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Mobile Fishbowl

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"The fishie is walking! The fishie is walking!"

Regardless of whether you have Fish People, merfolk, shark men, or some other variation on aquatic sapients this wiki hasn't come up with yet, they all have one thing in common: they sometimes have to interact with non-aquatic species. Unfortunately, some of them only have gills and would suffocate if they tried to go to the surface unassisted. Others have issues with drying out or would be crushed by their own weight without water supporting their bodies (this is an issue for beached whales in real life).

The obvious solution? They bring water along with them.

The inverse of an Artificial Gill, which allows terrestrial organisms to breathe underwater. Compare Artificial Limbs and Mermaid in a Wheelchair. Contrast Fishbowl Helmet, which is for air-breathing creatures using a fishbowl-like device to breathe, and Bathtub Mermaid, where aquatic creatures are placed in a stationary container.

Rarely will you see them recycle out old water to replace it with new water, or at least oxygenate it from tanks, implying that they're just breathing the same water over and over again, which would be the equivalent of a human astronaut breathing only the air contained in his helmet.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Blood Blockade Battlefront: Resident fish-man Zed can use his powers to keep a bubble of water around his head. Usually he relies on his fancy inverse-rebreather that attaches to his gills, though, since the other option looks ridiculous.
  • Teacher Iruka in Jewelpet Sunshine is a pink dolphin who gets around inside a fish tank, which the students take in stride after being freaked out the first time.
  • Fujimoto in Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea is forced to take a back-mounted machine with him whenever he ventures onto dry land, as it carries a vat of salt water that he must spray around himself to keep himself humidified. Still, he is biologically human, which requires him to wear a bubble underwater.
  • In the Tokyo Mew Mew spinoff manga Petite Mew Mew (an Alternate Universe in kindergarten), all the girls show characteristics of their infused animal DNA — in Lettuce's case, her lower half is a porpoise tail. She is always shown partially submerged in a body of water, such as a wading pool or a giant fishbowl.
  • Space Adventure Cobra: In "Magic Doll", the alien Jeeta looks like a fish-headed humanoid with a glass helmet filled with water, since he's aquatic. It's later revealed that Jeeta can removes the helmet entirely with the "head" still inside, which is an independent fish-like creature, turning it into a literal fishbowl. The headless humanoid body is described as a nearly brainless host, with which the fish has a symbiotic relationship when on dry land.

    Asian Animation 
  • In Jet and the Pet Rangers, Gigi has a vaguely flying saucer-looking fishbowl ship that she pilots whenever she's transformed.
  • Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf: Episode 16 of Flying Island: The Sky Adventure introduces a couple of anthropomorphic fish characters who live in the sea, but are taking a vacation to participate in the Rainbow Games in the sky. The fish wear helmets presumably meant to give them water to breathe.

    Comic Books 
  • Aquaman:
    • Aquaman in his earlier years had a time limit on how long he could remain on dry land and had a special suit filled with water for missions on land. It ends up saving the life of Martian Manhunter in Justice League of America: Tower of Babel.
    • In the Sub Diego arc a coastal portion of San Diego is struck by a massive earthquake and sinks into the sea, with a portion of the affected surviving via a mutation derived from Aquaman's DNA that changes them to waterbreathers at the cost of their ability to breathe on dry land. A city council member from the affected area, now called Sub Diego, uses a mobile suit with a water filled helmet in order to attend a briefing in hopes of separating from the land bound part of San Diego and become their own municipality.
  • Prince Namor the Sub-Mariner can breathe on dry land, but he's a mutant. The other denizens of Atlanta have to wear water bowls when they're above the surface.
  • A group of Atlantis characters popped up in The Savage Dragon from time to time, with aquatic "breathing" gear to use to go on land for an invasion. This was a Running Gag in which the gear always malfunctioned in someway, killing all of them.
  • Longstanding Green Lantern NautKeLoi is an extraterrestrial with an amphibian and fish-like anatomy who wears a sphere full of water on his head in order to breathe while he's off his home planet.
  • In a Mickey Mouse story, a group of Fish People use fishbowl helmets filled with water in order to survive on dry land.

    Comic Strips 
  • The Far Side: One comic has a fish using a contraption like a diving suit with a line attaching it to a fishbowl. Another comic has two fish driving a wheeled fishbowl out of the ocean and onto a beach.

    Fan Works 
  • Sea Pony Lyra, an OC common in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fics, tends to come with a matching metal bucket to rest in.
  • Children of an Elder God has Ritsuko Akagi wearing a neck brace to circulate water over her gills after an incomplete transformation into a Deep One (they're naturally amphibious, but this was a special case).

    Films Animation 
  • Minion from Megamind is a piranha-like fish in a robotic gorilla suit.
  • Fish Out of Water from Chicken Little wears a scuba helmet filled with water in order to interact with Chicken Little and the others. The film's editor, Dan Molina, performed the "voice" for Fish by vocalizing through a tube into a water cooler tank full of water.
  • Gill, Deb and the other captives in the dentist's fish tank in Finding Nemo use the fact that they've been put in clear baggies of water while the tank is being cleaned to make their escape to the sea. This involves bopping the baggies forward through a building and across a busy roadway. Good news: they succeed. Bad news: they have no idea how to get out of the baggies.
  • Onward's first trailer has a mermaid lounging on a lawn in a kiddie pool, helping to establish the concept of a mundane world inhabited solely by magical creatures. Fans have already started to wonder how she got there, though, and if the house behind her is somehow filled with water.

    Films Live-Action 
  • Variation in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. Negotiations are taking place on a sandbar, but since Davey Jones is cursed to be unable to set foot on land, he's standing in a big wooden bucket of seawater, with several others visible behind him.
  • In the Hellboy films, psychic fish man Abe sometimes wears a water goggles and water tanks when he is out of his tank. The comics explain that this is more to keep him from drying out than to help him breathe; he has both lungs and gills.
  • In Aquaman, most Atlanteans cannot survive in the surface world, only the high born can. Soldiers who venture on the surface wear armors maintaining them in a watery environment. This becomes hilarious when the fight between Mera and Murk results in the former damaging the latter's suit, causing Murk's water supply to quickly drain out. Suffocating, Murk sees a toilet and quickly dives into the bowl and desperately sucks-in as much water as he can. He then sighs in relief.
  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever: The Talokani, descended from Central American natives who were transformed into something like merfolk by consuming a vibranium-rich plant, can breathe underwater but have to wear facemasks on land. Their leader, Namor, does not: his mother having been transformed while he was in utero, he can breathe in the water and on land, though he's weakened severely if he dries out.

  • In X: Farnham's Legend a Boron, the resident species of squid-people, is shown walking around a space station built for terrestrial species in a pressure suit filled with water.
  • In Un Lun Dun, there's a character called Skool who walks around in a diver's suit full of water. Skool is a sentient school of assorted aquatic creatures, mostly fish. It's that kind of book.
  • In One Hundred Years From Now, the book upon which Guest from the Future is based, one of the episodic characters is an alien aquatic horse moving around in a large walking aquarium.
  • Downplayed in Star Wars Legends, which notes on occasion that ships crewed by Mon Calamari are usually kept very humid. This is good for the amphibious Mon Cals, not so much for more humanlike species.
  • In the Sweet Pickles children's book series, Fearless Fish wears this as she rides her motorcycle around the town.
  • In The Secret of Platform 13, many magical creatures apply for the job as the Prince's nanny, including a mermaid who seemed to think she could get around the palace in a big tank of water.
  • The Cartar in The Four Horsemen Universe are a race of mollusk-like sentients that get around terrestrial planets inside spheres of a viscous liquid. In the Short Story "Argonaut", Cartar soldiers launch a surprise attack on a human mercenary company, and the humans discover that the spheres are equipped with Combat Tentacles and are invulnerable to antipersonnel laser fire due to their liquid content (kinetic weapons work fine, though).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Andromeda: The planet Castalia, setting of season one's "All Great Neptune's Ocean", is shared between a majority of water-breathing Rubber-Forehead Aliens and an air-breathing human minority. The water-breathers get around on land wearing backpacks that pump water through their gills.
  • Doctor Who: In "The Doctor's Daughter", the Hath breathe a nutrient liquid, and have to wear a mask containing a flask of it while in Earthlike atmospheres.
  • In a variation, the Smallville incarnation of Aquaman has to drink large amounts of water frequently to avoid drying out, and heat lamps weaken him severely. He can recover from exposure to the latter by being doused with water.
  • In Star Trek: The Next Generation the Benzites are a semi-aquatic race who have a special attachment to their uniforms which blows a fine mist in the direction of their faces on a regular basis so they can continue to breathe. A Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode, "Apocalypse Rising", has a Klingon brag about killing a Benzite Starfleet captain by ripping her breathing apparatus off.
  • Carmichael in The Umbrella Academy (2019) is a talking goldfish in a bowl atop a Mobile-Suit Human. He even has a valve to enable him to smoke.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The kappa, a river-dwelling creature of Japanese folklore, has a deep depression in its head that is full of water, which is the source of its power. If you bow to it, it will bow back, spilling the water on its head and draining it of its power.
  • Many mermaids in older stories will have a veil or cap on their heads, usually (but not always) red. It is thought to allow them to breathe underwater, and may actually have been inspired by the amniotic sac that envelops a fetus. Getting rid of it will often transform the mermaid in question into a regular human, and many human men will steal this MacGuffin for that purpose.

  • One of the aliens in Big Bang Bar is a slug-like creature in a bottle of green liquid.

    Puppet Shows 

    Tabletop Games 
  • In many cases in Dungeons & Dragons, aquatic races can create inverted versions of the items that function as an Artificial Gill for land-dwelling creatures. Naturally, there are plenty of spells capable of assisting aquatic dwellers as well. One instance where one item functions as both is the necklace of adaptation — it allows its user to breathe fine regardless of both its environment and the one its bearer currently inhabits (normal air, underwater, poisonous gas, hard vacuum — anything).

  • BIONICLE: A few water-breathers use them in order to travel on land, such as Ehlek, Takadox, and Carapar.

    Video Games 
  • Bob the Killer Goldfish from Earthworm Jim is a regular goldfish in a bowl who gets carried around by a musclebound cat minion.
  • The Sergetti in the Space Empires series are an aquatic species that have established an intergalactic empire with their knowledge of crystalline technology. They build spaceships that carry the oceans of their homeworld into space with them.
  • In Terraria, there is a literal Fish Bowl item that the player character can wear on his head as a vanity item. If it's worn as equipment (not solely for appearances), the character will start to drown. Having the character drink a Gills Potion at the same time, though, will allow him or her to breathe normally.
  • World of Warcraft has aquatic vanity pets. There's the variety that can be on dry land (crabs, turtles and frogs), but fish or sea ponies float around in a water bubble.
  • Star Control II has the Orz, who live in some form of liquid. Dialogue from other characters makes it clear that they wear airtight environment suits when visiting the Human Starbase.
  • The Boron in the X-Universe utilize personal, water-filled space suits when on stations and ships belonging to the other races; they have no legs being squid-like, and they breath ammonia-rich water. In-game it's never seen as all Boron are shown on the bridge of their own ship, and come X: Rebirth with its direct interactions, they're missing from the Albion system entirely.
  • From the Timesplitters series, Robofish is a goldfish in a bowl supported by a robot body.

    Web Comics 
  • Once in Two Lumps the Angry Fish goes after Snooch with a water-filled (and bubble-topped) tank.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3 episode "The Ugly Mermaid", a city of mer-people wear fishbowls filled with water to survive in air-filled environments — such as inside their own city. Which is at the bottom of the ocean! The episode also specifically points out the decrease in visual acuity for anyone wearing this setup (due to light refraction, presumably). Finally, the mer-people are terrified by King Koopa blasting a hole in the city's dome and flooding it with ocean water, despite the fact that they can only breath underwater.
  • In Futurama, the Professor's rival, Wernstrom, makes one of these for his goldfish as his entry for the science symposium.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants:
    • Sandy Cheeks lives in an air-filled glass dome at the bottom of the ocean and walks around Bikini Bottom in something of a space suit, inverting this trope. Whenever her friends come to visit, they wear helmets filled with water.
    • Spongebob and Patrick actually CAN breathe in the air, but they instead need water lest they die of dehydration.
    • At one point the characters use a glass dome filled with water to do a concert in a human stadium.
  • The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! has a fish who travels with the group in a fish bowl.
  • Klaus of American Dad! either uses a small glass filled with water or rolls around in a hamster ball filled with water.
  • In "It's a Trap!", the Family Guy parody of Return of the Jedi, Admiral Ackbar, the commander of the Rebel fleet is a fish (Klaus from American Dad!) that pilots a robot body from a water filled globe at the head.
  • Dr. Wasabi from Chop Socky Chooks is a tiny shark who travels around in an astronaut-style suit filled with water.
  • T-Ray and his mooks from Tiger Sharks are water-breathing creatures from a planet that dried up. They are now trying to conquer a watery planet; the one upon which the series take place. Since the other group of villains (and their occasional allies) cannot breathe water, they have used water-filled suits at least once.
  • At the end of the Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "The Ambergris Element", two Aquans (aliens who can only breathe water) are shown on the bridge of the Enterprise wearing water-filled helmets on their heads.
  • Jeffrey the fish from The Deep has two. The first created by Antaeus Nekton was a backpack that allowed Jeffrey to be with Antaeus on land and in some rooms. The second was a dedicated Mini-Mecha for the fish based on the teams' rover capable of amphibious mobility despite looking like a fishbowl on a skateboard.
  • Fishface from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2012) cartoon has both water mounted on his gills, as well as artificial legs.
  • Ben 10: Omniverse has the pisceans who travel on land not wearing helmets, but suits that circulate water through them.
  • Fishtronaut is an enviro-friendly animated mystery series in which Secret Agent Fishtronaut (named so because he's a fish who flies around in an astronaut suit) explores the world's many mysteries above and below water in a unique way.
  • My Gym Partner's a Monkey:
    • Bull Sharkowski wears a headset over his gills in order to breathe above water.
    • Coach Gills from the same show, a goldfish whose bowl is wheeled around by the assistant coach.
  • Flash Gordon had underwater humanoids use these when riding jetskis. After being implanted with an Artificial Gill against his will, Flash has to knock one out and loot his helmet.
  • T.U.F.F. Puppy: The Caped Cod must wear a water-filled helmet like SpongeBob's if he's out of water.
  • The Simpsons: Played for laughs in the episode "Stop! Or My Dog Will Shoot", where one of the animals seen graduating from the Springfield Police Academy includes a dolphin, who has to travel around in its own tank.


Video Example(s):


Air Gills for Water-breathers

"All Great Neptune's Ocean". The President of Castalia, a water-breathing humanoid, wears an apparatus that pumps water through his gills in order to interact with Captain Hunt and his crew at a summit to re-found the Commonwealth.

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Main / MobileFishbowl

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