If you have a few betta fish in your aquarium, you would likely have seen them flaring their gills at other bettas. It is a very usual and typical behavior that bettas often show. You might even have seen them flaring their gills at their own reflections at times. Flaring is a behavior that is more often than not attributed to aggression.
However, this is not always true. It is also sometimes just fish stretching their muscles. Another reason you may see them flaring would be because they are flirting. This is bound to happen if you place a male and female betta in the same tank.
You can also click here to read an article about the betta fish that a lot of people have chosen for their home aquariums.
Betta Flaring: What is betta fish flaring?
Betta Flaring is what happens when males flare up their gills. They usually do this when they sense a threat. Flaring involves puffing up their gills. When they flare, they puff up all their fins and gills. This makes them look a lot bigger than they are. The larger appearance makes the fish seem a little more daunting to scare off the threat they sense. This intimidates other bettas or fish that seem to encroach on their territory.
This behavior is seen quite often among male bettas. They do so to establish their territory to defend their mates. Thankfully these displays usually stay that way and do not evolve into something a little more ugly. Quite simply, betta flaring is a sort of defense mechanism aimed at scaring away other creatures that appear to be threats.
Why does my betta fish flare?
There are many reasons that you could see a betta fish flare. Sometimes these fish even flare up when they catch their reflections in the glass. At times, we see such behavior even after a change of water in the tank. We shall discuss some of the major reasons betta fish flare here.
One of the main reasons betta fish flare is for self-defense. If they sense another fish or another betta trying to encroach upon their territory, they will flare to show off their aggression. This is a show of aggression as it makes them appear larger. As a general rule of nature, a bigger object is far more intimidating than a smaller one. This phenomenon, more often than not, helps betta fish avoid fights as their puffed-up size manages to scare away quite a few enemies.
Another reason you may see betta fish flare quite often would be them just stretching out their muscles. Flaring is not always a sign of aggression and must not always be perceived as such. This is a good thing for your betta as it also helps keep them limber and in good shape. This is a good form of exercise for them, but it must not exceed 20 minutes a week. If it does, then it could not be nice for the fish.
Sometimes betta fish flare after a tank is cleaned and the water in the aquarium is changed. Do not be taken aback and surprised in case your betta flares at you when you put it back in the tank after a water change. The best thing to do in such scenarios is to avoid spending too much time with your betta. This is because the betta currently perceives you as a threat and needs some time away from you.
There may be certain fights that the betta may pick with some of its tank mates. This may also lead to occasional flaring. The best way to curb this would be to change the tankmates for the betta.
If you keep both male and female bettas in the tank, there is bound to be some interaction between them. Males tend to flare and use this as a way to attract females. This is often seen as a method of flirting between the two genders.
Stress is another factor that could lead to betta fish flaring up their gills. These are the major reasons we see betta fish flare.
You could also use the flaring of bettas as an opportunity to examine the fins of your betta for fin rot.
Is flaring good or bad for a betta?
Flaring is one of the ways that betta fish show their aggression to other creatures in the ocean. This is a very stressful activity for your fish as it is an aggressive response. Too much of this could potentially be harmful to the betta. It is very beneficial in limited amounts as it keeps the fish well stretched and limber. It also acts as a form of exercise and keeps the betta fit. But too much of it is harmful. It may lead to your fish feeling excessively tired too quickly.
Sometimes the fish also flare because of stress. They might even exceed the amount they have to flare due to stress. This then increases the amount of stress they experience. The fish is then caught in a vicious cycle of flaring because of stress, causing more of it. This is not a good thing. Too much stress can cause organ failure and can also be fatal. In an ideal scenario, the betta must not flare any more than 20 minutes a week. Any more, and it could be harmful.
However, within reasonable limits, flaring has a lot of benefits for the betta. It is a natural reaction that the fish have. Sometimes when they get excited, they flare up. This is how they respond to the excitement. This depends on the fish’s personality and is usually a response to healthy and happy external stimuli.
Another reason they flare up for the right reasons is when they get bored. As fish, bettas are not dumb fish. They are pretty intelligent and tend to get bored without some form of interaction or activity to stimulate their minds. One way they manage to curb this boredom is by flaring. To stop them from flaring so much, owners tend to buy them toys. They play with them freely. Else they also put mirrors in the tank. When the fish see their reflection, they flare up. A couple of minutes of playtime this way is an excellent way to avoid boredom.
Betta Flaring at Reflection in Tank :
Bettas do not have the best eyesight among fish. This means they cannot see very clearly. Therefore, they do not immediately recognize their reflection when they see it in a mirror or the aquarium’s glass. This sudden sight startles them at first and leads to them suddenly flaring up. The betta flaring up becomes a continuous cycle, and they constantly flare up whenever they come across a reflection of themselves.
As we have discussed earlier, too much flaring for a betta is not good. This is why we must try and limit this to about 20 minutes or so a week. Any more than that, and it becomes harmful. If you see this becoming a habit, try some of the following methods to decrease the duration of flaring. You could try and adjust the lighting by changing its intensity or playing with the decor. Moving the tank to a new spot might work, or you could even change the light inside the aquarium.
If none of this works, you could also try to cover three of the four sides of the tank using neutral colors to avoid eye strain for your betta.
Do female betta fish flare?
To be quite blunt, female betta fish do flare. However, this is not a very common thing to see. Female betta fish flaring is quite a rare occurrence. The biggest difference between male and female bettas flaring is that males are very aggressive while females are semi-aggressive. The male betta will always assert dominance over the other while females will not aim to do so.
Moreover, unlike males, females can live together, who tend to be highly territorial and cannot be kept in the same tank unless it is huge. Therefore, they do not get into fights unless the tank is tiny. However, you must still monitor your bettas and ensure they do not get into intense battles.
To summarize, bettas flaring up is a very normal phenomenon that takes place when they want to assert their dominance or aggression over another fish. They do this to intimidate another fish that tends to encroach on its territory. Too much flaring is not a good thing for the fish. However, it is a necessary physical activity that they must perform to stay in shape. It helps them stay fit and limber as it is a type of stretch. Keep your fish healthy and happy to make them a true asset to your aquarium.