantine tank before putting them into the main tank.

Now the question is – how many fish will you add? Fishkeeping is a hobby that many people enjoy, and sometimes it can be hard to resist the urge to stock up on colorful fish. But at what cost? 

Overstocking has been shown to lead to higher mortality rates in new aquariums due to water quality deterioration from toxicity buildup.

You can read my article that provides a stocking guide – How many fish per gallon?

How To Clean A 10-Gallon Tank?

Maintaining your fish tank is just as important as setting it up the right way. Proper cleaning of 10-gallon tanks means a partial water change at least once every week, and regular siphoning off or scrubbing away decaying food from the substrate can keep this ecosystem clean.

I have three article suggestions to do these jobs perfectly. 

Read more:

What Fish Are Suitable For A 10-Gallon Tank?

Fish are a popular pet to keep, and many of them will do well in your 10-gallon aquarium. 

Guppy’s perfect for new fish owners that don’t want something too large or aggressive like the Oscar Fish. 

Betta Fish require very little care but need at least 1 gallon per inch of length, so they’re not great for small tanks unless you plan on making frequent water changes

Cory Catfish is an inexpensive option if you’d prefer bottom feeders with no requirements other than clean food (which means less work!). 

Platy can be easily bred, making it great as long as there’s enough room since females grow much larger than males during pregnancy. 

Honey Gouramis have been known to live up to 5 years, and there are many more species on the list. 

So read my article – Best Fish For 10 Gallon Tank – A Stocking Guide For Newbies.

Stocking Ideas For 10-Gallon Tanks

Here I come up with some stocking ideas for a 10-gallon tank:

  • One Betta+ 2-3 Dwarf Corydoras
  • 2 guppies (male) + 2 Cory Catfish
  • 2 Neon Tetras + 2-3 Platies
  • 2 Celestial Pearl Danios + 2-3 Mollies

You can get more ideas from the video: 

Final Words

There are many reasons why someone would want a 10-gallon tank, but beginners might prefer them for their smaller size and cost. 

These tanks can be used to house small fish or as breeding tanks, among other uses. A beginner will likely enjoy the different options available when setting up this aquarium because there is something for everyone!

I hope my article will help you to set up your 10-gallon aquarium! Your opinions and comments are highly appreciated. Please put your thoughts below in the comment box. 

Dipan Shaw

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