Water Bottles vs Bowls

The most common way of watering your pet hamster is using a water bottle, but are bowls just as good, or maybe better?

Water Bottles

Water bottles are the most commonly known and used method of providing water for small pets, and there are tons of pros to using them.

Water bottles come in many different sizes, and my personal favorite is the 8 ounce. For me, 8 ounces lasts a little over a week, and since I sanitize and refill it weekly this works really well for me. I wouldn’t want the water level under 2 inches, and it should be cleaned weekly anyway to prevent algae and calcium build up.

Bottles are typically made in two materials: plastic and glass. My glass Living World bottle has a really nice aesthetic (and the cute carrot floaty), however I always worry I’ll break it, so I bought a plastic one as a spare. Both materials have pros and cons, and which kind you use is your decision.

Hamsters sometimes chew holes in plastic bottles, or can also chew apart plastic water bottle holders, which isn’t healthy if your hamster ingests the plastic. These scenarios can be prevented by using glass bottles and metal holders.

Bottles have a spout, and inside that spout is a metal ball, sometimes two. When the hamster drinks they lick the ball which moves it and lets the water through. If you don’t clean the spout often, calcium builds up, and then the ball gets stuck, resulting in a lack of water. I was away for a few days once and the bottle was stuck, and Beanie couldn’t get her water. This event scared me into using a bowl as well as a bottle.

Sometimes the spout of the bottle can be at a really vertical angle, and this is not a natural or comfortable way for a hamster to drink. When selecting a water bottle try to find one with more of a horizontally positioned spout.

Water bottles are also known to leak. A dripping water bottle not only gets the substrate soggy, but could also leak out all the water leaving your hamster to get dehydrated. Sometimes you can fix it by tapping the end of the spout with your finger, but sometimes you need to buy a different bottle altogether.

Overall there’s nothing that should deter you from using a water bottle, however you should check the bottle daily to ensure water is still coming out. Water bottles are a great option because hamsters cannot get substrates into the water. They don’t need to be cleaned quite as often, and don’t take up floor space. You should be checking the bottle daily to ensure water is coming out, and clean it whenever you refill it, usually bi-daily or weekly.

Water Bowls

Water bowls are preferred by many because they are a much more natural way for pets to drink.

Water bowls are usually small glass or ceramic pet dishes that have vertical sides. If you use a shallow dish it’s more likely that your hamster will fling substrate into it or fall in. I have also seen people use small candle dishes, and these are great as well.

Bowls come in all sorts of different designs, and personally are much more visually pleasing than bottles.

Water dishes need to be refilled often (every other day) because the hamster is drinking from the surface. If the bowl isn’t full then they have to reach down into the dish to get a drink, which isn’t comfortable. They could fall in if they’re reaching in too far to drink. The bowl may also get substrate in it, which will grow mold or algae if it’s not cleaned out.

Although cleaning the water 4-5 times a week may seem like a lot of extra work, your hamster will have fresher water 😆

Which is Better?

This is for you to decide. Let’s compare:


  • They’re in every pet store.
  • Different sizes.
  • Plastic and glass.
  • Clean weekly.
  • Spout can get stuck resulting in lack of water availability.
  • Not a natural or comfortable way to drink.
  • Some bottles are leaky and you need to buy a new one.
  • Hamsters and gerbils may chew holes in plastic bottles/bottle holders.
  • Bottles don’t take up floor space!
  • Can be tidier.
  • Small pets may climb the bottle/holder and escape.
  • Stay cleaner for longer.
  • Some small pets don’t know what it’s for.


  • Better looking.
  • Different sizes.
  • Glass and ceramic.
  • Clean bi-daily.
  • No intricate pieces to get clogged.
  • Natural and more comfortable to drink from.
  • Doesn’t leak (unless there’s a crack).
  • Chew-proof.
  • Takes up a few precious square inches of floor space.
  • Sometimes messier; spills easier.
  • Can’t be climbed.
  • The water can get dirty quicker.
  • Water is fresher because it’s cleaned more often.
  • Some small pets don’t know what it’s for.

Water bottles and bowls are both very effective methods of watering small pets, and both have their pros and cons. From my experience, bottles are less reliable, however my hamster drinks from it more often than from her bowl. I believe she prefers her bottle, although she still drinks from the bowl occasionally.

Whether or not you use a bottle, bowl or both is totally up to you, and what works for you and your small pet.

I hope this post was informative, and let me know in the comments section below what you use for your pets, or what you plan to use. If you’re interested in more hamster-related content be sure to like this post and follow the blog, and I’ll be back on Tuesday with more small pet care, DIYs, recipes, cage setups, stories and more, have a ham-tastic day!

Thanks to the Hamster Hideout Forum for providing some of the information!

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