Top 15 Small Freshwater Fish for Smaller Aquariums

You’re either a saltwater fish lover or you’re a freshwater fish lover. It’s rare to find someone who keeps and cares for both types of fish.

We love both types and realize they both have their advantages.

Freshwater fish are easier to take care of for a lot of people. The water you need is easy to access because you can get it right from your sink and it can be easily transported to your fish tank.

Not only can they be easier to care for, but there is also plenty of small freshwater fish for small aquariums.

If you’re looking to start keeping fish but don’t have a lot of space, you have options. And all these fish are beautiful.

We created a list of the top 15 small freshwater fish for small aquariums.

1. Guppies

Guppies

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Personality of Guppies

These are energetic fish and they’re personable. They’re social creatures and need other fish.

They get along with non-aggressive fish. But more aggressive fish tend to eat guppies. They’re only a light snack for them.

Guppies are almost always moving in an aquarium.

Feeding Guppies

Guppies are omnivores, so they eat both plants and meat. They’ll eat algae around the tank.

They also eat brine shrimp and fish flakes. You can even feed them vegetables like lettuce.

When you go to buy fish flakes for your guppies, they need fish flakes high in protein.

Tanks for Guppies

Maintain the tank temperature between 76 degrees Fahrenheit and 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

Life Span and Size of Guppies

Female guppies only grow to be about two inches in length. And male guppies only grow to be about one a half inches in length.

They only live for about two years.

2. Goldfish

Goldfish

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Personality of Goldfish

Goldfish need a friend to play and have fun with. They can get bored and lonely if they’re the only fish in the tank.

Some can get aggressive with other goldfish when they’re stressed out. As long as they’re happy, they get along well with other fish.

The males can also seem a bit aggressive when they’re ready to mate.

Believe it or not, your goldfish can remember your face as well as others that they often see. You can even get them to eat from your hand once they get used to you. 

Feeding Goldfish

Goldfish will eat almost anything since they’re omnivores. You want them to have a balanced diet.

For meat, they love bloodworms, brine shrimp, and ghost shrimp. For the vegetation part of their diet, you can use fish flakes or you can feed them green veggies.

You can even feed them with different types of fruit.

And they’ll help keep their tank clean from algae. They’re big algae snackers.

Tanks for Goldfish

The tank for a goldfish should be at least 20 gallons to allow them to grow. It’s not the smallest of tanks but it’s not the biggest either.

Never use a fishbowl for a goldfish or any type of fish. Fishbowls don’t have the room for any fish to breathe and live.

Keep the temperature between 68 degrees Fahrenheit and 74 degrees Fahrenheit.

Life Span and Size of Goldfish

Goldfish can live anywhere from 10 to 20 years. They don’t get much bigger than two inches in length.

3. Angelfish

Angelfish

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Personality of Angelfish

Angelfish are aggressive little creatures. When they fight, it looks like they’re kissing. No joke.

Much like dogs, they have a hierarchy. This means they have to fight to move up in that hierarchy or they have to defend their position. They’re also territorial.

They create small groups. Even so, they don’t socialize with others often.

Unlike a lot of other fish, they care for their juvenile fish. They also protect and defend their eggs from others. 

Feeding Angelfish

Angelfish’s diet consists of meat or prey. They need a high protein diet. They eat insects, brine shrimp, crustaceans, and smaller fish.

But they’re omnivores so they do need some vegetation in their diet. Don’t forget to throw in some healthy fish flakes from time to time too.

Tanks for Angelfish

An aquarium for an angelfish should be 10 gallons per each fish. Not too big but not super small either.

Keep the temperature between 74 degrees Fahrenheit and 86 degrees Fahrenheit.

The tanks need to have a light source eight to 12 hours a day.

Life Span and Size of Angelfish

They grow up to four to six inches in length. And they grow about 8 to 10 inches in height. This includes the height of their top fins.

Most angelfish live to about 10 years.

4. Betta Fish

Betta Fish

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Personality of Betta Fish

Male betta fish are very territorial and aggressive fish so they’re better off alone in a tank. They’re not social fish at all, especially with other bettas.

Some state that they can live well with other non-aggressive species and types of fish. But it’s been our experience that they like to fight and eat others too.

Unless your male betta has a very calm demeanor, we’d recommend not adding any other fish to your betta tank.

If your fish is flaring their fins, they’re showing aggression or they’re scared.

Female betta fish do well with other less aggressive fish and other female bettas.

Feeding Betta Fish

Betta fish are carnivores, so they eat only meat or protein. They need lots of protein.

If you choose to feed them fish flakes, make sure they have protein ingredients, not fillers.

You can also feed them bloodworms, brine shrimp, Mysis shrimp, and fruit flies.

Tanks for Betta Fish

A tank for a betta fish should be five to 10 gallons. The water needs to be between 72 degrees Fahrenheit and 82 degrees Fahrenheit.

Life Span and Size of Betta Fish

On average, a betta will grow two and a half inches in length, minus their tail. And they can live up to five years.

5. Neon Tetra Fish

Neon Tetra Fish

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Personality of Neon Tetra Fish

Tetras are non-aggressive and energetic fish. They often stick to swimming in the middle of the water column of your tank.

They’re also sociable. So, they need to be with a school of 15 of their fish peers. They need to feel surrounded. Too few fish and they get stressed out.

Don’t add aggressive big fish to their tank. They can’t defend themselves and these fish love to eat neon tetras.

Feeding Neon Tetra Fish

Neon tetras eat both meat and vegetation. They’re great at helping you clear the tank of algae.

You can feed them bloodworm and brine shrimp, plus healthy fish flakes. If you feed them with anything other than flakes or pellets, you need to tear it up.

They need fed very small pieces since they’re small fish.

Tanks for Neon Tetra Fish

A 10-gallon tank is perfect for 10 tiny Neon tetra fish or less. But if you plan on keeping a school of 15 or more, a 20-gallon tank is a must.

Keep the water temperature between 70 degrees Fahrenheit to 81 degrees Fahrenheit.

You want to make the tank of a neon tetra resemble their natural habitat. This means it needs to be heavy with vegetation. The tank should be dark, like the water in the jungle.

Life Span and Size of Neon Tetra Fish

Neon tetras can live between five and eight years. The average tetra grows to be an inch and a half in length. The biggest they get is about two inches and a half inches.

6. Cardinal Tetra Fish

Cardinal Tetra Fish

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Personality of Cardinal Tetra Fish

Cardinal tetras are sociable and need a community. They need to have a school of around 15 fish. The better their group is, the brighter their colors become.

They do well with other small non-aggressive fish too. They’re peaceful and relaxed fish.

Feeding Cardinal Tetra Fish

Cardinal tetra fish are omnivores but they need extra vitamins they can’t get from meat. And if you don’t feed them shrimp or something similar, it has to be in small pieces.

Since these tetras need a high amount of vitamins, most of the food you feed them should be healthy fish flakes. You want to avoid fish food with fillers in them.

Tanks for Cardinal Tetra Fish

 Since you should keep a group of tetra fish together, you’ll need a 15 or 20-gallon tank.

The temperature needs to be between 73 degrees Fahrenheit and 81 degrees Fahrenheit.

 Life Span and Size of Cardinal Tetra Fish

 Cardinal tetras don’t grow to be bigger than an inch and half in most cases. And they live up to about five years.

7. Cherry Barb Fish

Cherry Barb Fish

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Personality of Cherry Barb Fish

Cherry barb fish love other fish, especially their own species. They stick together and form a group. It builds their confidence.

There should be one male for every two female barbs.

If they’re left without a community to bond with, they like to hide. They lose confidence against threats.

They’re agreeable. You can add any small and non-aggressive fish to their tank without any worry. They even get along with invertebrates.

Feeding Cherry Barb Fish

Cherry barbs eat both meat and vegetation. They’ll eat any algae around their tank.

For meat, you can feed them bloodworms, brine shrimp, and insects. As for the vegetation side of their diet, you can feed them veggies or healthy fish flakes or pellets.

Tanks for Cherry Barb Fish

For a school of cherry barbs, you need a 15 or 20-gallon tank to accommodate them. Keep the temperature between 73 degrees Fahrenheit and 81 degrees Fahrenheit.

Keeping their tank full of vegetation will calm these fish. It reminds them of their natural habitat.

Life Span and Size of Cherry Barb Fish

The cherry barb fish can live for five to six years. They grow up to two inches in length. They’re just right for small tanks. 

8. Kribensis Fish

Kribensis Fish

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Personality of Kribensis Fish

For the most part, kribensis fish are personable and social. Picking out other types of fish to share a tank with them is pretty easy.

The only thing to look out for is slow fish. Kribensis can get irritated by slow fish and take a small chunk out of their fins to try to hurry them along.

And try not to add other fish species who love caves and shelters. Kribensis don’t like to share their shelters.

Feeding Kribensis Fish

Kribensis fish are another easy fish to feed since they’re omnivores. You can use bloodworms, brine shrimp, and Mysis shrimp for meat.

And fish flakes and pellets work well for the vegetation side. But if you want to go for the healthier side, you can feed them veggies too.

Tanks for Kribensis Fish

When it comes to kribensis fish, you need a 20-gallon tank to hold them in. Maintain the temperature between 75 degrees Fahrenheit and 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

Add caves and other shelters to their tanks. They love to hang out in these shelters and it makes them comfortable.

Life Span and Size of Kribensis Fish

Kribensis fish grow to be three to four inches on average. And they can live up to five years. 

9. Harlequin Rasbora Fish

Harlequin Rasbora Fish

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Personality of Harlequin Rasbora Fish

Harlequin rasbora fish are very peaceful fish. They’re non-aggressive, even if they’re bullied by another fish.

When they’re in a group they like to move around together. They’re a shoaling species of fish.

They get along with most fish. But you don’t want hyper fish in the same tank since they get stressed easily.

If they’re hiding in the vegetation in the tank, something is stressing them out.

Otherwise, they’re not much for hiding in shelters or vegetation.

Feeding Harlequin Rasbora Fish

Harlequins eat a little bit of everything. You can feed them bloodworms and insects but they have to be in small pieces. They have little mouths.

But a large amount of their diet should consist of healthy fish flakes or pellets, full of protein.

Tanks for Harlequin Rasbora Fish

You only need a 10-gallon tank of freshwater for a harlequin rasbora. The temperature should be between 72 degrees Fahrenheit and 81 degrees Fahrenheit.

Life Span and Size of Harlequin Rasbora Fish

A harlequin can live five to eight years. And they grow up to two inches in length.

10. White Cloud Mountain Minnows

White Cloud Mountain Minnows

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Personality of White Cloud Mountain Minnows

White cloud mountain minnows need about 15 companions. They’re happiest in a group. And you can tell the difference by their demeanor and color.

They do well with other small and non-aggressive fish species. The only time you’ll see a minnow get aggressive is when the males are ready to mate.

Feeding White Cloud Mountain Minnows

Feeding mountain minnows is simple. They eat meat and vegetation. But you want to mix their food up now and then.

They love brine shrimp and insects. And they love them both frozen and still alive. You can also feed them fish flakes and pellets.

Tanks for White Cloud Mountain Minnows

Mountain minnows need either a 10-gallon or 15-gallon tank if it’s a school of them.

Maintain the temperature between 64 degrees Fahrenheit and 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

Life Span and Size of White Cloud Mountain Minnows

Mountain minnows only grow to be about an inch and half in length. And they live between three to five years.

11. Oto Catfish

Oto Catfish

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Personality of Oto Catfish

Oto catfish are personable fish to both their species and others. They try to avoid confrontation at all costs.

It doesn’t take much to scare them. If they do get startled, you’ll see them swimming back and forth across the tank.

And the oto catfish is a super fast swimmer.

They’re bottom dwellers and spend most of their time at the bottom of the tank. These interesting fish will clean plants and the glass of their tank too.

Feeding Oto Catfish

Oto catfish are herbivores. They love vegetation, from plants to veggies. And they love to eat algae.

Always stick to a feeding schedule. These catfish are at a higher risk of starvation and most pet stores don’t take care of their oto catfish.

Tanks for Oto Catfish

Oto catfish can live in comfort in a 10-gallon freshwater aquarium. The temperature needs to be between 72 degrees Fahrenheit and 79 degrees Fahrenheit.

It helps to make shelters and caves at the bottom of the tank for the catfish to hide in.

Life Span and Size of Oto Catfish 

If taken care of like they’re meant to be, oto catfish can live between five and seven years.

They grow to be about an inch in length.

12. Celestial Pearl Danio Fish

Celestial Pearl Danio Fish

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Personality of Celestial Pearl Danio Fish 

When there are several male celestial pearl danio fish in a tank, they fight over females. Female pearl danios get along well with each other.

Other than the males competing, they are shy fish. They need small and non-aggressive fish like them.

You should group about five female celestial pearl danios for company.

Feeding Celestial Pearl Danio Fish

Pearl danio fish are omnivores. They like both their meat and vegetation.

They love algae. For meat, they eat bloodworms, white worms, brine shrimp, and invertebrates.

Tanks for Celestial Pearl Danio Fish 

A 10-gallon tank is perfect for these small pearl danio fish. Keep the temperature between 73 degrees Fahrenheit and 79 degrees Fahrenheit.

The pH level has to be between 6.5 and 7.5.

To make fish comfortable, you need to make their tank resemble their natural habitat.

This means you need a lot of plants and rocks in the tank. It gives them a safe place to hide.

Life Span and Size of Celestial Pearl Danio Fish 

Pearl danio fish can live between three and five years. And they, on average, only grow to be about an inch.

13. Sparkling Gourami Fish

Personality of Sparking Gourami Fish

The sparkling gourami fish are shy like most small fish. They get along well with other small and non-aggressive fish.

When scared, they like to hide in vegetation or shelter.

A group of five fish works well together. It keeps them on the happy side.

Feeding Sparkling Gourami Fish 

Another group of omnivore fish. They like a mixture of things, including live organisms from real plants in their tanks.

They also enjoy frozen daphnia and brine shrimp. Add some healthy fish flakes or pellets to their diet as well.

Tanks for Sparkling Gourami Fish 

Gourami fish should be in a five or 10-gallon tank. The temperature should be between 77 degrees Fahrenheit and 82 degrees Fahrenheit.

Use lots of plants in your tank to make them feel at home. It mimics their natural habitat.

They also feel at home if you have floating plants and low lightening in the tank.

Life Span and Size of Sparkling Gourami Fish 

Sparkling gourami can grow up to two inches in length. They live two to three years on average.

14. Pygmy Cory Fish

Pygmy Cory Fish

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Personality of Pygmy Cory Fish 

Pygmy cory fish do best in a group of at least eight. They are shoaling fish and a group gives them confidence.

Otherwise, they’re hiding out because they scare easy.

They live well with other small and non-aggressive fish, including shrimp.

Feeding Pygmy Cory Fish 

Pygmy cory fish need a diet of both meat and vegetation. First, they love algae.

Bloodworms and brine shrimp meet their meat requirements. And healthy fish flakes and pellets meet their vegetation needs.

Tanks for Pygmy Cory Fish 

A 10-gallon tank works fine with pygmy cory fish. You want a longer tank to give them the freedom to swim.

The temperature should be between 72 degrees Fahrenheit and 79 degrees Fahrenheit.

Life Span and Size of Pygmy Cory Fish 

Pygmy fish don’t grow much past an inch in length. They live to be about three years old.

15. Killifish

Killifish

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Personality of Killifish 

Killifish are bottom dwellers. But that doesn’t stop them from their love of swimming around a tank. And they have speed like no other.

You don’t want too many male killifish together. They’re aggressive and they compete.

Female killifish are calm and peaceful. They get along in a school of them. They also get along with other non-aggressive fish.

Feeding Killifish 

Killifish are omnivores but they prefer live food over everything. You can feed them crickets, insects, and worms.

Don’t forget the vegetation part of their diet. You can feed them veggies or even fish flakes.

Tanks for Killifish 

You need a 20-gallon tank to house up to three killifish. They like low lighting to resemble their natural habitat.

The temperature needs to be between 72 degrees Fahrenheit and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Life Span and Size of Killifish 

Most species of killifish only grow between one inch and two inches in length. The disadvantage of these fish is that they only live up to nine months. 

Final Thoughts 

There are so many gorgeous small freshwater fish that it can be difficult to choose. But your decision should be based on your experience level and the difficulty of the fish.

Source of Featured Image: canva.com

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