Most fish tank owners like watching their fish swim around in the tank. It’s why many of us got into the hobby in the first place.
However, constantly watching cichlids in a fish tank does lead to a big question, do cichlids sleep?
Yes, cichlids do sleep. Cichlids are diurnal, which means they sleep during the night. A sleeping cichlid will sleep horizontally near the bottom or in structure (cave, under rock, etc.) for approximately 8 to 10 hours.
The rest of this article will focus on the general sleep patterns of cichlids and ways you can improve their sleep.
How Long Do Cichlids Sleep For?
Cichlids sleep for approximately 8 to 10 hours at a time. They sleep once the sun goes down and wake up when the sun comes up.
There’s usually not much, if any, sun in a fish tank. This means you will have to have your aquarium lights on a timer to ensure that your fish stay on a proper sleep schedule.
It’s more common for cichlids in captivity to sleep for a whole 8 to 10 hours. The ones that live in the wild have to deal with predators, so they rarely get a full night of sleep. Due to this, you can sometimes find your fish taking naps during the daytime.
It’s especially common to see a cichlid taking a nap during the day if you wake it up at night.
How To Spot a Sleeping Cichlid
It’s fairly easy to spot a sleeping cichlid. However, you can’t just look to see if they have their eyes closed as they do not have eyelids.
That’s right, they sleep with their eyes open!
Now, just because their eyes are open does not mean that they move around. They still don’t move around when sleeping.
That’s also the easiest way to spot a sleeping cichlid… they aren’t moving. Sure, they lightly move their fins in order to stay in the same position, but they aren’t darting around the tank like they do when they’re awake.
You can also look at their gills. Are their gills barely moving?
If that is the case, then the fish are most likely asleep. Their metabolism slows down enough that they don’t need all that much air to stay alive.
Another tip is to look at their eyes. Remember, cichlids don’t have eyelids, so if their eyes don’t move at all for a few minutes, then they’re probably asleep.
Finally, if you feed them and they don’t react to the food, then they either don’t like the food or they are sleeping.
Where Do Cichlids Sleep?
Cichlids usually sleep at the bottom of the tank near the substrate. But sometimes they will hide under or in structure (ie. rocks, caves, under plants).
Other cichlids just sleep in the middle of the water, which is a strange place to see a cichlid, but plenty of them will sleep in that location.
Here’s How To Improve Your Cichlids Sleep
There are a few ways to help improve the sleep that your cichlids get. It’s always a good idea to do the best to ensure that your fish have a healthy sleep. Just like humans, cichlids are far less likely to get sick if they have proper sleep.
Use a Light Timer
The best way to ensure that your fish get good sleep is to install a light timer in your tank.
This is a pretty simple device. The timer turns on the light and then turns it off after a certain amount of time has passed.
I recommend keeping your timer at 12 hours on and 12 hours off to closely mimic the sun.
You should feed your cichlids during the day.
Again, they are not a nocturnal fish. They do almost all their activity during the day.
Feeding them at night will disturb their sleep. The fish can also get more aggressive when eating at night. I guess cichlids are a little cranky when they wake up.
If you cannot feed the fish during the day, then I recommend using an automatic feeding timer to feed them during the day.
The sun is out during the day and the moon is out at night.
Many aquarium owners forget about moonlight and keep their fish in total darkness at night.
Fish generally get spooked by total darkness as it’s not natural. I recommend using either a dim blue or dim red light at night to mimic the moon.
It will make your fish a lot more comfortable.
The added bonus is that you can still see the fish when the daytime light turns off. In fact, a red or blue light actually looks pretty cool.
What About African Cichlids Sleeping?
African cichlids also sleep.
In fact, everything mentioned about cichlids in this article also applies to African cichlids. They don’t have eyelids, sleep at night, and sleep for 8 to 10 hours at a time.
The only real difference is that African cichlids can become a little more aggressive when unexpectedly woken up from their slumber.