There are a lot of different options when it comes to choosing fish for a small tank like a 5 gallon. In this post, we will take a look at some of the best fish for a 5 gallon tank and provide you with some information on each one. Whether you are just starting out with fishkeeping or are looking for a new addition to your aquarium, read on for some great suggestions on fish for your 5 gallon tank.
What fish can live in a 5 gallon tank?
A general rule of thumb is 1 inch of fish per gallon of water. However, this will vary depending on the type of fish. For example, goldfish need more space than bettas or guppies do. Giving your small fish what they need to thrive will make your tank more enjoyable for you and safer for your fish.
Bettas (male bettas can be kept in a 5 gallon tank)
One of the most popular choices of pet fish, Bettas are often kept in small aquariums because they do well in such limited spaces. These active swimmers prefer to be kept in at least a 2.5 gallon tank so the water is constantly being refreshed. Bettas are not picky eaters and will readily accept flake food, fine pellets, freeze-dried bloodworms, tubifex worms, brine shrimp or daphnia. Males can be housed together in small groups but females should only be kept with other females. If a female betta is placed in a small tank with a male, the male will likely kill her.
Cories (2-3 cories can live comfortably in a 5 gallon tank)
These bottom feeders are easy to care for and friendly. They appreciate tanks with plentiful hiding places as well as lots of driftwood and smooth rocks. Because they will consume algae, it is recommended to supplement their diet with algae wafers or blanched vegetables.
Guppies (5-6 guppies can be comfortably housed in a 5 gallon tank)
These active swimmers are hardy fish who are long-lived when given proper care. Guppies are livebearers, so if you’re interested in keeping guppies but don’t want to deal with the hassle of having to care for the fry, stick to molly fish instead. While guppies can stand water on the acidic side of neutral, they are not particularly fussy about water conditions when kept in a small tank. Guppies should be fed flakes and freeze-dried bloodworms or tubifex worms to round out their diet, but the addition of blanched zucchini and cucumber will also help keep them healthy. Because guppies can interbreed with mollies, you should only keep one male and one female together to prevent any unnecessary pregnancies.
Platies (5-6 platies can be comfortably housed in a 5 gallon tank)
These peaceful fish should be kept in small groups of at least three, but they need larger tanks to thrive long-term so avoid housing them in anything smaller than 10 gallons. Platies need live plants as well as driftwood and rocks to create hiding places for smaller fish. They appreciate a pH that falls on the acidic side of neutral with moderate water hardness, but their tank should also be clean and free from excess nitrates or nitrites.
White Cloud Minnows (5-6 white clouds can comfortably live in a 5 gallon tank)
These peaceful fish are native to China, so they prefer water with a neutral pH and moderate hardness. They do best in groups of three or more and appreciate plenty of driftwood and rocks as well as live plants. They can be fed flakes or bloodworms supplemented with blanched zucchini or cucumber.
Zebra Danios (4-5 zebra danios can live in a 5 gallon tank)
These active swimmers are also native to China. They prefer water with a pH of 7 or above, so adding peat to the filtration system will help keep their water within an acceptable pH range. A temperature of 75-79° F is ideal for these fish. They will eat just about anything, but their diet should be supplemented with blanched vegetables and they need at least a 2.5 gallon tank as adults.
Glowlight Danios (4-5 glowlight danios can live comfortably in a 5 gallon tank)
These are similar to zebra danios, but they are the active-swimming cousins of goldfish. They consume more algae than other fish species, so your tank should be refilled with peat to keep their water at a pH of 7 or higher. Their ideal temperature is 75° F and they need at least 2.5 gallons of space as adults.
Cherry Barbs (3-4 cherry barbs can live in a 5 gallon tank)
Tankmates for the cherry barb should be peaceful fish that aren’t going to bully them or pick on their long fins. They are not particularly aggressive fish and prefer slightly acidic water with a pH of 6.5-7.5 and moderate hardness. They make good tankmates for other small fish species, including corydoras, catfish, tetras like the black phantom or glowlight tetra, and platies. Cherry barbs can tolerate a temperature of around 70° F but will benefit from cooler temperatures in winter to prevent disorders.
Cherry Barb Fry (3-5 cherry barb fry will survive comfortably in a 5 gallon tank)
As the female cherry barb lays eggs, she should be moved to a different tank, as her fry will eat smaller fish and invertebrates. Cherry barbs are an active species that needs plenty of plants and driftwood to explore. A heater is recommended if you want to breed them, as they prefer a water temperature of 72-75° F.
Harlequin Rasboras (5 harlequin rasboras can live in a 5 gallon tank)
These peaceful fish are also called tricolor or neon rasboras and they are native to Thailand. They prefer water on the acidic side, so peat should be added to their filtration system. A heater is necessary if you want them to breed in winter, but they can live comfortably in a pH between 6.5-7.5 with moderate hardness. Their ideal temperature is 77-79° F and they need at least a 2.5 gallon tank as adults.
Red Cherry Shrimp (5 red cherry shrimp can live in a 5 gallon tank)
These are typically sold as feeders for tropical fish, but they do breed readily in water that is slightly soft and acidic with a pH between 6-6.8 and temperatures between 60-75° F. They are very easy to breed, so if you keep them in a community tank with other shrimp or snails, they will reproduce quickly and become a pest for your neighbors. Another option is to keep them as the bottom layer of your tank alongside some ghost shrimp, who will feed on any uneaten food that reaches the bottom.
Cherry Shrimp (5 cherry shrimp can live in a 5 gallon tank)
These are very similar to red cherries and also breed readily if they aren’t contained with some other shrimp or snails. They prefer water that is slightly soft and acidic with low pH and temperatures around 68-75° F. They don’t like bright light and they will breed and reproduce quickly in a well-planted tank.
Black Phantom Tetras (4 black phantom tetras can live in a 5 gallon tank)
These fish are native to Brazil where they prefer water with a pH of 6-7 and temperatures between 73° F and 82° F. However, the black phantom tetra can adapt to a wider range of conditions that are similar to other fish species. They should be kept in schools of six or more and will do best with some driftwood in their tank.
Black Phantom Tetra Fry (4-5 fry can easily live together in a 5 gallon tank)
They are an active species that prefers a tank with plenty of plants and driftwood. A heater is not necessary unless you want to breed them, as they can live comfortably in water between 68-75° F. The parents should be removed once the fry have been born, as they will eat their young.
The 5 gallon aquarium is a great option for starting fishkeepers, but it may be necessary to upgrade to larger tanks in the future if you want to keep certain species with special requirements. You can always add some of the smaller tank mates on this list when you buy your next tank.