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If you are populating your first home aquarium, you will be looking for interesting fish to include. While guppies and goldfish are popular options for beginners, you might be looking for something a little more interesting to look at – and Betta fish are a fun, colorful option to go for. Betta fish have proven to be a great choice for both beginners and expert fishkeepers alike. One thing that many people want to know about their newly acquired Betta fish is whether or not they sleep and if they really need time to rest. And you might be quite surprised by the answer.

Do Betta fish sleep? Yes, Betta fish do sleep. While Betta fish need a decent amount of sleep on a daily basis, they do it quite differently from humans. When sleeping, Betta fish are actually just inactive. They stop swimming and will find a spot on the bottom of the tank to rest, or simply float in place, saving energy. A sleeping Betta fish may appear to be dead.

If you have taken the plunge and got yourself a Betta fish, you have made a good choice. And you are at just the right place to find out everything you need to know to keep your new fish healthy and happy. Before you introduce any new Betta fish to your aquarium, you should take some time to gain an understanding of the sleep requirements and patterns of Betta fish and how to cater to their unique sleep needs. To learn more about why and how Betta fish sleep, keep reading – I have included some great nuggets of the information below to help you get started.

When Do Betta Fish Sleep?

If you don’t know when your fish needs to sleep, chances are that you won’t be able to provide a comfortable living environment. Many new Betta fish owners wonder when their fish get the most amount of sleep. While a Betta fish can sleep during the day if it needs to, it does most of its sleeping at night.

Betta fish are quite active during the day by swimming, feeding, and doing what fish do. At night, it sleeps. They are prone to daytime naps too – so don’t become distressed if you notice your Betta fish sleeping during the afternoon. That being said, most people tend to be unaware that their Betta fish sleep and that is because most of the time, they are sleeping at the very same time.

You might find that if you turn off the lights or close the blinds, the Betta fish assume it is nighttime and go into their “sleep” phase. For this reason, many people install a timer on their fish tank lighting – to enable their Betta fish to enjoy a regular sleep cycle.

Is My Betta Fish Sleeping or Dead? How to Tell

You might take a look at your supposedly sleeping Betta fish and wonder why its eyes are still opening. Surely it could be dead? Chances are that it is not dead and all is well with your Betta fish. Sleeping with eyes open is normal because Betta fish do not have eyelids. One of the first signs that your Betta fish is sleeping is when it appears lifeless. You might stress out and think that your fish is dead. You will need to verify this before taking action. If your fish is inactive but shows minor movement in its gills and mouth, it is very much alive. A sleeping Betta fish will still show minor movement in these areas. A dead fish will not move at all.

One of the strangest signs to look for is a slight change in the color of your fish skin. As it turns out, Betta fish fade a little when they are sleeping. Because of this, they will appear lighter in color when having a rest. Another sign that your Betta fish is sleeping (and not dead) is if it appears to have nestled itself into the tank plants, décor, or the substrate. In some instances, Betta fish can turn themselves upside down, rest on their side, or turn themselves into an unusual-looking angle – this is normal when they are taking a nap. Just give it some time and it should become active when it is ready again.

What Not to Do If Your Betta is Sleeping

If you are worried that your Betta fish is looking inactive and is in a weird position or angle, there are things you might naturally want to do to check if it is alive. This is a natural urge, but you should resist it.  Unfortunately, the things most people do can shock or stress the Betta fish, which can mean bad things for its health and longevity. Below are a few things you should never do when you are not sure if a Betta fish is sleeping or dead. Do not:

1. Tap the side of the aquarium to get the attention of your Betta fish.

If you have ever encountered a Betta fish owner and admired their home aquarium, you might have heard them say the words “do not tap the tank”. You might feel tempted to tap the tank when you spot a fish that appears to be particularly inactive. This is because it might appear as if the fish is dead or unwell when it is just floating around having a much-needed rest. Tapping on the aquarium glass should be avoided at all costs. Tapping the glass can startle a sleeping Betta fish to the point of causing stress. You might not know this, but fish actually have a very sensitive hearing in the first place. When you startle a sleeping Betta fish with a really loud and unexpected tapping sound, it can be quite traumatic to it and it may have an adverse reaction. A scared fish might try to escape the unknown danger and even swim into things, sustaining injuries along the way. Depending on how hard you tap on the glass, the vibrations may even cause disruptions for the internal organs of the fish. If you have a home aquarium, you should have a general “no tapping” rule for your fish tank.

2. Leave the tank lights on 24/7 so that you can always see the fish.

Many first-time fish keepers wonder if their fish are getting sufficient light. How much light a Betta fish needs will depend on the specific type of Betta fish you have. Generally speaking, because Betta fish are active by day and sleep by night, it is a good idea to set your tank lights on a timer. Providing 8 hours of light per day should be sufficient but you can increase this to around 12 hours per day without it having a negative impact on your Betta fish.

Leaving your aquarium lights on 24 hours a day will not just increase the water temperature, but also interfere with the sleep cycle of your Betta fish. Providing set lighting times will help your Betta fish to differentiate between night and day. This means that they will be more comfortable knowing when to sleep and when to wake up. You should also be aware that Betta fish need more sleep as they get older. You might want to adjust the lighting of your tank to change along with the evolving sleep patterns of your fish.

3. Turn the lights on and off as you enter and leave the room.

If your aquarium is in a dark room and you keep turning the light on and off as you enter and leave it, it can become quite stressful for your Betta fish. You will be disrupting your Betta fish’s sleep and startling it awake, which as you already know is particularly distressing for a fish.

Turning the lights on and off can also confuse the fish and disrupt its daily sleep cycle. As the Betta fish needs daily sleep to rejuvenate, it requires a regular sleep cycle. It is best to place your Betta fish aquarium in a room that has regular lighting (light during the day, dark at night).

4. Poke the fish to see if it is dead or just sleeping.

Is your fish just floating there, not really moving? When this happens, some fishkeepers panic that their fish may be dead, and then they tend to try to poke or prod it to see if it moves. This should never be done as it can startle the fish as well as cause an unintended injury. If you see your fish inactive, give it some time – simply waiting will give you the answers that you need.

Final Words

For newbie fish keepers wondering if Betta fish really sleep, the answer is a resounding yes. They just do it a little differently from the way we do. If you want to ensure that your Betta fish enjoys a healthy sleep pattern, follow the tips above and enjoy every second of admiring and caring for your Betta fish.


Hi, my name is Jordan. I've been in the fishkeeping hobby since my childhood. Welcome to my blog where I help fishkeepers enjoy the hobby by offering free guides, advice, & product reviews. Read more...