How Many Fish In A 5 Gallon Tank


Fish tanks are certainly the most relaxing thing to have in your pokey apartment other than a lava lamp. Having a small tank on your bookshelf or beside your bed can help put you to sleep or relax you after a hard day of concentrated studying.

These are just some of the advantages of having a 5-gallon tank. Others are the aesthetic value they add to your living space, one of these condensed pools gives you a window into the ocean and lends those bare man-made walls that added level of naturalness.

But is it just as simple as taking a few random fish and throwing them into their new home, hoping they get along?

Well, the short answer is no. Fish tanks are miniature ecosystems all of their very own. These living environments are much more intense than the ones you find in nature. Fish in nature can escape and develop their own habitats - the fish in your 5-gallon tank have a very limited range of options.

The smaller the aquarian, the more discerning you're going to have to be about what fish and ornaments you put in, as you simply won’t have the luxury of space.

So what fish can you include in a 5-gallon tank? What fish work perfectly in a smaller tank and what fish should be avoided? What plants and temperature levels make a smaller fish tank a happier place for your fish?

Well, read on, fish-fanciers! We’ve got some handy information about how many fish you can get in a 5-gallon tank, along with a few handy hints for designing the ideal aquatic living space.

Why Have A 5 Gallon Tank?

A 5-gallon tank is a perfect choice for someone who likes a challenge when designing their fish tank. You have far less space to choose from, so picking the right ornaments, gravel, plants and fish is like playing a game of Tetris - only certain pieces work well together.

A 5-gallon fish tank is part art exhibition and part animal enclosure. You have to get the balance right for it to look nice and also ensure that your fish survive for longer than a week.

This might also be an ideal option for those who eventually want to graduate to a bigger tank but don’t feel quite ready to flex their fish decorating muscles. Consider your 5-gallon tank as a ‘starter tank’.

But what kind of fish work well together in a smaller fish tank?

The Best Fish For A 5 Gallon Tank

Here is a brief list of some of the smaller breeds of fish and invertebrates that would work perfectly well in a 5-gallon tank. Remember: cycle your tank regularly to avoid messing up the water chemistry, which is very easy to do and can prove fatal for your aquatic inhabitants.

  • Betta fish - these are the best fish to include in a 5 gallon cycled tank that has a lot of ornaments that they can hide in. Betta fish make use of every liquid square inch of your 5-gallon tank.
  • Killifish - you can keep a pair of killifish in nano fish environments, however, be aware that they might breed. If you want to keep a dynasty of fish in your aquarium, then you’ll welcome these new additions, although you might have to transfer them to a bigger tank eventually.
  • Cherry shrimps - these little mollusks can thrive in a smaller space, although they are sensitive to temperature changes in the water. You can start with around 10 of these.
  • Dwarf crayfish - these small fish have plenty of character and are small enough for you to house about 2.
  • Thai micro crab - this can make your tank seem a lot more exotic, the Thai micros can hide in the nooks and crannies of a smaller tank, they also get along very easily with shrimps and snails. You can house up to 5 of these in a 5-gallon tank.
  • Nerite snail - these will give your fish tank a certain regal quality, although make sure to only pick one breed as they tend to eat each other!

What Fish You Should Avoid

Here are some of the fish that due to various sensitivities or an aggressive nature cannot be kept in a smaller tank.

  • Goldfish - due to the size and sociability of these fish, it is often cruel to keep just one. Most aquarium enthusiasts recommend having around 20 gallons of water per goldfish.
  • White Cloud Mountain Minnow - these schooling fish often need a few companions to reduce their anxiety levels. In a 5 gallon tank, you simply won’t have the room!
  • Dwarf pufferfish - these fish are particularly sensitive to fluctuations in the water quality and often succumb to boredom. They will thrive in 10 gallons or more, as long as there are plenty of ornamental hideaways to explore.
  • Guppies - these fish grow too large to be placed in a 5-gallon tank. They also breed at a ridiculous rate, so you’ll have a lot of work rehousing their offspring in supplementary tanks.
  • Corydoras - this species of fish are used to large schooling and are very active and are often incorrectly put in nano tanks. The smaller tanks also have a temperamental water climate, which can be fatal for Corydoras.

What Plants To Choose For A 5 Gallon Fish Tank

Even if the options of fish above seem slightly limited, you can always spruce up your tank with a variety of plant life. You can even have solely plants in your 5-gallon tank if you fancy decorating your apartment with some water-based plant life.

There are a lot of breeds of aquatic plants that keep small and do not require a great deal of maintenance.

Maintaining this green aqua space can also provide your fish with a lot of entertainment, as it gives them plenty of places to hide and explore. A tank that is filled with plants and cleaned regularly can give even the dingiest apartments that brighter feeling.