Which fish can live in a bowl without a filter?

There are different types of fish you can keep either at home or the office and as they swim in their tank or bowl, you get this sense of peace just by watching them. 

Different fish need different environments to survive. Some will need a pump and filter to let oxygen into the tank and others exist just fine without one.

In this article, we will take a look at some of the types of fish that can survive without a filter together with other things you will need to keep in mind while caring for such fish.

You should also check out our names for pet fish

Reasons for keeping fish in a fishbowl

  • Some fish are small. If you have little room in your office or home, you might consider keeping a fish in a bowl rather than an aquarium.
  • They are more manageable. If you are gifting a fish to a child, for example, a fishbowl will be easier for them to be responsible for. This, however, does not mean that the child should be solely in charge of the fish’s care.
  • If you are only keeping one small fish or several small fish that would exist peacefully, then a fishbowl might be for you.

Which fish species can live in a bowl without a filter?

Not all fish can thrive inside a bowl without air filters. When selecting a fish that can live in a bowl, here are some of the things you should have in mind:

  • Look for small fish as they will not need a lot of space to swim around.
  • Find fish that aren’t as social. Those that thrive individually and don’t do as well in community tanks.
  • Hardy fish remain healthy when the conditions of the water constantly change. They would be a good fit for a bowl with no filter.
  • You should look for cold-water fish so they survive even when the water temperature rises and falls, they are still okay.

Here are some of the species you should opt for if you have many reasons to have a fish live in a bowl:

Guppy fish

This tropical freshwater fish is also sometimes called the million fish or the rainbow fish. They are so-called because of their wide range of coloration and aesthetic iridescent coats.

 It grows up to a maximum of two and a half inches long and lives for around two years. 

Although they do not need to have a filter in their habitat, they would love a bowl with rocks, substrate, and plenty of plant cover.

The rainbow fish has a peaceful temperament and enjoys swimming about in their enclosure. They are also social and would thrive in an enclosure with other guppies. Other alternatives of fish you can keep in the bowl with your guppy are mollies, ghost shrimp, and platyfish. You should not, however, keep guppy fishes in the same enclosure with barbs, tetra fish, and red-tailed black sharks.

Betta fish

This fish is scientifically known as the Betta splendes and traces its origins to Asia. Their original habitat is in shallow ponds and slow-moving streams, a reason they would exist well in a bowl. Their preferred water temperature is between 75 and 81 degrees Fahrenheit.

Their most striking feature is their tails that have bright colors, which get more intense during mating season. The betta fish grows up to 3 inches long and has a lifespan of between three and five years.

Their temperament is calm when they are in solitary and when paired with other betta fish and species they get along with. However, as mating season approaches, the males begin to get hostile with each other, so it isn’t advised to put more than one male in a bowl.

Some of their ideal bowl-mates are the Cory catfish, ghost shrimp, and feeder guppies. Do not keep them together with killifish, Oscars, Acaras, and fish with flowing tails.


They are so-called because of the horizontal blue/purple stripes across their bodies. They grow up to two inches long and live for up to five years.

They are curious and social, so they enjoy being with other zebrafish or compatible species. They also love to swim around. 

They are peaceful and can live well with swordtail fish, barbs, corydoras, and loaches. They are incompatible with guppies, betta fish, and angelfish.

Pygmy Corydoras

These fish are adorably small, as they grow to a length of 1 inch. This also makes it a bit difficult to tell their scale colors. They have a 3 to 5-year lifespan and thrive in water temperatures of 72 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit.

They are very peaceful, relating well with their bowl roommates. They spend most of their time at the bottom of the bowl but will occasionally come up for air when it is low in the bowl’s water.

They cohabit well with zebrafish, cherry barbs, neon tetras, and mollies. They should not be kept with large fish or any that can open their mouths wider than an inch.

How to care for fish that can live without a filter

Here are a couple of pointers for when you bring your fish home:

Choose the right-shaped bowl

Choose a bowl design that allows a lot of the water surface to be in contact with the air. This will mean more oxygen leaving and more carbon dioxide leaving.

Change the water

Ensure you partially drain and refill the tank every 3 to 5 days since there is no filter to remove dirt. This ensures your fish live in a clean environment. If you are refilling with tap water, you might need to use a water conditioner to get rid of chlorine and anything else that might be unsafe for your fish.

Invest in plants

Try to get as much underwater vegetation as you can in there without overcrowding. These will produce oxygen and take in waste. You can get plants like moneywort, java moss, java fern, and Anubias.

Get a good substrate

A substrate provides grounds for good bacteria that assist the plants to convert the fish’s waste into nutrients. 

Do this by planting the plants in the bowl on a substrate before introducing the water and the fish.

If you are looking for more content on other animals, you can begin here: When is the Right Time to Get a Family Pet?, Hypoallergenic Pets, Largest species of wolf, Fennec Foxes As Pets, How To Get Rid of Gophers, Keeping French Lops as Pets

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