Little five gallon fish tank - what kind of fish for a four year old?

My mom has bought my little Darby a five gallon fish tank kit for her fourth birthday at the end of January. What kind of fish are most likely to survvie? I am considering even buying her a heater and getting some cichlids, because I know they last longer than goldfish.

What do you guys think?

Guppys & Neons are always fun!

If you provide plent of cover at the bottom of the tank, the Guppys will breed.
YAY! Baby Fishies!

In my 2 gallon in my office, I have low light plants, Endler’s livebearers, and cherry shrimp. The Endler’s and cherries both breed nicely.

I don’t know much about cichlids other than angels, but I’d think most would enjoy more than a 5. What do you think about bettas? Or another possibility would be a small school of 5 or so tetras - there are so many kinds to choose from.

Glass Catfish would be a thrill!

Ghost Shrimp are nice, too.,%20Ghost%20Shrimp.htm

Get her a nice, fancy goldfish.

The flowy fins will probably appeal to her, and goldfish are ubiquitious - if it DOES die you can get an identical replacement without too much trouble.

Yah, yah, yah, the kid needs to learn about death, but not when she’s 4.

My sister had two betta fish that were colorful and easy for her to take care of. She got them when she was around seven, and the last one just died in 2005, so that’s about five years.

A five gallon tank is so small it is cruel. get a bigger one soon. The only fishes for a 5 are Siamese Fighting Fish or goldfish.

My “feeder” goldfish have been around for three years now…

Get a betta (Siamese fighting fish). 5 gallons is pretty small, but would be great for a betta. They’re also really easy to care for and are brightly colored.

I was always a fan of Three spot gouramis.

They survived very well in my college age tank and survived many trips back & forth to school, along with the hijinks of my dorm-mates. (that’s a topic for a rant all by itself.)

This impresses me as a very ignorant statement. A tank is only too small if you overstock it. Well planned nanotanks of considerably less than 5 gal can be humane, healthy, and beautiful.

For example, I think this is a nice little set-up, at only 2.5 gal.

I was going to suggest a betta fish. Or a goldfish, maybe grow a plant out of the water too, so the fish can nibble the roots? I don’t recall what kind of plant it is, but I’ve seen little kits that come with a tank and a plant cutting especially for fish. You have to make sure the plant is big enough that the fish nibbling on it won’t kill it though. (I am not sure what kind of fish would eat the plant roots.) Make certain you don’t use chlorinated water when changing the tank for a betta, that is a quick way to kill them. Also keep on the watch for ick, that can also kill.

Bettas are great starter fish because they are hardy, pretty, and a little interactive. Bettas will often “dance” when they see people. They should be kept singly in a tank. They are available in lots of wonderful colors.

Goldfish need colder water and they are big-bodied for their length. They will dirty the water much more than most tropical fish. If kept healthy, a goldfish can live for 50 years.

White mountain minnows are hardy fish, and very pretty. They could be kept in a 5 gallon aquarium in a small school.

Generally, the smaller the aquarium, the harder it is to keep. That’s one of the reasons bettas can be such a good choice, because they actually are air breathers and can withstand some pretty dirty conditions (you don’t want dirty conditions, but they are tough little fish).

Neons? As in neon tetras? Yeah, a few of those would be good–they’ll school together.

Glass catfish are very cool–you can see right through them–but they don’t IME move around much except when you feed them and they tend to hide. There is another glass fish I’ve seen that is transparent but seem much friendlier. (Of course, in the fish store, the glass catfish are pretty active, too.) I think these are just called glass fish, and I’m not sure what their space requirements are, but they are neat if you like see-through fish.

It’s difficult to heat a tank so small, so the only fish I can recommend in full good conscience are White Cloud Mountain Minnows. Bettas like it heated, and goldfish should have a larger tank.

(And Dinsdale, nice try, but the tank in your link is an extremely sophisticated setup, and not anywhere near what the OP is doing.)

Please don’t put a goldfish in such a small tank. People are impressed when they keep a goldfish in a small bowl on small tank for a year, but as jsgoddess pointed out, they have a fairly long lifespan.

Glasscats wouldn’t do well in a small tank like they. They look cool but are fairly picky on their enviroment.

For a five gallon tank, I’d say a few small Barbs or Danios. They are pretty rugged, don’t grow very big, and won’t have a problem with a small tank. Then next choice would be a molly or a guppy.

Whatever you get, don’t put more than a few fish in this tank (4-5).

In my opinion, one single betta is the best option for a beginner with a five gallon tank. You could also add a large snail or a dwarf aquatic frog in with the betta (there is some care advice for aquatic frogs here: ).
If you want something a bit more uncommon and larger than a betta, you could get away with putting a single Paradise fish in there instead (see this page for more on those guys: ). Like bettas, paradise fish are colorful and have some intelligence/“personality” and do not need a filter to survive. DO NOT mix a paradise fish and betta together, though, because they will probably fight with each other!

Even though it is common to put goldfish in small containers, they really are NOT suited for it. People may not realize that the small goldfish you buy is just a baby. If allowed to reach their full potential, those common feeder goldfish can reach 12 inches in length as adults. Adult round-bodied fancy goldfish can become as large as a softball!
Unfortunately, since they’re so often put in small tanks, most goldfish die before they can reach their full potential.
The consensus among expert goldfish keepers is that goldfish need at least 10 gallons per fish to be healthy and live their full lifespan.

Cichlids all get too big to be happy in a five gallon tank and many of them are not really the best beginner fish because they are aggressive and a little fussy about the pH of their water. If you really want Cichlids, you may want to think about returning the little tank for a bigger tank and following the “Cookie Cutter” setups suggested on this site:

The one big mistake most beginners make with aquariums is to put too many fish in too small a tank, so they all end up dying as the waste from all those fish builds up in the water and poisons them all. If you want to enjoy your fish for a long time, it’s better to be careful and err on the side of understocking the tank rather than overstocking it by accident.
If you want a lot of good advice from long time aquarium keepers, I recommend visiting the forum at

Let me repeat what other’s have said, get a betta . They are colorful, interactive, and a five gallon tank is a good size for them. Well cared for they can last a very long time. I love watching them make nests.

I would not add any other fish, though. Remember adding a single snail can mean adding dozens of snails. I my experience they reproduce like tribbles almost.