Can Guppies Live In A Bowl? (A Quick Read!)

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Guppies should not be kept in bowls. Fishbowls are too small to keep ANY fish in. The low water volume, lack of filtration, and minimal surface movement in fishbowls will lead to the guppies quickly dying.

Guppies have long been popular in the freshwater fish-keeping hobby. They come out on top of the ‘Most Popular Fish to Keep’ polls year after year. Since the 1960’s breeders have been working to develop new strains, giving us the multitude of colors available in the hobby today.

I first started keeping guppies 30 years ago, and since that time I have kept hundreds of guppies. I’ve kept guppies in large tanks and very small tanks. I am often asked Can guppies be kept in bowls?

Can Guppies Live In Bowls?

In the US we have long had a tradition of keeping fish in bowls. The reality is, a bowl is too small for ANY fish to be kept in.

When it comes to fish keeping, water parameters such as temperature, pH, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels, stability is extremely important. The more water we have in the aquarium, the easier it is to keep those parameters stable. In essence, it is actually easier to keep fish in 500 gallons than it is in 5 gallons.

A typical fishbowl only holds 1.5 to 2 gallons (5 to 8 liters). It is incredibly hard to keep such a small volume of water stable.

The other major problem with fishbowls is that they don’t typically have a filter. An aquarium filter’s job is to convert the fish waste (ammonia) which is very toxic, into nitrate, which is much less toxic (in low quantities). Without a proper filter, the ammonia levels in the bowl will quickly build-up to the point where the guppies will die.

Another important job carried out by the filter is to create surface movement. Surface movement allows an exchange of gases between the water and the air. Essentially, without surface movement the amount of oxygen in the water will drop substantially, leading to the guppies gasping at the surface.

I once carried out an experiment where I kept 3 male guppies in a 2-gallon fishbowl to see how hard it was. Within 4 days my guppies were gasping at the surface and I decided to end the experiment. With 30+ years of experience, I nearly killed my guppies in under a week. I can’t imagine how bad it would be if a bowl was somebody’s first go at fish keeping.

Alternatives To Guppies In A Bowl?

If you are considering keeping guppies, but you only have a small space, don’t be tempted by a bowl.

There are now a wide range of small aquariums on the market, many of which come with built-in filters, heaters, and lights. Fluval, Marineland, and Tetra all make decent small aquariums. I really like this one which i ordered from

If you are planning to keep guppies in a small, all-in-one aquarium, consider keeping just a group of males. As a live-bearing species of fish, 3 or 4 guppies can quickly multiply to 20 or 30, overrunning your aquarium. If you choose just males, there is no way they can breed!

In Conclusion

There really aren’t many situations when a bowl is a suitable home for guppies. Unless you are prepared to change a large volume of the water in the bowl EVERY day, your guppies will quickly die either from the buildup of ammonia or through lack of oxygen.

There are many alternatives to bowls on the market, so please consider using one of them instead of a bowl.

About the Author

I’ve been keeping, breeding, and showing tropical fish for nearly 30 years. Over that time I’ve done it all! I’ve had great success and I’ve made some really foolish mistakes (like the time I bought an Asain Walking Catfish). Read more…
Richard James

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