Can You Keep Betta Fish in a Bowl?

Despite pet stores making this seem like an optimal idea, betta fish should not be kept in a bowl.

Below we will go over why some people think it is acceptable to keep betta fish in a bowl. Continue reading to find out how you should keep your betta fish in order to make him happy and healthy.

Why are betta fish sold in small containers?

You may wonder why the pet store sells betta fish in little bowls if that was unhealthy for them. Compared to most aquarium fish, betta fish are unique in that they have a labyrinth organ. This enables them to come to the surface of the water to breathe oxygen directly, instead of relying solely on their gills.

Why do some see the labyrinth organ as beneficial? This secondary way to get oxygen allows the betta fish to live in water that isn’t oxygen-rich, therefore, not directly requiring a filter to agitate the water. This makes it where they do not die in the tiny bowls at the pet store. Betta fish have the ability to breathe air because in the wild they are often in habitats that are oxygen-poor.

Another interesting fish that has the labyrinth organ are corydoras catfish. These adorable bottom dwellers typically live in schools, which may explain them being sold in regular fish tanks.

Gold and Yellow Betta

Why does the pet store sell tiny containers to keep them in?

Simply put, pet stores and other retailers sell these incredibly small, inadequate containers for betta fish for two reasons. 1. The betta fish can live in these containers for a longer period of time than other fish. 2. Small containers are gimmicky and create the illusion of simplicity.

Betta fish can live (not thrive) in small containers

As mentioned above, betta fish are capable of living in water with low oxygen. Because of this, they can live for a much longer time than other fish in a tiny bowl. Ask anyone who took a common gold fish into a small bowl how long their fish lived. Being an inadequate container will shorten your betta fish’ life and make them more susceptible to disease.

Small containers sell well

While information is changing the public’s perception, betta fish have often been seen as decoration items. Some people used them as table decorations at weddings. Others use them in small vases at offices. These little containers can make people think that they require less care and less cleaning. People may assume that a filter or heater are unnecessary. Adding in how the pet store sells them in tiny cups, many people may believe a small container is a perfectly adequate home for their betta.

What is the minimum size tank you should keep a betta fish in?

Most fish enthusiasts recommend a minimum of 5 gallons for a betta fish. Like all fish, betta fish should have a filter of some sort. Such small containers as mentioned above do not have adequate room for a filter. A filter is needed to stop the buildup of ammonia and to maintain proper water quality. Without a filter, the tank will need full or partial water changes more frequently, which is time consuming and can add stress to your betta fish.

Another reason that 5 gallons is a good minimum size is that these fish need a heater. Heaters typically come in a range and a smaller tank, if the heater even fits, may be overheated by a heater. Betta fish are tropical fish and need water between 75 and 80 degrees. Water below this range will make them more susceptible to disease, while water above will make them age quicker and can stress them out.

Like any living creature, betta fish should have ample room to move around and enjoy life. Betta fish require a hiding place or several. You should also consider silk plants or live plants to give them places to lay and swim around. Try to stay away from plastic plants as they can tear the betta fish’ long fins. These ornaments and plants require more room in your potential tank.

How does potential tank mates change tank size?

Much in the same way that many think a small bowl is acceptable, some people believe the myth that betta fish prefer to be alone. There are many suitable tank mates. Perhaps you have been to a pet store that keeps a betta fish with other fish in the main aquariums.

Betta fish are slow moving and their long, flowing fins make them a target for fish that are nippy. Male betta fish cannot be kept together because they will fight one another. Similarly, stay away from fish that have flowy, flashy fins, such as guppies. Keep this in mind when you look for a tank companion for your betta fish. This article will go over two ideal options, but you can look up other fish to try to find a good fit as well.

Pygmy Corydoras

These delightful little fish are bottom dwellers. They need to be kept in groups of at least 3-5 as they are a schooling fish. You could keep these in a 5 gallon with a betta, although a 10 gallon or bigger would be a much better idea. Ensure that you get the pygmy version, as there are lookalikes which require larger aquariums.

Brigittae Rasbora

These colorful fish would make a wonderful addition to a 5 gallon betta tank. You should add a minimum of 6 to a 5 gallon tank, although you can increase the number with a bigger tank.


Now you know why pet stores sell betta fish in tiny bowls and the gimmick of tiny containers for them. We also covered the optimal tank size and how to keep your betta fish happy. Use the tips learned here to have a healthy betta fish.