How to Play Fishbowl – Fishbowl Game Rules & Instructions

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How to Play Fishbowl 

Have you been looking for a fun game to play with your family and friends during the holidays or even on the weekends? You may not have heard of it before, but Fishbowl is a memory game that is a smorgasbord of Charades, Password, and Taboo. 

The idea of the game is to guess a mystery word by using 3 different methods: describing the word, acting the word out, or saying one descriptive word about it.

You may be wondering why the game is called “Fishbowl”. That’s because the slips of paper with mystery words on them are placed into a fishbowl (or any fishbowl like container). It’s super easy to learn, so kids and adults can play it together! 

This is a great game for big groups, like a family get together. It can even work as a team building exercise, or a classroom icebreaker. It can be a little confusing at first, so make sure you go over the directions clearly with everyone first. Below are the fishbowl rules.

Instructions on how to play fishbowl game.

How to Prepare the Game

Here are the items you’ll need to play the game properly:

  • Several pens
  • Small slips of paper
  • A fishbowl-like container to hold the slips of paper
  • A timer (a smartphone works great)

How to Play the Game

First, each person who is playing will take 3 strips of paper and write a word or well-known phrase onto the paper, then place it into the bowl. The large group of people playing are split up into two groups, Team 1 and Team 2. Team 1 will go first in round 1, and Team 2 will go first in round 2 to keep it fair. Whichever team has the lowest score will go first in round 3. The score is based on how many words are guessed correctly. Each person on the team has 1 minute to guess as many words as possible. The words go back to the bowl after they’re used, to be used for the next round.

Round 1 – How to Play the Taboo Round

The first round of the game is the taboo round.

  • The first player will select a slip of paper from the fishbowl and read it to themselves. The timer will begin once the player selects the slip of paper from the bowl.
  • This player will use verbal cues to get their teammates to guess what is on the paper. No hand gestures are allowed, only words, but they can’t use any of the words on the paper. For example, if your word is “ice cream,” you can say, “you can get this at Ben & Jerry’s”.
  • A player can pass on a word if they think it is too hard, but they can only do this once per round, so choose wisely!
  • For every word guessed correctly, the team gets to keep that slip of paper.
  • After 1 minute, the other team gets to go.

Each team gets 1-minute turns until the fishbowl is out of paper. When it’s empty, each team counts up the number of papers they have. Each slip of paper is 1 point. Once the points are tallied, both teams will place the slips of paper back into the bowl, and continue on to round 2.

Round 2 – How to Play the Password Round

The second round of Fishbowl is the Password round. This round also has 1-minute turns to guess as many words as possible. Team 2 will go first on this round, since they went second during the last round.

  • The first player will select a slip of paper from the fishbowl and read it to themselves. The timer will begin once the player selects the slip of paper from the bowl.
  • This player will use verbal cues to get their teammates to guess what is on the paper. No hand gestures are allowed, only words, but they can’t use any of the words on the paper. The twist to this round is that only one word can be used to describe what’s on the paper. For example, if your word is “ice cream” you can say “Häagen-Dazs”. The team should try to remember the words mentioned in round 1 to use them as hints.
  • A player can pass on a word if they think it is too hard, but they can only do this once per round.
  • For every word guessed correctly, the team gets to keep that slip of paper.
  • After 1 minute, the other team gets to go.

As before, each team gets 1-minute turns until the fishbowl is out of paper. When it’s empty, each team counts up the number of papers they have, and this is that team’s score. Both teams will place the slips of paper back into the bowl, and continue on to round 3.

Round 3 – How to Play the Charades Round

The third round of Fishbowl is the Charades round. Each team will have 1-minute turns again to guess as many words as possible from the slips of paper. The team with the lowest score will go first in this round.

  • The first player will select a slip of paper from the fishbowl and read it to themselves. The timer will begin once the player selects the slip of paper from the bowl.
  • This player cannot speak or use any verbal cues during this round. They can only use physical gestures to act out the word on the paper. For example, if the word is “ice cream”, they can pretend to hold and lick an ice cream cone.
  • A player can pass on a word if they think it is too hard, but they can only do this once per round.
  • For every word guessed correctly, the team gets to keep that slip of paper.
  • After 1 minute, the other team gets to go.

As before, each team gets 1-minute turns until the fishbowl is out of paper. When it’s empty, each team counts up the number of papers they have, and this is that team’s score.

The game is now finished! Tally up all of the points from all three rounds, and the team that has the most points is the winning team.

Want some more fun game ideas? Check these out:

Fishbowl Game rules and instructions.

Learn how to play the fun game that is known as fishbowl.