5 Best Fish for Your 3-Gallon Tank (2022 Updated)

Jaime Douglas
Jaime Douglas

Writer at The Aquarium Keeper

Keeping a fish tank is a fun hobby, but not everybody has the space or the finances to keep a big aquarium. Also, it’s not as simple as throwing in some water and adding fish. You need to take numerous factors into account before you buy a certain fish.

For example, do you have enough space for the fish? Is this fish compatible with others? How much maintenance does this species require? Are any special requirements necessary for its tankmates? These considerations are important so that your fish thrive. Each tank has its own restrictions. That’s why we have written an article on the 5 best fish for your 3-gallon tank. Keeping reading to find out which of these creatures is right for you!

Table of Contents

Neocaridina Shrimp

Technically, shrimp are not fish, but we insisted on including this option in this article since shrimp is very amazing and can definitely live in smaller water volumes. Neocaridina is freshwater shrimp that are great for beginners to keep in a 3-gallon. The shrimp’s small size and low maintenance requirements make it a great choice for a small aquarium.

cherry shrimp on java moss

If you are planning on keeping neocaridina shrimp, you should know that these species come in a lot of different colors, which can be excellent for your small aquarium. To ensure that neocaridina shrimp have the best life in your tank, follow these guidelines:

  • Temperature: 14–29 °C (57–84 °F)
  • pH: 6.5 – 8
  • Stocking: No more than 10
  • Tank Setup: Aquarium filter and heater are needed. Lightning can be low to moderate. Shrimp also loves lots of plants and hiding places.
  • Diet: Shrimp are omnivorous, which means they eat algae wafers, pellets, blood worms, and boiled vegetables.

Shrimp are very easy to take care of. They produce very little waste, so it is a perfect pet for a 3-gallon tank. Shrimp also reproduce very easily. Be sure not to overpopulate your aquarium with more shrimp than it can handle.

Chili Rasboras

Chili rasboras are beautiful little fish that stay small. They have red bodies and a beautiful dark blue stripe that goes from head to tail. These species can be very shy due to their size. You can keep them in a small tank, such as a 3-gallon aquarium. This fish is best kept with other small peaceful fish, but if you plan to keep them in a 3-gallon, a group of 5-6 of them would take all the space.

close up of chilli rasbora swimmin in aquarium

Just like any other fish species, chili rasboras need to be properly taken care of. If you want your fish to live in the best environment, follow these guidelines:

  • Temperature: 20–28 °C (68–82 °F)
  • pH: 4.0–7.0
  • Stocking: No more than 6
  • Tank Setup: A filter and a heater is needed. Lightning can be low to moderate. Chili rasboras thrive in an environment where there is lots of live plants and hiding places.
  • Diet: Chili rasboras are omnivorous, which means they can eat a vast majority of fish food. They like pellets, flakes, blood worms, and brine shrimp.

To ensure the best health and color of your chili rasboras, keep your water clean, feed them good food and create an environment that has a lot of plants and hiding places.

Endler's Livebearers

Endlers are very hardy and beautiful fish. Males tend to be very colorful, while females are more grey and brown in color. These species are very active and can be interactive once they adjust to their surroundings. Endlers always beg for food, which is just adorable to see.

endlers livebearers in a group

Even though endlers are hardy species, they need certain tank conditions to thrive in their environment. Follow these guidelines to ensure their best health:

  • Temperature: 22–28 °C (72–82 °F)
  • pH: 5.5–8.0
  • Stocking: 2 females and 1 male, or 3 females
  • Tank Setup: A filter and a heater are required to keep endlers. Lightning can be low to moderate. Endlers also like tanks with a lot of live plants and hiding places.
  • Diet: Endlers are omnivores, which means they feel best when fed live or frozen foods, pellets, and flakes. 
It is also important that you keep 1 male with 2 females or just 3 females in general. Males tend to fight over females, which is why you can only keep 1 male with females in a 3-gallon tank. Endlers also breed a lot and reproduce easily and often, so be sure to have a backup plan when that happens in your tank. You can sell new endler babies in the local market or gift them to somebody, just be sure your tank does not get overcrowded.

Galaxy Rasboras

Galaxy rasboras have one of the best looks in the fish hobby. Their dotted body combined with orange fins makes them very unique species. Galaxy rasboras are very active fish, that can also sometimes be shy due to their size. Galaxy rasboras are also very friendly fish, that can be kept with other small aquarium fish, although it is best not to push your limits in a 3-gallon tank and only keep one species.

close up of galaxy rasbora swimming in aquarium

These species are hardy, but every fish have their own personal best surroundings, that fit them the best. To ensure that your fish is happy, follow these guidelines:

  • Temperature: 22–26°C (72–78 °F)
  • pH: 6.5–7.5
  • Stocking: 1 male with 2 females, or just 3 females
  • Tank Setup: Filter and heater is needed. Lightning can be low to moderate. Galaxy rasboras can be very shy sometimes, which is why it is important to have a lot of live plants and hiding places for them to feel comfortable.
  • Diet: These species are omnivores, which means they like blood worms, brine shrimp, and other frozen or live foods that have lots of protein for them.
It is important to keep galaxy rasboras in the right male-to-female ratio as mentioned above. Males tend to fight over females and territory, and in 3 gallons there is not a lot of space to fight over. To prevent aggression and stress, follow the guidelines mentioned above.

Nerite Snails

Snails are also not fish, but they produce very little waste and can sometimes be very fun to watch. Snails are one of the most peaceful creatures in the aquarium hobby, especially nerite snails. Nerites come in a lot of different looks: stripes, dots, and horns.

nerite snails with horns

Nerites are very easy to keep, but it is important to know certain things these species like especially the water conditions and food. Follow these guidelines to ensure the best possible environment:

  • Temperature: 22–26°C (72–78 °F)
  • pH: 8.1–8.4
  • Stocking: 1 snail 
  • Tank Setup: Filter and heater is recommended. Lightning can be low to moderate. Snails do not really need hiding places like some fish, but they do feel better in an aquarium with live plants and wood, and rocks. Make it as natural as possible, so they could interact with their environment.
  • Diet: Nerites are herbivores, they will eat all sorts of algae, also algae wafers, pellets, and blood worms. They are scavengers, and pretty much eat anything. They also love boiled vegetables!
Nerite snails are known for laying eggs all over the aquarium: on rocks, glass, driftwood, and other decorations. But it is important to know, that they can’t reproduce in a freshwater aquarium, so you do not need to be worried about population explosion.

Writer's Thoughts

All of the species mentioned above are great choices for a beginner. Personally, I believe that 3 gallons can be on the lower end when it comes to water volume, but it is still manageable and fish can be kept. Just be sure to do a lot of maintenance and research on a certain species before buying it.

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