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A parent in my son's classroom just donated a 5g Nano tank and set it up. It doesn't have any fish in it yet and the kids are debating what kind of fish to include.

I teach at the same school and I'm happy to help maintain the tank. I have 2 planted 20 gallon tanks - one at home and one in my own classroom. And while I don't have tons of experience, I have good success with keeping all living things happy, healthy and algae free. Still, I've never had a tank this small and I'm concerned that the kids are talking about putting a goldfish in there. That seems like too much bioload for a 5g to me. Am I wrong about that? (Of course, they also want a piranha. These are 3rd graders!)

What is your maintenance routine for a 5g tank? And what can you keep in one? I was thinking either 3 very small fish or one betta. Do you need to do a fishless cycle with such a small tank? I was thinking that I could add some filer media from my tank to help speed up the cycling.
 

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A goldfish is DEFINITELY a bad choice - both bipolar and because the fish would have a horrible time there. Fancy goldfish eventually require 30gallons for a single fish, while comets(single tails) are pond fish requiring much, much more

At 5 gallons heated and filtered, the kids could have a colony of Cherry shrimp, or a very happy Betta, or a school (5-7) of Harlequin or Lambchop Rasboras (they're not too fearful and they're always on the move so they'd be interesting for kids) though they do appreciate a long tank versus a tall narrow one. I'd personally stick with one species in a tank that small.
 

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I had this same issue. My son's 6th grade science teacher wanted a tank in her classroom, so of course my son stepped up to the plate. We went over a lot of scenarios. Talked to people at our LFS, and posed the question here. The best we came up with was a betta. The reason for this is that you will have many long breaks in a classroom. A betta doesn't burn many calories, so they are OK for a long weekend. For spring break he put an auto feeder on the tank. Another reason for the betta is that having one fish is more personable for the kids. They name it, and they know which fish it is. Another reason is that kids that aren't close to the tank can actually see it. We also added one nerite snail for the cleanup crew. We tried an otto and some shrimp, but that didn't work out. So my recommendation is one betta, and one nerite. Best of luck!
 
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