What should I put in my five gallon aquarium?

CrazyCatLady got me a new five-gallon hexagonal aquarium for Christmas. I’ve gotten fairly good at maintaining our larger 20-gallon freshwater tank, and I’ve enjoyed it so much that she thought I would like one for my den now and my office when we move this summer.

I’m doing live plants in this one for the first time; I have two little Java ferns rubberbanded to a piece of driftwood, and a larger, leafier plant that I can’t remember the name of right now. I have two little zebra danios in it right now to get it through the cycle, and it’s cycling along just fine–I’ll probably add some fish next weekend.

I’m trying to decide what fish to put in the tank–I’d like to have just a couple of larger, more interesting fish than 4-5 smaller ones. (I can move the danios to the big tank.) Any ideas from experienced freshwater aquarium types?

a cycled 5 with a heater and live plants would be perfect for a male betta, bettas are smart little fish, recognize their pet humans and enjoy interacting with them

alternatively, you could put in a couple of African Dwarf Frogs, they’re fully aquatic frogs

Five gallons is pretty small, but I’ve done some interesting things with them.

My suggestion? A blue Crayfish. http://www.bluecrayfish.com/pics.html

Water is a good start.

How about an Angel Fish? We had one in a five gallon when I was a kid. Which reminds me, do NOT get guppies! Seven turned into seventy-five faster than you’d believe!

One or two of the very fancy goldfish might be a nice choice. You could get the type with the flowing fins and big eyes. I know they come in different colours.

I’ll second the male Betta. They’re one of the more interactive fish and probably the closest to a “pet”. Just remember that you can’t keep more than one!

Five gallons sounds a little small for angelfish. How about neon tetras? They are small, so you can have more than one or two, and they are colorful.


Neons are a schooling fish, you’d need at least 5, and right there the tank is fully stocked, problem is, Neons are not the healthiest or hardiest of fish, yes they are attractive, but they’re also fragile and need stable water conditions, a 5 is difficult to keep stable with delicate fish, also, you always want to understock a tank, the general guideline for stocking levels is 1" of narrow bodied fish per gallon, yes healthy live plants may help with the carrying capacity, but a 5 is too small for delicate fish like Neons

Neons also prefer soft, acid water

do you happen to know what your water parameters are?
(i borrowed this text block from one of the aquarium sites i frequent, please fill in as much as you can…)

  1. Traces of ammonia and nitrite, nearing the end of the initial cycle. I don’t have a nitrate test kit.
  2. pH is about 6.6 right now. Haven’t tested GH.
  3. Room temperature. No heater, though I could add one fairly easily if I wanted to.
  4. 5 gallons. Biowheel filter (Eclipse system)
  5. Currently doing about 15% twice a week, probably back to once later (like I do my big tank)
  6. A touch of Flourish plant supplement and a touch of AquaSafe, each once a week.
  7. Miniscule pinch of your standard Tropical Flakes, once a day. (It’s hard to not overfeed two tiny little fish.
  8. Two zebra danios, two small Java ferns, one plant whose name I can’t remember, one piece of Malaysian driftwood, small gravel.
  9. The two danios were added three weeks ago.
  10. No–my danios are active and appear happy.
  11. A little over three weeks.

5 gallons is way too small for angelfish. I’m not really into the betta thing. I’m not opposed to 4-5 smaller fish, if they were cool ones.

another thing you might want to try are dwarf pufferfish, just make sure you keep up on water changes as DP’s are very messy for their size, even though they don’t grow over 1", they can produce the equivalent waste of a 2.5" fish

they also eat live food, snails are a staple of their diet, but they also enjoy live blackworms, some of them will take frozen bloodworms, but my pair are incredibly fussy, if it ain’t a live blackworm or a snail (pond snails and brown ramshorns work well) they’re not interested, and no DP will even consider flake food, they’ll starve first

make sure your tank has been fully cycled, as they don’t tolerate a cycling tank very well, also, they tend to be somewhat nippy and best kept in a species tank, you’d have to move the danios out

they are quite inquisitive little fish, constantly inspecting every nook and cranny of the tank, they recognize their owner and will beg for food, much like other intelligent fish, in fact, based on brain to body weight ratio, puffers are some of the smartest fish in the hobby

Line the bottom of the tank with white gravel, or clear glass “stones”.

Use all-white aquariums props.

For fish use all transparent species, commonly called “glass fish” or “ghost fish” (can’t think of the correct names, sorry).

There are also transparent crayfish-like creature for your tank.

Finally, buy a ceramic skull, & put it in the tank.

This “themed” look will be much more appealing than a mere conglomeration.

This sounds like exactly the right size to fill with M&Ms. Trust me, you’ll be happy you went this way. After all, you already have fish.

Bosda, I’m so going to do that! I’ve been wanting to get a fish tank for a while now and you just convinced me.

I’d get some kind of lizards or frogs.

Do not get a Pacu.

Get some figure 8 puffers! they’re rad, and you can train/play with them! :slight_smile:

or get a pet mantis shrimp (click on my name to read my thread about my pet mantis shrimp)

Do not get a Pacu.

5 Gallons?

That’s awfully small.

Ammonia, nitrites, nitrates, phosphates will shoot the roof within hours, creating a poisonous environment for all but the hardiest of fish.

I’d suggest 1 or 2 very small fish, one inch or less.

Then again, I’m a saltwater guy.
Maybe two neon guppies a couple snails?

I’d say a couple of Barbs or some Harlequin Rasbora Tetras.

Barbs are a pretty good bet though. They seem to be fairly rugged.

Opps. Why I put Tetra is beyond me. The Harlequin isn’t a tetra at all.

I have to second the Betta suggestion. They are beautiful fish and since they breathe air, they don’t need the surface area that other fish do. I had one in a five gallon tank with a little airpump and filter and he did fine for years.

I’m not sure if you mean flashy cool, or not so commonly kept cool. If you want bright colors, my suggestion will be right out. Because of the small tank size, the pH on the acidic side, plants and wood, I thought of pencilfish. They’re not really brightly colored, though I think they’re really pretty with either striped and gold colorations to black and white striped with red finnage. They stay small and they’re not something seen everyday, though they are usually available on most stores’ fish lists (if they’re not regularly stocked) and usually inexpensive. Even the less flashier varieties of the smaller pencilfish have something unusual about them, as some hold themselves at a pronounced angle.

If this sounds interesting, you can do a search on any of these Nannostomus -


Although I get made fun of for this from fellow hobbyists, I also really like chocolate gouramis (Sphaerichthys osphromenoides). They also stay around 2 inches, and I like to think of them as the Poor Man’s leaf fish. Their fins are transparent, and when they swim, they remind me of little hovercraft. Similar to how marine cowfish move. They also prefer acidic water and plants. They do better in blackwater tanks, but I’ve noticed it’s the pH that seems to affect them most. They are also a fish one is less likely to see everyday, if that’s your aim. Good luck with whatever you choose.