How to Setup a Planted Fish Bowl?

A plant bowl can be a lovely indoor garden, and you can use it to decorate any room in your home. Small containers are not ideal for fish, but you can keep snails and a few shrimp.

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A planted bowl does not need a filter or heater, and it is easy to maintain even for a beginner. The plants purify the water and they will also utilize the waste from the shrimps and snails. Here is how to set up a planted fish bowl:

Planted Fish Bowl Setup

Some essentials to include in a planted fish bowl include:

– Substrate

The choice of the substrate will primarily depend on whether you need one with nutrients or without.

Inert substrates do not have any nutrients for plants, and you will have to add fertilizers in the bowl. These substrates are easy to manage as they do not break down over time. You don’t have to worry about algal growth with inert substrates.

Active substrates, on the other hand, support plant growth with a variety of nutrients. The substrates should be replaced every few years, and they can easily cause ammonia spikes.

While gravel and sand are quite popular in aquariums, they are not ideal solutions unless you add a top nutrient-dense layer. You can use fluorite, which is made from materials like clay and volcanic soil. It is lightweight and it does not compact easily.

Another substrate type to use in planted bowls is aqua soil. You can add a layer of sand underneath this substrate, and it will add a natural aesthetic to your container.

Some aquarists use potting soil, but you have to be careful to ensure it stays submerged. If you want to use gravel, you will have to buy a water-soluble fertilizer or root tabs to nourish your plants.

Rinse the substrate of your choice to get rid of dust and other impurities. Once the water is clear, layer the bottom of the bowl with 3-4 inches to accommodate the roots of plants.

– Water

As soon as your substrate is settled on the container’s bottom, you can then add water. It should be pre-conditioned to remove chlorine, chloramines, and other harmful elements.

The water should also be given time to achieve room temperature which is around 70-80 °F. Fill in the water slowly to avoid disturbing the substrate.

– Live Plants

You will need to choose some easy-to-keep live plants for your bowl.

Java moss is popular because it thrives in a wide range of conditions. It can survive in a temperature range of 59-86 °F and a PH of 5.0-8.0.

It will create hiding spaces for snails and shrimps, and it will establish thickets of growth in intense light. The Anubias Nana is a slow grower but it is also incredibly hardy. You can attach the plant to wood or rocks.

Hornwort is a quick grower and it can be left floating to seek the spot with the richest light. You need to trim this plant frequently as it can easily dominate your bowl. The marimo moss ball is a fascinating addition to any tank.

These green balls float around the aquarium attracting debris, and shrimps like the red cherry variety like to play with them. Other plants to consider include water weeds and frogbits.

You will need to establish the root of the plants firmly in the substrate. You can also use decorations like driftwood and rocks to enhance the beauty of the bowl.

– Lighting

The live plants will require lighting to grow, but you should avoid direct sunlight to discourage algal growth.

You can choose plants that will be fine with normal daylight or buy a small 5-10 watt LED lamp. Leave the lamp on for 6-8 hours a day.

Fish Bowl Maintenance

A fish bowl may be low maintenance, but you still need to ensure that the water conditions are ideal for the plants and invertebrates.

A weekly 30-50% water change is recommended since a fish bowl has no filtration system. The waste produced by the shrimps and snails can quickly build up and result in the presence of ammonia and nitrites. You should also top off the container with dechlorinated water every day.

You also need to clean the fish bowl as you do a water change. The decorations can be removed and cleaned if there is algae, and you should also scrub the glass.

Some live plants grow quickly, and they require the occasional trim. Tall plants can easily block light from reaching other plants and the invertebrates in the container.

Can You Keep Fish in a Bowl?

Contrary to popular belief, fish bowls are not easier to maintain. They require long-term expertise since the water conditions keep fluctuating.

The major problem with fish bowls is that they lack filtration, which means that any fish you add will be swimming in their waste. Fish waste results in the presence of ammonia, which is easily diluted in larger tanks.

Goldfish and bettas are the most common varieties in fish bowls. Goldfish is a poor choice for a container since they produce a lot of waste. Bettas need tropical temperatures, which can only be attained with the use of a heater.

You can use a 5-gallon bowl to give the fish ample room to move around. Perform weekly water changes or more to protect the water quality. You should also give the fish meals that they can consume in 3-5 minutes.

Can You Keep Shrimps and Snails in a Fish Bowl?

Shrimps and snails make better occupants for fish bowls. Dwarf shrimps such as red cherry shrimps and nerite snails will not take up much space, and they will feed on any algae in your tank.

Their bio-load is also small, which is ideal for an unfiltered setup. When buying snails, research on their adult size to ensure that they will not outgrow your container.

What Glass Container Can You Use Instead of a Fish Bowl?

You can pretty much utilize any glass container you have lying around, including a glass vase, glass jar, bigger vine glass, or transparent plastic container.


A planted fish bowl can be a beautiful centerpiece and an indoor garden. Most fish will find a fish bowl inhabitable since the water conditions tend to fluctuate a lot. You can keep shrimps and snails in a small container, or you can upgrade to a 5-gallon tank and keep fish.

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