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Fish/for 5 gal. fresh water tank/3 fish only


QUESTION: Hi Jordan: I have available a 5gal. tank that I'd install next to or on my nightstand:
(I've had fish before)to help me fall asleep. Just want 2 or 3 small colorful, interesting-looking fish who will be socially-adaptable! There's a PETSMART in my neighborhood but I'm not against mailing out for a fish you suggest that might not available at PETSMART!
CAN  you suggest/help me out on this? Thanks Ken

ANSWER: Hello Ken, Sorry for the slow reply, school has been busy the past few weeks. What kind of fish are you wanting in your tank? Slow swimming, semi-aggressive, and what colors are you looking at adding?

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QUESTION: Slow reply? Not a problem. While awaiting your suggestions regarding this subject, I browsed online. I viewed so many varieties of fish, both fresh & saltwater, I left my computer more confused than when I first started! Colors of the fish are not an issue as long as the fish & their antics  are pleasing to the eye.  Jordan-I don't think fast-moving, aggressive fish while I'm trying to go to sleep would be the answer, you agree? However-You opened the door to possibly selecting saltwater rather than fresh water varieties!  (1)Is a 5 gal. tank suitable for salt-water varieties? (2)After you walk me thru taking care of a salt-water environment, Is it a Big Deal maintaining proper water acidity/basic levels?
While I'm a retired special ed/phy ed teacher (also teach swimming), I just want to come  home from a busy day, plop into bed and watch an aquatic environment with 2/3 lovely fish meandering around which would relax me (much better than using a drug e.g., Melatonin) & put me to sleep!
Bottom line: Y0UR EXPERTISE AND SUGGESTIONS WILL ASSIST ME IM MAKING PROPER CHOISES both for the benefit of the fish as well as for myself!!
 Take your time in responding. Your School work takes priority & momentarily  overshadows my needs for a tropical fish tank environment. Thanks Ken

ANSWER: Hello Ken, Luckily it is the weekend so I have done most of my work I need to get done. Alright I didn't think you wanted to see something aggressive I was just making sure. As far as saltwater goes, there are a few reasons that I would not go with that sort of tank.  Saltwater requires a lot of maintenance and is overall a much more difficult type of tank to keep. The other downside is that it is very expensive to maintain and the fish are generally expensive as well. If money is not an issue the only other thing would be tank size. Saltwater fish tend to be bigger so the absolute minimum tank size for saltwater would probably be a 10 gallon. So if freshwater is what you were wanting I would say that a cory cat to help as a clean up fish would be good for the benthic layer of water (bottom). From there I would recommend a dwarf gourami as they are fairly slow swimming fish and have a nice color to them. The final two fish I would say to get would be 2 neon tetras. They are fairly peaceful and will school together. When adding the fish I would recommend adding them in this order.

Week 1: The cory cat
Week 3: the two neon tetras
Week 5: the gourami.

The reason I would recommend waiting in between is because the bio-load in a 5 gallon will be too much if you instantly add all of the fish. The proper bacteria that are required to keep nitrite and ammonia down will not have been established yet and adding all of the fish will cause them to die. If you have a heater set your temp to 73 degrees. Add water conditioner whenever doing a water change and make sure that you monitor your water parameters for the first six weeks. I hope this helped you out and if you have any further questions I am happy to answer them.

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QUESTION: Last question: There is a small oval space where the light rests on top of tank. My son previously had 1 Oscar in this tank which jumped out of that hole. It's probably for a heater. For these fish you just suggested, is a heater necessary? I'm in Staten Island NY.  Again, I appreciate your suggestions. Your ratings have been recorded.

If you live in New York, or anywhere that gets cold you will need a heater. You can probably pick one up off of amazon cheaper than pet stores. You also want to have a small thermometer just to make sure everything is heated properly. Whatever you do though, don't get an Oscar for the tank. They require a minimum of 55 gallons to house.


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Jordan Gobely


I can answer most questions about fish care and maintenance. I am not an expert on saltwater aquariums but I am researching more about them on a daily basis. I have kept many different tropical freshwater fish as well as cichlids. Brackish water is my weakest category but if you have a question feel free to ask and I will do research on it myself.


I have kept fish for over 10 years. I am also an employee at a pet store and the head of the fish department. I am going to school at Emporia State University and studying biology with a concentration in ecology and biodiversity for undergraduate work. Right now my job is to care for and maintain the fish department at a local pet store. As far as water quality, I am well versed in different practices you can do to help improve conditions and what levels to look out for when testing the water.

I am majoring in Biology at Emporia State University and have researched fish reproductive behavior for the past decade.

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