Best Fish For 5 Gallon Tank – 15 Fantastic Fish With Pictures (And More)

Do you wanna get a list of Best Fish For 5 Gallon Tank? Great! You are in the right place.

Author’s note: I always advocate for a larger fish tank which should start from 10-gallons, but I know it can be hard to give your fish a little more room when you have limited space or money! So, I created this list of best fish for 5-gallon tanks for those aquarists who have no option to go for a bigger tank! But if possible, upgrade your aquarium to a larger version! Because a more giant aquarium will give your fish better conditions for swimming around in peace and happiness!

The 5-gallon aquarium is a popular size for home fish tanks, but many people are surprised to find that there aren’t as many species that can live in such small spaces. 

There aren’t that many species available for smaller tanks like this one. So, planning which fish to add to your 5-gallon tank can be tricky.

In my writing, I always recommend an aquarium with a minimum of 10-gallon tank size. But some fish that are suitable for this large water container can be kept in smaller tanks too! 

You just need to know which fish you can keep and how to maintain them in such a small tank. So, keep reading!

Best Fish For 5-Gallon Tank: Top 10 Picks In Video

10 Best Fish For 5 Gallon Tank

The List Of 15 Best Fish For 5 Gallon Tank


Betta In a 5 gallon tank

The betta fish is a small space species that do not require massive aquariums to stay healthy. Instead, they’re used to shallow and cramped environments, which makes them one of the best for 5-gallon tanks.

Bettas are beautiful fish with vibrant colors and long fins. They don’t need much space to live in, but they’re naturally aggressive, so keep them on their own if you want the peace!

Bettas are among the most popular fish in pet shops because they’re easy to care for and come with an impressive look. Furthermore, they are less demanding – only a heater helps maintain the tank temperature, and a sponge filter is perfect for keeping water clean! Additionally, you can add a light source and some decors.

Read some Betta facts:


Guppy In a 5 gallon tank

Guppies are an often overlooked but hardy fish species that can be kept in a 5-gallon aquarium. These colorful little guys come in different colors and markings, making them easy to identify.

Guppies love to socialize, so it is best not to mix them with any large, aggressive fish that may eat their small size. They need a community-type tank where all inhabitants are peaceful and range from 2 – 3 inches in length!

Guppies are the most colorful and energetic fish you can get your hands on. They’re also great to see live displays of color while feeding, rather than still pictures like with bettas!

In a 5 gallon tank, it is easy to keep just three males, and they will make a fantastic trio! Because male guppies are more beautiful than females.

Chili Rasbora

Chili Rasbora In a 5 gallon tank

Chilli rasboras are small, brightly colored fish found in the wild. They thrive when kept without other species competing for food sources and prefer a quieter environment with lots of hiding spots to feel safe from predators!

The bright ruby-red colored Chili Rasbora is native to Indonesia’s Southwestern Borneo and is known as – ‘Mosquito Rasbora,’ as well. Males can be identified by their signature hue – if properly cared for!

The best tank size, according to experts? A 5-gallon aquarium seems perfect – it’ll give your new tiny friend adequate space! 

The Chili Rasbora is a fantastic addition to any aquarium with its vibrant colors and playful nature. They will provide you with entertainment throughout your day as they swim around and display stunning colorful patterns!

Scarlet Badis

Scarlet Badis In a 5 gallon tank

The Scarlet Badis, a colorful, peaceful fish from the family of Badidae, is one of the under-rated freshwater species. But these little fish are amazing! They have great colors and can be one of the best for experienced keepers. The downside? You’ll need to feed them frozen or live foods to keep them healthy, which means fewer processed food options in your tank.

This fish has been described as one of the least studied Percoid Fishes. It remains unclear why they die so often or what causes their color changes at death, but it’s clear that this species is not for everyone! However, if you ensure proper care and a well-balanced diet, the Scarlet Badis will add vibrant colors to your aquarium for at least 3 to 4 years (hopefully.)

The Scarlet Badis can be a shy and peaceful fish, but it also has aggressive tendencies towards the same species. 

It doesn’t like polluted water so keep your aquarium clean! And the best way to care for one of these beautiful creatures is by providing them with plenty of hiding places in the form of dense vegetation inside their tanks.

Pygmy Corydoras

Pygmy Corydoras In a 5 gallon tank

The Corydoras or cory catfish are small bottom-dwelling freshwater fish. They prefer to be in schools, and 5-gallon tanks don’t provide most species with enough room, but thankfully there is a nano-sized variety that only reaches about an inch long! They are Pygmy Corydoras (Corydoras pygmaeus)!

5-gallon tanks are the perfect home for these little guys! They’re not only fun to watch, but they also provide great entertainment by making all your other fish seem rather dull in comparison.

Keep a school of five cory catfish in a 5-gallon tank? That’s doable but make sure you provide frequent water changes to avoid waste buildup and potentially disastrous ammonia spikes. 

They’re an excellent addition for any planted setup, even in a 5-gallon tank! 

A sponge filter is ideal for Pygmy Corydoras because these filters don’t produce strong suction or output flow like other types can produce, making them uncomfortable or creating any danger!

Harlequin Rasbora

Harlequin Rasbora In a 5 gallon tank

Harlequin Rasboras are a great choice for those who want to keep an aquarium with colorful and peaceful fish. These shy creatures rarely grow larger than two inches long, so they’ll fit perfectly in your 5-gallon tank without causing any stress or problems!

Harlequin rasboras have an orange hue and a black mark halfway down their body that gives them the appearance of wearing elegant evening dresses. These champions make excellent display fish for planted tanks or aquascapes because they add contrast to your setup while also providing you with some fun color choices!

The beautiful pattern on this fish will make it stand out in any tank!

Harlequin rasboras are a hardy community fish that can get along with just about any species. They prefer peace over aggression, but they might become targets to larger, more aggressive tanks if you’re not careful!

This fish doesn’t really need anything special to get started. All you’ll want is a filter outlet that’s strong enough for your aquarium water quality to stay optimal! And some pumped-up lighting will be a fantastic addition.

Dwarf Pea Puffer

Dwarf Pea Puffer In a 5 gallon tank

The Dwarf Pea Puffers are one of the most exciting tiny fish species available in the hobby. However, with their sharp teeth and aggressive nature, it is best to keep them on their own without any other tankmates that may get intimidated by these vicious fighters!

The pea puffer fish is a small, unique creature from India. These creatures have been gaining popularity recently.

They’re known for being territorial and aggressive towards other males in their species – but not with you! A single male will usually suffice as long as several females are around, too; this reduces competition between them, encouraging breeding (and thus population growth).

You can keep a small tank of Dwarf Puffer to meet the needs and preferences of these unique creatures. They love floating plants like water lettuce, java moss, or any other kind you might want them to!

Dwarf puffers are not just found in the slightly brackish waters of estuaries but can also be seen living around rivers and lakes. But they are not fish to keep in a brackish aquarium.

They prefer to live near bodies of water that receive 12 hours or more sunlight per day during the summer months in the wild. The main thing about having this type as your new pet is making sure that they have a perfect home – a 5-gallon tank is okay!

Neon Tetra

Neon Tetra In a 5 gallon tank

Neon Tetra is the most popular aquarium fish among hobbyists, and this list will be incomplete without mentioning them. They are a schooling species that love to swim in groups of 6 or more! But in a 5-gallon tank, you should keep no more than 5 Neon Tetras!

Consider neon tetras if you want bright and colorful fish for your 5-gallon tank. They’re not as sensitive to changes in temperature or pH levels, making them an excellent choice even with less space available than what they need!

Their natural colors will contrast really well against the dark substrate (like black), plus green Anubias leaves provide hiding places that let these little guys relax.

These colorful little tetras have bright blue stripes on their bodies with red around each eye wattles which change color depending upon whether they’re resting or active! At night, it becomes lighter grey or black; during morning wakefulness periods – redder/bluish tones reappear due to increased activity levels!

Clown Killifish

Clown Killifish In a 5 gallon tank

The clown killifish is a tiny fish found in West Africa. It typically doesn’t grow much past 1.4 inches long and usually lives near shallow water. So these species are suitable for a 5-gallon tank!

Killifish are small, natural-born predators that stick to the water’s surface for food. They pay no attention at all to plants but appreciate their cover nonetheless! So, a planted tank is good as their home.

Clown Killifish has many colors, but they’re not just for show. The stripes on their bodies give them protection from potential predators and help with their own hunting skills in the water by making it hard for smaller fish to notice that they are coming!

Clown Killifish is one of the most peaceful fish in freshwater pools, but they’re also efficient predators. Instead of chasing down their prey as other types would do, these aquatic monsters wait near the water’s surface, and when unsuspecting insects skim over them, they ambush, grabbing their prey with upturned mouths.

Celestial Pearl Danio

Celestial Pearl Danio In a 5 gallon tank

Celestial pearl danios – one of the most beautiful schooling fish you can have in your tank! These shy, peaceful creatures don’t like strong currents. They only grow to be about 1 inch long, perfect for your 5-gallon tank!

The males of this species are much more beautiful than females. Because they have a bright blue background color compared to their dull grayish brown counterparts, which can be seen easily from far away due to the intense shade!

Since they are shy, Celestial pearl danios should be kept in a densely planted tank so that they can hide. Keep a school of six fish together in your 5-gallon tank, and you will observe more social interaction between them; these little guys swim independently but stay connected by forming friendships or schools like some aquatic version of a flock!

They stay well with their non-hostile community counterparts like neon tetra and corydoras without causing too much conflictual behavior! These danios’ dynamic natures will bring in perfect contrast for your setup while also providing some fun entertainment routines that should keep things interesting around here.

Endler’s Livebearer

Endler's Livebearer In a 5 gallon tank

Endler’s livebearers are peaceful fish that looks similar to guppies, but they’re not actually the same species. These adorable little guys will generally get along well with others of their kind, though females may compete with one another and show aggression!

Endler’s livebearers are an excellent choice if you want a breathtaking fish that looks as good in your aquarium as on the television or watercolor paintings. These beautiful freshwater creatures can be cared for by anyone with some time and effort! 

Livebearers can be bred in-home freshwater aquariums, so you’ll have plenty of babies if both males and females are kept together. However, aquarists often prefer the smaller colorful male because he brings more life to your tank!

What makes these fish so great? You don’t have to be an expert aquarist, but you should still take some precautions when caring for them. These freshwater dwellers come from one single wild habitat and, as such, need special treatment and condition – which is easy enough with just a bit of research!

White Cloud Mountain Minnow

White cloud Mountain Minnow In a 5 gallon tank

White Cloud Mountain Minnows are the friendliest freshwater fish for beginners. They’re always so peaceful and easy to care for, making them a perfect choice if you’ve just started getting into this stuff! These little guys have bright colors that will easily catch your eyes, looking at those different critters swimming around.

White Cloudminnows are beautiful and peaceful fish that require cooler water than your standard tropical setup. These beautiful and peaceful fish can be kept in a 5-gallon tank with a sound filtration system. However, a group of up 4 individuals in a 5-gallon aquarium will stay happy together provided plenty is hiding amongst plants or decors!

White clouds are often seen as peaceful and harmonious, but there is an intense side to them when they’re in competition for mates. The males will become aggressive with each other while competing over females during mating season; this can cause severe injuries between competitors!

White Cloud Mountain Minnows are beautiful and colorful fish from Asia. They live in the Pearl River, one of China’s most diverse rivers. So, these little beauties share their habitat with other astounding native species such as Gold Barbs or Weather Loaches! 

Their wild relatives make for amazing tank mates that you should consider if your home aquarium has room to spare. Rosy and Cherry Barbs and the Gold Barb are their best tankmates!

Sparkling Gourami

Sparkling Gourami In a 5 gallon tank

When the time comes for you to buy your next fish, consider buying Sparkling Gourami, also known as Pygmy Gourami. Not only are these small yet colorful enough that they will fit into 5-gallon tanks, but their playful nature makes them great entertainment options as well!

The Sparkling Gourami is a small fish with an elongated head and body. It has short fins that are rounded at the end, giving it its name “sparkle.” The coloration of this gentle inhabitant ranges from light green to brown on top while being covered in dark dots or bars down their length, which can sometimes be seen sparkling when they swim across water surfaces!

The sparkly gouramis are not schooling fish but prefer being in groups. They’re very peaceful and can be aggressive towards other males when it comes time for territory ownership rights!

The Sparkling Gourami is a fish found all over Southeast Asia. They prefer slow-flowing water with lots of plants on the river bed, and they’re unique because their lungs allow them to live in environments where there’s not enough oxygen.

Emerald Dwarf Rasbora

Emerald Dwarf Rasbora In a 5 gallon tank

The emerald dwarf rasbora is a fascinating fish that will appreciate your 5-gallon tank. These little guys need higher pH water and enjoy densely planted tanks with plenty of hiding spots to feel safe! However, they can be shy, so you’ll want some lovely thick vegetation on which they may utilize their natural behaviors most abundantly.

If there was ever a fish that deserved more recognition, it would be the Emerald Dwarf Rasbora. These guys are peaceful and easy to care for – not to mention gorgeous! Watching them swim around your aquarium is always an entertaining sight.

The Emerald Dwarf Rasbora is a small and adorable fish found in warmer climates like Asia. This warm-water-dweller has been seen thriving at Lake Inle, one of Myanmar’s famous lakes.

They’re a little different than most fish in that they need relatively stable tank conditions and high-quality food to thrive. So if you want your Emerald Dwarf Rasbora happy, make sure the water is healthy and have plenty of hiding spots around!

You can also add driftwood in their aquariums but ensure driftwood is adequately prepared. Driftwood should be dark in color, preferably black or brown, because these are the colors most likely to help this fish blend into their natural environment and hide!

Ember Tetra

Ember Tetra In a 5 gallon tank

The Ember Tetra is a small and peaceful fish that will stay little no matter the setting. They have great colors too! 

It’s not just about keeping them happy; planting some live plants can help maintain water quality high and make your tank look good. So tank environment stays clean enough for these delicate creatures to thrive in captivity.

These fish are from Brazil, primarily residing in the Araguaia River basin. The slow-moving waters contain plant materials that decompose into an acidic environment.

The Ember Tetra fish has an orange glow, which stands out in any aquarium. In addition, their scales shimmer and make them stand apart from other varieties of tetras.

Ember tetras form shoals, but this isn’t what you would call schooling; instead, each individual seems more inclined to socialize with nearby members or even become friends over long periods.

The Ember Tetra is a peaceful fish that can be kept in any aquarium. Males are unlikely to show aggression towards each other, and it’s best if you keep them in groups because they’re easygoing and won’t cause trouble for tank buddies!

How Many Fish In A 5 Gallon Tank?

A few simple rules will help you with an estimate. The “one inch per gallon” rule means no more than 5 inches total length for fish in a 5-gallon tank! However, this is a gross estimation.

You can house about 4-6 small-sized species in your 5-gallon aquarium from the above list that are no bigger than 2 inches in length!

How Many Fish In A 5 Gallon Tank

Some other factors play a vital role in stocking capacity. For example, 6-8 fish can be kept in a 5-gallon tank, provided your fish won’t grow over 1.5 inches long and your aquarium is densely packed with live plants. But, of course, the filtration system must also work properly for this to happen!

I have kept four neon tetras and four mollies in my 5-gallon aquarium. Till now, they’re all living happily together! Though I haven’t included ‘Molly’ as one of the best for 5-gallon tanks, they are under an experiment. 

When they are adults, Molly fish can grow up to 4.5 inches – not really suitable for a 5-gallon setup! But my Mollies are tiny (about 1.5 inches).

So stay tuned if you want more info on how my experiment ended – I may even recommend Molly for 5 gallons if they thrive in my tank.

Read also: How Many Fish Per Gallon – The Ultimate Stocking Guide

What Else You Can Keep In A 5-Gallon Tank?

Cherry Shrimp

Cherry Shrimp - in 5-gallon tank

The freshwater shrimp known as Cherry Shrimp is an underestimated species in the aquarium hobby. But they are colorful and exciting invertebrates to add to a nano tank. 

Unlike fish, they don’t add that much bioload in your aquarium water. So you can have 15-20 cherry shrimp in a 5-gallon tank without worrying about the sudden ammonia spikes that might occur with fish. 

Cherry Shrimp enjoy searching for algae and food, making them an excellent addition to any aquarium!

The higher the price, the more intense and vibrant red you’ll find. Shrimp with solid colors are always famous, too – they’re great for beginners who want to start their own tank collection but don’t know what type of shrimp would be best!

Amano Shrimp

Amano Shrimp - in 5-gallon tank

The colorful Amano shrimp are a joy to watch in their five-gallon aquarium. They scurry around the tank and eat anything edible they can get onto with their legs, which gives you plenty of entertainment for your time spent watching them!

It’s a well-known fact that these shrimp love eating algae. In fact, they’re so effective at it and will tirelessly go after any food source you give them! So this makes the perfect pet for those who want an aquarium to be self-cleaning!

True Amano Shrimp are native to Asia, specifically Japan and China. They will live in large groups within freshwater rivers or streams where they can find ample shelter from predators and food sources.

You can add some plants like Java Moss or Green Cabomba in your aquarium that they’ll love living in, too – just make sure you plan their habitat carefully, so it’s got everything they need!

Dwarf Crayfish

Dwarf Crayfish - in 5-gallon tank

Crayfish are tiny crustaceans that can be found in aquariums all around the world. 

If you want a tank clean of uneaten food and unfavorable algae, try the little guys who look like miniature lobsters with claws! They may be two inches long, but they are tough as nails!

These mini-lobster-like creatures will eat anything from dead organisms to all unfavorable pieces of stuff as tank janitors – leaving behind healthy water quality.

They need plenty of hiding spots, so it is vital to provide them with plants and driftwood as well!

Nerite Snail

Nerite Snail - in 5-gallon tank

Nerite snails are one of the most popular snail species for 5-gallon aquariums. They come in many colors and patterns but typically possess muted yellow shells with black stripes or spots on their sides (or both!).

If you want to keep your tank clean, the Nerite Snail is excellent. 

These tiny snails often spend their days clinging tightly onto surfaces in tanks and eat any algae that grow there!

Snails aren’t very active, but they’re peaceful creatures and shouldn’t cause any problems for the rest of your fish. Instead, they’ll slowly move around and consume algae in a tank! 

You might sometimes notice that one appears fallen over – their muscles are flexible enough, so they should be able to flip themselves back up again!

These snails are readily available and easy to care for. They eat a lot of algae, so you usually don’t have to supplement their diet with any food items. A well-maintained tank will provide all the organic greens they need!

Malaysian Trumpet Snail

Malaysian Trumpet Snail - in 5-gallon tank

Imagine the tank being cleaner than it has ever been before! This is possible with Malaysian trumpet snails, which are natural cleaners. They survive off of algae and plant detritus to keep your water quality high in a five-gallon setup (which won’t be difficult).

This snail is one of the most peaceful creatures in your community aquarium! They won’t threaten any other fish or snails living with them, making it an excellent choice for newbies. But make sure you know its vulnerabilities before adding this shell-snaring oddity to an already existing tank full of hungry snail-eating creatures!

The most exciting thing about this invert species is not just their shell but rather the powerful burrowing ability that comes with it. These creatures can measure up to 1 inch long and have a conical shape for better leverage when digging through soil or rock!

The Malaysian Trumpet Snail is a curious creature that likes to explore its surroundings. It needs slow-moving water with plenty of live plants and a soft substrate for burrowing, but this snail isn’t picky when it comes to aquarium conditions!

How To Maintain A 5-Gallon Tank?

5-gallon aquariums are more difficult to care for than larger ones, but it is possible with enough time and effort. With correct measures, you can have an enjoyable experience keeping fish in your small tank!


filtration for 5 gallon tank fish

One of the most complex parts of keeping a small aquarium is ensuring that water stays clean and healthy. The smaller your tank, the faster things will go wrong if you don’t correctly care for filtration! 

You should invest in either hang-on back filters or internal power filters, which are both affordable options for small tanks like 5 gallons.

If you want to use a power filter in your 5-gallon tank, ensure it has an internal pre-filter sponge that will prevent small fish or invertebrates from being sucked up through the intake. The space available for your tank is limited, and inhabitants are delicate, so keep the current gentle!

The key to keeping fish healthy and happy is choosing the right filter. You want one to process enough water for their needs, so make sure you select wisely! 

The filter flow rate should be okay if it is three or four times your fish tank volume. For example, if I had a 5-gallon tank, 15-20 GPH flow rates would be perfect for my filter.

Read also: Best Filter For 5 Gallon Tank: Review And Buying Guide


heating for 5 gallon tank fish

To keep your fish happy and healthy, you need to make sure the temperature stays at a stable level. A heater will help with this! You should also install an accurate thermometer to be well aware of the current temperature of your tank water!

With a little math and some common sense, you can easily determine how much power your aquarium heater needs. Typically, you would need 2.5 to 5 watts for one gallon of water. So, if I have a 5-gallon tank, then using 12.5 watts would be enough to heat up all that water without any problems!

Keeping one backup heater is always good because your primary unit may malfunction or stop working. This way, the fish can still stay healthy and happy!

Live Plants

plants for 5 gallon tank fish

Small, planted tanks are great for fish because they provide the structure that makes their environment feel more secure. This reduces stress and allows you to enjoy an aquarium with peace of mind knowing your pet is happy!

The fish on the above list would do best in a planted small tank because of their need for shelter and hiding places. However, live plants provide just that, making them feel more secure!

That’s not all – one of the best ways to keep your freshwater tank clean and safe for fish is by adding live aquatic plants. Because plants help lower nitrates and prevent ammonia spikes! 

Plants are also beautiful decorations to make an amazing background scene in any aquarium!

Water Changes

water change for 5 gallon tank fish

To keep your tank healthy and happy, it’s important to perform regular water changes. A good rule-of-thumb for a 5-gallon aquarium is – to change 30% of the water every week or two. 

However, water change frequency will vary primarily depending on how heavily stocked you’re keeping the fish (in terms of numbers) and what kind they are – some require more frequent care than others!

The number of live plants in the tank and filtration quality is also determining factor for water changes requirements!

Tank Cleaning

gravel clean for 5 gallon tank fish

Frequent cleaning is essential for a 5-gallon tank!

When changing the water in your fish tank, be sure to vacuum up all of that dirt and uneaten food. You can use a gravel vacuum for this!

Read also: How to Clean a Fish Tank – An Infographic Demonstration

Water Test

water test for 5 gallon tank fish

Monitoring your water parameters is essential to keeping it clean and safe. The most important things you should be checking for are ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels in the tank.

Keep a special eye on your aquarium water’s ammonia and nitrite levels. These should read zero to indicate that the nitrogen cycle is running correctly in your small aquarium!

You can perform water tests with a liquid kit or strips available at any local fish store or e-commerce site!

Do Not Overfeed

do not overfeed for 5 gallon tank fish

Overfeeding can be an issue in the fishkeeping hobby, especially for beginners. 

If you feed your beloved pets too much food, they will accumulate uneaten leftovers at their bottomless tanks, which quickly begin to rot and emit toxic gas as a result! 

To avoid this problem, try not providing more than what is edible by your fish within 2- 3 minutes.

Final Verdict!

This guide will help you find – Best Fish For 5 Gallon Tanks! I recommend that beginners choose peaceful and easy-to-care-for ones and visually striking or colorful varieties like those on this list! 

These tiny species can provide you with beautiful visuals, enjoyment, and fulfillment as an aquarium keeper! If your favorite didn’t make this list feel free to let me know – I might add it in future articles if enough people want that specific info!

Sujit Modak

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