The best fish for a small aquarium

In our world, we usually deal with pretty substantial aquariums. We’re not always into the world of smaller, more beginner/pet-friendly tanks. That being said, we always like to keep a foot in that door because, well – every fish lover has a place where they started and began loving fish. And it’s usually in the world of 5 and 10 gallon tanks. 

So today, we’re going to stray off the beaten path a little bit and talk about some of the best fish you can have for your office desk or college dorm – fish of the 5 gallon variety. Sometimes, it can be hard to find creatures small enough to live in it, but today, we’ve put a small list of fish together that we’re sure will do the trick. Let’s jump right in!

Dwarf pea puffers

Pea puffers are actual, real puffer fish – just smaller versions. They’re characterized by a small yellow body, dark spots and their endlessly rotating eyes. They love to eat frozen foods and if you’re not careful – they will go after other animals in your aquarium like snails or dwarf shrimp, so be sure you only have one of these guys hanging out in your space at a time. 

But as an individual pet? They’re about as good as it gets. In addition, they’re a great fish to decorate with as you can supply them with an endless number of plants and background decoration and we promise you – they WILL stick out when set out upon that backdrop.

Rosy Loach

Rosy Loaches are scavengers, but surprisingly – they’re also intensely social fish. Even cooler, they’re what we call sexually dimorphic, almost like pheasants – where the males come in one look and the females come in another. They’re very active fish and especially if you purchase small school, don’t be surprised to see them buzzing around your tank all the time. They’re also curious fish as well – and are all too interested in things you might be doing. So if you’re looking for a good wingman for your desk, the rosy loach can be your fish.

Green neon tetra

So these guys look like regular neon tetras but believe it or not – they’re a completely different species altogether. You get a lot of the benefits of a neon – things like the beautiful blue-green horizontal stripe from head to tail that you can see even when the lights are off; but they also stay significantly smaller than a regular neon tetra and rarely get bigger than one inch in length. Like loaches, they’re a social species, but a little more inwardly so. If you’re going to buy one, you should buy a few so they have friends. They like to stick together. They’re not aggressive fish either so if you want a busier, more active tank – a small school of these guys paired with rosy loaches can be a really fun mix. 

White cloud mountain minnows

If you’re a stone-cold beginner and you’re looking for a fish that’s super easy to care for and also provides some variety, take a stab at the white cloud mountain minnow. They come in some variations – long fin, golden and regular and they’re particularly eye catching thanks to their blue eyes, red fins and peach-colored body. They’re also adaptable creatures, capable of living in a variety of water conditions and eating almost any kind of fish food. They’re not picky! So whether you’re just starting out or you’re an advanced tank owner looking to add a little color – these guys are a great compliment to any aquarium. 


Many of these fish can be found at a local fish store, but if you’re having difficulty finding them – feel free to check out some online vendors. If you’re looking for filtration media, bio balls or any other advice on how to keep these guys clean and healthy, then feel free to give us a call and we’ll be happy to provide you with a free consultation. Until then, good luck!

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