Do Betta Fish Need Light?

do betta fish need lights
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Yes, betta fish will need lights in their tanks! In fact, according to a study, photoperiod (duration of lights turned on) is necessary for betta fish growth, increased spawning frequency, and increased egg production. Although this study is limited to the domesticated betta splendens, I believe the results apply to the various wild betta species. 

How Much Light Do Betta Fish Need?

According to the same study, the best lighting photoperiod for your betta fish is to have 16 hours of light and 8 hours of darkness, followed by 12 hours of light and dark. Choose either of these lighting schedules and stick to one.

Not only does light promote fast growth and breeding, but other factors relating to these outcomes should also be considered. Think about it, what makes them grow fast and breed more often?

Light emulates day. In the day, more energy is spent being awake. Thus, they will need to consume more betta food to replenish their energy. With light, they can find food easily.

Food is crucial for growth in bettas. Furthermore, the constant supply of food and lack of predators in your aquarium promotes breeding. 

Personally, I use a 12:12 photoperiod as I keep my wild bettas in tanks with plants. This minimises any algae growth that might break out in my tanks. If you’re keeping bettas in planted tanks and are undergoing algae blooms, I would keep the photoperiod constant while adjusting other factors like CO2 and nutrients.

What Kind Of Light Do Betta Fish Need?

While the exact lighting requirements of betta fish aren’t known, I would believe they can survive and thrive in almost any light. 

Natural Sunlight for Betta Fish

If you don’t have any aquarium lights, you can put your fish tank somewhere to receive natural sunlight. This mimics actual day and night, and depending on where you’re from, it can be pretty consistent. 

The issue with natural sunlight for betta fish tanks is that you’re prone to algae blooms – especially if it’s direct sunlight. As you can’t really control the amount of light entering your tank, it’s something that you’ll have to risk and manage if you do opt for natural lighting.

Artificial Light for Betta Fish

I would recommend artificial lightings such as fluorescent T5 and T8 bulbs or LED lights. Artificial lights allow for more control of light entering your aquarium. You can control the photoperiod, light spectrum, wattage, and even the brightness. 

I haven’t read anything on the light spectrum needed for betta fish, but they can see blue, violet, green, orange, and red, according to BettaBuzz. Thus, your choice of artificial light for your betta fish should depend on what you can afford and what types of light your plants need.

Do Wild Betta Fish like Light?

Even though betta fish needs light, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they like light! What?? 

Let me explain.

In the natural habitats of betta fish, the water is stained with tannins from fallen leaves and decomposing organics. These tannins give the water a dark brown tea colour (think black tea!), where light can barely penetrate.

Aside from the benefits of tannins, they are essential for a betta’s survivability. In the wild, tannins keep them hidden from predators. Moreover, their natural habitats are filled with overhanging vegetation and floating plants, making the water even darker.

If you keep wild bettas in brightly lit aquariums, expect them to hide most of the day!

Thus, if you’re trying to give them the best environment by building them a biotope, expect your water to be tannin-stained with floating and marginal plants. Your aquarium will barely have light passing through it, even though it is necessary for your betta’s growth and reproduction.

Don’t worry, they will still recognise the difference between light and day.

Domestic betta splendens, however, are not so fussy about lighting. They grew up getting used to bright lights, lack of tannins, and open aquarium tops. However, I notice that domestic bettas splendens tend to colour up exceptionally well in water stained with tannins.

Can Betta Fish See in the Dark?

Even though they prefer darker aquariums, betta fish can see in the dark. However, their vision is weaker. At night in pure darkness, betta fish tend to sleep, making it unnecessary for good vision.

Do Betta Fish Need Light at Night?

A pretty common question received. Please don’t turn on your lights at night for your betta fish! If you already have a regular photoperiod, keep it that way for a set day/night cycle. Extending it past the regular schedule will cause your betta to have too much light.

Too much light causes overstimulation of your betta. Imagine being awake for 24 hours every day with no sleep. Your betta will be active longer than usual, which can stress them out.

Stress can weaken its immune system that leaves it vulnerable to diseases. Trust me, you do not want to deal with a betta who’s sick (been there, don’t want it no more!).


Lighting is an essential factor when you’re setting up an aquarium for betta fish. The tank needs to be lit well enough for you to see into it but not brightly enough to stress out the fish, which is why many recommend installing lights.

When kept in a lit tank, betta fish will be less stressed and more active than kept in a dark tank. This gets them to eat more which promotes fast growth and better reproduction rates in bettas. 

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