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How Do Fish Sleep

If you take a gander at your aquarium, there is no doubt that you will be introduced to a world of wonder, a universe where the more you study it, the more questions you will come across.

Of course, the most common questions that will come up are, “how big will the fish get?”, “What will a certain breed of fish eat?”, “Are these fish going to be territorial?” and so on.

However, the questions soon get even more bizarre, but every bit as intriguing. Try this one on for size: “How do fish sleep?” That, my friends, is a good question. Take a look at some of these interesting facts:

Yes, fish do sleep, and they do it for a considerable amount of time.

First of all, let’s get this out of the way right now: yes, fish do sleep. And yes, they will do it for a long amount of time. Generally, a fish will require up to nine or ten hours of sleep per day.

Of course, here is another question: why do we not notice them sleeping? Well, it’s simple, actually.

The reason is that they do not have eyelids. Unless you are Anne Ramsey from “Throw Momma From the Train”, (I know, I know, I’m showing my age, but I digress…) then you realize that most human beings will close their eyes when they sleep.

How do fish sleep

This isn’t true when it comes to our aquatic friends. Naturally, this is why this is such an intriguing question in the first place, simply because it appears that fish are always awake because their eyes are always open!

Moreover, it often varies with the breed. For example, many goldfish will actually sleep for up to 12 hours per day.

On the other hand, many cave-dwelling or deep-sea fish will sleep little if any at all simply because they have limited eyesight and have no need to do it. All right, with that in mind, let’s take a look at certain notable breeds:

What about trout? Do they sleep?

The short answer to this question is yes, they do indeed sleep. However, the answer to this question is going to get just a bit more convoluted when you consider all of the specific situations that might involve trout as a breed of fish.

First of all, there is a sharp difference between trout that are being kept in a fish tank and trout that are out in the wild. Wild trout will usually have to get more creative than their aquarium-dwelling counterparts.

For example, trout in streams will usually have to find a place where the current is not quite as quick. This often means going behind a boulder or looking for a bend in the riverbed. Additionally, when a trout needs to rest, they might find a place that is fairly deep simply because that is where the current will be slower.

Likewise, trout that are in aquariums will usually descend down to the bottom of the tank when they need to rest.

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Well, how about beta fish? Do they require sleep?

Of course, not everyone is into trout as their mainstay. If you are more of a beta fish enthusiast, you are probably wondering how they go about getting their rest.

Well, with a beta fish, sleep is a nighttime occurrence much like it is for human beings. Because bettas are mainly active during the day, they will the great majority of their sleeping at night. No, these fish will not lose consciousness like their human masters. Instead, they will simply find a place to take a time-out like that of other fish species.

Of course, it might appear to the untrained eye that they are merely just relaxing in the water. Interestingly enough, betta fish also have a tendency to take short naps during the day. If you notice your betta fish simply laying down at the bottom of their fish tank, chances are they are taking a quick nap!

Finally, do goldfish sleep?

Naturally, one of the most well-known and popular aquatic pets in the world today would be the goldfish, so this all begs the question: do they sleep? Yes indeed, as mentioned previously, they sure do. Goldfish will behave much like other fish do. They won’t lie down or engage in REM sleep as humans do, but they will become less active even though they are still moving around.

So yes, it doesn’t matter what fish it is, nine times out of ten, they will indeed catch some z’s just like their human owners.

What does fish tank behavior look like when they are sleeping?

When a fish decides to go to sleep, it has already been noted that they will look differently than humans would. First of all, fish will still appear to be awake. They will not lay down like humans will, but one of the ways you will be able to tell that your fish is sleeping is because their activity will start to slow down.


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Insofar as tank behavior goes, they will usually settle at the bottom of the tank and move about very slowly.

Moreover, they will often crave some sort of privacy. They wil find an area of your tank where they will be free of prying eyes, such as wedging themselves into the sand or behind some rocks.

Additionally, even though a goldfish might appear to be fully awake, they will seem to be in “suspended animation.” You will still see their fins flapping and their gills breathing because they need to move around and breathe.

However, that is about the scope of their behavior while they are resting. Simply put, if they are moving slower, then chances are it means they are asleep.

Do fish remain still when they are asleep?

Of course, this will beg the question for some: do fish remain still when they sleep? For most breeds of fish, the answer to this question is, of course, yes and no.

As noted previously in this article, a fish will often still move around slightly, but the big difference between their sleeping period and their awake hours is that the fish will appear to be “day-dreaming.” This is because their metabolism will dramatically slow down during their sleeping periods.

Finally, interestingly enough, there are breeds such as the Parrot Fish that will surround themselves with a cloud of mucus while they are resting.

As you can see, fish are fascinating creatures, and while it is not readily apparent that they sleep, they definitely do. It might take some observation, but you will be able to realize when your favorite fish is sleeping soon after.

what about you? Do you have any thoughts about seeing your fish sleep that you would like to mention? Let me know in the comments below.

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Darren Enns

For me, fishing is an enjoyable release from the pressures of life. It gets me out into nature and I love it!

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