A 5 gallon fish tank is a perfect way to start off your aquarium journey. Most often 5 gallon tanks are used by beginner aquarists as they can easily fit in a bedroom, worktop, or desk, and don’t need much room or maintenance in order to run smoothly. 

Experienced aquarists often use 5 gallon fish tanks as breeding tanks, quarantine tanks, or as a testing tank for aquascaping ideas. As 5 gallons is a very small space, it is also very interesting to see what different communities you can build!

There are many benefits of purchasing a 5 gallon aquarium instead of a larger tank. To start things off, a nano tank like a 5 gallon aquarium is relatively cheap when compared to the much larger aquariums that are around. Usually they are under $100, and many of these tanks come as kits with almost everything you need to start your new fish tank. As there is less water volume, it is also cheaper to run.

In this article we will explain the benefits of a 5 gallon aquarium, review the best 5 gallon fish tanks available, and then give ideas of how to stock your new 5 gallon tank. Both aquarium plants and the best fish for 5 gallon tanks.

How to Choose the Best 5 Gallon Fish Tank

Choosing the best 5 gallon tank can seem like a daunting task. They are many different options, but we will break it down for you a bit so that it is a little easier.

There are two main types of 5 gallon fish tank; glass and acrylic. Both of these are very good options, and work well to show off your tank in all its glory. But there are a few differences.

Glass: Glass aquariums are generally more scratch resistant than acrylic tanks. For instance you can scrape off algal growth without fear of scratching the sides. It also won’t become yellowed over time, staying as clear as the day you bought it, and it won’t absorb or release any chemicals. However glass is heavier than acrylic, and also can’t be moulded into different shapes; in general glass tanks come as standard cuboids.

Acrylic: Acrylic tanks also have advantages and disadvantages. It is lighter than glass, and also allows for an amazingly clear view into the tank. However acrylic can become yellowed over time, especially if in direct sunlight. It is also much less scratch-resistant than glass; some snails have been known to scratch acrylic with their radula! Acrylic can absorb and release chemicals into the water column. Acrylic can be a little more expensive than glass, but can be moulded into different shapes; curved and bow fronted tanks are almost always acrylic. 

What you also want to look for in a 5 gallon tank is whether it has any additional extras included. Many fish tank kits come complete with filtration systems and LED lighting, so you don’t have to worry about buying these necessary additions. Some tanks have hidden compartments which contain the filtration system, and can also fit an aquarium heater as well. This enables the tank itself to be free of clutter.

Best 5 Gallon Fish Tank Reviews

Best 5 Gallon Fish Tank Reviews

In the following section we will list and review the five best five gallon fish tanks. All of these tanks are brilliant in their own right, and offer great features which will make for a well-functioning and enjoyable tank.

Fluval Spec V Aquarium Kit

Sale
Fluval Spec V Aquarium Kit
  • 5 gallon Nano aquarium
  • Etched glass tank with aluminum trim
  • Powerful 37 LED lighting system, 7000 K color temperature, 821 lumens
  • Includes foam block, activated carbon and BioMax bio rings

The Fluval Spec V Aquarium Kit is a fantastic nano fish tank kit. It comes complete LED lighting and filtration built in, which makes it perfect for beginner aquarists wanting an easy setup. 

First things first, this 5 gallon aquarium kit is absolutely stunning. It is made with etched glass and aluminium trim, making it look very sleek and elegant, as well as making it highly durable and scratch resistant.

The 37 high output LEDs generate light of 821 lumens with a color temperature of 7000K. This is perfect for a planted tank, promoting plant growth, and ensuring healthy looking vegetation.

An in-built filtration system is provided, and hidden in the back compartment of the tank, so you don’t have to look at any ugly filter. This hidden filtration system provides triple stage filtration in the form of a foam block for mechanical filtration to remove larger floating debris, a BioMax insert for biological filtration to remove ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate, and activated carbon to remove odors and discolorations. 

Having the lighting and filtration already built in is incredibly useful as you don’t have to worry about buying these accessories. There is also room to fit an aquarium heater in the filtration compartment. This is a brilliant design as it prevents fish burning themselves on the heater and also hides the heater from view, and saving space in the tank itself. The Fluval M50 Submersible Heater is perfect for this.

Marina LED 5 Gallon Tank Kit

Marina LED Aquarium Kit, 5 Gallon
  • 5 gallon glass aquarium starter kit
  • Comes with everything needed for your first fish tank
  • Use our Nutrafin Aqua Plus Water Conditioner to make tap water safe for fish
  • Marina's Slim S20 clip-on aquarium filter keeps your water clear and uses quick-change filter cartridges
  • Long-lasting, natural daylight effect LED aquarium lighting module is incorporated into the fish tank's canopy

The Marine LED Aquarium Kit is a brilliant 5 gallon tank. It comes equipped with everything you need to initially set up a freshwater aquarium. This makes it perfect for beginner aquarists looking for their first fish tank. Not only is a HOB filter and LED lighting included, but you get a host of other goodies as well.

The included filtration system is a Marina Slim S10 clip-on filter with quick-change filter cartridges. The filter cartridges trap debris and remove odors and discolorations, and also includes ceramitek which promotes bacterial colonization. These filter cartridges are extremely easy to switch out, which makes maintenance very easy.

Energy efficient LED lighting illuminates the tank. They provide a long-lasting and natural daylight effect which enhances fish and plant color. Not only will these lights promote the growth of low light plants, but they are seamlessly integrated into the aquarium hood.

Along with the filter and LED lighting, you will also receive Nutrafin Max fish food, Nutrafin Aqua Plus Water Conditioner, Nutrafin Cycle Biological Supplement, a fish net, and an aquarium care guide. The fish food is formulated to keep fish healthy, the water conditioner makes tap water safe for fish by removing chemicals like chlorine, the bacteria supplement creates a biologically well-balanced and healthy aquarium environment by colonizing the filter. Perhaps most helpful is the care guide which provides very useful advice on how to set up and maintain your new tank.

Fluval Sea Evo V Saltwater Fish Tank Kit

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Fluval Sea Evo V Saltwater Fish Tank Kit
  • 5 gallon glass aquarium for saltwater fish
  • Stylish honeycomb design conceals rear aquarium filter compartment and aquarium water line while looking ultra modern
  • Powerful 3 stage filtration with oversized mechanical, chemical, and biological Fluval filter media
  • Multi-functional canopy with easy feed door
  • Sleek, all aluminum waterproof casing; convenient LED aquarium light touch start day & night illumination

The Fluval Sea Evo V Saltwater 5 Gallon Fish Tank Kit is a must have if you are wanting to try your hand at a saltwater setup. It has LED lighting and triple stage filtration already built in. Read our nano saltwater fish article for stocking ideas!

As with the Fluval Spec, this fish tank has an amazing design. It is very modern and sleek, and wouldn’t look out of place on a kitchen worktop or on any desk. The glass is extremely transparent, and the cover is clear plastic to allow for a perfect viewing experience. A honeycomb design trim covers the filtration compartment, hiding all of the components neatly and allowing the tank itself to be free of anything but fish and coral. 

The LED lighting is designed with coral in mind. There are 37 high-output 11000K LEDs which are optimized for promoting coral growth. Corals need the correct lighting in order to grow to their potential and maintain color and health, and this tank delivers in spades. The LEDs are housed in a completely waterproof sleek looking aluminium casing. 

Triple stage filtration is provided in the filtration compartment. A foam block captures floating debris, a BioMax insert allows for bacterial colonization and removal of nitrogenous compounds, and activated carbon removes odors and discolorations. There is also space in the hidden compartment for a Fluval Submersible Heater and Fluval Sea Protein Skimmer. This helps to keep the tank itself free of unnecessary eyesores. A protein skimmer is necessary in saltwater tanks to remove dissolved proteins. 

Tetra Crescent Acrylic 5 Gallon Aquarium Kit

The Tetra Crescent Acrylic 5 Gallon Aquarium Kit is a brilliant starting fish tank. It is very stylish and sleek with a curved rounded front, which also makes viewing the interior easier. 

Being a fish tank kit, this aquarium comes complete with LED lighting hidden in the hood. The black hood is very sleek; it is very low profile and isn’t bulky at all. The energy efficient lighting illuminates the tank perfectly, allowing for plant growth as well as perfect viewing of your fish. 

This 5 gallon tank includes a Tetra Whisper Power Filter equipped with a Bio-Bag filter cartridge. This filter is installed in the body of the tank itself, which while it takes up a little room still is perfect for a nano tank. The cartridge is small, but contains three stages of filtration. 

Remember that for tropical fish you will also need to equip your tank with a heater and thermometer. 

Perhaps the best feature of this 5 gallon fish tank kit is the curved front. As it is made of acrylic not glass, the corners of the tank are rounded which makes for a seamless viewing experience. It is absolutely perfect for a desktop or countertop. 

Marineland Portrait Glass LED 5 Gallon Tank Kit

Marineland Portrait Glass LED aquarium Kit, 5 Gallons, Hidden Filtration
  • SLEEK DESIGN: Rounded corners and clear glass canopy allow viewing from multiple angles.
  • DAYLIGHT/MOONLIGHT LIGHTING: Bright white LEDs create a shimmering sunlight effect; blue LEDs produce a moonlit glow.
  • EASY ACCESS: Hinged LED lighting and sliding glass canopy.
  • SIZE: 5-gallon aquarium fits Marineland Rite-Size Z Filter Cartridges.
  • HIDDEN FILTRATION: Advanced, 3-stage filtration is out of sight, enhancing aquarium viewing.

The Marineland Portrait Glass 5 gallon fish tank is a little different to the rest on this list. It is portrait in orientation, meaning it is taller than it is wide. While this isn’t normally a plus point for larger aquariums, in a small tank like this it enables for some very interesting setups. 

Triple stage filtration is hidden out of sight in the back compartment. The kit includes Rite-Size Z Cartridges and Marineland Bio-Foam for you to install in the filtration compartments, enabling a simple plug in and go setup.

LED lighting is found on the hinged overhang. This lighting is super bright to maximal plant growth and to properly illuminate the tank. Not only this, but you have the choice between white light, blue light, or both at once. The white LEDs produce a sunlit glow while the blue LEDs produce a moonlight effect. Having this choice in a 5 gallon tank kit is brilliant.

In terms of design, this aquarium is fantastic. It looks brilliant, and the glass sides have rounded edges so that you are given an immersive viewing experience. The sliding glass canopy allows for very easy access and amazing views from the top of the tank as well.

Aqueon LED MiniBow 5 Gallon Fish Tank Kit

Aqueon LED MiniBow Kit with SmartClean Technology, Black 5 Gallon (ECOM)
  • Equipped with SmartClean(TM) Technology to perform water changes in less than 2 minute
  • Improve water quality for a happy, healthy fish
  • Includes aquarium vessel, hood and elevated base, power filter, small filter cartridge, fish food, water conditioner and setup guide
  • Great home for small fish
  • For first time and experience fish keepers of all ages

The Aqueon LED MiniBow 5 Gallon Fish Tank Kit is a brilliant starter tank. Not only does it have some great features, but it is also very reasonably priced. The curved front allows for a great viewing experience, while it also comes with LED lighting and a filtration system. 

The LED lighting is found within the low profile black hood, which also has a convenient feeding hole. Soft white light illuminates the full tank, while also allowing low lighting requirement plants to thrive. 

Filtration is found in the included power filter. An activated carbon insert also acts as mechanical filtration. This power filter also acts as a water change system. The outflow nozzle can be redirected to outside the tank to easily remove water for water changes. 

An elevated base supports the weight of a fully filled aquarium, while adding a modern touch. Also included in this kit is a water conditioner and fish food, to help you get started!

5 Gallon Fish Tank Stocking Ideas

5 Gallon Fish Tank Stocking Ideas

There are many different options available to stock a 5 gallon tank with. Usually minds go straight to what freshwater fish or saltwater fish they can place in a tank, but also spare a thought for invertebrates as well. Snails and shrimp make a fantastic addition to any tank, but especially nano tanks where space is at a premium. 

Aquarium plants are also brilliant for smaller tanks, making the tank look a lot more natural whilst also making the inhabitants feel more at home. They also oxygenate the water and provide a natural filtration effect, removing compounds such as nitrate and phosphate from the water column. 

Space is at a premium in a 5 gallon tank. Therefore you need to be aware of how many fish and invertebrates you can put safely into a tank this size without overstocking. Overstocking a tank is a big problem, as fish not having enough space will likely result in fighting over territory. This fighting will cause stress to your fish. 

Not only this, but having an overstocked tank will also cause a lot more waste to build up than would otherwise. This will cause the filtration system to have to work overtime to remove all the excess waste. Having a filter working too hard will mean that it will need more regular cleaning, and if it can’t handle the load waste will quickly build in the tank. Having a filter that can’t handle the amount of waste produced will cause the water chemistry to swing, and harmful ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate to build. Your fish will quickly feel the effects of this and can quickly die off. This quick guide will give you ideas on what and not to stock!

Fish for 5 Gallon Tank

There are many fish that aren’t suitable for 5 gallon tanks. These include larger freshwater fish such as angelfish, clown loaches, and plecos. These fish simply grow too large for a 5 gallon tank. The same can be said about many smaller shoaling species such as white cloud mountain minnows and guppies. While small enough to be in a 5 gallon tank themselves, they need to be in a group, the size of which won’t be comfortable in a nano tank.

The general rule for stocking a tank is an inch of fish for every gallon of water. 

Betta Fish: Betta fish are perhaps the most famous tropical freshwater fish. They have long flowing fins and are beautifully colored. They have a labyrinth organ and can breathe air. 5 gallons is the minimum tank size they can be housed in, so no betta tankmates should be given.

Least Killifish: Least killifish are a very underrated fish. They are very colorful, and a trio can be housed in a 5 gallon fish tank. With a great personality they will light up your tank!

Nerite Snails: Nerite Snails come in many different patterns and colorations. They are prolific algae eaters and are surprisingly mobile in the tank. All in all they are a fantastic addition to a nano tank. 

Cherry Shrimp: Cherry Shrimp love a well-planted tank, and are a great addition to any aquarium. Bright red in color they add a burst of color to the base of the tank. 

Plants for 5 Gallon Aquarium

There are plenty of plants that are suitable for a 5 gallon aquarium. These included both rooted and floating aquarium plants. When getting floating plants be careful, as they are often fast growing and can easily grow to completely cover the surface.

Java Moss: Java Moss is an amazing plant that can either be floated, or attached to rocks or driftwood. Shrimp absolutely love this moss, as do small fish which is perfect for a small tank. Java Moss is used extensively in aquascaping and makes for a great looking aquarium.

Java Fern: Java Fern is a very popular aquarium plant due to its unique shape and ease of care. Being incredibly easy to grow and care for makes it perfect for beginner aquarists. In a 5 gallon tank they should be planted at the back of the aquarium as an adult plant will easily reach the surface. Your fish will love having this plant in the tank.

Hornwort: Hornwort is a brilliant freshwater aquarium plant. It can either be floated or anchored to the substrate. It grows very quickly and has a unique appearance. Fish love swimming amongst the leaves of hornwort, and it is also extremely hardy.

Marimo Moss: Marimo Moss Balls are a great addition to the base of any fish tank, especially if you have shrimp. Shrimp and fish love searching amongst the moss for food. Marimo moss is hardy, and will happily grow well in a range of conditions.

Conclusion

Hopefully this article has given you enough reasons to get yourself a 5 gallon fish tank! There are many great aquarium kits out there to get you started on your fish tank journey, whether it be freshwater or saltwater. Whilst a small tank, there are plenty of stocking options for you to choose from. 

You can read our things not to do aquarium advice article for tips on how to keep your tank and fish healthy.

About the author

Authority Aquarium Staff

Authority Aquarium Staff writers are experts and aquarium enthusiasts, our in-house marine biologist fact checks all our content and reviews to bring you the best advice for your aquarium health.

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