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Mariah's avatar

Is it exorbitantly cruel to keep fish in a fishbowl?

Asked by Mariah (25876points) July 3rd, 2010

I’ve been daydreaming about keeping fish next year when I’m in college, but I’ll be in a little dorm and won’t exactly have the space/money for state of the art equipment. I was googling fish bowls yesterday, and depending on where you look, some people say that keeping ANY fish in a bowl is terribly cruel and shouldn’t be done. Others say it’s okay.

All I really want is some kind of aquatic snail, one or two very small fish (maybe guppies, cloud fish, or neon tetras) and maybe a ghost shrimp. Should I give it up until I can invest in a nice tank for them, or is using a bowl acceptable? Is there anything I can do (plants, etc.) to make their environment nicer?

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24 Answers

rpm_pseud0name's avatar

Wait until you are in your dorm room & have met your room mates & hallway neighbors. You may think it will be peaceful & relaxing to have a fish tank, but your room mate will think it’s a great way to mix drinks in large quantities. I remember in college, we used my trashcan for gin bucket. So… hold off until you arrive & assess your living situation, then think about adding breakable fish bowls & live creates in your room. :) Best o’ luck.

Chrissi85's avatar

Really your fish will need to be aerated and they will need warm water, so a bowl isn’t ideal at all, to be honest only basic cold water fish like goldfish should be kept in a bowl, and even then it’s fairly unsuitable. You can pick up a little tank quite cheap now, they do kids starter kits for goldfish and the like, why not get one of those, and add the bits and pieces you need, it wont take up a lot of space. Just don’t put the tank on the windowsill or on top of the fridge or too near machinery, the vibrations make them go crazy and die. Good luck at college =)

Seek's avatar

Why not get a Betta?

They naturally thrive in small, cramped spaces.

They require only a bowl (with a lid – they can jump) that stays at room temperature (well, Florida room temperature – 76 degrees or so), a water change every so often, and a little food.

rpm_pseud0name's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr & a beta bowl is not even big enough to be considered a good container for mixing drinks in. I vote beta.

Seek's avatar

I always thought it would look hilariously ironic to keep a Betta in a (bladeless) blender

Chrissi85's avatar

People keep Bettas in all kinds of small things, I personally think it’s fairly cruel. Perhaps they don’t require much space, but y’know, I could survive in a cramped small room… but I’d rather not!

Seek's avatar


They naturally live in puddles and rice paddies.

Chrissi85's avatar

Do they naturally live in cups too?

PandoraBoxx's avatar

There are some pretty small desktop aquariums that are inexpensive and will make a fish more comfortable than a bowl.

Mariah's avatar

@rpmpseudonym I am a nondrinker and so is my future roommate, but that’s certainly a risk I hadn’t even considered yet! I’ll make sure to consider the people that live around me before I go buying any fish. D:

@Chrissi85 Thanks for your input, I definitely don’t want to put any fish into a cruel environment so I’ll look into what my other options are.

@Seek_Kolinahr Yeah, I read everywhere that Bettas are the best fishbowl fish but for some reason I’m really attached to the idea of some kind of really small fish and a snail. :3 But if Bettas really are the only fish that could live comfortably in a bowl, I could go for one.

@PandoraBoxx Ohh! I never knew that aquariums with filters and everything could come that small. Thanks for pointing that out to me, perhaps I’ll go that route.

rpm_pseud0name's avatar

@Mariah, I entered the college world a non-drinker too. I was enjoying the smooth taste of Grey Goose in two weeks.

dpworkin's avatar

No fish can thrive in a small bowl unless there are consistent daily or twice-daily water changes, and the water must be chemically very similar to the original water. I suggest a Betta, too (you can find exquisite rare Bettas from Thai breeders on line – a far cry from the pet store bettas) and for about $15 you can get a very complete small Betta aquarium with a light and a gravel filter, and an aerator.

earthduzt's avatar

First misconception is, Betta fish DO NOT THRIVE, in 1 gallon bowls, they thrive in 10 gallons or larger. It is possible to keep them in such a small tank but they do not thrive in one, they will give you the best color and optimal health in a larger tank with a heater that can maintain a constant temp. The thing about fishbowls without any sort of mechanical filtration is that ammonia and nitrate can build up very quickly and those two elements are deadly for fish. Every time you feed them you are causing ammonia and nitrates to build up so you better be on top of your water changes when you get a fishbowl, I’m talking about changing the water every day or at the very least every other day, do to the fact there is nothing in a fishbowl that facilitates biological filtration. You can easily get a 10 gallon set up for less than 50 bucks, 10 gallons is easy to clean, easy to move, you can have some bio filtration and the fish are much happier in one, you don’t have to change the water as much and then you can set up a nice little tropical tank in one and get a couple species of fish. If you really are into fish in the first place and you get a “bowl”, you’ll end up getting a tank anyways…so why not skip all the BS and just go for a tank 10 gallon (great for dorms) are alive and appreciate it much more and then they would actually THRIVE in it not a .5 or 1 gallon cup.

El_Cadejo's avatar

I hate fish bowls. If you want a small tank, thats fine, get a 5g or even 2.5g tank. Still small but you can then put a filter and heater in there without it looking like shit.

Id skip on the betta though. They are a pain in the balls and do actually need bigger tanks than most think, like earthduzt said. If i wanted a small freshwater setup id go with a 2.5g and do guppies. You can get a lot of color this way too, you can even throw a couple nirate snails in there or maybe some cherry shrimp.

earthduzt's avatar

@uberbatman what’s up, was waiting for you to chime in :)

El_Cadejo's avatar

@earthduzt same ol same ol :) I actually just talked a lady out of getting a fishbowl and opted instead for a 2.5g today at work :P

Mariah's avatar

@rpmpseudonym Well I can’t speak for my roommate but it’s not going to change for me. I CANNOT drink because it mixes with some of my meds.

@earthduzt Yeah, I’m starting to lean towards getting a tank, and while 10 gallons sounds wonderful, do you really think it will fit comfortably in a little dorm? I am having trouble getting a sense of how big these tanks really are. Any idea what kind of length/width that would be so I can picture it better?

@uberbatman That sounds like exactly the setup I’m looking for. Thanks!

earthduzt's avatar

@Mariah Here is the measurements of a 5 gallon aquarium vs. 8 gallon vs. 10 gallon

14.25” L X 9.75” W X 13” H 5 gallons

14“W x 14“D x 28“H 8 gallons

23“W x 11“D x 20“H 10 gallons

Not much of a difference in size in each of those. Just remember the smaller the tank, the more you have to really pay attention to water quality.

Here are links (all are kits that pretty much cover everything you need to start one up)

10 Gallon flat back Hexagon tank

8Gallon Hex Tank

5 Gallon Bow Front tank

El_Cadejo's avatar

@earthduzt i thought a 10g was 20” x 10” x 12” or are those dimensions for the hex?

earthduzt's avatar

@uberbatman yeah that’s a 10 gallon flat back hex

FluffyChicken's avatar

here is some info on housing bettas.

@dpworkin Changing water too often will kill your fish.

El_Cadejo's avatar

@FluffyChicken not true. If you have a stock of biological bacteria you can do 100% water changes with no problem what so ever.

FluffyChicken's avatar

cool. I’ve never heard of that before.

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