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Can Betta Fish See in the Dark? Nocturnal Behavior

Something that I’ve often wondered is how well betta fish can see at night and what their nocturnal behavior is like.

Quick Answer

Betta fish are diurnal, which means that they are active during the day, not the night. Betta fish, although they can see a little bit in low light conditions, do not have true night vision. They cannot really see in the dark, and are usually inactive or asleep when it’s dark.

Keep reading to find out everything there is to know about how well betta fish can see in the dark, what they do at night, and more.

Are Betta Fish Nocturnal?

Betta fish are diurnal, and this means that they are active during the day, just like us humans. Betta fish are not nocturnal, and are generally not very active during the night time. Most of what a betta fish does all happens during the daytime, and the reason for this might be because they can’t really see all that well at night time.

The Natural Environment of the Betta Fish

Something worth considering here is what the natural environment of the betta fish looks like. Betta fish live in tropical conditions, generally in Southeast Asia, and usually in rice paddies and other such areas.

Betta fish live in areas that generally see very low water levels and are often dirty, muddy, and murky, with rice patties being a prime example. You’ll often find betta fish living in very shallow streams, puddles, small ponds, and in other such areas. What this means is that betta fish are used to having fairly low light conditions and dirty water.

Face of betta fish on black background

However, just because betta fish have adapted to live in low light conditions does not mean that they have true night vision or can really see in the dark. They’re just used to the water not being overly bright. That said, they do still live in tropical countries, so near the surface, conditions may still be fairly well lit.

What it really comes down to here is that although betta fish might be able to see slightly better than we can in the dark, they don’t have true night vision. Betta fish rely on their vision to see objects in the environment and to detect movement, which is ideal for hunting. However, this is usually done in the daytime, not in the night.

Can Betta Fish See in the Dark?

The main takeaway of today’s story is that betta fish just can’t really see in the dark very well at all. They are not like cats or other such predators that have true night vision and can more or less see in the dark as well as they can during the day.

In the absence of light, a betta fish may be able to see movement and general shapes, but their vision is not clear or sharp when there is no light.

This is why betta fish usually become much less active, seek shelter, or just sleep during the night time. Their vision just isn’t designed to function in total darkness, which means that just like us human beings, they’ll become much less active at night.

What Does a Betta Fish Do at Night?

If a betta fish is diurnal and not nocturnal, and if it cannot really see well at night, then what does a betta fish do at nighttime? This is something that I often wondered before I got one, but then quickly figured out.

At the very least, betta fish are just not very active at nighttime. They’ll swim around much less and may be stationary in a single location. Furthermore, just like human beings, a betta fish also needs to sleep. If you see that your betta fish is resting in or around plants, decorations, and other hiding spots, it is quite likely sleeping.

Yes, betta fish need to sleep just like we do, and if they don’t get enough sleep, then their health will start to deteriorate. For human beings, when we don’t sleep enough, our mental state deteriorates, our immune systems become weaker, we suffer higher levels of stress, and much more. 

Generally speaking, this is also true for betta fish and any other creature. A lack of sleep can have serious health repercussions.

During the nighttime, you’ll also see that your betta fish will not eat very much, if at all. Once again, betta fish rely on their vision mostly for hunting, which means that in their natural environment, they have to feed during the daytime. Of course, this might be a little different in an aquarium because a betta fish doesn’t have to hunt for its food, because you’re feeding it.

That said, its natural instincts still tell it that daytime is the best time for eating, not nighttime. You may see that a betta fish occasionally explores its surroundings during the nighttime, albeit this is fairly uncommon. For the most part, betta fish should be very inactive at nighttime.

Recreating the Natural Environment of a Betta Fish

What you absolutely need to do is help maintain an accurate day and night cycle for your betta fish. What it really boils down to is getting a good aquarium light for your betta fish, something that you can put on a timer.

Of course, you don’t have to have a light that is on a timer, but this makes life much more difficult for you, the owner. If you don’t have a timer on your light, you have to manually turn it on and off every single day. Yes, people forget sometimes, but this is something you shouldn’t forget, that’s the health and well-being of your betta fish depends on it.

Therefore, the best course of action is to simply get an aquarium light that functions on a timer. This way, you can accurately recreate a day and night cycle, mimicking the betta fish’s natural environment. Ideally, you should have an aquarium light that slowly turns on in the morning to simulate a sunrise, and then also slowly turns off at night to simulate the sunset.

This is especially important in terms of the circadian rhythm of your betta fish, particularly in terms of feeding. As you might know, betta fish usually feed at dawn and dusk. This is true due to a number of environmental factors, with insect and food source activity being just one of them. The fact of the matter is that dawn and dusk is when betta fish like to eat, so these are conditions that you should help recreate.

Furthermore, you should also avoid exposing your betta fish to very bright lights in the middle of the night, as this can also disrupt their circadian rhythm. As you probably know by now, sleep is extremely important for all living creatures, and if you constantly disrupt the circadian rhythm and sleep cycle of your betta fish, it can have serious health consequences.

Over a prolonged period of time, a lack of sleep may result in a variety of both mental and physical health issues. At the very least, it may stress your betta fish out to the point where it becomes much more susceptible to disease, and ultimately death.

Final Thoughts

The key takeaway here is that betta fish are not nocturnal creatures and they certainly don’t have anything that resembles true night vision. Although a betta fish may be able to recognize some shapes and movement during the night, their limited night vision means that they can’t really distinguish between different objects.

This is why at nighttime betta fish are usually very inactive and generally just rest. They certainly don’t feed or hunt during the night. The best thing you can do for your betta fish is to provide them with a light that runs on a timer so you can recreate the natural day and night cycle. This will help promote their overall health and well-being.

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