About this tank
Setup Price: $225 (ish)
Maintenance Routine: 30% water change once per week
Fertilizer Dosing: No liquid, two root tabs every three months
Recommended Fish: (1) Betta Fish
This was my first planted 5-gallon tank. My goal was to build something budget-friendly and low-tech. I went with the Marineland Portrait since I wanted something compact enough to fit on my computer desk. As a beginner, I had no idea where to start, so I wanted to put this together to help beginners make their first build easier.
Let’s start by breaking down all the components of this aquarium.
- Marineland 5-Gallon Portrait
- Fluval Stratum Substrate
- Fluval Nano Light
- 25W Heater
- Dragon Stone
- (2) Anubias Nana
- (2) Dwarf Sagittaria
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- Easy to setup
- Minimal maintenance
- Stock light is weak
- No handle on lid
- Limited space
I went for the Marineland 5-gallon Portrait aquarium. It’s easy to set up, taking out a lot of the guesswork for beginners. However, there are a few things I don’t like about it.
You can find my thoughts in my review of it.
I went to a chain pet store and picked up some Neon Tetras. They recommended stocking it with 5; but after some research, that’s too many for a 5-gallon. They’re a schooling fish, so they feel most comfortable in larger groups (minimum of 6). They act aggressively towards each other, so I’m in the process of moving them to a 10-gallon.
One of the main mistakes I made was not researching the native environment of Neon Tetras. I would’ve probably just gone with a beta fish if I did.
Other nano fish options for a 5-gallon are…
- Celestial Pearl Danios
- Pygmy Corydoras
- Chili Rasboras
- Kuhli Loach
I started with the stock light that came with the Marineland Portrait kit. It ended up not being powerful enough for the majority of my plants. Plus, you have to turn it on and off manually. Since I was somewhat inconsistent with the lighting and its lower power, most of my plants died.
I replaced it with this Bluetooth Fluval light, which has been amazing. You can download their app on your phone, connect via Bluetooth and program it to go on/off automatically.
I went through various plants before I found ones that worked with a low-tech tank. I forget some of the original plants I used because I got them from my local pet store.
Below are the two types that worked well for me…
Noticed how I ended that with “for me”? Your local water chemistry has a lot to do with how your plants will do. The above plants might not work if your water is harder. I’ve learned that it’s a lot of trial and error with plants.
The substrate is from Fluval. It does the job, but (I believe) with almost every substrate, it is now depleted of nutrients. I think that is because my plant’s growth has slowed significantly.
I bought some Easy Root Tabs from Aquarium Coop and put them in the substrate. My plants are now growing at a normal speed again.
If you’re stocking tropical fish, you’ll likely have to buy an aquarium heater. This cheap one from Amazon works well. I installed it in the back of my tank on the first day, and it’s still going strong.
I haven’t had any issues with it.
It can be an overwhelming project to set up your first planted aquarium.
Hopefully, outlining all the components of my first planted 5-gallon tank can help you get started quicker.