Perfect Aquarium Fish For a 5 Gallon Tank

In Tropical Fishby PaulKLeave a Comment

Perfect Aquarium Fish For a 5 Gallon Fish Tank

When beginners first start off in the fishkeeping hobby, they commonly seek out a small aquarium to start with thinking that it would be much easier. A small aquarium is attractive because you can easily put it on a desktop and you don’t have to worry about setting up a larger aquarium with a fish tank stand and get all of the equipment required.

While it is easier to set up a smaller aquarium kit, it’s harder to stock the smaller fish tank and keep the water parameters good and healthy for the fish. Having said that, it can be done.

A smaller 5 to 10-gallon fish tank is often called a nano tank. You’re limited in the type and number of freshwater aquarium fish that you can stock it with.

You need to get aquarium fish that don’t require a lot of room to swim and are hardy so they can withstand variations in water quality. Often these are very small non-schooling fish. You also need a decent aquarium filter to get that water clean. If you don’t, the water gets fouled and the result is dead fish.

Here are the best aquarium fish to stock a 5-gallon fish tank with:

Betta Fish


Care level: Easy
Temperament: Males can become aggressive with other males, so best to get one male only with a few females.
Diet: Omnivore. Both plant and meat
Water Temperature: 75-80 degrees F
Adult Size: 6 inches
Lifespan: 10 years

The betta fish is one of the most beautiful aquarium fish in the hobby. They have long flowing colorful fins that are really nice to look at. They are adept to small spaces, since that is what they’re used to in the wild. They tend to be loners, so you can easily stock your aquarium with just one.

Betta fish come in a wide variety of many beautiful colors depending on the type of tail they have. There are veil tail betta, half-moon tail betta, crowntail betta, plakat betta, double tail betta just to name a few.

Dwarf Pea Puffer

Pea Puffer

Care Level: Intermediate
Temperament: aggressive
Diet: Carnivore. They will require live and frozen foods exclusively. Things like brine shrimp, frozen bloodworms, small shrimp and snails
Water Conditions: 72-82 degrees F – a wide range of pH from 6.4 to 8.2
Adult Size: 1-2 inches
Life Span: 10 years

The dwarf pea puffers are very small, cute, and entertaining fish. You’ll want to keep these by themselves and not with a community of fish, because they can become quite aggressive and territorial towards others. It’s recommended to keep only 1 in a 5-gallon fish tank. Having 2 males will not work because of aggressive behavior.

The males grow to about an inch and have a deeper yellow coloration and dark stripe on their bellies. The females are lighter yellow in color when they mature. Males are more slender than the females who tend to be plumper.

Clown Killifish

Clown Killifish

Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Peaceful
Diet: Carnivore. Tubifex worms and daphnia
Water Conditions: Mid 70s F
Adult Size: 1-1.5 inches
Lifespan: 3-5 years

Clown killifish are a very tiny fish that will add a lot of color to your fish tank. They originate in Africa where they thrive in water holes and streams. They have alternating black and yellow stripes with hints of blue in their tail and dorsal fins. Females are more subdued in color.

Clown killifish are great community fish and don’t bother other types of aquarium fish. These guys like to jump, so a fish tank cover is recommended.

Endler’s Livebearer

Endler’s Livebearer

Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Peaceful
Diet: Omnivore
Water Conditions: 77F to 83F
Adult Size: 1.5 inches
Life Span: 4-5 years

As the name implies, the Endler’s livebearer is a livebearer meaning if you have a male and female present they will reproduce rapidly which may be problematic for a 5-gallon tank. Better to stock all males or all females. These are some of the hardiest fish out there. They can withstand almost any water temperature and water hardness and pH making them great for beginners.

Pearl Danio

Celestial Pearl Danio

Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Peaceful
Diet: Omnivore. They will eat a variety of commercial flake foods, algae wafers, brine shrimp and bloodworms
Water Conditions: 64-74F, pH 6.5-7.0
Adult Size: 2 inches
Lifespan: 5 years

The Celestial Pearl Danio is another very hardy beginner fish. They are the smallest of the Danios and they can live in almost any water conditions. The pearl danios have beautiful blue-violet colors and are fun to watch. They are a schooling fish so best to keep in groups of at least 6.

Bumblebee Goby

Bumblebee Goby

Care Level: Difficult
Temperament: Semi-aggressive
Diet: Carnivore. They will only eat live and frozen foods like brine shrimp and bloodworms.
Water Conditions: 73-79F; pH 6.5-7.5
Adult Size: 1 inch
The Bumblebee Goby is named that because of its coloration. It looks like a little bumblebee. They are a very cute little fish with lots of personality. It may take a while for this fish to come out as they can be shy at first. The bumblebee goby is not necessarily a beginner fish because they are a little picky about what they eat. They’re primarily bottom dwellers, so floating flake food just won’t work.

Males tend to get territorial and somewhat aggressive, so one male and one female is recommended for a small 5-gallon fish tank.

Red Honey Gourami

Honey Gourami

Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Peaceful
Diet: Omnivore.
Water Conditions: 71-82F
Adult Size: 3 inches
Lifespan: 4-8 years

Also called the Sunset Honey Gourami. A very good beginner fish because they are very hardy and peaceful. The honey gourami is known as a labyrinth fish, so they can breathe oxygen from the air above the surface of the water. They have a beautiful yellowish honey-like color. Hence the name. They prefer a densely planted fish tank.

Aquarium Fish Not Recommended For a 5-Gallon Fish Tank

Goldfish – Goldfish are social fish and don’t like to be alone. They simply get too large for a 5-gallon tank. Also, they tend to have a higher bio-load which means they produce a lot more waste than most fish fouling the water quite easily.

Neon Tetra – Neon Tetra are schooling fish that like to be in large groups for safety. There is not enough space to accommodate them.

Most Danio – Danios are another schooling fish that need a lot of room to swim around because they are very active swimmers. Putting them in a nano tank would stress them out too much.

Corydoras – Corydoras are small yes, but need more space to graze then a 5-gallon tank can provide. They’re also sensitive to water quality and any change to water parameters would be detrimental to their health.

Rasbora – Another active schooling fish that thrive in larger groups.

Basically any fish that are active schoolers or grow to more than 2 inches as an adult or are sensitive to changes in water quality are just not suitable for a small 5-gallon tank.

Best Invertebrate For a 5 Gallon Fish Tank:

Shrimp and crayfish may be better suited for a 5-gallon fish tank. You can combine them with your fish to create a more balanced aquarium.

Cherry Red Shrimp

Cherry Red Shrimp

Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Peaceful
Diet: Omnivore. Pellets specifically for shrimp.
Adult Size: 1.5 inches
Lifespan: 1-2 years

Cherry red shrimp are a freshwater shrimp from Taiwan. They’re known for their bright red color, peaceful behavior, and their algae eating. They can help keep your fish tank nice and clean.
You will need a good filter because they can’t handle any amount of nitrites in the water. They also prefer heavily planted freshwater aquariums.

Ghost Shrimp

Ghost shrimp are so named because they are transparent. This is to avoid predators. Because of their small size they are suited for a small nano tank.

Amano Shrimp

This shrimp has become very popular in the aquarium hobby because of their appetite for eating algae. They are another species that are transparent.

Dwarf Crayfish

These are actually crustaceans from Mexico. They only grow to about 2 inches long as adults. Peaceful in nature and fit in well to a community fish tank. Dwarf crayfish prefer a tank with lots of hiding places. They have been bred in captivity to be an orange color, so if you like orange these may be for you.

Nerite Snails

These are small tank cleaners that would fit well in a small nano fish tank. They love to eat up the algae, they have nice coloration and they don’t reproduce like other snails do. They are a great addition because they don’t produce much waste and keep your fish tank clean.

Recommended 5 Gallon Fish Tank Kit

Marineland Contour Glass Aquarium Kit

This is a very sleek looking little aquarium with contoured glass on the corners. No seams like normal glass fish tanks. This makes for better viewing of your fish and plants.

The LED lights that come with this kit create a shimmer effect normally only seen with more expensive lights. There are also two settings, one for daylight and one for moonlight.

The dimensions are 9.5 X 10 inches, so small enough to fit on desktops and other tables.
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