5 Best Fish You Can Keep in a Bowl

A fish bowl is quite versatile to keep, and you can position it in places like your nightstand and office table. You will only need miniature species and a sprig of an aquatic plant to keep this setup running.

Contrary to common belief, however, fish bowls are hard to maintain, and they demand aquatic expertise to be successful. Some fish produce a lot of organic waste and this build-up will need to be diluted with constant water changes.

Best Fish You Can Keep in a Fishbowl

Best Fish You Can Keep in a Fishbowl

It is difficult to sustain a stable environment in a fish bowl, especially because they do not have sufficient filtration. You can rear several species in a bowl, provided you are careful about their environment. Such species include:

1. Betta Fish

Betta Fish

Betta Fish

Bettas are the most common aquatic residents in fish bowls. They are available in various brilliant hues and are interesting to watch. In the wild, bettas have adapted to slow-moving streams, ponds, and rice paddies in Thailand and Cambodia. Their sedentary lifestyle allows for bettas to live in small spaces.

If you want to keep bettas in a fish bowl, you will have to ensure the environment is suitable for them at all times.

Start by filling the bowl with aged water from an existing fish tank. You can use tap water, although it has to be free from chlorine, which can be done with the help of a water conditioner. A 2-gallon bowl will typically be enough for one betta, and they mostly reach a length of two inches.

Equip your bowl with gravel where waste can settle, and bacteria can grow. Decorations and plants will offer the betta a hiding spot primarily because they can see everything going on outside the bowl.

Weekly water changes are vital to maintain healthy conditions for the fish. During water changes, do not replace all the water because fluctuations in water parameters are harmful to bettas.

Replace a small percentage of the aged water with fresh water. You can use a cup to remove water from the tank, and you have to treat the new water to remove toxic chemicals.

Overfeeding is particularly dangerous in a small bowl, and you risk polluting the tank’s water from the decomposing organic matter. Feed the pet once every day with small pieces of food, and less is always more with bettas.

Adding a small amount of aquarium salts will promote the health of the pets.

If you are not using a heater, the water must always be maintained between 75 to 82 °F.

2. Endler Guppies

Endler Guppies

Endler Guppies

The Endler Guppies only grow to a maximum length of 1.4 inches, which makes them ideal for small containers.

Being a schooling fish, you may need a few of them to keep in a nano tank. Keep a floating plant or some leaves in the bowl, since the guppy is mostly seen on the water’s upper layer.

The Endler guppy is not very demanding when it comes to water conditions. The PH range is 6.7 to 8.5, and the temperature between 72 to 78 °F. They may not survive in unheated fishbowls, especially if the temperatures fall below 60 °F.

3. Sparkling Gourami

Sparkling Gourami

Sparkling Gourami (sourceCC BY-SA 4.0)

Sparkling fish are tiny fish with unique color patterns and will be perfect if you want an original fish bowl.

It is best to keep sparkling gouramis in groups to avoid getting them stressed.

The fish has a lung-like organ that will help survive in poorly oxygenated waters such as those in a fish bowl. You can use a dark substrate for a colorful contrast with the gourami’s body.

Plants and decorations will offer hiding spots in addition to sprucing up your container.

The sparkling gourami prefers a PH between 6 to 8 and a temperature range of 71.5 to 80.5 °F.

4. Ember Tetras

Ember Tetra

Ember Tetra

The Ember tetra will complement a beginner fish bowl, and its fun personality makes it a popular aquatic pet.

This fish is also known as the fiery red tetra because of the color of their bodies, and they reach about 0.8 inches long. In the wild, the ember tetra swims in slow-moving swamps and rivers.

These water bodies are densely populated with trees and plants which provide shelter for the tetras.

The tetra will thrive in the almost-still water of the fish bowl. Add floating plants like hornwort and species like java moss and java fern.

Ember tetras are quite sensitive to changes in acidity, lighting, and temperature. Like other small fish, there is a danger of overfeeding your ember tetra. Consistent water renewal is vital with a fish bowl occupied with ember tetras.

5. Zebra Danios

Zebra Danio Fish

Zebra Danio Fish

The zebra Danios is impressively hardy, and it is ideal for beginners. Their maximum length is two inches, and they have a silvery/gold coloration with five blue stripes.

Being schooling fish, you will need several of them, and you can opt for a 5-gallon fish bowl. One zebra danio should be kept in two gallons of water.

Zebra danios prefer a PH of 6.5 to 7.2, and temperatures between 65 to 77 °F. A sand substrate will be ideal for a zebra danios tank because they prefer fine substrates.

Plants like amazon sword plants and java fern will boost the oxygen levels of the fish bowls.

What is the Best Fish Bowl Size?

Fish bowls come in various shapes and sizes. You need to consider the bowl capacity depending on the various types of fish you want.

A small bowl will be ideal if you just want one pet for your child. The ½ gallon bowl is typically the smallest available fish bowl in pet stores.

The common guideline is that every one inch of a fish will need one gallon of water. You can also get a 1.5 or 2 gallon containers.

A minimum of three gallons is ideal for keeping your pets in a fish bowl. The bowl will typically measure 12″ × 6″ × 8″, and weigh 27 pounds when full. This aquarium can be positioned on most surfaces, and it is easy to carry it around.

What Aquarium Plants to Add in a Fish Bowl?

If you desire live aquatic plants for your fish bowl, there are several species to consider.

Underground varieties like Chinese evergreen and Java ferns will provide hiding spots for your pets. Other popular hardy plants are Anubias, Hygrophilla, Hornwort, and Valisinaria will also work for fish bowls. Philodendrons and peace lilies are ideal for fish tank with plant on top method.

When deciding on the plants to get, consider the kind of fish you want to keep. Bettas, for example, have fragile and long-flowing fins that can be injured by plants with stiff foliage or rough edges. Fish bowls with bettas will commonly have java moss, java fern, or water sprite.

Once you get the plants, place them in a separate tank for about a week. Any diseases or parasites can easily be spotted over this period, and it will be easier to deal with them when they are not in the same container with your fish.

After removing the plant, look for any brown leaves or soggy roots and trim them. You can easily disinfect aquatic plants in water with potassium permanganate. Rinse them with cool water, and they will be ready to put in the bowl.

The planting method will depend on the kind of plant you have. The roots of water sprite should be buried under the substrate. Java moss can be planted in a thin layer over rock or driftwood.

Position the moss close to the air pump to discourage debris from depositing on it. The roots of java fern will typically attach themselves to a rock or driftwood.

You can trim any brown spots from the plants with each water renewal. It is important to prune plants in fish bowls because they can grow too large and live little space for the fish to swim.

Can You Keep Goldfish in a Glass Bowl?

Can You Keep Goldfish in a Glass Bowl?

Can You Keep Goldfish in a Glass Bowl?

Goldfish are popularly contained in small containers, so much so that the Goldfish Bowl has become a mainstay phrase in the aquarium community.

Goldfish and bettas are the two most common species kept in fish bowls. While the betta only grows to two inches, goldfish average between 10 and 12 inches. Like most fish, however, the goldfish releases some growth-inhibiting hormone to restrict its growth in a small container. The goldfish will naturally become stunted in a fish bowl, and it will never attain its full size.

Goldfish produce more waste when compared to similarly-sized species. They are mostly vegetarians, and the waste will quickly build-up in a bowl. It is common for goldfish to succumb to ammonia poisoning.

This will commonly manifest as tattered fins, lethargy, reddened gills, and blackened scales and fins as the disease progresses. Goldfish are also sensitive to concentrations of nitrites and nitrates.

Constant water renewal will be the only choice in a fish bowl without a filter. As the pet grows and produces more waste, you will have to do water changes every day. Daily water changes are, however, stressful to any fish, as they thrive in stable environments.

Small containers do not also allow colonies of “good” bacteria to grow. Even if you try, you will not be able to maintain the water in a pristine state for long. The build-up of ammonia and other harmful elements will leave your goldfish vulnerable to various diseases. Even if your goldfish survives in water with poor quality, they will not live for very long or reach their lifespan.

Most fish bowls will typically be too small to filter. Goldfish require a solid filtration system complete with canister filters for efficient biological filtration.

Goldfish require plenty of oxygen. The water in a bowl is easily de-oxygenated because of the small surface area. The pets are commonly observed at the surface gasping for air, which can be mistaken as a plea for food.

While an air stone can be added, it does not always generate sufficient surface movement needed to produce additional oxygen. The air bubbles produce by the stone will likely be for aesthetical reasons only. It is best to keep goldfish in a bigger and rectangular tank to deal with the oxygen problem.

Fish bowls are not good environments for goldfish, and they need at least twenty gallons to thrive and be in good health.

What Filter Can You Use for Fish Bowl?

Most aquarists with nano tanks like fish bowls rely on sponge filters.

Sponge filtration provides a gentle filtration method that is ideal for small tanks. The filters also provide biological filtration via the bacteria that grows on the sponge. They are powered by air pumps and powerheads, and they provide natural and efficient filtration.

If you want more powerful filtration, you can get a small canister filter. This model from Zoo Med is designed for nano tanks of up to 10 gallons. It will suit saltwater and freshwater aquariums and will provide sufficient filtration for your fish bowl. The filter’s compact design will save on space and while its anti-vibration brushings offer quiet performance.

The filter is packaged with carbon chemical filtration media, bio-ceramic filtration media, mechanical filter sponge, and a spray bar system for aeration.

How Often to Change Water in a Bowl?

You should change part of the the water in your fish bowl once every week or more. If you spot the glass in the container growing hazy, it is time to replace the water.

When changing the water, you will require a temporary holding tank for your pets. Since the holding water must have similar parameters with the water in the standard tank, you will need to age it at least overnight.


Fish bowls appeal to hobbyists because of the belief that they are easy to maintain. Ammonia and compounds like nitrites quickly accumulate in small spaces and cause poisoning to fish species.

If you are committed to maintaining a fish bowl, however, you can keep species like bettas, zebra danios, ember tetras, Endler guppies, and sparkling gouramis. These pets will feel safe among plants like java fern, anubias, and java moss.

Do not contain goldfish in fish bowls because they produce a lot of waste and will easily get poisoning by ammonia levels. A fish bowl can be maintained by weekly water changes and the installation of a sponge or small canister filter.

Fishkeeping   Updated: November 12, 2019
avatar Hey, I'm Fabian, chief editor at Aquarium Nexus. I really enjoy the aquarium hobby and love sharing my experience with others. If you have any questions feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.

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