Can a Goldfish Live Without a Filter or Air Pump? (Revealed)

You can just imagine the beauty of a goldfish living in a bowl. The owners often prefer keeping goldfish only in the fishbowls if they don’t have any desire to bring in other species of fish. A fishbowl is definitely a potential home for these creatures, but the fact is that fishbowl might lack filtration aspects. 

Goldfish do not need filters to survive! They have the skills to adapt to their habitat. Hence, they are proficient enough to survive all by themselves. But goldfish produce a lot of waste that pollutes the water and adds up ammonia levels. So do take an ammonia test to know the actual levels. 

As a result, it will create stress for goldfish, and they will probably die in just a couple of years. Therefore, a filter is not mandatory for goldfish aquariums but is highly recommended to keep the water clean. 

Clean water is a basic requirement for goldfish! Other than that, they don’t need much care for the environment they are living in. They will grow well and live a long life. However, keeping the water clean all by yourself is not an easy task at all. 

The reason behind frequent waste production is that fish doesn’t have a stomach, so fish cannot retain most of the food. Instead, the digestive system absorbs all of the nutrients and eliminates the rest as waste. 

Goldfishes are heavy eaters, and they produce a lot of waste that makes it difficult for people to clean without a filter. When the goldfishes are in their natural habitat, they do not incur such problems because the waste gets dissolved in large water bodies. But in-home aquariums need frequent cleaning to help them survive. 

Polluted water might also suppress the oxygen level in a fish tank, which is again a critical problem for goldfishes to survive. In addition, carbon dioxide will increase within the small tank and cause the goldfish to breathe in it. Hence, the need for an air pump arises as well! 

This article intends to give you a complete explanation of whether a goldfish can live without an air pump and filter or not. The answer is yes! But in some setups, they do need these tools to increase their lifespan. 

How Long Can Goldfish Live Without An Air Pump?

How Long Can Goldfish Live Without An Air Pump

If you prefer to store your goldfish in a fishbowl, then they might have insufficient oxygen with just a little amount of cloudiness in it. And when the lack of oxygen takes place, then your goldfish will survive only for around 12 to 48 hours. And then they will die! 

It is the scenario if you don’t have an air pump and filter. In case you don’t have a filter in your aquarium or fishbowl, then your goldfish might suffer from ammonia caused due to the dissolving of fish waste in the water. And in the absence of an air pump, the oxygen rate will lower drastically. 

When you head out to a local fish store, you will see that most of the aquariums have air pumps and filters in them. So, you can just conclude in your mind how essential those things might be. You might have heard advice about not using such tools for your goldfish, which is somehow true. But, that won’t save the life of your goldfish in the long run. 

If you have the potential to change the water every 3rd day to keep it clean and fill it with fresh oxygen, then you don’t need these tools. But if you are on a busy schedule, and miss out on cleaning the filter-less and air-pump-less fish tank on time, then you might find your goldfish dead when you return from work. 

The 2-days window for your goldfish’s survival without an air pump is for still water. But if you have a filter in your aquarium that is causing lots of water surface movement, then you might need to introduce air stone to the aquarium. Air stones are small bubblers that produce air bubbles in the water.

This accessory is useful for diffusing the air into the fish tanks and minimizing the bubbling noise within them. As a result, it utilizes the water surface movement to promote an increase in oxygen levels.

If the water surface is frequently bubbling and has lots of movement, then the lifespan of goldfish without an air pump or air stone will decrease. It is because the oxygen levels are also being hampered due to it. 

If you have only one goldfish in your aquarium, then you might not need an air pump or filter, as one lone goldfish cannot waste the entire fish tanks so quickly. But if you have more than one fish in a single tank, then you might need to worry a little for a filter and air pump. 

More fish requires more oxygen in the water. And that is only possible when you have an air pump. Suppose anything goes wrong with your water in the fish tank, then you will end up losing not just goldfish but all of them. 

Therefore, it becomes important for you to count on adding some tools in order to maintain the right water conditions of your aquarium. 

Also Read: Can GoldFish Live with Betta?

How Do You Know Your Goldfish Tank Needs More Oxygen?

How Do You Know Your Goldfish Tank Needs More Oxygen

You don’t need to try out any specific measures to judge whether your goldfish needs more oxygen or not. They will do the job for you! However, there are a few signs that you need to focus on to realize that your goldfish needs more oxygen. The signs are as follows:

  • The gills of your goldfish will be moving faster than usual. 
  • They come to the top of the tank for gulping air. 
  • They take long rest periods, which is abnormal behavior. 

You need to look after your aquatic friends to ensure that they are safe and are not asking for any immediate help. They can’t speak but will try to reach out to you by their actions. The use of air pumps and air stones is inevitable for fish keepers. They are the ultimate weapon of goldfish owners. 

Adding up air pumps and air stones into your goldfish aquarium will ensure that the oxygen content increases in your water. Moreover, it will also boost the circulation rate of oxygen within the tank. As the oxygen levels are high, the energy levels of a goldfish also increase. 

High amounts of oxygen within the tank will also prevent algae build-up at the dead zones. Air stones and air pumps go hand in hand. 

Every air stone needs a pump as a package in order to perform seamlessly. With more oxygen, you can ensure that your new goldfish will adjust itself to the new environment soon. 

If you have installed a pump, then there is less chance that a new goldfish in your aquarium will die due to oxygen deficiency. 

How Does The Air Pump And Air Stones Work?

It is not that easy as it seems to produce oxygen in the fish tank. It is not just about making some bubbles within the tank in order to increase the oxygen levels. You need to implement a gas exchange within the tank, which is possible only at the tank’s surface. 

When the water at the tank’s surface comes in contact with air, the gas levels in the water, such as carbon dioxide and oxygen, change to match the gas in the air. In fact, this is why bubbles are important to form contact with the surrounding air to form oxygen in the tank water. 

But still, fish tank water is not that proficient in exchanging a high amount of gas through this procedure. Therefore, moving water is better in terms of promoting gas exchange. 

Therefore, the use of aquarium filters, air pumps, and air stones can support massive gas exchange for a better oxygen supply. 

Air stones are responsible for adding more air to your water. Hence, the gas exchange rate increases! You can either use a dedicated air stone or a decoration for the purpose. In either way, the purpose of adding bubbles is achieved! 

Is Still Water A Sign Of Inadequate Oxygen Supply?

Yes, still water is a sign that your aquarium without an air pump is getting an inadequate oxygen supply. Still water surface indicates that the CO2 levels in the water are high, and it has probably turned sludgy. 

Therefore, an air pump along with an aquarium filter is proficient in such cases! It is because air circulation is very much important in order to cause surface water movement to produce more oxygen. At the same time, keep a check on your goldfish to know if they are struggling to breathe. 

Is High Temperature In Water A Sign Of Poor Oxygen In The Tank?

A high water temperature is yet another probable reason that indicates poor oxygen levels within the tank. Therefore, every time you notice that the water temperatures are high within your goldfish tank, you should act immediately to cool it down. 

You can prefer to add high cold water onto the tank immediately in order to cool down the temperature and increase the water levels. And you won’t need an air pump to act upon this factor of low oxygen indication. 

So, if the water movement is adequate, the water is clean, the temperature is balanced, and the aquarium is big, you might not need an air pump for circulating oxygen! It is because the water condition is right, and there is a wide space for your fish to breathe in. 

If you observe anything unusual with your goldfish, then you can conclude that it is suffering from some toxic materials or is dealing with a lack of oxygen. If you fail to act fast, then your fish will eventually choke to death due to suffocation. 

Can Goldfish Live In A Bowl Without An Air Pump?

Bowls are literally very small, and the water movement is recorded to be very less within it. In addition to that, there is a huge space limitation within the bowl, and that will leave less room for your goldfish to search for oxygen. 

As the bowl is small, the waste accumulation will be very fast. As a result, the water will become sludgy, and the minimal movements within the water will also be suppressed. 

Therefore, if you keep your goldfish in a fishbowl, you will need an air pump or any other oxygen source on priority. 

An air pump is a perfect inclusion for generating sufficient oxygen for your fish tank. But to ensure that your goldfish resides comfortably in the small fishbowl, you do not have to use the pump throughout the day. 

If you have a big aquarium with 3-4 species, you should use an air pump throughout the day. 

If it is a fishbowl, then you should also check the temperature of water over time. A small surface area will heat up the water faster. So, you need to keep a constant check upon when your goldfish might need more oxygen. 

Small fish bowls are also responsible for limiting the growth of your goldfish. Therefore, if you have the budget, then it is better to go for a bigger aquarium tank. Moreover, as per the surveys, it is clear that the fishes that are kept in bowls are very unlikely to survive for a long life span. 

Is There Any Alternative To Using An Air Pump In Fish Bowl?

The only alternative to the use of an air pump for oxygen supply in a small fishbowl is changing the water frequently. It is definitely a tiring process, but that is the only way to restore all the needed oxygen for your goldfish in that small bowl. 

If you are planning on using an air filter in your fishbowl to restore the oxygen, then you are probably risking the comfort and life of your fish in it. It is because, due to the small space in the bowl, it is difficult for you to clean the bowl with the goldfish in it. 

How To Take Care Of A Goldfish In A Bowl?

If you have made up your mind to store your goldfish in a bowl, you must understand all of the care measures you must take along with it. 

Here are the guidelines that you must follow in order to ensure the best environment for your goldfish within the small fish bowl:


You can add aquatic plants to the fish bowl in order to maintain the oxygenation levels for your goldfish. But remember to add only the beneficial live plants, and avoid stuffing the small space with more live plants. 


Do not underfeed or overfeed your goldfish, as it would force them to produce more waste in a very small span of time. Instead, you should offer them all the nutrients and vitamins through different diets that are essential within the bowl. 

Environmental Boost

You need to add diversity to the habitat to ensure that you are one of the concerned goldfish keepers. In addition, changing the habitat will let the goldfish show some exploratory behaviors that are natural for them. 

Water Quality

As stated above, frequent water changes are important in order to maintain a healthy temperature and optimal oxygen levels. You must use treated water in order to ensure a long life for goldfishes. You can use tap water or mineral water, depending upon your preferences. 

These care measures are for fish bowls that are without air pumps and air filters. With air pumps, air filters, and air stones, you won’t need to take frequent water changes or oxygenation measures. 

How To Care For Goldfish In A Bowl Without A Filter?

If you are without a filter or air pump for your fishbowl,  with air pumps, air filters, and air stonesYouitsou need to follow some ideal steps to cope up and keep your goldfish healthy. If you do not want to invest in an air pump or air filter for a small fishbowl, then you ought to follow the steps mentioned below to keep your fish alive:

Steps To Care For A Goldfish Without Filter

Steps To Care For A Goldfish Without Filter

Here are the steps that you need to adapt in order to help you take ideal care of your goldfish in a filter-less fishbowl:

Step 1: Add Aquatic Plants

Make sure that the plants you add are large enough to prevent ingestion possibilities. Check with the fish-keeping experts to know if the plant is ideal for use in aquariums. 

Ensure that you are using natural materials in your fishbowl. The live plants should be suitable for rooted growth. You must rinse the plant before you can use it in your goldfish bowl. 

Step 2: Feed as per your Goldfish’s Appetite

Do not overfeed your goldfish, as they would produce enormous waste in the tank. Instead, you need to offer an amount of food that your fish can consume in 2 minutes. Anything beyond that results in overfeeding. 

At times it is better to underfeed your goldfish rather than overfeeding them. It is because goldfishes always seem like they are hungry. Goldfish require a good diet but not over-diet! 

Step 3: Change Water Daily

If you don’t have a filter, then it is recommended that you change 50% of the water daily. You can add cooler water to regulate the temperature of your pet fish. 

Freshwater has more oxygen supply, which will help your fish sustain a healthy life. Remember to treat water before you let your fish swim in it, to prevent shock and death. 


This is the right way with which you can count on keeping your goldfish safe with prolonged life. The necessity of an air filter and air pump is inevitable. But if you still want to deny the use of it, then make sure you follow the guidelines as stated above! 

Hence, this will help you create a better environment to let your fish survive in it. Goldfish keeping is very easy, but you still need to take care of some important factors that are elaborated above.

Also read our new post on Golfish to check whether goldfish can eat bread or not?

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