Why Does My Betta Fish Flare His Gills? 9 Top Reasons

Your betta will puff out its gills when they feel like it. It can mean different things, like one where they want to intimidate another fish, or they want to be seen by other fishes. Some bettas show aggression to other fishes in the tank just because they are unsociable. 

Main Reasons Your Bettas Flare Their Gills

To Claim Territory

If there are new occupants of the tank, your betta may flare off their gills to show their claim on their territory. It can be a spot in the tank or any area that your betta feel belongs to them. 

When they flare their gills, other fishes see them as enormous and can intimidate mostly smaller fish. However, it may not work on larger fish. 

If it is another betta your fish is flaring its gills to, it can do the trick, but other types of fish may not get the message about any territorial claim. 

Not Wanting Tank Mates

When your betta doesn’t like to live with other bettas or other types of fish, they tend to flare their gills. They will point out to the newcomer that they are not welcoming anyone and will attack if provoked. 

It may lead your bettas to fight with other types of fish cause these fishes may continue to get near the bettas, not understanding the meaning of flaring gills. 

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A fight may ensue between your betta and other types of fish. 

When They Feel Stressed

Any form of threat can be stressful to your betta, and you will find them often flaring their gills. This can also cause them to lose appetite. They will also not move much, but just patrolling their territory. They can also weaken, and sickness can get to them, and this is what you should stop from happening. 

They can flare for a few minutes, but nothing like a prolonged flaring of gills. 

When They Are Excited

Your bettas may have a hobby of flaring their gills when they get excited. It may be by seeing food, their owner, or when they feel like it. 

They can flare their gills, showing no aggression to other fish. There is no need to worry in this case, but again take note if your betta is flaring for too long as this is also stressful to them. 

As A Form Of Exercise Or Stretching

Your male betta may stretch its gills once in a while, and this should not be worrying to you. They only need exercise now and then, and if it just happens for a fleeting moment, this is not a problem. 

When They Are Breeding

During breeding, a male and a female may flare their gills and more so with the male as they want to show dominance to the female. Flaring should be brief and should not last for a few minutes. 

When the female flare its gills to the male for a long period, this may not be healthy for both. They should be separated instead and should not continue with breeding. 

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Female bettas may also become competitive and bite off each other’s fins, it is when you should separate them because of the nipping behavior. You can see female bettas flaring their gills, but most of the time it is also caused by flirty behavior. Female flaring occurs less as compared to male flaring. 

Seeing Their Reflection

When bettas see their reflection, they tend to flare their gills as well. They do not recognize that it is their image they are seeing. Your bettas may show aggression, thinking they are showing their fighting stance to another betta. 

What is stressful for your betta is when they start attacking the reflection and will continue to do so as long as they see it. 

You should immediately remove the cause of the reflection, or else you will keep seeing your bettas fighting with another invisible fish. 

Finding the side where the light is making a reflection is easy, and you can also add blankets or sheets to the sides of the aquarium to avoid any reflection from appearing. 

Seeing its keeper

Your betta may flare their gills at you each time you get near their tank. If your betta is new, it may require some quality time to get to know you before it stops its flaring episode. 

It is also usual if you clean the tank, and they might see you as the invader of their territory. It is true especially for newly gained bettas who may not be used to your presence. 

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If your betta repeatedly flares its gills every time you are in front of the tank, you may need to spend time with them so they’ll get to know you more. 

They can get used to your presence after some time, and you will see them flaring their gills less. 

Transferring To A New Tank

Your betta will flare as well when they are new to the tank or when they are in a new territory. 

When you transfer your betta to another tank, they will show their flaring ability as it will lessen the feeling of newness, and since they feel stressed with experiencing something new, that is how they deal with it. 

He will become wary while he moves around the tank and he explores his surrounding. It is just normal for him to do his flaring now and then cause he will just need to be at ease with his surroundings. 

There is no need to show too much fuss when your betta start their flaring activity cause it may just be a natural thing to them as well. 

You should also not worry if you just purchased your betta cause you will see more of the flaring before he becomes used to their surrounding. 

It is a different issue if you also notice them doing it more often for no apparent reason, when there is no one to show aggression to and when they are previously at ease living in the tank. There may be another problem they are facing, and as an owner, make sure to find out why.