As a vastly experienced betta fish keeper, one of the questions many people ask me is, ” do betta fish like light?” I came up with this article to share insights on the ideal lighting for betta fish.
Do Betta Fish Like Light?
Yes, betta fish like light, but optimum light. Excess or inadequate light affects them adversely in different ways as we shall later learn in this article.
Betta fish need a schedule for regular dark and light periods. This goes miles in helping them maintain a normal and regular sleeping pattern.
Do Betta Fish Need A Light At Night?
No, betta fish do not need a light at night!
In fact, they prefer darkness at night to enjoy their sleep. Always remember that betta fish are light sleepers.
Anything, even the smallest distraction, can disrupt their sleep. This includes too much light or the slightest sound.
To sleep peacefully, bettas prefer a dark atmosphere. The ones I have in my house tend to be terrified or startled when I suddenly switch on the lights.
I have noticed that extended hours of lighting normally heat the atmosphere and water thus making it challenging for the fish to rest. I try my best to turn off the lights when I go to sleep as it helps the fish also rest.
Is Sunlight Good For Betta Fish
Yes, sunlight is good for betta fish, but it should be optimum, not excess.
Both fish and plants need optimal sunlight for their survival and growth. However, too much of it can be problematic.
There is the flipside of natural sunlight for your betta fish. For starters, it causes algae to bloom thus fouling the water and causing your fish to suffer from bacterial infections.
Therefore, you need to be always on the lookout for the growth of algae if you choose to expose your fish to sunlight. Act immediately you notice the growth of algae.
When you keep your betta fish exposed to sunlight, you need to be careful of water temperature.
Of great importance to note is that smaller fish tanks tend to act as magnifying glasses. Once this happens, they heat water hence making it uncomfortable and dangerous for your fish.
With natural light, even bigger tanks can fluctuate in temperature. Exercising caution is highly advised in terms of water temperature when you expose your betta fish to natural sunlight.
Artificial Light vs. Natural Sunlight
So, between natural sunlight and artificial light, which one do betta fish prefer?
Artificial lights are better for betta fish compared to natural sunlight. Controlling artificial light is easier in terms of dictating night and day cycles. With this lighting, you can lower your chance of accidentally overheating the aquarium water.
Now that we have established that artificial light is better, which types of bulbs are the best?
Let us look at the four different types of bulbs or light for your fish in the next section.
How To Choose The Best Artificial Light For Betta Fish
Technical advancements in lighting for fish have hugely increased the variety of light bulbs and fixtures available for aquarium enthusiasts. Because of the sheer volume, choosing the correct option can seem overwhelming.
The variety of artificial lighting options for your betta fish makes it challenging for you to make an informed decision. Just like sunlight, choosing the wrong type of lighting can result to rise in water temperature inside the tank, negatively affecting your fish.
In terms of water temperature, the ideal for betta fish is 23 – 26 degrees C.
To choose the right type of lighting or bulb, you must first appreciate that an aquarium has two main uses:
- Aesthetic purpose
- Functional purpose
The aesthetic purpose of an aquarium mainly touches on bringing out your fish’s vibrant coloration. If your main area of concern is the light’s visual quality or how your fish appear under a certain type of light, then you should focus more on a bulb’s CRI (Color Rendering Index).
CRI is measured on a scale of 0 – 100. 100 signifies how the fish or plants look under natural daylight conditions.
Full-spectrum bulbs boast a high CRI rating. These closely mimic natural sunlight. Nonetheless, a high CRI rating does not necessarily translate to the best coloration of your fish.
When choosing color enhancing bulbs, you should not only consider their color enhancing nature but also the color temperature.
The functional purposes of an aquarium serve the critical function that touches on the lives of the inhabitants inside. Now, this has to do with how lighting affects the life of fish.
Proper aquarium lighting is necessary for the growth of betta fish as we have already established on this comprehensive article. Although other factors such as water clarity, water depth, and location or height of the light fixture affect its intensity, total wattage should be your guide when choosing a light fixture if you are more concerned about the functional purpose of your aquarium.
Generally, a light fixture that features higher wattage will boast greater light intensity. This means that if your aquarium needs higher lighting conditions, you need to consider settling for light fixtures featuring higher wattage output.
Refer to our recommendations above on the ideal wattage for your aquarium lighting bulbs.
Some of the artificial lighting options for your betta fish are:
- LED lights
- Fluorescent bulbs
- Incandescent bulbs
- Metal halide
Although the initial cost of LED bulbs is higher than fluorescent bulbs, the former are cheaper eventually because of their longevity. Of the three lights, these are the ones that resemble natural sunlight in the closet.
In addition to that, they do not encourage the growth of algae. LEDs are more efficient compared to both fluorescent and incandescent bulbs.
If you are looking for the most aesthetically-pleasing option, you can trust LEDs as they are effective at highlighting the flashy coloration nature of your betta fish.
If you opt for LEDs, the ideal wattage is one watt or even less per gallon.
Some of the benefits of using LED lighting for your fish include:
- Boasts more energy efficiency compared to other forms of lighting
- Durable thus saving you money, power, and time
- Emits little heat meaning you do not need a different chiller
- Comes in different colors to flatter and enhance the genuine colors of plants and fish
- Effective at recreating the natural shimmer effect of ocean light
When it comes to drawbacks, the only one associated with LED lighting is that when you compare to standard forms of lighting, it can be a costly outlay initially.
Fluorescent lighting comes in the form of tubes. Because of its pocket-friendly nature, it is among the most used type when it comes to tank or aquarium lighting.
T5 and T8 tubes sit in the hood of the tank or inside a light unit. The latter are the older types. They are available in different formats for various uses.
The former is the modern version or type. These are more compact and slimmer. T5 bulbs not only produce a brighter light but also last around 25% longer.
If you settle for fluorescents, the ideal wattage is 1.5 – 3 watts.
Some of the benefits of choosing this type of lighting for your fish include:
- Readily available
- Cheaper compared to others
- Great viewing
- Variety of formats to choose from
Some of the downsides of choosing this type of lighting for your fish include:
- It does not shimmer in the water
- Not durable (often replacement is necessary)
- Possibility of emitting heat meaning having a chiller might be necessary
Incandescent bulbs, whether for betta fish or any other type of fish, are not recommended for aquariums. They emit so much heat which can severely affect both plants and fish.
In addition to that, they are highly inefficient.
The metal halide type of lighting is a new addition to the aquarium world. It is an incredibly powerful source.
Metal halide is a fusion of halide salts and mercury vapor. Metal halide bulbs featuring color temperatures of 5,500-6000k imitates natural sunlight making it perfect for freshwater aquariums.
If you have a reef tank, you will need bulbs with a higher rating (10000k – 20000k). These are great choices for invertebrate and coral development and vitality.
Here are the pros of installing this type of lighting for your betta fish:
- Long-lasting meaning minimal replacement
- Uses little energy
- Light produced penetrates straight or deep into the tank offering a natural shimmer
Some of the downsides of this form of lighting for your betta fish include:
- High initial costs
- Produces heat meaning you might need a chiller
How Many Watts Are Needed For Aquarium Light?
The rule of thumb is to make sure you provide 1 – 2 watts of lighting for every gallon for the fish-only tanks, 2 – 5 watts for every gallon for the freshwater planted tanks, and 4 – 8 watts for every gallon for the reef aquariums.
To find out the wattage per gallon an aquarium gets from a light fixture, all you need to do is divide the total wattage of light fixtures by several gallons in an aquarium.
For instance, a 55 watts light fixture that uses more than 29-gallon aquarium offers inhabitants slightly less than two watts of light/gallon.
Of great importance to note is that these requirements vary depending on the fish species you are dealing with. The depth of your aquarium also plays a role.
At first, choosing the right light and bulb fixtures can seem confusing. Nonetheless, by correctly establishing your lighting needs and lighting requirements of the specific fish species you are keeping, you can narrow your choices.
In addition to providing you with years and years of use, a carefully chosen and selected light fixture will also provide you a healthy fish.
Too Much Light
Too much light can stress or over stimulate your fish. The stress is mostly evident in fish feeding habits. For instance, some will not eat at all when under stress because of too much light.
Stress can also result in serious illnesses as they have a weakened immune system. Due to a weak immune system, the fish is more prone to all manner of diseases.
Excess light causes algae overgrowth. When you leave your tank or aquarium with light 24 hours daily, it escalates the growth of algae.
This makes the tank look dirty. On top of that, algae compete with natural plants inside the tank.
Not Enough Light
Without adequate exposure to light, your betta fish will lose their attractive and vibrant coloration.
In addition to inappropriate light levels, other factors that can lead your fish to lose color include:
- Inappropriate water pH level
- Inappropriate water temperature
- High algae levels
Excess light and minimal darkness stress your fish as they cannot differentiate night from day. This means that they tend to be clueless about when to wake up or sleep.
The last thing you want is for the body clock of your fish to go crazy as it can take a toll on their health.
How Much Light Do Betta Fish Need?
Betta fish need 8 – 12 hours of light and 12 – 16 hours of darkness.
Consequently, you should make it a pre-bedtime habit to turn off your tank light.
Just like us human beings, betta fish need both darkness and light periods resting and regaining their energy after an entire day of swimming, searching for food and playing with mates is necessary for them.
During the darkness period, the betta fish tend to locate a quiet spot within the tank and take a nap. While they need to rest and relax like us, their sleeping patterns are different.
Fish in a tank or aquarium can rest anytime, whether it is during the day or at night. While that is the case, they need the darkness period to mimic or simulate the diurnal cycle, which every living thing including them are adapted to.
So how do you regulate the amount of light your fish get? A timer is handy as it automatically regulates the light. You can grab one from your local hardware store.
If you are an ardent online shopper like myself, then buy the BN-LINK 24-Hour Aquarium Timer. I have used it and know how effective it is for the darn forgetful betta fishkeepers like myself.
By far, having a timer is the easiest way to make sure your betta fish gets an appropriate amount of darkness and light every day. This is especially true for those that are forgetful about turning the light off and on.
Automatic timers are fairly effortless to use and relatively inexpensive. All you need to do is plug your timer into an outlet. Once you do this, you plug the tank light into your timer.
You must program the timer into your preferred light cycle. Specify your preferred hours. The timer will automatically turn the aquarium light on.
With a tank or aquarium timer, you don’t have to be at home to manually turn the lights off and on. It does its thing with or without your presence.
Can Betta Fish Sleep In The Dark?
Yes, betta fish can sleep in the dark.
However, too much darkness is not good or healthy for your fish. Minimal exposure to light, as we have already established causes them to lose their color.
An interesting fact that betta fish lose their color when asleep. Different types of fish, including betta, tend to lose their color when they snooze.
According to experts, this a natural self-defense mechanism to make them somewhat invisible while sleeping.
Therefore, you need to differentiate color loss occasioned by sleep from that informed by a lack of adequate light exposure.
If you notice that the color does not get back when the betta is up, then it should be a health concern.
I think it is important that I finalize this section by sharing something I have noticed with my betta when they sleep – their position.
One way I discovered to ascertain that the betta fish are asleep is when they curl up like a cat. On top of that, they lay on one side with their head pointed down towards the substrate.
Others sleep vertically with their heads point towards the aquarium’s bottom part while another group sleeps with their fins wide open.
Thus, if you were wondering how to tell that your betta fish is asleep, I have just given you clues that should act as pointers.
The next time you come home late from a date or work, vertical sleeping betta should not freak you out.
Should You Turn Aquarium Lights Off At Night?
Yes, you should turn aquarium lights off at night. Betta fish prefer to sleep in the dark. Always make sure that you put off the lights when night rolls around.
Granted, aquarium lights are handy at illuminating the colors of your betta fish. The lights make it effortless to not only spot tank issues but also regulate the eating and sleeping habits of your fish.
As we have already established, betta fish need periods of darkness. By turning your aquarium lights off at night, you will manage to mimic their natural environment.
Striking the right balance between light and darkness is paramount to emulating the natural habitat of a fish. When it comes to betta fish, choosing the correct lighting is essential for their health.
Naturally, betta fish live in the standing and shallow water of rice paddies, floodplains, and canals in Asia. The fact that they call shallow water homes means that they experience a natural night and daylight cycle as compared to their deep-water counterparts.
To wrap it up, do betta fish need light? Yes, they do need light, but optimum light (not too much and not too little).
In terms of the best type of lighting for your betta fish, you should settle for LEDs. Fluorescents are ideal if you are on a budget.
Both options offer a considerable amount of light for every single bulb. Therefore, you should not worry too much about purchasing more than one. Unless your tank is bigger, you should not buy an oversized one.