Can A Fish Live In A Bowl? Yes or No?

Even if we own maintainable sized aquarium setups, the idea of keeping our pet fish in a small bowl is something that always seems to be pretty attractive to us. Whether on a bedroom side table, office table or a lobby table in the home, it’s understandable why many people aim to have that little splash of life that a ting fishbowl seems to provide. In “Can A Fish Live In A Bowl? Yes or No?” You’ll get brief detail:

We have to admit that most of these bowls, especially when stocked with a small-sized pet fish and a sprig of aquatic plants, can look super cute. Moreover, some hobbyists, particularly those who do not want to spend much money, might consider a fishbowl an affordable alternative to a big sized fish aquarium with high operational costs.

But small bowls are known to be an inappropriate habitat for fish themselves. But what if someone wants to have one and has no clue which fish should be kept in a small bowl? This article is an extensive guide.

Can Fish Survive in Bowls?

Although the fish can survive living in a small bowl of water, consideration should be given to the life quality of that fish. Do proper research before making any purchase to ensure if you can manage the burden of responsibilities as a pet parent or not. We suggest all aquarist hobbyists provide all the aquatic animals, especially fish, the best quality of life.

Like the rest of the animals, fish also breathe by oxygen intake and expiration of Carbon Dioxide. They use their gills to extract oxygen from the water passing through them. Naturally, the action of photosynthesis and currents by aquatic plants continuously replenishes oxygen levels in the water. Waste products get cycled naturally by beneficial bacteria and creatures that serve as decomposers.

While in captivity, perfectly replicating the environmental conditions of a stream or river would be something almost impossible to do. Still, an electric-powered filter can help fulfil the needs of removing different products and providing oxygen in the water. They operate with either a cartridge or a replaceable activated carbon bag. They clean bowel water biologically and chemically by harbouring beneficial bacteria and removing organic wastes. Using an electrically controlled filter in your fish’s habitat will improve its living conditions immensely.

What Kinds of Fish Can Survive in A Bowl Without Filter?

Most bowls available to accommodate pet fish are often too small to house things like bubblers, decor, and filters. So, we recommend you to go for fish that are very small, hardy and cold water species.

Why Are Small Fish Appropriate?

Why Are Small Fish Appropriate

Why are we recommending small fish for bowls? I think their name is pretty self-explanatory, but small fish require less water and space. For instance, some nano fish species, Scarlet Badis, is one of the most popular fish for small bowls.

Why is Cold Water fish perfect?

It won’t be easy to have a bowl that can accommodate things like heaters, lights, and filters in most cases.

If there is no heater available, you don’t want to have fish that require a constant temperature of 78F like a Betta Fish does if you can’t heat the water. We recommend you keep cold Water Fish in small bowls to avoid this mess of constantly maintaining a specific temperature.

Why should hardy fish be chosen?

Well, bowls can quickly become very toxic and depending upon the fish type and size you have kept, you may need to perform water changes daily, and if you miss a water change one day, it could be deadly for your cute little fish.

Hardy fish, for example, white cloud minnows, can tolerate the water parameter swings pretty easily. Any fish which is easy to maintain in-home aquarium set up because of its ability to tolerate a wide range of different water parameters is called a hardy fish.

What Are the Requirements To Keep Fish in A Bowl?

What Are the Requirements To Keep Fish in A Bowl

If the idea of keeping a bowl of fish looks appealing to you and you have decided to keep one, then prepare to provide at least these requirements:

  • Filtration
  • Heat
  • Lighting
  • Live plants

People keep fishbowls as large as 10 gallons, and small heaters according to this size are easily available at Amazon at super affordable prices. There can be exceptions in some cases.

A small sponge filter and some live plants also work perfectly. The Sponge filter provides a home for good bacteria to grow. Not only this, the filter helps fish to move the water around and aerate themselves. Live plants help remove some of the nitrates in the bowl water.

Best 5 Tropical Fish For Small Bowls

Suppose you have just set up your bowl aquarium without establishing naturally helpful bacteria. Water qualities can change, and chemicals can build up easily from excess food and fish waste. It spreads poison in your fish.

As a beginner, you are not practised enough to fix these issues quickly; thus, we recommend you to keep fish that are pretty hard so that they can easily withstand poor water conditions for a while without dying. Although your fishbowl should never have poor water conditions, everyone makes mistakes as a beginner fish keeper, so all of us are in the same boat. Right?

Let’s have a look at small bowl appropriate fish. You have probably heard of almost all of them, as they are the most popular and sell tropical fish worldwide.

1. Betta Fish

Betta Fish

Bettas are one of the most commonly preferred fish for small bowls. Available in various brilliant colours and hues, Betta fishes are super interesting to watch. In wildlife, these fish have adapted to slow-moving streams and rice paddies in countries like Thailand and Cambodia. This sedentary lifestyle enables bettas to live in small spaces.

If you intend to keep betta pets in a small bowl, you will have to make sure that the environment you have provided them is suitable for them. Start by filling your fishbowl with aged water. You can easily take this water from an existing fish tank. You can also use tap water, although it must be free from chlorine, which We can do by using a water conditioner.

A 2-gallon bowl is usually enough for a single betta, and they mostly grow to a length of two inches. Do not forget to equip your bowl with small plants, gravel and decorations.

2. Sparkling Gourami

A tiny fish with beautiful patterns and markings, Sparkling Gourami, is all you need if you aim to set up an original fishbowl.

Keeping Sparkling Gourami in groups is a great idea to avoid getting them depressed. The best thing about them is those lung-like organs that help them survive even poorly oxygenated water environments, like those in small bowls. For a colourful contrast with Gourami’s body, try to use a dark-coloured substrate.

3. Ember Tetras

Ember Tetra

These cute little fish are committed to complementing your fishbowl for sure. Tetras’ fun personalities make them a well known aquatic pet. They are often called fiery tetras because of the body colour they have. They can grow up to a length of 0.8 inches. This length makes them a perfect fit for a beginner’s small fish Bowl.

4. Zebra Danios

Zebra Danios
Zebra Danios

These cute pet fishes are hardy to an impressive level. They are considered ideal for beginners for all the right reasons. The maximum length which they can attain is two inches. With multiple blue stripes, their bodies have a gold and silver colouration.

Zebra Danios are a schooling fish, meaning you need several of them to easily make them used to a bowl environment. You can go for a bowl of 5 gallons. Two gallons of water are required to house a single Zebra Danios.


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5. Endler Guppies

These fish can grow to a maximum length of almost 1.4 inches. This small size makes Endler Guppies ideal for small bowls and containers. As they are a schooling fish, you should keep a few of them in nano tanks. You will mostly see your guppy on the water’s upper layer, so keep some leaves or floating plants in the bowl this fish is living in.

Which Size of Fish Bowl is the Best?

Fishbowls are available in different shapes and sizes. You need to choose one according to the type and size requirements of the fish you have chosen to keep. If you want to keep a single pet for, let’s suppose, a little one in your family, a small bowl would do a good job. The ½ gallon bowl is usually the smallest size of fishbowls available in pet stores. As per a common guideline given by expert aquarists, every single inch of a fish needs one gallon of water. You can also buy a 1.5 or 2 gallons container.


The idea of having a small fishbowl attracts hobbyists because of the concept that they are pretty easy to take care of. However, it is almost impossible to replicate all the environmental conditions of streams, rivers, ponds, or oceans in a small bowl. You can easily have one if you have kept hardy fish that can easily tolerate a poorly oxygenated water environment like a fishbowl.