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This is the most comprehensive list of fish that can live in a bowl without a filter.

In this new list, you’ll learn which fish are perfect for bowls and which ones can live without filters, heaters, and air pumps.

(Including lots of tips that I’ve never shared anywhere before.)

Let’s dive right in:

Best Fish For A Bowl Without A Filter

Below are 10 Types Of Fish That Can Live In A Bowl at least 3 gallons in size.

1. Betta Fish (Need a Heater)

A few things you should know about your betta fish.

To keep your betta happy, you’ll need to make sure he has enough space that he can call his own territory.

Betta fish can have very different personalities, some are more aggressive than others and may tend to harass one another, and others may not.

2. Endler Guppies (Best Fish For A Small Bowl)

  • Care level: Beginner to intermediate
  • Size: 1.5 inches
  • Ideal tank size: 10 Gallons minimum
  • Temperature range: 75 – 85 °F
  • PH range: 7.0 – 7.5

It’s a small fish with a long name; Endler’s livebearer is a peaceful and hardy Venezuelan fish that love planted tanks. It usually dwells in the top and the middle and has interesting sleeping behavior. It usually falls asleep at the top and drifts down to the bottom.

3. Sparkling Gourami

  • Care Level: Medium
  • Max Size Of Fish: 1.6in
  • Temp: 77-83F
  • PH range: 6-7.5

Sparkling Gouramis are truly a fish of beauty. Their red, blue, and green sparkles allow them to stand out gorgeously in a bowl. A minimum of 10 gallons or larger will be plenty of space. They are shaped like miniature arrowheads and can grow almost 1.5 inches in length, and very peaceful.

4. Ember Tetras

  • Care Level: Minimal
  • Size Of Fish: 2cm
  • Temperature: 73-84F
  • PH: 6.6

These small Brazilian freshwater fish make for great community fish. Their beauty is striking, being mostly red and orange with slightly translucent bodies.

A small fish tank, a minimum of 5-10 gallons, or a larger tank with a decent amount of live plants will be plenty of room for Ember Tetras; they will swim in a school and relaxing in the plants. Water conditions should be within 73-84F and a PH of 6.6.

5. Zebra Danios

  • Temperament: Social, peaceful, Ideal for a large scale community tank.
  • Max Length: 2 Inches
  • Temperature Range: 18 C to 24 C (64 F to 74 F)
  • pH Range: 6.5 to 7.0

Zebra Danios are beautiful black and white striped fish that originate from some parts of India and Bangladesh. The fish are a favorite among aquarium owners, one of the easiest tank fish to keep.

They can survive in a wide range of temperatures and varying tank conditions.

6. White Cloud Minnows (Easiest Fish To Care For In A Bowl)

  • Care Level: Easy
  • Size: 1-2 Inches
  • Temperature Requirements: 60-72 °F
  • PH Range: 6.0-7.0

Native to Chinese mountain streams, the White Cloud Mountain Minnow is an ideal fish for a 5 gallon tank. This is a peaceful and easy-to-care-for fish that won’t nip at the fins of other fish.

They also enjoy a similar diet to other fish, so you won’t have to find that perfect chemical balance for all your Fish to thrive.

7. Pygmy Corydoras.

  • Care Level: Easy
  • Size: 1 Inch
  • Temperature Requirements: 72-79 °F
  • PH Range: 6.4-7.4

The Pygmy Corydoras is the smallest Corydoras Catfish species, only growing to about 1 inch in length.

Corydoras are bottom feeders, so they generally won’t interfere with your other Fish, which prefers to cruise around the tank’s upper layers.

They are also peaceful by nature, and their dull gray colors blend well with sand and gravel. Some fish may not even notice they have a tankmate.

8. Pea Pufferfish

  • Care Level: Medium
  • Size Of Fish: 1.4in
  • Temperature: 77-79F
  • PH: 7-7.8

The Pea Pufferfish, also known as Pygmy Pufferfish, is a small puffer fish native to Southwest India. In recent years, many pet stores and aquariums have seen the addition of these fish. They fit into bowl environments smaller than a 5 gallon because of how small they are.

9. Six-ray Corydoras

  • Care Level: Medium
  • Size Of Fish: 1.1in
  • Temperature: 72-77F
  • PH: 6-7.2

Sixray Cories is a freshwater fish that will rarely exceed an inch in size, making them a small and an ideal pet for a minimum 10 gallon tank size or larger. Their origin is South America, mainly Brazil. Water parameters should be within 72-77F and a PH of 6-7.2.

10. Scarlet Badis

  • Care Level: Medium
  • Size Of Fish: 2cm
  • Temperature: 75-79F
  • PH: 6.5-7.6

In terms of size and looks, Scarlet Badis are tiny and as close to the perfect pet for fish bowls, a minimum of 5-10 gallons. Though small, these species of fish can sometimes be aggressive, but mostly toward their fellow males.

Females tend towards being about 0.7 cm smaller than males on average. Males have a unique ventral fin, making them easy to identify.

The main thing to keep in mind when dealing with Scarlet Badis is that they are naturally predatorial.

Types Of Fish That Should Not Be Kept In Bowls

Fish that are aggressive, dirty, and grow large should not be kept in bowls. The biology of a bowl can’t support the needs of these types of fish.

Here are just a few examples of fish you should avoid if you are setting up a fishbowl.

So What Kind Of Fish Can Live In A Bowl?

Most bowls are too small to have things like lightsfiltersbubblers, and decor, so I recommend looking at fish that are very hardy, small, and possibly cold water species of fish.

Why hardy fish?

Well, bowls can become toxic very quickly, and depending on the size and fish you keep, you may require daily water changes, and if you miss even one water change, it could be deadly.

Hardy fish, like white cloud minnows, may be able to handle the water parameter swings.

“Hardy fish is any fish which is easy to maintain in home aquaria due to their ability to adapt to a wide range of water parameters.” (Wikipedia)

Why Small fish?

I think this is pretty self-explanatory, but small fish require less space and water.

Some nano species of fish like Scarlet Badis may be good options for bowls.

Why Cold Water fish?

It won’t be easy to have a bowl with equipment like heatersfilters, and lights in most cases.

If you don’t have a heater, you don’t want to have fish that requires a steady temperature of 78F like a Betta Fish if you can’t heat the water.

Keeping Fish In A Bowl – What You Really Need To Know

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If you really want to use a bowl, then try to provide these minimum requirements:

I’ve seen bowls as large as 10 gallons, and you can find some small heaters like this one on Amazon that can be used in a bowl.

Easy Aquarium Maintenance
Aquarium Log Book

This Aquarium Log Book is the best way to make note of all the steps you take when caring for your aquarium. Easily keep all your aquarium tasks, schedules & plans all in one place.

So there can be exceptions to the rule.

Also, a small sponge filter could be used along with some live plants.

The sponge filter will provide a place for the good beneficial bacteria to grow, will help aerate & move the water around, and the live plants will help remove some of the nitrates in your water.

Now that we’ve covered off the key things to keep in mind when keeping fish in a bowl, here are a few bowl setups that would be great to copy.

Beautiful Fish Bowl Ideas And Options?

1. Betta Fish Planted Bowl

Here is an example of a great little Betta bowl set up from Foo The Flowerhorn. This bowl is around 7.5 gallons, 6 months old, and doesn’t use any filter, fertilizers, or C02.

Betta Fish Planted Bowl: Video

2. Guppy Planted Bowl

Here is a great planted 3-gallon bowl set up with a few guppies from Heisenberg with a few plants like Java fernJava moss, Christmas moss for a really stunning example of what can be done.

Guppy Planted Bowl Video

How Big Is A Fish Bowl?

The most typical size of fishbowl is 1-3 gallons. However, many brands offer fish bowls from 5-10 gallons in size.

What is the Best Fish Bowl Size?

A fishbowl of at least 3 gallons is recommended to support small fish. However, if you can get a bowl that is at least 5 gallons, that would be best.

A 5 gallon bowl allows you the option to install a heater, filter, and other equipment that can help improve the water quality for your fish.

What Aquarium Plants to Add in a Fish Bowl?

Most aquarium plants will work great in a fishbowl. Of course, unless you want your plants half-submerged/immersed, you might want to stay away from tall-growing plants like Amazon Swords.

You’ll also want to stick to low light or low tech plants as a bowl isn’t really big enough to support a full Co2 set up.

Here are a few live plants that would work well in a fishbowl;

  • Sagittaria
  • Vallisneria
  • Java Moss
  • Anubias
  • Java Fern
  • Green Hygrophila
  • Moneywort
  • Waterwheel Plant
  • Sunset Hygro
  • Rotala Indica
  • Rotala Rotundifolia
  • Hornwort

How Often to Change Water in a Bowl?

This depends on a lot of factors;

For example, a heavily planted bowl with only one Betta may not need water changes all that often.

However, if you don’t have any plants and have multiple fish or invertebrates, you may need to change the water every few days.

If you are using a filter in your bowl, this will increase the time between water changes.

It really all depends on your particular setup. The trick is to monitor your water quality for the first few months until you understand when the water needs to be changed, monitor, test, and change as needed.

Can Fish Survive Without A Filter?

This depends on many factors, but in general, yes, fish can survive without a filter.

Let me expand:

Filters provide a place for beneficial bacteria to grow, provide some water flow, and oxygenate the water.

So, if you have a well-established substrate base with lots of plants and only a few fish, your tank might not need a filter.

In this example, the substrate will provide more than enough surface area for beneficial bacteria to grow. Also, keep in mind that the good bacteria are growing all over everything in your tank.

In conjunction with the bacteria, the plants will help convert any toxins and remove them from the water column.

The plants will also give off oxygen as they convert Co2 into nutrients, and if you only have a few fish with lots of plants, there will be more than enough oxygen for your fish to survive.

Fish That Don’t Need Filters

All fish can survive without a filter; it’s all about how you set up your tank. That said, for beginners, I always recommend some filtration.

What Filter Can You Use In A Fish Bowl?

Depending on the size of your bowl, there are different options for a fishbowl filter.

That said, here are a few good filter options for use in a fishbowl.

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Can Fish Survive Without A Heater

This depends on the type of fish you have. In general, most tropical fish that you’ll end up purchasing for your bowl will require some form of a heat source.

This is because of most tropical fish like a temperature that is around 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

However, a few fish species are considered to be Cold Water species and can do just fine without a filter.

Fish That Don’t Need Heaters

Examples of common coldwater fish that don’t need heaters are:

  • Gold Barb
  • Green Barb
  • Rosy Barb
  • Two Spot Barb
  • Bloodfin Tetra
  • Buenos Aires Tetra
  • Guppy
  • Zebra Danio
  • Pearl Danio
  • Weather Loach
  • White Cloud Mountain Minnow

All of the above are very hardy fish and can thrive in temperatures in the mid-’60s; all can be found in most pet stores.

What Heater Can You Use In A Fish Bowl?

Heating options are a little difficult, especially for small bowls, however here are a few options you can use to heat your bowl:

Prices and images pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Can Fish Survive Without Oxygen

To my knowledge, no fish can survive without oxygen. They need to breathe just like any other animal.

However, how the fish get access to oxygen is another story, and you don’t always need an Air Pump to provide oxygen to your fish.

Oxygen can enter the water in many ways;

  • From plants
  • From surface agitation
  • Absorption

Which leads to the next question;

Can Fish Survive Without An Air Pump?

Yes, fish don’t actually need an air pump. In fact, I don’t use an air pump on any of my tanks, but I do use lots of live plants.

Whether or not you need an Air Pump depends on a few things like;

  • Do you have lots of live plants that produce oxygen naturally?
  • Are you using a filter that is disturbing the water surface, allowing oxygen to be absorbed into the water?
  • Is your tank covered or uncovered?

If you aren’t providing one of the above scenarios, then you might need an air pump.

Our Recommendation For The Best Fish To Keep In A Fish Bowl?

For those looking for an easy fish, the White Cloud Minnow is one of the best fish for a bowl without a filter. I’d go with something like the white cloud minnow. They are small but very active fish that have little red fins and like to swim in schools. They are super, and I mean SUPER HARDY fish that can sustain pretty large swings in water quality.

So if you don’t use a filter or forget to clean the bowl, they may be able to live through the hell.

They also thrive in cold water, so if you can’t use a heater, they will be fine, but they also do just fine in a bowl with a heater so that you can go either way.

Lastly, they are very friendly and peaceful fish, so if you want to add a few snails or shrimp to the mix, they won’t attack the little guys.

You could keep 3-5 white cloud minnows In a 4-gallon bowl with some live plants, and it would look awesome.