Top 10 Fish for Desktop Fish Tanks


Fish-keeping is a hobby that’s been practiced by people around the world for decades. In the beginning, it started out as simple as keeping a fish in a small glass bowl but as the trend grew, so did the market for fish tanks and aquarium supplies.

Today, fish keeping is much more complex and diverse. You can find micro-sized fish tanks (that aren’t bowls) on the desks of important officials and in the everyday home, as well as extra-large tanks and tanks that hang! But what fish can you house in the aforementioned teeny tiny little tanks?

We’ve got the answers!

Here Are the Top 10 Fish for Desktop Fish Tanks:


Guppies are small fish with large personalities. They are curious and active and come in a variety of colors and patterns. For a desktop tank that is roughly 5-gallons in size, a modest school of 6 guppies or fewer is a great option.

Male guppy fish

These fish are very friendly towards one another but even still, you want to avoid overcrowding the tank. To cut down on the stress put on your guppies, consider stocking two females for every one male.


Bettas are, after goldfish, the original small-bowl/tank fish. These fish are moderately active and do well in both large and small tanks, which makes them ideal for desktop tanks. They should be kept in a tank of 5-gallons minimum.

Blue male betta fish

These fish can come in a wide variety of colors ranging from light pink to bright blue. Some have large fins, while others have small fins. Some even have spots!

While there are some instances where bettas can be housed together, it’s generally a rule of thumb that they should be kept alone and with a good, low-flow 5-gallon fish tank filter.


Rasboras are a family of fish that comes in a wide array of sizes and species. They come in a wide range of sizes and some of the smaller species can be successfully housed in nano tanks. 

harlequin rasbora

Harlequin and chili rasboras are two of the most popular types for desktop tanks. Both are schooling fish that do best in groups of 6 or more. They are very active and can be caught zipping around their tank for hours, seemingly chasing each other and playing tag.

Zebra Danios

Zebra danios are known for their unique zebra-like stripes and silvery bodies. These incredibly active fish are small and friendly enough for large community tanks. They are also good for nano and species-specific tanks but will gladly use all the space you provide them.

Zebra danio fish

They can be housed with other danios and community fish like tetras and even bottom-dwelling aquatic creatures like African dwarf frogs.


Tetras are another incredibly popular type of fish for small tanks. Like many small fish, they are a schooling family. Sometimes, when more than one species of tetra is housed together, the various species will bond and create a sort of giant, versatile school.

Glowlight tetras

Small tetras like neons and cardinals are suitable for smaller tanks thanks to their size. In addition, though, they are also brightly colored and very active, which will make any desktop fish tank stand out.

If you’re okay with spending a bit more money on your fish, you could consider purchasing a small school of Glowlight tetras. This type glows under black light and is a little larger than neons, so smaller schools of 3 or 4 are best.

Bluefin Nothos

Bluefin nothos is a type of killifish. It has a striking appearance, with the body being bright red and accented with blue on the fins and tail. The red body also features bright blue metallic spots.

Bluefin Nothobranch

The bluefin is best kept in groups of one male to several females, so for the purpose of a desktop tank, we’d recommend one male and three females.

Endlers Livebearers

Endlers are a type of live-bearing fish. They’re closely related to guppies and share many of the same attractive characteristics: high activity levels, striking colors, and small size. There are a number of colors available and each one is just as beautiful as the next.

Endler guppy fish male

They are schooling fish that are best kept in groups of five to seven fish, with the group made up of all males or composed of one male and the rest females. Keep in mind, though, that Endlers are notorious for breeding.

Ghost Shrimps

If you’re looking for a fish that is a bit more unusual, ghost shrimp might be just the fish for you. Sure, they aren’t exactly fish – but they’re close enough.

Ghost shrimp

A 5-gallon tank can hold up to a dozen ghost shrimps! As long as you provide them with plenty of places to hide and fun things to climb on, they can be happy for years in a small desktop tank.

Asian Stone Catfish

The Asian stone catfish is, as you guessed it, a member of the catfish family. Despite the fact that many of its cousins reach an impressive size, the stone catfish reaches only 1.3 inches in size when fully grown.

Asian stone catfish

They are bottom-dwelling fish that do best alone or in small groups. When it comes to feeding, they have a voracious appetite, which makes them a blast to observe.

Pygmy Sunfish

Pygmy sunfish are easy to care for, have low maintenance requirements, and look great on the desktop. They grow to 1-inch in size and can adapt to a variety of water conditions. They can also adapt to being kept in cold water aquariums.

Pygmy sunfish

The pygmy sunfish should be kept in groups of three, with one male and two females.


Desktop sized aquariums don’t have to be boring. When you stock them with brightly colored micro fish they can look just as attractive as their larger counterparts. As a bonus, they are often a lot easier to maintain thanks to their small size and minuscule water volume.

Most of the time you can find everything you need for a successful setup in a desktop aquarium kit from online or your local pet store.