Can You Keep a Hamster in a Fish Tank?

Hamsters are a popular pet since they are fairly easy to care for. However, these adorable little creatures need a suitable habitat to stay healthy and avoid stress. You may have heard that some people keep their hamsters in a fish tank. Is this possible? 

Yes. Fish tanks protect hamsters from drafts. These tanks need to be kept in areas with good ventilation and out of the sun, as your pet may overheat or suffer if ammonia or other toxic gases get trapped in the tank. There are a few things you can add to make the tank a proper cage, like platforms and bedding

Can You Keep a Hamster in a Fish Tank

Keep reading to learn more about the pros and cons of fish tanks and wire cages, as well as how to turn a fish tank into an excellent hamster cage. 

Tank vs Cage: Pros and Cons  

Tanks and cages both have advantages and drawbacks. Consider the following information before choosing a habitat for your hamster:

Fish Tanks 

The Pros: 

  • Fish tanks make it easy to observe your pet due to the glass walls and the lack of bars.
  • They also protect hamsters from drafty areas, which is important, as they are highly susceptible to the cold. 

The Cons: 

  • Fish tanks have bad ventilation, which makes it easy for toxic gases to build up if you do not clean them often.
  • These tanks also trap in heat, so leaving the tank in the sun will overheat your pet. 
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Wire Cages 

The Pros: 

  • Wire cages have excellent ventilation, and this prevents the build up of suffocating gases or moisture. The greater lack of odors and dampness means that the cage will not have to be cleaned as frequently as a tank.
  • Wire cages tend to be easier to clean, as the top or bottom usually opens so the old bedding can be dumped. 

The Cons: 

  • Hamsters like to escape from wire cages with wide bars.
  • If the bars are too close together, though, a hamster may get injured trying to escape. 
  • Wire cages leave your pet exposed to drafts. 

How to Turn a Fish Tank into a Hamster Cage 

If you are interested in observing your little Houdini in a virtually escape-proof habitat, there are a few things you can do to turn a fish tank into an amazing hamster cage. Follow these steps:

Clean the Tank

Even if the fish tank is brand new, cleaning it will not hurt. If the tank is used, a thorough cleaning will do away with any potential food or chemical traces. 

A little white vinegar, about a tablespoon in a cup of water, should do the trick for tough stains. Let the mixture sit for at least ten minutes for it to be effective.

After rinsing the fish tank, let it dry in a spot with good ventilation outdoors to ensure that the vinegar will not leave any odor. 

Add a Mesh Top

Most fish tanks come with a plastic top that totally seals the tank. Do not use a plastic top, and if you already have one, you may as well get rid of it. Using it would probably lead to your hamster suffocating and overheating.

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Adding a top that is both mesh and metal will allow air to circulate in the fish tank. This type of top will also make it even harder for your hamster to escape. A local pet store might be selling this type of tank cover, or you can easily order one online. 

Add Other Essentials 

Use wood shavings to cover the bottom of the fish tank. Hamsters need bedding to burrow and to live in. Hamsters also need exercise wheels, as well as a water bottle and a food dish. Be sure to get them a heavy wheel, as you will not be able to fix it to the side of the tank. 

Additionally, you should include platforms and other structures that will allow your hamster to climb, hide, and explore throughout the tank. They will need the extra vertical space so that they do not become bored or stressed by being stuck in the bottom of the tank all the time. 


Hamsters need a secure habitat that covers their basic needs and allows them to explore. Many hamster owners keep their pets in a fish tank, as these tanks are a good alternative to wire cages. Both tanks and cages have pros and cons, so consider these carefully. 

If you do decide to keep your hamster in a fish tank, be sure to get a mesh, metal top that will let them breathe. Keep in mind that these tanks should be cleaned frequently and kept out of the sun. However, a fish tank will prevent your pet from escaping and make it so you can observe them better. 

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