Can You Keep Betta Fish In A Bowl? (Complete Guide)

One of the things that has always baffled us is the number of people that try to squeeze their Betta fish into the tightest imaginable spaces. It is as if people hear that Betta fish live in small spaces in the wild and, therefore, they will enjoy living in small spaces in captivity too. The problem is that things do not work like this. Putting your fish in a small vase (we have seen people do this) is far different to a Betta living in the same size space in the wild. Some people will opt for larger spaces, such as bowls. But, is this really the best way to raise a Betta?

On this page, we are going to talk a little bit about whether you can keep a Betta in a bowl and, perhaps more importantly, how you can ensure that they are happy while living in that bowl. We are also going to talk a little bit about whether a fish tank may be a better option than a fishbowl for a Betta.

Can You Keep Betta Fish in a Bowl?

In theory, a Betta fish can live in a fishbowl. You will have to make sure that it is set up properly, though. This means ensuring that it has the right size. You will also need to ensure that it has a proper filtration system in place and even the right decorations. While a fishbowl is never going to be the preferred place for a Betta fish to live, you can make it habitable if you know what you are doing.

What Does a Betta Fish Bowl Need?

In order to ensure that a fish bowl is habitable for a Betta fish, there are a few things that you are going to need to make sure that you have in place. It isn’t going to be a case of just throwing some water in a bowl and adding your fish. You will need to have some proper fish aquarium equipment otherwise your Betta is unlikely to last a week.

Minimum Size

During the research for this article, we looked into what other people recommended as the minimum size for a fish bowl. A lot of people seemed to suggest 2.5-gallons. The problem is that a fish bowl of this size is far, far too small for a Betta fish.

Betta fish need to be constantly stimulated. This means that they need to have a lot of space that they can swim around in. The more space, the better. Yes. Betta fish do live in small bodies of shallow water in the wild, but we can guarantee that pretty much anywhere that a Betta fish lives is going to have a lot more than 2.5-gallons of water.

Even if the space to swim about wasn’t an issue, there is less water surface area with smaller fish bowls. This can make it tricky for the Betta fish to breathe. In fact, Betta fish are known to die due to lack of oxygen in smaller fish bowls.

At the minimum, you will need to have 5-gallons of water in a fish bowl. However, this can be a bit tricky to do. This is because not many companies make 5-gallon fish bowls. As a result, you will have to buy a fish tank instead. 

Please. If you take one piece of advice from this page, let it be the fact that you should not be putting your Betta fish into a small fish bowl. It will die. The aesthetics of their enclosure shouldn’t be more important than the happiness of the Betta. 


There needs to be some sort of filtration system in any fish enclosure. It becomes even more important in a small fish bowl.

Fish produce a lot of waste. This can lead to bacteria and filth starting to form the fish bowl. If this isn’t filtered out, then your fish will have no choice but to ingest it. If they ingest it, then they may get sick. This can lead to them dying.

A water filtration system installed in the bowl will help to keep the fish bowl as clean as possible for the fish. It is not going to remove everything, though. You will still need to change out the water and clean the fish tank on a fairly regularly basis. In fact, on average, you should be cleaning that fish tank at least once per week. 


Betta fish need to live in warm water. Ideally, the water will be between 75F and 80F. Anything lower than that and the Betta will start to get cold. If they get cold, then various processes in their body will start to shut down. For example, Betta fish living in colder waters will have an immune system that doesn’t work quite as effectively. This means that they are more prone to getting sick, which, ultimately, means that they are more likely to have a shortened lifespan. 


Betta fish are well known for jumping out of their enclosures, particularly if the water is quite shallow. This means that you are going to need to have a lid on the bowl. If there is no lid, then we can promise you that the Betta fish is going to jump out eventually.

Remember, that the lid will also prevent other animals getting inside of the fish bowl e.g. poisonous insects, or even a cat.


Gravel is the best substrate that you can use in a fish bowl.

Gravel is great for helping to filter the water a little bit i.e. it can help to remove some of the bacteria. Not all of it.

Gravel also cannot be swallowed by the Betta fish. So, you don’t have to worry about them grabbing their food from the bottom of the bowl. If you had some sand down there, then there is a strong chance that the Betta can end up swallowing it. This can kill them.

Gravel also doesn’t float. Since Betta fish are very delicate fish, particularly around the fins, this is important. It means that your Betta’s fins are not going to be torn to shreds by rogue substrate. 


Betta fish are intelligent fish. This means that they need something to keep them mentally stimulated. Decorations go a long way here. Small plants they can swim in and out of. Little artificial caves. That sort of thing.

Do make sure that any decorations that you put into the fish bowl are aquarium safe. If they are not, then they can kill your fish. We suggest that you try to steer clear of artificial plants. This is because they are often made from pretty tough wire. This can seriously injure your Betta fish. This means that you should always choose real plants. 

Air Bubbler

It is important that the water that your Betta is in is well-oxygenated. This means that the Betta will be able to breathe which, of course, is exceedingly important for a living animal. 

The problem with most fish bowls is that the top of them is quite narrow. This will prevent oxygen from flowing freely into the bowl. This is a bad thing. Due to the small spaces that Betta normally live in, they will often need to get oxygen from the water’s surface. If there is very little air flowing in from the top of the bowl, they may end up suffocating. 

An air bubbler will often solve this problem. It just adds a bit of extra oxygen into the water. Although, do bear in mind that an air bubbler can take up a lot of space in a fish bowl.

black and red betta

Recommended Bowl For Bettas?

It is tough to provide you with any recommendations for Betta fish bowls. This is because, as we said, the minimum amount of space that a Betta needs is 5-gallons of water. The vast majority of fishbowls on the market will cap out between 2 and 3 gallons of water. This is because many people seem to believe that 2.5-gallons of water is all the space that a Betta needs. It isn’t.

This means that it would be wrong of us to provide you with a recommended bowl, because we know that your fish is not going to be happy in it. We also know that it will drastically shorten their lifespan. Therefore, you should be looking at a minimum of 5-gallon tanks. Although, the more space that your Betta has available, the better!

If you’re desperate to get a bowl, however, I’d recommend getting the Bi-Orb 8 Gallon or 16 Gallon! These are going to be far more expensive than fish tanks though.

What Are Some Common Problems With Bowls?

Nearly every single fish bowl that you purchase is going to be undersized for your Betta fish. No matter what people tell you, a 2.5-gallon tank is not going to be large enough. This means that, right away, you have a major problem with fish bowls. There just isn’t enough space inside of them.

If you do find a bowl that is large enough, then it is going to be pretty weighty and cumbersome to move around, which is probably why they do not make that many of them in the first place. This can make it very, very difficult to clean the water in the fish bowl. 

You also have to remember that the sides of a fish bowl are going to be rounded. This means that it is very, very tricky to stick the water filtration system onto it. This means that the water may not be filtered as efficiently as it would be inside a tank. Yes. There are water filters designed for fish bowls but very few of them for 5-gallon fish bowls. 

Fish bowls will generally not have lids either. This isn’t good for Betta fish because they are either fantastic escape artists or incredibly suicidal animals. The jury is still out on that one. You can get around this problem by making your own cover but, at that point, why not just get a fish tank in the first place?

Fish Tanks vs Fish Bowls

It seems that the only advantage that fish bowls have over fish tanks is the aesthetics. We haven’t ever seen people talk about how easy it is to maintain a fish bowl. It is more about how beautiful they can make them look. The problem is that when you are raising an animal, the beauty of their enclosure should really be playing second fiddle to the health and happiness of the animal.

Fish tanks are larger than fish bowls. As we have said numerous times on this page, Betta fish need at least five gallons of water in their tank. You aren’t going to be finding this with most fish bowls. In fact, it was tricky for us to track any fish bowls of this size down. You will probably end up having exactly the same issue that we did. Since you want your Betta fish to be healthy, then you need a tank. They cannot thrive in the smaller bowls.

Even if you do find a larger fish bowl, you will often find that the oxygen flow into the bowl is going to be restricted. Due to the way in which Betta fish breathe, it is important that this is not the case. There needs to be a lot of air flowing in through the top of the fish bowl. This is because the Betta will often return to the surface in order to breathe oxygen. You can deal with this a little bit by oxygenating the water properly but, remember, if you do that, you aren’t really going to be encouraging natural behavior in the Betta.

It is a lot easier to maintain fish tanks too. This is because fish tanks will have been designed with filtration and heating systems in mind. This means that it is going to be a lot easier for you to maintain proper conditions inside of the fish tank. This means that your Betta is probably going to live a far longer life.

Finally, you also have to remember that the shape of a fish bowl means that you are not able to fit quite so much in it. This isn’t mentally stimulating for the Betta fish. This can quite often lead to boredom. If your fish is bored, then they are not going to be all that pleasurable to look at. In fact, it is a pretty sad feeling to watch a fish that is so unhappy with their enclosure that they simply do not do anything. Bored Betta fish may even sturggle to swim around thier tank due to the lack of stimulation. 

All in all, this isn’t really going to be a competition. If you are faced with the choice of putting your Betta in a fish tank or a fish bowl, then it should be a fish tank all the way. We can promise you that your animal will live longer, be happier, and be much better to look at because it is more likely to show of its natural behaviors. There is no sense in keeping fish if you cannot observe them being happy, right?


Can Betta Fish Live in a Bowl Without a Filter?

In theory, yes. If you are cleaning the bowl regularly, and we mean properly cleaning it, then the Betta fish could probably survive without a filter being in there. However, the cleaning should happen every couple of days. It will save a lot of time and effort just having a filter in the first place. If you are worried about the aesthetics, there are ways to cover up the filter.

Does a Betta Fish Bowl Need to Be Covered?

Yes. Betta fish are notorious for attempting to jump out of their fish bowls. Unless you want a dead Betta fish on your countertop, then it is important that there is a cover to the fish bowl. Try to ensure that this is a breathable cover i.e. netting. It helps the fish out a little bit more on the breathing front.

How Often Should I Clean a Betta Fish Bowl?

It depends on the size of the bowl. It is recommended that the average fish bowl is cleaned at least once per week. Every few days, you should be changing at least 30-50% of the water in the fish bowl. This will help to keep the tank clean and ensure that your Betta fish can survive living in it.


While there are some people that will keep Betta fish in a bowl, it is not recommended. It is incredibly difficult to find a bowl that is going to be the right size for a Betta fish. Even if you do, a fish bowl is going to hold no advantages over a tank outside of aesthetics. If you put a Betta fish in a fish bowl, then we can guarantee that they are going to be a lot unhappier than they would be if they were swimming around in a nice and airy fish tank.

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