In general most fish bowls do not provide an adequate habitat for most aquarium fish.
Many people consider putting fish in small bowls to be animal cruelty that should be avoided at all costs since there are many challenges that come with a bowl's living environment.
There are, however, several fish that do quite well in a bowl as long they are properly cared for.
Goldfish, one of the more common fish found in fish bowls are not appropriate fish to have in a fishbowl due to their size and the amount of waste they produce.
Bettas do much better in a fishbowl than do Goldfish however they require warmer water which can be difficult to consistently provide in a fishbowl.
Animals I recommend for a smaller tank (more info on this below):
- Paradise Fish
- Endler's Livebearers
- Zebra Danios
- White Cloud Minnows
Below, I go into detail on:
- Two common fish that should not be kept in a bowl (the betta and the goldfish)
- The challenges of keeping fish in a bowl
- Fish that do well in bowl environments
- Keeping a healthy aquarium environment
Goldfish have long been considered one of the first choices for fish bowls. In reality, however, it is not a good environment for them.
While goldfish will do well in an unheated tank and are quite hardy, they produce far too much waste for the bio-filtration process to handle in such a small space.
They also grow to be too big for most bowls. Although the size of the tank can stunt the size of the goldfish, this is generally not due to the tank size but rather it is a sign of ill health and of the poor water quality in the bowl.
Most goldfish shouldn't be kept in tanks that are under 20 gallons, and they may even be better suited to small ponds once they reach maturity.
Bettas, sometimes called Siamese fighting fish, are one of the most common tropical fish kept in bowls. Although they can survive in them, a bowl is not ideal for their health.
They get their nickname because males will fight to the death if they are left in a tank together. Females may also suffer the same fate if placed in a tank with a male betta.
Why Bowls Aren't Good for Them
Even though bettas are often seen in very small tanks or containers, they are poor homes for these beautiful fish. Small containers can quickly spike in ammonia and nitrite levels which are toxic to the fish. In the wild when bettas get trapped in small pools they are assisted by tropical rains and natural vegetation which help reduce the amount of toxins found in their water.
It is also difficult to maintain a stable temperature for bettas when they are kept in small containers. In the wild, the soil and mild climate of the tropics keep the fish at very stable temperatures both day and night. When kept in captivity, temperatures can change rapidly due to cooling and heating in a home or office.
If a betta is kept in optimal living conditions, it can live a life span of five to seven years and sometimes longer.
- 2.5 gallon minimum tank size
- Aquarium heater (least at 78 degrees F)
- Places to hide, like plants, rocks, etc.
- Aquarium light
- Access to air, since bettas get oxygen from gulping air from the surface of the water
- A filtration system
Their Habitat in the Wild
Bettas come from tropical regions of Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia where they inhabit thickly vegetated marshes, slow-moving streams, rice paddies and drainage ditches. These habitats often dry up to some degree in the dry season, leaving the fish temporarily in smaller pools and bodies of water.
Bettas have developed the ability to jump from pool to pool, enabling them to seek larger bodies of water and helping them survive during these drier periods. They also have what is known as a labyrinth organ. This specialized organ helps fish breath air from the surface of the water when water conditions become poorly oxygenated.
Although bettas can survive in these poor conditions, it is not ideal. Bettas prefer large pools or slow-moving rivers with lots of vegetation to hide in. Male bettas are believed to have a territory of at least three square feet in the wild.
Many bettas seem to enjoy small artificial single leaf decorations commonly known as betta hammocks or betta beds.
The betta bed is placed an inch or two below the surface of the water to give the fish a place to rest where it can watch for food and guard its territory.
The following is a list of some possible fish bowl pets and how you can keep them healthy.
If you want a fish similar to a betta for your fishbowl, the paradise fish may be a good alternative.
This fish (macropodus opercularis) is a species of gourami and a close relative of the betta. Male paradise fish can change their coloration as they defend their territory from other males or court females. When these displays occur, the males will often display their finnage in a similar manner as the betta.
Habitat and Food Details
Paradise fish can tolerate a wide range of water conditions. Compared to the betta, they also come from cooler climates, so they can tolerate unheated fish bowls much better than them.
This kind of fish is easy to care for and will accept just about any type of fish food. For best health, they should be served high-protein food.
Guppies are one of the easiest tropical fish available for beginner hobbyists. These beautiful fish come in some amazing color varieties and are quite hardy.
Behavior and Habitat
For best results in a fish bowl, the wild-type feeder guppies are a good choice. These guppies should do well in smaller bowls, adapting to the small living quarters and changing temperatures.
Guppies are a schooling fish and should be kept in small groups. If you don't want any baby fish (fry) you may wish to keep a small group of 3 - 5 males depending on the size of the bowl.
If you wish to breed the guppies, it is helpful to have trios as small as one male and two females. Too few females will result in the females being over courted by the males.
Guppies are not recommended for a fish bowl if you are breeding them. Uncontrolled breeding can quickly lead to overcrowding, leaving them susceptible to disease and sickness.
Closely related to the guppy, many of the pure Endler's livebearer strains are thought to be extinct in the wild.
If you're want a fish that is unique, active and easy to care for, this might be just what you're looking for.