Do Betta Need LED lights?

Although shopping is fun, trying to pick out the right aquarium light for your betta can be daunting. There are just so many kinds to choose from.

Do Betta Fish Need Any Lights?

This may come as a shock, but bettas actually don’t need lights. In fact, fish in general don’t need lights. If your room has a large window or if your aquarium is in a room where you have the lights on for a few hours a day, then you don’t need to worry about getting lights for your betta.

If you can, keep your betta’s tank near a window where he or she can get the benefit of natural light cycles and use artificial light when only necessary. This will also cut down on algae growth.

In their natural environment, bettas live in shallow water like rice paddies, ditches, and marshes that are filled with vegetation that often covers the top of the water. This provides many shady patches. When you watch your betta, he or she will often hang out in shady spots.

However, you do need lights if:

  • You have live plants in the tank.
  • The room where you keep the aquarium is dark or dim most of the time.
  • You have problems seeing the inside of your tank, making it difficult to perform maintenance or seeing how healthy the fish are.

Some Advantages of LED Lighting for Aquariums

The main advantage of LED lights is that they do not need bulbs. You never have to worry about transporting, storing, or dropping an expensive bulb that shatters easily.

Another advantage is that they use less energy to run than many other kinds of lighting. Compared to some other kinds of lighting, they can use 80% less energy to run.

LED lights also do not put off heat. When older styles of lights like incandescent, fluorescent, or metal halide lights are on for hours, they can raise the water’s temperature.

This means you always had to set your heater a little lower than you should in order to compensate. Getting that balance right can be tricky.

They also offer a lot of variety in terms of what color lights you can get and how bright you can set them. Many LED light strips or bars are programmable. Some of the newest models can even be programmed from your smartphone. Some LED lights are also adjustable.

They are also long-lasting. An average LED light strip or bar lasts for nearly six years while bulbs need replacing a few times a year with many other kinds of lighting. 

Some Problems with LED Lighting

LED lights are much more expensive than other kinds of lighting. Although they can save you money in the long run by not needing so much energy to run and not needing replacement bulbs, the initial cost can be off-putting.

Most LED lights give off Kelvin ratings 6500K to 7000K. This is good for some kinds of plants, but not plants that need a higher Kelvin rating like water wisteria and the pygmy chain sword.

Another problem is that LED lighting is often not available in betta aquariums or other tank kits. If you picked up a great used tank with a perfectly fitting lid, chances are it uses another kind of lighting than LED. With some tanks, you may be able to use a clip-on LED light. There are also lights on stands that could work for smaller tanks. 

How to Know if the Lights are Too Bright for Bettas

Think about what it’s like for a betta if the lights are too bright. It’s like living underneath a spotlight all day. If you have live plants in the aquarium, they will need 12 hours of light. That means your fish has to put up with an intense light all of that time. 

This can really stress your betta. Stressed bettas wind up being sick bettas and sick bettas can die.

Signs of a betta stressed out by bright lights include:

  • Hiding all of the time.
  • Not eating.
  • Becoming lethargic.
  • Darts around the tank when you turn the aquarium lights on.
  • Becomes pale.
  • Showing dark horizontal bars in the coloration. These are often called stress bars because they usually only show up when a betta is stressed.

Try turning out the light and waiting a couple of hours. If your betta comes out of hiding and starts exploring the tank, then the light is definitely a problem and needs to be adjusted.

If you have other fish in the aquarium, they will act in the same way, except many species will not show stress bars. Some fish, like catfish, are nocturnal and will almost always hide when the lights are on, but bettas are not nocturnal. 

LED Lights and Algae

If you’re going to have an aquarium, you are going to get algae. There is no way to prevent it. Microscopic particles are in just about any water. If left unchecked, algae can take over a tank, covering it in brown or green fur. Algae needs two things to grow – light and nutrients. 

Any kind of lighting can cause algae to grow. Even natural sunlight can cause some algae growth. A mixture of high-powered lights and natural light and ambient light like lamps will create an explosion of algae.

You can deal with algae problems by:

  • Keeping the lights on only when necessary.
  • Not overfeeding your fish. Uneaten fish food and the extra fish poop from overfeeding create nutrients that algae love.
  • Keep up with cleaning gravel when doing partial water changes to remove nutrients that can cause algae to grow and ammonia to spike.
  • Also, keep up with scraping algae off of tank walls and decorations. It’s good to do this right before a partial water change to remove all of the chunks of algae floating ab

Do not use a commercial algae killer if you have live plants. The algae killer will wipe out all plant life in your tank.


If your betta tank gets a lot of natural sunlight from windows or light from your room’s lighting, then you don’t need artificial lights. If you need artificial lighting in your tank, LED lights are a good choice. They need less energy to run, don’t put off heat and the brightness can be adjustable. You never need to worry about changing bulbs with LED lights.

FAQ About LED Light for Betta Fish Tank

About the author

Hi, I am Rena.
I grew up in a house surrounded by fish tanks.
I have spent my life caring for and writing about fish.
I have studied journalism and worked for online and print magazines.

You can find the articles I wrote here

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