Do Betta Fish Sleep (Betta sleep behavior guide)

Do betta fish sleep - Betta sleep behavior guide

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Betta fish seem to be the new craze in the pet world. These little guys are not only beautiful, but they’re pretty interesting to watch. Many new betta owners have questions about their new pet’s resting habits.

Betta fish keeping can be much more rewarding the more you learn, so let’s take a look and answer some of the most common questions about betta sleeping behavior.

If you are a new betta owner, I highly recommend reading my article: Betta Fish Care Guide And Species Overview For Beginners.

Do Betta Fish Sleep

Yes, betta fish do sleep. Like almost all living creatures, betta fish need a sleep and wake cycle known as their circadian rhythm, which operates over a 24 hour period and is usually dictated by periods of light and dark.

Circadian rhythms affect most living creatures, even microorganisms, and play a role in many biological factors such as metabolism, hormone release, physical health, and mental wellbeing.

Betta fish also tend to sleep more when their tank water is too cold. You can read my guide: Do Betta Fish Need A Heater (Can they live in cold water), for more information on this.

When Do Betta Fish Sleep

Betta fish will typically sleep at night much like people, especially as a betta’s night vision isn’t quite as good as some other fishes. When betta fish sleep, they like to be hidden from potential predators, so sleeping at night will give them the best cover.

During the day, betta fish are usually quite active, and you’ll see them swimming around and exploring their surroundings. They tend to be calmer at night and may rest at the bottom of their tank or on a plant.

How Long Do Betta Fish Sleep

Although you may not notice, betta fish sleep an average of 8-12 hours per day. It seems like a lot of sleep, however, bettas don’t take it all in one go.

Betta fish also won’t sleep through the whole night as they do like feeding periods and can navigate in the dark by using pressure sensors located along their lateral line.

A betta’s lateral line runs along the middle of its body, from the tip of the nose to the end of its tail, and can detect minute changes in pressure waves in the surrounding water. These pressure waves can help a betta fish sense objects, prey, and predators, so good night vision is unnecessary.

How Long Do Betta Fish Sleep
Betta fish usually sleep for 8 to 10 hours a day and can sleep for up to 14 hours.

There isn’t a specific amount of time that a betta fish will sleep, and they can survive on much less sleep than I mentioned above. In fact, it depends on an individual betta fish who will take whatever amount of sleep it needs. If you have a lazy betta, it may sleep as much as 14 hours a day.

Do Betta Fish Sleep During The Day

Betta fish will usually take many short naps during the day, even though this is a time that bettas are much more active.

Bettas are very aware of potential threats and predators, making them very light sleepers, so daytime naps may only last for between 5 minutes and sometimes up to 1 hour.

Many animals will have periods of sleep throughout the day and night instead of having all of their sleep in one go, which is also how early humans would behave.

How humans live today is a long way from how cavemen lived. Humans have become used to getting 3 square meals each day with snacks whenever they want them and a solid 8 hours of sleep each night.

Many experts will argue that the human body functions far better with several shorter periods of sleep each day, and as for food, fasting has become widely accepted as a great detox.

Early humans were designed to be alert day and night, watching for potential threats, and they would need to hunt for food, often going days without a meal.

Animals have not evolved in this way and generally remain as they would in the wild, so it is unlikely that you will see your betta fish putting on its PJs, ready for a good night’s sleep.

Do Betta Fish Like Light At Night

Because bettas don’t have eyelids, keeping your aquarium light on at night will have an impact on how your betta will sleep. You should also turn off your aquarium light at night to provide the day/night cycle that fish experience in the wild.

A few other reasons to turn off your aquarium light at night:

  1. The day/night cycle predominantly affects the circadian rhythm I mentioned earlier. The circadian rhythm regulates which chemicals and hormones are released into the body depending on the time of day or night, and is generally dictated by how light or dark it is.
  2. Betta fish thrive in environments with live plants. If your aquarium has live plants, they provide oxygen throughout the daylight hours and carbon dioxide when it gets dark. Both chemicals benefit a fish tank, so this is another reason to turn off your fish tank light at nighttime.
  3. Too much light will encourage algae to grow inside your betta tank, and algae blooms can lead to a reduction in water quality, leading to health problems and disease. Keeping your betta tank away from intense light and turning off the light at night will reduce the opportunity for algae to grow.
Do Betta Fish Like Light At Night
Betta fish prefer a natural day/night cycle of light and dark and will find it easier to sleep this way.

Can Betta Fish Sleep With Light On

Although betta fish can sleep with the tank light on, a sleeping betta fish will prefer shady areas to block any intense light. In their natural habitat, betta’s usually live in densely planted areas that provide lots of shade where they can rest.

Aquarium lights can be pretty strong, so if your tank does not have many areas of shade, try adding a few floating plants to block light from the surface, or add some ornaments with caves or tunnels where your betta can take shelter.

For more information on aquarium lighting at night, read the article: How Well Can Betta Fish See in the Dark or this article: Do Fish Need Light At Night (Keep your aquarium natural).

Do Betta Fish Sleep With Their Eyes Open

Due to a lack of eyelids, bettas sleep with their eyes open, and it’s sometimes difficult to know when they are asleep. Betta fish typically sleep near or under plants that provide cover from predators. Ornaments that give hiding spaces like caves or tunnels are a helpful addition.

Because a betta sleeps with its eyes open, this is another good reason to dim the aquarium light at night or you can switch it off altogether.

Do Betta Fish Sleep On The Bottom Of The Tank

Betta fish will sleep just about anywhere in the tank that they can get some peace, so you will often find them lying on the bottom of the tank or behind the tank filter to escape the current.

Don’t be too surprised if you find that your betta is sleeping on a leaf or tank ornaments that are protruding from the water. Betta fish can breathe oxygen from the air and from the water as they are one of the few fish that have a labyrinth organ that gives them this unusual ability and enables them to survive for a while outside of their tank.

In the video below you will see several betta fish sleeping during the daytime and outside of the water, resting on some leaves.

Betta hammocks are one of the latest trends. Betta hammocks are available in many pet stores and usually come in the share of a leaf. The betta hammock can be stuck to the tank glass via a sucker and will provide a perfect bed for a sleepy betta fish.

How Do You Know If Your Betta Fish Is Sleeping

Although it can sometimes be difficult to tell when your betta is sleeping, especially when their eyes remain open, usually, it is pretty obvious that your betta is taking a nap as there are a few tell-tale signs.

Some of the easiest ways to tell when your betta is asleep are:

  • Your betta will be hiding out of sight for longer periods. – If you can’t see where your betta has gone, it is likely that it will have found a quiet spot under some plants or inside an ornament where it won’t be disturbed.
  • Your betta may be lying on the bottom of the tank, sometimes curled up or on its side. – Betta fish will happily lie on the substrate at the base of the tank, providing they don’t feel exposed or threatened. Betta fish may also find a big leaf to perch on, where they can fall asleep out of harm’s way.
  • Betta fish can lose some of their colors when sleeping. – Color loss is a defensive mechanism to make them less noticeable to predators. Color loss will also happen when bettas die, so this can be confusing to some owners who may be concerned about their fish. When a betta wakes, the color will return quickly.
  • Your betta fish may float vertically with its nose pointing towards the ground. – This is a common position for betta fish to sleep, but if your betta is swimming in this position more often, it may be a sign of swim bladder disease.

Each individual betta fish will display their own characteristics, including sleeping behaviors. Some betta fish will have a particular place to sleep, which can sometimes be quite unusual.

It is completely normal if you find your sleeping betta wedged into some tiny places. A sleeping betta can be found wedged between the filter, inside small caves, and many other tight spots.

Is My Betta Fish Dead Or Sleeping

If you are unsure if your betta is sleeping or dead, you are in the same position as anyone keeping betta fish. It can be very difficult to tell if you have a sleeping betta fish or whether your fish died suddenly from old age or sickness.

When a betta sleeps, you should still notice them moving water over their gills to breathe. As you get used to your betta sleep patterns, it will be easier to judge normal behavior from the more unusual behavior.

I have briefly mentioned that a betta’s color can fade while they are asleep, similar to what you will see in a dead or sick betta. You will not know if the color loss is caused by sleep until your betta wakes up and color returns.

Final Thoughts

Bettas do sleep, but it can be difficult to tell when your betta is sleeping. The best way to check if your betta is asleep or just resting is by observing their behavior and activity levels for a while.

When a betta wants to sleep they will often hide out among aquarium plants or somewhere else that they feel safe. This is a natural instinct so you often won’t catch them sleeping. If your betta feels comfortable in its tank it may just lie on the substrate for a snooze.

In general, healthy bettas sleep for short periods of time during the day and for longer periods at night.

Many new betta owners will be concerned when seeing their betta sleeping as they can look like they may be dying. If this is your first betta, it will take a while to understand its sleep behaviors.

If you have any concerns that your fish may be unwell, contact a veterinarian who specializes in fish health, or speak to your local pet store for some advice. Thanks for reading!

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Jon O'Connell

I have kept both marine and freshwater fish and set up almost 100 aquariums. Happy to share my knowledge and experience to help others enjoy keeping healthy and happy fish.

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