What Fish Can Live In A 1 Gallon Tank? 7 Great Options for A Small Aquarium.

Most of us would love to own a giant aquarium. But, of course, we’d also be thrilled to have loads of extra space and infinite free electricity to make that possible. After all, cozy living is the new little black dress, and sometimes a one-gallon tank is as big as our lives can handle.

You have probably heard the 1-inch adult fish = 1-gallon general guideline. But what type of aquatic creature is that tiny? Read on as we break down what fish can live in a 1 gallon tank in our handy guide. (Note, for some of the fish discussed below, a 1-gallon tank should be viewed as a short-term or intermediate housing solution.)

So, What Fish Can Live In A 1 Gallon Tank?

Fish that can live in a 1-gallon tank include the following:

  1. Betta Splendens 
  2. Cherry Shrimp
  3. Ghost Shrimp
  4. Guppies 
  5. Neon Tetras 
  6. White Cloud Minnows
  7. Zebra Danios

Below we share more about each of these fish in more detail and how to keep them in a 1-gallon tank.

1. Keeping Betta Splendens In A 1-Gallon Tank

Betta Splendens are the koi fish of the small indoor tank. Known as the “Siamese fighting fish” or the “labyrinth fish,” they are gorgeous. Contrary to popular myth, male Betta can live with other fish provided the aquarium is roomy, and the tank mates have been carefully vetted. So those requirements may eliminate a 1-gallon tank as an option.

Many folks do keep their male Betta living alone. They work in smaller tanks due to their unique respiratory system that allows them to take oxygen from the surface. But while they can be homed in a 1-gallon tank, most people eventually upgrade to a larger one, ideally a 5-gallon. 

Bettas need their water to be maintained at a warm 75-80 F and kept as clear as rain, so you’ll need a heater and a filtration system. They also enjoy a soft current and require places to hide. Live plants make them happy, but artificial plants are absolutely fine if you find that overwhelming. 

Betta fish are not good candidates for the “take out the fish and clean” hygiene method. Their fins can be easily damaged in the netting process. Should you ever have to remove or re-home your Betta, use a small container, like a cup, as a scoop. 

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2. Cherry Shrimp Can Live In A 1-Gallon Tank

Cherry shrimp will bring color to any tank, and they can fit well in a 1-gallon tank. However, they don’t like to be alone, so 3 is a good number, although some people go as high as 5. Later on, you might want to bump up to a 2-gallon tank or more, especially if they breed. 

These shrimps are pretty hardy, grow to 1.2 inches, and will live 1-2 years. They are a freshwater breed and will happily hang out in temperatures of 60-80F. They can handle a variety of substrates, but it is best to select one compatible with live plants, as cherries adore leafy greens. 

They will eat what they naturally find in the tank, such as algae and biofilm. But you should also supplement their diet, as they are fond of variety, and it ensures they are getting enough sustenance and proper nutrition. Examples of feed include:

  • Algae wafers
  • Bee pollen
  • Fish food
  • Shrimp pellets
  • Spinach
  • Zucchini

3. Dwarf Spotted Danio Can Start In A 1-Gallon Tank

Dwarf Spotted Danio are sometimes mistaken for their cousins, the zebra danio, and like any danio, is a member of the carp family. But the dwarf, as the name suggests, is the smaller of the two, making it a better fit for the 1-gallon tank. They need to be in a school, but you’ll have to keep it at three due to their snug home. 

These peaceful fish do best in temperatures of 74-82F, with a pH of 6.5-7, and a hardness of 5-12 dGH. A dark substrate will show them off best combined with overhead lighting. They adore live plants, but artificial ones will suffice. However, despite their calm nature, they have a habit of jumping, so invest in a lid. 

Dwarf spotted danio are easygoing when it comes to feeding time:

  • Bloodworms
  • Brine shrimp
  • Flakes
  • Freeze-dried
  • Frozen
  • Mosquito larvae
  • Pellets

4. Ghost Shrimp Are Perfect For A 1-Gallon Tank

Ghost shrimp are perfect for a 1-gallon tank. 3-4 of these tiny critters will be beginners friendly, and they’ll live for about a year (but possibly leave new ones behind). They don’t need a complex filtration system; a sponge model will do. Watch out for ammonia levels (that’s their weakness). They also prefer their current to be low. You will prefer a lid (they can jump). 

Ghost shrimp, like cherries, love live plants in their sandy or finely graveled substrate. The other advantage to the plants is they’ll help manage the nitrate levels. They also adore hiding places, be it caves, rocks, or driftwood. 

Ghost shrimp will forage in the tank, especially enjoying any algae they find. But they will need extra, such as:

  • Blood worms
  • Cucumber
  • Flake food
  • Romaine
  • Shrimp pellets

5. Guppies: Good Option For A 1-Gallon Tank

Guppies are ubiquitous small tank fish. Almost anyone who has ever kept fish has these colorful creatures swimming through their lives. However, even the gregarious tiny guppy likes plenty of fin room. So keep its school to 3-4 in a 1-gallon tank. Any more than that, and they’ll turn their home into a filthy mess and morph into the grumpies. 

To keep your guppies happy fish, ensure you have a quality filtration system and lots of plant life. Their pH is best at 7 or higher. They like their water hard (100-150 mg/L) and their tank on the warmish side (68-78F). Micropellets make an excellent feed for these small fish, but frozen food can make a nice treat once a week or so. 

However, guppies have a happy habit of making more of their kind. Your 1-gallon tank might have to become several or go up a size. (Yes, the 1-gallon tank is the gateway aquarium.)

6. Homing Neon Tetras In A 1-Gallon Tank

Neon tetras are enjoyed for their bright colors, thought to help them confuse predators when out in the wild. However, they are not easy to maintain in a 1-gallon tank. These sensitive fish have to be in a school of three or more. (They love being in schools of 6+, but you’ll need a bigger tank for that.) 

They like a pH of 7, the water soft (do not exceed 10 dGH), and a temperature of 68-79 F. Low lighting, dark substrate, and hiding places give them security. Unfortunately, they also have a nasty habit of dying if there are parameter fluctuations. Therefore, the filtration system must be excellent.

What Fish Can Live In A 1 Gallon Tank

Warning: cardinal tetras are often mistaken for neon tetra, especially when they’re young. Both are pretty, and they do get along in larger tanks. However, cardinal tetras grow larger than neon tetras by a good half inch and should not be in a 1-gallon tank. 

7. White Cloud Minnow For A 1-Gallon Tank

The white cloud minnow is an invasive species in some parts of the world, so not always a good idea for a pond. These fish are pretty hardy and like to be in a school, but you’ll have to limit it to three in a 1-gallon tank. Unfortunately, a bioload of 4 or more will make it too difficult to keep the water quality within proper parameters. 

These are not fish that enjoy the warm water. Their range is 60–72 F; but keep it at the lower end of the mercury as the higher end shortens their lifespan. Their pH can be 6-8 and a hardness of 5-19 dGH. 

White cloud mountains gained popularity for their mosquito-eating ways (hence how they transitioned from backyard ponds to becoming pests in larger waterways). So if you can rustle up some mosquito larvae, they’ll be grateful. Daphnia and brine shrimp are other delights. But dry and frozen food is acceptable (they do love a live wiggler, though.) 


What Is The Best Fish For A 1-Gallon Tank? 

Shrimp is the best “fish” (aquatic creature) for a 1-gallon tank, especially the ghost breed. Most fish, even the ones we’ve listed, will do better in a 5-gallon than a 1-gallon. But ghost shrimp will be very happy in a 1-gallon.

Is A 5-Gallon Tank Better Than A 1-Gallon Tank?

A 5-gallon tank is better for fish than a 1-gallon tank. Obviously, you need the money and the space, and sometimes that’s not possible. But if you can make a 5-gallon work, keeping the water clean and maintaining the proper pH and temperature will be more manageable. Also, the social fish will appreciate having room for a few more buddies. 

Can I Home A Goldfish In A 1-Gallon Tank?

Goldfish don’t belong in a 1-gallon tank. If they are young, they’ll fit. Thus, some people use a 1-gallon to home the baby fish while they wait for the larger aquarium to be shipped. Also, some owners like to quarantine their new goldfish in a 1-gallon tank for a period before transferring it into the main tank in case the new fish has health issues. But a 1-gallon tank is not a long-term home for a goldfish. 

Can I Home A Crab In A 1-Gallon Tank?

Crabs are adorable, but even the tiny breeds need at least 5 gallons. They usually need friends, but being crabby, they’ll fight if the space is limited. Also, their needs are not as straightforward as guppies or ghost shrimp. 

Closing Thoughts

If you are ready to own a fish or two but want a space-saving option, a 1 gallon tank provides a much better option than a fish bowl. While a 5-gallon tank may be ideal, a 1-gallon tank still allows you to add filtration and heat to keep your fish happy. And if you choose one of these suggested fish (or shrimp!) species, you’ll know they can stay healthy and happy in a smaller space.

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