Teeny Tiny Tanks

Posted by Aquatropic Staff on August 31, 2023

Teeny Tiny Tanks thumbnail image

Every day it seems like we see smaller and smaller aquariums for sale. Small aquariums offer a lot of upsides, they can be a variety of shapes because they water volume, they hold is so small that design is less constrained by the strength requirement for holding larger volumes of water. They can be put in areas that would otherwise not be able to house a tank, like on kitchen counters, or desktop workspaces. Water changes and glass cleaning chores take almost no time and fuss at all. The equipment for these tanks is generally inexpensive, because it takes only a small filter to clean it, and a similarly diminutive heater to warm it, and certainly not much light to illuminate it. As such, when properly utilized, we're big fans of small aquariums.

There are a couple drawbacks to teeny tiny tanks and the biggest one is a lack of space. This means that everything you choose for a small aquarium has to be small in stature. Everything from décor to plants and yes, if you want to have fish, they also need to be tiny. It doesn't take too long before even a three-inch-long fish outgrows a 5-gallon aquarium. We're going to dive into a couple fish that are appropriate for such diminutive confines, but we'd also like to point out that not ever aquarium needs fish... Stunned silence ensues. No, seriously, we're all for fish, some tanks look amazing with some well-manicured plants and a colony of cherry shrimp, or an interesting rock scape with a crab. As such, here's a few ideas for your five-gallon (or even smaller) desktop pico-aquarium.

The first idea is to skip fish entirely. I know this sounds out of the ordinary, but there are a ton of beautiful ornamental shrimp available for you today and they make amazing wet pets. Our website has a ton of options for those of you who might be interested in keeping a shrimp only tank. All of the critters here are regularly available to retail stores that partner with and carry Aquatropic stock: https://www.qualitymarine.com/aquatropic/invertebrates/shrimp/ and if that doesn't trigger something in your imagination, we're not sure what will! Most of these shrimps are easy to care for, and more than a few have species profiles written for them here on our website! Lots of these also make good tankmates for Snails, many of which have very decorative shells.

Along that same vein, there is a variety of freshwater crabs to choose from as well. Many of the crabs are at least partially terrestrial, meaning they only need a little water in the tank anyway. A list of the crabs that Aquatropic makes available to our partners can be seen here: https://www.qualitymarine.com/aquatropic/invertebrates/crabs/. Crabs are excellent choices for Paludarium type displays, and don't require much space as long as they aren't overcrowded by other crabs. Freshwater Lobsters get a little bigger on average, with full sized adults being between four and six inches for most of the Cherax genus critters, they're going to need aquariums closer to ten or even 20 gallons to get them enough space.

If you are totally set on having a fish in your tiny tank, there are still a few good options. We're going to stay away from Betta fish, because while these are popular, they get a little too big for the size tanks we're talking about. Instead, you should look into a Scarlet Badis. These gorgeous little fish usually don't get much bigger than a half inch long, three quarters of an inch is a monster! They are brilliantly colored with orange or red stripes and iridescent blue fringes. They are hardy and easy to keep. They'll be fine with small plants and will enjoy many caves and crevices to hunt through. They can usually be convinced to take pellet foods but would also love to be fed some thawed food from Gamma, or even live Brine or Artemia from Nutramar foods to give them something to hunt. Don't keep them with ornamental shrimp.

Another good option is the Celestial Pearl Danio. These stunning little fish look like miniature lake trout, covered in spots and squiggles of lighter colors over a dark body. They rarely get bigger than an inch long and will do quite well in a very small tank. In bigger aquariums, they would do best in large groups, but they are not a schooling fish. If your aquarium is more like ten gallons you could get a few but try to keep only one male as they can get territorial. They are great in planted tanks and will appreciate the cover. They do well on very small pellets or flakes, but could be fed a mix of small, thawed foods like enriched brine shrimp as well.

Pygmy Corydoras are a super interesting little fish, that stay just about an inch long, with the largest adults rarely getting longer than an inch and a half. They are very social critters and so you should generally keep a few. They are also very peaceful and so you needn't worry about aggression. They love small invertebrate foods and will do some grazing as well. If your tank is a little bigger, they could be combined with either of the other fish listed here as they will occupy different parts of the aquarium. They are another fish that is perfect for planted tanks. They will easily take pellets but would also happily hunt down itsy bitsy live or thawed foods as well.

Lastly, while they get a little bigger, Fancy Guppies come in a huge variety of colors and forms and do very well in very confined aquariums. Their plodding swimming style restricts their usage of most of the footprint in bigger tanks anyway. Keep a male and a couple females and sooner or later you will be removing babies to sell to your friends! A full list of the variants that are sold by Aquatropic can be seen here: https://www.qualitymarine.com/aquatropic/fish/guppies/ . All these fish have been aquacultured for countless generations and as such will survive and thrive happily on flakes and pellets.

Some of you are looking at this list and saying, where are the Neon or Cardinal Tetras? Where are the Chili Rasboras? This is a reasonable question. We've left them out because they do best (and in total honesty, also look best) in large groups, which means you won't really be able to really keep enough of them in the kind of displays we're talking about. They are amazing fish and are definitely staff favorites.

Lastly, while this isn't a totally comprehensive list of the tiny fish (or inverts) available, another good option for those of you with another, bigger display, is to use your desktop tank as a place to rear the fish that get born in your other tank(s). These confined spaces are easy to maintain with sponge filters and further make it very easy to target little food at little mouths. If your Mollies keep on making babies, use a little desktop display to grow them up. It's easy to remember to feed the little guys a few times every day if they are right in front of you while you work or make dinner.

While we think everyone should have at least one bigger aquarium in their lives, there's definitely a place in our hearts (and at our desks) for the smaller auxiliary tanks. Something to stare at while we're writing articles, or wishing we weren't in a zoom meeting. So, the next time you're in your Local Fish Store, and you see that tiny tank for sale, pull that trigger and let your imagination run with it. Tell them Aquatropic sent you.