The Best 5 Gallon Fish Tank: Stocking Guide Included

Take a look at our review of the best 5 gallon fish tank options available to suit any home, dorm room, or office!

By Julie Millis
Last updated on

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best 5 gallon fish tank

Whether you want to bring beautiful aquatic life to your desk, or are just limited on space, a 5 gallon aquarium can be a perfect choice. But how do you find the best 5 gallon fish tank?

When searching for any nano aquarium (that is a 10 gallon tank or less), you need to find a tank with the right layout for your fish, along with filtration and lighting suitable for their needs.

We’ve reviewed and tested some of the best 5 gallon fish tank options out there to help you make the right choice. And overall we chose the Fluval Spec V as our top pick!

But what if budget is most important to you? Or you want to start a saltwater nano aquarium? Well, we’ve covered all these options too, so you can find the perfect small tank for any scenario.

So let’s get started!

  1. Best Overall: Fluval Spec V
  2. Best For Value: Marineland Portrait
  3. Best Complete Kit: Marina LED 5 Gallon Aquarium Kit
  4. Best for Saltwater: Fluval Sea Evo V
  5. Best For Design: Fluval Chi
  6. Best Budget Betta Tank: Koller Panaview 5 Gallon Aquarium
  7. Best For GloFish: GloFish 5 Gallon Portrait

Best 5 Gallon Fish Tank Picks Reviewed

All the aquariums in this list were assessed against key criteria including lighting power and design, filtration and flow rate, and overall material and build-quality to bring you the best 5 gallon fish tank picks available.

1. Fluval SPEC V Freshwater Aquarium Kit

Fluval Spec V fish tank

Photo: Chewy.com

  • Shape and Capacity: Rectangular, 5 US gallons
  • Dimensions and Weight: 20.5 (l) x 7.5 (d) x 11.6 (h) inches, 11.02 pounds
  • Material: Glass
  • Equipment Included: 37 LED lighting system, hidden 3 stage adjustable filter (55 to 80 GPH), aquarium canopy with access slot
  • Best for: Overall

The Fluval Spec V is a sleek, modern tank that looks stunning in any setting with its etched glass and aluminum trim. Its base measures 20.5 x 7.5 inches allowing it to fit on a desk, kitchen counter, side cabinet, or even a sturdy bookshelf.

With it’s long front and back panes and cleverly concealed filtration unit hidden in the side panel, the Spec V’s peninsula style gives a perfect view of your fish from nearly every angle.

The 3 stage filter has a flow rate of 55-80 GPH – more than enough to keep your water crystal clear. In fact, at its highest setting it can cycle your water 16 times an hour! And whilst you’re unlikely to need this power in a 5 gallon tank, it is fully adjustable so you can lower it right down.

It also has a 7000k 37 LED lighting strip which runs almost the full length of the tank, and is plenty bright enough for live plants. Overall this is a cleverly designed and stylish 5 gallon fish tank perfect in any home or office environment.

2. Marineland Portrait Glass LED Aquarium Kit

Marineland Portrait Glass LED Aquarium Kit

Photo: Chewy.com

  • Shape and Capacity: Rectangular (portrait), 5 US gallons
  • Dimensions and Weight: 11.81 (w) x 11.62 (d) x 17.05 (h) inches, 12.0 pounds
  • Material: Glass
  • Equipment Included: Hidden filter and pump, LED lighting with white day and blue moonlight settings
  • Best for: Value

The Marineland Portrait offers exceptional value for money in a well-built glass tank with a beautiful curved edge design. It even features a glass lid to help reduce evaporation. With a base of 11.81 x 11.62 inches the portrait style is perfect for a compact desk or cabinet.

Although the 9 white LEDs are quite basic, they are bright enough to sustain a range of low-level plants. And the blue moonlight setting allows you to easily set periods of day and night to support the natural cycles of your fish.

The filtration chamber hides a quiet but powerful 3 stage filter which is adjustable down to 35 GPH. This is still plenty of power to cycle your tank 7 times per hour, keeping your water exceptionally clean. 

Overall the Marineland Portrait is a beautiful 5 gallon tank, offering great value for money and giving you excellent views of your fish from multiple angles.

3. Marina LED 5 Gallon Aquarium Kit

Photo: Amazon.com

  • Shape and Capacity: Rectangular, 5 US gallons
  • Dimensions and Weight: 21.8 (l) x 14.0 (d) x 18.8 (h) inches, 10.0 pounds
  • Material: Glass
  • Equipment Included: Slim S10 power filter with cartridges, hood with integrated daylight effect LED lighting, LCD thermometer, 4 inch fish net, Fluval Max fish food, Fluval Aqua Plus water conditioner, Fluval Cycle biological supplement, Aquarium care guide
  • Best for: Complete kit

Marina’s LED Aquarium Kit comes in 5 gallon, 10 gallon, or 20 gallon versions. The 21.8 x 14.0 inch footprint of the 5 gallon aquarium offers plenty of swimming space and good surface oxygen exchange for your fish, and yet is still a decent size to fit on your desk.

As the Slim S10 filter is a hang-on-back (HOB) style, this means there’s more space in the tank for your fish. Yet it is only 2 inches deep meaning you can place your tank near the wall. And whilst it’s 2 rather than 3 stage, the bio-bags are easy to replace and do keep your water clear.

But as a complete kit this tank really comes into its own. With an included LCD thermometer, fish net, fish food, biological supplement to help with initial cycling of your tank, and Fluval’s Aqua Plus water conditioner which is enough to last several water changes.

In fact, the only addition you would need to purchase separately is a 25 watt heater. Other than that you’ll have a complete starter tank ready to go out of the box!

4. Fluval Sea Evo V

Photo: Amazon.com

  • Shape and Capacity: Rectangular, 5 US gallons
  • Dimensions and Weight: 24.5 (w) x 11.8 (d) x 16.3 (h) inches, 11.0 pounds
  • Material: Glass
  • Equipment Included: Hidden 3 stage filter and adjustable pump (55 to 80 GPH), 11,000k 37 LED lighting with day and night settings, aquarium canopy with access slot
  • Best for: Saltwater

At first glance the Fluval Sea Evo V looks similar to the Fluval Spec V, but this is a specifically designed 5 gallon saltwater aquarium. It has over 2928 cubic inches of additional space. This is key for saltwater fish as they must be less densely stocked compared to freshwater species.

The 37 11,000k LED lighting is another key difference allowing you to keep soft corals and live rock comfortably. And the 3 stage filter delivers a flow rate up to 80 GPH, designed to keep the heavy bioload of a saltwater tank clean.

You can also fit a heater and other equipment in the hidden filter chamber. All this in a compact 5 gallon tank which receives high praise from reviewers for its sleek design and ability to safely support mushrooms, corals, and saltwater fish right on your desk!

5. Fluval Chi

Photo: Amazon.com

  • Shape and Capacity: Portrait style cube, 5 US gallons
  • Dimensions and Weight: 10.0 (w) x 10.0 (d) x 14.4 (h) inches, 16.0 pounds
  • Material: Glass
  • Equipment Included: 7600k 17 LED lighting system, removable aquarium lid, 2 stage waterfall filter with foam pad and filter pad included
  • Best for: Design

If you’re looking for a compact and beautifully designed 5 gallon fish tank the Fluval Chi delivers this and more! The contemporary design and calming water flow are inspired by the ancient Chinese art of Feng Shui.

What this means in practice is you get a clean, stylish tank with a base of just 10.0 x 10.0 inches that would fit almost anywhere! But the main unique design element is the waterfall filter which draws water from inside the tank and filters the output as a calming waterfall.

This makes it an excellent option for fish with delicate fins that prefer a calm water flow. Be aware though, because of the small base and layout it’s a tank for a small number of fish. Owners also note the filter and lighting are integrated as one unit. So if one fails in the future you would have to replace the whole part. 

Overall though this is a beautiful tank, perfect for a single betta, and would make a stylish, calming addition to any room.

6. Koller Panaview 5 Gallon Aquarium

Panaview 5 gallon fish tank

Photo: Chewy.com

  • Shape and Capacity: Rectangular bow front, 5 US gallons
  • Dimensions and Weight: 14.2 (l) x 10.0 (d) x 11.5 (h) inches, 4.8 pounds
  • Material: Acrylic
  • Equipment Included: Internal power filter (45 gallons per hour), energy-efficient LED lighting with daylight and 6 other colors
  • Best for: Budget betta tank

As a 5 gallon fish tank for your betta fish, the Koller Panaview is hard to beat, especially if you are on a budget. 5 gallons is the minimum we would recommend to house a single betta, and yet the Panaview’s 14.2 x 10 inch base means you can fit it in the smallest of spaces.

It’s incredibly easy to set up, and has a sturdy hinged plastic lid which helps prevent evaporation as well as stopping your betta from jumping! You can customize the lid easily too by pressing out the plastic cut-outs, to allow for heaters and other equipment.

Many owners report the 45 GPH filter is quiet with a gentle enough flow rate for your betta, but we do recommend you baffle the output nozzle with filter sponge for extra safety. And the Superclean 10 and Bio-Chem Zorb filters are easy to replace.

Overall this is a great little aquarium with a single-piece, seamless construction which is durable enough to make it suitable for a kid’s bedroom and gives you a great view of your fish. A perfect option for those on a budget too!

7. GloFish 5 Gallon Portrait

GloFish 5 Gallon Portrait Fish Tank

Photo: Chewy.com

  • Shape and Capacity: Rectangular (portrait), 5 US gallons
  • Dimensions and Weight: 11.0 (w) x 11.0 (d) x 16.25 (h) inches, 15.0 pounds
  • Material: Glass
  • Equipment Included: Hidden filter and adjustable pump, GloFish LED lighting with 4 settings (sunlight, moonlight, midnight, twilight)
  • Best for: Starter kit

If you plan to keep GloFish then a dedicated GloFish aquarium is a great choice. They come in various sizes, from 3 to 20 gallons but the 5 gallon fish tank is the perfect starter kit for a small space. And the portrait style, with its 11.0 x 11.0 inch base, is fantastic for a child’s bedroom.

What makes GloFish tanks stand out is the lighting. The blue LEDs integrated into the lid emit more UV light than standard LEDs. This is specifically designed to emphasize the fluorescence your GloFish were bred for. And with the sunlight, moonlight, midnight, and twilight modes you can easily set patterns of day and night to match the natural cycle of your fish.

The hidden 3 stage filter is quiet and powerful but adjustable too, so you can reduce the flow for fish that don’t like strong currents. That said, it’s always safer to baffle the nozzle with filter sponge too. Overall this is a colorful and sturdy tank that will make your GloFish shine!

What to Consider When Choosing the Best 5 Gallon Fish Tank

When choosing the best 5 gallon fish tank for you it’s important to balance your needs with those of your fish. Here’s what to consider.

blue betta fish in fish tank

Should I Get A 5 Gallon Fish Tank?

Before you look for the best 5 gallon fish tank, you should consider a couple of points. Firstly, what type of fish do you intend to keep? A 5 gallon aquarium is a good size for a single betta fish. But it’s very small if you want a community tank as you could only keep 3 or 4 1 inch fish.

Another important point is are you brand new to fishkeeping or do you have some experience? Often those who are new to the hobby will assume a smaller tank is best. It’s true that these nano aquariums are cheaper to buy, but they can also be more difficult to maintain.

Waste matter (including ammonia and nitrites) build up much quicker in a smaller volume of water, meaning more water changes and maintenance. So overall if you want to start a larger community you may be better off with a 10 gallon or 20 gallon fish tank.

Design And Shape

Often you’ll want smaller aquariums to fit within a compact space and be viewable from many angles. Your tank also needs to have the right layout for your fish. Many species prefer more horizontal swimming space, so a shorter, wider tank is usually better than a tall narrow one.

Peninsula style 5 gallon aquariums are a good choice, as these have long sides and any in-built filtration is often situated on the short side, maximizing the viewing space. Cube shaped tanks, bow fronts, or even round fish bowl shapes also give plenty of swimming space whilst being compact enough for a desk or cabinet.

Material: Glass vs. Acrylic

There are various pros and cons to glass and acrylic fish tanks, and which one you go for is often down to personal preference. Glass tanks tend to maintain their clarity better and are not affected by yellowing from the sun or chemicals in the water. They are often heavier though.

A 5 gallon glass fish tank with built-in filter could weigh around 11lbs before you add decor and another 41lbs of water [1]. So you’ll need to check the desk or cabinet you want to place your aquarium on can take the weight.

Acrylic tanks are often lighter than glass, and if you’ve got kids around you may feel a bit safer with them. They can scratch a bit easier than glass and can yellow over time. But these can be buffed out quite easily.

Price: Tank Kits vs Tank Only

When it comes to larger aquariums it can make sense to buy a stand-alone tank and other equipment separately. You can often find better quality tanks this way, and even if you do get equipment like a heater as part of a kit, they are often quite basic and you’ll want to upgrade.

But when it comes to the best 5 gallon fish tank I would recommend an all-in-one kit. They often have built-in filtration which can be really handy if the tank is an unusual shape like a fish bowl. And as a beginner you’ll know you have the right equipment for the tank from the start.

Lighting A 5 Gallon Fish Tank

5 gallon fish tank kits will usually come with LED or MCR (multi-color remote) LED lights included. Try to look for lights that are programmable or have daylight and moonlight settings. Like us your fish need a consistent cycle of day and night, and these features will help with this.

Secondly, if you plan to have live plants in your tank make sure the power is enough to support them. Around 6500k is needed for low light plants. And if you plan to start a saltwater aquarium with corals you’ll need LEDs with around 11,000k power output.

Filtration For A 5 Gallon Fish Tank

Many 5 gallon fish tank kits come with built-in 3 stage filtration. This can be very useful in such a limited space, as having a separate filter compartment leaves more usable volume for your fish. Often you can house a heater in this compartment too.

You’ll need a filter with a minimum flow rate of around 25 gallons per hour (GPH) for a 5 gallon aquarium. This means it will be able to cycle all of the water volume in your tank 4 to 5 times an hour. Often filters will have more power than is needed, which is fine, but just check the flow rate is adjustable in case you keep delicate fish that don’t like too much current.

Heater For A 5 Gallon Fish Tank

Most tropical fish need an aquarium heated to around 75-80°F. For a 5 gallon fish tank that means you’ll need a heater of at least 25 watts, based on the fact that it takes between 2.5 to 5 watts per gallon of water to heat that volume properly [2].

Heaters are the one critical item often not included in 5 gallon fish tanks kits. When looking for one, as well as wattage, make sure the heater will fit fully submerged in your tank. Safety features such as an auto cut-off are also very useful in case your heater is ever accidentally exposed above the water line.

What Are The Best Fish For A 5 Gallon Aquarium?

rasbora fish in fish tank

A 5 gallon fish tank is a fantastic way of bringing some aquatic life into a confined space, like on top of your office desk. And whilst a 20 gallon tank may be better if you want to start a community, there are still plenty of options for a 5 gallon aquarium.

A great option many people choose is a single male betta, and 5 gallons is the minimum size we recommend for the best betta tank. If you want a small community of 4 or 5 fish you could consider dwarf rasboras or dwarf puffer fish.

Another route would be to set up a 5 gallon shrimp tank in which you could place 4 or 5 cherry shrimp, or ghost shrimp. You could even include one or two Mystery or Nerite snails, which as well as bringing interest would help keep the tank clean by eating algae from the glass.

Whichever species you choose, 5 one inch long fish should be the maximum so don’t be tempted to overstock your tank. And do check how big your fish will grow to as adults! Also bear in mind that many species like to school in groups of at least 6 so that they don’t get stressed. So 5 gallons is too small for most schooling fish that prefer a larger group.

Our Verdict

Overall we found the Fluval Spec V balanced design, excellent lighting, and powerful filtration to be crowned our best 5 gallon fish tank. But all the tanks on our list will provide the right space, lighting, and filtration to suit your aquatic pets’ needs. 

If you are on a budget the Marineland Portrait or Koller Panaview are perfect choices, or if you are after a dedicated saltwater aquarium the Fluval Sea Evo V is the way to go. Whichever you choose, these tanks are some of the best 5 gallon fish tanks available!

FAQs

We’ve put together the answers to some of the top frequently asked questions when it comes to 5 gallon fish tanks.

How Many Fish Can I Have In A 5 Gallon Fish Tank?

You can generally follow the ‘1 inch of fish per gallon’ rule, so 4 or 5 fish is usually about right for a 5 gallon tank. Bear in mind each species needs though. For example, Odessa barbs like to school in groups of no less than 6, so 5 gallons is too small for them.

Can You Keep Live Plants In A 5 Gallon Fish Tank?

Absolutely! Live plants are beneficial to any size of aquarium as they help oxygenate the water and provide natural cover for your fish. Just ensure your lighting is powerful enough to support them – around 6500k LEDs work well for low light plants.

How Often Should You Maintain A 5 Gallon Fish Tank?

To properly maintain your 5 gallon aquarium you should monitor your water parameters every few days and do a 15 to 20% water change approximately once a week.

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AUTHOR
Julie Millis
Julie has worked in aquatics for over 15 years. She is passionate about freshwater and saltwater tanks. Julie loves helping with all your fish-keeping questions!

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