20 Gallon Hamster Tank: Good Or Bad?

Updated on:

This post contains affiliate links, and we will be compensated if you buy after clicking on our links.

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links.

Hamsters make great pets for your children, and you may even consider getting one yourself.

But like most individuals, you probably don’t know much about them and what is the appropriate tank size to house them in. Let’s find out.

A 20-gallon only allows for 360 square inches in floor space. This used to be considered the minimum but has since changed to it being 450 square inches. Thus, it is too small, and a 30-gallon tank is now the minimum.

This article will detail everything there is to know about hamster tanks and their various sizes, going over which is best, what to avoid, what essentials you will need to consider, and more.

Read on to get the full breakdown.

Is A 20 Gallon Tank Big Enough For A Hamster?

A 20-gallon tank measures 30 inches (length) X 12 inches (width) X 12 inches (height) which equate to 360 square inches.

Now it is important to note that up until March 2016, this was considered the minimum tank size that a hamster should be housed in.

In fact, many owners, pet stores, and sites still regard this as a suitable size for hamsters of specific breeds (a Syrian hamster of two Dwarf hamsters).

However, since then, this size has been considered to be and has been seen as too small and not conducive to the health and well-being of a hamster.

Many hamster owners on the famous HamsterHideout forum (now shut down), along with HoppingHammy (a large YouTube channel dedicated to hamsters), have stated that they in the past have used this tank size and found that their hamster(s) were never happy and exhibited severe amounts of stress (tried to escape).

Consider that four factors will play a role in how big a tank should be for your hamster:

  • Hamsters like to explore and play
  • Hamsters designate areas of their tank for certain tasks
  • Hamsters come in different sizes depending on the species.
  • Hamster tanks are filled with toys and activity structures

Even though a Hamster is small and considered shy and sedentary (unless running on a wheel), their natural base instinct is to play, forage and explore.

This is why you will typically find them “trying to escape.”. Moreover, they designate areas of their living environment (tank) for specific tasks such as eating, sleeping, and pooping.

Now, take into account that a typical hamster breed will be between 1.8 and 7 inches in length and approximately 1 to 2 inches in width.

However, some fully grown adult hamsters (depending on the breed) may reach up to 14 inches in length. This means that they will essentially occupy between 1% and 10% of the area that a 20-gallon take will provide.

Next, consider that you will want to keep your hamster happy and fill its tank with toys, food, water bowls, a wheel, and activity structures.

tank in store for hamster

Thus, if you account for the fact that a hamster likes to explore, designates specific areas for its tasks, occupies (in some cases depending on the breed) almost 10% of a 20-gallon tank, and the tank will be filled with toys and activity structures.

it is just not possible for a hamster (and in cases concerning Dwarf hamsters) to live comfortably in a 20-gallon tank.

With all this in mind, the new minimum size that is recommended for a tank (or any such enclosure) should be at least 450 square inches.

However, many owners and hamster “advocates” will say that housing smaller breeds such as a Chinese hamster, a Dwarf Winter White Russian, a Syrian (Golden) hamster, a Campbell’s Dwarf Russian, and a Dwarf Roborovski in a 20-gallon tank is suitable and it is better than euthanasia.

Is It OK To Keep A Hamster In A Fish Tank?

It will help if you understand that hamster tanks, in general, are made from wire, plastic, or glass, with each having its own pros and cons.

Due to fish tanks being made of glass and offering the appropriate depth, they, in essence, can be considered to be glass hamster tanks.

In fact, the only housing (enclosures) directly manufactured for hamsters are hamster cages and wooden enclosures that feature a window.

Then you do, in rare instances, have habitat enclosures built from clear plastic.

This means that a fish tank (aquarium tank) is the only form of a glass “tank” that is available for you to purchase as a hamster tank unless you purchase a terrarium (made for reptiles).

Check out this Hamster Cage

Bucatstate Hamster Cage With Acrylic Door
  • Durable and Stable
  • Unique Safety Lock Door Design
  • Breathable and Ventilation:

Additionally, glass tanks can offer some great benefits when utilized as a hamster tank which include:

  • Easy visibility
  • Safety
  • Cleanliness
  • Protection from pets and small children
  • Protection drafts

Expert Tip: You need to ensure that if you intend to use a glass tank as an enclosure, you will need a tight-fitting wire mesh lid.

If you are a formidable DIY master and are considering building a tank or cage with a glass window, check out this video below.

It shows how to easily build a cheap IKEA hamster cage with no tools.

What’s The Best Tank Size For A Hamster?

As stated, the minimum size is now considered to be 450 square inches.

As such, a rising popular favorite among hamster owners is now a 40-gallon breeder aquarium tank.

This tank measures 36 inches (length) X 18 inches (width) x 17 inches (depth), which equates to 648 square inches. This brings it well above the recommended size.

A great factor to consider about such a tank size is that it is much deeper than its smaller counterparts.

This means you can place a larger amount of bedding in the tank allowing your hamster to burrow more.

Furthermore, the most common sizes for a hamster wheel (not considering Dwarf wheels) are typically 8.5 (comfort wheel) to 12 (Silent spinner wheel) inches.

Thus, unlike smaller tanks, there will be enough room for whichever size wheel you wish to purchase.

Can A Hamster Escape From A Tank?

Due to the natural instinct of a hamster being to forage and explore, they are, in theory, always determined to make an escape from any enclosure.

This is especially true for plastic and wire cages because they will tend to try and chew through them, succeeding often.

However, it is impossible for a hamster to chew through the glass as well as being much too slippery to climb.

This means your hamster will most likely not be able to escape from a glass tank.

The only factor that you will need to consider in this situation is what you place into the tank.

For example, if you have a wheel that exceeds the top of the tank and your hamster is able to climb it, they may figure out this is a possible way out.

Tip: Any toys or activity structures should be kept well below the height of the tank to ensure there is no route by which they can escape.

Can Two Hamsters Live In A 20-Gallon Tank?

As stated, it is now preferable that the minimum tank size be no less than 450 square inches.

Consider that this is taking into account that only one hamster is living in it.

However, it is still widely perceived and acceptable for a 20-gallon tank to house Dwarf hamsters, and in many cases (depending on the Dwarf breed), two may be able to fit in a 20-gallon tank.

For instance, it is considered acceptable for a 20-gallon tank to house one Syrian (Golden) hamster or two Dwarf hamsters.

Although, the factors that were stated in determining what size tank is best should be taken into account.

If you plan to house two Dwarf hamsters in a 20-gallon tank, you should consider putting in a multilevel structure to expand the space.

What Do You Need In A Hamster Tank?

No doubt you understand that you can’t just put a hamster in a cage and leave it there without any toys, structures, bowls, food, etc.

So there are essentials that you will need to factor in even before you even decide to purchase a hamster because all these elements will aid in its daily routine, fun, activities, health, and well-being.

Here is a list of the most basic necessities that a hamster will require in its tank to keep it happy and healthy:

  • Bedding
  • Food dish
  • Food
  • Hamster wheel
  • Water bottle
  • Activity structures (house, hideout, ladders, etc.)
  • Toys

Some of the items on this list should be self-explanatory, but we will touch on a few.

Bedding will be required because it provides a hamster with the means to burrow and nest as it would so do in the wild.

The bedding also serves as a toilet and will keep them warm when it is cold.

Due to hamsters having the instinct to run, a hamster wheel is the best option you have that allows them to fulfill their natural behavior, plus it is a great form of exercise for them.

Activity structures (especially multilevel ones) will allow the hamsters to explore and effectively give them more space to roam.

Best Size Tank For Two Hamsters

Two tank sizes will be suitable for the occupation of two hamsters.

The first is the 40-gallon tank that has already been mentioned which is 36 inches (length) X 18 inches (width) x 17 inches (depth), which equates to 648 square inches.

The next is a 55-gallon (or even a 50-gallon) tank that measures 48 inches (length) X 13 inches (width) X 21 inches (depth), equating to 624 square inches of floor space.

You may notice that, in fact, the floor space for the 55-gallon is smaller; however, the tank is 10 inches longer and deeper.

Thus if you have hamsters that love to tunnel and burrow, this tank size would be exceptional.

It also gives you the ability to put in multilevel activity structures and perhaps even a second floor, meaning two hamsters will more than likely be comfortable.

Is A 10-Gallon Tank Big Enough For A Hamster?

Consider that a 10-gallon tank will measure approximately 20 inches (length) X 10 inches (width) X 12 inches (height), which equates to 200 square inches.

This may seem like enough space due to hamsters being small and even smaller if you are looking at Dwarf hamsters (adults are 2 to 3 inches in length); however, this is simply not enough space.

We have already established that a 20-gallon tank is no longer the suitable minimum size; the minimum size is a 450-square-inch enclosure.

Thus it would be unethical and very unhealthy to house your hamster in a 10-gallon tank.

In fact, a small tank or cage can lead to your hamster exhibiting stress and depression, making it more prone to illness.

How Much Would A 20-Gallon Tank Cost?

On average, a 20-gallon tank should cost approximately $100 from reputable online vendors. However, Petco sells a 20-gallon long take for about $50.


Is A 30-Gallon Tank Big Enough For A Hamster?

A 30-gallon tank will measure 36 inches (length) X 13 inches (height) X 16 inches (depth), which equates to 468 square inches in floor space.

It is bigger than the recommended minimum of 450 square inches, so it is big enough for a hamster.

Do Hamster Tanks Need A Lid?

Yes, hamster tanks do need a lid.

This will keep them safe from other pets and small children, also effectively prohibiting them from escaping.

Opt for a mesh lid, as it provides much better ventilation.

How Do You Clean A Hamster Tank?

Essentially you will need to remove everything (including the bedding) and scrub the tank with mild soap and warm water.

To go over the exact details on how to do this is a little beyond this article’s scope, but you can find a detailed description here.

Can I Put A Dwarf Hamster In A 10-Gallon Tank?

Even though a Dwarf hamster is small, we have established that the bare minimum size for a hamster tank is 450 square inches.

In some cases, you may be able to sustain housing a Dwarf hamster (or two) in a 20-gallon tank if the appropriate measures have been taken.

As such, a 10-gallon tank should never be considered in any situation as a habitat for your hamster.

About the Author
Photo of author

Chafik Abderrahman is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of SmallPetsHQ.com.

Let's be Friends: