Best Fish For A 5 Gallon Tank Stocking Ideas And Combinations You Can Use

Estimated read time 11 min read

This is the most comprehensive list of fish for a 5 gallon tank.

In this guide, you’ll learn which fish are perfect for small tanks like a 5 gallon, which combinations work well, and how you can use plants to take your tank to the next level.

We decided to take a closer look at some of the best fish for a 5 gallon tank to help you find the best combos and stocking ideas. Of the many species available, these are the best fish for a 5 gallon tank in our opinion.

  1. Best Low Maintenance Fish For A 5 Gallon Tank: White Cloud Minnow
  2. Best Small Fish For A 5 Gallon Tank: Endler’s Livebearer
  3. Easiest Fish To Take Care Of In A 5 Gallon Tank: Nerite Snail
  4. Best 5 Gallon Community Fish: Endler’s Livebearer

We’ll also show you some other tiny things that you can fit comfortably in your 5-gallon tank.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • 22 Best Fish For A 5 Gallon Tank
  • Fish To Avoid
  • How many fish can you put in a 5-gallon tank
  • The Best 5-gallon tank fish combinations
  • Plant combinations
  • And more…

Let’s dive right in.


5-Gallon tanks are usually the smallest size tank that I would recommend if you want to keep fish.

They are very easily contaminated due to the small amount of water, so you need to pay close attention to the bioload and water parameters.

If none of the fish species below are what you’re looking for in terms of fish, then you should explore a larger tank.

A larger tank is not only easier to maintain but will provide you with the opportunity to keep a wider selection of fish.

With that out of the way:

Here are a few of the best freshwater fish for a 5-gallon tank:

1. Betta Fish (Betta splendens)

A few things you should know about your betta fish.

To keep your betta happy, you’ll need to make sure he has enough space that he can call his own territory.

Betta fish can have very different personalities, some are more aggressive than others and may tend to harass one another, and others may not.

2. White Cloud Moutain Minnow

  • Care Level: Easy
  • Size: 1-2 Inches
  • Temperature Requirements: 60-72 °F
  • PH Range: 6.0-7.0

Native to Chinese mountain streams, the White Cloud Mountain Minnow is an ideal fish for a 5 gallon tank. This is a peaceful and easy-to-care-for fish that won’t nip at the fins of other fish.

They also enjoy a similar diet to other fish, so you won’t have to find that perfect chemical balance for all your Fish to thrive.

3. Honey Gourami

  • Care level: Beginner
  • Size: 1 to 2 inches (3” in some cases)
  • Ideal tank size: 10/20 Gallons
  • Temperature range: 71 – 82 °F
  • PH range: 6.0 – 7.5

Honey Gourami thrive in soft and moderately soft water. This orange-colored fish is naturally found in the rivers of India and Bangladesh.

It usually prefers to swim in the middle and near the surface and prefers many hiding places in the tank.

So a densely planted tank would be ideal for them, with some tall plants. It can be kept alone, but it’s a good idea to have two of these in the tank.

4. Various Micro Rasboras

5. Guppies (Poecilia reticulata)

Guppies are a long-standing freshwater sweet-heart fish. They are hardy, beautiful, and peaceful.

  • Care level: Beginner
  • Size: 0.6 to 2.4 (males: 0.6 to 1.4 and females 1.2 to 2.4)
  • Ideal tank size: 10 Gallons (can live in five if there are only guppies)
  • Temperature range: 75 – 82 °F (76 °F is ideal)
  • PH range: 6.8 to 7.8

They spend most of their time frolicking in the middle or at the top, so don’t mind the substrate. But they do love plants, especially long-leaf plants like Amazon swords.

As omnivores, they will eat almost anything, but mixing things up with live feed, frozen feed, and vegetables like peas is a good idea. Please don’t feed them more than what they can eat in two minutes.

6. Mollies (Poecilia latipinna/Poecilia sphenops)

  • Care Level: Easy
  • Size: 6-8 Inches
  • Temperature Requirements: 70-82 °F
  • PH Range: 7.5-8.2

Mollies are a favorite in the aquarium hobby because of their many good qualities. They are very peaceful, undemanding, and brightly colored.

You can find them in most aquarium stores and many variations such as orange, rust, silver, black, green, gold, and combinations of some or all of these.

7. Pygmy Corydoras (Corydoras pygmaeus)

  • Care Level: Easy
  • Size: 1 Inch
  • Temperature Requirements: 72-79 °F
  • PH Range: 6.4-7.4

The Pygmy Corydoras is the smallest Corydoras Catfish species, only growing to about 1 inch in length.

Corydoras are bottom feeders, so they generally won’t interfere with your other Fish, which prefers to cruise around the tank’s upper layers.

They are also peaceful by nature, and their dull gray colors blend well with sand and gravel. Some fish may not even notice they have a tankmate.

8. Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi)

  • Care Level: Easy
  • Size: 1.5″
  • Temperature Requirements: 68-77 °F
  • PH Range: 6.0-7.5

Neon tetras are small freshwater fish that get along well with Bettas, they will also add color and activity to your tank, and they are great for beginners.

Because neon tetras stay quite small and have a peaceful temperament, they are often found in small community aquariums and can live up to 10 years if kept healthy.

9. Harlequin Rasbora (Rasbora heteromorpha)

  • Care Level: Easy
  • Size: 1.5″
  • Temperature Requirements: 73-82 °F
  • PH Range: 6.0-7.0

Harlequin rasboras may be the ultimate tank mates because they are very peaceful and can coexist without a problem.

Rasboras are small and not known to be aggressive or nip at fins.

10. Celestial Pearl Danio

  • Care Level: Easy
  • Size: 2 Inches
  • Temperature Requirements: 67-72 °F
  • PH Range: 6.0-7.5

The Celestial Pearl Danio is a relatively easy-to-care-for fish. It does best in a peaceful aquarium or a well-planted aquarium of at least 10 gallons. And because of its small size and calm temperament is an excellent friendly fish.

11. Dwarf Puffer

12. Dwarf Frog

  • Care Level: Beginner
  • Max Size of Fish: 1 to 3 inches
  • Temperature Range: 72 to 82 degree Fahrenheit
  • pH Range: 5 to 7.8

Although it seems like a bit of an odd entry to the list of tank mates for neon tetras, African dwarf frogs are great for small tanks. They add a bit of variety to the aquarium. With a fairly small size, you can count on them not eating the neon tetra.

13. Clown Killifish

14. Least Killifish

With little goal beyond enjoying its own existence, the killifish is unlikely to start any battles with other fish in your aquarium, so you can be certain of a peaceful tank as long as you keep just one male killifish (they can get quite aggressive when mating season rolls around).

15. Dwarf Crayfish

16. Endler’s Livebearer

It’s a small fish with a long name.

  • Care level: Beginner to intermediate
  • Size: 1.5 inches
  • Ideal tank size: 10 Gallons minimum
  • Temperature range: 75 – 85 °F
  • PH range: 7.0 – 7.5

Endler’s livebearer is a peaceful and hardy Venezuelan fish that love planted tanks. It usually dwells in the top and the middle and has interesting sleeping behavior. It usually falls asleep at the top and drifts down to the bottom.

But only if they feel that the bottom is safe. If your bottom dwellers are keen on snacking on peaceful and sleepy livebearers, Endler’s stay asleep on top and middle levels. They mostly do well in warmer waters.

17. Rosy Loach

18. Cherry Red Shrimp (Neocaridina davidi)

  • Care Level: Easy
  • Size: 1 Inch
  • Temperature Requirements: 80 °F
  • PH Range: 6.8

These tiny red shrimp are another invert for small tanks because they are very unobtrusive and excellent at hiding.

One thing to keep in mind is they breed quickly so they could overtake your tank quickly. That said, they are relatively hardy and would work well in a Betta tank.

19. Ghost Shrimp

  • Care Level: Easy
  • Size: 1.5 Inches
  • Temperature Requirements: 72-80 °F
  • PH Range: 7.0-8.0

Ghost shrimp are almost translucent and are very pale in color.

They’re small and will stay out of the way, they’re also scavengers, so they’ll work to keep your tank clean.

Ghost Shrimp prefer aquariums of at least 5-10 gallons with plenty of places to hide. With a small community of Ghost Shrimp, you should have a clean and peaceful tank.

20. Amano Shrimp

  • Care Level: Easy.
  • Ideal Tank Size: Min 10 gallons.
  • Temperature Range: 70°F to 80°F
  • PH Range: 6-7

The Amano Shrimp is known by its scientific name Caridina multidentata and a variety of other names like

  • Japonica Shrimp
  • Caridina Japonica
  • Algae Eating Shrimp
  • Yamato Shrimp

21. Crystal Red Shrimp

22. Nerite Snail

  • Care Level: Easy
  • Size: 1 Inch
  • Temperature Requirements: 73-75 °F
  • PH Range: 7.5

Zebra (Nerite) Snails are very popular in freshwater aquariums mainly because it’s challenging to breed them in a freshwater tank, so they are doubtful to multiply like other snail species.

These snails also help remove/eat debris and algae from your tank, which helps keep things clean.

Fish You Should Avoid Putting In A 5 Gallon Tank

With a tank as small as a 5 gallon, it’s crucial to avoid any large species of fish. As well as fish that are territorial, aggressive, or make a bit messy.

Fish to avoid would be;

  • Goldfish
  • Angelfish
  • Cichlids
  • Barbs

What You Need To Know When Stocking A 5-Gallon Tank

Below we answer a few common questions about keeping fish in a 5 gallon tank.

Question #1: How many fish can you put in a 5-gallon tank?

You can keep about 4-6 fish in a tank this size as long as each fish is not larger than 2 inches. The one inch fish per gallon rule would apply to most smaller fish breeds like Tetras, Rasbora & Betta Fish. Fish that can grow larger than 2 inches are not recommended for a 5 gallon tank.

But let’s discuss that a bit further. The most common rule of thumb to determine how many fish you can keep; is to use one inch of fish per gallon.

But to be brutal, the answer isn’t really that simple.

For example;

You wouldn’t want a 6″ Goldfish inside a tiny little 5-gallon tank.

What you should really consider is how big my fish will get when it’s fully grown and will it be comfortable in a small 5-gallon tank.

Additionally, some thought should be given to water quality.

Small tanks can become toxic very quickly. The more fish, snails, plants etc…that you have in the tank, the faster it will become dirty and need a water change.

All that aside, the one inch fish per gallon rule would apply to most smaller breeds of fish like Tetras, Rasbora & Betta Fish.

Keep in mind that you can also keep shrimp and snails in your tank as well.

At the end of the day, add fish slowly and monitor your water parameters closely and the well-being of your fish.

Question #2: What Are The Best 5-gallon tank fish combinations?

In most cases, five gallons isn’t suitable for multiple fish apart from micro rasboras, but here are a few options you can try:

  • 1 x Betta fish, 1 Amano Shrimp, 1 Nerite Snail
  •  2 x killifish

Or you could also try setting up a snail tank or a shrimp tank if you just wanted to leave out the fish. For this use:

  • 10 Cherry Shrimp
  • 5 Nerite Snails.

Shrimp come in many colors and breeds and do quite well in a small planted tanks!

Plant Combinations

If you’re a beginner, you could try setting up a nice 5 gallon planted tank with a few live plants.

This will help keep the water quality in check and prevent spiking.

Some great beginner plants are;

In a 5-gallon tank try;

  • 1 x Java Fern
  • 2 x Anubias
  • 1 x Java Moss Ball

At the end of the day, a 5-gallon tank is not for beginners, so make sure you know what you are getting into.

It’s important to understand the nitrogen cycle and how to maintain healthy water conditions for your fish.

Need more ideas for a bigger tank? Try these articles:

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