By Kali Wyrosdic
Oftentimes, new fish owners or parents looking for a suitable first pet for their children purchase fish bowls or small fish tanks assuming a smaller size means less responsibility and maintenance. Unfortunately, fish bowls can actually require more maintenance and work than larger, filtered aquariums.
Fish bowls can make suitable habitats for pet fish so long as they’re maintained properly (with frequent water changes and cleanings) and house the appropriate type of fish. In general, fish bowls and tanks under ten gallons require a 50 to100 percent water change every day or two to prevent the water from becoming toxic.
On the other hand, larger (ten gallon or more), well-filtered tanks generally only require weekly cleanings accompanied by a 10 to 15 percent water change as long as they are not overstocked. Buying the largest tank and best filter system that your available space and budget will allow is the easiest way to keep your fish healthy while simultaneously reducing the amount of work involved with tank maintenance.
Find out which types of fish are best suited to living in a large bowl or small tank, below.
Betta fish are one of the most popular types of fish that can thrive in a bowl. Betta are relatively clean fish that don’t quickly foul their water (like goldfish) and don’t grow to be very large. The natural habitat of the betta is slow-moving water or stagnant rice paddies, so they can live in a bowl without filtration. In fact, some bettas hate filtration systems because of the current they create. Bettas do need frequent water changes in their fish bowls to prevent toxins from building up, however, and shouldn’t be kept in bowls smaller than five gallons.
Smaller species of goldfish (fancy goldfish) can survive in a large fish bowl, but tend to be messy eaters and will require very frequent water changes. Another common misconception is that all goldfish are small fish, when in fact some types can grow to be quite large and shouldn’t live as adults in a fish bowl. The Common goldfish can actually reach an adult length of up to two feet!
If you’re in the market for a fish that’s a bit more exotic than the betta or goldfish, wild-type guppies can make a great option for your fish bowl. Also commonly raised as feeder guppies, these bright, colorful fish have been known to live in just a few quarts of water (though it’s recommended that they live in a proper, filtered fish bowl or tank). This type of guppy is extremely diverse-looking (they come in different fin shapes and metallic colors) and only cost about ten cents per fish. However, since feeder guppies are typically kept in cramped conditions (as they’re sold as food for other fish), you’ll need to quarantine and remove any sickly ones from the group, treat new additions with an antibacterial/antifungal medicine and initially feed food containing a parasiticide as an extra precaution.
Regal White Cloud Minnows
White Cloud minnows make another excellent option for a large fish bowl or small tank. They come from the White Cloud Mountains in China and have no problems living in colder water (so you’ll never need to buy a heater) and don’t grow to be large (so you shouldn’t have to upgrade the bowl size). They do require regular water changes, however, and have been known to jump, so you’ll want to put a screen on top of your fish bowl to prevent any accidents. Regal White Cloud Minnows are schooling fish, so if you purchase a group (as you should), make sure you have a large enough tank.
Blind Cave Tetras
Another cold-water fish that makes a good option for small tanks (since they like to live in groups) is the blind cave tetra (also known as the silvery tetra). A rather spooky looking fish, the blind cave tetra does not have eyes and its body is a rather bland color. They do not need supplemental heat or bright lighting, but they do appreciate a small cave to hide in. They also tend to jump when stressed, so will require a screen for the top of the bowl.
Salt and Pepper Corydoras
Salt and pepper corys are one of three pygmy corydoras species and have the added benefit of cleaning up after themselves (to a degree). They are scavenger catfish that only grow to be about ¾ to 1 inch in length and do well when kept in groups with plant life in their bowls and tanks. Salt and pepper corys are very peaceful fish and will eat small fish flakes or micro pellets. They also enjoy water that’s on the balmy side, between 77 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Since they do better in a small school, they should live in a five to ten gallon fish bowl or tank.
Zebra danios are another hardy option for your fish bowl or tank and, with origins from northern India, also have a high tolerance for cold water. They’re fun to watch and will dart around the bowl, stopping on a dime before they hit the glass and racing the other direction. Zebra danios need a minimum of five same-species fish to keep them company and they benefit from a small filtration system, so should be kept in a very large fish bowl or a ten-gallon tank.
Other types of animals that can happily survive in a large fish bowl or small tank include ghost shrimp and African dwarf frogs.