When this beautiful male betta sees an image of himself in a mirror, he starts flaring at it. That certainly gives this gorgeous specimen the wow factor, but is flaring a good or bad thing for him?
Many commenters reckon the fish is stressed and that encouraging him to flare by showing him his reflection is cruel. But the betta’s tank is immaculately clean, well decorated, the right size for him, and it looks like he has a snail or two for company.
So, what do you think?
- Natural Reaction: When betta fish flare at their reflection, like the one in the video, they are displaying a natural behavior meant to intimidate rivals, not recognizing it as their own image.
- Stress vs. Stimulation: While flaring can indicate stress, which can weaken the immune system, it is also a form of exercise and mental stimulation that, if done in moderation, can benefit a betta’s health.
- Balance is Key: For a healthy and happy betta, flaring should be limited to a few short sessions of a couple of minutes each per week to avoid excessive stress, and the fish’s environment should be reflection-free and enriched with decorations to prevent boredom.
Why Do Betta Fish Flare?
In the wild environment, betta fish are solitary creatures. They’re territorial and can become highly aggressive when confronted by an intruder in their patch.
Now, the betta doesn’t want to risk a physical altercation with his rival, as an injury could spell disaster or even death. So, what can the betta do to scare off an intruder? To get rid of the competition, betta fish flare.
The main purpose of flaring is to create the illusion that the betta is much larger than he really is. Check out the betta in this video. You can see that by puffing up his gill covers and extending his pectoral fins, this little guy makes himself appear much bigger and more threatening.
Is That Me?
There’s no way the betta can recognize his reflection. As far as this fish is concerned, he’s looking at a rival male who’s trying to invade his territory and taking action to frighten away the unwelcome intruder.
That’s got to be stressful, right?
Life for a wild betta fish is pretty stressful at the best of times. For a start, the betta has to find food, and that’s not easy.
Bettas tend to be opportunistic feeders, grabbing tiny crustaceans, insect larvae, or water-bound insects when they can. Depending on the season and the betta’s territory, finding a ready supply of food is not a given, and now knowing when you’re going to eat next has to be pretty stressful.
Since bettas are solitary fish, finding a mate is not easy. So, if a rival male betta appears to be checking out your patch, trying to steal your food, and possibly any females that might be around, that’s a massive source of stress.
Stress weakens a fish’s immune system, leaving the creature vulnerable to diseases caused by bacteria and parasites. Exposure to too many stressful situations could even kill your pet.
So, why would you want to deliberately stress out your betta buddy by presenting him with a threatening image of what he perceives to be a rival who could pinch his territory, food, and females?
The Other Side of the Argument
Some TikTok viewers think that flaring is good for this betta, as well as being entertaining for his owner.
Boredom is another big cause of stress for betta fish. These are intelligent creatures that need plenty of mental and physical stimulation to keep them fit and healthy and prevent obesity. Encouraging natural behaviors, such as patrolling their territory, hunting for food, and exploring caves and clumps of bushy plants, is essential for betta health.
Flaring is also a natural behavior; a small amount of it can act as a kind of fishy workout for the betta, helping to stimulate him and keep him fit.
Experts reckon that a total of 20 minutes of flaring time per week is plenty. So, if the beautiful betta in this video is enjoying a short exercise session, that’s most likely fine.
This betta certainly looks to be in excellent condition, displaying spectacular coloration and finnage with no sign of sickness or injury. So, for him, a little flaring training every now and then is probably more beneficial than harmful.
Flaring Training for Boredom Relief
As well as his glorious looks, a big part of the betta’s attraction is his personality. Some bettas are feisty and lively, whereas others are quite lazy and curious. But a betta will only show his true colors and character if he’s kept interested and busy.
Many owners give their fish a few entertaining toys, like plastic balls, hollow floating logs, caves, and such. Betta fish can learn simple tricks, including following your finger and jumping through a small hoop for a food reward. Some betta owners also find mirrors can make a great interactive boredom-breaker.
However, it’s best to limit mirror training to a few minutes once or twice a week. That’s usually all a wild betta would experience and can provide a useful form of natural exercise for a captive betta.
Depending on how you aquascape your tank and where it’s positioned, there’s a risk of your fish spotting himself in his reflection in the aquarium viewing panes.
Betta fish don’t have fantastic eyesight, so when he spots his reflection in the glass, the fish usually mistakes himself for an intruder and starts flaring. To prevent stress, you’ll need to take steps to get rid of reflections in your pet’s tank and limit mirror training in the meantime.
Why Is Your Betta Flaring at You?
Some TikTok commenters checking out the article said that their bettas flare at them when they approach the tank.
So, what causes that weird behavior?
Home Sweet Home
When a betta fish first arrives in a new environment, it is quite common for him to flare at his owner. As these fish are territorial in nature, adjusting to a new location can be a stressful and confusing experience for them.
During the initial days, your new pet will be cautious and doubtful of any activity in or around the aquarium. Therefore, giving your fish some space to settle down comfortably is recommended. Although it may be tempting, avoid fussing over your betta and let him acclimate to their new surroundings.
Once your betta feels secure and becomes familiar with the new environment, he should stop flaring at you.
During this settling-in period, don’t use a mirror to exercise your fish, as that will simply stress him even more.
The first few times you clean your betta’s tank or carry out a bit of routine maintenance work, he might flare at your fingers. That’s quite normal and the behavior should stop once your pet is used to your presence in his tank.
Fish eyes don’t work in the same way as ours. Instead of a clear, well-defined image, a betta fish sees mostly movement and color. Bettas can detect vibrations in the water caused by movement outside the tank or a loud noise close to the tank. When your betta buddy is spooked, he’s likely to flare at you if you’re close to the source of the vibration.
Once your betta fish gets used to you being around his tank, he’ll probably stop flaring.
All’s Well That Ends Well!
In the case of the fish in this video footage, he appears to have a clean, well-appointed home with some beautiful decoration and planting to prevent boredom and relieve stress. Since he lives alone with just a couple of snails for company, territoriality is not a stressor for this guy. Mr betta is brightly colored and in fabulous condition, so clearly flaring is not an issue for him.
A small amount of flaring every week is not considered to be harmful to bettas and can even help keep them fit and prevent boredom. That said, too much of a good thing can be extremely stressful. Stress leads to a weakened immune system, opening the door to parasite and bacterial infections, which could ultimately kill your pet.
Betta fish have a relatively short lifespan of up to five years; too much stress will shorten that. So, if you decide to entertain your betta with a little flaring training like the fishy in this video, keep sessions short and infrequent.