Discover the Top 5 Best Fish for A 5 Gallon Tank

You want to set up a 5-gallon fish tank but must know which fish would do best. So, you’re in the right place. We will talk about the best fish for a small tank like yours. We’ll talk about how to care for them, how they act, and if they get along with other fish. 

Whether you’re an expert or starting out, we’ve got your back. So let’s dive in and find the best fish for your 5-gallon tank.

How Many Fish Can You Put In 5 Gallon Tanks?

If you plan to get a 5-gallon tank, remember that having around 2-4 small fish there is best. You want them to be a maximum of 1 inch, though. Otherwise, they need more space to move around. A standard rule of thumb is 1-inch of fish per gallon of tank water. This rule usually applies to small fish like Tetras, Betta, Rasbora, Shrimps, and others. 

But, you gotta be careful because any fish that can grow bigger than 1 inch won’t do well in a 5-gallon tank.

What Are The Best Fish For 5-Gallon Tanks?

Because of the limited space, you must choose your fish carefully if you consider setting up a 5-gallon tank. Here are some fish that would be perfect for a small tank:


These friendly fish are a great complement to any 5-gallon tank. They are quick, playful swimmers who prefer to hang out towards the tank’s top or around plants. Guppies are ideal for small community aquariums because they aren’t considered aggressive.

  • pH: 6.5 to 8.0
  • Temperature: 68 to 78 F (20 to 26 C)
  • Fish Size: 1.5-2 inches
  • Lifespan: 1-3 years
  • Difficulty Keeping: Easy

Neon Tetras

These guys are super popular because they’re peaceful and colorful, making them a great addition to any aquarium. Neon Tetras have sleek, slender bodies with stripes of blue and red that shimmer in the light. And let me tell you, these little guys are full of energy! They’ll dart around your tank, exploring every nook and cranny.

Neon Tetras are schooling fish, which is something to keep in mind. That means they like to hang out with their buddies and feel safer in a group. So, if you want to keep these guys happy, keep them in groups of at least 6-8. But don’t worry. They will be okay with the size of your tank. 

They’ll be content if they have enough room to swim around and explore. 

  • pH: 4–7.5
  • Temperature: 20 and 28 °C (68–82 °F)
  • Fish Size: 4 cm (1.5 in)
  • Lifespan: 5-8 years
  • Difficulty Keeping: Easy

Ember Tetra

These guys are small, so you want to keep your tank manageable. It’s best to keep the number of Ember Tetras around 5, so they have plenty of space to swim around and grow.

They’re okay with feeding these little guys. 

Ember Tetras like to eat small foods, like shrimp and crushed flakes. But if you really want to spoil them, you can give them some bloodworms or tubifex. 

Ensure not to overfeed them, as they have tiny stomachs and can quickly get bloated.

Overall, Ember Tetras are a great addition to any fish tank. They’re colorful, energetic, and easy to care for.

  • pH: 6.5-7.5
  • Temperature: 23–29 C (73–84 F)
  • Fish Size: 2 cm (0.8 in)
  • Lifespan: 2-3 years
  • Difficulty Keeping: Average

Chili Rasbora

These little guys are super popular because of their small size and peaceful temperament, which makes them perfect for small tanks. They’re torpedo-shaped with a fiery red color and a dark line along their body. You might even see some small spots near their tail and anal fins.

One thing that’s really cool about Chili Rasboras is that they’re super active. They spend all day swimming and playing with each other, which means you’ll have a lot of fun watching them in your tank. Plus, their small size means you can keep a few in a 5-gallon tank without worrying about overcrowding.

  • pH: 4.0-7.0
  • Temperature : 68 – 82.4° F (20°-28° C)
  • Fish Size: 0.7 inches
  • Lifespan: 4 and 8 years
  • Difficulty Keeping: Easy

Clown Killifish

These micro predators are super interesting to watch because they don’t care about plants or vegetation – they prefer to hang out at the surface and chow down on insects and other critters.

Not only are they fascinating to observe, but they’re also pretty eye-catching themselves. With their long, rocket-shaped bodies splashed with colors ranging from black and yellow to blue and red, they will surely add some pizzazz to your tank. The colors are usually in a striped pattern and will be more vibrant in males than females. Fin colors can also vary.

One great thing about Clown Killifish is that they’re so small – you can keep a group of three in a 5-gallon tank without any problems. So if you want a small but mighty addition to your aquarium, the Clown Killifish is what you’re looking for!

  • pH: 4.0-7.0
  • Temperature : 68-79°F (20–26°C)
  • Fish Size: 1.2-1.4 inches 
  • Lifespan : 3-5 years
  • Difficulty Keeping: Easy

White Cloud Mountain Minnows

These little guys like to hang out in the middle of the tank and don’t need any hiding spots to feel comfortable. A few aquatic plants would be great, though – after all, they’re used to plenty of vegetation in their natural habitats. Plus, they’re pretty curious creatures and like to explore their surroundings.

As for their appearance, White Cloud Mountain Minnows are real lookers. They’ve got a classic, streamlined body that’s hard to resist. Their bronze-pink hue is accented by silver-green-tinted scales, and a jet-black line runs the length of their body. You’ll also notice a distinctive black spot on their tail with a subtle red tint.

White Cloud Mountain Minnows are an excellent choice for a lively and colorful fish to add to your 5-gallon tank. 

  • pH: 6.0 to 8.0
  • Temperature: 60 F (15 C) – 72 F (22 C)
  • Fish Size: 4 cm
  • Lifespan: 5 to 7 years old
  • Difficulty Keeping: Easy

Betta Fish

These little guys are also known as Siamese Fighting fish, and they definitely live up to their name. Betta fish are stunning to look at but highly territorial, so it’s not recommended to keep two males together in the same tank. But don’t worry; you can still enjoy the beauty of Betta fish by keeping a single male in your 5-gallon tank. 

To add some extra color and activity to your tank, consider adding a couple of Cherry shrimp as tank mates. These little critters will help keep your tank clean and add a nice pop of color to your underwater world. Just provide plenty of hiding spots for your shrimp, as the Betta may see them as a potential snack.

  • pH: between 6.5 and 7.5
  • Temperature : between 72-86º F (22-30º C)
  • Fish Size: 1.6 inches
  • Lifespan: 2 to 3 years
  • Difficulty Keeping: Easy

A 5-gallon tank is not just limited to fish. You have the option to create a flourishing underwater environment by including invertebrates.

Cherry Shrimp

Cherry Shrimp are hardy and adaptable, making them ideal for beginners. They are colorful and active, adding vibrancy to the tank. These shrimp are excellent at cleaning algae and leftover food, so they help keep the tank clean.

  • pH: 6.5-8.0
  • Temperature : 65°-78°F (18°-26°C)
  • Size: 2-4 centimeters
  • Lifespan: 1-2 years
  • Difficulty Keeping: Easy

Amano Shrimp

Amano Shrimp are another excellent choice for a 5-gallon tank. They are larger than Cherry Shrimp but are still relatively small and can coexist with other invertebrates. Amano Shrimp are also great at cleaning algae and keeping the tank clean.

  • pH: 6 to 7.5 pH
  • Temperature : 65°-85°F (18°-29°C)
  • Size: up to 5 cm
  • Lifespan: 2-3 years
  • Difficulty Keeping: Easy

Ghost Shrimp

Ghost Shrimp are hardy and easy to care for, making them another great option for a 5-gallon tank. They are transparent, making them an exciting addition to the tank. They are also great at cleaning up leftover food and debris.

  • pH: 7.2 
  • Temperature : 65°-75°F (18.3°-23.8°C)
  • Size: 1.5 inches
  • Lifespan: One year
  • Difficulty Keeping: Easy

Mystery Snail

Mystery Snails are a peaceful and easy-to-care-for snail species that can thrive in a 5-gallon tank. They are excellent at eating algae and decaying plant matter, which helps keep the tank clean.

  • pH: 7.5–8.5
  • Temperature : 68–82°F (20–28°C)
  • Size: Up to 2 inches
  • Lifespan: about four years
  • Difficulty Keeping: Easy

Nerite Snail

Nerite Snails are another popular snail species that are ideal for small tanks. They are great at eating algae and keeping the tank clean. However, remember that Nerite Snails need hard water to maintain healthy shells.

  • pH: 6.2 and 8
  • Temperature: 72 to 88F° (22-31℃)
  • Size: 0.5-1.0 inches (1.3-2.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: 2 years
  • Difficulty Keeping: Easy

5 Gallon Tank Fish Combinations

A 5-gallon tank is pretty small, so you won’t be able to keep a whole bunch of fish in there. In fact, it’s generally recommended that you only keep one or two fish in a tank this size.

Here are a few combinations of fish that could work well in a 5-gallon tank:

  1. Betta fish: Betta fish are colorful and have prominent personalities. They’re also pretty hardy and can do well in a smaller tank. You could keep one male Betta or a female in a 5-gallon tank.
  2. Shrimp and snails: If you’re not looking for fish, consider keeping some shrimp or snails in your tank. These creatures are great at keeping the tank clean and can be fun to watch as they move around.
  3. Guppies and a snail: Guppies are small, colorful fish that can do well in a 5-gallon tank. You could keep a small group of guppies (3-4) and a snail to help clean.
  4. Endler’s livebearers: Endler’s livebearers are similar to guppies but smaller. They’re also more active and colorful, adding them to a 5-gallon tank. You could keep a small group of 3-4 in your tank.

Remember, keeping your tank clean and well-maintained is essential, especially in a smaller tank like a 5-gallon. Make regular water changes and keep an eye on your fish to ensure they’re healthy and happy. 

What Fish Should You Avoid Putting In 5 Gallons?

In getting fish for your 5-gallon tank, there are a few types that you should avoid. 

1. Goldfish – They look cute and tiny but hate being alone and need more space to swim around. Keeping them in a 5-gallon tank would make them pretty unhappy. 

2. Cichlids – There are also better choices for small tanks. They can be aggressive and need a lot of space to swim and establish their territories. Even if you only keep a pair of cichlids together, they will constantly fight each other because of the cramped space. 

3. Angelfish – It can grow up to 6 inches long and needs a lot of swimming space too. They can be aggressive, especially when it comes to establishing their territory. You would need at least a 20-gallon tank to keep one angelfish happy. 

So, it’s better to avoid more extensive or aggressive fish in a 5-gallon tank and opt for smaller, peaceful fish such as guppies or tetras.

What Are The Problems With A 5-Gallon Tank?

While small tanks can be fantastic for certain fish and plants, they come with challenges. We’ll check out some potential problems you might encounter, like water quality issues, limited space, and maintenance headaches. 

  1. Only a little space: A 5-gallon tank is pretty small, so you won’t be able to fit many critters or plants in there. This can make it tough to create a good home for your animals and limit what you can keep.
  2. Water quality issues: Keeping water quality stable in a small tank is harder. The water parameters can change quickly, so you’ll need to monitor things closely and do water changes more often.
  3. Temperature troubles: Small tanks can also be tricky to keep at the right temperature. Because there’s less water, the temperature can change more easily and quickly.
  4. Plant problems: Some plants might not thrive in a 5-gallon tank. They might not do well if they need a lot of space or nutrients.
  5. Maintenance: It is tough to clean and change the water in a small tank without disturbing everything and stressing your fish.

A 5-gallon tank can be a good choice for small animals or plants, but you must be careful about what you choose and work hard to keep things healthy.

What Will Your 5-Gallon Tank Need?

If you’re thinking about setting up a 5-gallon tank, there are a few things you’ll need to keep in mind. What you’ll need will depend on what you plan to keep in the tank, but here are some general guidelines:

You’ll Need A Filter

This helps keep the water clean and clear by removing waste and debris. Ensure one is designed for a 5-gallon tank and keep the filter media clean.

You’ll Need A Heater

A heater is essential for most fish and other pets. They need specific water temperatures to stay healthy, so get a heater that’s appropriate for your tank size and adjustable so you can set the temp. 

You’ll Need A Substrate

Your pets will need a substrate, which is just a fancy word for what covers the bottom of the tank. You can use sand, gravel, or whatever suits your pets best.

Put Decorations in Your Tank

Decorations can create a natural environment and give your pets fun places to swim and hide. You can use rocks, driftwood, or fake plants for this.


Lighting isn’t strictly necessary for a 5-gallon tank. Still, it can make your pets’ colors pop and illuminate live plants.

Use a Water Test Kit

It’s essential to regularly test the water in your tank to make sure it’s safe for your pets. This is possible with a water test kit that measures pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels. 

Remember to research what kind of fish, critters, and plants you want to keep and ensure you meet all their needs.


Are 5 Gallons Big Enough For A Betta?

A 5-gallon tank is actually a great size for a single betta. It’s not too big or too small, and it’s easy to keep clean and maintain. So if you’re considering getting a betta, a 5-gallon tank is the perfect home for them!

How Long Must You Wait To Put Fish In A 5-Gallon Tank?

In adding some fish to a brand new tank, you’ll want to wait at least 24 to 48 hours before doing so. But it’s better to wait up to a week if you can. During this time, your tank will go cycling, which helps build up good bacteria that keep your water clean and healthy for your fish. 

How Often Should You Clean A 5-Gallon Fish Tank?

In a 5-gallon fish tank, you should do a partial water change of about 25% once a week. You can also do a more thorough cleaning every 3-4 weeks. Be careful not to clean everything at once, or you could disrupt the good bacteria in your tank.

What Temperature Should A 5-Gallon Fish Tank Be?

You should aim to keep the water temperature between 75-80°F (24-27°C) in a 5-gallon tank. This range is generally comfortable for most common tropical fish. It’s essential to use a reliable thermometer to monitor the temperature and adjust as needed.

What Is The Easiest Fish To Care For In A 5-Gallon Tank?

Betta fish are small-space champs! They don’t need a huge aquarium to be healthy and thrive. In fact, they’re used to cramped and shallow environments, making them perfect for 5-gallon tanks.

Is A 5-Gallon Tank Okay For A Goldfish?

Goldfish are gorgeous but not the best fit for a small 5-gallon tank. These guys are poop machines; their waste can quickly turn your tank into a danger zone. Ideally, you should go for a tank between 20 and 40 gallons to give your fish plenty of room to swim around.

Can Angelfish Live In A 5-Gallon Tank?

Angelfish are total bullies and will nip at their tank mates and fight like crazy for territory, which means they’ll be under constant stress if kept in a 5-gallon tank. 

How Many Guppies Can You Put In A 5-Gallon Tank?

You can have at least two, but at most five guppies in a 5-gallon tank. If you’re new to fishkeeping, stick with the lower end of that range. But if you’ve got some experience, try keeping five.


When adding some fish to your small tank, doing some research beforehand is essential. You want to make sure you choose fish species that can live comfortably in a smaller space and that you can take good care of. Plenty of options exist, but we’ve got you covered with some suggestions. Regular water changes and monitoring ammonia and nitrate levels are vital to keeping your fish healthy in the long run. You and your fish can enjoy a happy and healthy life together in your small tank with the proper care!

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