Join Date: Jul 2013
Location: Picayune, Mississippi (Near New Orleans, LA)
I'm generally in agreement with most of what people are saying. I think fish are different. My personal minimum is 1.5. When I first got Puff in college I got him a little 1 gallon and he just sulked all day. I bumped him up to a 1.7 to see if space was the issue before going out and buying some big tank, and he was quite active. now he circles his bowl and hides under his little decoration and presses his face, which is magnified by the bowl, up against the glass to glare at me when he is ready for feeding. His personality just blossomed!
When I got my orchid betta I had to keep him in that same 1 gallon for a while, because I was cycling the 2.5. and he was active and happy as could be for the 4 or so days he was in there. I did frequent water changes of course, as is the way with 1 gallons. When I moved him to the 2.5 he acted exactly the same, doing his little patrols, hiding in the plants, etc. Something I do though when dealing with smaller tanks, is not clutter the tank. My 1 gallon had a small bridge for the betta to hide under, and one Java fern. My 2.5 has 2 ferns and a larger "skull" thing for the fish to hide in. I think an important thing to consider with the smaller tanks is not to excessively decorate so the fish has room to swim around.
My recent halfmoon plakat elephant ear arrival was meant to share a 5 gallon with another male. Since he arrived first I put him into the 5 gallon without the divider, and he is happy as a lark. He's extremely active. I've only had him a few days, but he's not stressing, he seems to be enjoying himself! I will probably try to do the divider, but if my little EE seems disheartened by less space, I'll get another tank and let him have his five gallon.
On the other hand, the mustard is currently residing in my 10 gallon, which is a future sorority, while I prepare his 2.5. He is freaking out. Constant darting, he looks stressed, and earlier I leaned down to look at him, he turned around, saw me and went streaking off to hide. When he's not darting, he's hiding. I plan to see how he likes the 2.5 in comparison.
Because of these experiences I think tank size is dependent on fish, and the owners must be responsible enough to observe their pets and provide what they need, even if it means upgrading.
The biggest part of proper care is understanding the needs of your individual fish. If you're a vigilant owner, you'll be able to tell when something isn't right, and then you can take the steps needed to improve.