Betta Fish Flaring Gills and Puffing Up? Here’s Why

Also known as a Siamese fighting fish, bettas are known for flaring. By puffing up their gill flaps wide open, these small fish appear bigger in size. Let’s get down to why your betta fish is flaring gills and what you should do to stop it.

Betta fish flaring gills and puffing up is mainly a show of mighty and aggression. They usually do this to scare away intruders, attract mates or express excitement. While this is something normal with bettas, it could also be a sign of distress.

Is It Normal for Betta Fish to Open Gills Wide?

Yes, it’s normal for bettas to open the gills wide. They often want to appear twice as large their size and scare an intruder. They do this when movements occur near a tank, see their reflections, or feel threatened by a tank mate.

They may also flare at the beginning of a breeding period. Male bettas will flare to show dominance or impress the female. The female on the other hand will puff up gills wide open to respond to the situation. The act may continue for a while until the female is ready to spawn.

Why Is My Betta Fish Flaring Its Gills?

There are different reasons why your betta is flaring its gills;

1. The fish is angry

A betta becomes frustrated when its needs aren’t met. Bettas love a bit of personal space and flaring could be a sign of poor conditions in the tank. Unfortunately, too much flaring can weaken the fish’s immune system and exposes it to parasites and bacterial infections.

Thus, to avoid your betta fish from often flaring, provide a suitable environment to keep it happy. Ensure the tank is not crowded and there are enough hiding spaces in it. Add toys and decorations to make its life more enjoyable.

2. To Defend its territory

Bettas become territorial and aggressive when they notice a threat. They flare to make an illusion that they are bigger than their enemies. Often, they are ready to fight them. They want to show off by looking more prominent. In worst-case scenarios, fatalities occur when two bettas fight. Both of them could end up injured or dead.

3. To Show Excitement

Bettas also fare when excited. You may notice this every time you are feeding it or even when playing with it. New toys also make them happy. However, the excitement varies from one betta to another.

A betta flaring when happy depends on its personality. Don’t worry if your betta doesn’t flare for the same reasons.

4. Unsuitable Tankmates

Betta’s can co-exist peacefully with tank mates they are compatible with. Examples of such tankmates include glass catfish, white cloud, back molly, and swordtail. Hence, when you introduce a new tankmate to your betta, ensure it’s friendly and accommodative.

It shouldn’t be chasing your betta around or nibble on its fins. If it does, the situation may stress your betta. To get back, it will flare and start a fight.

5. Reflections

Bettas are not good with reflections. When it sees its image, it mistakes itself for another fish something that gets its angry and irritated. For this reason, a betta fish will get territorial and starts a fight with its image. You should therefore avoid reflecting surfaces near the betta tank.

6. Exercising

Betta fish can become lazy sometimes. They spend all their time resting or hiding and only come out when they have to eat. Unfortunately, this may get them fat and lead to health problems. Flaring is a form of exercise that keeps bettas stretched and their muscle toned. It keeps them fit and active.

7. Your presence

There are different reasons why betta could be flaring you. It doesn’t mean your Betta is angry at you. Fortunately, it’s common when feeding it or playing with it. Don’t worry, as bettas are wary of new environments.

Also, the betta could flare at you because of fear. This can occur every time you clean the aquarium or change the water. The fish is probably alarmed, and it’s a way of reacting to your presence.

Lastly, although bettas don’t see clearly, they are sensitive to colors and vibrations around them. Thus, when you are moving around the tank or playing loud music, it might get frightened and flare.

It may take a while before your betta fish finds comfort in a new home. But with time, it will get used to you. Allow your betta to settle down by giving it space.

How Do I Stop My Betta from Flaring?

There are several ways you can stop your betta from flaring. Knowing the exact reason for the flare would ensure you offer the best remedy. The following are a helpful tips.

Remove a tank-mate

When a tank mate is the cause of its flare, remove it and take it to another tank.  If your tank was small, the betta fish and its tank mate could have found it difficult co-existing in the space. You may want to increase the tank size and add enough hiding places.

If this wasn’t the issue, to ensure peace prevails, separate the two into different tanks. Remember, an angry betta is dangerous.

Control the reflections

First, check on what causes the reflection to occur. If it’s the location of the tank, move it to another spot.  You can change the lighting system in the room. You can do this by moving the exterior lighting away from the betta’s tank.

Alternatively, you can adjust the lighting in the aquarium. Remember betta fish can see in the dark and they don’t love too bright lights.

If you can’t control the lighting, color the sides of the aquarium. Only leave the front view pane clear. Use adhesive fish tank-specific paper. It should be thick and pale-colored. Don’t use shiny or brightly colored paper, as it will irritate the fish.

You can also add live and floating plants to create more shadows in the water and minimize the reflections.

Relieve boredom

Bettas become bored when they are not stimulated. You can give them toys like Ping-Pong balls and add live plants, logs and caves to their habitat to stimulate them. You can also hold up the mirror for your fish to stimulate it. It will flare in the process. Just limit the time to around 1 min.

Do Female Betta Flare?

Yes, female bettas do flare. But, unlike the male bettas, they are semi-aggressive. Male love to show dominance over one another. The female mostly flares for exercise and stimulation. Depending on the variety type, some females might not even fare at the sight of their reflection.

Female bettas thus can co-exist peacefully in a sorority tank. Ensure the tank is big enough and has enough hiding spaces to accommodate the different fish. However, constantly monitor your female betta fish, and look out in case of any flares.

Is Flaring Bad for Bettas?

Flaring can be either good or bad for the betta. If you notice your betta flaring for a few seconds per day, it’s okay and perfectly normal. If prolonged excessively, take the opportunity to have a closer look at their gills and fins, and check out for any signs of susceptible conditions.

Bettas should, however, flare for at most 20 minutes a week. Anything more than could weaken its immune system, making it vulnerable to diseases caused by parasites and bacteria.

A little faring is good for your betta fish but if constant and persistent, then it might lead to severe consequences. A flare is an aggressive response that shows a betta is potentially stressed. The stress may develop a toll on your betta’s mental and physical health. Take an immediate action for such kind of flaring.

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