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Betta Flaring: Why Does My Betta Fish Flare at Me?

Renee Whitmore
Last Updated on
by Renee Whitmore

Having a betta fish as a pet can be a wonderful experience. Their long, colorful fins are attractive and add remarkable beauty to any tank.

However, knowing their behaviors and habits is essential for their care. You may have seen your fish flare up at one time or another.

But what is betta flaring? Betta flaring happens when your pet fish puffs up their gills. They may appear larger or agitated when they flare.

Bettas will flare their gills for a couple of different reasons, and you need to learn how to determine if it is a bad thing, which we will go into more detail later.

 Betta Flaring

What is Betta Flaring?

If you are considering purchasing a betta fish or have one already, you should be aware of any habitual behaviors, like flaring. Bettas also carry the name Siamese Fighting Fish because of their aggressive tendencies.

So, why do betta fish flare their gills? Your pet puffs up their gills, essentially to look larger than usual.

This action may happen for a couple of reasons, including:

  • Your fish feels threatened
  • Multiple males in the same tank
  • Stretching or exercising
  • Flirting and mating behavior
  • Change in their environment
  • They see their own reflection
  • Your pet is excited

Betta flaring is not always an act of aggression, although it can be.

Related Article: Why is my betta fish losing color?

Is Flaring Harmful For a Betta Fish?

Many fish owners can become concerned when they notice their betta flaring in their tank. However, changes in behavior can mean many things, so knowing what is causing your pet to puff up their gills will help you create the best environment for them.

Aggressive flaring means that your betta fish is under stress, which can be harmful if it happens for a prolonged period or too often. On the other hand, small instances of flaring can be acceptable for your pet if they are stretching or flirting to mate with another fish.

If you are concerned about your betta’s flaring behavior, try recording how much time it spends flaring up. If the amount is more than 20 minutes a week or more, you should alter their environment to help keep it calmer. 

Do Female Bettas Flare or Only Males?

Both female and male betta fish will flare during their life, but it happens for different reasons. Females are less likely to flare up, but it can happen.

You should not have any reason to worry about your female betta fish flaring unless you notice that it is over an extended time or too frequently.

Females will flare in their tank in several circumstances, including:

  • During water changes
  • Flirting or exhibiting mating behaviors with males
  • Stretching or exercising
  • Happy or excited

You can successfully keep multiple female betta fish in the same tank without issues, even if you introduce one male to the group. Occasionally, females will flare up at each other in a tank, but this is not an aggressive behavior as you would see between two males. Typically, females prefer to refrain from confrontation and swim away to explore another tank area.

Why Does My Betta Flare At Me?

Betta fish do not have the best vision, but they can see colors and movement. They can also feel vibrations, especially as you approach their tank.

If you scare them or are wearing bright colors, they may flare up in response to your presence. Try not to walk up to the tank quickly so you do not startle your pet.

If your pet is new to his home, you may notice more flaring than what is considered normal. This behavior is typical as your fish becomes accustomed to its new surroundings.

When you bring home a new betta, be sure to give it some space to let it settle in. You may find that after a few days, it will be swimming happily around without flaring problems.

Some bettas will recognize their owners and get excited, especially if they are fed at the same time every day. If you notice that your fish flares up in response to feeding or interaction, they may be happy to see you or are excited about their daily meal.

How To Control Betta Flaring

 Betta Flaring at me

If you notice that your betta is flaring more than usual, you will need to change the environment to help calm your fish down and prevent them from becoming sick. Too much flaring behavior can weaken your fish’s immune system, compromising their health.

Having more than one male in the same tank space is an invitation for aggressive behavior and will put your fish under continuous stress. Therefore, be sure to only house one male in a tank simultaneously, although they can coexist happily with females without issues.

Some tank designs will have high reflections, especially in rooms with high lighting. If your betta flares up at its reflection often, you may want to change your fish to a different tank setup, adjust the current lighting, or by adding plants along the edge to block any reflections.

If your pet fish only flares during tank water changes, they are letting you know that it is a stressful time for them. Try to minimize the frequency you completely clean their tank by slowly changing 25% of the water at a time.

This way, your betta can remain in the tank without disturbance, and you can still provide them a clean environment.

Betta Fish
About Renee Whitmore
Renee Whitmore
Renee Whitmore is an American college professor and freelance writer from North Carolina. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English and a Master’s Degree in English Education. When she is not driving her teenage son to wrestling practice or learning the ins and outs of Fortnite from her younger son, she is working on her first book to be published soon.
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