Betta fish are fun and rewarding pets, but do you need to keep a night light on for them? It may come as a surprise to many fish keepers that fish do actually sleep, just not in the way you might expect.
Betta fish remain one of the most popular pet fish for several reasons. Among these is that the fish requires very little maintenance.
This low-hassle pet isn’t particularly active, but for many people, it seems that the fish never completely relax. You might ask yourself whether or not your betta sleeps at all.
The fact of the matter is that most living things need to sleep, just perhaps not in the traditional sense of the word. Every animal needs to find a way of restoring its energy every once in a while.
How do bettas do this?
Do betta fish sleep?
Betta fish need to sleep. Like most other creatures, they would die without enough rest.
They need sleep for the same reasons that humans need it. It puts their bodies in an energy conservation mode which allows them to restore their functions.
When do bettas sleep?
Betta fish are “diurnal.” This means that they are the exact opposite of a nocturnal animal.
These fish sleep at night and remain most active during the day. Like many other fish which are kept in aquariums, their circadian rhythm may rely on the lights in their tank. (learn more about betta tank here
If they do not have direct and regular access to the sun, they will use the next best light source they have access to. As lights in the tank mimic sunlight, the fish will sleep according to them.
What this means is that your fish will be most active when the lights are on and will most likely sleep whenever they are shut off.
This is why it is so important to have your tank hooked up to a regular timing schedule. If the timing is off, it can interfere with your betta’s sleep schedule.
Imagine trying to sleep in a house where the lights were constantly flickering on and off at random. It would disrupt your sleep schedule too.
Betta anatomy also puts them at a slight disadvantage when compared to us.
How do bettas sleep?
Betta fish do not have eyelids. Why would they?
Part of the primary function of an eyelid is to help keep the eye moist. For an animal which spends 100% of its life living underwater, dry eyes aren’t much of a problem
Having no eyelids also means that they do not have a way to filter out light when they sleep. This means that they sleep with their eyes open.
Do betta fish stay still when they sleep?
Like people, betta fish all sleep a little differently. Sometimes, a betta might even exhibit some different sleep habits.
Sometimes, a betta may look for something like a bed to rest on top of. This could be a small leaf on a plant or just a quiet corner at the bottom of their tank.
Their sleeping is often more subtle than that, though. Most often, bettas don’t require any sort of extra tool to help support them when they rest.
It is not uncommon for a betta to simply float in place while sleeping.
How do you tell when your betta is sleeping?
While their eyes do stay open while they sleep, there are some distinct differences you can observe between a sleeping and an awake betta.
A sleeping betta will be much less active. This can sometimes be a little difficult to tell as a betta fish is not the most rambunctious fish.
You can normally tell when they are sleeping by looking at their mouth and gill movements. These movements will slow down significantly.
Unfortunately, this can still be challenging to observe as they mostly do this only when the lights are off. Also, the humble betta is not very strong.
In order to survive in the wild without being eaten, they must be able to wake up at the first sign of danger. Like many other small animals, this has led to the betta’s evolution as a very light sleeper.
Many things you might do to be able to observe a sleeping betta might wake them up. This includes turning the lights on abruptly or walking up next to the tank.
More: Do Betta Fish Need Heater? Learn more
How long do betta fish sleep for?
There is no real answer to the question of exactly how long a betta needs to sleep for. All betta fish are different and therefore require different amounts of sleep.
Generally, they will rest sometime during the hours where the tank lights are shut off.
If you don’t notice your betta sleeping, there is no need to worry. It is more than likely that they are getting plenty of rest, and you just don’t happen to see it.
Instead, to ensure that your betta is getting enough sleep, make sure to give them a nice environment which will facilitate a healthy sleep cycle.
This means putting their aquarium somewhere where they can get long hours of peace without too many disruptions. This also means that their tanks need to be properly lit.
If you do not have a light fixed to the tank, make sure your betta receives enough light from another source.
A betta fish’s sleep cycle is surprisingly similar to ours in many ways. While they don’t need to slip into pajamas or use pillows, their sleep habits are important to make sure that they stay happy and healthy.
Who knows? Now that you are aware of the sleep habits of the betta fish, maybe you will be able to catch your betta taking a little snooze every now and again.
Do you have any tips or stories about your sleeping betta? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!