The Right and Wrong Ways to Display Your Betta in a Bowl

Many people decide they want to display one single Betta in a unique or dramatic way in their home. Unfortunately, they fail to realize that their bowl setups are not always adequate for their new pet.

Bowl Size

Owners who do not understand Betta behavior will choose a beautiful, but cramped bowl to display their new friend. Although this might not suffocate the fish, it is not sufficient to allow the fish to remain healthy and unstressed.

Bettas are generally not active. They don’t chase other fish or prey and they will only show activity or aggression when they are defending their territory or their eggs. Unfortunately, new hobbyists will allow a single male to float around in a tiny bowl unaware that they are harming their fish.

Tip: The rule of thumb is to make sure the bowl is large enough so that your Betta is able to swim at least three or four body lengths. Anything smaller is just not suitable.

Where Should You Place the Bowl?

Warning: Never place the bowl in direct sunlight. This holds true for even a very large aquarium, but when you are working with a small bowl, the sun can heat the water up to an unsafe level for your Betta. Likewise, keep the bowl away from outside walls.

Avoid placing the bowl on any ledge, table or tray that is not sturdy and could easily tip over. Equally important is staying clear of high traffic areas or the tops of busy cabinets or shelves. The constant opening and closing will move the water back and forth which can cause stress on the Betta, thereby lowering its immune system.


Water bubbles
close up water and bubbles

Until recently, hobbyists who housed their Betta in a bowl kept the water clean with frequent water changing. More than two water changes every week is recommended with smaller bowls requiring more.

Unfortunately, it is common to see ammonia burns on the fins of Bettas that are kept in unfiltered bowls. When the burns reach the fins, it’s fairly certain they are on their gills as well which can drastically reduce the health of your fish.

Much to the delight of Betta hobbyists, bowl filtration is available. Most setups will allow many gallons of filtered water to blow through the bowl, which is even more than is needed, but it is of great benefit to the Betta.

Many people still believe that if they change the water in their fish bowl and it is clear and not cloudy, the fish will stay healthy. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Filtration is important, but biofiltration, which involves using bacteria to keep the ammonia and nitrites in the water in check, is vital.

Controlling Water Temperature and Lighting in a Bowl Setup

Although there are many dangers to direct sunlight shining on your bowl, it is important to have some form of lighting. Purchase a system that is designed for a Betta bowl or you will risk overheating the water which can be deadly for your fish.

Regrettably, regardless of what type of lighting you use, because bowls are usually quite small, the water will probably heat up to some degree. Although the water in the Betta’s natural habitat is warm, you still have to monitor the water temperature to ensure it doesn’t exceed 84 degrees Fahrenheit. On the other hand, if you are relying on room temperatures to heat the water, this might be a problem during the winter. If the water gets too cool, it will weaken your fish.

It’s understandable why most Betta enthusiasts choose to display their fish in an aquarium setup. It’s much easier, more practical and less upkeep. Either way, it’s important that the water is kept clean and warm, and there is proper filtration and lighting to keep your Betta happy and healthy.

What does your betta’s environment look like? Large tank? Small tank?