Do Cichlids Sleep? [6 Tips To Make Them Sleep Better]

Image of a sleeping-cichlid

Cichlids sleep during the night as they are diurnal. While sleeping, cichlids lay vertically in the substrate or under the plants and rocks. Their eyes remain open while sleeping as they don’t have eyelids. They remain motionless and usually don’t react to any external stimuli.

Now let’s take a look at the sleeping patterns of cichlids and how to make them sleep better.

How Do Cichlids Sleep?

Unlike mammals, cichlids don’t sleep on their back.

They don’t even close their eyes while sleeping due to the absence of eyelids.

Even though cichlids’ eyes are open while sleeping, there’s no eye movement.

Cichlids lay motionless at the bottom of the tank while sleeping.

They go into a state known as dormancy and stay like that for a long time while asleep.

However, there is no definitive answer as to where cichlids sleep.

Some cichlids rest in caves, while others nestle into the substrate while asleep.

Likewise, some cichlids sleep under the plants or find a suitable place at the tank’s base.

Some cichlids species even sleep mid-water.

How Long Do Cichlids Sleep?

Cichlids sleep for around 8 to 12 hours a day. They follow the same circadian rhythm as that of humans. Being diurnal, they sleep at night and are active during the day.

The amount of time cichlids sleep depends upon what part of the water column they inhabit frequently.

In the wild, cichlids that live at the bottom of the lake can sleep for as long as 12 hours.

On the contrary, those cichlids that prefer to stay in the middle of the water column may sleep for around 8 to 10 hours every night.

Cichlids also take naps in between, especially if they haven’t gotten sufficient sleep the previous night.

So you can sometimes notice one of your cichlid taking a power nap during the daytime while others are active.

How To Determine Whether Cichlids Are Sleeping?

While it’s pretty easy to spot sleeping mammals, the same can’t be said about cichlids.

Cichlids don’t close their eyes or show signs of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

So it can be challenging to determine whether cichlids are sleeping.

However, you may notice the following signs when cichlids are sleeping:

  • They will remain motionless at one place, preferably at the bottom of the tank.
  • Cichlids will show decreased sensitivity to external stimuli. They will not react to things around them. For example, they may not react when you put food into the tank.
  • They won’t have any eye movement while sleeping.
  • Cichlids will exhibit a resting posture.
  • Their respiration rate will be lower compared to when they are active and wide awake.
  • Their cardiac rhythm will be lower.
  • You may find them flapping their fins passively so that they maintain an upright position.
  • Their metabolism will be slow.

6 Tips To Make Cichlids Sleep Better

All aquatic creatures, including cichlids, need sleep or rest at regular intervals to rejuvenate their bodies and stay healthy.

Lack of adequate sleep can cause stress, anxiety, aggression, appetite loss, and other health problems in cichlids.

So it’s crucial that cichlids get sound sleep.

You can help your cichlids sleep well by following the below tips.

1. Provide ample resting place.

You can make cichlids comfortable by providing them with ample resting places like caves, crevices, plants, tunnels, aquarium decorations, etc.

This way, they won’t feel restless and will be able to relax and sleep peacefully.

Also, if you use rocks in the aquarium, ensure that there are crevices where they can fit to keep themselves safe.

2. Install a timer.

Installation of a timer is the easiest and most convenient way to ensure that cichlids get a consistent day and night cycle.

Timers come in different shapes and sizes. The best option is an adjustable timer.

Adjustable timers offer flexibility and convenience and can be set up manually or automatically.

They will help you to know exactly how much time each cichlid needs to sleep.

This way, you can easily adjust the lighting accordingly.

A timer will also allow you to control the aquarium’s temperature.

It will prevent overheating, which can cause stress and illness in cichlids.

3. Feed routinely during the day.

A cichlid searching for food

Just like humans, cichlids follow a feeding routine. Being diurnal fish, cichlids are most active during the day.

So feeding them during the day becomes essential to keep them healthy. If the cichlids are satiated at night, they will sleep peacefully.

Midnight snacking is not advisable as it stirs up activity in the tank.

If your cichlids are hungry at night, they may fight for food or become aggressive. In either case, it will disturb their sleep.

So it’s always recommended to feed them twice during the day and once before bedtime.

This will give them enough energy to rest peacefully.

4. Have ambient lighting.

Ambient lighting is another critical factor that can help cichlids sleep peacefully.

So you can keep blue light that mimics moonlight during the night.

If you want to mimic natural conditions, you can install dimmable lights.

These lights provide sufficient light and don’t disrupt the circadian rhythm of cichlids.

If you don’t wish to keep any light during the night, then don’t switch off the lights all of a sudden.

Fish are sensitive and may interpret total darkness as a threat. This can make them react aggressively.

Instead, keep some ambient light on for about half an hour before you turn off all the aquarium lights.

This will allow the cichlids to settle down before total darkness, and they can sleep peacefully.

Also, avoid any direct light facing the aquarium as it can disrupt their sleep and can even wake them up.

5. Avoid too much noise.

Every aquatic creature needs silence while sleeping. So you must avoid loud noise while your cichlids are sleeping.

Also, ensure that you don’t move around frequently near the tank while cichlids are resting.

Otherwise, you might end up waking up your cichlids every now and then.

6. Create a comfortable environment.

Creating a favorable environment goes a long way in making cichlids sleep better.

It’s crucial to create a comfortable environment for cichlids so that they don’t stress out.

You can keep the water temperature constant to ensure cichlids are comfortable.

This way, they will be less likely to wake up from sleep. Also, make sure that the room temperature remains stable.

Maintaining water quality, having favorable water parameters, keeping compatible tank mates, and providing a healthy diet are all things that help cichlids feel relaxed and sleep better.

Do African Cichlids Sleep?

African cichlids are diurnal, meaning they sleep at night. They need 8 to 12 hours of sound sleep at night to have a proper biorhythm and stay healthy.

In captivity, they sleep by laying vertically, usually at the bottom of the tank.

Some hobbyists have even noticed their African cichlids sleeping mid-water in the aquarium.

Just like other cichlid species, African cichlids sleep with their eyes open.

However, they are inactive while asleep and don’t react to external stimuli.

You can figure out if your African cichlids are sleeping by checking if their gills are relaxed and they are motionless.

Although African cichlids can sleep peacefully in captivity, the same can’t be said about them in the wild.

They are alert to danger in their natural environment even though their brain is resting while sleeping.

This is because other big fish are always on the lookout for their prey.

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