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Discussion Starter #1
I work in a pet store (yes, gasp, I'm a horrible person, etc. etc.) Christmas is a really popular time for people wanting to get first tanks for their kids. A lot of times that means a 1, 2.5, 3, or 5 gallon tank. I'm always at a loss for fish to suggest for such small tanks. If they go bigger than a gallon I suggest a betta, but that's about it. Is there really anything that can be kept in such small tanks? What about non-fish animals, like dwarf frogs, crabs, or shrimp? It's hard enough to convince people that goldfish and saltwater are not options for these tanks with out having some alternative to offer them.

2,920 Posts
Hello and welcome to the forum!

I wish they did not make all those small tanks. The upkeep on small tanks, is much harder than maintaining a 5 gal or larger tank. They push these tanks for beginners, their fish die do to ammonia or nitrite poisoning, then they get discouraged and quit the hobby.
The only thing I use the small tanks for, is to QT new bettas, that will be placed in a larger community tank.
If you can, I would try to push people into going with at least a 5 gal.

3,372 Posts
Maybe a shrimp tank or a pair of African Dwarf frogs in the 2.5 gallon and larger. I think 1 gallon tanks are kind of useless. lol

4,806 Posts
I'd use a 1-2-3 gallon tank for quarantine only. I'd definitely not have dwarf frogs in them, cause they want to live in groups and as active as they are I'd go at the VERY minimum for a ~15gallon, rather 20!
The smallest tank I'd start to suggest for any pet (fish, shrimp, frog etc) is a 10g and set it up for shrimps.

If I was in your shoes in the store, I'd do my homework learn all reasons why these small tanks just doe not work for fish and why its cruel (IMO) to house a betta etc in such small tanks, and then not "push people" into buying larger ones, but be a informative salesman who knows what they're talking bout, cause pushing someone won't help at all.
And on the side note your boss will start being real happy with you selling all these Xmas shopper 20+g tanks and equipment rather then the cheap lil one's.

808 Posts
I guess a 1 gal. could house a betta because it is bigger then those tiny bowl that they come in. a few endlers maybe male only no females as they reproduce tp quickly. I have a 3 gal. that has 2 mystery snails in it. 5 gal. as a hospital tank that has red cherry shrimp in it when not in use. also a 2.5 gal. that is a hospital tank that will have dwarf shrimps or endlers in it.Endlers are smaller then guppies but petco and petsmart do not carry them. They are sometimes used as feeder fish for bigger fish but they are quite pretty. Most aquarium stores carry them I would just stay away from a male female pair and just go with a few males maybe 3 of them. Small tanks are fine as long as you do not overfeed and do the water changes of 25% and test the water each week with a API water test kit. 1 Mystery snails would be ok in a 1 gal. without a heater. The heaters only are good in a 2 gal or bigger tank as they do not make them for 1 gal. tanks.

340 Posts
1g: Too small for a betta because they don't make any heaters small enough to safely heat a tank of this size. You could go with about 5-8 cherry shrimp, a handful of ghost shrimp (surprisingly entertaining) or a nice-looking snail like a zebra or a ramshorn if you clean the tank well and provide lettuce for them to eat.

2.5g: You can heat a tank of this size with a small heater (aim for 5w per gallon). The marineland stealth is a good one, but larger heaters (no larger than 25w) can be used on a low setting. A betta would be happy in this size, or even about 3 male guppies*. Another awesome pick is the Endler's Livebearer*, a relative of the guppy that grows only an inch in adult size, provided it's a male. Any of the options for a 1g will also work.

3g: Basically any of the options above. I might also add that the Eclipse comes in a 3g model... the excellent filtration system can handle a few more fish than the average filter.

5g: All of the above. There is also ample room to house a school (about 6) of one of the many kinds of dwarf rasboras (also known as microrasboras) or tiny tetras (anyting under 1.5 inches). Alternatively, you could divide and house two bettas (perfect gift for two kids, less maintenance for the parents). A honey or sparkling gourami makes a good 'centerpiece fish' to go with the dwarf rasboras. You could also have about 5 guppies in a tank like this, very easily with some cherry shrimp on cleaning duty. A few platies* would work as well.

*Livebearers of any sort breed like rabbits, so don't mix males and females! Even if you plan on selling them to a pet store, you still need lots of room to grow out as many as 50 babies per batch.

Hope that helps! As a committed nano-tanker, I can assure you that there are many more options for small tanks. I have only stated the most readily available and easiest to care for. As far as what to avoid, here are a few pointers:

-Absolutely no goldfish, plecos, bala sharks in any of these tanks. All of these guys will reach a foot in length easily.
-Always know the adult size of a fish before you recommend it.
-No bettas in tanks under 2g! They are warm water fish, in fact they prefer warmer water than most community fish! I recommend you read over the betta care sheet ( )-- these guys are huge sellers
-And last but not least, the bigger the tank, the less you have to clean it!

2,477 Posts
Really depends how you keep the tank. I have a ~1 gal tank I had a male endler in it, but move him so he would have so company. I've been toying with the idea of a betta, but it has lots of plants in it. It would have to be a plakat, because there isn't enough swimming room for a fancy betta. Its not filtered, currently there are snails shrimp and some endler fry in it.

But yeah when starting the hobby its best to start big and work towards small tanks. Small tanks are much harder. My first attempt at a 2.5gal did not go well. I'm amazed that the 1gal puddle in my "stream edge" tank is doing so well. Basically no algae to speak of, plants pearl daily. I also rarely do water changes on it, just replace the evaporated water. The water I add also comes out of another aquarium so its not fresh. Its got to be because of the "land" side of the tank. IDK what plant it is but one of them sends out a ton of roots.

13,248 Posts
For goldfish, photos speak thousands of words. I could show you two goldfish forums where I regularly contribute for and they will have photos of their goldfish as bulky as 5 inches in width and length as long as 12 inches for orandas and fantails. That would certainly make it easier for you to convince them not to keep goldfish in tanks smaller than a 30g.

I don't have many photos but you could easily print this caresheet for them to understand why exactly goldfish are much more demanding than what they foresee. Goodness knows I should have built a blog for this.:sad:

Aquarium Size, Variants of Goldfish and General Guidelines
A. Impracticality of “Traditional” Fishbowls and Aquarium Size Guidelines for Fancy and Pond Goldfish

In China, for several centuries, it has been their tradition to place goldfish in their fishbowls. This trend continues until today and will continue so despite the attempted passing of the bill by several countries particularly in Europe to ban the use of fishbowls towards goldfish due to the number of incidence where goldfish die within a few days or even weeks as a result of ignorance shared by a lot of people who buy fish without doing their homework first. To understand better why the fishbowls became part of the Chinese tradition, in China, their ardor usually is not spacious thus large aquaria are not an option for them to keep their fish in. Round smooth bowls were designed with great effect including the fish in them that they become part of the ambiance. China is a temperate zone. Unlike the tropical areas, in temperate areas, goldfish do not eat a lot due to the low temperature wherein their metabolic rate decreases significantly and in turn, reducing the pollution.

Nowadays, a lot of hobbyists have access to larger house and lots and modern technology thus improving the life support systems further. They are able to accommodate large aquarium systems which benefit the goldfish greatly. Aquarium size is a very important factor that must be carefully planned as it greatly influences the potential of the fish to reach its adult size. Aside from that, this helps the fish utilize their excess carbohydrates that they accumulate from consuming foods containing excess carbohydrates. If you have heard the saying, “the solution to pollution is dilution”, the saying is indeed very true.

Goldfish are no stranger to severely deteriorating water conditions however like all other fish, they become prone to several health issues as a result of the poor water conditions. Unfortunately for the fish, they produce a heavy amount of urea and feces especially when their metabolic rate is increased due to the elevated temperature. As a result, the water quality deteriorates rather rapidly especially when the tank is rather less than ideal in size.

Considering goldfish themselves do not stay small (which is why fishbowls are impractical nowadays) at 8 to 24 inches range, a general guideline for fancy types should be at least fifteen gallons per fish whereas pond types need at least twenty gallons per fish. Previous debates have been offered that the fancy types need a minimum of at least ten gallons per fish. While this point of argument does prove itself feasible, giving more allowance for space would be a much better option for the goldfish.

The above paragraph does not mean you can freely utilize the spare fifteen and twenty gallon tanks for goldfish. Those tanks are still very limited and you cannot keep goldfish in isolation as these are sociable by nature and unlikely to thrive for a long time if deprived of their company. With the number of goldfish suggested at three as the possible minimum, a 55g would be a best starting point for fancy goldfish whereas 75g would be the minimum for at least two to three pond types.

B. Variants of Goldfish

As the goldfish has been bred for decades, many strains have been formed as a result of selective breeding. This in itself complicates matters further as the different body formation of the fish also requires a few perks in how you attempt to accommodate them to avoid any future issues that will prove detrimental to their health.

For instance, bubble eyes are famous for their large bulbous eye sacs that dangle below their eyes. The eye sacs are quite delicate and easily punctured hence you have to avoid sharp edged decorations if you want to keep their eye sacs intact. Although the eye sacs will normally heal themselves, the injured sac will usually look very different than the previous. A lot of round bodied types are prone to buoyancy problems due to the compressed organs brought about by their distended abdomen. There are many causes to buoyancy disorders which we can cover later on as we go further into this.

Fancy Types
Doubletail with dorsal fins
Black Moor/Demekin/Telescope/Globe Eye
Tikus Pearlscale
Crown Pearlscale

Doubletail without dorsal fins
Bubble Eyes

Pond Types
Singletail with streamlined body
Common Goldfish/Hibuna

Singletail with rounded body


C. Stunting Explained

Stunting is one of the most controversial subjects in the history of aquarium trade. Until now, it remains a debate with various theories given as to what causes the fish to stunt. This complication is brought by the fact that there are differnt variables that influence greatly the growth rate of the fish.

Stress is the number one factor that is quite overlooked when it comes to stunting issues being addressed. When a fish becomes stressed, it releases the hormones, norepinephrine and epinephrine in response to stress, both of which reduce the growth hormones greatly. Once the stressor has been removed, the fish may gain a growth spurt due to the rebound effect by releasing more growth hormones.

Stress occurs because of various factors. One such factor to address is overcrowding. This is a very commonly done mistake in the aquarium hobby. Many people have the tendency to buy a lot of fish on impulse and forget that their fish are still on growing stage. In overcrowded tanks, fish cannot feel comfortable or secured because of constant activities which eventually stresses them and makes them more vulnerable to health issues. The lack of space prevents the fish from developing normally as they should have. Overcrowding also encourages the proliferation of parasites whether fatal or not thus the fish are extremely stressed by the constant infestations and secondary infections.

D. Attitude/Behavior

E. Aquarium Location

Location is another one of the factors to consider. Fish are extremely sensitive to sounds and movements. Sounds can travel by twice as much in water than in air and this can be quickly detected by the lateral line system found on the flanks of the fish which enables them to find their way around their surroundings.

Make sure your aquarium is located in a dark or moderately lit portion of area. Avoid placing the aquarium under direct sunlight. Why? Exposure to sunlight can cause the temperature to fluctuate a lot that the goldfish becomes agitated by the depleting oxygen, elevated temperature and rapidly deteriorating water conditions as a result of high metabolic rate. High temperature itself can lower oxygen levels and causes the fish to gasp to the surface as goldfish are heavy oxygen consumers.

Traffic area also affects the fish and can possibly stress them. Too many movements around the aquarium area can frighten and stress most fish as they become agitated by the constantly high traffic area although goldfish in general, can learn to interact with the presence of humans as these fish are highly intelligent animals.
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