What Fish Can Live in a Bowl Without Oxygen? – A Complete Guide

what fish can live in a bowl without oxygen

What fish can live in a bowl without oxygen? Even for most people who already own a fish tank, the idea of having some of the fish in a fishbowl on their table or in a corner is fascinating.

Are you thinking of petting fishes in a fishbowl? So, do you want to know what fish can live in a bowl without oxygen? Well, certain fishes require ample amounts of oxygen and proper filtration of tank water to thrive well. And to facilitate such an environment, you need to keep them in large aquariums. 

However, many fishes do not have such high oxygen requirements and can survive appropriately in a bowl without a filter; and keeping fishes in a bowl is not for beginner aquarists. Though a fishbowl is cost-effective and easy to set up and requires minimum maintenance, we do not recommend it for novice hobbyists.
A large aquarium is far easier to maintain than a tiny bowl. Keeping fish in a bowl calls for a lot more attention and know-how. Even for experienced aquarists, it can be quite challenging.
If you are contemplating keeping fish in a bowl and wondering what fish can live in a bowl without oxygen? Well, keep reading the article to know more about it!

What If I Want to Keep Fish in a Bowl?

Don’t you have ample space to keep a massive aquarium in your home, Or you already have an aquarium tank and still envision the idea of keeping the fish in a fishbowl? Well, whatever the reason, a fishbowl is exciting and versatile.

However, unlike large aquariums, fishbowls are too small and difficult to incorporate vital settings such as lightings, filters, air bubblers, heater, etc. Also, it is hard to add decor to your bowl. Hence, the obvious question arises, what fish can live in a bowl without oxygen? Well, if you want to add fishes to your bowl, opt for the small and hardy coldwater fishes that would be the best choice.

The tiny fishes can thrive better in the small habitat as they need less water than the larger ones.

You might wonder why I asked you to opt for “coldwater and hardy fish species,” Well, the answer is quite simple! It’s challenging to have settings like filters, heaters, lights, etc., in a fishbowl. Hence, cold-water fish can thrive better than tropical fish.

Those fishes that need more than 77℉ (25°C) of temperature will not survive without a heater. Without filtration, the water parameters in the fishbowl can fluctuate and even become fowl faster than expected. A hardy species is very likely to thrive in the frequently changing water conditions. Hence, if you wonder what fish can live in a bowl without oxygen, choose one from cold water habitat and are hardier.

If you ever miss out on changing the water for a day or two, the fishes will still survive. Additionally, the hardy fishes that come with easy maintenance capabilities can quickly adapt to a wide range of changing water parameters.

Can Guppies Live in a Bowl?

Yes, as already said, guppies can live well in a fishbowl! Also, caring for them is uncomplicated. Here are some tips to take proper care of guppies in a bowl.

  • Fill the fishbowl with a sufficient amount of water, up to the broadest part of the bowl so that better oxygenation can take place.
  • Consider a filtration system.
  • Change 50% of the bowl water on every alternative day to avoid chlorination of the water. 
  • Ensure you are giving only that much food, which your fish can consume in 3 minutes. Remove the leftovers to keep the water healthy and clean.
  • Ensure a gallon (3.78 liters) of water for 1 square inch (6.45 cm²) of fish. Going by this calculation, you can keep about 5 to 6 guppies for every 10 gallons (37.8 liters) of water. 
  • Keep the bowl in a place where the room temperature doesn’t fluctuate much.

Can Betta Fish Live in a Bowl Without a Filter?

Yes, they can! Betta or Siamese fighting fish are often sold without any filter, as they sustain pretty well in a small tank or fishbowl. Betta is the most popular fish on the fish list that can live in a bowl without oxygen.

Bettas come with labyrinth organs, enabling them to breathe in the atmospheric air; floating to the water surface from time to time captures air bubbles and produces oxygen. 

However, you still need to adhere to the cleanliness of the water in the bowl. All that you need to ensure is a regular water change. Otherwise, fungus and bacteria build-ups in the water can lead to your fish’s death.

Betta, the Siamese fighting fish, lives up to 4 years in an ideal habitat. Some driftwood, appropriate lighting, and caves keep them happy and thriving.

Thus, betta fishes serve as a great answer to your query, what fish can live in a bowl without oxygen and filtration.

Can A Goldfish Live in a Bowl?

While trying to figure out which fish can live in a bowl without oxygen, I am sure you must have thought of goldfish; Goldfish is the first choice while pondering over the question of what fish can live in a bowl without oxygen.

A fishbowl can be an exceptional home for your goldfish with proper care. After all the famous Guinness world record 43 years old, Tish lived her whole life in a bowl. However, a goldfish in a bowl will remain small like a bonsai tree.

On average, goldfish can grow about 12 to 13 inches (32 to 35 cms); some types of goldfish can grow up to 18 inches (45 cms) in a large tank with the right water parameters and ambiance.

Goldfish is hardy; a member of the carp family can thrive in cold water. However, goldfish are nasty, produce a massive amount of bio-waste

  • Keep the water level up till the neck area of the bowl to ensure proper oxygenation. 
  • You would want to add live aquatic plants to the bowl.
  • Maintain apt temperature and pH level of the bowl water
  • Changing the bowl water once or twice a week is sufficient.
  • A daily water change will make your goldfish grow fast, and soon it will outgrow the fishbowl space. To avoid this, you could add an airstone in the bowl for better oxygenation.
  • Do not overfeed or underfeed your goldies. Keep note of how much food your goldfish consume in 3 minutes and provide only that much quantity.
  • Goldfish love space, so make sure the bowl is big enough and not too crowded.

Signs of Lack of Oxygen in Your Fishbowl

Knowing the symptoms of lack of oxygen in the bowl helps in preventing your fishes from dying soon. Your fish will give you signs when there is a lack of dissolved oxygen in the water. Here’s what you need to notice!

  • They will come up and hover near the surface of the water to experience better breathing.
  • Your fishes will swim less vigorously. You can also see them having labored breathing with more frequent gill movement.
  • As the situation worsens, they might start gasping near the surface area.

How to Add Oxygen to a Fishbowl?

Besides knowing the answer to the question, what fish can live in a bowl without oxygen, you would also want to learn how to add oxygen to your fishbowl.

If you want to oxygenate your fishbowl, you will have to maximize the water surface area. But how can one do so? Well, keep the water level at the neck of the bowl or slightly below. You can also equip a suitable aerator, air pump, or sponge filter to the bowl to enhance the oxygen level. 

Besides, you can add some live aquatic plants to your bowl to lower the carbon dioxide level and maintain proper oxygenation.

But are you wondering what to do when your fishes have bred a lot, and there are too many of them to fit into your bowl? In such a situation, get them a separate bowl or time to move a large aquarium while keeping an apt number of fish in every bowl. The more the number of fishes, the more oxygen requirement in the bowl. 

How Long Can Fish Live Without Oxygen in a Tank?

Do you own an aquarium but haven’t equipped a filter or air pump in it? So, are you wondering how long your aquarium fish will live in the tank without an adequate supply of oxygen?

Well, the most anticipated answer to this question is two days; however, most experienced aquarists would say it is much longer than two days. 

The accurate time for how long your fish will survive in the tank without oxygen depends on multiple parameters. The number of specimens in your tank, the types of specimen, aquatic plants and the decors, and the tank’s size are a few factors responsible for deciding your fishes’ survival capacity in oxygen-deprived tank water. 

What Fish Can Live in a Bowl Without Oxygen?

White Cloud Minnows

White Cloud Mountain Minnows is one of the most sought-after fish in the aquarium hobby. They are hardy and peaceful schooling fish. Maximum grows to 1.5 inches (4 cms); hence, you can keep about 15 to 18 in a 3-gallon (12 liters) bowl. 

The ambiance of your fishbowl can get a happy vibe, along with white cloud minnows. These peaceful fish species are facile to care for and thrive well in a cold water temperature of 15.5-22°C. Thus, the white cloud minnows would be an ideal fish that can live in a bowl without oxygen. 

And do you know what the best part about petting these small hardy fish is? White Cloud Minnows don’t have any special food requirement; they are omnivores and micro predators; they feed on zooplanktons, micro worms, water fleas, algae, and love other fishes’ diet. So, if you are a beginner, these colorful fishes will be the best pick for you!

Guppies in a fishbowl

For your fishbowl set-up, guppies are great species. Those tiny little colorful bowl buddies come with large bright fins, adding a vibrant charm to your fishbowl. 

Guppies are schooling fish; hence, you would want to keep them in a small group of at least five guppies. In case you don’t want to have a large population in your bowl, keep same-sex guppies restricting them from breeding. 

Besides, maintenance is minimal for guppies. They can survive more than one week without food. Also, a low temperature of about 15-18°C is not an issue for these tiny hardy creatures. Additionally, studies say guppies are efficient in controlling mosquito growth and prevent dengue.

Paradise Fish 

Paradise fish is another excellent species while contemplating what fish can live in a bowl without oxygen. Paradise is a species of gourami and closely related to Betta.

If you want to keep some new, uncommon variants of colorful fishes in your bowl? Well, in that case, Paradise fishes would become your best buddy. They grow up to 2.5 inches (6.5 cms); however, it reaches up to 2.2 inches (5.5 cms) in captivity.

Paradise fish is native to East Asia, from Korean Peninsula to Northern Vietnam. They are one of the most aggressive Osphronemidae family members; paradise fish exhibit more aggressiveness towards the other paradise fish than other species.

They inhabit cool slow-moving water, which makes them suitable enough to keep in the bowl. These colorful genes come in various options that you can pick—owing to their territorial and aggressive nature, and we recommend keeping them alone.

Betta Fish

betta fish in a bowl

Betta fish is one of the most popular candidates while considering fish species for your bowl.

Isn’t it too tempting to see those tiny fishes with their large fins lashing through the water in your fishbowl? 

Bettas are one of the hardiest aquatic creatures that can effortlessly survive in a bowl or a cup. They require an optimum water temperature of about 25°C for thriving; they prosper well even in a low oxygen environment. 

Weekly water change or twice partial topping of water is crucial to keep the habitat congenial for Betta in a bowl.

Bettas are too aggressive due to their territorial nature, and we recommend you keep them alone or with less aggressive species if you do not want to witness WWE in your alluring fishbowl. 


goldfish in a bowl

Whether you are an aquarist or not much familiar with the fish family, you ought to have heard the name of goldfish. Goldfish are available at a low price and require minimum care, making them the best candidate for fish bowls or aquariums and conducting scientific studies

There are over 200 types of goldfish; centuries of selective breeding and cross-breeding have produced several colors and varieties of goldfish. They are from the carp family, and some of the types of goldfish are hardier than the original ancestor.

Bettas and goldfish are the two most popular species for fish bowls. Betta grows up to 2.2 inches (5.6 cms), goldfish grow up to an average of 12 to 13 inches.

The goldfishes require a low water temperature of about 20-23°C to thrive. Besides, do you know they don’t even need frequent water change? Yes, you heard that right! You can change the bowl water every 1-2 weeks; they will live.

Comet and shubunkin species of goldfishes, which are very hardy by nature and require too low maintenance, would be great picks for petting in fishbowls.

Related readings:

How many goldfish in a 10-gallon tank?

Can Guppies live with Goldfish in the same tank?

How long goldfish can live without food in a tank or a pond?

Ember Tetra

If you are a beginner and thinking of keeping a fishbowl and wondering what fish to keep, then Ember tetra is an excellent choice. These bright tiny buddies are like orange-red bullets in your fishbowl that add a colorful hue to your fishbowl. 

Ember tetra is a shoaling and schooling fish; hence, keep them in a group of a minimum of five ember-tetras; the larger the group, the merrier for them and you. They grow to a maximum of 0.8 inches (2 cms) in length.

They inhabit the slow-moving waterways amongst the thick vegetation of Central Brazil. Hence, you would want to add some natural plants to their fishbowl. 

They are fun species to watch and hold in a bowl in your living room or bedroom space. Ember Tetra lives for anywhere between 2 to 4 years in an optimal environment.

You would want to feed them with high-quality commercial fish food along with some daily live and frozen food such as grindal worm, daphnia, etc. 

Furthermore, these fish are too energetic and a wonder to watch! If you live in a tropical or temperate region, Ember Tetra is the right candidate for your fishbowl!

Neon Tetra

Neon Tetra is yet another colorful fish species for your fishbowl. They are hardy and adaptive. Neons inhabit the upper Amazon river basin, which is densely covered by vegetation.

They grow up to 1.5 to 2.5 inches(4 – 7 cms) and live up to 5 years in optimal condition.

They can light up any fish tank or bowl with dazzling colors. Neon tetras are shoaling and schooling fish; hence, you would want to keep them in a group of a minimum of six; neons thrive better in a large group.

You can feed them with high-quality commercial pellets and wafers along with live and frozen daphnia, bloodworm, tubifex, etc.  

Zebra Danio

Are you thinking of what fish can live in a bowl without oxygen and much maintenance? Well, then zebra danios would be the best ones to pet. These shiny, stripy fishes with bright lines are cute in a bowl.

They are hardy and social and have a high endurance level making them a perfect beginner’s fish. They are relatively easy to take care of.

Zebra Danios are active shoaling and schooling fish; hence keeping five or more specimens is essential for them to thrive in your fishbowl. They grow up to 1.5 inches (4 cms) in length. They are silvery-gold colors with five blue stripes through the whole stretch of the fish.

Avoid keeping them with long-finned species as they have the habit of fin nipping.

Zebra Danio is yet another fish for tropical and temperate regions. They are highly used as test specimens for numerous scientific research studies due to their shared genetic structure with humans.

They are omnivores; you can feed them with high-quality commercial flakes and some live and frozen blood worms, daphnia, etc. Also can provide blanched vegetables such as zucchini, cucumber, spinach, peas, etc. 

Sparkling Gourami

Gouramis are yet another shoaling fishes; hence keep them in a group of five or more. They are tiny fish that grow about 1 to 1.5 inches (2.5 to 4 cms) long. They have a unique color pattern; brown bodies with light blue spots—their lifespans from 4 to 5 years.

In general, Gouramis are peaceful species; however, sometimes, a male member can become aggressive towards another male; hence, I would advise you to keep only one male amongst a group of female gouramis.

They inhabit slow-moving waterways such as water streams, ditches, ponds, lakes, shallow rivers, etc., amongst the vegetation in India and Southeast Asian countries.

They are another great candidate for your fishbowl.

Harlequin Rasbora

Harlequin is another great species when you think of what fish can live in a bowl without oxygen. They are shoaling fish; hence you would want to keep them in a group of 5 or more fish.

When you look at these fish individually doesn’t look that great; however, a group of Harlequin Rasbora swimming in your aquarium tank or bowl can give you a mesmerizing effect on the spectator with the black wedge on the rare half of the body starting from the midsection to the end of the caudal peduncle against the reddish, pinkish body.

They are hardy and can tolerate a good range of water temperature 70 to 82°F (21 to 28 °C). Harlequin Rasbora is an ideal candidate for a large fishbowl if you live in a tropical or temperate climate.

List of other fish species that can live in a Bowl without Oxygen:

Apart from the above mentioned ten fish, the list of other fish that can live in a bowl without oxygen is Blind cave tetra, salt and pepper Corydoras, six ray Corydoras, Pygmy Corydoras, Scarlet Badis, Endlers Guppies, Kuhli loach, Spine loach, Dwarf Gourami, Thick lipped Gourami, etc.

Factors to keep in mind while choosing a Bowl for Your Fish

Before picking a fishbowl for your home, you might need to consider a few aspects as described below.

Size of the Bowl

Fishbowls come in an extensive range of sizes. In case you want to assure a top-notch living environment for your fishes, you can opt for a fishbowl with 5 gallons of water capacity. But before picking a bowl, do consider which fish do you want to keep in a bowlKnowing the answer to this question is going to make your purchase decision easy. 


Pick a bowl shape in which you can easily add the necessary substrate for your fish. Smooth gravel with compost/bio substrate is an ideal choice for a fishbowl, and most of the species as gravel is a typical substrate in nature. Bio moss/soil provides enough enzymes/bacterias necessary for the Nitrogen cycle.
However, choosing gravel with no sharp edges is vital, and for most species, sharp-edged gravel can damage the fins and their noses if they bottom dwellers.

Live Plants

I would recommend aquatic life plants for any aquarium and all the more for a bowl. Lack of oxygen will cause the fish to drown or suffocate to death. Live aquatic plants can fix oxygen in the water, and also for most fish species plants provide them shelter and space for them to explore in the small confined area they live.

Besides, live plants with some small fish species and rightly illuminated fishbowl are aesthetically appealing and soothing to the eyes.

Just remember to purchase plants that are low-light requirements for your fishbowl, such as java moss, java fern, anubias, etc.


Adding any aquarium lights to the bowl will increase the water temperature. Illuminating the fishbowl depends on your choice of fish species. Lighting can replace heaters; using certain underwater lights for tropical and temperate region fish species can help maintain the water temperature.


Though you opt for a bowl without filtration, even certain hardy fishes require a minimum amount of filtration to live a healthy and optimal life. 

If you cannot keep changing the water regularly to the recommendation, consider incorporating a small sponge filter, air pump, air stone that breaks the water surface and encourages air exchange with the atmosphere in the room.

What fish can live in a bowl without oxygen – Wrap Up

Keeping a fishbowl instead of an aquarium doesn’t seem to be a bad idea! Just take care that you meet all the necessary parameters for the fish species you choose to keep.
Whatever species you choose to go with, do not forget to carry out fishless cycles to establish a healthy colony of bacterias, a must for any fish tank, fishbowl.

5 thoughts on “What Fish Can Live in a Bowl Without Oxygen? – A Complete Guide

  1. Arman Tovmasyan says:

    This article is garbage. Goldfish can’t live in the bowl. He needs 40 liters for one fish in minimum. He needs air pump. As he is vary nasty fish, the aquariums needs to have very good filtration.

    • SNBrehamet says:

      I agree with you, goldfish are nasty and need filtration and regular cleaning, etc. I guess, I have discussed all those issues in this article and few other articles in details.

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