Can Guppies Live in a Bowl? Understanding Tank Requirements

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Can guppies live in a bowl? Like it or not, the idea of keeping guppies in a fish bowl has been popular for a long time. Many people find it an attractive way to add color and life to their living spaces without worrying about the upkeep of a more traditional aquarium setup. But there are several considerations one needs to take into account before participating in this practice.

This article looks at the risks and rewards of keeping guppies in bowls, offering advice on how to do so safely and effectively. We’ll take a deep dive into the factors that affect whether or not a bowl is an acceptable environment for guppies, and explore the requirements for successful and healthy fish keeping.

Are Fish Bowls Suitable for Guppies?

At first glance, it would seem like a bowl would be the perfect habitat for guppies. Guppies are tiny fish, and considering that most bowls contain 1-3 gallons of water, it would seem there’s more than enough room for the little fellows.

But despite their small size, guppies require plenty of space because they need to exist in schools of 5 or more. Without a group of guppies to interact with, the lone fish can become stressed and lethargic. The best tank for guppies is at least 10 gallons in size – which perfectly accommodates a tiny school of 4-5 guppies.

So, are fish bowls suitable for guppies? In general, no. Unless you manage to get your hands on a giant fish bowl (which would be quite a feat), it’s unrealistic to expect your guppies to thrive in this environment. However, there are some unique circumstances under which it may be possible to house your guppies in fish bowls. We’ll take a closer look below.

Can Your Guppies Be Kept in Bowls?

Guppy in a bowl
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So we’ve established that a bowl is too small for the average guppy. But there are some unique exceptions to this rule. Here are a few scenarios where it may be possible to keep guppies in bowls:

You’re keeping a group of guppy fry

After a mother guppy gives birth, the fry will be incredibly small and require very little space. In this case, a bowl may be large enough to accommodate your new family. Be sure to create lots of hiding spots for the fry to feel secure, as well as plenty of clean and natural décor for them to explore.

Though it may be entirely possible for baby guppies to lead a healthy life in a bowl, it’s important to remember that they will soon outgrow the space. So you’ll need to make plans for transferring them into a larger tank as soon as possible.

You have a minimalist setup

As much as we all want an elaborate tank filled with beautiful plants and many gadgets, this is a bad idea for anyone considering using a fish bowl. A bowl doesn’t have a lot of space to begin with, and excessive tank décor will only displace more of the water. This can create a dangerous environment for your guppies who won’t be able to swim around comfortably.

If your bowl is JUST large enough to accommodate a group of guppies, we recommend sticking to the bare necessities. A tiny filter, a heater, and maybe one plant or decoration is all you need to create a safe habitat. An elaborate aquascape? A giant acrylic castle complete with tiny little rooms and hideouts for each fish? You may want to opt for a larger tank in that case.

Your fish bowl filtration system is adequate

Actually, “adequate” doesn’t really cut it. A fish bowl filtration system must be top-notch if you want to keep guppies in it. Proper filtration removes toxic waste and uneaten food from the tank, which ensures a safe environment for your guppies. Most hobbyists opt for internal filters, but you can also opt for an external canister filter to up your game.

No matter which filter you choose, be sure to do regular maintenance on it. This means cleaning the filter media often (once every two weeks is recommended) and replacing it when necessary. Remember – a dirty filter will not only fail to keep your bowl clean, but it could also be dangerous for the guppies. And you don’t want that.

Assuming that you have a minimalist setup, a reliable filtration system, and/or tiny fry, it may be possible to house your guppies in a bowl. However, we still recommend using a larger tank if possible. Not only will the extra space provide your guppies with more room to explore and swim around, but it will also make maintenance much easier.

How to Keep Guppies in a Bowl

Despite the potential drawbacks, keeping guppies in a bowl is possible – assuming you follow the rules above. Here are some extra tips that will help you make the most of this unique situation:

Maintain Adequate Oxygen Levels

Guppies need plenty of clean, oxygen-rich water to survive. Unfortunately, the surface-to-air ratio of most bowls doesn’t allow for sufficient oxygen exchange to take place. Compared to a regular fish tank, bowls have a rounded shape that reduces the surface area, limiting the amount of oxygen that can enter the water.

Even if your fish bowl only contains a couple of guppies, you must ensure that the oxygen levels are adequate. Guppies that are chronically deprived of oxygen are prone to illnesses and other health issues. Over time, this affects their life span and general well-being. It is no coincidence that guppies in fish bowls have a higher incidence of illnesses and deaths.

To counteract this phenomenon, be sure to surface-skim your bowl often. This usually involves adding a water bubbler, air stone, or air pump to the tank. The agitation of water surface will allow carbon dioxide and other toxins to escape, and it will also allow for more oxygen to enter the water. Doing so will make a world of difference to the health of your guppies!

Ensure Water Parameters Are Ideal

water ph tester

Guppies are very sensitive to water parameters such as temperature, pH levels, and dissolved oxygen. To ensure that your guppy fish stay healthy, you must not only monitor your water parameters on a regular basis, but also make adjustments as necessary. Do your research on the ideal water parameters for guppies, and take time to learn how to measure them.

It’s especially important to maintain a consistent water temperature that matches the warmer water found in their natural habitat. Most guppies thrive at temperatures between 72 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit (22 to 25 degrees Celsius). This is consistent with the temperatures found in the rivers of South America, so be sure to use a water heater if needed.

Finally, it’s also vital to run tests on your water source to make sure it is free of toxins and pollutants. Tap water often contains chlorine and other chemicals that can be dangerous to guppies. If dechlorinated water isn’t readily available, you may need to use a water filter or conditioner. This will remove these unwanted toxins from the water, making it safe for your fish.

Provide Enough Space

Often, fish bowls are too small to accommodate more than one to two adult guppies. The shape of the bowl also limits the size and number of decorations that can be added, thus reducing the available swimming space. No matter what, make sure your bowl has enough room for the guppies to move around and explore.

large fish bowl

To determine whether or not a particular bowl contains enough water volume for your guppies, use the fish-per-gallon rule. The rule states that the quantity of water should be at least one gallon (3.78 liters) per inch of fish. For instance, the average guppy is two inches long, so you’d need at least 4 gallons of water to house two guppies in a bowl.

Although this rule isn’t foolproof, it gives you a good idea of how much space your guppies will need. In the end, remember that more water means fewer health problems for your fish, so err on the side of caution when selecting a bowl. And given that guppies tend to be active and lively, it’s best to give them as much room as possible.

Perform Frequent Water Changes

Clean water is essential for maintaining the health of your guppies. Without adequate water changes, solid waste and other toxins will accumulate, leading to a rapid deterioration in water quality. This is especially true for fish bowls and smaller tanks, as their limited space means a lot less leeway when it comes to environmental conditions.

To keep up with your guppies’ water needs, perform partial water changes on a weekly basis. Depending on the size and quantity of your fish, you may have to change up to 50 percent of the water per week. Doing so will help keep your guppies alive and healthy over time. Every fish species needs clean water to thrive, and guppies are no exception.

In addition to water changes, be sure to clean any decorations or gravel on a regular basis. Algae can often accumulate in these areas, so it’s important to remove it as soon as possible. You can use an aquarium vacuum to suck up the excess debris without disturbing your fish.

By following these tips and establishing a regular cleaning schedule, you can give your guppy fish the environment they thrive in a fish bowl.

The Takeaway

We hope this article has answered your questions about whether guppies can be kept in bowls. Generally speaking, it is best to opt for fish tanks instead, as these provide a more stable and secure environment for your guppy. But bowls have their place in the aquarist’s world, provided they meet certain criteria.

Just remember to maintain the appropriate temperature, provide enough space, and perform frequent water changes. Doing so will help ensure your guppies stay healthy, regardless of whether they’re in a bowl or tank. Thanks for reading, and do share this article if you found it helpful. Happy fishkeeping!

Wanda is a second-generation aquarist from the sunny tropics of Malaysia. She has been helping her father with his freshwater tanks since she was a toddler, and has fallen in love with the hobby ever since. A perpetual nomad, Wanda does her best to integrate fish-keeping with her lifestyle, and has taken care of fish in three different continents. She loves how it provides a nice break from the hustle and bustle of life.

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