1. (US Und., also fish tank) a holding cell in a police station [play on SE, the visibility of the prisoners].
|Argot: Dict. of Und. Sl. 18: fish tank [...] room containing prisoners awaiting investigation or their turn to be called to court.|
|High Window 213: ‘I’m going the way I always go,’ I said. ‘With an airy smile and a quick flip of the wrist. And with a deep and heartfelt hope that I won’t be seeing you in the fishbowl. Good night.’.|
|Little Sister 68: Maybe I get tossed in the fish-bowl.|
|Thief 192: Because if he wasn’t, you’d be in the fishbowl right now.|
2. (US prison, also fish tank) the processing unit for new arrivals at a prison [fish n.1 (6c)].
|Criminal Sl. (rev. edn) 84: fish tank The main compartment of a jail where prisoners are first received.|
|(con. 1941) Cell 2455 217: We had our heads shaved [...] and then assigned single cells in what was then the ‘Fish tank’ section of the Old Prison.|
|(con. 1998–2000) You Got Nothing Coming 21: I have already figured out from listening to the dawgs on the bench that the Fish Tank is the convict name for the intake processing unit at the prison. Like a boot camp barracks before being sent overseas or to a permanent station.|
3. (US) steam baths frequented by homosexual men.
|Blind Man with a Pistol (1971) 155: Next to it [...] was a steam bath establishment calling itself the Arabian Nights Baths. ‘That a fish bowl?’.|
4. (S.Afr.) a sleek car, e.g. a Cadillac.
|Hot Air 26: We step into our Cadillacs [...] and sweep off in our black fishbowls. [...] The Cadillacs, enormous cars, attract too much attention. So when you draw up at a robot [...] people peer into the ‘fishbowl’.|