How to Help Your Fish Sleep

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If you were to imagine a cat, the picture that springs to mind is likely to be of it curled up asleep, whether that is in front of a roaring fire, tucked up in a cosy basket or in a sunny corner of the garden. The same goes for a dog, stretched out on the rug, content, fast asleep and possibly even snoring. When it comes to fish however, it is easy to assume that they just happily swim around all day and night without actually stopping to sleep. As for the thought of them needing to be comfortable to sleep happily, it actually sounds quite bizarre!

However, just like all living creatures, it is essential for fish to have good quality rest time by following their natural physiological cycle of being awake in the daylight hours, and sleeping in the dark.

aquarium fish

What happens if fish can't determine the difference between day and night?

In their natural environment, fish experience light in the daytime and dark at nighttime, and like us, this change in light helps trigger their senses to be either alert or relaxed.

If a fish has too much time in the dark, it will incur problems such as:

  • They will become lifeless.
  • Their colour will fade.
  • They will develop problems with their natural routines.

On the other hand, too much light means that they won't get sufficient rest to keep them healthy.

Once in a tank or aquarium, however, it can sometimes be difficult for fish to determine the difference between night and day, without the use of additional, specialised tank lighting.

Why isn't natural or room lighting adequate for an aquarium?

Natural or artificial room lighting is unlikely to be enough to suit your fishes needs, for a number of reasons, including:

  • What suits your natural daily routine, won't necessarily meet your fishes needs, especially if you are a late riser or go to bed late. Weekends also change our daily pattern, breaking the important day to night routine that fish require.
  • Once a fish tank is kitted out with plants to emulate their natural habitat, it can become a little gloomy and difficult for sufficient natural light to enter the tank.
  • The positioning of the tank in your room will also make a difference to the available light at certain times of the day, depending on whether the room gets the sun or not.
  • Positioning the tank to receive direct natural sunlight can be dangerous for fish, as it will heat up the water through the glass. This will need to be rectified by using a tank chiller to keep the water at a constant temperature.
  • The UK doesn't offer enough constant sunshine to make natural lighting a reliable option.
  • A fish tank can be a therapeutic, calming feature in a room and many people enjoy watching their fish swimming around. However, if it is not properly lit, the fish will be difficult to spot in the lower evening light levels.

How can specialised lighting benefit fish?

A well lit aquarium will have the following benefits for your fish:

  • Fish will be brighter coloured.
  • They will be more energetic.
  • Fish will have increased immumity from disease.
  • They will be more likely to breed.
  • Good lighting also keeps plants healthy, ensuring a healthy eco system.

How will lighting effect the plants in the tank?

The best way to keep your aquarium in tip top condition is to ensure that the plants inside it are healthy, which in turn keep the fish healthy.

Healthy plants will improve your aquarium by:

  • Oxygenating the water.
  • Providing an additional source of food for the fish.
  • Offering shelter and privacy for the fish.
aquarium in a roomm

In order to keep plants in the optimum condition it is essential to supplement the natural light with an additional artificial light source. Like fish, plants will also benefit from a structured ‘day and night' routine.

Algae is also encouraged by lighting, which isn't always ideal, as it can obscure the visibility within the tank and can possibly be harmful to fish if it is allowed to grow out of control. The best way to prevent excess algae from developing, is to keep your tank well stocked with plants which will absorb the majority of light. If there aren't enough plants in the tank, the algae will thrive on the light that isn't absorbed by the plants and will then start to spread.

What is the best type of lighting for my fish tank?

The following Q & As will help you ensure that you have the right lights for your tank:

Q: What is the best type of lighting for my tank?

A: Fluorescent lights are the ideal kind of light for an aquarium because they won't heat up the tank but will provide a sufficient amount of light to keep your fish happy.

Q: How cost effective are fluorescent bulbs?

A: Fluorescent bulbs are pretty cheap to buy and run. They are also widely available and are eco-friendly.

Q: How many bulbs will I need?

A: Depending on the size of your aquarium will need to install between one to three lamps.

Q: What type of fluorescent bulb will I need?

A: To ensure sufficient brightness, you will need to purchase full-spectrum lamps with a CRI of over 80.

Q: How long do I need to keep the lamps switched on?

A: If you have plants growing in your tank, ideally you will need your light on for at least 8 hours a day, although ten hours is the optimum recommendation. Make sure you turn the lights off at night.

Q: How long will fluorescent bulbs last for?

A: In most cases, fluorescent bulbs will begin to lose some of their capacity after around six months, with this in mind, it is worth replacing them before they completely die. A sign that the bulbs aren't performing to their utmost ability is if your plants show signs of wilting.

Q: Are Fluorescent lights the only option for my tank?

A: LEDs are becoming more and more popular in the world of aquariums because they also offer additional benefits, such as:

  • LEDs are very cheap to run,
  • They generate even less heat than fluorescent lights and wont affect the water temperature.
  • They are the most energy and cost efficient option on the market.
  • The price of LEDs is rapidly decreasing making them more accessible.

Heavily planted aquarium may benefit from metal halide bulbs, as they generate much more intense light. However, the down side of these bulbs is that they can cost significantly more, and, in most cases, they are not necessary.

Q: Are there any lights that aren't suitable for my tank?

A: You should avoid using incandescent bulbs or halogen bulbs. This is because these bulbs can become quite hot and could potentially present a fire risk. They can also raise the temperature of your aquarium.

How can light encourage fish to breed?

red fishaquarium in a roomm

In the majority of fish breeds, they tend to breed once a year, usually in spring time, and their breeding cycles are triggered according to the changing lengths of day and night.

If you want to encourage your fish to breed, you can help by adjusting the lighting to stay on for longer in the summer and turn it off earlier in the winter.

The healthy fish checklist

The following steps will ensure that you have the most efficient lighting system for your aquarium.

  1. Invest in the correct amount of either fluorescent or LED lights to suit the size of your tank. If in doubt, ask your fish supplier for advice.
  2. Establish a regular routine of when you switch your tank lights off and on. It can be useful to get a timer to do this for you if you are away or at work.
  3. Stock up on plants in your aquarium to prevent the light from encouraging algae.
  4. Replace fluorescent tubes as soon as you notice them beginning to fade.
  5. Sit back and enjoy the clear view of your brightly coloured, happy, healthy fish!

If you have any questions about the lighting in your fish tank then call the LampShopOnline team on 0113 887 6270.

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Published 2014/05/14

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