best low maintenance pets for apartments
Care Guide

7 Very Low Maintenance Pets for Small Apartments

If you live in a small apartment, you’ll soon discover that many types of pets are banned under the terms of the tenancy. You can’t keep others because they need a yard for exercise or you work long hours. But the good news is that there are low maintenance pets you can choose instead.

Gerbils are the best low maintenance rodent pet, with guinea pigs a distant second. Other pets for studio apartment living include Betta fish, snakes, snails, geckos, and bearded dragons. Pick a pet that doesn’t need much space, or require constant attention.

As you can see from the variety of small apartment pets, there’s literally something for everyone. We’ll look at why each pet is low maintenance, and why you should get one.

Best Low Maintenance Pets for Apartments

When you live in an apartment, keeping pets can be more difficult. For many apartments, there are rules and regulations which prevent you from keeping certain pets, or all pets. And since you are likely busy all day, you can’t spend much time with your pet. This is an issue because:

  • Most common pets require companionship, and will become depressed without company
  • The pet could damage your apartment while you’re away
  • Some pets require strict feeding schedules
  • Some pets need to be walked or exercised
  • Some pets make a mess of their enclosure, bed or room by going to the toilet

Besides that, pets for studio apartments have to be small. Otherwise, you won’t have space for personal possessions, furniture, etc.

However, if you still want companionship, you do have several options. These pets are low maintenance, meaning that you don’t have to feed them several times a day, or wash them by hand, or walk them. They won’t stink out your apartment or demand too much of your time.

Here’s a table listing the best low maintenance pets. There’s a description of each pet and its best and worst qualities, and an estimation of how much care each needs.

PetDescriptionAdvantagesDisadvantagesNeeds
GerbilA small rodent with a long tail, thought of as a starter pet, but is good for adults.It can be fed infrequently, doesn’t smell, is friendly but not demanding.Need more than one gerbil, because they’re social, need some interactionLow
Guinea PigBigger than a gerbil. Has long, fluffy fur.The same needs as a gerbil.It needs a bigger cage, but not too large for an apartment.Low
Betta FishLarge fins and bright colors (orange or blue). Lives in a tank like all tropical fish.It doesn’t need you to interact with it, eats a simple food mix, and doesn’t need walks.If you want a pet you can interact with occasionally, a fish isn’t it. It needs heating for its water.Very low
SnakeLong and thin, but not slimy. It can be handled safely. Many colors and shapes.Largely inactive. Feeds once and may not need to eat again for a week or two.Pet snakes can get big (five to ten feet in length, depending on species).Low
SnailsRegular garden snails aren’t the most interesting pets, but are very low maintenance.Don’t need affection, don’t need expensive food, and can be left alone all day.Dull if you want a pet that loves you back.Very low
GeckoA small lizard that looks like a thick snake with legs. Lots of different patterns/colors.Reptiles don’t need affection. Needs a care routine, but this is simple once it’s set up.Need to monitor the temperature, humidity, etc.Low
Bearded DragonLike geckos, but bigger.It doesn’t need much care and affection.Same needs as geckos.Low

1) Gerbil

Gerbils

Gerbils are a low maintenance pet. They are equally well suited to receiving lots of care as to only a little. That’s why they’re a frequent starter pet for kids. But don’t let that reputation fool you, because they’re fun for adults too.

The gerbil is similar to other rodent pets. If you’re not familiar with it, you may mistake it for others like hamsters or guinea pigs. Gerbils have the following characteristics:

  • Only four inches long, plus a four-inch tail
  • Have short, sleek fur when adults
  • Have long rear legs and long rear feet

A gerbil needs a special cage called a gerbilarium. It has two sections, one on the top and one below. The top section is a cage, like any other rodent cage. But the bottom half is a glass tank that you fill with bedding. The gerbil will dig in it to create a burrow.

As said above, gerbils are thought of as good starter pets. But they’re also great for adults. Gerbils can learn tricks, enjoy interacting with people, and get excited when they play which is cute.

Are Gerbils Low Maintenance?

The first good thing about gerbils is that they don’t require constant feeding. You can feed them infrequently, e.g. once every three days, provided you give them dried foods.

What’s better is that they self-regulate their food. They can hoard food in their burrows for later, so if you forget to feed your pet for a day, it should still have some set-aside.

They don’t go to the toilet frequently. Gerbils are from dry deserts and grasslands, so they conserve water as much as possible. This cuts down on the time you must spend cleaning your pet’s tank.

Gerbils like interacting with their owners. But they also prefer living in pairs, which means that they will have company if you can’t spend time with them. This does mean you have to change the bedding more frequently and feed more food, but overall, less care is required.

Gerbils require water, so a water bottle is fine. You only need to change this infrequently. You should change your pet’s bedding only once a month, which again, is low maintenance. And for exercise, your gerbil should have a running wheel. So, it even exercises itself.

Another point in the gerbil’s favor is its size. They only grow to four inches on average, and five inches maximum. They never get too big to handle. They also only live for three or four years at most, so you won’t need to keep your pet forever.

2) Snake

Snakes

Snakes are a less common choice for a pet, but are low maintenance and surprisingly fun. Once you get over the initial fright-factor, you’ll enjoy spending what time you can with your pet.

There are many species of snake, and not all are low maintenance. The best are corn snakes and ball pythons. These snakes can be found in local pet stores.

Snakes require a tank that looks like an aquarium. The tank has to be lined with a substrate, which the snake may or may not burrow in. It depends on the species. The snake also needs to keep warm, so you’ll need to provide heating.

Are Snakes Low Maintenance?

Your snake will be low maintenance if you set its enclosure up correctly. Your snake will need:

  • A tank that matches its size, i.e. it’s big enough
  • Substrate
  • Heat and humidity at the correct level, which varies depending on species
  • Something upon which it can climb

Once its home is set up correctly, the snake will spend most of its time sleeping or still. Snakes aren’t excitable pets like gerbils are. You don’t need to take your snake from its enclosure frequently for handling, although occasionally doing so is good for it.

Snakes require infrequent feeding, too. If you feed a large portion size to your pet, it can be two weeks before you need to feed it again. Like with gerbils, it’s best that you stick to a schedule and don’t forget about your pet. But a snake’s feeding schedule is low maintenance anyway.

The only issue with snakes is that they can grow quite large. Some species of pet snake can grow to ten feet or more. Even common pet snakes like corn snakes and ball pythons grow to six feet or so, and can live for decades. This may make keeping a snake inconvenient for you.

3) Betta Fish

Betta fish

Betta fish, also known as Siamese fighting fish, are popular in the aquarium trade. They have large, pretty fins and colorful bodies, which makes them nice to look at. But they’re low maintenance, like the other pets on this list.

These fish are from Thailand, which is in southeast Asia. This is why they have such bright colors, and big fins to impress you with, because they’re tropical. According to the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, they’re also aggressive, so the colors are to impress other fish too.

Like all aquarium fish, Betta fish need a tank to live in. They’re only small, reaching a couple of inches in length.

Are Betta Fish Low Maintenance?

You won’t need to buy a huge tank for your Betta fish. One fish on its own will only need a three-gallon tank, which is small, so it won’t take up much room. But if you want a low maintenance Betta fish, a bigger tank is better, because the water stays cleaner for longer.

Because these are tropical fish, they need warm water. But once you have the heater set up to stay at the right temperature, you won’t have to constantly adjust it. So, again, you won’t have to be worrying over your pet constantly.

The pH of your pet’s tank water has to be roughly that of water: neither too acidic nor base. You can keep it at the right level with a filter, which will keep the water nice and clean. You will still have to clean the tank occasionally, but this isn’t too difficult.

As for feeding, Bettas need a mix of basic tropical fish food and something with higher protein values. Once you have your mix figured out, you can sprinkle some food into your pet’s tank occasionally. That’s all it takes.

So, yes, Betta fish are low maintenance. But if you want a pet that’s capable of interacting with people, a fish isn’t it.

4) Guinea Pigs

Guinea pigs

Guinea pigs are another kind of rodent. They aren’t closely related to pigs, so the name may come from the species’ large, rounded frame. They also don’t come from Guinea, which is an island near Australia, but from South America. So, it’s unclear how they got their name.

Either way, guinea pigs are bigger than most other pet rodents. They can reach eight to ten inches, but have lots of long, thick, fluffy fur. They come in a few different colors, and like gerbils, they are thought of as a good starter pet for children.

Their care is much the same as other rodents: minimal. That’s why, according to Comparative Medicine, they were used as lab animals for a long time.

Are Guinea Pigs Low Maintenance?

Guinea pigs need a pen to run around in. While they are smaller than many other pets, they are big for a rodent, and need lots of space to move around. An individual guinea pig should have a pen that’s 7 ½ square feet.

That doesn’t mean it has to be seven-foot-long, though: three feet by three feet would be nine feet square, for example. This is a big space to set aside in an apartment, so if you don’t have much room, a different pet might suit you.

Like all pets in cages, guinea pigs have a few needs that must be met. They need basic bedding, which must be changed occasionally. They need to be kept at a temperate temperature. They need water, like any pet. These needs are easy to meet.

You can also keep two guinea pigs together. They will keep each other company, and you won’t need to handle your pet often. So, overall, guinea pigs are fine but require more room than other pets.

5) Garden Snails

Garden Snails

You may not know anybody who keeps garden snails as pets, but some people do. They aren’t the best pet if you want something that’s affectionate. But they are still interesting, and are undoubtedly low maintenance.

There’s surprising variety in the kinds of garden snails you can find. Some are small, at a quarter of an inch long, while others are up to an inch big. Some have interesting patterns, while others don’t. Others are lighter in color, while others are darker.

You can also get bigger snails, like the African land snail. These snails are huge compared to garden snails, growing up to eight inches in length. But these require more and better care than regular garden snails.

Are Garden Snails Low Maintenance?

Garden snails require little care, and can easily be kept in an apartment. They eat regular fruit and vegetables, which you may already have in your kitchen. While they should be washed before you feed your pet, this isn’t strictly necessary. They can eat leaves, too.

Snails can be kept in a basic glass or plastic tank. They are hardy in a variety of environments, and temperatures. They do require humidity, but you can get an automatic mister to provide this for you.

This means you can decorate the tank in almost any way you like. It can contain plants, both plastic, and real, branches, soil, or rocks. Avoid sand, grit, and gravel, as they’re difficult to walk on.

Because you feed your pet fresh food, you shouldn’t leave it alone for too long. You could leave it/them with a large pile of food, but it could go off.

6) Geckos

Geckos

Geckos are another common starter pet. Some parents and children prefer them to hamsters because they’re not as smelly. While there’s a learning curve to taking care of a reptile, compared to a mammal, it’s easy when you’re used to it.

There are different kinds of gecko. The most common pet species are leopard geckos, crested geckos, and African fat-tailed geckos. Each of these species has a similar body structure, being long and thin like a snake, but with legs. Their heads are raised slightly from their bodies.

Each species has a different color and pattern combination. The leopard gecko is spotted, for example. But because they’re a popular pet, geckos have been bred into many colors and patterns: red, brown, yellow, pied, and more.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about them is how they adhere to surfaces. According to Integrative and Comparative Biology, we don’t fully understand how, but they’re exceptionally good at sticking to flat surfaces like glass.

Are Geckos Low Maintenance?

Geckos need a small tank to live in, preferably plastic or glass. This tank must be kept at a certain temperature and humidity. They need a basking spot to sit in, and a cooler spot to cool down in. But again, this can all be controlled electronically, so it’s easy once it’s set up.

This leaves you with little to do but feed your pet. That’s because geckos aren’t the friendliest pets. They won’t bite you each time you come near; they aren’t mean. But they don’t need affection and cuddles, making them low maintenance.

Your pet also needs substrate and things to climb on. But this substrate doesn’t need to be cleaned as often as that of rodents.

The only issue with geckos is that they require live food. They don’t recognize dead things as food. So, you’ll have to keep a separate tank of live insects. But these can be purchased online or in pet stores, already in a small tank.

So if you have a pet store near you, that’s no more difficult than buying other kinds of pet food. However, you may not like keeping insects in your house lest they get loose. Or, because you don’t like insects.

7) Bearded Dragon

Bearded dragons

Bearded dragons are another kind of reptile. They have a long, scaly body with a long, scaly tail. Their colors can be a mix of green, tan, yellow and red. They usually have a slight pattern, almost like a turtle’s shell or an alligator. But solid color specimens have been bred, too.

The species gets its name from its neck, which can puff out and look spiky. This is to ward off threats. It’s an impressive display, although you don’t want to stress your pet out by making it perform for you.

They’re also one of the most popular pet lizards in the world. You can easily find them in pet stores alongside other common pets. If you’re not familiar with lizards, you might hesitate to pick one. But they make rewarding pets.

Are Bearded Dragons Low Maintenance?

Bearded dragons are easy to take care of, provided that you set their care up right. Like geckos, they need a certain amount of heat, light, and humidity to be comfortable. You can set these things up and then leave them, with electronics doing your job for you.

For food, bearded dragons need live insects like geckos. Again, you can buy these already in their trays from a pet store. They also eat small amounts of fruits, vegetables, and greens, which you will already have in your fridge. This makes their care more convenient.

Bearded dragons don’t smell as bad as other pets, either. Like gerbils, they conserve water, so don’t go to the toilet much. Rather than weeing, they produce ‘urates’, which are like solid urinary waste. You still need to clean your pet’s cage, but not as much as you might think.

They also are perhaps the best-behaved pet lizard. They rarely bite, and rarely get annoyed with their owners. They are so well behaved that you can even buy leashes for them and take them for walks.

Pets That Aren’t Low Maintenance

There are lots of small pets that people think are low maintenance, and often give to kids. Perhaps the best known is the hamster. Hamsters are a classic starter pet, largely because people think they need hardly any care.

Unfortunately, that’s not true. Hamsters require more care than people realize. The main issue is that they go to the toilet regularly. They drink lots of water, and wee all the time. This means that their cages smell if you don’t clean them regularly.

Another supposedly low maintenance pet is the goldfish. While goldfish aren’t as bad as hamsters, people keep them in tiny tanks. The smaller the tank, the more frequently you’ll need to clean it and balance the pH level inside.

Rabbits are another. Rabbits can live in apartments, and don’t need to go outside, provided they have space to run around. But they require lots of attention, which you can’t provide if you are a busy person. So, avoid each of these pets unless you’re certain you can care for them.

Which Pet Should I Pick?

Of the pets good for apartments above, any one could be a good choice. There are two central concerns: the space you have available for your pet, and the time you can spend with it.

The one which requires the least company and the least space is the Betta fish. These don’t require any company, and can live in small tanks. Once you set up its tank, it doesn’t need constant cleaning and attention.

If you want a low maintenance pet you can interact with, the gerbil is your best choice. You can give your pet a companion, so it won’t miss you when you’re not there. They need bigger cages than hamsters, but not too big for an apartment.

But when you do have the time for it, your gerbil can be affectionate. Gerbils can be trained to be handled, and rarely bite, even if they haven’t been. If they like you, they will even get excited to spend time with you.

If you want a pet for apartments that don’t allow pets, check your lease to see what’s specifically not allowed and refer to the list above. The precise pets that aren’t allowed vary from apartment to apartment, so general advice will not apply.

So, spend time going over the list above. Figure out what’s most important to you in the qualities of a potential pet. Then, perhaps visit a pet store and spend time with and around each pet to see which ones you like, and which you don’t.