Best Fish For A 5-Gallon Tank: 13 Great Options

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I have owned many different sized tanks over the years.

From small to big, I have had them all.

It wasn’t until I started researching the best fish for a 5 gallon tank that I realized just how challenging stocking this size tank would be.

I spent countless hours scouring online forums, reading articles and consulting with fellow hobbyists in search of the perfect inhabitants for my tiny aquatic paradise.

Finally, after much trial and error I discovered 13 amazing fish that can coexist peacefully in a 5 gallon tank.

Keep reading and say goodbye to endless searching and hello to a world teeming with life.

Best Fish For A 5 Gallon Tank

This is quite a small tank but despite it’s size, it can hold a few fish.

The main thing though is not to overstock it as this will cause major issues very quickly.

Below is my list of the best fish for a 5 gallon tank:

Chili Rasbora (Boraras brigittae)

Chili Rasboras are distinctively small, growing to a maximum length of just about 0.8 inches.

Chili Rasbora tank mates

They boast a fiery red body color, which becomes more intense with proper care and diet, giving them their common name.

They are peaceful, schooling fish and you can keep a small group of 6-8 in a 5 gallon tank.

Despite their small size and delicate appearance, Chili Rasboras are relatively hardy fish.

They prefer a well planted tank with plenty of hiding places.

They are not demanding in terms of care making them suitable for both beginner and experienced aquarists.

Sparkling Gourami (Trichopsis pumila)

The Sparkling Gourami is a small but spectacular fish that adds a splash of sparkle to small aquarium setups.

Sparkling gourami

In terms of appearance, Sparkling Gouramis are truly a sight to behold.

They typically reach up to 1.5 inches (4 cm) in length.

You can keep 3 of these fish in a 5 gallon tank.

Their bodies are a brownish color overlaid with a stunning iridescent sheen that reflects blue and green hues giving them their sparkling name.

Despite their delicate appearance, Sparkling Gouramis are relatively hardy and adaptable.

Sparkling Gouramis are peaceful fish that can be kept in a community aquarium, but they can be a bit shy.

They are also labyrinth fish, which means they breathe air, so it’s important to ensure that the top of the tank is accessible for them.

Endler’s Livebearers (Poecilia wingei)

Endler’s Livebearers are quite a spectacle.

They usually grow to a length of about 1.8 inches (4.5 cm) with males being smaller than females.

endlers livebearers

Males are the real show-stoppers when it comes to color and pattern.

They display a wide array of vibrant colors, including greens, oranges, blues, reds and blacks, often mixed together in spots, stripes, or other unique patterns.

Reaching around 1 inch in size, these colorful fish are known for their lively behavior.

A group of 3-5 males can be kept in a 5 gallon tank.

I would not keep any females to prevent an abundance of babies being born.

Endler’s Livebearers are peaceful and social fish that do well in community tanks.

They are highly active swimmers, and they will often be seen darting around the aquarium in groups.

Least Killifish (Heterandia formosa)

The Least Killifish is a fascinating species, known for its incredibly small size and hardiness, making it an attractive option for a nano tank.

Least Killifish

When it comes to appearance, the Least Killifish stands out for its tiny size, reaching a length of only up to 1.5 inches (3.8 cm).

Males are typically smaller than females.

Their bodies are slender and elongated, with an olive-brown or grayish coloration, often with a slight green sheen.

A small group of 5-6 can be kept together.

Least Killifish are peaceful community fish that are best kept in small groups.

They are livebearers and like other livebearer species, they reproduce quite easily and frequently.

Their care is straightforward making them a great species for those new to the hobby or those looking for an easy-to-care-for, yet captivating fish for their small aquarium.

Emerald Dwarf Rasbora (Danio erythromicron)

The Emerald Dwarf Rasbora is a captivating and beautifully colored fish that is one of the best fish for a 5 gallon tank.

Emerald Dwarf Rasboras are certainly eye-catching.

They reach a maximum length of about 1 inch (2.5 cm) so they are perfect for nano aquariums.

As their name suggests, they have a dazzling emerald green color that covers their body, enhanced by a shimmering iridescent sheen.

This green color is complemented by red or orange accents on their fins.

They have a dark lateral line that runs the length of their body, creating a striking contrast with their vibrant colors.

A small school of 5-7 is perfect for a 5 gallon tank.

Emerald Dwarf Rasboras are peaceful and schooling fish best kept in groups of at least six.

Their shimmering green bodies darting through the water can make for a mesmerizing display.

While these fish are not considered difficult to care for, they do best in a well-planted aquarium that offers plenty of hiding spaces.

Bumblebee Goby (Brachygobius doriae)

The Bumblebee Goby is a charming little fish known for its distinctive appearance and intriguing behavior making it a favorite among small aquarium hobbyists.

The Bumblebee Goby is immediately recognizable.

Bumblebee Goby

It reaches a length of about 1.5 inches (3.8 cm), making it a perfect fit for a small aquarium.

As the name suggests, these gobies have a unique color pattern reminiscent of a bumblebee.

Their bodies are predominantly a deep yellow or mustard color adorned with dark, black bands that stretch across their width creating a striking contrast.

Despite their small size and exotic appearance, Bumblebee Gobies are surprisingly hardy but they do require specific water conditions to thrive.

They are brackish water fish, meaning they prefer water with a slight salt content.

Keep one in a 5 gallon tank with plenty of hiding spots.

Scarlet Badis (Dario dario)

The Scarlet Badis is a tiny yet strikingly colored fish that is highly sought after by many nano tank enthusiasts.

The Scarlet Badis is truly a sight to behold.

This species typically reaches a maximum length of only about 1 inch (2.5 cm) making them also top of my list for the best fish for a 5 gallon tank.

Males exhibit vivid colors, primarily a deep, scarlet red or orange hue interspersed with vibrant blue stripes or spots.

Females, on the other hand, are less brightly colored and usually exhibit a more subdued brown or grey coloration.

You can keep one male with a few females in a 5 gallon tank.

Scarlet Badis are generally peaceful fish but can be territorial, especially the males.

This territorial behavior can be particularly pronounced in smaller tanks or when the males are competing for the attention of females.

Pea Puffer (Carinotetraodon travancoricus)

The Pea Puffer is incredibly distinctive.

It reaches a maximum size of about 1 inch (2.5 cm), hence its ‘pea’ moniker.

Pea Puffer

It features a rounded body and big, expressive eyes that give it an endearing look.

Their bodies are a golden to olive green color with a pattern of dark spots or blotches that vary in size and distribution giving each Pea Puffer a unique look.

I recommend only keeping one Pea Puffer in a 5 gallon tank.

Pea Puffers are known for their bold and curious personalities but can also be somewhat territorial.

While they can coexist with peaceful, slow-moving fish species they are best kept in species-only tanks

Clown Killifish (Epiplatys annulatus)

The Clown Killifish is truly remarkable.

It reaches a size of only 1.5 inches (3.8 cm), perfect for a nano aquarium.

Clown Killifish

Its body is slender and elongated with a bright, blue-green color that extends from its nose to the tail.

A series of vertical, dark bands or rings can be seen along its sides giving it a striped appearance.

The males are especially stunning with their large, fan-shaped caudal fins that display alternating bright red and blue stripes resembling the colorful patterns of a clown’s outfit, hence the name.

These fish are generally peaceful but they can be a bit shy so it’s recommended to provide plenty of hiding spaces.

They are also a schooling fish and should ideally be kept in groups which helps to create a more secure environment for them.

With striking colors and patterns, these tiny fish (1-1.5 inches) are peaceful and can be kept in a small group of 4-6 in a 5 gallon tank.

Celestial Pearl Danio (Celestichthys margaritatus)

The Celestial Pearl Danio is absolutely striking.

They reach a size of about 0.8-1 inch (2-2.5 cm) when fully grown.

Celestial Pearl Danio

Their bodies are dark blue with an incredible pattern of bright, iridescent spots that resemble a night sky full of stars, hence their celestial moniker.

The males are usually more colorful than females, with bright orange fins adorned with black and white margins.

You can keep a group of 6 in a 5 gallon tank.

Celestial Pearl Danios are peaceful schooling fish.

They add a beautiful splash of color and movement to the tank, often seen darting around in search of food or interacting with each other.

They are generally hardy and prefer a well-planted aquarium with plenty of hiding spots.

Betta Fish (Betta splendens)

Betta fish, also commonly known as Siamese fighting fish, are among the most popular and recognizable species in the aquarium hobby.

They are celebrated for their stunning coloration, flowing fins and unique personalities.

Plakat Betta

They can grow up to 2.5-3 inches (6.4-7.6 cm) in length, not including their fins.

Bettas come in an array of vibrant colors and patterns, ranging from red, blue, and yellow, to more unusual white, black, and multicolored varieties.

They are also available in a variety of tail types, such as Veil Tail, Crown Tail, Halfmoon and more, all characterized by different shapes and sizes of their striking, flowing fins.

Betta fish are known for their territorial nature and do not usually do well with others of their species, especially males.

For this reason, only one betta should be kept in a 5 gallon tank.

Ember Tetra (Hyphessobrycon amandae)

Ember Tetras are truly fascinating small fish that can be a great addition to a 5 gallon tank setup.

The Ember Tetra, also known as the Fire Tetra, is known for its small size and brilliant, fiery coloration.

caring for ember tetras

They typically grow up to 0.8 inches (2 cm) in size, making them suitable for smaller aquariums.

Their bodies are compact and display a bright orange to red color that intensifies when they are kept in optimal conditions with dark substrate and ample plant cover.

Ember tetras are peaceful schooling fish and you can keep a group of 5 in a 5 gallon tank.

Harlequin Rasbora (Trigonostigma heteromorpha)

Harlequin Rasboras are charismatic fish that can add a splash of color and liveliness to a small tank setup.

Harlequin Rasboras are small, tropical fish known for their distinctive triangular black patch at the rear part of their body.

Harlequin Rasbora

They typically grow up to about 2 inches (5 cm) in length.

Their bodies are slightly compressed with a silver to pinkish hue, becoming more intense towards the belly.

The defining black ‘patch’, or wedge, on their body starts near the dorsal fin and extends to the base of the caudal fin.

Harlequin Rasboras are relatively straightforward to look after which makes them a suitable choice for beginners.

They are hardy and adaptable.

You can keep a small group of 3-5 of these fish in a 5 gallon tank.

Final Thoughts

While a 5 gallon tank may seem limiting due to its size, as we have explored in this article, there is still a diverse range of fish and invertebrates that can comfortably inhabit such a space.

From the vibrant Chili Rasbora to the tranquil Betta Fish and the industrious Nerite Snail to the enigmatic Thai Micro Crab, the options are both colorful and fascinating.

The beauty of a well-maintained 5 gallon fish tank is a sight to behold and the process of setting it up and taking care of its inhabitants can be a very rewarding.

Whether you’re a beginner embarking on your first aquarium journey or an experienced aquarist looking to set up a new tank, remember that patience, research and ongoing care are key components to a successful and vibrant aquarium.

So, take your time, consider the best fish for a 5 gallon tank and above all, enjoy the journey of creating and caring for your own unique underwater world.


Is a 5 gallon tank good for 2 goldfish?

No, you cannot keep any goldfish in a 5 gallon tank. The absolute minimum for one goldfish is a 20 gallon tank.

How many guppies can go in a 5 gallon tank?

Female guppies are much bigger than male guppies so I recommend only keeping 4 male guppies in this sized tank.

How many bettas can you have in a 5 gallon tank?

You can only keep one male or one female betta in a 5 gallon tank. Betta fish are highly territorial and you cannot keep mre than one male in any sized tank.

How many Tetras can be in a 5 gallon tank?

You can keep 3-4 of the smaller types of tetras in a 5 gallon tank.

Can I keep 4 neon tetras in a 5 gallon tank?

It is possible but not recommended. Neon tetras need space to swim and a 5 gallon tank is very small.

Can neon tetras live with bettas in a 5 gallon tank?

No, the tank is way too small. If you want to keep both these fish then rather go for a 20 gallon tank so that you can have a nice sized school of neon tetras with your single betta fish.

Photo of author


Irma Bense is the founder of She has over 42 years of experience in keeping fish.She has kept both freshwater and saltwater fish through the years.She has extensive knowledge in breeding numerous species of fish from Show Guppies, Cory Catfish, German Blue Rams to Apistogrammas.You can learn more about Irma on the 'About' page.

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