Can Betta Fish Live in Bowls?

Can Betta Fish Live in Bowls?

Most fish keepers especially newbies often wonder if Bettas can live in bowls. Think of it, decorative bowls are cheaper than tanks. And, many pet stores will have a section with cool looking Bettas in cups and small bowls. This definitely makes a great sight.

However, the ultimate question remains, can a Betta fish live in bowls? Simply, Yes! Bettas can live in bowls if you can always ensure warm clean water and of course food for survival. But, come to think of it, small unfiltered bowls build up toxins quickly. This can harm your fish. Therefore, keeping Bettas in fish bowls is not ideal.

Many Betta owners want their pets to be happy always and live longer. Keeping your Betta in a tank or bowl can still determine how long they live. If you want the best for your Betta, find out whether keeping them in bowls is a good care practice.

Betta Care Requirements 

Betta fish require a temperature range of 77-82 degrees Fahrenheit, a protein-based diet, and a fully cycled tank. I have often seen people set up their tank for 24 hours before adding fish and call it cycled, but the actual cycling process takes closer to a month to complete.  

The nitrogen cycle is an integral part of keeping fish. Aquariums are closed systems; whatever goes in, stays in, until we remove it with water changes. When betta eats, it produces waste which breaks down into ammonia. Ammonia is toxic to bettas and can burn off their scales and fins, as well as damage their gills. In order to combat this, you need two types of bacteria; one to turn ammonia to nitrite, then nitrite to nitrate.  

Nitrite prevents hemoglobin in the blood from carrying oxygen and can suffocate your fish. Nitrate leads to a diminished immune system over time and should be under 20 parts per million (ppm). Ammonia and nitrite are toxic at any level and should be zero in a fully cycled tank through 0.25 ppm is acceptable during the cycling process.  

The bacteria that convert harmful substances into less harmful ones are nitrifying, or beneficial, bacteria (BB). The nitrifying bacteria live in the filter media and convert ammonia and nitrite there. Changing your filter media or rinsing it in tap water will kill your cycle, so it should be cleaned with old tank water. 

If bettas eat a plant-based diet, it leads to serious bloating issues, which bettas are already at risk for. Swim bladder disorder (SBD) is another possible symptom which results from an improper diet. The swim bladder regulates the buoyancy of the betta and without this, they will be unable to swim properly. 

Betta Housing 

Now how exactly does the whole cycling process relate to tank size? In order to cycle a traditional aquarium, you need a filter. To keep a betta, you also need a heater. Most betta bowls do not have room for a filter, let alone a heater. 

Smaller tanks are much more difficult to cycle and generally take 2-3 months instead of one month. When I refer to “small tanks” I mean “pico” tanks, which have a capacity of 3 gallons or less. Small, long-finned bettas need a minimum of 2.5 gallons while short-finned or female bettas need a tank of at least 5 gallons. 

Long-finned bettas are unable to move around properly, so they need less swimming space. Short-finned bettas can swim normally require more room. The 2.5 gallon minimum is to ensure the tank can will remain cycled. Smaller tanks will not have as much water to dilute the waste produced by the betta and may be impossible to cycle all together. It is possible to keep a betta in a bowl, if the bowl is at least 2.5 gallons and can hold a filter and heater. 

If you want a community tank with your betta, you need a tank of at least 20 gallons. A community tank is a tank that houses multiple species of compatible fish within it. For bettas, popular tank mates include micro-rasboras, small tetras, mystery snails, small plecos, and Corydoras catfish. The tank should have plenty of decorations in order to provide sight breaks for the betta. 

Some bettas are simply too aggressive to house in a community tank, but many are peaceful enough. Plants are also beneficial to community tanks as sight breaks and hiding areas. Aquarium plants are also capable of reducing nitrates in the aquarium and can help you space out water changes. 

Betta Filtration/Baffling 

The modern-day betta was designed for its long, flowing fins and aggression. The latter has nothing to do with filtration, but the first is essential. Betta fish love low flow in their aquarium for two reasons. The first reason is that their long fins make it difficult to swim and they cannot battle a current. The second reason is that they have a labyrinth organ, which is similar to a lung. They must be able to access atmospheric oxygen and a strong flow can prevent them from getting to the surface. 

Sponge filters are the best possible filters for betta fish since they provide aeration with minimal flow. Hang on Back (HOB) filters are also appropriate filters for bettas, though they should have a prefilter sponge. A prefilter sponge is simply a sponge that you place over the intake in order to prevent a betta’s long fins from getting sucked in. 

Baffling the filter may be necessary if the flow is too strong. Baffling is simply adding something to the output of the filter to disperse or limit the flow. An aquarium sponge can be silicone to the outflow of a HOB filter so that the sponge hangs down into the aquarium. This reduces the current without reducing the flow and creates more space for BB to live. 

Common Misconceptions 

Here we will discuss common misconceptions when it comes to keeping bettas. 

  1. Bettas in the wild live in tiny mud puddles: Bettas in the wild live in still ponds, slow rivers, and rice paddies. These may only be a foot or two deep, but they extend for several miles. The misconception may have originated from the fact that the region they come from have distinct wet and dry seasons. This results in many bodies of water drying up for half of the year which may trap some unfortunate bettas in small puddles. Once caught in a puddle, the betta will not live much longer. 
  1. Bettas need to be in small tanks; otherwise, they will drown: While betta fish do need to access the surface for air, they are still a fish. Since they still have gills, they can still breathe in the water. If the water is highly oxygenated, they will only need to access the atmosphere a few times a day. They are relatively weak swimmers, but most aquariums are only 12-24” deep, which is not excessive for bettas. They can live and thrive in very large tanks, 150-gallons and up, which also gives the option for a sorority or harem tank. 
  1. Two female bettas can live together: Commercially available Betta Splendens have been bred for aggression, but males and females display different levels of aggression. Females are typically less aggressive, though this is a very loose rule. When placing any two bettas together, one will always be more dominant and aggressive. The dominant one will constantly chase, harass, bite, and attack the other betta. This will always result in the death of the submissive one no matter how many hiding places are available or how much food you give them

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