5 Gallon Fish Tank Guide, Light, Filter

A 5 gallon fish aquarium can add style and a sleek look to our homes and there are many styles and designs available.

Surprisingly, there are various kinds of fish and invertebrates that we can keep in an aquarium of this size.

Our guide below will explain everything we need to know about 5 gallon aquariums, from buying the right tank to storage advice, setting it up, and more…

What You Need to Know About a 5 Gallon Fish Aquarium

The 5 gallon aquarium is the smallest aquarium that we recommend for us to keep fish.
Due to the size of the aquarium, they require more care and maintenance when compared to larger aquariums.

This is because with smaller bodies of water, ammonia and other toxins can build up more quickly which can be toxic to our fish.

So, if we want to maintain a small aquarium, we must be prepared to do weekly water changes and monitor the water parameters closely.

Most of these aquariums are about 16 x 8 x 10 inches.

Due to the size of the tank and the limited number of fish we can keep in it, one of the more common options is to keep snails or shrimp .

5 Gallon Aquarium Equipment

At a minimum, we need filters and lights for our fish aquarium. Depending on the type of fish we choose, we may also need a heater .


A filter is required for an aquarium of this size – remember, the smaller the volume of water, the faster toxins can build up. The filter will remove toxins that are deadly to our fish and will also remove impurities from the water.

Ideally, our filters should use less powerful chemical, mechanical and biological agents – we don’t want to create strong currents in a small aquarium.


If we choose to keep tropical fish, we need a heater to ensure the water stays at a consistently warm temperature.

Most tropical aquariums should be heated to 75-80°F. Choosing to keep tropical fish will massively increase the number of species we can keep. The choice of tropical fish is much greater than that of cold water fish.


Aquarium lights have several different benefits:

Most importantly, they encourage and promote plant growth and help regulate the day/night cycle for our fish.

Second, they illuminate the aquarium so we can see better, i.e. enhancing the colors of the fish and plants.

The power and wattage of the lamp will depend on the species of fish and plants that we keep. Some plants prefer dim lighting, while others prefer brighter light.

Other Equipment

To complete the aquarium setup, we need substrate and decorations. Most people tend to use gravel or sandy substrates. Again, this depends on what fish we keep and what they are used to in their natural habitat.

Next, we can add plants and decorations. Live plants are very beneficial for fish aquariums because they produce oxygen and absorb the ammonia produced by our fish.

To keep the aquarium clean, we need to use a gravel siphon to remove large particles that have not been successfully cleaned by the filter. we also need algae magnets to clean the glass.

Once our aquarium is completely ready, we need to let it rest before adding the fish. We will discuss the setup of this aquarium, and the species of fish we can keep in an aquarium of this size.

5 Gallon Aquarium Preparation

Smaller waters create pollutants much faster than larger fish tanks, so we must be careful not to overcrowd the tank and only keep small amounts of fish, snails or shrimp.

Here are a few different setup suggestions for our 5 gallon aquarium.

Betta Fish Aquarium

The most common use for a 5 gallon aquarium is Ikan Cupang.

In our Betta aquarium, we can keep one male Betta, a nerite snail, and a ghost shrimp. we might also want to include some plants like Anacharis or Java Fern.

Small Aquarium With Plants

An aquarium can give the illusion that it is bigger than it really is, but there is an art to creating beautiful underwater scenes.

we can include various plants in our nano settings including:

  • Anubais Nana
  • Java Fern
  • Java Moss
  • Staurogyne Repens
  • Dwarf Hairgrass

Shrimp or Snail Aquarium

Maybe we don’t want to keep fish in our aquarium. All snails, or all shrimp arrangements can be very unique and unique.

we can put one or two snails in a five-gallon aquarium, or about 5-7 shrimp.

Examples of snails or shrimp that we can add are:

  • Mystery
  • Snail Nerite Snail
  • Cherry
  • Shrimp Ghost Shrimp

What Fish Can We Store in a 5 Gallon Fish Aquarium?

we may have heard the rule, that we can keep “one inch of fish for every gallon of water we have”.

While that rule applies to smaller, peaceful species, it cannot be applied all the time. For example, we cannot keep a 5-inch goldfish in a 5-gallon aquarium.

we need to consider how big the fish will grow to make sure that they will not grow bigger than the aquarium.

Some of the most popular species to keep in an aquarium of this size include:

  • Betta Fish
  • Dwarf Rasbora Dwarf
  • Frog
  • Livebearer Endler
  • Nerite Snail
  • Shrimp like Cherry Shrimp and Ghost Shrimp
  • White Cloud Mountain Minnows

We may find other places that recommend a wider selection of fish such as Goldfish or Guppies. But these fish often need more space for several reasons.


any fish that grows too large (like Goldfish) will suffer in a 5 gallon aquarium.


Some small fish (such as Guppies or Tetra) need groups, so keeping mates in small places will cause them stress.

If you want to keep larger fish or groups of fish, consider buying a 20 gallon tank instead .

How to set up a fish aquarium

The first thing we need to do is choose a flat area, away from windows or heat sources. After the aquarium is filled with water, it can weigh up to 10 times the amount of an empty aquarium, making it difficult to move.

Enter the gravel, then all the electrical equipment. Fill the aquarium with water and add a water cooler. we can then add any plants and decorations to the aquarium.

Setting up our fish aquarium is the simple part that most people know. The part that most people miss is aquarium cycling.

This means allowing the tank to accumulate good bacteria which will help convert ammonia and nitrite to nitrate. Nitrates are not very harmful to our fish, and can be removed during weekly water changes.

we don’t need to do anything to start this process – the nitrogen cycle is a natural process that will happen on its own. Once the ammonia and nitrite spikes and drops back to zero, the tank is ready to add fish.

This is usually 4-6 weeks after installing the aquarium.