Largest Betta fish

June 20, 2021
My tiny little pet store fish

An overview of keeping fish in a fish bowl. A brief history. Pros and cons.

Keeping aquarium fish is a wonderful and exciting hobby, but it shouldn’t just be about your own enjoyment – you also have to think about what is best for your fish. Practically speaking, keeping fish in a fish bowl isn't typically a good environment for most fish. The truth is, however, for many people keeping fish in a fish bowl is the natural first step to keeping fish as a hobby. A fish bowl really doesn’t provide your fish with the space or water volume they need to thrive – uneaten fish food, accumulated waste and dissolved toxins will build up in the tank, resulted in decreased water quality. If you are determined to keep your fish in a bowl, however, there are some ways that you can improve the environment for your fish.

This article will first give you an overview of keeping fish in a fish bowl. After that, we'll share a brief history of fish bowls and go over common sizes that you can find for fish bowls. After that we'll discuss pros and cons for keeping a fish bowl. Then we'll go over things to keep in mind with fish bowls. After that, we'll provide you with some tips on keeping fish in fish bowls. We'll finish this article with online sources for you.

Keeping Fish in Fish Bowls

If you have ever been to a county fair, you have probably seen those games where you can win a goldfish in a bowl. This practice has resulted in countless fish being taken home and kept in small bowls. Keeping fish in a fish bowl is probably the simplest way you could keep a pet fish in your house – all you need is the bowl, fish, water, and food. For as many critics of the fish bowl there are in the world, there are just as many who continue to practice fishkeeping using glass bowls. If you know how to meet the needs of your fish while keeping him in a fish bowl, it certainly can be done – it just may take a bit more work than it might if you kept your fish in a larger tank. If you really want to keep your fish in a bowl, you need to be ready to clean it often to keep the environment healthy for your fish.


The history of keeping fish for either food or as pets goes back at least 4, 000 years. The Chinese have a long history of keeping fish inside the home in containers. Supposedly, Madame Dubarry, Mistress to King Louis XV invented the glass fish bowl sometime in the mid-18th century. Today it is still common to see certain types of fish kept in small containers – this is particularly true for Siamese Fighting Fish (betta splendens). Proponents of the fish bowl maintain that, in the wild, these fish are found in very limited habitats (such as rice paddies and even roadside puddles).

Within the past century, there has been a great deal of controversy surrounding the idea of keeping fish in bowls. In 1902, G. Bateman remarked in an issue of Freshwater Aquaria that, “the common glass globe… has nothing whatever to recommend it, except perhaps to those who delight to have their unfortunate captives suspected by a chain from the ceiling in front of the window.” In 1910, Hugo Mulertt said “the old-fashioned fish globe is about the worst vessel that can be selected for the keeping of goldfish as pets.” It should be mentioned that the main issue that seems to be raised with keeping fish in bowls is the size of the environment. Today, however, a new trend toward smaller fish tanks (called “nano” tanks) is gaining popularity – some aquarium hobbyists wonder if the two are really that different.

Common shapes and sizes

Today it is possible to find fish bowls in virtually any size and shape. Below you will find a list of some of the most common shapes and styles:

  • Classic drum style (this is wider from left to right than it is deep, from front to back). For the same size, you'll find more water volume in a round style.
  • Round style. This type fish bowl is completely round. Has a larger water volume capacity than a classic drum style of the same size.
  • New Bio-orb styles. These are new set-ups that include filtration systems and are usually much larger than your traditional fish bowl.
  • Marineland sells fish bowls set in frames that include a little light. They're marketing this bowl to house Bettas.
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