Do Betta Fish Need a Light?

A common question posed by fish keepers is whether or not your fish needs a light, both during the day and during the night. And does the type of fish you have commanded the light schedule it needs, and if so, what type of light schedule do bettas need? Do they even need a night light, and what color should it be?

Betta fish do need light during the day as well as a reliable and dependable lighting schedule. The actual lighting for bettas normally does not matter, as long as it is white light. A light cycle is very important for bettas, as is when you turn on the light and how you turn on the light. Because their eyes are very different from ours. They can see the same color spectrum as we can and are sight predators, so light is an essential part of their lives.

In this article, we will be discussing a day/night cycle, plants and lighting, UV sterilization, blue light/night light, and turning on the light.

Day/Night Cycle

Betta fish have internal clocks just like we do, and their sleep cycle can get messed up just like ours. They do not have eyelids, so they do sleep with their eyes open, but it is very difficult, or impossible, to sleep without the light off.

They are also tropical fish, hence the need for a heater set between 78 and 82 degrees. The areas they come from tend to have wet and dry cycles instead of seasons, so the length of sunlight every day stays about the same throughout the year. They have an average of 12 hours of light each year and 12 hours of darkness.

They can adapt to different hours of lighting, but they have a very difficult time adapting to constantly changing day and night cycles. If you get up at different times every day and turn on the light at different times, you are messing up your betta’s bodily functions.

If the variance is only by a few minutes each day, that is not an issue. However, if it varies by hours every other day, that is a significant issue. If you are unable to turn on the light yourself at a predictable time every day, buy a timer and connect it to your light to turn it on.

Many aquarium lights come with connectable timers or even built-in ones, and it is a lot easier to use those than to remember to turn it on at every day of every year at the same time.

Plants and Lighting

The only reason you would need specialized lighting would be if you were attempting to grow certain plants. Bettas absolutely love plants and playing around in them, so getting a light that can support plant growth, even if you don’t currently have plants, is a good idea, as it leaves your options open.

Some plants can subsist off of low lighting, but most cannot survive the stock lighting, or lighting that comes with your tank. There are many good, and cheap, lights for 5 and 10 gallons that cost only $20-30 that will grow up to medium light plants.

Most beginners can keep some nice low and medium light plants without issue. You will need some fertilizers, mainly ones that have both macros and micros, such as Nilocg Thrive. Many fertilizers contain only macros or micros, but plants need both of these to survive.

The majority of red plants are high light plants, so you may not be able to grow many, but a scarlet temple, red root floaters, and dwarf water lilies are red plants that can all survive and grow in medium lighting.

Planting your tank is a fun experience and gives you a lot of control over how your tank looks. You can rearrange plants, but getting it right the first time is the best. Luckily, the month-long cycling process gives you more than enough time to get it perfect.

UV Sterilization

UV sterilization is similar to a filter since water passes through it, but instead of chemically or mechanically filtering the water, it runs it through UV light. This supposedly removes free floating bacteria and algae from the water and cleans it.

While some have had wonderful experiences with these lights, they are not necessary for bettas. In addition, if you have algae on plants or decorations, that algae will not be affected by the UV sterilizer.

Blue Light/ Night Light

Most aquarium lights have a blue or red option as a night light option. This can help you observe certain nocturnal animals, but not all fish can observe the same colors. For example, the honeycomb catfish can often only be viewed under red light, as they cannot see the red light and believe it to be dark out.

However, betta fish still see red light and blue light, so if you leave one of those on at night, your betta may be unable to sleep and won’t sleep well. Having no light on at night is the best solution to this.

Fish can’t see in complete darkness, but since they don’t move often at night there isn’t much chance of them getting hurt. Betta fish sometimes even hang out in decorations and other places where there is very low flow, and they may even lay down while sleeping.

They do not need a night light to see their way around, and it often causes issues with their sleep cycle anyway. There are not any commercial lights for sale that do not have this option, but you can make a DIY light that only has daytime lights.

Turning on the Light

There are several extremely common fish keeping practices that are carried out incorrectly. One of these is the way that most people turn on their fish’s light in the morning. Normally, they do simply that; turn on the light.

Unfortunately, suddenly turning on the light is very damaging to the eyes of fish. Even though fish have very advanced eyes, advanced enough to see color, they are not nearly as advanced as our eyes our.

Our eyes can rapidly adjust to changing levels of brightness, but a fish’s eyes cannot. Their pupils are fixed, and it takes anywhere from 30-60 minutes to adjust their eyes to either brightness or darkness. This is a perfect adaptation for adjusting their eyes from darkness to dawn to sun or from sun to dusk to darkness in their natural habitat, but in aquariums, this adaptation is a weakness.

In addition, they lack another evolutionary adaptation that humans have: Eyelids. If a bright light is suddenly shined in a person’s face, they will instinctively close their eyes to protect their sight. If a bright light is suddenly turned on in a betta’s tank, they can’t do anything for at least 30 minutes, and it is possible that their eyesight will be damaged.

The best way to turn on the light is to first turn on the light in the room they reside in. The ambient light will start to trigger their eyes to expect a brighter light soon, as it mimics dawn. Leaving the room light on for an hour before turning on the tank light is ideal.

In conclusion, betta fish need a light on their tank for their essential day and night cycle. However, they do not need a night light, and it can. In fact, cause much more harm than good.

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