Can Betta Fish Live in a Bowl Without a Filter

Last Updated on October 5, 2020

Keeping a betta fish in a small bowl has started debates in the fish keeping hobby. The betta’s natural habitat is the rice paddies and shallow streams in Southeast Asia which makes it a tropical fish. Water levels drop during the hot summer season and betta fish have evolved to survive very shallow water with very little oxygen content. 

Can betta fish live in a bowl without a filter and still live a happy and healthy life?

Betta fish belong to the Anabantoidei fish suborder. Aside from taking in oxygen from the water through their gills, they have developed a labyrinth organ that allows them to breathe air they gulp from the water’s surface. This is where the idea came from that betta fish can live in small amounts of water.

Betta fish in the wild don’t live their entire existence in such conditions. Rain during the wet season brings plenty of water which restores the vast streams and rice paddies. The constant turnover of water allows the betta to thrive in such an environment.

Can betta fish live in a bowl without a filter?

A bowl at around 2.5 gallons capacity will not be suitable to put a filter in. The filter will create too much disturbance in the water column which will stress out your betta fish. Betta fish prefer calm water and they will get exhausted swimming against strong currents. This is the reason betta fish kept in a bowl wouldn’t benefit from a filter.

Can Betta Fish Live in a Bowl Without a Filter

It’s best to keep water conditions as clean as possible because the disadvantage of small containers is that the toxic substances that will harm your fish will increase rapidly. Uneaten food and your fish’s waste will accumulate and make levels of ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates increase. Try doing 20 to 25% water change every 2 days.

It would also be good to have a test kit ready at all times so you are sure about your water parameters. Give your fish the amount of food it can finish within two minutes and take out any uneaten food as soon as possible. Make sure that your betta fish has quick access to the water’s surface so it can gulp in air.

Related: How Long Can a Betta Fish Live in a Fishbowl?

A filtered tank is better for your betta fish

Having a tank with a larger volume of water will give your betta fish home with more room for it to swim and explore. Installing a filter will be possible. 

Choose filters for the correct volume of your tank. Good choices are a sponge filter, a hang on the back filter, or a submersible filter. Avoid filters for tanks of a larger capacity because this will create too powerful flows.

There are also aquarium kits specifically for bettas that come with a built-in filter which will give you peace of mind that your betta will be comfortable.

The benefits of having a filter for your betta fish’s tank

Your betta fish will surely thrive more in a tank with a filter because it will provide a more stable and safer environment.

  1. Filters trap fish waste and excess food.
  2. The agitation of the water surface provides oxygenation for your water column. This will give the betta an option to use its gills instead of it having to struggle now and then to gulp air from the surface of the water.
  3. Beneficial bacteria colonize filter media and these break down harmful ammonia into nitrites and further down into nitrates. Ammonia and nitrites are toxic to fish.
  4. Choosing to add tank mates for your betta fish will increase in bioload and will surely require a filter to prevent ammonia spikes and oxygen depletion.
  5. Stable water parameters will reduce maintenance. You still need to water changes but on a lesser frequency.

Related: How to Decorate Fish Tank

Regular maintenance for filtered tanks will keep your betta fish healthy

  1. A weekly water change by around 25-30% to replenish with fresh water.
  2. Once a week vacuuming to remove any fish waste and debris on the bottom of your tank to lessen the sources of ammonia.
  3. Clean your filter media once a month to remove accumulated waste. Use dechlorinated tank water when cleaning filter media. Tap water will kill the beneficial bacteria that live in your filter media.

What if your filter’s flow is too strong?

If your betta is constantly swept away by the current from your filter, then the flow is too strong. If your betta is always struggling, then it will lead to exhaustion, may cause damage to its delicate fins, prevent it from getting air from the water’s surface, and even cause death.

It is best to get a filter that has an adjustable flow. Use the lowest setting. Calling customer service may help with after purchase support. Maybe they can offer a refund or a replacement for a lesser powerful filter

If this isn’t possible, you can try to remedy the situation yourself.

  1. Increase the plants and decorations in your tank so that the current is blocked as it flows around the water column.
  2. For a hang on back filter, you can cut a piece of sponge that will fit into the output to lessen the force of the water trickling back into your betta tank.
  3. You can wrap some pre-filter sponge around the intake and secure it with rubber bands to restrict water uptake.


In conclusion, your betta fish will surely enjoy a larger tank with good filtration. Monitor the flow so that your betta will not be exhausted. Proper filtration will prevent any ammonia spikes common in small containers that are easily polluted and take more effort to maintain.

Giving your betta a tank with a larger capacity whether it is for its private home or as a community with other tank mates will allow you more room for error than a smaller fish tank. A larger filtered tank gives its inhabitants a better environment to thrive in.