Betta fish originally hail from rice paddies and ditches in eastern and southeast Asia. Their natural habitats are murky and filled with plant life. I suppose you’d naturally assume that they don’t like light given their origins.
This isn’t the case, however. Betta fish are perfectly happy to have a light in their aquarium. In fact, light is an important part of their wellbeing although it isn’t as critical to bettas as other fish.
Betta Sleep Patterns
Betta fish have a similar sleeping schedule to humans. They like to sleep at night for anywhere between 8-10 hours. To maintain this sleeping schedule, betta fish need light hours and dark hours.
You don’t need to use a fancy aquarium light and timer set up if you keep your bettas in a room that has natural lighting. The room will get dark at night and the bettas will sleep. They will wake up in the morning as the room gets lighter.
However, if you are keeping your tank in a dim room you might want to invest in a dedicated aquarium light. By switching it on during the day, you can mimic the natural light cycles.
A timer is only needed if you are particularly forgetful! Your betta fish won’t thank you if you keep them awake all day!
On average, your betta fish should get about 12-14 hours of light a day.
What Kind of Light do Betta Fish Like?
In terms of natural or artificial light, betta fish aren’t fussy. As long as there are hours of light and darkness they can live a happy, healthy life.
You might assume that sunlight is the best sort of light as it is natural and you’re half right. The UV rays in sunlight are good for fish and plants. However, the heat caused by direct sunlight is not very helpful.
Before we go any further, let’s clarify what we mean by direct sunlight. A tank in a room with natural light that enters through the windows is not direct sunlight.
Direct sunlight is when the sun shines directly on the aquarium. This can happen if you keep your tank in front of a window or on a window sill.
It is best to keep your aquarium out of direct sunlight because the sun can warm the waters in your aquarium. This can be deadly for your fish if the sunlight warms the water too much.
Direct sunlight can also cause algae growth which is more annoying and unpleasant to look at than immediately dangerous.
Artificial aquarium lights are designed to stimulate the production of vitamin D. In this sense, it mimics sunlight. The difference is, LED lighting produces almost no heat so your water temperature won’t be affected.
Another great thing about LED lights is that they have a very long life. So you won’t need to spend money replacing bulbs like older fluorescent bulbs.
As mentioned above, you don’t need an aquarium light as long as the tank is in a place that is light in the day and dark at night. This can be because of natural light in a room or just normal room lighting.
Lighting and Plants
One thing you need to consider is how the light levels in your betta tank will affect the plant growth.
Betta fish like to have live plants in their tank. In the wild, they would hide in plants and make nests amongst the stalks. Plantlife in your aquarium, makes them feel more at home.
Some betta fish also like to have a quiet snooze during the day. When they go for a nap, they’ll look for a shady place to rest. This is partly because they have no eyelids so they need shade to drift off. Hiding in plants also protects them from predators.
The issue with live plants in an aquarium is that they need an aquarium light. This ensures that all the plants get adequate light throughout the day.
To be honest, live plants provide so many benefits, the need for a dedicated aquarium light is overshadowed. Live plants help clean the water of your tank, they add oxygen to the water and they look great!
Too Much Light
You can give your betta fish too much light. As mentioned before, bettas need to have about 8 hours of darkness to get a good night’s sleep. If they don’t get this darkness they will stay awake which can increase stress and agitation.
If you plan to use artificial lighting, check that it doesn’t cause reflections on the glass of the tank.
Betta fish are famously territorial and can mistake their reflection for another male. When this happens, they will start to show signs of aggression like flaring their gills and spreading out their fins.
Dimmer lights tend to produce fewer reflections. Similarly, try not to turn the room light off when the tank light is on. This greatly increases the chance of reflections on the glass.
If the reflections can’t be helped then you can try introducing the aquarium light slowly to your betta.
Turn it on for an hour or two a day and gradually increase it. This should help reduce your betta’s stress levels and get them used to the reflection that shows up.
Too Little Light
If your tank is too dark, your betta fish will sleep for longer. This can be quite damaging for their health and wellbeing.
Extended periods of darkness will cause your betta fish to oversleep. This can have a major impact on their health.
Check out our article on betta fish sleep cycles for a fuller explanation of the health problems associated with oversleeping.
Ultimately, betta fish like a light that follows their natural circadian rhythm. There should be enough light in the daytime to allow them to be active and enough darkness at night to allow them to sleep.
You don’t always need to have a dedicated aquarium light for bettas but it can be useful if the room itself is quite dark.
If you have live plants in your betta tank, it is best to have an aquarium light.