Introduction: Filtered Pet Watering Bowl

Picture of Filtered Pet Watering Bowl

We have both dogs and cats in our house. The cats are finicky about their water and the dogs would drink out of any water bowl in the house. After the dogs had finished drinking, the cats didn't want anything to do with the water in the bowl. This self filtering bowl is a solution that keeps all of them with fresh clean water with minimal fuss.

The bonus is that this filtering water bowl is about half the price of some of the commercial filtering water bowls and will hold at least two gallons of water.

Step 1: Gather Materials

Picture of Gather Materials
You will need the following:

  • Large water bowl (I prefer a 10 quart stainless steel) - (about $17.00 USD)

  • Small aquarium circulating water filter - (about $13.00 USD)

  • Plastic or wood pieces to shim the water filter - (free or very cheap)

Step 2: Assemble Water Filter

Picture of Assemble Water Filter

Assemble the aquarium water filter according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Step 3: Hang Filter Assembly on Water Bowl

Picture of Hang Filter Assembly on Water Bowl

Place the assembled water filter on the edge of the water bowl.

Step 4: Shim Filter

Picture of Shim Filter

Use the shims to adjust the filter to be as level as possible.

Step 5: Add Water

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Fill the bowl with fresh water. The water level needs to be at least to the bottom of the intake tube for the filter.

Step 6: Prime Filter

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Add water to the filter to prime it so that water will flow once you plug it in.

Step 7: Enjoy the Flow

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Now just sit back and listen to the soft flow of the water. Your pets will enjoy the fresher water and you will enjoy how easy it is to take care of.

You will need to change the water filter about every three weeks or so. It will depend on how how much your pets either shed or slobber into the bowl. Everytime I change the filter, the bowl and filter pump all get a good scrub down.

If you have curious cats, you may need to use some tape to secure the lid of the water filter. A couple of ice cubes floating in the water bowl can give your cats something to play with as well.


SamanthaM158 (author)2017-05-13

This is BRILLIANT! Now I just need to find an instructable about adding a low water level cut off, since I am scatterbrained and have quite a few fountains around the house for my elderly (senile) cat, and sometimes forget to refill one until i hear that dry pump sound. Thank you so much for sharing this!

rxima (author)2016-06-16

I have some used filters, can I still use those?

Glassyone (author)2016-05-03

Absolutely love this idea, wish I would have done this a long time ago. I used a Penquin 75, stainless steel 10qt, now they have fresh water for outside. Under a covered porch, with a covered GFI outlet. Didn't use the bio wheel and can see the charcoal filters are going to be pricey, with 3 dogs. Anybody make their own?

eman_p (author)2010-10-19

Hey there, I used your idea and made one, made a video talking about it as well:

I realize the filter is overkill, it's just what they had at the shop for the right price... I'm thinking I'll do as deckard1 says and put it on a timer.

Does anyone have any ideas about how to add a reservoir to a setup like this, maybe a 2 liter bottle?

Glassyone (author)eman_p2016-05-03

Does anyone know how to make our own charcoal filters for the Penquin(using for the water fountain) model 75

cmastin (author)eman_p2011-07-10

Thank you for posting video!! Cute cats!!!

Dulce1 (author)2016-01-11

What are shims? Where do you get them? How do you use them and what is their function?

Data09 (author)2016-01-03

Did it!!! Great idea, our cats love it!!! Regards from Mexico city

Merrygracesmom01 (author)2015-09-28

Wish I had seen this before purchasing one at a store. It's a pain to clean & the water bottle warped after my brother suggested putting it in the dishwasher. This would be so much easier to wash.

jerry7171 (author)2015-03-30

I can't wait to build this for my four cats.

I purchased one of those expensive pet fountains at the pet store almost a month ago and had to return it within two weeks -- it leaked like a sieve and my male cats LOVED splashing the water everywhere. At least with your ingenious plan, I can use far less expensive items and get a better product.

Oh, and as for the splashing, I'll have to grab one of those plastic trays with a lip that are made for going under washers. Then it'll be perfect. Thanks for sharing your idea!

VeganEthan (author)2014-09-27

You, Sir or Madam, are a genius. Let me be your loyal servant as my cats and dogs sup of their flowing filtered water.

tylermusiclady (author)2010-06-17

The aquarium filters pull out the same thing a Brita filter does. They both work with a carbon filter. The Brita is a good idea, but those cartridges cost a lot more and you would still need to dump the bowl and refill it every time. This is basically an automated Brita.

because we're (mainly) americans, nobody would actually do this (we're too snobby), but really, attaching an aquarium filter to a pitcher of water would probably get it more clean than a brita pitcher, because it keeps circulating it.

monkeyhihi (author)codongolev2010-07-11

...and now I want my own circulating water fountain on my desk with a tap. If I could just have like a 20 gallon bucket of water that I keep circulating/filtering all the time with a faucet-like thing on the end for my cups... *bliss*

legamin (author)monkeyhihi2014-04-08

I'm going to buy a three gallon car boy and drill a pull tap like a beer tap. Then set this type gravity system in! The new family water cooler!

@condongolev. Good point!!! If the filter is new, why not? It is the same thing some under counter filters, the counter top filters and the existing commercial cat fountains.

p3ngwin (author)tylermusiclady2010-07-11

actually, waters filter like Britta do more than aquarium filters. they filter to reduce the level of Chlorine, lead, copper, cadmium and mercury. see bottom of this page: but for a our pets, this instructible is still great, so i'm building one. to be extra lazy, i mean autonomous, i'm going to hook it into my water supply with a automated valve. so it auto-re-fills, and filters.

legamin (author)2014-04-08

dogs don't necessarily need 'potable' water. Puddles, rain water, muddy pools, toilets...the world is their watering hole! The acids in their stomach are many times more powerful than ours and kill most bacteria sand virii that would put us in abject misery. If the water is not an environment for certain kinds of parasites that effect dogs then really you are only providing sparkling clean water because it makes YOU. Feel better!

I did it to! $2 dollar per pound 'healthy food', a jacket in the snow, three giant fluffy beds around our upstairs and two downstairs, chew toys that fit her dentia, teeth cleaning treats, obedience treats, makes daddy feel good to give her one treats....filtered dog water guilt runeth over. All the while my wife rolls her eyes and says, "She's just a dog!" Yes..but WHAT A DOG!

Cactus-Bob (author)2010-09-06

Very good idea, I created one of these a couple years ago for our dogs and cats. I used one of the 5 gal pet waterer's and put it on the side just like this. The shims are a good idea, it didn't take long for the cats to send the first pump out of the bowl. We used it for a couple years for an aging cat with two dogs and had no issues except one dog didn't like the noise so wouldn't drink out of it. Good indestructable and well written

legamin (author)Cactus-Bob2014-04-08

there are very quiet pumps that are stronger that can be placed several feet above or away from the bowl and then pump the water back through a silent filter.

p0sta1 (author)2011-02-09

My dog suddenly went blind five days ago. She's having a hell of a time getting to her food & water so I'm going to build this for her so she can hopefully find her water easily. Thank you for the idea! :)

legamin (author)p0sta12014-04-08

place tiny bits of well cooked bacon or aromatic bacon-like treats on a tiny shelf just above the dogs water and food. You will have to replace the treat often until that location is set in her mind. Trust me, I went through this with my dear (now departed) 18 year old sweetheart. It took her about four days. But I had to keep the food flavor absolutely fresh and consistent, reward her for eating proper portions (blindness can trigger depression and self starving habits) and keep the water sparkling clean. Her nose will begin to amplify smells that she really never paid attention to before and she may reject stale water...even though that can harm her kidneys...poor thing doesn't readily understand her new situation so it's up to you to block off stairways and attract her to food and water. For getting her to come etc. you need to use a DIFFERENT smelling treat so you don't confuse her. Same with going for a ride etc. I think you get the idea. She will adapt quicker than you.

cmastin (author)2011-07-10

I know there are mixed opinions with the filter. I have actually looked into building a filter for human consumption because I'm sick of paying for Brita filters and I've found some DIY projects.. here is one:

I have not tried, and I'm not knowledgeable about filtration for humans or animals. I think that its a really cool concept if its safe and come on, 50 cents to refill a filter?? I would gladly pay $10.00 a month to insure the safety of my animals, but thought it would be worth looking into. I mainly want a filter to cut down on the thick gelatinous gel that collects on bowl, which was the main culprit to the down fall of the commercial running water unit I used in past. My cats have flat smushy faces and have to dip their heads into the bowl to drink. One of my cats has upper respiratory problems as a result. I'm excited to try this project with a cup underneath where water pours so that they can lick the water in a more vertical position. If anyone has more insight to refilling filters please "fill" me in!! get it? haha?:) If the prices are accurate it would save a ton! Hell I would drink out of their bowl;)

legamin (author)cmastin2014-04-08

when I go out hunting, I can't carry weeks worth of water and I refuse to pay ridiculous prices for filters that produce minute droplets of water per hour. So I adapted my larger home filter (let's call it my protest to over $4000 in -sounds like 'Frittah'- home made filter). I catch rain water and also cycle the high chlorine content city water and let it run down through a sand and charcoal and mesh filter. The independent lab that tested it said it had far less nastiness than raw city water. I made a two liter bottle version that I leave in place for dozens of hunters to use and last man hauls out the bottle and mesh...the rest is nature! But back to this instructable... I realized I could fix up an even smaller version for my hound did who will drink literally once from a bowl and then reject the taste of her own spit and refuse to touch it until I've scrubbed the dish, rinsed until it's sparkling then sun dried it which evaporates any residue chlorine....even I'm not that picky and I AM pretty picky! So I used the fish tank circulation pump to lift the water so it runs through my gravity filter. Voila! Dog happy, me happy, not so much dish washing for a blasted dawg!

katzenmoon (author)2010-06-17

My cat has learned how to turn on the faucet in the bathroom (both the sink and bathtub) and now refuses to drink from a bowl. Problem is that he hasn't learned how to turn it off. My water bill was $70 last month. I am going to have to find a way to lock my faucets in the bathroom-anyone invented one of those? I will try this on his bowl maybe he will like it.

FbO Vorcha (author)katzenmoon2013-07-19

He knows how to turn it off, he just doesn't. He is , after all, a cat.

talonts (author)katzenmoon2010-06-17

Make it so he doesn't HAVE to turn it on - replace the faucet with one with a sensor, so he can stand in front of it to get his water, and when he leaves, it shuts off. Then you can still use it as usual, just remember to turn the hot back off it you set it to warm/hot to wash hands.

Trxi (author)katzenmoon2010-06-17

lock the bathroom door maybe?

lizardknits (author)katzenmoon2010-06-17

Put a hook & eye on the door so the cat can't get into the bathroom. That's what I've had to do to keep the dog out of the toilet. (lowering the lid didn't work)

There are a number of products made for dogs like this they are basically set to on and the pressure of a lick will activate them I am not sure if there are ones for small dogs that would react to the pressure of a cat's tongue..but it would be worth looking into.

skylane (author)hellokittygirl2010-06-17

I've had a Lixit on my back yard faucet for a good 35 years now. I'm on my second one. They last for years. It takes very little pressure to move the toggle. Back when I had a female dog and she would have her occasional litter of ONE. The puppy would go from mother's milk to the lixit. I've seen the cat drink from it also.

They have kid locks for the sink and tub. Look at a child safty store or walmart.

binkycakes (author)2012-07-08

I love the idea. I think this could do really well in pet stores.

Ibanezfoo (author)2010-06-17

I thought those filters were meant to only filter some stuff, but also introduce certain bacterias that fish environments need.... is this really safe for a dog to consume?

Azerial (author)Ibanezfoo2010-06-17

I think the marine filter you are thinking of is the one with the Bio-Wheel. Its a spinning wheel that creates a suitable environment for bacterial growth. These particular filters do not have a bio wheel. If bacteria grew that easily in one of these filters, it would negate the need for a bio-wheel model. Here's a link to some examples of the bio-wheel model on Google product search:

MsChris (author)Azerial2012-04-13

The bio wheels are simply an additional media for bacteria to colonize. The only difference is that the biowheel is exposed to water AND air, where as the other filtering parts are always submerged in water. So the submerged filter will only colonize anaerobic bacteria (the ones that do not need air to live), wheras the biowheel colonizes aerobic bacteria (the ones that need air to thrive. Each type of bacteria fulfills a different function, which is why the biowheel is an addition to the simple powerfilter.

MsChris (author)Ibanezfoo2012-04-13

They will filter-period. The media you use determines what is filtered out of the water. The bacteria is created from the ammonia (the fish waste) introduced into the water in an aquarium. Those filters are usually designed to only keep larger particles from getting back into the fish tank. This is called a biological filter and will grow the bacteria which deals with the ammonia and nitrates in a fish tank. Then you have the chemical filtration (which is what you would want for your cat fountain), which filters out chemicals from the water, such as the chlorine used in our tap water. The design of the external aquarium power filter just happens to be one useful for this pupose as well. So unless you have ammonia or other waste in your pet water, it is really safe.

cfuse (author)Ibanezfoo2010-06-17

Trickling filters (like the one in the instructable) don't introduce anything into the environment that wasn't there to begin with. The principles they work on are mechanical filtration and as an environment for naturally occurring nitrifying bacteria to thrive. They also sometimes contain highly porous media (like charcoal or zeolite) for trapping contaminants. None of this things should present a hazard to animal health.

zerodb (author)Ibanezfoo2010-06-17

While it's true that aquarium systems and filtration includes biological elements, those bacteria are introduced (either from the environment or with the fish you add to the tank) and then colonize any porous surface in the tank and filter media and go on to feed on and process fish waste. The filter itself does not introduce any bacterial elements, and ideally for something like this you would only load the filter with activated carbon and replace it periodically to ensure that it doesn't get loaded up with some sort of dog slobber bacteria ecosystem!

be23skido (author)2010-06-17

I have been thinking about building something similar for my cats. I recently learned that the black spots you see around a cats mouth is acne from dirty drinking water. However, providing my cats clean drinking water is tough. One of my cats is a water freak. She plays in all the water around the house. We don't always leave the toilet seats up so the only water available is in there water dish. The water freak has been known to stand in the dish, paw at the water, drink water off her paw or some variation of the three. This creates terrible drinking water. Some of the problems I run into with filtering is that the water freak has a habit of splashing all the water out of the bowl which in turn burns out the motors. She also creates blockages from the amount of dirt she puts in the bowl. In planning this, I've found that animals will find the best water, water that's been ariated, clean and cool. My goal is to provide filtered water that the cat can't play in or that I have some control over how she plays in it. Any suggestions?

bustedit (author)be23skido2010-06-18

one of our dogs gets that black around his mouth, and needs to be on cycles of the steroid Prednisone occasionally to clear it up. he is an italian greyhound, primarily an insider, so it's not like he's rooting around outside in filth ever, but has developed a nasty habit of licking his front feet until he gets open sores, which turns into an endless cycle in itself, and the Pred also fixes that. Steroids are not the best solution, obviously, but they work well, and he can now beat me @ arm wrastling.

MsChris (author)bustedit2012-04-13

Italian greyhounds are natural runners and have lots of energy, which, if not provided with adequate exercise, will typically result in the development of "nasty habits" like licking and chewing their paws until they are raw. It's called boredom, can easily be prevented and could avoid using steroids, which can have a slew of side effects, as all chemicals do. Shame on you...

Thenicholas3 (author)be23skido2010-06-17

We built a cheap water fountain for our cats who also like to play in and sometimes lay in the water bowl.
You need 1 very large plastic bowl, 1 plastic bowl that fits upside down in the large bowl and has a flat bottom, and 1 plastic margarita glass. You will also need the submersible pump from a table-top fountain.
First, drill a hole in the bottom of the small bowl. Then drill a hole through the stem and into the top of the margarita glass.
Now take a table-top fountain pump, pull the hose through the stem of the glass and through the hole in the small bowl.
Put the pump in the center of the large bowl, put the smaller bowl upside down over the pump inserting the hose into the pump outlet hole. Sit the margarita glass ontop of the upside-down bowl.

  Fill the large bowl with water, making sure that it goes into the filter area. Now place  clean river rocks in the large bowl around the smaller bowl. Turn it on and watch the happy cats, they can splash in the shallow water over the stones, but never touch the pump or splash all the water out. 
The first one we built lasted about 3 years running non-stop, the bowls and margarita glass were from Walmart and the fountain was from the dollar store. It held about 3 gallons of water and we emptied and cleaned it 2-3 times a month. we do use filtered water in it to help keep algea from growing in the summer when it sat on our screen porch. The cats love it and now we've built a larger one for when the dogs are outside. just a note though, the dogs actually like the water better when it's a little dirty. I guess it has flavor then. If this is confusing send me a note and I'll send you pictures.

This fountain is just what I've been looking for. Yes, if you would please send me some pictures of it. Does it drip down water in a stream to drink? Thanks, I'm a new member, smilebrite1h. My email is

deckard1 (author)be23skido2010-06-17

Put the filter on a plug timer. Even the smallest aquarium power filters circulate, filter, and aerate WAY more water per hour than what the biggest pet bowl would need; Will also save electricity... Most power filters use a submerged magnetic impeller and even if the bowl or tank runs dry there will still be a small amount of water in the filter tank that did not get expelled, this will keep the magnet cool and keep it from "burning out". Source: 30 years maintaining aquariums.

talonts (author)be23skido2010-06-17

Build a bowl as above, but find one with a snap on lid. Cut a hole just big enough for the filter to work on one end, and a small cutout at the other for the cats to drink from. This will at least keep the cat from standing in the bowl (and YES, I have a cat that like to slap the water out of the bowl with his paws).

infernisdiem (author)2012-03-14

we use the bathroom sink method because our cats wash their paws in the bowl, however, I have to keep my fishtank levels down because my cats try to drink/fish from them. lol

swake (author)2011-12-06

Excellent job! I've had one of these setups for about a year now, and the cats tolerate it. I bought a 4 liter plastic CD box from Office Depot for the bowl and added a piece of plastic tubing so that it draws water from the very bottom. The cats took about a month to "trust" it enough that I could leave it as their only source of water. Other than the breaking in period, they have never given me any grief about it. I scrub it clean every month or so and replace the filter every other month (or so) and it has worked faithfully (and silently) with no issues whatsoever. Thanks!

pyromonkey (author)2011-07-02

What a cool idea. I have been wanting to get my dog a filtered bowl for awhile and they are pretty pricey. Since his bowl is similar to the one you show I dont think I need to buy him a separate bowl either :) Thanks for the instructable.

Mamohau (author)2010-12-05

I will be making these as Christmas presents, not only for my family who have pets but also for my ferrets as they much prefer the water in the fish tank or pond to that in their bowl! All excellent ideas thank you all contributors, from a dedicated Instructables Brit!

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