Install Fishbowl

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Fishbowl fundamentals

Fishbowl's design is based on a need for intense inventory-control software. We include features for outstanding business management, for example, Sales Orders, Purchase Orders, Manufacturing, Customers, Vendors, Picking, Shipping, etc., and flawless integration with QuickBooks accounting software.

Fishbowl has two parts, the Client and the Server. The Fishbowl Server also includes a QuickBooks connector application that runs automatically called Nexus.

Client server.png

As illustrated above, your database (the server part of Fishbowl) is separate from the client (the software you see and use at the workstation). It's similar to telephone service.

Client server phone.png

A telephone, (the client in the above example) is what you see and use, but the heavy work of switching calls, making connections, and tracking charges is performed by a telecommunications company (the server). This division of functions within Fishbowl provides several huge advantages, such as having all of your data in one location (on the server) while allowing multiple clients (users) to connect with the server over the Internet or a Local Area Network.

Fishbowl Hardware Setup

Setting up your hardware is an important part of getting Fishbowl functioning efficiently. Depending on the number of users and the complexity of your system, Fishbowl client and server software may reside on one or multiple computers. These three scenarios illustrate different ways Fishbowl may be configured to best serve your needs.

Scenario 1 system hardware.PNG

Scenario 2 system hardware.PNG

Scenario 3 system hardware.PNG

Fishbowl also provides a service called My Fishbowl hosting that puts Fishbowl in the cloud, allowing customers to connect to Fishbowl from anywhere with an internet connection, even from a mobile device.

Download the installer

The Fishbowl installer can be downloaded from the internet or you may request a physical copy.

  • Download - You may download and install the Fishbowl and try it FREE for 14 days by clicking here. Once purchased, you may enter your license key which will convert your trial version of Fishbowl into an unlimited use installation.
  • Request a physical copy - You may have a copy of the latest Fishbowl installer shipped to you by contacting us directly either via email (salesEmail.png or supportEmail.png) or by calling 1-800-774-7085. Shipping charges may apply.
  • Existing customers - Existing customers with a license key can bypass the contact information page, by clicking the Download Fishbowl link in the Check for updates window. The Fishbowl Client has a Check for updates option in the Help menu, but the recommended process for updating Fishbowl is to right-click the server tray icon, and select Check for updates.
    Check for updates.png

Install Fishbowl

See Fishbowl Hardware Setup and System Hardware Recommendations to identify the hardware setup that will work best for Fishbowl. See Supported Operating Systems for the list of operating systems supported by Fishbowl.

Before installing Fishbowl, please turn off all firewalls and anti-viruses on your computer. They may be turned on again immediately following the install. If you are performing an upgrade of Fishbowl, the Server and Clients must be shut down during the install.

  1. Double-click the Fishbowl installer.
    Fishbowl Installer.png
  2. Read and accept the License Agreement and then click Next.
  3. If you haven't purchased a license key, select the 14 day Fishbowl trial and then complete the wizard. Otherwise, select Current Fishbowl User.
    Installation Mode.png
    • Client Only: This option will install the Client version of Fishbowl, which is the option to select for every computer other than your server. These clients will connect to your server through a network or internet access. This option allows you to specify a different install location if you wish.
    • Server with Client: This option installs both the Fishbowl Server and Fishbowl Client. It is recommended to install only on your Server computer, since work stations generally use just the Client Only install. This option allows you to specify a different install location if you wish.
    • Configure Advanced Settings: This option offers a few additions such as adjusting memory allocation for the Client and Server, as well as the option to download and install iReport.
  4. Choose the install location, which programs should start automatically, and which icons should be created.
  5. Enter the license key. Click here for details about updating your license key instantly online. See Change license key for instructions on changing a trial license key to a permanent license key. You may also contact your sales rep or our support team at 1-800-774-7085 ext 3, or supportEmail.png.
    Enter License Key.png
  6. On the last step, select Run Fishbowl.
    Run Fishbowl.png

The Fishbowl Server always needs to be running before a client will be able to connect. A welcome screen will be displayed the first time you connect your client to the server. This is informing you that you are on an example database. If you would like to create your own database please review how to change your default database.

Congratulations! You are done with the install. If you have any further questions or concerns please contact our support team at 1-800-774-7085 ext 3 or email supportEmail.png

Update Fishbowl

Updated versions of Fishbowl are typically released once a month and include new features and improvements. It only requires a few minutes to update Fishbowl and take advantage of the latest changes. Fishbowl also has the ability to push critical updates and patches in the middle of a release cycle. In this case, you will see an update window when starting the Fishbowl server.


  • Major updates, such as Fishbowl 2018 to 2019, require a current support contract and an updated license key. On the latest versions of Fishbowl, the license key will be updated automatically. Alternatively, a new key can be obtained instantly by clicking here. Minor updates such as Fishbowl 2019.1 to 2019.2 will continue to work with the previous license key.
  • In most cases, backup files are not needed, however it is highly recommended to create backup files. On the Fishbowl Server computer, double-click the C:\Program Files\Fishbowl\server\bin\backup.bat file to backup the reports and plugins to a folder on the desktop. To backup the MySQL database, right-click the Fishbowl Server tray icon and select Stop. After the red status dot appears on the server icon, right-click the Fishbowl Server tray icon and select Options. Then right-click the database name and select Backup. Browse to C:\Program Files\Fishbowl\data\backups and copy the most recent backup file to the Desktop.
  • The auto update settings can be customized by right-clicking the Fishbowl Server tray icon and selecting Options.
    Auto update settings.png

Auto update

With the auto update, there is no need to run an installer, and in most cases, only a few small files will be downloaded to complete the update. Plugins are automatically updated when Fishbowl is updated to the latest version.

  1. Fishbowl will display a notification in the client when an update is available. Click Start Server Download to download the update.
    Update notification.png
  2. Alternatively, right-click the Fishbowl Server tray icon, select Check For Updates, and then click Update Fishbowl.
    Check version2.png
  3. Restart the server by right-clicking the Fishbowl Server tray icon and selecting Exit.
    Server restart.png
  4. Then start the Fishbowl server from the desktop or the list of programs.
    Server shortcut.png
  5. When the server restarts, click Yes to apply the updates.
    Applying update.png
  6. Click OK to start the database update.
    Database update.png
  7. All client computers will update automatically when connecting to the updated Fishbowl Server.
  8. If the auto update fails, follow the instructions here to manually download and install Fishbowl into the same directory where Fishbowl is currently installed.
    Installation directory2.png

Running multiple Fishbowl Servers

Follow the instructions below to run multiple Fishbowl Servers on the same network, or on the same computer.

Multiple Fishbowl Servers on the same network

  1. Complete the Fishbowl Server installation on each computer that will run a Fishbowl Server.
  2. Open any Fishbowl Client on the network and click the Search Icon Button.png Find Fishbowl Servers button to search the network for Fishbowl Servers that are broadcasting their location on the default port.
  3. Select a database from the Server Address dropdown or enter the computer name or IP address of any computer that is running a Fishbowl Server.
    Client Login.png
  4. Enter a valid username and password and then click Login.

Multiple Fishbowl Servers on the same computer

  1. Repeat the Fishbowl Server installation on the computer that already has a Fishbowl Server. It is important that each Fishbowl Server be installed in a separate directory.
    • On the Installation Mode step of the installer, select Current Fishbowl User and select Server with Client.
      Installation Mode.png
    • On the Select Destination Directory step of the installer, enter a new destination directory and then complete the installer.
      New Server Directory.png
  2. Open any Fishbowl Server. Then right-click the Fishbowl Server icon in the system tray and select Options.
    Server Options.png
  3. Click the Server tab in the Fishbowl Server Administration window. Then enter a different Server Port and click OK.
    Server Administration.png
  4. Right-click the Fishbowl Server tray icon and select Start.
  5. Open any additional Fishbowl Servers. Each server must have a unique Server Port.
  6. Open any Fishbowl Client on the network and enter the computer name or IP address of the Fishbowl Server in the Server Address field.
  7. Change the Server Port to designate which Fishbowl Server the client should connect to.
    Client New Port.png
  8. Enter a valid username and password and then click Login.

Move an existing installation

Moving an existing Fishbowl installation to a different server computer requires a way to transfer files, such as a USB thumb drive or a shared network folder. By default, the Fishbowl installation folder is located at C:\Program Files\Fishbowl, but this can be customized in the installation wizard. The following steps are for Fishbowl 2017 or later. Firebird instructions for Fishbowl 2016.14 or earlier can be found here.

  1. Complete the Fishbowl installation on the new server computer.
  2. On the old server computer, browse to the Fishbowl\server\bin folder and double-click the backup.bat file. A black window will appear showing the progress of the backup.
  3. When the backup is complete, browse to the desktop and copy the newly created Fishbowl_Backup folder to the new server computer.
  4. Follow the steps to create a backup of the MySQL database on the old computer.
  5. Browse to Fishbowl\data\backups on the old computer and copy the latest .sql backup file to the new computer.
  6. Browse to the Fishbowl folder on new server computer. Delete the plugins folder and then paste the plugins folder from the Fishbowl_Backup folder.
  7. If there is a Custom folder in the reports backup folder, paste the Custom folder into the Fishbowl\server\reports folder on the new server computer.
  8. Start the new Fishbowl Server and follow the steps to restore a database using the .sql file that was created.

Once the new server is running, it may be necessary to change the server address when logging in from Fishbowl Clients. If applicable, the Fishbowl Server will need to reintegrate with QuickBooks, and any ODBC connections may need to be modified to point to the new server.

Uninstall Fishbowl

Follow the steps below to uninstall Fishbowl.

  1. Close the Fishbowl Server and the Fishbowl Client.
  2. Run the backup.bat file (default location is C:\Program Files\Fishbowl\server\bin\backup.bat) to make a backup of important files to the desktop.
  3. Run and complete the Fishbowl uninstaller (default location C:\Program Files\Fishbowl\uninstall.exe).

As a safety precaution, the uninstaller will leave the database and server folders in the installation directory, but these can be deleted manually if desired.

Install Fishbowl on Linux or Mac

See Fishbowl for Linux and Fishbowl for Mac.