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Home > Goldfish > Goldfish Bowl FAQ: 8 Common Questions Answered By Our Vet

Goldfish Bowl FAQ: 8 Common Questions Answered By Our Vet

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Dr. Luqman Javed

Veterinarian, DVM

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There are a lot of strong opinions regarding keeping goldfish in bowls, and you’ll find plenty of confusing and contradicting information about it in every corner of the goldfish-loving internet. To make things less confusing for you, we’ve compiled some of the most frequently asked questions about goldfish bowls. It’s important to understand all aspects of goldfish bowls to ensure you provide your goldfish with the happiest, healthiest life possible.

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The 8 Common Goldfish Bowl Questions Answered

Please Note

In many parts of the world, it may be possible to win a goldfish at a carnival, fair, or festival. We do not recommend or advise adopting a goldfish this way unless you are able to provide a suitable home for them. Legislation in recent years has led to some countries imposing a ban on having goldfish given as prizes at fairs or carnivals.

At Pet Keen, we do not encourage or recommend placing goldfish in bowls as it is very difficult to cater to their needs in such a setup. Goldfish are social, messy, large, and long-lived, and they should be kept in groups in aquariums large enough to house them. Please note that some cities, counties, and jurisdictions have passed legislation that prohibits housing them in bowls.

1. Can Goldfish Happily Live in a Bowl?

The short answer to this question is a simple “no”.

When used for long-term housing of goldfish, fishbowls available today come with a plethora of problems. Here are just some of the reasons why you shouldn’t house your goldfish in fish bowls:

Some Problems With Fishbowls
  • Fishbowls are small – the biggest issue with fishbowls is their small size, which isn’t enough space for a goldfish. Not only that, but studies have shown that goldfish are also social and prefer to live in groups. Not only is a fishbowl too small for a single goldfish, but a single goldfish placed in a bowl would also suffer from the lack of companionship offered by other goldfish.
  • Bowls have poor oxygen concentration – Oxygen is vital for all life, and goldfish are no exception to this rule. In aquariums, oxygen exchange occurs at the water surface. However, the narrow neck of a fishbowl means that the oxygen level of the water in the bowl will be low, which isn’t ideal for goldfish.
  • Goldfish are exceptionally messy – Goldfish are high-waste producers. They produce high amounts of ammonia and feces. The small size of a bowl coupled with a messy fish is a recipe for disaster, and water quality can quickly take a turn for the worse when goldfish are housed in bowls.
  • Fishbowls are difficult to filter, clean, and maintain – The shape of a fishbowl makes them very incompatible with many different types of filters. Hang-on-back filters or canister filters often can’t be installed on a fish bowl, which severely limits the options of good filters available to use with bowls. Their shape also makes them more difficult to clean, as there is no easy way to clean the round walls of a bowl reliably. Large volumes of water changes can easily stress fish and can even result in losses, and the requirements of goldfish mean that maintaining good quality water in a fish bowl is extremely difficult.

For these reasons (and many more) housing goldfish in a tank is a task that’s best left to experienced fish keepers who only do so on a temporary basis for very specific purposes.

Fancy Goldfish
Image By: Ko Thongtawat, Shutterstock

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2. What Kind of Goldfish Are Suitable for a Bowl?

No goldfish is suitable for a bowl. Even the smallest variety of goldfish can reach a body length of at least 5-6 inches, with some common goldfish varieties easily exceeding a foot (12 inches) in length. Placing them in a bowl would lead to their growth being stunted.

3. Will Goldfish Have Stunted Growth in a Bowl?

In most cases, yes. Goldfish grow too fast for most bowls to keep up with their demands and end up stunted in bowls.

photo of a orange goldfish
Image By: Hannah jones, Unsplash

4. How Long Does It Take for a Goldfish’s Growth to Begin Stunting?

This can vary widely, and since the cause of stunting is not fully understood, there is not a simple answer. How rapidly your goldfish begins having growth stunting is dependent on the size of the bowl, the size of your fish, the number of fish in the bowl, the frequency of water changes, the overall water quality, the water temperature, and nutrition. Some fish may begin having growth stunting within weeks, while others may not show signs of stunted growth for months or longer. However, it is important to note that when placed in bowls, stunting is often just a matter of time.

5. How Often Do Water Changes Need to Be Performed in a Bowl?

When temporarily housing goldfish in a bowl, a partial water change should be performed on a daily basis while you find a better solution for their long-term housing. Please note that this frequency isn’t guaranteed to keep your goldfish safe; in an exceptionally small bowl, ammonia poisoning and death of pet fish can occur in a matter of a few hours. We do not recommend attempting to maintain goldfish in a bowl by doing frequent water changes, as water changes can also stress fish.

goldfish in aquarium
Image By: seaonweb, Shutterstock

6. Is a Filter Necessary for Keeping a Goldfish in a Bowl?

If you are temporarily housing goldfish in a bowl, they absolutely need filtration. Filters provide mechanical, chemical, and biological filtration, all of which help remove waste and toxins from the water, improving and maintaining high water quality. However, please note that filters aren’t miracles, and they don’t negate the many drawbacks of a bowl.

7. Are There Bowls Big Enough for Medium and Large Goldfish?

A bowl can only be considered large enough for a pair of fancy goldfish if it is around 40 gallons in size. Even then, given that it would hold less oxygen than a square or rectangular aquarium of the same volume, it isn’t a worthwhile investment.

Goldfish swimming in the water
Image By: imso Gabriel, Pexels

8. Will Living in a Bowl Shorten My Goldfish’s Life?

Almost always yes. The average goldfish kept in a bowl only lives 1–2 years at best. Many others die within a few weeks or months. The average lifespan of a goldfish is 15-25 years, with some individuals confirmed to have exceeded 40 years.

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Fishbowls aren’t recommended for goldfish because they are very difficult to properly maintain and can’t meet a goldfish’s long-term housing requirements. There may also be legal restrictions on housing goldfish in a bowl, depending on where you live.

Goldfish require large aquariums, which are much more humane, easier to maintain, and won’t get you in trouble with the law.

Featured Image Credit: hxdbzxy, Shutterstock

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