Top 17 Best Fish For 5 Gallon Tanks (Beginner Friendly)

5 gallon tanks are perfect for fish keepers who do not have much space.

Although they are generally considered the smallest aquarium size in the aquarium hobby there is still a huge variety of fish to choose from.

You could consider a school of Tetras or perhaps a Betta?

In a 5 gallon tank it is very important to plan properly. You only have a small space to work with so tank mate compatibility is crucial.

Below we list the best 17 fish for 5 gallon tanks…

5 Gallon Tank

17 Best Fish For A 5 Gallon Tank

17. Betta Fish

Royal Betta Fish

The Betta Fish (Betta splendens) is often referred to as the Siamese Fighting fish.

They are very popular in the aquarium hobby and are best known for their magnificent appearance. They come in a range of colors with the most popular variants being red and blue, but other colors such as black, pink or even green are common.

In addition to these dazzling colors they also have flowing tails (sometimes known as veil tails) that look majestic as they glide through the water.

Betta fish are naturally found in small, confined spaces such as rice paddies. This can influence their behavior as they can become very territorial and protective of their environment. Because of this they should be kept in a species only aquarium.

The lifespan of these fish is around 5-7 years, but this depends on how well they are cared for. There are many myths surrounding Betta fish care, often stating that they are low maintenance. Although they may be small they still require adequate care.

  • Size: 3 inches
  • Community Friendly: No

16. Scarlet Badis

A Scarlet Badis Swimming

The Scarlet Badis (Dario dario) is another fish that is quite content living in a small aquarium.

Males come in bright shades of red and orange. Females on the other hand tend to be more dull looking with a silver coloration.

These fish are very small so they are great additions for small tanks.

They like to hide among plants as they are shy and easily intimidated. Since they spend their time swimming slowly at the middle and bottom parts of the tank, they do not take up much space and are perfectly fine in smaller tanks.

Scarlet Badis can also can be quite unpredictable as they can die suddenly without warning. For this reason, they are most suitable for intermediate fish keepers rather than beginners.

  • Size: 0.8 inches
  • Community Friendly: Yes

15. Pygmy Sunfish

The Pygmy Sunfish (Elassoma evergladei) is an extravagant-looking fish that thrives in a 5-gallon tank.

In fact, you can even put a group of these fish in one tank.

These small fish prefer heavily planted aquariums as the plants provide lots of hiding spots which helps to reduce stress.

Although they look a bit intimidating, these fish are peaceful and shy.

They are so timid that you should only keep them in a species only aquarium.

Pygmy Sunfish have dark bodies with iridescent patches of blue/green that extends to the cranial region and the fins. Females will be slightly lighter and be a mottled grey or brown tone. They also have very wide dorsal and anal fins which make them look very graceful as they swim.

  • Size: 2-3 inches
  • Community Friendly: No

14. Molly Fish

White Sailfin Molly

The Molly Fish (Poecilia sphenops) is a freshwater fish from Central American.

They come in a variety of colors including: black or orange to yellow or white.

Typically they have a flat body with relatively small fins. There are many types of molly fish out there such as the Sailfin Molly that us gray in appearance with dark, bold spots and a large dorsal fin. Or the Lyretail Molly that has narrow caudal fins.

Mollies are very sociable and it is best to keep them in groups of 4 or more. They can become aggressive if they do not have enough space so make sure not to overcrowd their tank.

Overall, their small size and generally peaceful temperament makes them a great fish for 5 gallon tanks.

  • Size: 4-4.5 inches
  • Community Friendly: Yes

13. Honey Gourami

Honey Gourami Care Sheet and Species Info Cover

The Honey Gourami (Trichogaster chuna) is often known as the Red Honey Gourami, or the Sunset Gourami.

Their appearance is what makes them so popular.

They are found in shades of bright orange to yellow and glisten in the light. Their bodies are slim and are accompanied by long ventral fins and very short pectoral fins. This stunning appearance is what makes them look like little flickering flames as they swim.

Honey Gouramis are perfect additions for 5-gallon tanks.

Not only are they small but they will keep themselves occupied by investigating their surroundings.

  • Size: 2 inches
  • Community Friendly: Yes

12. Sparkling Gourami

Sparkling Gourami Care Guide & Species Profile Cover

Sparkling Gouramis (Trichopsis pumila) are another classic Gourami.

They are very easy to care for and are compatible with lots of tank mates.

These Southeast Asian natives have elegant, streamlined bodies that are blue, green and brown. Their fins tend to be blue with dark dots and a red line around the edge. The anal fin is the most prominent with the dorsal fins being slightly taller and narrower.

Sparkling Gouramis will thrive in a 5 gallon aquarium.

They spend most of their time near the surface and occasionally gulp air.

You will find they are most comfortable when surrounded by a few plants and other Sparkling Gouramis. Allowing these creatures to socialize not only stimulates their curiosity but dramatically improves their quality of life.

  • Size: 1.5 inches
  • Community Friendly: Yes

11. Amano Shrimp

Amano Shrimp Close Up

Although technically Amano Shrimp are not fish, they do make wonderful additions to 5 gallon tanks.

Amano Shrimp are best known for their tank cleaning as they like to scavenge for algae and waste.

These freshwater shrimps are ideal for 5 gallon community tanks because of their small size and calm personality. However, they should not be kept with bigger fish. Examples of compatible tank mates are Chili Rasboras and Platies.

They tend to be brown with a faint stripe that runs along the body. While it may look boring to us, their appearance helps them to blend into their surroundings in the wild which is key for avoiding predators and hiding from prey.

Three shrimp in an aquarium this size is a good rule to follow.

  • Size: 2 inches
  • Community Friendly: Yes

10. Cherry Shrimp

Cherry Shrimp Close Up

Cherry Shrimp (Neocaridina heteropoda) are commonly kept in 5-gallon tanks with other small fish.

They are best known for eating algae and keeping aquariums clean.

In the wild these shrimps will also consume the biofilm of algae that forms over aquatic plants. This ornamental shrimp first became popular in the 1990s throughout Asia but gained much more attention by the early 2000s in the United States because of their tank-cleaning abilities.

Cherry Shrimps come in a range of red shades.

They will generally keep to themselves as they eat waste near the bottom of the aquarium. They also do not produce a lot of bio load which makes them perfect for small-sized aquariums.

  • Size: 1.5 inches
  • Community Friendly: Yes

9. Green Neon Tetra

Green Neon Tetra

The Green Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon simulans) is another variety of tetra that is commonly kept in a small tank.

They will sometimes be called the False Neon Tetra or even the Blue Tetra.

The green part of their physical appearance is what gives the Green Neon Tetra their name. Their iridescent green-blue striped body is outlined with some red detail. This stripe will be less obvious in darker water. They also appear to be transparent as their fins are small and clear.

These tiny Tetras are very sociable and need to be kept in a group to be healthy.

Keeping them in a 5 gallon tank is ideal as they are small and like to explore their environment.

Green Neon Tetras are ideal for beginners because they have minimal care requirements.

  • Size: 1 inch
  • Community Friendly: Yes

8. Dwarf Pea Puffer

Dwarf Puffer

The Dwarf Pea Puffer (Carinotetraodon travancoricus) is a perfect fish for 5 gallon tanks.

Not only are they small, but they are not very active and prefer to hide away among vegetation. This means they do not need a lot of tank space for swimming around and like to keep to their own little areas.

These adorable fish are commonly kept in 5 gallon tanks and have gained a lot of popularity among aquarists. They are classified as the smallest pufferfish in the world, growing up to only one inch long.

Dwarf Pea Puffers have round bodies with a yellow belly and endless ripples of green, brown, and even gold.

These little fish can be found in local pet stores ranging from $3-15.

  • Size: 1. inches
  • Community Friendly: No

7. White Cloud Mountain Minnow

White Cloud Mountain Minnow

White Cloud Mountain Minnows are scientifically known as Tanichthys albonubes.

These fish make great additions to 5 gallon tanks as they mainly occupy the middle regions of the tank and do not require any hiding spaces. Their natural environments include a lot of aquatic vegetation, so a few plants are ideal. They are a rather adventurous species and are curious of their surroundings.

They have a classic streamlined body.

White Cloud Mountain Minnows have a bronze-pink toned appearance, accompanied with silver green-tinted scales and a jet-black line running along the length of their body. They also have a characteristic black spot on their tail which are stained with subtle shades of red.

You can also come across some color varieties such as the Golden Cloud or Meteor Minnows.

  • Size: 1.5 inches
  • Community Friendly: Yes

6. Clown Killifish

Clown Killifish

These micro predators are very interesting fish to keep.

They often have no interest in plants and vegetation and like to spend their time at the surface feeding on insects and other organisms that they might find.

If you are looking to liven up the upper area of your nano tank then Clown Killifish are the solution.

They have a long rocket-shaped body which is splashed with lots of colors ranging from black and yellow to blue and red. The colors are usually in a striped pattern and will be more vibrant in males than females. Fin colors will also vary.

Clown Killifish are so small that groups of three can be kept in 5 gallon aquariums.

  • Size: 1.2-1.4 inches
  • Community Friendly: Yes

5. Chili Rasbora

Chili Rasbora

The Chili Rasboras (Boraras brigittae) is an extremely popular Nano fish.

Their small size and peaceful temperament makes them the perfect fish for 5 gallon tanks.

Chili Rasboras have torpedo-shaped bodies that only grow to around 0.75 inches. They are a flame red color and have a classic dark line that runs along their body. Some small spots can also be seen near their tail and anal fins.

They are very active and spend all day darting around the aquarium and playing with each other.

Because they are so small a 5 gallon tank is suitable for up to 6 Chili Rasboras.

  • Size: 0.7 inches
  • Community Friendly: Yes

4. Ember Tetra

Ember Tetra

Ember Tetras (Hyphessobrycon amandae) are another tetra species that thrive in nano aquariums.

These curious fish may be small but they are not shy.

They are full of energy and like to swim around the tank exploring their surroundings. Sometimes they may hide among plants but this is only when they are tired. They are very peaceful too which makes them suitable for community tanks.

Ember Tetras are bright orange-red and they also have forked caudal fins and a thin dorsal fin. As with most colorful fish, a pale appearance is a sign of stress or poor health.

  • Size: 0.6-0.8 inches
  • Community Friendly: Yes

3. Guppy Fish

Guppy Fish

Guppy Fish (Poecilia reticulata) are widely considered to be one of the easiest fish to look after.

They have a peaceful and relaxed temperament and are hardy too.

You can find them in a range of colors including yellow, black, purple, and even blue. However, their main appeal is the many different types of fin shapes and tails. Males will have the brightest colors which is useful in courtship as guppies generally prefer orange pigmentation and will be attracted to the brightest-looking individuals.

These sociable fish are an ideal addition to any 5 gallon tank.

They are fast, playful swimmers that like to spend time near the top of the tank or among plants. Guppies are not considered aggressive at all which makes them perfect for small community aquariums.

  • Size: 2.4 inches
  • Community Friendly: Yes

2. Neon Tetra

Neon Tetra

Neon Tetras (Paracheirodon innesi) are by far the most popular Tetra.

The classic Neon Tetra has a small, slim body with stripes of iridescent blue and red and a silvery white belly. Their appearance allows them to identify each other in low visibility conditions in the wild. However, other variants such as the long-finned Neon Tetra and the Diamond Neon Tetra are becoming increasingly common. There is also a gold variant, classified as semi-albino.

Although they are classified as mid-dwellers, expect Neon Tetras to occupy all regions of the tank as they are an energetic species. They are also a schooling species too so it is advised to keep them in groups so that they feel comfortable and safe.

If they are relaxed they will be content with their surroundings, no matter how big or small.

  • Size: 1.5 inches
  • Community Friendly: Yes

1. Harlequin Rasbora

Harlequin Rasbora

Harlequin Rasbora (Trigonostigma heteromorpha) are the best fish for 5 gallon tanks.

They are very sociable and thrive in groups of eight to ten. Harlequin Rasboras put up a fascinating display as they swim around the tank in unity. Their small size and good compatibility with other species such as Cory Catfish and Neon Tetras makes them suitable for 5 gallon community aquariums.

They have a very distinct appearance.

These Rasboras are shades of rose-gold to red and have a bold triangle-shaped mark which begins at the dorsal fin and ends at the caudal fin.

  • Size: 2 inches
  • Community Friendly: Yes

Which Fish Should You Keep In Your 5 Gallon Aquarium? (Summary)

There are so many types of fish that you can keep in a 5 gallon aquarium.

Although these fish are content being kept in smaller tanks, this does not mean that they do not require as much care and maintenance as bigger fish do.

Most of the fish species explored in this article will have different care requirements.

Some will need tank mates whereas others will prefer to keep to themselves in specific areas of the aquarium. However, in general, small fish are non-demanding and are easy to keep.

Which are the best fish for 5 gallon tanks?

Let us know in the comments section below…

David Thomas Author Bio Picture
David Thomas leads the team at Everything Fishkeeping as the Editor-in-Chief. David has been keeping fish since he was a child. In his first tank he kept goldfish and since then he has kept over 30 different species. Now he has 4 separate tanks and his favorite is a 100 gallon freshwater tank with a school of Rasboras, Tetras and Loaches.

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