A lot of people ask this question, and it’s a really interesting one. It’s strange to think about fish sleeping, because they can’t fall asleep in the same way that we do. But they do have a specific sleep cycle—and they need plenty of rest in order to stay healthy.
Betta fish are nocturnal animals, which means that they’re most active at night. This is true for most species of fish. Bettas also have a tendency to go into a “torpor” state when they’re not very active during the day. When they’re experiencing torpor, they may seem less alert, more sluggish, and less likely to respond to their environment—and you might get the impression that they’re sleeping.
But Betta fish aren’t actually able to engage in deep sleep like we do, where our brains go through different stages of activity and rest—it’s just not built into their biology. Instead, their sleep cycle is more like a period of reduced activity and awareness that happens periodically throughout the day.
The average Betta requires about 14 hours of sleep per day. Bettas go through short periods of wakefulness during the day and night to eat and swim around. Often, they will sleep at the bottom of their tank or hide in a plant to rest.
Bettas are nocturnal animals but can adjust their sleeping patterns to influence their environment. They may sleep during the day if exposed to light for too long at night.
As with most species, young bettas require more sleep than the average adult. The average juvenile Betta needs about 16 to 18 hours of sleep each day. Juvenile fish should be exposed to less light during this time, as this helps encourage them to sleep more often.
Do Betta Fish Sleep?
The Betta Fish needs to sleep and has its own biorhythm just like any other fish species. It really depends on what time it is during the day. Don’t expect some weird sleeping habits here, as they don’t differ from us humans at all when it comes to sleep.
Bettas take a long rest at night and maybe a short nap during the day. This, of course, depends on how healthy they are and how active they were during the day. If you notice a poor sleep cycle from them, then expect them to be frustrated and restless during the day.
How to Know When Your Betta Is Sleeping
Now that you know those beautiful bettas (and all fish) actually do sleep, you may wonder how to tell when they’re doing it. You can assume a betta will take the opportunity to get some real rest anytime his environment goes dark. This typically happens when you shut off his tank light for the evening. After a short time, he’ll find a comfortable spot to rest and basically become inactive for a while until something startles him or the light returns.
It can sometimes be hard to tell whether your betta fish is sleeping, or if they are sick or dead. Here are some tell-tale signs that your betta is taking a nap:
- Their body position. A betta may sleep on their sides, or with their noses pointed down, or in some other unusual position. If you notice them in an unusual position, but remaining still, they may be sleeping.
- Slow breathing. Just like people, bettas breathe more slowly when they are asleep. If you watch carefully, you’ll notice that their mouth movement and respiration is much slower than normal.
- Pale color. Bettas are known for their bright, vivid colors, but not when they sleep. When they are sleeping, their colors become less vivid, so they are harder for predators to see and safer as they take a nap. Their color is quickly restored when they wake up.
A sleeping betta fish can look a lot like a sick betta fish when you notice them looking pale and laying on the substrate. But if they wake up and are quickly looking and behaving normally, it’s nothing to be concerned about.
Betta fish may sleep less than humans do. Some reports indicate that they may sleep for as little as 10 to 12 hours per day. However, betta fish need sleep in order to function properly and live long lives. If a betta is not getting enough sleep, it will exhibit signs of stress, such as excessive flaring of its gills and fins when another betta is nearby. Betta fish can also exhibit aggressive behavior towards other fish in the tank if they feel threatened or stressed out by lack of sleep.