Q: FN Wrote,
Should I get my betta a flare buddy so he won’t be depressed?
A: Flare buddies are a bit of a misnomer. Male bettas are territorial by nature. This is an instinctual pattern imprinted in their DNA designed for the survival of the species. When mating, healthy aggressive male bettas bully away their weaker competitors ensuring that the strongest genes survive. After spawning it is the males that protect the bubble nest from predators and raise the fry in their earliest days. Male bettas do not view other males as “friends” but instead as dangerous advisories intending to harm their young.
Allowing your male betta to view other males isn’t all bad. In their natural environment they would encounter other males on occasion and it is all right to introduce your betta to others to replicate these interactions. It’s never recommended to place two bettas in the same tank where they can harm each other. Instead, you can place their tanks close together for a few minutes a day or simply hold up a mirror to mislead your betta into thinking his reflection is a competing male. You can also set up a tank with a mesh divider and place a male on each side. If you go with this type of system it’s recommended that you include a variety of plants and hiding places on each side of the divider so that the the bettas only occasionally view each other. This can be achieved inexpensively in a standard 10 gallon tank.
Only healthy males should be visually exposed to other males. Do not stress already sick bettas by showing them other males or their reflections. If your betta is consistently lethargic it is more likely that the cause is an environmental one and not emotional. Betta brains are considerably more simplified then are own and are probably not capable of depression in the human understanding. If you are concerned about enrichment consider feeding your betta live foods, adding other non-betta tank mates or occasionally rearranging the decor. It’s unknown if these benefit the betta from an enrichment perspective but they are safe alternatives to constant exposure to other males.
For more information on betta flare buddies read Flare Buddies, Friend or Foe?