A small bowl is the cheapest and quickest place for beginner aquarists to start keeping fish. It is the least expensive approach compared to other methods since it will not require features such as heaters, filters, and other tank accessories.

The best fish that can live in a small bowl include bettas, white cloud minnows, salt and pepper corydoras, ember tetra, six-ray corydoras, guppies, blind cave tetras, zebra danios, pea pufferfish, goldfish, and scarlet badis. Fish bowl fishes need to be hardy, small, and comfortable in cold water.

However, these bowls will accommodate unique varieties of fish due to oxygen and ecological requirements. Therefore,  it is essential to determine the suitable inhabitants in these bowls as some factors may limit the survival of some varieties of bowl fish.

Fish That Can Live in a Small Bowl

Let’s dive in and identify the 10 best fish that can live in a small bowl:

1. Guppies

Fish enthusiasts regard guppies as their favorite fish. They come in multiple color variations that add curb appeal to the bowl or aquarium. Male guppies appear to be relatively attractive and brighter than their female counterparts. 

Generally, guppies breed at a fast rate. Therefore, it would be best to keep male guppies in your bowl if you aim to keep more than one.

Guppies have relatively low maintenance which makes them suitable for keeping in a fishbowl. This is evident because they can go for one week without food. However, this should not allow you to ignore them, as supplying enough food will make them flourish.

In addition to that, it is best to ensure that they live in the most appropriate environment for them to flourish. Ideally, they thrive within a room temperature of around 64.4°F.

Wild-type feeder guppies are the most suitable for the fishbowl environment. They quickly adapt and can maneuver in small containers with fluctuating temperatures.

These fish will thrive well in an environment of a  5-gallon fish tank or bowl, an aquarium heater for regulating temperatures, a  suitable-sized filtration system, and a well-covered aquarium with a lid to prevent them from jumping outside the container.

Guppies are suitable for your bowl since they are adaptive and docile, come in multiple colors, and require low maintenance and cost. Once you know how to take care of fish in a bowl, you can do so with so any other breeds.

2. Zebra Danios

Zebra Danios are among the best fish for your fish bowl. This species of fish will survive without a filter. They come with bright stripes that make them captivative to look at. They also require low maintenance and cost.

Like guppies, Zebra Danios are small, adaptive, and highly resilient fish. However, they are relatively social compared to guppies. Also, they highly enjoy staying on their own. Therefore, it is ideal for keeping 5 Zebra Danios in your small bowl.

Zebra Danios are not selective eaters. This is a great benefit since they will comfortably feed on general fish food flakes. 

The environmental requirements of Zebra Danios depend on their variety. Typically, the smallest type will require a 2.5-gallon container installed with a functional filter system. Plus, it is suitable to have a heater system and well-lit container for the best results.

Zebra Danios are an excellent option for your small bowl due to their low cost and maintenance, activeness, and energy, and they will not require a heater if the fishbowl is large enough.

3. Betta Fish

Betta fish are among the most typical occurrences in a fishbowl. Male bettas come in vibrant colors that make them a fascinating option to most beginner aquarists. 

Similarly, bettas are very active to the extent that you can efficiently train them to follow the movement of your hand by moving your hand outside the container.

Although bettas survive in controlled conditions, they don’t stay for long. Typically, healthy bettas can survive for up to 5 years in normal conditions and a few months when kept in a fishbowl.

To enable bettas to survive longer, it’s suitable to supply them with an appropriate environment. This is because the rapidly changing temperatures of small containers aren’t ideal for bettas. A general temperature of 77°F should be maintained for bettas to thrive.

Bettas are aggressive fish. Thus, it’s recommended to maintain them in a small container on their own. They are territorial such that they won’t wait to fight other fish to secure their space. 

Bettas are easy to maintain but require to be provided with suitable conditions. They will thrive well in a 2.5-gallon bowl fitted with other elements such as aquarium plants, a filtration system, and a water heater. They’re suitable for your small bowl since they are attractive and vibrant, active and fun, easy to take care of, and can be easily trained.

4. Paradise Fish

Paradise fish are suitable for your small bowl since they prefer smaller containers with cooler temperatures. Thus, you don’t have to install a heater and other items in your small bowl.

Paradise fish aren’t a favorite choice but a feasible option, especially for beginner aquarists. They’re ideal for anyone willing to start with a non-generic species.

These fish are resilient and adaptive and thrive in multiple conditions. They come in a variety of colors which makes them appealing. 

They also thrive within cooler water temperatures without requiring company based on ecological requirements. They aren’t selective eaters, but high-protein foods are ideal for them. 

These fish are suitable for your small bowl since they are easy to maintain, highly adaptable, require smaller containers similar to fishbowls, and don’t require a heater.

5. Goldfish

Goldfish are the most common fish species that thrive in fish bowls. Beginner aquarists prefer this fish species for its attractive color and the fact that they’re low-maintenance. Goldfish can go for up to 2 weeks without food.

However, fish bowls will not provide ideal conditions for goldfish to thrive. Their life expectancy will drastically decrease in a limited environment. This is because they can grow up to 12 inches and a container’s size will limit their growth.

While goldfish need low levels of maintenance, they produce excess waste, which quickly creates a mess. This may necessitate changing their water repeatedly. Notably, it can be essential to provide them with suitable conditions, although they’ll survive in a fishbowl. 

Your goldfish will require an efficient filtration system and changing the water frequently for the best results. They can be a suitable option for your small bowl if your filtration system is in place. They’re also attractive and easy to train.

6. White Cloud Minnows

White cloud minnows are the easiest fish to care for in a small bowl. They require temperature levels within 60-70°F and a PH range within 6.0-7.0. These fish are ideal for a 5-gallon tank.

They are easy to keep with other fish since they will not nip at their fins. They also have simple diet requirements almost similar to many other fish, so you don’t have to worry about providing food requirements for the fish to thrive.

7. Scarlet Badis

Scarlet Badis are among the best pets for fish bowls as they require 5-10 gallons tanks. Although small in size, these fish species can be quite aggressive, especially to the males. 

These fish require a medium level of care, a temperature within 75-79°F, and a PH level within 6.5-7.6. Averagely, female scarlet birds are 0.7 cm smaller than males. This is due to males’ unique ventral fins that make them easier to identify. 

However, when keeping these fish, always remember that they’re naturally predatorial.

8. Six-ray Corydoras

Sixray Cories are medium-sized freshwater fish that can rarely exceed one inch. They require a low temperature within 72-77°F  and a PH of 6-7.2. This makes them a suitable fish variety to keep in a small tank.

They will perfectly fit in a 10-gallon tank or a giant bowl and perform well when supplied with the right conditions.

9. Pea Pufferfish

Also known as Pygmy Pufferfish, Pea Pufferfish are small-sized fish originating from Southwest India and commonly kept as pets in aquariums. They require a medium level of care and a temperature within 77-79°F for best results. 

A 5-gallon tank is suitable for their environmental requirements. Thus, they will perform well in a small bowl perfectly, making them an appropriate variety for your small fishbowl.

10. Ember Tetras

Ember Tetras are small Brazilian freshwater fish that make incredible community fish. They require a minimum care level, requiring a cool temperature of 73-84°F. These fish come in red and orange, slightly translucent bodies that you can notice quickly. Thus, they are among the most preferred fish by beginner aquarists.

These fish can comfortably fit and survive in a small bowl of 5-10 gallons or in a larger plant with good plants that create room for them. They enjoy swimming in schools and relaxing in the plants. Ember tetras even live with betta fish given their many similarities.

For the best results, these fish flourish in water conditions with a PH of 6.6 and temperatures within 73-84°F. Thus, they make a perfect choice for your small bowl.

What Kind of Fish Can Live in a Bowl?

Keeping fish in a small bowl will not require items such as filters, heaters, lights, decor, and bubblers. Therefore, you should be careful when selecting the type of fish to keep in your small bowl. 

Preferably, hardy and cold water species of fish will thrive well in a small bowl:

Hardy Fish

Small bowls will quickly receive toxins from waste released by fish living inside, necessitating daily water changes. However, if you miss a single water change, it could bring complications to your fish.

Typically, only hardy fish species, such as white cloud minnows, can handle the fluctuation of water parameters. Therefore, hardy fish of any variety are easy to maintain in your aquarium since they quickly adapt to a broad range of water parameters.

Coldwater Fish

Small bowls lack sufficient space for keeping equipment such as filters, heaters, and lights. Thus, if you lack a heater, you’ll require fish that can thrive within a steady temperature of 78°F. Coldwater fish varieties such as Betta Fish will form a perfect option if you lack such features.


Watching fish swim in a small bowl is an exciting experience. It requires low maintenance and is easy to manage since you’ll not need items such as filters, heaters, and aquarium plants. However, you should be careful when selecting the type of fish to keep in your small bowl. 

Typically, hardy and coldwater fish varieties are the perfect option for your small bowl. Embrace the art of keeping fish in a small bowl now!


University of Illinois. Bettas Need More Than Bowls.

Adelphi. Betta Fish Care.

University of Nebraska. 4-H 280 Tropical Fish : Part of the Nebraska 4-H Small Animal and Pet Series.

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