What Are The Best Fish For A College Dorm (Student Friendly Options)

Estimated read time 10 min read

In this article, we’ll share some of the best fish you can keep in your dorm room while you go to college.

You’ll find a list of stocking ideas, fish to avoid, what you should consider before you buy a tank, and few other helpful tips.

Let’s go.


What Are The Best Fish For College Students?

Most college students are young and carefree, so the best fish for them would require little to no care and can take care of themselves.

However, since genetic engineering hasn’t come this far yet, we will stick with a few small, hardy, and low-maintenance options.

Here’s why those types of fish make sense for college students living in a dorm.

Small Fish

Small fish can be a good option for college students because:

  • Small fish equals small tanks, which takes up less space in the dorm room.
  • The tank can set it up on a sturdy desk (you can save money on a stand)
  • Easier to carry home during vacations
  • Require less feed and don’t create too much mess, so the tank stays cleaner for more extended periods.

Low Maintenance Fish

Most college students love everything low maintenance, which also includes their fish because:

  • Its care wouldn’t be an additional burden on them during exams and game season.
  • Easy to handle for beginners
  • The up-keep cost is low.
  • Their roommate(s) might not mind taking responsibility for the fish.

Hardy Fish

Hardy fish still require the proper setup, food, and care, but they are still an excellent choice for college students because:

  • They won’t get disturbed by loud sounds and weird lighting conditions of the dorm room.
  • They can survive in a broader range of parameters, so you won’t quickly kill them by mistake and give up on the fishkeeping altogether.
  • They can survive longer stretches between proper vacuuming and water changes.

Cold Water Fish

The cold-water fish might be a good option for you in a college dorm because:

  • It requires a relatively cheaper setup.
  • Coldwater fish are hardy.
  • You may not get much variety as tropical fish, but there are a few great selections.

Best Low Maintenance Fish For A College Dorm

As a college student, you might want to focus more on the maintenance of the fish than how much beauty and character it brings to the table (to the tank more accurately).

But the good news is that even in low maintenance categories, there are several interesting choices.

Betta Fish

Betta fish are gorgeous (the males) tropical fish that don’t require company to keep themselves happy, so even a solitary Betta in a small tank would be fine.

It grows up to be about 2-3 inches. They need to come up to breathe, so leave some room between the lid and the water. Don’t house it with fin nippers.

Endler Guppies

If you want something even smaller, the colorful and hardy Endler guppies are another option. Males don’t grow beyond 1 inch, while females can grow to 1.8 inches.

They are omnivores, so they eat practically anything (not leftover pizza, though). They prefer to be kept in a school.

Ember Tetras

It’s also called fire tetra and is like having a few dancing flames in the water. If you have a ten-gallon, you can keep up to ten fish to form a school.

They don’t grow beyond one inch, are omnivores, and love to live in a planted tank.

Zebra Danios

A zebra (no matter how cool) would be too large for a college dorm, but Zebra Danios might even stay happy (a pair or three fish) in a five-gallon tank though a ten-gallon would prefer ten.

They are omnivores and perfect for community tanks.

White Cloud Minnows

White cloud minnows have a single stripe running through the middle. They grow up to 1.5 inches, are peaceful omnivores, and dwell in the middle of the top of the tank.

They can easily survive in a wide variety of temperatures, making them relatively hardy.


Snails are an exciting choice for a college aquarium. They can be considered the “stoners” of the fish tank. From one-inch Nerites to 5-inch rabbit snails, they come in a variety of sizes.

Snails are easy to keep; the hard part is keeping their population in control. The line between pest and pet can get blurry when it comes to snails.


Shrimp aren’t just food for your fishy friends; they are also great pets to keep in their own right.

Snails like Amano, red cherry, ghost, and snowball (all grow to or beyond an inch) are not just beautiful, but they also help with algae, leftover food and add character to your tank. If they breed, your fish might get to enjoy a live food buffet.

Types of Fish That Should Not Be Kept In A Dorm

Not every fish is ideal for dorm rooms. Some are too delicate, require constant care or an arsenal of supplies at your disposal.

But there are three species that you want to stay away from:


Messy, require a lot of room and powerful filtration. Like Koi, they are more suited to outdoor ponds where they can grow as big as one foot, rather than a sad little dorm aquarium where they experience stunted growth and short life spans.


Gourami are hardy but territorial. They come in a variety of sizes, from 3 inches to 28 inches. Some species are easy to care for, but a lot of them require the utmost care, and you might not want to take on that much responsibility, in addition to your college courses.


Cichlids are a relatively tricky species to care for, especially if you are setting up your first tank.

They require somewhat tighter temperature control, are aggressive, and require relatively larger tanks than your dorm room might accommodate.

Keeping Fish In Your Dorm – What You Should Consider

Keeping fish in your dorm can do wonders for your mental health and teach you responsibility in new and exciting ways since even a less demanding pet like fish still has needs.

First, however, you should consider a few things before racing to the nearest pet shop (or to the computer to order online).


Make sure your roommates are okay with you bringing in fish into their lives. They might have their ideas about your dorm’s visual image, and fish might clash with it.

Ideally, they shouldn’t just be amicable but also ready to care for it if you are unavailable.

Cost, Food, Supplies

The running cost of keeping fish is relatively low but might still be hard on your wallet as a college student.

So before you make a decision, make sure you can buy food and arrange relevant supplies required for fish care (Chemicals, sampling kits, etc.).

Access To Power

Unless there is a regulatory issue, your dorm can at least power the pump, lights, and filter for a small aquarium.

Access To Water

Since you’ll most likely have access to a communal bath, you might have to carry water to and from the tank (after a water change) using a bucket or other containers.

Make sure it’s not an issue, and you can carry water around without disturbing your roommates or other students.


Even the most low-maintenance fish require supplies, and you should be able to keep them close at hand, so make sure you have adequate space.


As a college student, you might have ample time and privacy in your room to maintain the aquarium however you wish, without disturbing anyone else (apart from your roommate).

Care During Breaks

Aquarium fish won’t hibernate, so you have to make arrangements when you go on a break.

You can either take them with you or ask friends who are not going on holiday to feed and take care of your fish. Or you can sell/give them away to another enthusiast before going on a long break.

How Heavy Is The Fish Tank When Full?

Add the weight of the water (Gallons x 8.34 lbs) to the weight of the empty tank to get the total weight.

An excellent sturdy stand would be ideal, but you might be able to set it on your desk.

  • A 2.5-gallon nano-tank is about 27 lbs.
  • A 5-gallon tank is about 62 lbs.
  • A 10-gallon tank is about 111 lbs.

Video: 10 ITEMS TO BUY for Keeping Fish in College!

Beautiful Fish Tank Ideas And Stocking Options For Your Dorm?

Your tank size will mostly limit your stocking.

For a good 10 gallon tank, there are quite a few stocking options you can go with.

  1. 8 Norman Lampeye Killifish + 2 Sparkling gouramis (pair)
  2. 8 Neon Tetra + 4 Cherry shrimp
  3. 6 Pygmy cories + 6 Ember tetras
  4. 8 Celestial Pearl Danios
  5. 8 White cloud minnows
  6. 3 Male guppies + 6 Pygmy cories

Should You Get A Fish For Your Dorm?

Our Recommendation For The Best Fish To Keep In College?

The best fish to keep in your dorm is the White Cloud Minnow. This fish is one of the hardiest fish you can find; it won’t mind cold water conditions if you can’t use a heater. It has nice red fins and is very active.

Oh, and most importantly, small enough to fit into one of the tank sizes that you are likely to keep in your dorm.

Our Recommendation For The Best College Dorm Fish Tank


Can You Keep Fish In College Dorms?

Yes. Most colleges allow you to keep a small fish tank (usually 10-gallon or smaller) in your dorm room.

However, it’s still a good idea to check with your administrators for exact regulations.

Are Fish Good Pets For College Students?

Yes. They are excellent pets, mainly because they require minimal care, time commitment, and attention compared to other, larger pets that occupy the same space as you.

They can also help relieve stress and bring you closer to nature.

Before you go check out our list of popular pet fish you can use in your next aquarium.

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