Fish That Don’t Need A Filter And Can Live In A Bowl (10 Best Fish)

Estimated read time 14 min read

We decided to take a closer look at some of the best fish that don’t need a filter for your tank or bowl.

Of the many fish on our list, these are the best fish that can live in a bowl without filter:

This is the most comprehensive list of fish that can live in a bowl without a filter.

In this new list, you’ll learn which fish are perfect for bowls and which ones can live without filters, heaters, and air pumps.

(Including lots of tips that I’ve never shared anywhere before.)

Let’s dive right in:


Best Fish That Don’t Need A Filter

All fish can survive without a filter; it’s all about how you set up your tank. That said, for beginners, I always recommend some filtration.

Below are a few fish that can live without a filter.

1. Betta Fish (Betta splendens)

Betta FishHere are a few things you should know about your betta fish.

To keep your Betta happy, you’ll need to make sure he has enough space that he can call his territory.

Betta fish can have very different personalities, some are more aggressive than others and may tend to harass one another, and others may not.

2. Endler Guppies (Best Fish For A Small Bowl)

Endler GuppiesCare level: Beginner to intermediate

  • Size: 1.5 inches
  • Ideal tank size: 10 Gallons minimum
  • Temperature range: 75 – 85 °F
  • PH range: 7.0 – 7.5

It’s a small fish with a long name; Endler’s livebearer is a peaceful and hardy Venezuelan fish that love planted tanks.

It usually dwells in the top and the middle and has interesting sleeping behavior. It usually falls asleep at the top and drifts down to the bottom.

3. Sparkling Gourami (Trichopsis pumila)

Sparkling Gourami

  • Care Level: Medium
  • Max Size Of Fish: 1.6in
  • Temp: 77-83F
  • PH range: 6-7.5

Sparkling Gouramis are genuinely a fish of beauty. Their red, blue, and green sparkles allow them to stand out gorgeously in a bowl.

A minimum of 10 gallons or larger will be plenty of space. They are shaped like small arrowheads, can grow almost 1.5 inches in length, and are very peaceful.

4. Ember Tetras (Hyphessobrycon amandae)

Ember Tetras

  • Care Level: Minimal
  • Size Of Fish: 2cm
  • Temperature: 73-84F
  • PH: 6.6

These small Brazilian freshwater fish make for excellent community fish. Their beauty is striking, mostly red and orange with slightly translucent bodies.

A small fish tank, a minimum of 5-10 gallons, or a larger tank with a decent amount of live plants will be plenty of room for Ember Tetras; they will swim in a school and relax in the plants. Water conditions should be within 73-84F and have a PH of 6.6.

5. Zebra Danios (Danio rerio)

Zebra Danio

  • Temperament: Social, peaceful, Ideal for a large-scale community tank.
  • Max Length: 2 Inches
  • Temperature Range: 18 C to 24 C (64 F to 74 F)
  • pH Range: 6.5 to 7.0

Zebra Danios are beautiful black and white striped fish originating from some parts of India and Bangladesh. The fish are a favorite among aquarium owners, one of the easiest tank fish to keep.

They can survive in a wide range of temperatures and varying tank conditions.

6. White Cloud Minnows (Easiest Fish To Care For In A Bowl)

White Cloud Minnows

  • Care Level: Easy
  • Size: 1-2 Inches
  • Temperature Requirements: 60-72 °F
  • PH Range: 6.0-7.0

Native to Chinese mountain streams, the White Cloud Mountain Minnow is ideal for a 5 gallon tank.

This is a peaceful and easy-to-care-for fish that won’t nip at the fins of other fish.

They also enjoy a similar diet to other fish, so you won’t have to find that perfect chemical balance for all your fish to thrive.

7. Pygmy Corydoras. (Corydoras pygmaeus)

Pygmy Corydoras

  • Care Level: Easy
  • Size: 1 Inch
  • Temperature Requirements: 72-79 °F
  • PH Range: 6.4-7.4

The Pygmy Corydoras is the smallest Corydoras Catfish species, only growing to about 1 inch in length.

Corydoras are bottom feeders, so they generally won’t interfere with your other fish, which prefers to cruise around the tank’s upper layers.

They are also peaceful by nature, and their dull gray colors blend well with sand and gravel. As a result, some fish may not even notice they have a tankmate.

8. Pea Pufferfish

Pea Puffers

  • Care Level: Medium
  • Size Of Fish: 1.4in
  • Temperature: 77-79F
  • PH: 7-7.8

The Pea Pufferfish, also known as Pygmy Pufferfish, is a small pufferfish native to Southwest India. In recent years, many pet stores and aquariums have seen the addition of these fish. They fit into bowl environments smaller than a 5 gallon because they are small.

9. Six-ray Corydoras

Six Ray Corydoras

  • Care Level: Medium
  • Size Of Fish: 1.1in
  • Temperature: 72-77F
  • PH: 6-7.2

Sixray Cories is a freshwater fish that will rarely exceed an inch in size, making them a small and an ideal pet for a minimum 10 gallon tank size or larger.

Their origin is South America, mainly Brazil. Water parameters should be within 72-77F and have a PH of 6-7.2.

10. Scarlet Badis

Scarlet Badis

  • Care Level: Medium
  • Size Of Fish: 2cm
  • Temperature: 75-79F
  • PH: 6.5-7.6

Scarlet Badis are tiny and close to the perfect pet for fish bowls, a minimum of 5-10 gallons in size and looks. Though small, these fish species can sometimes be aggressive, but mostly toward their fellow males.

Females tend towards being about 0.7 cm smaller than males on average. This is because males have a unique ventral fin, making them easy to identify.

The main thing to keep in mind when dealing with Scarlet Badis is naturally predatorial.

Can Fish Survive Without A Filter?

This depends on many factors, but in general, yes, fish can survive without a filter.

Let me expand:

Filters provide a place for beneficial bacteria to grow, give some water flow, and oxygenate the water.

So, if you have a well-established substrate base with lots of plants and only a few fish, your tank might not need a filter.

In this example, the substrate will provide enough surface area for beneficial bacteria to grow.

Also, keep in mind that good bacteria grow all over everything in your tank.

The plants will help convert any toxins and remove them from the water column in conjunction with the bacteria.

The plants will also give off oxygen as they convert Co2 into nutrients, and if you only have a few fish with lots of plants, there will be more than enough oxygen for your fish to survive.

What Filter Can You Use In A Fish Bowl?

Depending on the size of your bowl, there are different options for a fishbowl filter.

That said, here are a few good filter options for use in a fishbowl.

How To Care For Fish That Don’t Need A Filter

Even though these fish don’t need a filter, some best practices to follow when caring for them.

For example, you will still want to do regular water changes.

Here are a few tips to follow when not using a filter in your aquarium.

  1. Choose hardy cold-water fish.
  2. Plan for frequent water changes.
  3. Add oxygen to your aquarium by setting up a heavily planted tank.
  4. Start with a well-established substrate base.
  5. Practice basic aquarium hygiene.

What Fish Can Live In A Bowl

Below are 10 Types Of Fish That Can Live In A Bowl at least 3 gallons in size without a filter.

  1. Betta Fish (Need a Heater)

  2. Endler Guppies (Best Fish For A Small Bowl)

  3. Sparkling Gourami

  4. Ember Tetras

  5. Zebra Danios

  6. White Cloud Minnows (Easiest Fish To Care For In A Bowl)

  7. Pygmy Corydoras.

  8. Pea Pufferfish

  9. Six-ray Corydoras

  10. Scarlet Badis

Types Of Fish That Should Not Be Kept In Bowls

Fish that are aggressive, dirty, and grow large should not be kept in bowls. The biology of a bowl can’t support the needs of these types of fish.

Here are just a few examples of fish you should avoid if you are setting up a fishbowl.

So What Kind Of Fish Can Live In A Bowl?

Most bowls are too small to have things like lightsfiltersbubblers, and decor, so I recommend looking at fish that are very hardy, small, and possibly cold water species of fish.

Hardy Fish

Well, bowls can become toxic very quickly, and depending on the size and fish you keep, you may require daily water changes, and if you miss even one water change, it could be deadly.

Hardy fish, like white cloud minnows, may handle the water parameter swings.

“Hardy fish is any fish which is easy to maintain in-home aquaria due to their ability to adapt to a wide range of water parameters.” (Wikipedia)

Small Fish

This is pretty self-explanatory, but small fish require less space and water.

Some nano species of Fish like Scarlet Badis may be good options for bowls.

Coldwater Fish

It won’t be easy to have a bowl with equipment like heaters, filters, and lights in most cases.

If you don’t have a heater, you don’t want to have fish that requires a steady temperature of 78F, like a Betta Fish if you can’t heat the water.

Keeping Fish In A Bowl – What You Need To Know

If you want to use a bowl, then try to provide these minimum requirements:

  • Heat
  • Filtration
  • Light
  • Live Plants

I’ve seen bowls as large as 10 gallons, and you can find some small heaters like this one on Amazon that can be used in a bowl.

So there can be exceptions to the rule.

Also, a small sponge filter could be used along with some live plants.

The sponge filter will provide a place for the good beneficial bacteria to grow, will help aerate & move the water around, and the live plants will help remove some of the nitrates in your water.

Now that we’ve covered the key things to keep in mind when keeping fish in a bowl, here are a few bowl setups that would be great to copy.

Beautiful Fish Bowl Ideas And Options?

Betta Fish Planted Bowl

Here is an example of a great little Betta bowl set up from Foo The Flowerhorn. This bowl is 7.5 gallons, six months old, and doesn’t use any filter, fertilizers, or C02.

Betta Fish Planted Bowl: Video

Guppy Planted Bowl

Here is an excellent planted 3-gallon bowl set up with a few guppies from Heisenberg with a few plants like Java fern, Java moss, Christmas moss for a stunning example of what can be done.

Guppy Planted Bowl Video

How Big Is A Fish Bowl?

The most typical size of a fishbowl is 1-3 gallons. However, many brands offer fish bowls from 5-10 gallons in size.

What is the Best Fish Bowl Size?

A fishbowl of at least 3 gallons is recommended to support small fish. However, if you can get a bowl at least 5 gallons, that would be best.

A 5 gallon bowl allows you the option to install a heater, filter, and other equipment that can help improve the water quality for your fish.

What Aquarium Plants to Add in a Fish Bowl?

Most aquarium plants will work great in a fishbowl. But, of course, unless you want your plants half-submerged/immersed, you might want to stay away from tall-growing plants like Amazon Swords.

You’ll also want to stick to low light or low tech plants as a bowl isn’t big enough to support a full Co2 setup.

Here are a few live plants that would work well in a fishbowl;

  • Sagittaria
  • Vallisneria
  • Java Moss
  • Anubias
  • Java Fern
  • Green Hygrophila
  • Moneywort
  • Waterwheel Plant
  • Sunset Hygro
  • Rotala Indica
  • Rotala Rotundifolia
  • Hornwort

How Often to Change Water in a Bowl?

This depends on a lot of factors;

For example, a heavily planted bowl with only one Betta may not need water changes all that often.

However, if you don’t have any plants and have multiple fish or invertebrates, you may need to change the water every few days.

If you are using a filter in your bowl, this will increase the time between water changes.

It all depends on your particular setup. The trick is to monitor your water quality for the first few months until you understand when the water needs to be changed, monitor, test, and change as needed.

Can Fish Survive Without Oxygen

To my knowledge, no fish can survive without oxygen. They need to breathe just like any other animal.

However, how the fish get access to oxygen is another story, and you don’t always need an Air Pump to provide oxygen to your fish.

Oxygen can enter the water in many ways;

  • From plants
  • From surface agitation
  • Absorption

This leads to the next question;

Can Fish Survive Without An Air Pump?

Yes, fish don’t need an air pump. I don’t use an air pump on any of my tanks, but I use lots of live plants.

Whether or not you need an Air Pump depends on a few things like;

  • Do you have lots of live plants that produce oxygen naturally?
  • Are you using a filter that is disturbing the water surface, allowing oxygen to be absorbed into the water?
  • Is your tank covered or uncovered?

If you aren’t providing one of the above scenarios, you might need an air pump.

Can Fish Survive Without A Heater

This depends on the type of fish you have. In general, most tropical fish that you’ll end up purchasing for your bowl will require some form of a heat source.

This is because most tropical fish like a temperature around 78 degrees Fahrenheit.

However, a few fish species are considered Cold Water species and can do just fine without a filter.

Fish That Don’t Need Heaters

Examples of common coldwater Fish that don’t need heaters are:

  1. Gold Barb

  2. Green Barb

  3. Rosy Barb

  4. Two Spot Barb

  5. Bloodfin Tetra

  6. Buenos Aires Tetra

  7. Guppy

  8. Zebra Danio

  9. Pearl Danio

  10. Weather Loach

  11. White Cloud Mountain Minnow

All of the above are very hardy fish and can thrive in temperatures in the mid-’60s; all can be found in most pet stores.

What Heater Can You Use In A Fish Bowl?

Heating options are a little complicated, especially for small bowls however here are a few options you can use to heat your bowl:

Infographic – Fish That Don’t Need An Air Pump, Filter & Can Live In A Bowl.

Infographic Of What Fish Can Live In A Bowl And Don’t Need A Filter (10 Best Fish)
Infographic Of What Fish Can Live In A Bowl And Don’t Need A Filter (10 Best Fish)

Our Recommendations?

For those looking for an easy fish, the White Cloud Minnow is one of the best fish for a bowl without a filter. I’d go with something like the white cloud minnow. They are small but very active fish with little red fins and like to swim in schools. They are super, and I mean SUPER HARDY fish that can sustain pretty large swings in water quality.

So if you don’t use a filter or forget to clean the bowl, they may be able to live through the hell.

They also thrive in cold water, so if you can’t use a heater, they will be fine, but they also do just fine in a bowl with a heater so that you can go either way.

Lastly, they are very friendly and peaceful fish, so if you want to add a few snails or shrimp to the mix, they won’t attack the little guys.

You could keep 3-5 white cloud minnows In a 4-gallon bowl with some live plants, and it would look fantastic.

Before you go, check out our list of the aquarium fish you can use in your next aquarium.

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