Betta Fish Flaring (Everything You Need to Know Here)

Do you have betta fish in your tank or pond? Do you notice your betta fish flaring?

Is the flaring a sign of troubles, or are they just displaying their colors?

You have everything you need to know about betta fish flaring in this article.

Betta Fish Flaring

Betta fish flare when they feel threatened by something in their territory. They flare when they need to get rid of the threat as soon as possible.

The threat can either be their:

  • reflection
  • a tankmate
  • another betta
  • perceived stressed

Allow me to explain below.

Why Is My Betta Fish Flaring?

Betta fish will flare when they get threatened in their territory. When intruder fish comes into their territory, they feel threatened and flare their gills. They flare their gills to send a message that they are not comfortable with the intruder’s presence.

They can feel threatened with the presence of:

  • a tankmate
  • another betta
  • their reflection
  • humans passing by

When bettas flare their gills they want to get rid of the intruder as soon as they can. Your betta fish can also flare when humans pass by their tank or pond, especially when they are not familiar with humans.

Are Betta Fish Territorial Flaring?

Yes. Betta fish are a highly territorial species. Male betta fish will flare their gills at the sight of another male in their territory. Betta fish usually flare their gills to:

  • intimidate the intruder
  • make him back off from the territory

In the wild, betta fish will flare their gills, and one will eventually back off, leaving the other to its territory. At times, there can be a fight to declare the befitting owner of the territory

The loser leaves the site when it is obvious the fight is lost. They can even avoid the fight when they see they cannot win against the puffed-u opponent.

It is why it isn’t advisable to keep male betta fish in the same tank. Flaring can be stressful to your betta fish. When you notice your betta flaring, you should observe and eliminate the threat.

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What Do I Do If My Betta Flares at Me?

Once the fish recognizes you and feels safe around you, it will stop flaring its gills. It will even feel happy and swim around happily when it sees you. Betta fish can also flare its gills for several other reasons, and you have to know what to do.

When your betta fish flares, it might have something threatening in its tank or pond. When you notice the flaring behavior, you have to attend to the fish. If the fish is flaring at an intruder, you will need to remove the intruder from the tank.

Betta Flaring At New Tankmate

The intruder can be a tankmate or another betta fish. You will have to make sure the betta fish and the intruder do not have to cross paths. Your betta fish can also flare when it sees its reflection.

Betta flaring at its reflection usually occurs when the betta is in the tank. You might need to adjust the room’s light to avoid creating reflections in the tank. You can also try covering the sides of your tank to prevent the fish from seeing its reflection.

Betta fish flaring at you occurs mostly when you newly introduced it to the tank or your home. You will seem like a threat causing the fish to flare its gills when you come around. This flaring act will continue for a while until the fish starts to understand you are not a threat to it.

Is Flaring Good for My Betta Fish?

Flaring can be a good behavior for betta fish, but a continuous and prolonged exhibition of this behavior can stress your fish. One of the reasons betta flare is to display dominance and intimidate other fish. When it does this for a little while every day, it is good.

But when the display starts going longer for more than a minute, it will become bad. You have to look for a way to stop them from flaring their gills. Bettas flaring their gills will stress them and weaken their immune system.

When their immune system gets weakened:

  • it will be difficult for them to fight against disease and infections.
  • It will make them prone to bacteria and parasitic attacks. 

As much as flaring can be good, your betta fish should not do it for a long time.

Is Flaring Bad for My Betta?

Flaring can be very stressful to your betta fish, and too much of it can be harmful to them. Your betta fish will flare for several reasons, of which some are good. But, when the flaring starts occurring for a longer time, your betta might be in serious trouble.

If your betta does not stop flaring its gills, the act will:

  • weaken its immune system
  • cause them to get stressed out

Flaring is bad for your fish when it occurs for a longer time. It takes energy for betta fish to flare their gills, causing them to be weakened after the act. Ensure you find a way to stop your betta fish from flaring its gills for its safety and good health.

How Do I Stop My Betta from Flaring?

You can only stop your betta fish from flaring if you know what caused it to flare. If the flare results from your betta fish displaying territorialism, you will have to pay attention to them. You will have to remove the intruder from the tank or keep it away from the sight of the other betta.

If your betta fish is proving dominance and intimidating other fish in the tank, you have little to do as it is a natural behavior. It is because the flaring act will only last for a little while, and the fish is back to its normal shape. You will only have to attend to them if the flaring lasts longer than expected.

Betta Reflection Flaring

Your betta fish can also flare its gills when it sees its reflection in the tank. The reflection threatens your betta, causing it to flare its gills. You might have to reduce the room’s lighting and cover the tank’s sides to get rid of the reflection.

Your betta fish will also flare when flirting with the female bettas in the tank. You can also not help this flaring act as it is doing it to win the girls’ hearts. Sometimes, your betta fish will flare only to stretch themselves and not due to aggressiveness.

Do Female Bettas Flare?

Yes. Regardless of the sex, all betta fish will flare when they need to do so. Female bettas will flare their gills just like male bettas will do. The only difference you can notice between the male and female bettas is their aggressiveness.

Male bettas tend to be more aggressive as they show dominance and territorialism alongside their gills’ flaring. Unlike males, female bettas are less aggressive and will not display much dominance or aggressiveness.

When female bettas flare

  • they do it with less purpose than males
  • they have less aggression

They are not very aggressive and will do well together in the same tank. You can keep several females as long as the tank can accommodate them.

Can Betta Fish Die from Flaring?

Flaring might not kill your betta fish but can make it sick. Flaring for a long time will cause your fish to become exhausted, tired, and stressed, putting a strain on its wellbeing. Your betta fish’s immune system can also become weakened, making your fish prone to diseases and infections.

Most times, flaring cannot cause the death of your fish. It might only cause it to develop health complications. Flaring is normal for betta fish until the flare duration becomes longer than expected.

What Causes Stress in a Betta Fish?

Betta fish will experience stress under several conditions such as:

  • Poor water quality
  • Overcrowding
  • Tank too small
  • Too hot/too cold
  • Bored of the same food
  • Bullying
  • Lack of territory
  • Lack of hiding spaces
  • Too much noise, lights
  • Tapping the glass
  • New tankmates
  • Humans passing by quickly

Stress can lead to illness and lack of appetite or lethargy. It’s best to make adjustments by going through the list above and checking through each possible cause.


Betta fish flaring is a natural behavior. They will flare to exert dominance and intimidate other fish with their size. Betta fish flare is not a big deal until it becomes prolonged for several reasons that need your immediate attention.


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John Brandon

John has kept fish all his life (since he was about 5). He started with keeping guppies and fell in love with fish keeping almost straight away. That was 40 odd years ago. These days John still keeps fish and currently has two large tanks where he keeps many different types of fish such as Angelfish, Neon Tetras, Goldfish, Guppies and many more.