Wondering why betta fish flare? This guide is for you!
Flaring is as natural to bettas as when a person gets excited, happy, angry, or moody. It is not something to be much worried or alarmed about unless it happens with increasing regularity.
Bettas flare their gills and fins to communicate what they are going through. Being highly territorial animals, bettas flare as a sign of dominance or aggression. By flaring, a betta looks more prominent and more intimidating, which is a big put-off for perceived or actual threats.
A betta flares to ward off intruders, typical for an animal of its type. However, if this phenomenon worries you, find out what’s causing it and take the appropriate measures to stop it.
The best way to make your betta stop flaring is by making him at ease in his environment. This reduces his stress and enables him to live a happy, healthy life.
What is Betta Fin and Gill Flaring?
Betta fish can appear larger by puffing up their fins and gills. This is referred to as flaring. Usually, this happens when your betta fish feels threatened for any reason.
For example, other colorful fish could be in the same tank with your betta. Or, the betta fish may see its reflection in the tank or mirror, making him think there’s another betta fish nearby.
Bettas also flare when they feel their environment has been intruded upon by unnecessary movements or sounds.
This is why your betta fish will sometimes flare when you approach the tank.
Do All Betta Fish Flare?
Most betta fish flare their fins and gills to express how they feel. However, how often this happens depends on the type and personality of the betta fish.
While some bettas flare whenever they feel things are not going right, others do so only when they feel highly threatened.
Bettas don’t get excited similarly and for the same reasons. As such, you must know your betta fish’s type and personality to understand its unique behaviors.
Bettas less likely to flare are usually described as calm, friendly, placid, or docile. These bettas don’t flare all the time in response to external stimuli.
Those likely to flare are referred to as aggressive, hostile, authoritative, or territorial.
Do Female Bettas Flare?
Female bettas flare when they feel something is wrong in their environment. However, females are less likely to flare than males.
This is because female bettas are not as aggressive or domineering as their male counterparts. A female betta does not feel as territorial as a male.
This is why putting females together in a sorority tank is easier than putting two males together.
All the same, a female betta will flare when she sees the need to assert herself. So, for example, if she’s with a male betta, she’s likely to flare to ward him off.
If you plan to keep your female betta with other tank mates, ensure you provide enough hiding spots where she can hide whenever she feels threatened.
Hiding spots help betta fish handle their stress by keeping away from their actual or perceived threats.
Why Do Betta Fish Flare?
Bettas flare at anything they perceive is intruding on their environment. They will flare at other bettas, fish species, their reflections in the tank, and the keeper as they approach the tank.
Bettas flare by opening up their fins and gills to look bigger and more intimidating.
Here are some reasons your betta fish flares:
#1 – Sign of Aggression
This is one of the most common reasons your betta flares. It wants other fish to know it is willing to defend its territory by fighting.
When your betta fish feels threatened by the look of another fish, it flares its fins and gills to signal it will not give up without a fight.
By flaring, your betta fish communicates it is not happy, but is willing to fight for its space. Flaring makes your betta look bigger and more aggressive.
This stance is likely to put off even the most determined of intruders.
#2 – Sign of Happiness
Some betta types are highly excitable. They flare to show they are happy with what’s happening or as a sign of anticipating something good.
For example, if your betta flares every time you approach the tank, this indicates he is happy to see you and is expecting to be fed.
This type of flaring is usually accompanied by some sort of dancing in the water. By closely observing your betta fish, you’ll know when his flaring indicates happiness, anger, or aggression.
#3 – To Protect Their Bubble Nests
Bettas build bubble nests out of saliva and air when ready to spawn. They will then flare their fins and gills to ward off predators and potential rivals.
Spawning is an extraordinary occurrence for the betta fish. When this event happens, a betta fish will not want other bettas or fish species around the bubble nest.
The betta fish will flare to show potential rivals and predators he’s ready to fight to the death to protect his young ones.
#4 – Sign of Disorientation
A betta fish may flare when he is unsure about his surroundings. This usually happens when this fish has just arrived at a new tank.
As he tries to find his way around the new tank and navigate the new terrain, the betta fish puffs up his fins and gills to show he’s disoriented.
This indicates he’s dealing with too many unfamiliar external stimuli.
However, don’t expect this behavior to go on for long. Once the betta gets a bearing of his new surroundings, he will calm down as he tries to determine his place in the new order of things.
You can help your betta acclimate to the new territory by keeping this as calm and simple as possible. For example, stay away from the tank for some time – until the betta fish gets his bearings.
#5 – To Assert Dominance
Betta fish want other bettas and fish species to know they are in charge of their territory. Therefore, it’s hard for a male betta fish to willingly share space with other colored fish.
It’s even more challenging for this betta to concede space and allow the other fish to take dominance. By puffing its gills and fins, the betta wants the other fish to know who’s in charge of this specific territory.
#6 – Scare Off Intruders
A betta fish may flare when he feels that the calm, peace, and serenity he has been enjoying is threatened.
A betta fish will flare at any creature he feels that intruded on his space. It is not uncommon for bettas to flare at mystery snails, Nerite snails, and other otherwise harmless tank mates.
It is believed that by flaring at these creatures, bettas release chemicals that warn these creatures to stick to their keep out of the way.
#7 – Betta Vision
Bettas have lane a unique vision that’s nothing like human vision. Instead, these little critters depend on shapes, colors, and vibrations to understand and navigate their world.
They do not have an advanced brain to interpret what’s happening in their environment.
When a betta feels unusual vibrations, he’s likely to be spooked because he doesn’t understand what’s happening.
Your betta’s response to such an occurrence is to flare up as a sign that he feels threatened.
#8 – Betta Type and Personality
Some bettas are genetically wired to flare up more often than others. Sometimes, how often your betta flares up boils down to his personality.
This means that your betta flaring up may not necessarily be a bad sign. It is just how this animal is made, and he is just being him.
Unfortunately, you may not be able to clearly understand this when the betta fish is new. Therefore, you have to study him for some time to understand this unique aspect of his personality.
#9 – Reflection in the Tank or Mirror
Because of the betta vision discussed earlier, bettas cannot distinguish their own reflection from other fish. So, when your betta fish sees his reflection, he interprets this to mean the presence of another rival.
Your betta will immediately flare and take a defensive position, ready to fight for his territory.
Things are made even more interesting by the fact that bettas have a very low tolerance for other bettas in the same tank.
If you betta flares everything he sees in his reflection, he’ll be stressed out first. However, you can do a couple of things to prevent this from happening.
Adjust the Lights in the Room
Very bright lights are likely to create a reflection of the betta on the fish tank. When this happens, your betta thinks there’s a rival in his tank, and he flares up.
Adjust the lighting in the room to make the reflection less sharp. If the lighting is appropriately adjusted, the reflection will disappear, and your betta fish will feel safer.
You can also dim the lights on the betta tank if you have any installed. But remember, betta fish are not fans of bright lights in the wild.
They instinctively like living in shades and covers, where they can hide from predators.
If necessary, move the betta tank to a less-lit room to eradicate the reflections on the tank’s glass walls.
Cover the Sides of the Tank
Use a fish tank-specific adhesive tank to cover the sides of the aquarium. These special covers are readily available in most online and live fish stores.
You could also make an appropriate paper cover at home and use it to shield the walls of the tank. This effectively keeps out most of the bright light and protects your betta from its own reflection.
Why Does My Betta Flare at Me?
It’s not uncommon for bettas to flare at their owners. Usually, there’s nothing much to worry about when your betta flares on seeing you.
However, you first need to acquaint yourself with your betta’s personality to understand why this happens.
Most bettas flare at their owners because they are happy to see them. So this is their way of saying: how do you do? I’ve missed you!
If your betta is new, it’s best to keep away from it if it keeps flaring at you whenever you approach the tank.
New bettas perceive any creature near them as a threat and flare as a defense mechanism. As such, avoid making sudden movements around the tank area.
Also, keep out unnecessary noise and too much light. Finally, don’t do anything that can startle or scare your betta into taking an aggressive and defensive stance.
The good thing is that bettas recognize and appreciate their owners pretty fast. So once this animal identifies you as the source of nourishment, you’ll become fast friends.
It will then flare every time you approach the aquarium to show its appreciation for your role in its life.
How to Stop Betta Fish from Flaring
If the flaring of your betta fish has become a matter of concern, it is going through a stressful period.
You are likely concerned because you have identified the source of the flaring, and you don’t like it. It is in your interest to keep your betta happy, well-adjusted, and healthy.
Here are some things you can do to stop your betta fish flaring:
Keep Your Betta Fish Alone
Betta fish are, by nature, solitary creatures. So keeping your betta fish with other bettas or fish species could be the source of his stress.
You can help him by removing the other fish and leaving him alone in the tank. This is what he wants: to feel fully in charge and in control of his world.
Also, provide him with enough space (about 5 gallons of water) and the right living conditions to thrive.
Respect Your Betta’s Space
Your betta fish may be stressed because you make too much noise for his liking. By nature, bettas are highly sensitive to too much light, noise, and movement.
Make things easier for your pet by making less noise. Also, move slower and more deliberately around the aquarium, and do not expose him to too much light.
Cover the Tank Sides
As noted earlier, there’re special materials you can use to cover the sides of the fish tanks. This cover blocks your betta’s view of the room and reduces its reflection on the tank wall.
Your betta is less likely to flare if he feels safe in his environment. This is what the tank cover helps achieve.
Provide Enough Hiding Spots
In the wild, bettas seek hiding spots to escape natural and perceived rivals and predators. You can replicate this in your betta’s tank by providing him with enough hiding spots.
Add some rocks, plants, and other tank decorations to make the aquarium look more comfortable and secure.
Your betta will run to these spots whenever he feels anxious, stressed, or threatened.
Provide Your Betta with Enough Living Space
Your betta fish may be stressed because he feels too restrained and confined. For example, a single betta needs about 4 gallons of water.
He will be stressed and frequently flare if you house him in this space with a tank mate. Give him enough room to swim and play as much as he likes.
Your betta fish will be highly appreciative if you can manage a 10-gallon space.
Does Flaring Harm Your Betta Fish?
Flaring is a natural phenomenon for betta fish. As such, don’t be overly concerned if your betta flares occasionally; this is not likely to harm it in any way.
However, this little critter is in trouble if your betta fish keeps flaring. Your pet is going through some stress and needs your help.
Find out why your betta is flaring and help him as soon as possible.
Could this animal have a health issue like fin and tail rot? Or, could it be that there’s something wrong with his environment?
Also, find out if your pet feels threatened by rivals and predators. This could be another source of constant flaring.
Is Betta Fish Flaring Beneficial?
Betta fish derive some significant benefits from flaring. Here are some you’re likely to realize in your betta:
Strengthens Their Fins and Muscles
Betta fish uses flaring to exercise its muscles, gills, and fins. Therefore, your betta fish needs to be in top form to keep up with the activities demanded of it in the aquarium.
Some betta keepers encourage flaring by introducing mirrors in the aquarium tanks. When the betta sees itself in the mirror, it flares up, assuming its reflection shows the presence of a rival.
Of course, this mirror should not be there all the time. You need to introduce it only when you need your betta fish to exercise.
Letting the mirror remain on the tank wall for too long stresses this animal, and the result could be counter-productive.
Introducing the mirror is also recommended if your betta has not been exercising as it should.
Suppose it is just recovering from a bout of illness, for example. In that case, you can use the mirror exercise to get this animal up and running again.
Releases Excess Energy
Bettas are energetic, highly active fish that need constant movement. By flaring up, your betta lets go of pent-up energy.
This is why you should not be overly concerned when your betta fish flares up. Flaring indicates that this animal is healthy and well-adjusted to its environment.
It is energetic and thriving in its environment.
Attracts Potential Mates
Male bettas often flare to capture the attention of females. By puffing up their fins and gills and displaying their glorious colors, the male betta hopes to impress and win a potential mate.
As such, it is common for your betta to flare if he’s looking to breed. Indeed, most breeding bettas have prominent, striking, and imposing flares.
Flaring shows your betta fish is working on his stress levels. Puffing up the fins and gills releases tension and allows your betta to resume a life of normalcy.
This is your cue to check on your betta when he keeps flaring. Find out what he could be fighting with. Could it be that the pH and temperature qualities are compromised?
Are the water currents too strong? What could be stressing your pet? Once you identify the source of the stress, you’ll be in a good position to help your betta fish deal with it.
Calms the Betta Down
Your betta flares as a sign it needs to calm down. Likely, this fish is too excited about something happening in its life.
Flaring neutralizes the effect of cortisol – a harmful hormone that builds up in your betta’s system when it is too stressed.
By flaring, your betta counters the effect of this hormone.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why do bettas flare?
Bettas spread their fins and gills in a flare to communicate what’s happening in their lives. Flaring is an indicator that your betta fish is responding to external stimuli.
You need to find out what’s happening in your betta’s life to determine how best to intervene in his life.
Additionally, you should understand that your betta flaring does not necessarily mean something is wrong.
Do bettas need to flare?
Bettas don’t necessarily need to flare. However, flaring is a natural part of your betta’s behavior. It is healthy for them to do this, because it has many benefits for this fish.
As such, you may want to encourage your betta to flare if it has been too dormant.
Do bettas recognize their owners?
You may have a little trouble bonding with your betta if it is new to your home or office. In addition, it may flare as a sign of aggression every time you approach the tank.
However, once this fish identifies you as its source of nourishment, it will recognize and welcome your presence whenever you approach the tank.
Your betta may even nibble your fingers as a sign it is happy with your presence.
Is it bad for my betta to flare a lot?
If your betta is healthy and well—adjusted to the tank conditions, allow it to flare as much as it wants. This is part of its behavior, and it is good when it does so.
The only cause of concern should be when the betta fish is doing it out of stress. If this is the case, find out the cause of the stress and handle it as soon as possible.
Do female bettas flare their gills?
Flaring is a betta thing and is not limited to males. For example, females may flare at males they consider bullies. Also, females in a sorority tank may flare at each other as they try to establish a hierarchical order.
Have you seen your betta flaring its fins and gills recently? Probably, this is not something to worry about.
Flaring is part of a betta’s natural life. Your betta flares to display its beauty to potential mates and to ward off unwanted competition.
However, you should be concerned if your betta constantly flares. This could be a sign that this fish is not doing so well, and you’d want to investigate what’s going on in his life.
We hope this post has helped you identify why your betta flares repeatedly. However, if you still can’t find the underlying cause for this behavior, don’t hesitate to consult your vet.