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10 of easy and best fish to keep in a 5 gallon tank:

5 gallon Tank fish

Some of the best fish to keep in a 5 gallon tank are also some of the easiest fish to take care of. Besides, these are advisedly the best fish for starter aquarists. They a most suited for a Nano aquarium (an under 10 gallons freshwater aquarium).

Some of the considerations in influencing the decision for stocking a 5 gallon tank include but not limited to; variety in their eye appealing designs and obvious affordability. Moreover, they are mostly small sized, giving you options of many vantage places in the room where they can be placed.

Notably, “one inch of fish for every gallon” is the general rule of thumb when making these fish stocking decisions. As a result, how big a fish when matured and how many fish per 5 gallon tank should firstly be addressed especially when considering having a variety of fish pet in(s) that nano tank.

How big is a 5 gallon tank? Well, a standard compact, rectangular shaped 5 gallon tank measures 16” x 8” x 10” in length, width and height respectively.

However, small sized tanks have limitations. These include, first, the number of fish that can comfortably stay in there and second, the type(s) of fish that can actually do well in them.

The question that therefore follows is; which are the best fish that can live in a 5 gallon freshwater tank? Well, not just the easiest fish to care for as pets but also other low maintenance invertebrates.

The challenge to be aware of beforehand for small tanks is that the low water volume allows quick toxins buildup. This is somewhat contradictory when you therefore are seeking for small aquarium fish for stocking a 5 gallon tank.

Note: While some low maintenance fish are small enough and adjudged to do well in a small tank, they are unfortunately active fish which at times disqualifies them for a 5 gallon tank.

Further, schooling fish are also not too suited for a 5 gallon tank. This is because, the tank demands they be stocked in a small group or even solo. Unfortunately, this subsequently causes it stress. Stress compromises the fish’s immunity.

However, some of the schooling fish if kept in optimal conditions still thrive in small tanks, the stress threat notwithstanding.

10 of the best fish to keep in a 5 gallon tank and easily care for:

#01. Betta Fish:

This fish has a great look, personality and highly intelligent.

Case for:

5 gallon tank fish
  • Its small sized;  3” is the maximum size,
  • Easy to care for,
  • Will be comfortable kept alone. Has an attitude, is territorial and thus aggressive particularly to other Betta males,
  • It is carnivorous; feeding it is easy with live daphnia, frozen/freeze dried bloodworms or shrimps, Betta formula among others.
  • The wings and the tail are magnificently beautiful with vibrant colors making it ideal for vantage positions placement in your room,
  • Has a relatively long lifespan of about 10years to beautify your room.
  • Has Labyrinth which makes it adapted to breathing oxygen from the air especially in shallow waters.
Water conditions are as below:
Ideal ranges76° to 80°F6.5 – 7.5 (slight acidity)
Tank set up necessities:
FilterYes – Gentle one like Sponge filter. Avoid currents.
LED LightingYes
Air pumpYes
Tank matesNot advised; Tetras and Rasboras may co-exist with female Bettas.

#02. Various Micro Rasboras;

Another of easy fish to keep in a 5 gallon tank.

Particularly the harlequin rasbora, it is unmistakable by its radiant beauty of its black striking black mark midway down its body contrasted against its orange hue. This gives it an appealing look and is thus a great addition to a room.

Other good rasboras include Least and Chilli Rasboras.

These ones; with a handful other small fishes do comfortably make the list for fish that can live in a 5 gallon tank combinations.  The others include female Bettas, Black and Bloodfin Tetras among others.

However, due to its dense schooling character, it’s somewhat not an ideal as a fish for 5 gallon tank. Sounds contradictory!!! But why? Well, because of schooling, it would require constant water changing to ensure consistent water quality.

Nonetheless, lean schooling, say of about 3 – 4, rasboras can equally add to your fish good for a 5 gallon tank roll.

Case for:

5 gallon tank fish
  • It’s small sized at about 0.8” – 1.0” at maturity,
  • Will thrive in fresh water aquarium and is very peaceful,
  • Because of the schooling trait, it makes the tank very lively,
  • Easy to care thus one of the low maintenance fish that can live in a 5 gallon tank,
  • Easy to feed; live daphnia, baby brine shrimp, crushed flakes, frozen/freeze dried worms among others are part of the diet,
  • Their hardiness makes them ideal for beginner hobbyist because they can withstand water conditions variations, albeit for not too long spells.
Water conditions:
Ideal ranges73° to 82°F5.5 – 7.5 (slight acidity)
Tank set-up necessities:
FilterYes – Gentle one; say sponge filter for minimal water current.
LED LightingYes
Tank matesYes; Some tetras but if with Bettas, should be exclusively female Bettas.

#03. Sparkling Gourami (Trichopsis Pumila):

Of the gourami family, it’s the smallest species. It’s also known as Pygmy gourami.

Its bright metallic blue/greed and/or red speckles on beige/grey colored body make for a spectacular glowing sparkle display in a compact freshwater tank.

Due to its hardiness, it is a low maintenance fish that can thrive in your shallow 5 gallon tank. This makes it very endearing to beginner aquarist.

Worth noting is that the females MUST always outnumber males. For example, stocking a 5 gallon tank with 1 male for 3 or 4 females is perfectly correct.

Further, when the tank is densely planted, they love the thrill of hunting through the “bush”. Besides, the females love for hide away from the male’s constant attention.

Top of the list of the aquarium plants they like is the Java Fern plant.

Case for:

  • Small sized; at about 1.5” – 1.7” when fully matured,
  • It is omnivorous and hence easy to feed; animal protein and algae based food in particular or flakes and micro pellets,
  • While it’s not a schooling fish, grouping it with other 5 or 6 gouramis is just fine,
  • Peaceable with other equally peaceful tankmates. However, because males are territorial, they are aggressive against other males. Subsequently, ONLY one male should be in the tank.
  • Do well in a densely planted and decorated tank,
 Water conditions:
Ideal ranges72° to 82°F6.0 – 7.2 (slight acidity)
Tank set-up necessities:
LED LightingYes. For illuminating the sparkling fish. Also good for plants

#04. Guppies (Poecilia reticulata):

They will swim against the glass walls making for a beautiful display. Males are more colorful. As a result, if you tanked about 4 – 5 males, the tank will be such a beautiful sight with dazzling beautiful colors flashing from increased activity in the tank.

For a 5 gallon freshwater tank, DON’T have both sexes else the tank will soon be full of them. They are livebearers and breed rapidly.

Case for:

  • Small sized and well suited for a 5 gallon tank; measure 1.4” and 2.4” for adult males and females respectively.
  • Not heavy feeders. As a result, minimal water pollution and equally minimal water changes,
  • Very peaceable, perfectly co-existing with other tank mates. However, they don’t school together,
  • They are one among the easiest fish to care for courtesy of their hardiness.
  • They come highly recommended for beginners because they are hardy fish. 
Water conditions:
Ideal ranges73° to 82°F5.5 – 7.5 (slight acidity)
Tank set-up necessities:
FilterYes – Gentle one; say sponge filter for minimal water current.
LED LightingYes

#05. Mollies (Poecilia latipinna):

Case for:

They are very lively and with a great personality, particularly the red balloon mollies. It’s one of the easiest fish to care for in a 5 gallon tank.

They are shy and peaceful non aggressive freshwater fish.

fish that can live in a 5 gallon tank

They are livebearers.

Further, just like with guppies, if you don’t want a population explosion in your small tank, strictly keep males only.

5 – 6 of them will grace your tank beautifully.

Water conditions:
Ideal ranges75° to 82°F5.5 – 7.5 (slight acidity)
Tank set-up necessities:
FilterYes – Gentle one; say sponge filter for minimal water current.
LED LightingYes

#06. White Cloud Mountain Minnows (Tanichthys Albonubes)

Case for:

  • Small sized with mature growing to about 1.5” – 2”,
  • Brightly colored especially the males making for a beautiful addition to the tank,
  • It is a hardy and easy fish to care for,
  • Schooling fish; a group of about 5 – 6 will make the tank lively,
  • Omnivorous and therefore easy to feed. Live and frozen daphnia, baby brine shrimp and bloodworms as well as flakes or pellets are good feeds.
Water conditions:
Ideal ranges55° to 68°F6.0 – 8.0 (slight acidity)
Tank set-up necessities:
HeaterNO.  It’s a cold water fish species
LED LightingYes

#07. Celestial Pearl Danio (Danio Margaritatus),

It is a colorful 5 gallon tank fish very ideal for decorating your space. It’s a popular aquarium fish among the cool fishes. The red coloration of its fins and the white pearl/golden like spotting on its sides make for a very beautiful display.

They thrive in dense vegetation with good hiding places.

Stocking a 5 gallon tank with danios and some of compatible and peaceful tankmates like mollies and guppies will greatly enhance your tank’s aesthetics.

Best grouping is a single male for every 3 or 4 females.

They do “on and of” schooling.  

Case for:

  • Small sized at about 1” when mature,
  • Are omnivorous and thus easy to feed; live and frozen daphnia, micro pellets and flake foods are a good diet composition,
  • Has a lifespan of around 3 – 5 years to beautifully grace your tank,
  •  Very peaceful to allow community tanking.
  • They are moderately easy to care for.
Water conditions:
Ideal ranges72° to 78°F6.2 – 7.8
Tank set-up necessities:
LED LightingYes

#08. Zebra Danios (Danio Rerio):

In a school of about 4 – 5, this is another good small freshwater aquarium fish good for stocking a 5 gallon tank.

Of the easiest fish to keep, Zebra Danios rank top because they are hardy fish. That’s however not a license to expose them to extreme poor water conditions.

Easiest fish to take care of

Their neon like colors makes them a great display and showoff fish.

Case for:

  • Peaceful with a great personality. Besides, they a very lively,
  • They are omnivorous; frozen foods, micro pellets, flake foods and fresh plant foods are part of the diet,
  • They are small sized fish that can live in a 5 gallon tank easily,
Water conditions:
Ideal ranges72° to 78°F6.2 – 8.2
Tank set-up necessities:
HeaterYes – Especially during winter
LED LightingYes

#09. Dwarf Puffer (Carinotetraodon Travancoricus);

This is also known as Pea Pufferfish or Malabar Pufferfish.

While Puffers are among the cool fish to have as pets, they are certainly NOT low maintenance fish and subsequently not the easiest fish to keep alive.

However, the liveliness coupled with beautiful colors is good return to any aquarist. Besides colors, size is another of the variations across puffer species.

As the fish freely hovers, its large eyes turn around independently. How about that spectacle?

Generally a tadpole lookalike, its face looks ‘bulldoggish’. It puffs or inflates like a balloon when it feels threatened (Puffer name origin perhaps?). Its movement resembles that of a helicopter.

Tetrodotoxin, the dangerous venom is unique to them. However, by themselves, they can’t produce it and thus not too much of a risk in your 5 gallon tank.   

Enjoys being in a tank with vegetation to swim through and hide in caves and rocks.  

They are particularly aggressive. As a result, just have ONE puffer. All said, it still is one of the best tropical freshwater fish pet for stocking a 5 gallon tank.

Case for:

  • They are small sized; matured at 1.5”, thus good for your 5 gallon tank,
  • They have a considerably long lifespan (averages 10 years) to grace your beautiful spaces,
  • Being omnivorous, they are easy to feed. Prefers worms and snails to vegetables.
  • Has unmatched exuberance and curiosity hence non-stop exploratory movement in the tank. That’s very scenic.  
Water conditions:
Ideal ranges76° to 78°F6.0 – 7.8
Tank set-up necessities:
FilterYes – Are high waste depositors.
LED LightingYes

#10. Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon Innesi):

This is another popular beginner fish for freshwater aquarium. While it schools in the thousands in the wild, in a 5 gallon tank, only about 5 – 6 can comfortably be stocked.

They are thin and small finned with a bright blue head tapering to a bright red tail.

Cardinal Tetras, the close family to Neon Tetra measures about 2”. Their similarity extends to body shape and colors. However, the red strip runs the full length of their body unlike the neon tetras.

Meanwhile, all other attributes match across both tetras.

Case for:

  • Small sized measuring 1.2” in maturity,
  • Omnivorous thus easy to feed; baby brine shrimp, flake foods and micro pellets make the diet,
  • Very peaceful,
Water conditions:
Ideal ranges70° to 76°F6.2 – 7.0
Tank set-up necessities:
FilterYes. Very sensitive. Needs clean and clear water.
LED LightingYes

Basic habitat conditions to meet for fish that can live in a 5 gallon tank:

You’ll be surprised how many easy fish tanks are available. As a beginner therefore, don’t be too stressed about getting one.

That said however, the following should be highly considered in setting up a 5 gallon tank. These include:

  1. Effective filtration system.

You must maintain right water quality. As a result, you must get a good, efficient and reliable filtration system. It’s needed to keep the water flow constant as well as clean.

Depending on the pet fish stocked, say like the Bettas, you’ll need to have gentler filter with less current. This enables the fish to swim easily. A sponge filter will be the most preferred in that case.

  • Good substrate.

About 2.5” – 3” inches of substrate is recommended. The volume of substrate has a direct relation with growth of bacteria. Keep it sufficiently lean.

Sand and gravel tops the list of the good substrate. Besides being that the fish like gleaning and digging on for hiding, it makes fish feel comfortable too.

  • Aquarium plants:

Ensure the plants don’t come into the way of you pets’ comfort however beautiful they make the tank.

Get the plants compatible with your fish. Moreover, be ready to keep replacing them when they outgrow the tank. Java Fern, Java Moss and Anubias Nana are some of the best plant for freshwater aquariums.

  • Tank Lighting:

First, it is important for the plants in the aquarium. Secondly, lighting brigs out the color effect of the fish brilliantly.

How to maintain a 5 gallon fish tank:

While the fish may be hardy, it is no excuse to subject them in poor quality water environment. Therefore, for the sake of the health of the pet fish, the following should be done:

  • Water changing;

Poor water quality is however a serious source of stress to the fish. Subsequently, stress undermines the immunity exposing it to illnesses.

Therefore, do a regular 20% – 25% water change at any given change. This prevents upsetting the tank’s ecosystem. A water test kit will aid in determining the water quality.

Water change compliments filtration.

  • Filter cleaning:

This helps to reduce the clog on the filter else its efficiency declines. Most importantly, clean it with the water from the tank; otherwise you’ll wash away all the beneficial bacterial that has built on it.

  • Vacuuming of the gravel:

This you do to remove all the debris at the bottom. It can be siphoned out. Meanwhile, you can also use the commercial chemicals that round debris in small collectible balls.


In conclusion, fish that can live in a 5 gallon tank can bring you immense satisfaction by brightening your room. They are coincidentally some of the best beginner fish you can stock. However, a healthy freshwater fish 5 gallon tank needs some work else the pet fish may not live long.

In short, 5 gallon fish tank stocking requires that you do your care bit dutifully.

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