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Why Fish Bowls Are Bad For Your Fish

Updated on February 15, 2016

Bowls Are Bad!

Fish-keeping has evolved over centuries, from small vases and bowl to the high-tech aquariums of today. Unfortunately, some fish-keepers haven't advanced along too, and still keep their pets in the dreaded fish bowl. Ironically, fish bowls are not suitable homes for aquarium fish, whether they're goldfish or bettas or any other animal. The Essential Goldfish: Total Care, Housing, and Feeding Your Goldfish, Keeping Your Pet Healthy, Breeding by Maddy Hargrove says about the fish bowl- "A muddy puddle in a deep pothole would probably be better." And for many reasons:

  • The shape of the bowl minimizes the surface-to-air ratio. This is the proportion of how much water surface is exposed to air as opposed to the rest of the water. The higher the ratio, the more oxygen will dissolve into the water, allowing the fish to breathe more easily. The rectangular form of an aquarium alllows for a larger surface-to-air ratios, keeping O2 levels up.

This bowl is too small for a betta fish to thrive.
This bowl is too small for a betta fish to thrive.
  • The size of the bowl makes it virtually impossible to keep a regulated temperature, as it's too small to fit a heater (unless you want an overheated tank) and the amount of water is too little for the temperature to stay the same. Also, most pet fish kept today are tropical and need a heater to keep the water warmer than room temperature. Betta fish, one of the most popular choices for a fish bowl, are an example of a warm-water fish.

These are the only fish that belong in a bowl!
These are the only fish that belong in a bowl!

Did You Know?

....that the lawmakers in Rome have banned fish bowls? Monica Cirinna, the councillor behind this law, stated, "It's good to do whatever we can for out animals who, in exchange for a little love, fill our existence with their attention."

  • The size of a fish bowl also cannot accommodate a filter. This is a huge problem because filters oxygenate water so fish can breathe as well as and pick up solid waste from the water. It keeps the waste from decomposing and producing chemicals toxic to your fish.
  • No swimming room! Your fish need space to explore their surroundings, so there should be enough room for some hiding places for when they're scared and want to chill for a bit.
  • The open top is an obvious danger for a suicidal fish- and who wouldn't be depressed if they lived in a bowl? The fish can jump out and suffocate on your living room carpet! Toxins can also fall into the water and poison them, or even a hungry cat could go fishing for his next meal.
  • The curved glass makes the fish's view distorted, stressing out the animal. Imagine if huge blurry blobs were walking around your window every day.

Have a Heart

If you buy a pet, whether it's a fish or a dog, it is your responsibility to make sure s/he gets the best care possible under your ownership. Animals are not toys- they are living creatures and need to be respected and treated right. This includes fish. If you're keeping a fish in a bowl, do the right thing and buy a proper aquarium!

Photos by: sarae and House Of Sims


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    • Blue_Oranda89 profile image

      Blue_Oranda89 6 years ago

      Very nice hub, you did a great job!

    • finatics profile image

      finatics 5 years ago

      Thank you Blue_Oranda89!

    • Jeannieinabottle profile image

      Jeannie InABottle 5 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      Thanks for creating this hub. It breaks my heart when I see bettas stuck in those little bowls at the pet store.

    • finatics profile image

      finatics 5 years ago

      You're welcome, jeannieinabottle. Unfortunately, when pet stores sell their animals in tiny, cramped quarters, it leads customers to believe it's okay, and helps propagate the myth that fish bowls are healthy ways to keep fish. The only way to stop this is if people do better research before they impulsively buy their fish.

    • Paramorefan 5 years ago

      If you are thinking of getting a fish please get one from Walmart, they don't give them any attention and they always end up getting sick or mutated (i would know i bought a 1 eyed gold fish from them) please help those fish

    • finatics profile image

      finatics 5 years ago

      Hey Paramorefan (love that band!) I would actually not recommend buying from Walmart because if you do, you support the store and allow them to replace the fish you bought with even more that will be neglected.

    • pldominice profile image

      Patricia Dominice 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      LOVE this article!

      I just wrote one about the goldfish bowl myth, haha. I work in a pet store and I get this every day and its awful to have to explain this all day long, but I'd rather do it than the alternative, of course.

    • finatics profile image

      finatics 5 years ago

      Thank you, pldominice! It does get irritating when people don't do proper research on their pet's care. I'm glad to hear that you are helping to spread the word on fish bowl cruelty!

    • hannahbanana09091 5 years ago

      k i do agree but bettas dont need lots of air right? so its not that bad to keep bettas in bowls but any other fish is wrong in my opionion. i still kinda think its mean to keep bettas in a bowl but its not horrible...

    • finatics profile image

      finatics 4 years ago

      @hannahbanana09091, yes but the difference between bettas and other fish is that they can SURVIVE in a bowl, but they will never thrive. Is that a humane choice to do to your pet?

      @saha, I completely agree that it is necessary for us to respect all life.

    • bettaowner 4 years ago

      what about a big bowl with a filter and airstone

    • Cybermouse profile image

      Cybermouse 4 years ago from Bentonville, AR

      Great hub! Every site that has any information at all about fish care should have this hub, or something like it, as a must-read sticky note kind of thing before you can even join the site. If more people knew about proper fish care, I don't think they'd be quite as popular as pets. Getting a small bowl with no filter is about like buying a dead fish, if you've never cared for fish before.

      I find it sad and deplorable that people keep fish in bowls, or worse, tiny vases, like they're just a moving flower or something. Makes me wonder if they even feed them - how would you get the food down there without taking the plants out every time? Someone that's too lazy to get a proper tank is probably too lazy to even feed the poor fish to begin with, much less change the water frequently enough to do any good.

      I was horrified last week when I learned that a coworker who was quitting and moving away had stopped feeding and changing water for his betta (presumably in hopes it would die so he didn't have to take it back with him). I immediately offered to take the betta and was surprised to find it in decent health, chugging along just fine after apparently several weeks of malnutrition and dirty water. It's a good thing they're resilient - but as you said, that's no excuse to treat them badly or provide them less attention and care than any other pet.

    • KZHVX 4 years ago

      Awesome article!

      Thank you for clarifying exactly why, I will be sure to mention this to customers from now on :)

      Ps Loved the Campbells fish soup part!

    • NOYB 4 years ago

      If fishbowls should be outlawed, then so should ALL aquariums!

    • John 4 years ago

      Bowls and aquariums are really different. A betta averages 2-3 years in a bowl 5-7 and sometimes 10 years in a heated filtered big enough tank.

    • John 4 years ago

      I forgot to add I keep my male in a ten gallon he is two years old. My female is a year old in a twenty gallon community tank. I belong to senoir member choclatebetta.

    • NOYB 4 years ago

      I've had a betta last for eight years and he lived in a one gallon bowl with no heater or filter!

    • Camdyn 4 years ago

      I have had a betta in a fish bowl for almost 3 years and he seems to be doing just fine so plz tell me what is the normal lifespan of a betta fish

      and also very nice job stating the importance i will try to fix my betta in a bowl if needed

    • Whyhellothere 4 years ago

      Does this mean that you're a vegetarian?

    • surah 4 years ago

      thank you very much! i was considering to put fish in the bowl until i read ur article.. very informative... thank you!

    • Chalcedony 4 years ago

      It's nice that you explained all this, but as an experienced Fish tank keeper I can tell you that your video of the "happy Beta Fish" is not much better than bowl you're talking of: It is way too small for it; every fish needs at least 54 litres. In my country, the employees of the pet store will refuse to sell you any fish if you tell them, your fish tank is smaller than that.

      You can also see, that fish is not happy by swimming along the glass pane; this means he is not happy at all and wants to escape his prison. And in the fish tank, there should be more (real) plants, the Beta's natural environment is a messy underwater jungle.

      Please, if you keep living beings, treat them like they deserve it and in an environment, that ressembles their natural ones. Thank you.

    • ra 2 years ago

      You must be a strict vegetarian, right? :)

    • Jackie 17 months ago

      What about gold fish? They don't have to be kept warm and I know of doctor's offices who have had them for years and they do just fine?

    • Pet 3 months ago

      My fish live in a 15 litre bowl with filter, a live plant and an ornament. They look happy.

    • Trevor 3 months ago

      I too have seen betta fish stuck in a fish bowel. Except for the swimming space problem.You can have a small pump leading outside of the tank witch than lead into a filter.That would also allow for more O2. As for the cat eating it you could have a small lid.Be ware, I am not arguing angst you but I am just stating that for people who cant afford a proper tank. But please if you do want to get a pet fish, at least get a five gallon and don't over croud the tank.The general rule of thumb is 1 inch of fish for 1 gallon of water but this does not work for all fish.

    • May 3 months ago

      Hi, I have two small molly fishes about 2 to 3 inches and I feed them in a about 20cm x 10cm rectangular tank. May I ask is it ok for the fish ?Thanks.

    • May 3 months ago

      Hi, I have two small molly fishes about 2 to 3 inches and I feed them in a about 20cm x 10cm rectangular tank. May I ask is it ok for the fish ?Thanks.

    • 8 weeks ago


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