Ideal fish for small tank?

Cactopus(Z7 TX)January 24, 2005

I started up a new 30 gallon freshwater several months ago, and purchased one of those cheap but pretty plastic 5 gals to use as my quarantine. The last of the fish in my 10 gallon salt tank died today (they were REALLY old) thus freeing up another tank to use as either quartantine or for fun.

I want to know what kind of fish I could put in either tank (as freshwater) that wouldn't be stressed by the small size. I was thinking about a goldfish, but it seems either tank is too small (is that true?). Betta is an obvious answer, but I was wondering what my other options were.

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edhall(z5 nwlowerMI)

An inch of fish is nice rule of thumb but there is always exceptions....goldfish produce a ton of waste and it is recommended to have 10g per goldfish.

I like Tetras they stay small and you can find fish with really nice colors. Plant live plants and the tank will be very easy to care for.


    Bookmark   January 24, 2005 at 1:04PM
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paparoseman(z8 WA. PO.)

White Clouds and Danios would do well in the five gallon tank.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2005 at 9:43AM
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luxum(9/10 Tampa FL)

I'd keep the 5 free for quarantine, imo it's really too small for long term housing of anything but a betta. In the 10 gallon, i'd do a pair of blue rams. I would not put a goldfish in a 10 gallon, they are so messy and they grow really large, very quickly.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2005 at 11:28AM
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Cactopus(Z7 TX)

Thanks for the blue rams suggestion! I am planning on the 30 gallon being an Amazonian cichlids tank (primarily if not solely discus) so the rams wouldn't require any different sort of care. Great advice!

    Bookmark   January 25, 2005 at 11:57PM
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reg_pnw7(WA 7, sunset 4)

I used to keep dwarf gouramis in a 10 gal tank, along with various tetras. All very pretty and easy.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2005 at 7:24PM
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bagpiper8(4b-5a CO)

i have a one gallon tank that i raise what is known as "feeder" guppies in, (although i dont feed them to anything :) ) they do have lots of babies though, and most pet stores will take them for store credit which could finance fish for your big tank. just a thought, they are pretty little fish.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2005 at 10:54AM
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isis_nebthet(8b/11suns SoCA)

How about a kuhli loach (They get about 3.5" big fan of eely loaches I am even if I don't see them all the time), and mixture of lil fish (neons, whiteclouds, guppies, danios)....


    Bookmark   February 3, 2005 at 10:40AM
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woodland_gardens(z5 WI)

I personally wouldn't keep rams in anything smaller than a 20 gal. My pair is always quarreling, although they don't do any real damage. Also, a 30 gal is way to small for adult discus. Why not make the 30 a planted tank for a pair or 2 of rams and some other warm water fish? Even young discus, but you'd have to get a larger tank as they grow. Keep the 5 for quarantine or breeding, and find something interesting for the 10. (which I would also make a planted tank, but that's me). Endlers Livebearer is a unique wild-type "guppy" that would do well in a 10. Badis species, Peacock Gudgeons, Dwarf Puffers (a more rocky/sandy tank with NO tankmates!), Threadfin Rainbows, Blue Eyes (Pseudomugil sp.) are all good candidates for a 10 gal. As would many Killifish. See link for killifish info (though the site is giving me problems today) or also Or contact me.

Here is a link that might be useful: The West African Killifish Site

    Bookmark   February 7, 2005 at 10:16AM
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I vote for White Clouds as well. Being a cool water species they don't need a heater. I would seriously reconsider keeping Discus in a 30g. Much too small in my opinion.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2005 at 4:29PM
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I have had six white clouds, two Danios, and a little plecostomus in my six gallon tank for more than a year now. They are lively and fun to watch, and very low maintenence...I tried tetras for a while but they seemed to get aggressive in the small space. The white clouds and the danios were the first fish I got and they are all still alive.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2005 at 11:47PM
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imaginators(z6 KY)

I really have a very small 12 gallon Nano Cube glass heated aquarium with 3 stage bio filter. Right now I have 3 fun Cories, 2 female Bettas, 2 Red Tetras and one beautiful Diamond Angelfish. I have fake plants and 2 live plants in there. I am slowly replacing the fake to live plants, taking advantage of the strong light for plant growth that comes with this aquarium. The photo does not do the angel fish justice. You can't see the silver sparkle on the side of fish.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   February 11, 2005 at 11:42PM
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One of the cutest tanks I ever owned was a 2-1/2 gallon metal-frame glass tank my grandfather (who was a long-time old-time fish breeder in his NY apartment - had half a room devoted to them) set up for me.

My parents had just redone my bedroom in flowerey reds & pinks, & as a special surprise, my grandad set up this tiny tank on an end table next to the loveseat beside a southfacing window.

Now remember - this was "way back when". Pink gravel to match the room's decor, several live plants, the regular charcoal/glass wool "box" filter, & regular incandescent light fixture that was popular back then. For inhabitants he installed a Cory catfish, a school of about half a dozen Neon tetras, & a couple of Zebra danios.

I have to admit that they all did wonderfully & I had them for several years with no problems. It's amazing how well we all did with fish way back then without all the frou-frou stuff now available to us.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2005 at 11:48AM
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imaginators(z6 KY)

Hi breezyb,
The kind of fish you had were very hardy little guys and I bet a lot of fun to watch. How long ago was it when you had that tiny tank? It is amazing the changes they have done to tanks since 10 years ago. Ideally I would like to have a large salt water tank.
frou-frou lady,

    Bookmark   February 13, 2005 at 10:25PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

Danios would deffinitly be a bad idea, imagine keeping a grey hound in your living room if you will, sure it has enough length to move around but they are built for speed, the kind of speed you can't get in such a small tank, I to vote to eep the 5 gallon as QT and utilise the 10 gallon, Killies are a great idea, they are short lived (most live only one season) but easy to breed and fill esentially the same ecological niche as bettas but without the fin envy and territoial nature. OTher good 10 gallon fish include bumble bee gobies (of the 18 species recognised by this common name two are commonly sold, of those two the ones with black bands that completely encirle the body are fresh water), Dwarf puffers, paradise fish, african dwarf frog, Badis badis badis (scarlet badis, Very Very Very pretty fish), platies, Gambusa Affinnis Affinnis (Mosquitoe fish), guppies, endlers live bearers (other exotic poecellidae livebearers will work aswell), Microrasbora (acctually a danio) dwarf coridorias catfish, ettas, bitterlings, Redclaw crabs, south american puffers (clomensus anelius I believe), pretty much any small algea eater (Do NOT get a common pleco!), Or a small colony of dwarf shell dwelling african cichlids (1 male and 2-4 females with lots of snail shells and sand substrate, you can breed em in a setup like this, then sell em).

Or you could go bracklish, you can keep any of the livebearers, Bubmle bee gobies (Black bands do not encirle the body of brackish BBG's), 'Fresh water' flounders, Ballon mollies, fan dance/ knight gobies, or even a Figure 8 puffer.

Bagpiper8 I'm sorry to tell you this but you can't even keep one guppy properly in a 1 gallon tank, let alone breed them, why dont you get yourself a rubermade tote, atleast 15 gallons or so, and fill it up and leave it under a table or something, so long as you remember to feed it it will make a great little fish farm, and in the dark more of the fry will go uneaten.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2005 at 1:04AM
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Oh Goodness - that must have been about 40 years ago - lol!!!

And I'm sorry - didn't mean my post to sound as though I thought a tank that size was suitable for fish (outside of a betta perhaps).

I just recall it as being adorable, & do remember having all the fish survive for several years.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2005 at 9:40AM
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sunny512(z8a/b cen.tx)

Have you thought turtles? There easy to keep and something different to have around. Mine react when I walk into the room by coming to the glass and splashing at me. The best part is when they get too big for the tank they can be released into the wild. They are instinctivly (sp?) adaptable to their surrounding meaning they won't be eaten by the bigger fish upon realease. Just an idea for that 10 gal of yours.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2005 at 3:59PM
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imaginators(z6 KY)

Hi again,
Any type of Cory cat fish are great no matter what size the tank. But don't buy one they like to be in a min. of 2 or groups. They are non aggressive with personality and clean the tank as well. I have 3 Cories of 2 Jubelii and 1 Green with my 4 Angel fish. Great fun to watch. I gave up on the 1 male and 2 females Betta fish in community tank.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2005 at 10:52PM
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I am new to this forum...and I have been sitting here reading for about 5 time flies when you're learning something new! I used to think I was a fairly intelligent person, but I never knew there were so many freshwater fish! Are all the fish you guys have been listing on this thread freshwater?!? I'm such a dope, I thought I was limited to goldfish! (pretty much)

OK, so what does it take to have fish that are as easy to take care of as goldfish but AREN'T goldfish? Don't get me wrong, I love my fish...they were cheap; bought them as 20 cent feeders and are now a year old and 4 inches long, but sure would like some variety!

    Bookmark   April 9, 2005 at 3:29AM
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Minaku(z6 Pittsburgh)

For the 5 gallon, I suggest like someone above keeping it free for a quarantine or leaving it for a betta. The 10 gallon tank can house up to 5 female bettas - you can get them to form a school, it's really nice to see. The 10 gallon would also be great for frogs as well.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2005 at 4:59AM
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Yes, all the fish we've been discussing here are freshwater tropical fish. In fact, many of them are far easier to take care of than goldfish. Everyone thinks of goldfish as "easy" fish, but they grow quickly, are messier than most tropicals, & require quite sizable tanks or pools after awhile. In addition, although the common feeder-type golfish do well in cold water/room temp, the fancier kinds require somewhat heated water as well.

The only thing you really need in order to take the leap from goldfish to tropicals is a tank heater & thermometer (both very inexpensive), & a good book or some on-line research on the dizzying array of different fish available for the tank size you have. Your most important research should be what fish are compatible together, their mature size, preferred water (soft, hard, etc.).

Mistakes will always be made, but that's part of the learning process. It's a lot of fun - you'll enjoy it.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2005 at 12:21PM
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Thanks Breezy!
I guess my idea of freshwater fish was cold water fish...funny how the mind works. It all makes sense, I mean, DUH! Catfish, Bettas, etc, they are all from freshwater, I had limited myself due to lack of research...I do want to do a much more tropical tank, just worried that my interest will wane and then I'll have a tank full of neglected fish after a while...I love this forum tho, all of you avid fish keepers are inspiring me to expand (once I get up the courage).

    Bookmark   April 9, 2005 at 8:39PM
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If you've kept your interest up with your Goldfish & kept them healthy, you shouldn't have a problem with any of the common tropicals.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2005 at 8:43PM
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Awhile ago I had a 20 gal goldfish tank that I always forgot about...I would forget to feed them and clean the tank and I ended up killing my two fish...I felt so guilty that it took me about 10 years to have another tank. This one started out as a 1.5 gal hex with 5 feeders...they graduated to a 2 gal, then to a 5 gal, now, 16 months later I have 3 fish that have thrived in my $25 starter 10 gal Aquarium Kit from Walmart(two died the first week from deformities). I guess I still have some anxiety about my abilities as an aquarium keeper, we'll see.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2005 at 8:59PM
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i have been reading this and am very happy i found it. i am thinking of geting a tank myself. i want to get a smaller one but have nice fish in it. it will be fresh water and i need some advice. i need to know what kind of fish would be beautiful, not horribly expensive, and fun to watch. i also need to know what tank to get and information about the fish and how to care for them.

please help me!!

    Bookmark   May 7, 2007 at 6:05PM
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james_ny(z7 NY)

There are many choises of fish for a 10 gal tank. Most small schooling fish like 5 neons or cardinals, zebra danios, rasboras, most small tetras. Add a cory cat and some decorations or plants for a natural look. Of course guppies are the kings of the small tank world [well maybe bettas].

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 9:15PM
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May Suggest a fish?

A pair of Dojo Loaches!!! I love mine to pieces and they are so cute when they get all curious when I 'm cleaning the tank...they come up to my arms and "whisker" them...hehe. They are quite entertaining to watch, better than a TV!!

    Bookmark   May 8, 2007 at 9:16PM
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For a 10 gal. tank, I would suggest just one or two species of VERY small fish, as most are schooling and will be far happier if they have others of their species to swim with.

Cory cats are also schooling fish, so never less than a minumum of 5 of each species. Sadly, among the Corys that we seldon see at pet stores are those most suitable for smaller (less than 20 gal) tanks, and are also among the most hardy; the true dwarfs; Habrosus, Hastatus and Pygmaeus. None grow larger than about 1 to 1-1/2 inches.

They also tend to swim in mid water far more than their larger cousins and make great tankmates for some of the other very small species, such as Dwarf Rasboras.

Given really good filtration and WATER CHANGES, you could actually keep a dozen Dwarf Rasboras and 6 dwarf corys in a 10 and they would be fine.

It's not the length of any fish that really matters; it's the bulk, and a dozen Dwarf Rasboras, for instance, equal in bulk at most, just 2 Bronze Corys.

Meaning; consider the weight of a fish far more than it's body length. Temperment is another. Sleek bodied, fast swimmers need a tank far longer than tall, and are best kept in a long 20 at minimum.

But the ultimate key to keeping any fish in a closed system is fresh, clean, conditioned water. All else on filtration is just commentary.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 4:12PM
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I'm with James in NY. I enjoyed a tank full of livebearers, especially guppies. And a dozen small Neons are attractive!

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 7:48PM
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I'm not really sure cause I'm new to this but I've always liked Clown Loaches.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2007 at 7:48PM
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I'm with you. Clowns are probably my favorite fish, but as with most loaches, they need a school of at least 6 if not more to be happy and a school of Clowns needs at minimum, a 55 gal. tank. But they are worth it.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2007 at 10:37AM
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if it were me i would get about 6-7 golden white clouds (cream with red tails) and 3 red velvet swords (2 females, 1 male), a few cherry shrimp on algae duty, ram's horn snails a garbage, and a small loach to keep the snails in check. plant a whole lot of like plants and forget the heaterlights will keep such a small aquarium warm enough unless you don't heat you house ant live in siberia. the reds and golds look really nice together and against the greens of the plants it really is pleasant. the live plants and scavengers make all the difference in a health small tank.

i said if it were me... i just described my 8 gallon.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2007 at 12:46AM
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if it were me i would get about 6-7 golden white clouds (cream with red tails) and 3 red velvet swords (2 females, 1 male), a few cherry shrimp on algae duty, ram's horn snails a garbage, and a small loach to keep the snails in check. plant a whole lot of like plants and forget the heaterlights will keep such a small aquarium warm enough unless you don't heat you house ant live in siberia. the reds and golds look really nice together and against the greens of the plants it really is pleasant. the live plants and scavengers make all the difference in a health small tank.

i said if it were me... i just described my 8 gallon.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2007 at 12:00AM
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I think the real problem with the small (under 10 gal.) tanks that are proliferating lately, is that excepting only Betas, few LPS's that sell the small tanks also stock the fish that really would be happy living in them.

I currently keep 5 species of what are commonly called "micros." They are brilliantly colored yet slender, so have litle bulk. None will grow over an inch and several are full grown and breeding at 3/4". Perfect for small desktop aquariums, but just try to find them at a LPS.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2007 at 11:51AM
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I would keep daphnia incase of a bloom in the big tank.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2008 at 6:09PM
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I have a 10 gallon tank with 2 bleeding heart tetras and 2 albino cory catfish. What fish should I add to it? It seems so empty.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2009 at 1:47AM
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Hi, I wouldn't hesitate to put a goldfish in a 10 gallon tank. Go with something like a black moore or other fancy type because the feeders can grow larger than some of the fancy types. I really like the goldfish, they like food and become really friendly when they know you are feeding them. Some of them are pretty hardy and live a long time as well.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2009 at 7:31PM
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The one fish per gallon is NOT used any more. As many mentioned each species has needs (territorial, swimming such as danios so on). (re ten for goldfish - Any good goldfish forum will inform one to have a least 20 gallons for each smaller gold fish due to water chemistry needs not just size.) Most fish as well, need both planted areas (some sleep amongst plants at night as well as utilize them during the day) and open swimming space. Like us, they like to move about and need stimulation for good health (read Desmond Morris - Zoologists, (or any of his great books) The Naked Ape on older types of zoos and abhorrent animal behavior due to stress of horrific conditions).

Cories do love to swim and in the wild are in huge schools in river systems (hundreds even thousands) like above post mentioned they swim all over if given the space.

The larger the tank size the better.

That said, some I've had that would do ok with smaller size and schooling as well - but due to size 5-7 at most depending on fish (or plant nice and have a great betta set up, java moss on wood, java ferns on rocks - happy betta!).

All need plants (Anubias is great as one doesn't need so much sand, a bit for bio culturing) Some can be on rocks, woods and other floating for cover. Most fish (unless specifically high light fish) like shade from plants due to their natural biotype. Remember, hardscape (filters, heater so on and plants rocks wood) take up space and reduce actual water amount.


Doctor Foster and Smith has a pet education site and list minimum tank size for each species.

Fish by type at Foster and Smith: (note the minimum of 30 gallon for goldfish and cory)


White cloud mountain minnow. (cooler water fish from Chinese rivers) Very pretty, now (see Dr. Foster and Smith) they have longer flowing fins as well as original. Plants.

(this site mentions danios ok for ten - I would not have a school under 20, long at that as they love to zoom full length like speeding bullets)

White cloud:

New type variation a real beauty:

Longer finned variant:

Priscella tetra... unlike some barbs and tetras, very peaceful... needs a school and plants. Two colors, normal and golden (bred).

Black Neon Tetra (not a true tetra but beautiful fish) Peaceful, schooling needs plants.

Other tetras mentioned for ten:

(others on site above as well)

Silver tip
Diamond Head (pretty)

Rasbora (some need more room see link for ten gallon)

Also, how about a moss planted shrimp species tank?

(suenglee, you need to add to both schools - both of your fish types are schooling fish. Schooling fish evolved to act as one unit and will become stressed and more prone to disease if not kept in schools. (protective/security) So maybe one more cory (I strongly myself over size tanks, under stock and use two filters each tank) so don't add too many for a ten. And at least 3 more tetras. That will be plenty for a ten - again it is water chemistry (bio load) and a ten is not much water all things considered. And all fish need space to swim. Like us in small apartment one goes nuts! I would not add any other species due to tank size and need for schools. (you can mix albinos with normal colors of same fish type though)

    Bookmark   January 10, 2009 at 5:37AM
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There are definitely worse places for a goldfish to be than in a well maintained 10 gallon aquarium. Here are a few of them.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2009 at 6:27PM
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I just wanted to respond to this post. and mainly to SUNNYB for the pure ignorance of the post. It has really irked me.

I am a red eared slider turtle owner, and it is the pure ignorance of this individuals statement that causes such problems with the turtle population.

Turtles live longer then most humans, if you are going to get one, you had better be able to provide for it throughout its life. You do NOT ever get a turtle and when YOU are too irresponsible enough to be able to provide a proper home for it. You also do NOT EVER release a turtle into the wild unless you plucked it out of the wild to begin with. Also, do NOT take a wild turtle and shove it in a tank at your home. They are wild, and must remain wild.

If a turtle is raised in a tank all of its life they will NOT simply adapt to the surroundings!

Before you make such a statement you had better know what you are talking about. Its statements like that which give wrong information and mislead people.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2009 at 3:25PM
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You have too small of a tank to keep a school of full sized corys along with bleeding heart's, as both species will mature to a size that demands at least a 20 gal tank for a comfortable amount of space and no true schooling fish should ever be kept in numbers of less than 6 per species, and that's the bare minimum.

However, given really strong filtration, lots of live plants and a 50% water change weekly, you could triple the number of each species, to give each the minimum number necessary for their comfort in a school of its own kind until you can move up to a larger tank.

But no additional species. Stick to the two you have until such time as you have the space and/or finances to get a larger tank for a more varied community.

One of the easiest sizes to find at bargain prices and a good size to set up as a communiity tank is a 55. Check out eBay and/or CL for local listings. If you pay more than about $125. - 150.00 for the tank, hood, filter and perhaps even a stand, you aren't shopping carefully enough.

As for keeping Goldies in a 10: that depends on the age and breed of the Goldie. I bought a baby red/white ryukin last month to keep as a pet in a 29. It's currently doing just fine in a 10, with a juvie BN pleco to keep it company and vie for access to the slightly zapped zuccinni slices I clip to the glass.

But it's still only about 2-1/2" long, the tank is given a 50% water change 2 x weekly and has an Eclipse hood that gets a fresh cartridge 2 x monthly.

When the little ryukin doubles in size, it will move to the 29 with an Emperor 400 for filtration. My last ryukin lived in that tank for 18 years, would swim into my hand and do simple tricks. All things really are relative; including the housing of fish.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2009 at 12:27PM
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Very interesting topic.

I have a 29 gallon setup with 4 angels and three dwarf gouramis(1 male, 2 females) and a chinese algae eater ... I do a 20-30% water change each week ... try not to overfeed and maintain good filtration .... as well as a good mix of plastic and real plants and other decor. In a year or so I plan to upgrade to a 55 or bigger tank for my angels.

I just recently had two feeder goldfish (Cheech and Chong) in a 8.5 gallon tank ... they were starting to look really cramped so I setup them up in great new digs !!! A twenty gallon all to themselves. I run a undergravel and backfilter and change 20-30% of the water each week. They are doing great and seem to love the room.

So now I have this nice little 8.5 gallon tank and thought I would do a little research on fish for small tanks ... WOW what a great bunch of answers I got from this post ! Thanks Y'all.

BTW ... I'm thinking white clouds and maybe a mystery snail ....

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 5:28PM
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Hello, I don't know much about bettas, but I've been reading here that 5 females might work in a 10 gallon tank. Would 3 female bettas work in a 5-6 gallon tank? Or must there be five, for their own happiness? If I walk into my local pet store, how do I tell which ones are the females? Also, is it true that you need two coreys, instead of just one? I'd like to dip my toes into this aquarium idea before really committing to it. Finally, is there one water filter type or brand out there that is most quiet? I will most likely put live plants into the tank. Thanks, everyone!

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 7:01PM
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Newf444 they generally sell the females separately from the males as females.......but the females in general have short fins and not as much color as the males. Rather than 3 female bettas in a 5 gal tank, you probably would better enjoy one male. Corys like to be with other corys so one is not too happy and a group of 3 or more is better. If you are new to aquariums live plants can be difficult.........but it depends on how you keep your tank and the type of live plant. Note that a lot of plants sold for aquariums in pet stores are not necessarily aquatic plants and do not last for the long term.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 9:07AM
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