Do Betta Fish Sleep?Betta fish might interest us at first because of their beautiful colors and designs, then their personalities, but eventually we start to think all the things we have in common with our fish.
Like all higher life forms, yes, our Bettas sleep. It might not seem as obvious as when our other pets sleep. Dogs curl up, sometimes even in beds, close their eyes, and they even move their limbs and make noises when they dream, just like humans. Betta sleep isn’t quite as obvious. For one thing, they do not close their eyes. This is because they have no eyelids to close. Some people argue that Betta sleep isn’t “true” sleep, rather it is more of a dormant mode, but that is just mincing words. Bettas sleep for the same reasons we humans do, just differently.
Why Do Bettas Sleep?
Sleep is a great mystery to us humans. We understand that we need some downtime to recuperate maybe, but there is so much that remains unknown. Basically Betta sleep has the same main functions as human sleep: restorative and adaptive.
- Sleep is restorative because it gives our bodies time to repair and recover from the small (or large) strains of being alive. All of our body’s major and minor systems benefit from this recovery time. It is obvious too that our brain needs sleep to restore itself, but scientists suggest that more is going on here. Sleep seems to be related to our ability to store memory and make connections in our waking experiences. It is strongly related to the process of learning.
- Sleep is considered an adaptive function that plays an important role in the development and survival of a species. Animals that are prey tend to sleep less than animals that are predators, and that probably plays to their advantage. Also, for some species, it is better to be active when it is light out so that we can gather food, but it is better to hang out hidden away at night so we don’t get eaten. In this way, our Bettas are like us. They like to be active when it is light out, and they like to relax when it gets dark. So yes, if you have tank lights, be sure to give your Bettas some periods of darkness, around 8 hours is fine. A few “twilight” hours can be good too. Darkenss is also a good idea for keeping harmful algae bloom at a minimum.
How Do Bettas Sleep?
Unlike sharks who have to keep swimming while they sleep, Betta fish are very still when they rest, like we are. Betta fish are also like us in that they like a safe, comfortable place to rest, and they tend to get most of their rest when it is dark, but they will also take naps during the day. Bettas, however, are a little more varied in the kinds of places they find safe and comfortable to rest. Here are some of the places that Betta fish have been known to choose as their “beds:”
- Inside tank ornaments: how cool would it be if you could sleep inside a giant skull or castle?
- Behind filters, thermometers and heaters, often wedged between them and the glass
- Plants, real or artificial: behind a bushy plant, or on or under a broad leaf
- Shady spots caused by objects next to the tank
- On the bottom of the tank, sometimes nestled in the gravel
- At the top of the tank, especially when there are leaves at the top
Since every Betta is different, make sure you offer a variety of safe, cozy places such as these to sleep. But be sure to consult a good Betta fish care guide before you introduce plants into their tank.
Bettas have their favorite sleep positions too, just like us. Some Bettas sleep in an L shape with their tails off to one side.
Some people say that their Betta fish yawn, and they certainly can look like that is exactly what they are doing. When this happens, you might find that Betta yawns are just as contagious as people yawns.
And yes, everyone has looked at their sleeping Betta and wondered “oh no, is it dead?” Bettas do look dead when they sleep, but resist the urge to tap on the glass too often just to be sure. They do need their rest!