Keeping Goldfish in a Bowl Without Filter (Debate-solved)

There has been a long-standing debate about whether keeping Goldfish in a bowl without a filter is ethical. Some argue that it is cruel and harmful to the fish, while others believe that keeping Goldfish in a bowl without filter can be done safely with proper care and maintenance. But recently, the debate has been solved.

Goldfish produce massive waste, which could quickly build up in a small bowl and create a poisonous environment for the fish. With a filter, it can be easier to maintain water quality and keep your tropical fish healthy.

However, advancements in aquarium technology have led to the development of small, efficient filters that can be used in bowls.

how to care for a goldfish in a bowl

In the definitive guide, we will explore the arguments on both sides of the debate and present the latest information on keeping Goldfish in bowl without a filter.

We will discuss the necessary steps and equipment to provide a suitable environment for the fish and address any potential concerns related to this controversial topic. 

Can You Keep a Goldfish in a Bowl Without Filter?

Keeping goldfish in a bowl without a filter can harm the fish’s health. Goldfish produce a lot of waste; without a fish tank filter, the water in the bowl can quickly become contaminated with ammonia and other toxins. 

Keeping a goldfish in bowl without a filter is strongly not recommended. While a goldfish might survive for a short period of time in a bowl without a filter, it would be not kind and would not provide it with a good quality of life. Here’s why:

  • Water quality issues: Goldfish produce a lot of waste; without a filter, this waste will quickly build up in a bowl’s small volume of water. This can lead to ammonia spikes, which are toxic to fish and might cause stress, illness, and even death.
  • Lack of oxygen: Goldfish need oxygen to breathe, and the surface area of a bowl is not enough to allow for proper oxygenation. The Goldfish would likely suffer from oxygen deprivation without a filter to help aerate the water.
  • Stunted growth: Goldfish kept in bowls are often stunted, meaning they don’t grow to their full potential. This is because the cramped space restricts their movement and growth.
  • Temperature fluctuations: Bowls offer very little insulation, so that the water temperature can fluctuate drastically depending on the surrounding environment. This can be stressful for Goldfish and can lead to health problems.
  • Boredom: Bowls provide very little stimulation for Goldfish, which can lead to boredom and stress.

If you’re interested in keeping Goldfish, providing them with a proper aquarium setup, including a filter, a heater (if necessary), and enough space to swim and grow is essential. A minimum tank size of 20 gallons is vital for one Goldfish, and even larger tanks are ideal for multiple fish.

How Long Can a Goldfish Live in a Bowl Without a Filter?

While the internet may contain anecdotes of Goldfish living for years in bowls without filters, it’s strongly discouraged and considered unethical due to the severe risk of suffering and premature death.

Survival time without a filter:

  • Short-term: A goldfish might survive a few days without a filter, but its health will deteriorate rapidly.
  • Long-term: Even if a goldfish lives for years in a bowl without a filter, its quality of life will be significantly compromised. Its lifespan will likely be shorter than in a proper aquarium with a filter.

Ethical considerations:

Many animal welfare organizations consider Goldfish in bowls without filters cruel and inhumane. It deprives them of their essential needs for a healthy life and can cause them considerable suffering.

Alternatives to bowls:

If you’re interested in keeping Goldfish, choose an adequately equipped aquarium with a filter, adequate water volume (at least 20 gallons for the first Goldfish and 10 gallons for each additional one), and appropriate water temperature and oxygen levels. This will give your Goldfish a much better chance of living long and healthy lives.

Remember, Goldfish are living creatures that deserve proper care. Choosing a suitable habitat and filtration system is essential for their well-being.

What’s Wrong With a Goldfish Bowl?

A goldfish bowl is not suitable for keeping a goldfish as a pet. In reality, goldfish bowls are too small to support a healthy environment for a goldfish to thrive.

Goldfish produce a large amount of waste and need a lot of space to swim and grow. In a small bowl, the waste accumulates quickly, leading to poor water bowl quality and health issues for the Goldfish.

Additionally, Goldfish need a well-maintained filtration system and regular water changes to thrive, which is difficult to achieve in a small bowl. Furthermore, Goldfish require plenty of oxygen, and a bowl’s surface area is insufficient and needs to be increased for proper gas exchange. 

Here’s why goldfish bowls are unsuitable for Goldfish without a filter:

  • Limited space: Goldfish can grow surprisingly large, some reaching over a foot in length. Bowls don’t offer enough swimming space for a healthy life.
  • Waste accumulation: Goldfish produce a lot of waste, and bowls lack a proper filtration system to remove harmful ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates that build up from their waste and uneaten food.
  • Oxygen and temperature fluctuations: Bowls are susceptible to rapid changes in oxygen levels and temperature, which can stress and harm Goldfish.
  • Stunted growth: Goldfish kept in cramped bowls often suffer from small growth and other health problems.

Overall, keeping a goldfish in a bowl is cruel and can lead to stunted growth, disease, and a shortened lifespan for the fish. It’s essential for anyone considering a goldfish as a pet to provide them with a suitable tank or aquarium environment with proper filtration, space, and care. 

How Do You Keep A Fish Bowl Clean Without A Filter?

Keeping a fish bowl clean without a filter can be more challenging, but with regular maintenance, it is doable. Start by performing weekly water changes of about 25-50% of the water in the bowl. This will help remove excess fish waste and debris that might build up in the water.

can goldfish live in a bowl

Use a siphon or small aquarium pump to remove the water quickly, and then refill the bowl with clean, dechlorinated water. Additionally, remove any uneaten food and debris from the bottom of the bowl daily to prevent it from decomposing and polluting the water.

Consider adding live aquatic plants to the bowl, as they can help absorb some of the waste and nutrients in the water. It’s also important to regularly clean the bowl with a soft brush or sponge to remove any algae or residue.

Following these steps and staying consistent with your maintenance routine makes keeping a fish bowl clean without a filter possible. 

keeping Goldfish in a bowl without filter: Necessary Steps & Equipment Needed

Keeping Goldfish in a bowl without a filter can be challenging since Goldfish produce a significant amount of waste, quickly leading to poor water quality and health problems for the fish.

However, if you decide to proceed with a bowl setup, here are some necessary steps and equipment you will need to help maintain a healthy environment for your new Goldfish:

  1. Proper bowl size: Choose as large a bowl as possible to provide more space for the goldfish. A larger volume of water will help dilute waste and maintain better water quality. A minimum bowl size of 10 gallons is recommended for a single goldfish.
  2. Water conditioner: Use a water conditioner specifically designed for aquariums to remove chlorine, chloramines, and heavy metals from tap water. These substances can be harmful to fish.
  3. Regular water changes: Without a filter, it’s crucial to perform frequent water bowl changes to maintain water quality. Aim to change 25-50% of the water weekly to remove accumulated waste and replenish clean water.
  4. Gravel vacuum/siphon: Invest in a gravel vacuum or siphon to help remove debris and waste from the gravel during water changes. This will prevent waste buildup and improve water quality.
  5. Testing kit: Get a water testing kit to monitor ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH levels. Elevated nitrite and ammonia levels can be toxic to fish, so keeping them at safe levels is essential. Regular testing will assist you to identify any issues and take appropriate action.
  6. Live plants: Consider adding live aquatic plants to the bowl. Plants can help absorb some fish waste and improve water quality. They also provide natural hiding places for the Goldfish.
  7. Feeding schedule: Establish a regular fish feeding schedule and ensure you don’t overfeed the Goldfish. Overfeeding leads to excessive waste production and poor water quality. Feed small amounts of high-quality goldfish food once or twice a day.
  8. Observation and maintenance: Keep a close eye on your Goldfish for signs of stress, illness, or poor water quality. If you notice any problems, promptly address them, such as adjusting water conditions, increasing water changes, or seeking veterinary advice.

It’s important to note that while these steps can help mitigate some of the issues associated with keeping Goldfish in a bowl without a filter, it is still not an ideal setup for the long-term health and well-being of the fish. Goldfish typically require a more spacious and adequately filtered aquarium to thrive.

Water quality considerations when Keeping Goldfish in a Bowl Without a Filter

Water quality becomes critical when keeping Goldfish in a bowl without a filter.

Without a filter, the water in the bowl can easily become toxic due to waste buildup from the Goldfish. This can lead to ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels rising to dangerous levels, ultimately harming the fish. Frequent water changes and cleanings are essential to maintain the bowl water quality and keep the Goldfish healthy.

Changing approximately 25-50% of the water in the bowl every few days is recommended, being careful to match the temperature and treat the new water to remove chlorine. Additionally, testing the water regularly for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels can help indicate when to change the water bowl. 

Maintaining a consistent feeding schedule and not overfeeding the Goldfish can also help reduce waste and maintain better water quality. Despite these efforts, keeping goldfish in a bowl without filter can be challenging, and providing a larger, filtered tank for their long-term health and well-being is generally recommended. 

How do you care for goldfish in a bowl without a filter?

Caring for Goldfish in a bowl without a filter requires more diligence and attention to detail. You must perform regular water changes to maintain a healthy environment for your Goldfish.

Start by replacing a portion of the water every few days, around 25%, to remove waste and toxins. Using a siphon or a small cup to remove the old water will help keep the bowl clean. It is also essential to monitor the water temperature and keep the bowl in a suitable location to avoid extreme temperature fluctuations.

Additionally, consider adding live plants to help oxygenate the water and absorb some of the waste produced by the Goldfish. Keep an eye out for any signs of stress or illness in your Goldfish, such as changes in behavior or appetite, and address any issues promptly. 

Can Goldfish Live in a Bowl Without Air Pump?

It is not ideal for Goldfish to live in a bowl without an air pump, especially as a long-term setup. While they can survive for a short period under these conditions, it wouldn’t be a healthy or comfortable environment. Here’s why:


  • Goldfish, like all fish, need oxygen to breathe. While water naturally absorbs some oxygen from the air, bowls provide limited surface area for this exchange. An air pump helps increase water oxygen levels, especially in smaller containers.

Waste and Filtration:

  • Goldfish produce waste through their gills and droppings. In a small bowl, this waste builds up quickly, leading to ammonia and nitrite buildup, which are toxic to fish. An air pump can help power a filter that removes these toxins and keeps the water clean.

Space and Water Temperature:

  • Bowls typically offer limited swimming space for Goldfish, hindering their natural movement and growth. The smaller volume of water also makes it more susceptible to rapid temperature fluctuations, which can stress the fish.

Alternatives to Bowls:

  • If you’re interested in keeping Goldfish, consider a larger tank (min. 10 gallons per Goldfish) with a filter and air pump. This provides a healthier and more spacious environment for them to thrive.

Tips for Bowl Setups (if you must):

  • If there’s no other option, ensure the bowl is at least 5 gallons per Goldfish.
  • Choose live plants like Elodea that help oxygenate the water.
  • Perform frequent (25-50%) water changes to remove waste and replenish oxygen.
  • Avoid overfeeding, as excess food adds to waste buildup.
  • Monitor water temperature and adjust with a heater if needed.

Even with these measures, bowl setups could be better for goldfish in the long term. Upgrading to a proper tank with filtration and aeration is highly recommended for their health and well-being.

How long can my fish live without a filter?

Goldfish can live a few days without a filter, but their health suffers quickly. For a happy, long life, a filter is essential.

What is the best way to clean a fish tank that has no filter?

Without a filter, frequent water changes are fundamental! Remove 25-50% weekly, siphoning gravel to scoop fish waste and debris. Live plants can also help, but regular water changes are essential for a healthy tank.

Can a goldfish live without a filter or air pump?

Goldfish need a filter and oxygenated water. Short-term survival without a filter or pump is possible with frequent water changes (50%+ weekly), live plants, and replacing filter media weekly to maintain bacteria. However, a filter and air pump are strongly recommended for long-term health and optimal water quality.

Can Goldfish live without an air pump?

Goldfish can survive without an air pump but thrive with one. Good tank surface agitation & adequate plant life provide enough oxygen. If skipping the pump, consider an air stone powered by your filter or change the water every day to ensure enough dissolved oxygen to keep your fish alive.

How To Oxygenate a Fish bowl Without a Filter?

You can use an air stone connected to an air pump to oxygenate a fish bowl without a filter. The air pump will create bubbles, increasing oxygen exchange in the water.

Can Goldfish live in a bowl without filter?

While Goldfish can survive briefly in a bowl without a filter, it’s far from ideal. They need the filtration and oxygenation a proper tank setup provides for a happy, healthy life. Talk to your local fish store about setting up a suitable habitat with a filter for your finned friend! ✅

Can you just keep a goldfish in a bowl?

No, goldfish bowls lack space, filtration, and oxygen. It’s cruel and unhealthy for Goldfish. Choose a proper tank to keep your goldfish friend happy and thriving!

Does a goldfish bowl need an air pump?

In most cases, no. Fishbowls are too small for efficient gas exchange, making filters with surface agitation preferred for oxygenation. Consider larger tanks for optimal goldfish health.


In conclusion, keeping goldfish in a bowl without filter is not recommended for their long-term health and well-being. While Goldfish may survive in a bowl for a short period, they will quickly outgrow the space and produce waste that can build up and make the water toxic. Without a filter to remove these waste products and maintain water quality, the Goldfish risk developing diseases and experiencing stress. Also, maintaining consistent water temperature and oxygen levels can only be challenging with proper filtration, putting the Goldfish at risk. It is vital to provide Goldfish with a suitable environment that allows them to thrive and live a comfortable, healthy life.

Therefore, it is best to keep Goldfish in an adequately sized aquarium with a filtration system that can support their needs and provide them with a clean and stable living environment. By doing so, Goldfish can live a longer and healthier life. 

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About Me

I am the founder of, a devoted wife and mother, and an avid fish enthusiast. My aim is to assist fellow fish lovers worldwide in understanding how to properly care for and breed their pet fish.

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