In the wild, animals have ways of defending themselves and making it harder for predators to nab them. Chameleons, for instance, change color. Leopard geckos drop their tails. And betta fish flare.
The act of flaring has a special purpose for the betta. In this article, we are going to talk about all things betta flaring. You will walk away with a much better understanding of this behavior. You will learn ways to help your fish deal with this behavior.
Why Do Betta Fish Flare?
Bettas are sometimes known as “Siamese fighting fish.” This name is not just a creative work of language. It is a name that really suits these particular fish.
When two male bettas see one another, they flare-up. It is a way of making themselves look bigger to defend their territory.
One of the males eventually backs off. If one of the males refuse to back down, a fight will ensue. They sometimes fight until one of them ultimately dies.
This is why it is NOT a good idea to keep two males together in a tank. Fights would happen often, and one of the males would eventually die.
In fact, bettas in the wild tend to hide instead of flaring up at one another. After all, they have more places to hide in the wild. Meanwhile, being kept in captivity is different. Because there is no place to run and hide, bettas always fight and flare in aquariums.
The act of flaring is not ALWAYS a sign of aggression or fighting. You may notice your betta flaring during the day, and it is reasonable for your fish to do this for a few moments during the day. It’s akin to you taking a stretch while at work.
It’s beneficial to the betta, too. And it’s also a way for them to stretch their muscles and keep in shape.
When your betta does flare, use the opportunity to check him over for any signs of fin rot or tears. These symptoms could mean your fish is sick and needs medical help.
Why Is My Betta Flaring His Gills at Me?
“Why is my betta flaring at me? I have been doing water changes (25%) to keep up with the quality of the water. My fish does not like it when I disturb him.
I cleaned his gravel and put him back in the tank gently. I fed him. I watched him swim for a bit and then he flared at me!
I even tried to play that game where you run your finger along the tank glass (this is a bonding exercise). All he did was flare at the finger!
Does he hate me? Or, could he be an aggressive one? There was also a bubble nest in the tank this morning, so maybe he is being territorial.”
The above scenario is a retelling of a real fish owner relaying concerns about his betta.
In some instances, bettas may flare at their keepers or their food. It induces stress into your betta, which is harmful to their health.
Thankfully, this is pretty rare. On the off chance that this does happen, you may have to limit the amount of time you are around your fish until the fish becomes used to you.
The fish does not hate their keeper. It is often a behavior of fish that have just come into their new home. They are on the defensive-after all, if you were in a new place and had no idea what you were in for, you probably would feel that way, too!
So they want to appear intimidating to whatever the threat in the environment is so that it will leave them alone. They may see you as a huge predator coming to eat them. Combine this with putting your hands in or near the tank for cleaning and feeding purposes, and you have one defensive fish.
Betta cannot see you as clearly as you can see them. For starters, humans and bettas’ eyes are set differently-the latter on either side of the body, the former on the front.
Bettas mostly see colors and actions and feel vibrations (such as the ones your steps make when approaching the tank). The key is to give your fish some time to settle down, and he will eventually come around.
(Find out more about colors bettas can see.)
You can help your betta get used to your hands by not removing him from the tank during cleaning. If using a gravel siphon, gently move it around your fish as you clean. He will come to know that the siphon is not a threat.
The same goes if you are using a cup to clean the water-be gentle and slow in your actions, and your fish will get used to it. It is much better and less stressful than sitting in a tiny cup!
Betta Flaring at Reflection in Tank
Bettas do not know it is them when they see their reflections in the tank glass or mirror. Therefore, when they see themselves on a constant basis, they continuously flare.
Flaring, as we have learned, is very stressful and should be avoided for the most part. A small bit of flaring is good, as it serves to provide exercise for the betta, but otherwise should be kept to a minimum.
If you find your betta is flaring at his reflection, try a few things to help them out. For instance, begin by adjusting the light. You can move the room’s lighting, or if this is not possible, try moving the tank to a new spot. If you cannot move the tank, try adjusting the aquarium light.
If the above options do not work, try covering the sides of the tank, leaving the front open. You can affix construction paper or newspaper to the outside. Use neutral or warm colors, so your betta does not strain their eyes on bright or neon colors. You can also attach fabric such as an old sheet, or old shirt cut up to fit the tank sides.
Some fish owners attach aquarium backgrounds to the tank, as well.
Is Flaring Bad for Bettas?
Flaring is very stressful for your betta. Too much of it is harmful.
Some flaring is good for bettas. It enables them to stretch, giving them a workout of sorts and keeping them in shape. However, think of it on a human level.
A one-hour workout for a human each day is a good thing. Continuous working out in a human would lead to exhaustion and overexertion. The same is true for betta.
Bettas mostly flare because something in their territory poses a threat to them, and they want to get rid of it as soon as possible. It could be another betta, tank mate, or their reflection. The threat to their territory can make them so stressed out that they cannot even eat.
The stress can also lower the efficacy of their immune system. Your tank water has bacteria, parasites, and fungi in it, which your fish’s immune system handles for them with ease. However, if the immune system cannot handle such things, your betta will end up sick and possibly dead.
If you find that your betta is flaring more than a total of 20 minutes per week, you must find a solution to stop this excessive behavior.
Is Flaring Good for Bettas?
Flaring has some good points. You can encourage your fish to flare. But you should not buy a second fish for this purpose. Simply use a small mirror and hold it up to your betta. Give it a few moments until your betta sees himself. Eventually, you will see all the fins stretched out.
(Find out more about whether bettas actually like mirrors.)
Do not put the mirror into the tank. It will lead your betta to see himself more often and flare more as a result. It will only lead to stress, exhaustion, and strain on the betta’s well-being. Your fish will no doubt end up very sick if you do this.
Allow him to flare for a minute or two once per day. It is a reasonable amount of time for your fish to stretch, get some exercise, and feel good.
Some bettas may flare due to excitement. Every animal has their own personality, and bettas are no different. You may find that your betta flares at the usual feeding time every day, or when you enter the room.
Provided your betta does not display aggressive behaviors or extend fins when doing this, this is not a big deal. However, you should still try to get him or her to avoid this action.
How to Stop A Betta Flaring Too Much?
Tankmates can be a reason for bettas to flare often.
Therefore, you may need to move your fish into a different tank, so everybody stays calm and stress-free.
After all, too much stress can cause a fish to become ill and die.
You should know that bettas are aggressive and subsequently challenging to keep with other fish. Even if your betta seems on the calmer side, it is going to flare at the other tank mates eventually. The very aggressive bettas will nip or bite at the others in the tank.
Your other fish will not understand why this is happening and won’t react to the flaring until they are being bitten or chased. It leads to them being injured, stressed, and probably hiding from your view to avoid the aggressor.
Reflection Can Be Another Reason for Excessive Flaring in Your Betta.
If you notice your betta flaring even after you have moved him to his own tank, it is likely he sees his reflection. Be sure there are no mirrors in line with your tank, and then check on the lighting.
You may have a glare on the outside of your tank due to light coming in. Glares created on the inside of the tank due to light can be enough for your fish to see his reflection and act as though he sees another fish.
It means you must alter the positioning of the tank so that light does not affect it, or the light itself. Some bettas may eventually stop attacking their reflection, but most will continue to do so.
If you find your betta is attacking his reflection on all sides of the tank, try modifying the ambient lighting. When he is only attacking certain sides of the tank, try changing the aquarium light.
If none of this works, you should cover the sides of the aquarium. You might use construction paper on the outside, cloth such as an old sheet cut to fit your tank’s sides, or newspaper. Leave the front open so you can always see your betta.
Do Female Bettas Flare?
The answer is yes, females do flare at one another. The difference is that females are semi-aggressive, whereas male bettas tend to be more aggressive. That is, males will ALWAYS assert dominance over one another, while females may or may not do this.
If you place a mirror by the tank and allow your female to use it, she may or may not flare. If she does, it is usually done with less purpose than males. As always, be sure to remove the mirror and do not let your female use it for longer than one or two minutes.
While it is not advised to keep male bettas together, females can live together.
Provided your tank is large enough and has plenty of hiding spots, this should not be a problem among keeping females together.
You should still carefully monitor your fish to make sure they are not nipping or chasing one another.
Flaring is an act of intimidation and is meant to show dominance, to appear bigger. It is okay for bettas to do this behavior a little each day, but any longer than a minute or so can lead to a stressed-out fish.
Check on your betta each day and take any necessary precautions to ensure their comfort and health