Finatics is a fish enthusiast and enjoys writing detailed guides on how to care for various species of aquarium fish.
Fish-keeping has evolved over centuries, from small vases and bowls to the high-tech aquariums of today. Unfortunately, some fish-keepers haven't advanced along too and still keep their pets in the dreaded fish bowl. Ironically, fish bowls are not suitable homes for aquarium fish, whether they're goldfish or bettas or any other animal.
The Essential Goldfish: Total Care, Housing, and Feeding Your Goldfish, Keeping Your Pet Healthy, Breeding by Maddy Hargrove says about the fish bowl, "A muddy puddle in a deep pothole would probably be better." And for many reasons:
If you buy a pet, whether it's a fish or a dog, it is your responsibility to make sure s/he gets the best care possible under your ownership. Animals are not toys—they are living creatures and need to be respected and treated right. This includes fish. If you're keeping a fish in a bowl, do the right thing and buy a proper aquarium!
wayuupthere on June 14, 2019:
fish bowls are bad
I think that fish bowls are horrible if they are very low quality and no space on August 27, 2018:
They are very horrible for your
theunknownperson(mightbeaghostsorryifiamscaryingyoubutmaybe)!!! on August 17, 2018:
this hub is helpful for my ghost fishy!!!
May on October 26, 2016:
Hi, I have two small molly fishes about 2 to 3 inches and I feed them in a about 20cm x 10cm rectangular tank. May I ask is it ok for the fish ?Thanks.
May on October 26, 2016:
Hi, I have two small molly fishes about 2 to 3 inches and I feed them in a about 20cm x 10cm rectangular tank. May I ask is it ok for the fish ?Thanks.
Trevor on September 30, 2016:
I too have seen betta fish stuck in a fish bowel. Except for the swimming space problem.You can have a small pump leading outside of the tank witch than lead into a filter.That would also allow for more O2. As for the cat eating it you could have a small lid.Be ware, I am not arguing angst you but I am just stating that for people who cant afford a proper tank. But please if you do want to get a pet fish, at least get a five gallon and don't over croud the tank.The general rule of thumb is 1 inch of fish for 1 gallon of water but this does not work for all fish.
Pet on September 28, 2016:
My fish live in a 15 litre bowl with filter, a live plant and an ornament. They look happy.
Jackie on August 10, 2015:
What about gold fish? They don't have to be kept warm and I know of doctor's offices who have had them for years and they do just fine?
ra on January 05, 2015:
You must be a strict vegetarian, right? :)
Chalcedony on January 19, 2013:
It's nice that you explained all this, but as an experienced Fish tank keeper I can tell you that your video of the "happy Beta Fish" is not much better than bowl you're talking of: It is way too small for it; every fish needs at least 54 litres. In my country, the employees of the pet store will refuse to sell you any fish if you tell them, your fish tank is smaller than that.
You can also see, that fish is not happy by swimming along the glass pane; this means he is not happy at all and wants to escape his prison. And in the fish tank, there should be more (real) plants, the Beta's natural environment is a messy underwater jungle.
Please, if you keep living beings, treat them like they deserve it and in an environment, that ressembles their natural ones. Thank you.
surah on December 11, 2012:
thank you very much! i was considering to put fish in the bowl until i read ur article.. very informative... thank you!
Whyhellothere on December 01, 2012:
Does this mean that you're a vegetarian?
Camdyn on October 19, 2012:
I have had a betta in a fish bowl for almost 3 years and he seems to be doing just fine so plz tell me what is the normal lifespan of a betta fish
and also very nice job stating the importance i will try to fix my betta in a bowl if needed
NOYB on October 02, 2012:
I've had a betta last for eight years and he lived in a one gallon bowl with no heater or filter!
John on September 30, 2012:
I forgot to add I keep my male in a ten gallon he is two years old. My female is a year old in a twenty gallon community tank. I belong to bettafish.com senoir member choclatebetta.
John on September 30, 2012:
Bowls and aquariums are really different. A betta averages 2-3 years in a bowl 5-7 and sometimes 10 years in a heated filtered big enough tank.
NOYB on September 13, 2012:
If fishbowls should be outlawed, then so should ALL aquariums!
KZHVX on August 10, 2012:
Thank you for clarifying exactly why, I will be sure to mention this to customers from now on :)
Ps Loved the Campbells fish soup part!
Cybermouse from Bentonville, AR on July 25, 2012:
Great hub! Every site that has any information at all about fish care should have this hub, or something like it, as a must-read sticky note kind of thing before you can even join the site. If more people knew about proper fish care, I don't think they'd be quite as popular as pets. Getting a small bowl with no filter is about like buying a dead fish, if you've never cared for fish before.
I find it sad and deplorable that people keep fish in bowls, or worse, tiny vases, like they're just a moving flower or something. Makes me wonder if they even feed them - how would you get the food down there without taking the plants out every time? Someone that's too lazy to get a proper tank is probably too lazy to even feed the poor fish to begin with, much less change the water frequently enough to do any good.
I was horrified last week when I learned that a coworker who was quitting and moving away had stopped feeding and changing water for his betta (presumably in hopes it would die so he didn't have to take it back with him). I immediately offered to take the betta and was surprised to find it in decent health, chugging along just fine after apparently several weeks of malnutrition and dirty water. It's a good thing they're resilient - but as you said, that's no excuse to treat them badly or provide them less attention and care than any other pet.
bettaowner on July 10, 2012:
what about a big bowl with a filter and airstone
finatics (author) on June 02, 2012:
@hannahbanana09091, yes but the difference between bettas and other fish is that they can SURVIVE in a bowl, but they will never thrive. Is that a humane choice to do to your pet?
@saha, I completely agree that it is necessary for us to respect all life.
hannahbanana09091 on November 04, 2011:
k i do agree but bettas dont need lots of air right? so its not that bad to keep bettas in bowls but any other fish is wrong in my opionion. i still kinda think its mean to keep bettas in a bowl but its not horrible...
finatics (author) on April 18, 2011:
Thank you, pldominice! It does get irritating when people don't do proper research on their pet's care. I'm glad to hear that you are helping to spread the word on fish bowl cruelty!
Patricia Dominice from Atlanta, GA on April 17, 2011:
LOVE this article!
I just wrote one about the goldfish bowl myth, haha. I work in a pet store and I get this every day and its awful to have to explain this all day long, but I'd rather do it than the alternative, of course.
finatics (author) on March 26, 2011:
Hey Paramorefan (love that band!) I would actually not recommend buying from Walmart because if you do, you support the store and allow them to replace the fish you bought with even more that will be neglected.
Paramorefan on March 23, 2011:
If you are thinking of getting a fish please get one from Walmart, they don't give them any attention and they always end up getting sick or mutated (i would know i bought a 1 eyed gold fish from them) please help those fish
finatics (author) on March 05, 2011:
You're welcome, jeannieinabottle. Unfortunately, when pet stores sell their animals in tiny, cramped quarters, it leads customers to believe it's okay, and helps propagate the myth that fish bowls are healthy ways to keep fish. The only way to stop this is if people do better research before they impulsively buy their fish.
Jeannie Marie from Baltimore, MD on March 03, 2011:
Thanks for creating this hub. It breaks my heart when I see bettas stuck in those little bowls at the pet store.
finatics (author) on January 29, 2011:
Thank you Blue_Oranda89!
Blue_Oranda89 on January 16, 2011:
Very nice hub, you did a great job!
With its striking, bold colors and flashy fins, the betta fish is one of the more popular types of fish found in home aquariums. Unfortunately, myths abound about these intriguing creatures. One myth is that you just buy one, stick it in a bowl, feed it every day and that's it. But the truth is that they're not as hardy and easy to care for as many believe.
Betta fish — also called Siamese fighting fish — are tropical fish native to Southeast Asia. Especially prevalent in Thailand, wild bettas typically live in rice paddies and other shallow, stagnant bodies of water. Because these wetlands routinely shrink during the dry season, bettas hop from puddle to puddle, trying to find a reasonably deep pool where they can hang out until the rains return. Due to these conditions, bettas developed a labyrinth organ that gives them the ability to obtain some oxygen from the air as well as the water.
Bettas got the nickname "Siamese fighting fish" due to their territorial nature and inclination to fight. In 19th-century Thailand, the fish were bred for this purpose, and many fighting matches were held. Interestingly, the fish fights only lasted a few minutes before one of the two would either die or give up and retreat. Bettas were first introduced to the U.S. in the early 20th century.
While wild bettas generally have small fins and are dull green or brown, today's pet bettas have been bred to be quite colorful, with elaborate fins. With proper care, a pet betta can live for two to four years. But before you buy one, make sure you're aware of these five common fish tales about the beautiful betta fish.
Perhaps the most popular myth is that bettas can live in small bowls. The opposite is true: Betta fish need a tank that's at least 5 gallons (19 liters), and 10 gallons (38 liters) is better. The origin behind this persistent myth is uncertain, but may come from the fact that bettas are often sold in small containers, and because they have some ability to breathe out of the water.
But bettas can be stressed if they're housed in close quarters, especially if they share space with fish perceived as rivals — for small tanks mean there's nowhere to hide. Even when housed with fish they get along with, they still need places to escape when they don't feel like socializing.
But while the tank should be spacious, it shouldn't be too deep, as bettas swim back and forth, not up and down.
Matt Leighton, a longtime betta fish owner and editor of VivoFish, says bettas should be kept in tanks no deeper than 12 inches (30 centimeters).
"If it's too deep, the betta may not be able to get up to the surface as easily," he says in an email interview, noting their fins aren't that powerful. "It's heartbreaking to see a betta struggling to climb, and then be pulled down to the bottom by his tail."
Betta fish are tropical fish that need to be kept in water ranging from 76 to 81 degrees F (24 to 27 degrees C). Unless you keep your home this warm — and most people don't — you'll need that heater.
A water filter is important, too, even though wild bettas live in murky puddles. Without a filter, waste materials (urine and feces) and uneaten food can make the water toxic. Be sure to purchase a filter with a gentle flow, as bettas' delicate fins do better in calm water. In addition, their fins could be damaged by the suction in higher-flow filters.
It's true bettas don't mind being alone. It's also true they tend to have issues with other fish. If male bettas are together, or placed with other fish with bright colors and large fins, their natural territorialism often prompts them to fight. However, they can definitely live with other aquatic creatures, such as ghost shrimp, snails and African dwarf frogs. They can also live with other species of fish, namely bottom-dwellers such as the eel-like khuli loach or those with small fins.
Female bettas can often live together harmoniously with adequate space, which means a tank in the 10-gallon (38-liter) range. But monitor them. Jessica Kirk, a veterinarian and head of Vet Explains Pets, says by email that female bettas can sometimes become aggressive with other females — or any other fish. So if you've got a female or two and want to introduce new fish, do so one at a time.
"Then closely monitor the aquarium's pecking order to make sure that everyone is getting along after the initial meeting," Kirk says. If one of the ladies becomes aggressive, she needs to be moved to another tank.
While betta fish are often sold in small vases with a plant, bettas are carnivores, not herbivores. In the wild, they chow down on insects and larva. So feed your pets fish pellets or flakes crafted specifically for bettas. You can supplement with high-protein treats such as bloodworms and brine shrimp. But remember that fish can become overweight just like any other pet. So feed in moderation, ideally only as much food as the fish can eat within three to five minutes.
Experts agree the laziness myth stems from two main factors. First, many people observe bettas in pet stores, where they're often kept in small containers that hinder their activity. And second, many owners erroneously keep their betta fish in unheated water, which makes them lethargic.
Leighton says betta fish can be playful and active in the proper setting. "I've seen them push moss balls around, 'dance' around their tank, display their tails and generally be quite active," he says.
Now that you're armed with the proper facts, it's time to go betta-shopping.
Some other popular freshwater aquarium fish include neon tetras, guppies and oscars. The peaceful neon tetra sports a flashy iridescent strip, while guppies are lively and can adapt to varied water conditions. And the intelligent oscar is one of the few fish that can be trained to do tricks.
Have you ever wondered why your child’s pet goldfish never lived more than a few weeks or months if you’re lucky? The truth may surprise you.
Who doesn’t love goldfish? This spring, I took my daughter to her first carnival. Since she’s only two and a half, I knew that the excitement from this evening could make bedtime a breeze for us. I figured we’d eat some ice cream, see the circus animals, and by the time we took our second trip around the carnival festivities, she’d be ready for bed. My plan was on track and my daughter was exhausted as we concluded up our second lap. As I picked her up and started to walk towards the exit, a bright light caught my eye. I walked past a well lit carnival booth that offered the opportunity win a goldfish! Suddenly, I was taken back to a time when I was a young child. I remembered going to the state fair with my parents and begging them for some money to play the same game with the prospect of winning a goldfish. I remember standing there, completely focused on the task at hand – landing my ping pong ball into the fishbowl. I was a winner every summer. In my mind, I felt like it was divine intervention. It was time for my daughter to win her own fish. Since we received twenty ping pong balls for $5, I was confident that she’d come home with at least one fish.
We went home with three fish that night.
As a child, my fish never lived more than a month or two. Despite my parent’s best efforts to keep the tank clean and the fish fed, I would eventually wake to find one or all of my fish floating upside down in the tank. With these new additions to the family, my wife and I were determined to create an environment that allowed our fish to live as long as possible. After hours of research and talking to some experts in the field, we were shocked to learn that the way most families take care of goldfish borders on pure negligence!
They are one of the earliest fish to be domesticated as pets and are the most common fish kept in an aquarium. Goldfish are a domesticated version of the carp that are native to eastern Asia. Carp can grow up up to 30 pounds!
During the Tang Dynasty (around 600 AD), it was popular to raise carp in ponds and water gardens. A naturally occurring genetic mutation produced the gold color of the fish. People started to intentionally breed the gold color rather than the normal silver and green colors. On special occasions, families would put their gold fish on display in small glass containers.
By the start of the Song Dynasty (1160 AD), the domesticated goldfish we fully established. By 1162 , the empress had ordered the construction of a pond specifically for collecting the red and gold colored fish. By this point in time, those that were outside of the imperial family were forbidden to have goldfish that were the gold color, as it was the imperial color and was protected. Historians believe that this is the reason why there are more of the orange goldfish in existence than any other color.
By the 1600’s goldfish were introduced into Japan and quickly made their way to , to Portugal and throughout Europe. In the 1620s, goldfish became highly sought after in most of southern Europe due to their metallic looking scales that symbolized good luck and fortune. It quickly became a tradition for newly married men to give their wife a goldfish as a gift at their one year wedding anniversary. By the mid 1800’s, goldfish were seen as a display of wealth in the United States and are now a fixture in homes of all socioeconomic classes all over the world.
1. Your fish was already half dead when you bought them.
Most pet stores consider goldfish a “disposable fish”. They are sold as food for other fish so they only need to stay alive long enough to be taken home and put in for the other fish. They are the “sacrificial” first fish to help cycle a tank. Most of them are bred/raised in such cramped quarters that probably 90 % are dead, dying, or diseased when they get to the pet store. If you are going to buy fish from the pet store, watch the fish carefully for at least 10 minutes. If you win them from a carnival like we did, you can only hope for the best.
2.Your tank is WAY too small.
The minimal tank size for one goldfish is THIRTY gallons (Remember, they grow to about 10-12 inches, and sometimes more!) and you will need to add 10 gallons onto that for each additional goldfish. If you get a tank that is too small, the internal organs of the fish will continue to grow and over time, the fish will slowly suffocate. Even though goldfish have been consistently depicted in small bowls, it is part of the reason why with short life spans (ammonia builds up quickly in such a small space). In order to increase your goldfish’s and quality of life, it needs give it a properly sized aquarium. Plan to spend at least $100 dollars for a proper tank and supplies.
This is one the main reasons why most goldfish die so quickly. Although goldfish bowls are very popular, they are far from an ideal environment for goldfish. Goldfish are very easy to care for, but they still require cleaned and well-aerated water, which is hard to maintain in a goldfish bowl. You must change the water in a still fish tank every few days or at least every other week,with a filter. Why? The fish can get ammonia poisoning from the still water, their own waste, and the stress of being so active in an undersized tank. The stress and ammonia poisoning will limit their lung capacity and they’ll pass away. Sad, but true.
So far, two of the three goldfish my daughter won are still alive. With proper care, we are hopeful that they will live for many years to come! In closing, I’ll leave you with a fun goldfish fact.
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You go to the pet shop and you buy a betta. All the other fish are in proper tanks, but the bettas are in cups swimming in their own poop! Most of them are dead, some of them are half dead, the other ones are grossly sick. Most pet shops out there tell you that they can live in tiny places like bowls. You put your fish in a bowl because the pet employee told you so, but bowls will make them miserable and most likely die and not live their full life expectancy.
Bowls are a very harsh place for ANY fish to live in. Imagine yourself in an automobile, but with all the seats removed and you have nowhere to go to the bathroom but the floor. You poop, then the waste starts making you sick, and it’s ice cold.
For betta fish, without a heater, the water is ice cold to them. Now, imagine living there for your whole life. It’s like that even with your weekly water changes. Now, think about your betta in its pretty little vase with a cute little plant in it. How you would feel in the car. that’s how your betta feels now. Dying a painful, slow death burning from ammonia poisoning.
The ammonia levels in betta cups, image credit: momtoangel
Bettas should be kept in the minimum of 5 gallons, yet only one could only go in there. Now, why do people sell betta fish in cups? So it takes up the least amount of space possible instead of providing a 5 gallon tank for one betta each. And, it costs the least amount of money to ship bettas, so they ship them in tiny, tiny bags. Most of them die before reaching their destination. Many pet stores mark them as a low-maintenance fish, but that’s not true. Remember, buying them in a cup doesn’t mean that they can live in small spaces, and it doesn’t mean that they will live a healthy happy life in a bowl just because it’s larger than a cup. I once rescued a betta fish from Walmart to give it a healthy, happy life.
Above: My betta from Walmart
We are their only voice, let’s protest and stop this fish abuse, before your possible lifelong finned friend dies out there because because of this treatment in a pet shop.
FISH AREN’T JUST FISH. THEY’RE LIVING THINGS, THEY FEEL PAIN, THEY FEEL FEAR, THEY ARE OUR FINNED FRIENDS.
Sofia is a platinum member at My Aquarium Club.
This is very true and sad :(. Many bettas are abused and killed by plain stupidity. If you want a betta, consider buying one from a breeder. It will be more lively, healthy, and overall live longer. Bettas from Wal-Mart or even major pet stores are likely dead or sick in their tiny cups. If you really want to save a life :) you CAN buy it from the pet store but beware, it will likely die :(.
Me and my lady just got a beta at Walmart like an hour ago for the same reason. the other three beta were dead in their cups. It’s . evil :/ And then I realized that me “saving” the beta just validated Walmart’s sale of fish, I created a demand :( BUT, alpha(our new crownfinned beta) doesn’t care, he/she is just happy to be, you know, SWIMMING AND MOVING AND LIVING. I put Alpha in with Bandit our red ear slider turtle and they don’t mind each other one bit. They are just hanging out eating food together. I was worried about Alpha getting eaten but Bandit is just too chill of a turtle lol. So I’m happy, but we do need to protest it to actually have, hopefully, an affect on the situation and poor living conditions. But for today? We’ll just throw one star fish back in the ocean.
Anne Acome, There is a big difference between how the fish are bred and transported and how we keep them. We choose to have keep fish and it is our responsibility to provide a natural environment for them. Yes a betta can survive a few months in 2 litres of water and yes it can survive a few days in a tiny bag, but we are not merely talking about suvival, we want our pets to thrive, we want to se natural behaviour and beautiful colours. These are living creatures who deserve the best that we can provide.
Hello all. This post has been copied by another site word for word. They even included the “What do you think? Please leave me a comment.” The pictures are included as well. It seems like there would be copyright issues with this. Someone might want to look into it.
We should let Mickey (Admin) know. Everything we write for MAC belongs to MAC so there is a legal issue here, but not one we can do anything about. He, however, can.
Hey guys, I wrote this when I was 13, I apologize for any distress I have caused. I didn’t really know how to cite my sources back then (much less copy) and I honestly forgot this post existed. I will remove the blog (and all my other ones) shortly.
Sofia, as I understand it, someone has copied this blog and posted it to another site. They have done the same with other blogs from MAC also. We are looking into it.
Did anything ever happen about the plagiarized articles? They are still up on the other site.
This article will first give you an overview of keeping fish in a fish bowl. After that, we'll share a brief history of fish bowls and go over common sizes that you can find for fish bowls. After that we'll discuss pros and cons for keeping a fish bowl. Then we'll go over things to keep in mind with fish bowls. After that, we'll provide you with some tips on keeping fish in fish bowls. We'll finish this article with online sources for you.
Keeping Fish in Fish Bowls
The history of keeping fish for either food or as pets goes back at least 4,000 years. The Chinese have a long history of keeping fish inside the home in containers. Supposedly, Madame Dubarry, Mistress to King Louis XV invented the glass fish bowl sometime in the mid-18th century. Today it is still common to see certain types of fish kept in small containers – this is particularly true for Siamese Fighting Fish (betta splendens). Proponents of the fish bowl maintain that, in the wild, these fish are found in very limited habitats (such as rice paddies and even roadside puddles).
Within the past century, there has been a great deal of controversy surrounding the idea of keeping fish in bowls. In 1902, G. Bateman remarked in an issue of Freshwater Aquaria that, “the common glass globe… has nothing whatever to recommend it, except perhaps to those who delight to have their unfortunate captives suspected by a chain from the ceiling in front of the window.” In 1910, Hugo Mulertt said “the old-fashioned fish globe is about the worst vessel that can be selected for the keeping of goldfish as pets.” It should be mentioned that the main issue that seems to be raised with keeping fish in bowls is the size of the environment. Today, however, a new trend toward smaller fish tanks (called “nano” tanks) is gaining popularity – some aquarium hobbyists wonder if the two are really that different.
Common shapes and sizes
Today it is possible to find fish bowls in virtually any size and shape. Below you will find a list of some of the most common shapes and styles:
Fish bowls come in the following traditional sizes:
Keeping fish in a fish bowl will severely limit your fish selection. Not all fish are right for a fish bowl either because of their adult size or their need for open space. Do not fall prey to the myth that fish will only grow as big as their environment allows – a fish that is capable of growing up to 12 inches long will not stop growing just because it is kept in a fish bowl. Think about the needs of your fish before you buy them to make sure that they can be safely kept in a fish bowl in the first place.
Some of the only fish that can safely be kept in fish bowls include: Betta, White Clouds, and Guppies. These fish are very small, don't require a lot of space for movement, and are fine living on their own (the Betta you actually need to keep by itself). The key to successfully keeping fish in a bowl is to not overcrowd the bowl – keep only one or two fish in it at a time. Ghost Shrimp also work out great in a fish bowl, as do African dwarf frogs – though you will need to keep a lid on the bowl.
You'll also have to limit the number of fish (usually to one) because that size bowl doesn't usually have room for filters. This means that you will have to perform frequent water changes to keep the water quality in your tank high since a filter won’t be able to remove the waste for you. You might be able to get a simple box filter for your fish bowl, but you're still limited to the volume of water that you can keep in your fish bowl. As a rule of thumb, you usually need to have one gallon of water per inch of fish for small community fish. As you could figure out when you do the math, you'll quickly run out of space in your fish bowl!
Because you won't have that much or any filtration, you'll need to change the water frequently. Experts suggest replacing 20% of the water twice a week. Wondering how to figure out what 20% of the tank volume would be? You could take the fish bowl size, figure out the volume of what the bowl would be (minus the couple of inches from the top that you would fill the water).
Another simpler way that might make more sense with a fish bowl is this easy method. Before you put your fish in it, fill it with a measuring cup and keep count. So let's say you have a 1/2 gallon size bowl. You'll find that you have roughly 4 cups of water in that bowl when it's not filled to the top. 20% of the total is slightly less than 1 cup but you can go ahead and round it up to a cup. So every couple of days, you'll need to change 1 cup of water out of that bowl. That's not too complicated, is it?
Besides filtration, you'll need to keep two other things in mind with your fish bowl: temperature and lighting. Remember to keep your tank in a room that is at least 72 degrees Fahrenheit at all times. That's because you won't be able to use a heater with your fish bowl. Another issue that you'll need to address is proper lighting. Unlike a fish tank where you can hook up lighting to the hood, with a fish bowl, you're pretty much stuck with ambient lighting. So place the fish bowl near a natural light source so your fish will get enough light during the day. Avoid putting it in direct sunlight, however, or you will have problems with algae growth.
What else will you need with your bowl? You could get gravel but this is really an aesthetic decision. If you buy gravel, make sure you pick up a small gravel vacuum. A small net will help you clean the tank between water changes. You might be able to get a small filter if it will fit. Many people like to buy fishbowl covers to help minimize evaporation. If you want decorations, like a plant or a treasure chest, just make sure you can fit it inside your fish bowl.
Here are some lessons learned that you can use with your fish bowls.