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Can Betta Fish Live in a Bowl (Without a Filter or Heater)?

Brooke Billingsley

By Brooke Billingsley

Betta Fish in a Bowl

Every time you walk into the pet store, you see those tiny cups containing Betta fish. You may think about how sad it is that they’re kept in such a small environment while waiting for a home, or you may think that if they can survive in a home that size that they’re the perfect candidate for a fishbowl or vase, or even an aquarium.

As one of the most popular freshwater fish in the US, their care should be pretty straightforward, right? Well, that’s not exactly the case. While Bettas are low maintenance fish, they do still have some specific needs. The needs of Betta fish are often misunderstood, and since they are often purchased on a whim, it’s not uncommon for them to go to unprepared homes. Here are the things you need to know about the environment that Betta fish need to be healthy.

Can Betta Fish Live in a Bowl?

This is a widely disagreed upon subject that doesn’t have a totally simple answer. Betta fish can live in a bowl with the right setup. Bettas are often taken home to live in 1-gallon fishbowls, which isn’t healthy for them. They prefer at least 5 gallons and may become stressed and sick in an environment that is too cramped. Keeping a Betta fish in a small fishbowl is doable, but it may shorten their life expectancy and lead to preventable problems.

Keep in mind, too, that the smaller the bowl your Betta fish is kept in, the more frequently you’ll need to perform water changes. A single Betta fish in a 5-gallon tank will require far fewer water changes than a Betta fish in a 1-gallon fishbowl. The smaller the environment, the larger the commitment to upkeep will be for you.

Red betta fish and moss ball in a bowl
Image Credit: mkzdillon, Shutterstock

Do Betta Fish Require a Heater?

Bettas are tropical fish that can live in water temperatures from 70–85˚F, but they do not thrive in this temperature range. Bettas will thrive in a temperature range from 75–80˚F, and some people even feel they are best kept between 78–80˚F. Unless you live in an area that is warm year-round and don’t have air conditioning, keeping your Betta’s water at room temperature will not keep it warm enough or stable enough.

You don’t have to invest in an expensive, fancy heater for your Betta fish, though. There are tons of heaters on the market, and you will likely be able to find one for $20 or less. Some heaters are preset to warm temperatures, typically 78˚F, which makes them perfect options for Bettas. These heaters are typically small enough that they won’t take up a lot of space in your Betta’s bowl or tank.

Betta Fish in a Bowl
Image Credit: Sardo Michael, Shutterstock

Do Betta Fish Require a Filter?

Betta fish are not strong swimmers, and they can become stressed in moderate to high flow tank environments. This can make choosing filtration difficult, often leading to people skipping out on filtration altogether. Unfortunately, Betta fish need filtration! Filters help remove waste from the water column and they are the perfect environment for the colonization of beneficial bacteria.

Beneficial bacteria, also called nitrifying bacteria, are absolutely necessary to a healthy tank environment. These bacteria remove toxic waste products, like ammonia and nitrite, from the water, keeping your fish healthy and safe. Bettas produce a lower bioload than many other popular fish, like goldfish, which means they require a lower level of filtration. However, they absolutely need filtration to maintain high water quality.

When it comes to choosing a filter for your Betta’s home, you don’t have to choose anything high tech or expensive. Sponge filters are a great option for Betta bowls and tanks because they help aerate the water without creating a significant current, and they serve as excellent environments for the colonization of beneficial bacteria. Typically, you can get an entire sponge filter setup for $20 or less, and they are available in multiple size and shape options to best suit your Betta’s tank or bowl.

betta fish in bowl_Piqsels
Image By: Piqsels

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In Conclusion

Creating the perfect home for your Betta fish doesn’t have to be complicated, but it should be thoughtfully planned out and set up before bringing a Betta home. The higher the water quality and the lower the stress of the environment, the healthier your Betta fish will be. A healthy tank or bowl will improve the life expectancy of your Betta fish by reducing the risk of disease, injury, and stress.

The wide availability of Betta fish means they frequently end up in the wrong bowl or tank environment, leading to a slew of preventable diseases. The happier and healthier your Betta is, the more active it will be and the brighter its colors will be. Bettas usually only live around 3–5 years, but they can live beyond this if you provide them a healthy, happy environment to thrive in by keeping their water filtered and warm.


Featured Image Credit: Maria Plakhotnya, Shutterstock

Brooke Billingsley

Authored by

Brooke Billingsley spent nine years as a veterinary assistant before becoming a human nurse in 2013. She resides in Arkansas with her boyfriend of five years. She loves all animals and currently shares a home with three dogs, two cats, five fish, and two snails. She has a soft spot for special needs animals and has a three-legged senior dog and an internet famous cat with acromegaly and cerebellar hypoplasia. Fish keeping...Read more

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