How to Choose the Right Type of Fish for a Nano Aquarium?

February 8, 2024

As budding aquarium hobbyists, you might find the prospect of setting up a nano aquarium exciting and challenging. A nano aquarium, typically with a capacity of 30 gallons or less, can be a beautiful mini ecosystem that adds a touch of tranquility to any room. However, the small size also means extra care should be taken when selecting the occupants of your aquarium. In this article, we’ll guide you on how to choose the right type of fish for your nano aquarium. We’ll discuss the key considerations, provide some examples of suitable fish species, and explain how to ensure a sustainable, healthy environment for your aquatic pets.

The Key Considerations When Selecting Your Fish

Before you head to the pet store to pick up your new aquatic companions, it’s crucial to understand what makes a fish suitable for a nano aquarium. There are several factors you need to consider before making your decision.

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Size of the Fish

It’s not just the size of the fish when you buy them, but also how big they’ll grow to be that you need to keep in mind. Many fish sold in pet stores are juveniles and will grow quite a bit larger than their size at the time of purchase. So, always research how large a species will grow. The general rule of thumb is one inch of fish per gallon of water, but remember, this is a guideline and not a hard and fast rule.

Temperament and Behavior

Fish temperament can vary greatly, even within a single species. Some fish are peaceful and prefer to keep to themselves, while others are more aggressive or territorial. It’s important to choose species that can coexist peacefully in a small space. Be mindful of species that are known to be fin-nippers or bullies, as these can cause stress to other fish.

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Water Parameters and Requirements

Different fish species have different needs when it comes to water parameters such as temperature, pH, hardness, and salinity. Some fish are quite adaptable, while others are very specific in their requirements. It’s essential to choose fish that have similar needs to ensure they all thrive in the same environment.

Popular Fish for Nano Aquariums

Now that you know what to consider when selecting fish for your nano aquarium, let’s look at some popular choices. These species are all relatively small, peaceful, and adaptable, making them perfect candidates for your compact underwater world.

Betta Fish

Betta fish are an excellent choice for nano aquariums. They are hardy, come in a variety of vibrant colors, and are comfortable living alone. However, they are fiercely territorial and should not be housed with other betta fish.


Guppies are small, peaceful, and come in an array of beautiful colors. They are livebearers, meaning they give birth to live young instead of laying eggs. This can lead to a rapidly expanding population if you’re not careful, so consider keeping only males or females to avoid this issue.

Neon Tetras

Neon Tetras are a classic choice for any aquarium. They are small, peaceful schooling fish, meaning they prefer to be in groups of six or more. Their vibrant neon stripe makes them a standout in any tank.

Cherry Shrimps

Though not a fish, Cherry Shrimps are a popular choice for nano aquariums because of their tiny size and peaceful nature. They are also excellent tank cleaners and will help keep your aquarium tidy.

Creating a Sustainable Environment

Once you have chosen the right type of fish, your work isn’t over. It’s crucial to create a suitable and sustainable environment for your fish. Nano aquariums have less water volume, which means changes in water parameters can occur quickly. Regular monitoring and maintenance are crucial to ensure your fish stay happy and healthy.

Regular Water Changes

Performing regular water changes is a critical aspect of maintaining a healthy nano aquarium. This helps to remove waste products and replenish essential minerals in the water.

Adequate Filtration

A good filtration system is essential for maintaining water quality in your nano tank. It helps to remove waste, toxins, and other harmful substances from the water.


Overfeeding is a common problem in nano aquariums. Always feed your fish in small, controlled amounts to prevent waste from building up and polluting the water.

Introducing Your Fish to the Nano Aquarium

Once your tank is set up and running smoothly, it’s time to introduce your fish. It’s crucial to acclimate them slowly to minimize stress and ensure a smooth transition into their new home. Start by floating the bag containing your fish in the aquarium for about 30 minutes to allow the water temperature to equalize. Then, gradually mix some aquarium water into the bag over another 30 minutes before finally releasing the fish into the tank.

Choosing the right fish for your nano aquarium can be a rewarding experience, leading to a beautiful, thriving underwater ecosystem you can enjoy for years to come. Always remember to research each species thoroughly, monitor your water parameters, and cater to the specific needs of your chosen fish. With proper planning, patience, and care, your nano aquarium will surely be a stunning addition to your living space.

Other Suitable Species for a Nano Aquarium

In addition to the popular choices mentioned above, there are many more inhabitants to consider when setting up a nano aquarium. These species have been carefully selected based on their size, temperament, and adaptability.

Dwarf Rasboras

Dwarf Rasboras are tiny, peaceful schooling fish that are perfect for nano tanks. They come in several varieties, each with their unique color patterns. As schooling fish, Dwarf Rasboras thrive in groups, so it’s advisable to keep at least six together.

Pygmy Corydoras

Pygmy Corydoras are miniature catfish that are well-suited to the bottom-dwelling lifestyle in a nano aquarium. They are peaceful, active, and fascinating to watch as they forage for food on the aquarium floor. Like other schooling fish, they should be kept in groups for their wellbeing.

Endler’s Livebearers

Endler’s Livebearers are similar to Guppies in many ways. They are small, vibrant, and peaceful. Like Guppies, they are livebearers, so it’s essential to manage their breeding to avoid overpopulation.

Dwarf Gouramis

Dwarf Gouramis are a smaller cousin of the commonly kept Gouramis. They are peaceful, adaptable, and come in a range of stunning colors. However, they can be sensitive to changes in water conditions, so diligent care is required.


Setting up and maintaining a nano aquarium can be a rewarding and enriching experience. When choosing the right type of fish, fundamental considerations like the size, temperament, and water requirements of the species cannot be ignored. Popular nano aquarium residents like Betta Fish, Guppies, Neon Tetras and Cherry Shrimps, as well as other suitable species like Dwarf Rasboras, Pygmy Corydoras, Endler’s Livebearers and Dwarf Gouramis, can make your nano aquarium a vibrant, thriving ecosystem.

Creating a sustainable environment, which includes regular water changes, adequate filtration, and controlled feeding, is critical for the health and wellbeing of your fish. When introducing your fish to the aquarium, remember to acclimate them slowly to reduce stress and ensure a smooth transition.

In conclusion, while the limited space of a nano aquarium presents certain challenges, with careful planning, continuous learning, and attentiveness, it is possible to create a beautiful, healthy aquatic environment in your home. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned hobbyist, the satisfaction of seeing your carefully chosen fish thrive in a well-maintained nano aquarium is immeasurable. As always, keep learning, keep caring, and enjoy the rewarding journey of aquarium keeping.