How to Properly Clean a Fish Bowl?

The small size of fish bowls makes them attractive to beginner aquarists. You can keep low maintenance fish like bettas and small gourami in a bowl, as long as you maintain a high-water quality.

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Usually fish bowls do not have aeration, filtration, or heating, so they require much more maintenance thank a bigger aquarium.

To keep your fish bowl healthy and your fish happy, please consider the following fish bowl cleaning routine.

Fish Bowl Maintenance

Here are the steps on how to prepare your fish bowl for fish and how to maintain a healthy environment:

– Prepare the New Water

Cleaning a small bowl will typically mean replacing 100% of the water with a fresh supply. While large water changes are avoided in larger tanks, they are recommended for smaller ones since fish bowls lack the filtration systems that larger setups have.

In this context, water changes become less stressful than leaving fish to soak in waste.

The new water will have to be treated to ensure it is suitable for your pet fish. Cold-water fish like goldfish will be shocked by a drastic change in temperature and other water parameters.

Tap water can contain chlorine, chloramines, and additional hazardous elements like heavy metals.

Chlorine will evaporate if the water is left to rest overnight, but a water treatment kit is required for the other chemicals. You can find the treatment kit at most pet stores.

Ensure that you only add the appropriate drops of the treatment to your water, as indicated on the kit’s label. Cover the bucket with a lid to discourage airborne contaminants and leave it to age overnight.

– Move the Fish to a Temporary Home

Organize a temporary home for your fish so that you clean their fish bowl thoroughly.

Some aquarists fill a small container with water taken from the main bowl to avoid shocking their fish. Use a net and carefully move your fish to the temporary container.

You can give your fish a salt bath to kill any parasites that may be latching on to their body. Use a small amount of non-iodized salt and do not leave your pet in the bath for more than 15 minutes.

– Empty the Bowl

A water siphon will make it easy to drain the dirty water and clean the gravel. You can also utilize a wet/dry shop vac and wrap multiple layers of pantyhose over the nozzle.

This improvised device will suck out the dirty water and leave the rocks in the bowl.

Another simple way to empty a small fish bowl is to drain the water through a strainer. Hold the strainer under a stream of water to clean the contents of dirt and debris.

Shake the colander from side to side and hold it until the water underneath runs clear.

If you have noticed algae in the bowl’s decorations, you can soak them in a hydrogen peroxide solution. Half a teaspoon of hydrogen peroxide is enough for a quart of water.

This solution is safe for your fish since it decomposes to oxygen and hydrogen after 24 hours.

– Cleaning the Glass

You can use a paper towel or clean cloth to scrub the fish bowl. Scrub the inside of the container, and use a small clean brush to get to any stubborn stains.

Do not use detergents or soap-based solutions as they can leave harmful traces for your fish. Rinse the container thoroughly under a jet of clean water.

Once the bowl is free from any spots, use a clean towel to dry it. Reassemble the container with the clean ornaments and fill it with the pre-treated water.

Use a net to move the live plants and fish back into the fish bowl.

How Much and How Often to Change Water in a Fish Bowl?

Fish bowls quickly accumulate ammonia due to their small size. You want to renew 50-100% of the water daily if you wish to create the most pristine conditions for your pets.

Clean the substrate with every water change to suck out any fish waste and leftover food.

Significant water changes can be stressful for your fish, so it is vital to ensure that the renewal water has similar water conditions to those of the fish bowl.

Can You Use Tap Water in the Fish Bowl?

You can use tap water in a fish bowl, but it needs to be pre-treated to ensure it is suitable for fish. Tap water has heavy metals like zinc and chlorine-based contaminants.

You can use a dechlorinator to remove chlorine (I use and recommend the Seachem Prime water conditioner, which you can buy on Amazon).

Some aquarists leave the water to aerate overnight, which can be a time-consuming method. Even if you do not smell chlorine from the water after aeration, there may be harmful traces of it, and you would rather use a dechlorinator.

Pet stores stock liquid conditioners which bind any heavy metals and detoxify chloramines and chlorine. Reverse osmosis filters also purify tap water and the best ones have a 6-stage system for the purest result.

How to Reduce Fish Bowl Maintenance?

Changing fish bowl water every day can be tasking, and you can work around reducing this high level of maintenance.

Filters can be an excellent way of getting rid of waste from a fish bowl. Sponge filters provide a gentle filtration system for a small container, and they are affordable and easy to use. They provide the biological filtration needed to absorb impurities.

The filter features a sponge that provides a vast surface area for the colonization of beneficial bacteria. The bacteria convert the ammonia into CO2 and creates a harmless environment for your fish.

Sponge filters come coupled with an air pump, which encourages more suction and drives water through the sponge. A quiet air pump is advisable since you can place the fish bowl in a quiet area of your house.

Air pumps provide water movement and improve oxygenation in the bowl. By agitating water, the air pump makes it easier to see debris and dirt.

Once the water is calm, the debris sinks to the substrate, and you may think that the container is clean while it is not. Once the water is agitated, however, you can tell if you are overfeeding your fish or determine if you need to clean the tank.

Some aquarists prefer under-gravel filters since sponge filters can take up significant room in a small tank. Whichever filter you decide to use, remember to maintain them well.

You will need to rinse off dirt from the sponge occasionally while keeping in mind that the sponge contains all of the beneficial bacteria. The cartridges in undergravel-filters should be changed regularly.

You can also add live plants in your fish bowl to help purify the water. Plants break down fish waste, add oxygen to the water, and prevent algal growth. The plants will use fish waste for nutrients, although you can add aquarium-safe fertilizers.

The best live plants are fast-growing and hardy varieties. You can use Java Fern, Anubias, Hygrophila, and Hornwort. Some aquarists will place romaine lettuce in fish bowls if their aquatic pets are known to nibble at live plants.

What is the Best Filter for a Fish Bowl?

The Zoo Med nano 10 external filter from Amazon is a perfect model for small tanks. Its compact and space-saving design will complement the small size of fish bowls.

You get a 10-gallon external canister filter, carbon chemical media, bio-ceramic media, and a mechanical filter sponge. Its spray bar system will promote aeration in your fish bowl.

The filter is convenient to use thanks to the easy-to-open filter head and removable hose-connecting hose. You can expect clear and clean water with this filtration system.

What Fish Can You Keep in a Fish Bowl?

A 5-gallon fish bowl can make a decent home for one fish. You want your pet to have some room to move, and you also want to dilute the waste that the fish produces. Anything below 5-gallon will be stressful for any fish.

There are several fish that have been successfully kept in fish bowls, including:

– Bettas

Bettas are perhaps the most popular fish kept in fish bowls and other small containers. The fish have even been kept in cups! While bettas do not need a large tank, they thrive in very warm waters.

You will need to equip the bowl with an effective heater to maintain suitable temperatures. Keep one betta in one bowl as they can be aggressive to the same kind.

– Zebra Danios

The colorful bodies of zebra danios will create a stunning environment in a fish bowl. Their name is an ode to the bright stripes that extend horizontally over their bodies.

Zebra danios are low maintenance, and they are affordable to buy. Zebra danios are, however, schooling fish, and you may need to rear several of them together.

– Endler Livebearers

Endler livebearers are related to guppies, and they have an active nature in the aquarium. They need warmer temperatures, and your fish bowl will need to be equipped with a capable heater.

Keep them in a minimum of 5 gallons and use a filer with gentle water flow.

– Sparkling Gourami

The sparkling gourami is colorful and unique, but it prefers to be kept in schools. Add rocks and shells to your fish bowl to give the gouramis places to hide.


Fish bowls present a challenging task to any aquarist, given their small and restrictive size. It is your job to keep the water as clean as possible with daily water changes, but you can get a filter to make the work easier.

You can maintain a planted fish bowl by using fast-growing plants to get rid of fish waste and other toxins.

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