Some people like the idea of keeping a betta in a bowl like the old ‘goldfish in a bowl’ routine, but nowadays even goldfish aren’t sold without the recommendation of a filtered aquarium we. In many cases it’s not fair on the betta (nor the goldfish) and, if done incorrectly, it constitutes animal cruelty.
If you’ve bought a betta with the misconception that you can just put it in a bowl of water, we recommend you read our articles on the best betta tanks or how to set up your own betta tank, and choose something more suitable for the little guy. This is an honest mistake that people make — buying a betta and thinking that it can live happily in a bowl — so don’t beat yourself up about it if you have, but you should look to rectify the situation as soon as possible.
Bettas are regarded as hardy fish, and they can survive, relatively speaking, rough conditions, but that doesn’t make it enjoyable for them. In the same sense that you could survive living in a room that has no windows and only enough space for a single bed, it wouldn’t be comfortable long term.
Why keeping a betta in a bowl is a bad idea
Your bowl will need to be big (we advise at least 20 litres, with a filter) and due to the spherical nature of a bowl, installing a filter isn’t easy.
Any non-built-in filters in aquariums usually need to be situated against the smooth surface of an aquarium wall. This is so that the suction cups that hold the filter in place can effectively keep the filter sturdy.
Seeing as a bowl doesn’t have a flat wall surface, it will make it difficult to securely attach a filter to the tank. The same thing can be said for the aquarium heater, which your betta will also need in his bowl, unless the room consistently sits at a suitable temperature, which unless you live in a country with extreme climate or have a room in your house that is heated for reptiles (or similar), is very unlikely. It is also best if a heater is stuck to the aquarium wall.
How’s it different to keeping a goldfish in a bowl?
Again keeping a betta in a bowl is not the same as keeping a goldfish in a bowl for various reasons. In fact, these days goldfish aren’t typically sold in a bowl without a filter. Any reputable pet store will say you need a filter with your goldfish.
A filter is a necessity because it will keep the fish’s water clean, thus keeping the fish healthy. Furthermore, the less water the fish is kept in, the more likely the quality of the water will diminish, meaning your fish is more likely to get ill. Read about filtration here.
Bettas are intelligent fish and will need more stimulation than a just a bowl and water — plants and decorations will make the little guy much happier. If you decide to use an aquarium light on the bowl (LED, for example), you could even put live plants in the aquarium. This will make a betta happy.
Whilst it is possible to add plants, a light and decorations to a bowl, it will be far easier doing so with a square or rectangular tank.
I’ve read the above, I understand the problems, but I still want to know how to care for a betta in a bowl.
If you are adamant about keeping a betta in a bowl without a filter or heater, we recommend that you at least stick to the guidelines below for the tank:
- It should be a big bowl, 20 litres minimum.
- It should be in a warm room (warmer than the average room temperature), that consistently stays above the minimum temperature suitable for a betta. This scenario is only likely to occur if you are in a country that has a warm climate all year round, or if you have something like a reptile room that is already heated. A bowl without a heater and sitting at room temperature will be too cold for your betta. For more information read our guide on betta heating.
- Carry out regular water changes. We recommend doing a 40% water change every 3 days.
As for ongoing care like feeding, the same applies as with rectangular tanks, and you can refer to our betta care guides. You should also read our guide on betta tank cleaning, as the same principles apply to cleaning a betta bowl.
Can we recommend a proper tank one last time?
If you’re using a bowl, it will be hard work creating an environment and careflow that will make you and your betta happy. You’re much better off opting for a pre-built tank, or assembling a suitable one yourself. It will be less work for you in the long run and more comfortable for your betta.