How to Play Fishbowl

Home » Party Games » Fishbowl

Fishbowl Rules & Instructions




  • 2 teams of 3-8


  • Paper to write clues on
  • Pens
  • A container (like a fishbowl)
  • A timer

Additional Setup Notes

  • Each player should write three clues on strips of paper, fold them in half, and deposit them in the fishbowl
  • With fewer players, it may be fun for everyone to write more than three clues
  • Clues can be people, places, things, or actions; be creative!


The objective of fishbowl is for your team to correctly guess as many clues as possible in three different rounds.


Once everyone has written their clues and one team has been selected to go first, a member of that team will stand to give hints. Each turn is exactly one minute long and time is kept by the opposing team. To start the turn, the opposing team will confirm that the clue giver is ready and give them a “3, 2, 1” countdown.

The team will have one minute to try and guess as many clues as possible. Once the turn is over, the opposing team elects their clue giver to repeat the same process. A round is over once the entire bowl is cleared of clues.

Note: Each team needs to determine an order for their clue givers. Each player should take a turn so that no one goes twice before someone has had their first turn. Also, you must keep the same order throughout the game.

Now, let’s go over the three different rounds!

Round One: Catch Phrase / Taboo

In the first round, the clue giver uses Catch Phrase or Taboo style rules. They can say anything they want except for the words used on the clue itself.

As an example, the clue could be “Chicago Bears”. They would be allowed to say “pro football team in Illinois”. They would not be allowed to say “NFL team in Chicago” since the word “Chicago” is in the clue.

In addition, you are not allowed to use gestures, say “rhymes with”, or “starts with the letter”. That makes the game less challenging and a bit more cheap.

In terms of “skips”, my friends play that you can use as many as you want for the first two rounds and then no skips the final round.

If you wanted to make it harder, you can always entact a one skip or no skip rule.

Reminder: your turn stops once the minute timer goes off so you have to put back the last clue in the bowl that wasn’t guessed correctly. Make sure you tally your score after each turn on a piece of paper or a notes app on your phone.

Round Two: Password

Once all of the clues have been correctly guessed, it’s time for the second round! Re-fold the clues and put them back in the bowl.

If the first round is completed during the middle of a team’s turn, make sure to pause the minute timer immediately after the last clue is guessed. That same team and clue giver will begin the new round with the remaining time.

For round two, the rules are simple: you can only use one word. You are not allowed to grunt, hum, make gestures, or literally anything else except the one word clue.

And because you are re-using the same clues, it’s important to remember what hints were given so you can associate the single word to the phrase.

In this round, for “Chicago Bears”, I might say “football” or “Ditka”. Something that’s recognizable so they can remember that Chicago Bears was a clue from round one. Once again, you aren’t allowed to say anything else, but you can use your skips if you decide to play that way!

Round Three: Charades

For the final round, you get to play classic charades rules. No talking, just movements! This is where I think the most laughs are had because people are forced to act out ridiculous things. Just think of Grandma trying to act out, well literally anything.

For the “Chicago Bears” example, I’d pretend I was throwing a football, stiff arming a defender, or spiking the ball for a touchdown celebration. Make it quick and clear!

Remember that there are no skips in this final round so you need to continue to act out the clue until your team guesses correctly or the timer goes off.


Once all the clues have been used in the third round, tally the scores from all the rounds. The team with the most correct guesses, wins!

Fishbowl FAQs

Can you add additional rounds?

Knock yourself out! Some people play an extra fourth round where they wear a sheet over themselves and people have to guess the charade-style clue with the added layer of difficulty. Don’t afraid to get clever!

What if someone accidentally says a word from the clue?

It’s an honor system since the clue giver is the only who can see them in the early rounds. Ideally, they’d be honest, remove the clue from the bowl, and then put it back once their turn is over.

What should my clues be?

Literally anything. But remember, the more elaborate, the harder they will be to guess. And your teammates need to be able to say the entire phrase including filler words and articles.

Pro tip: read the room for how appropriate the clues should be.

I’m struggling to come up with anything! What do I do?

Have go to categories in mind that you can stick to. This makes it easier than coming up with random phrases out of thin air.

For instance:

Historical Events

– World War 1

– Moon Landing

– Boston Tea Party

– The Great Depression

Movie Characters:

– Shrek

– James Bond

– Katniss Everdeen

– Harry Potter


– Do I really need to give examples here?

– Fine. Alaska.

writer colin tichvon

Colin Tichvon | Writer

A Yahtzee enthusiast and card shark in the making. Though his favorites are euchre and cribbage, Colin loves to try new games and share them with others.

Related Games

Never Have I Ever

Never Have I Ever

Setup Players 5-10+ Materials A group of friends! Additional Setup Notes   Some variations of Never Have I Ever will incorporate alcohol for a fun and easy drinking game. In this version of Never Have I Ever, players will need beverages and alcohol. Objective The...

read more
Pizza Box

Pizza Box

SetupPlayers 3-10 Materials A table A pizza box or flat cardboard surface (but every party has pizza!) A coin A Sharpie or marker Drink of choice Additional Setup Notes Pizza Box is best played with beer or seltzers, as hard liquor can be a recipe for disaster....

read more
King’s Cup

King’s Cup

SetupPlayers 3-10 Materials Deck of cards Beverages Cup Additional Setup Notes Supply a variety of drinks for this game, as drinking hard liquor could spell trouble Objective King’s Cup, also called “Ring of Fire” or “Circle of Death,” is a classic drinking game that...

read more