Q: L wrote,
I got a betta for Christmas this year and he won’t stop flaring. I upgraded the small bowl he came in for a larger, 2 ½ gallon tank with a mini-heater. I think he can see his reflection in the glass. Is there anything I can do? I don’t want him to get stressed out.
A: Male bettas will often mistake their reflections in the aquarium glass for a rival male fish and will attempt to defend their territory by flaring. This is really common when moving them into a new tank and in most cases they will stop after a couple of days as they get used to their new surroundings. Occasional flaring is normal and healthy behavior. If your betta flares constantly and doesn’t stop after a few days, then there are some simple things you can do to reduce the reflection and put your fish at ease.
Often the easiest fix is to adjust the light. The reflection is caused by the angle at which the light is hitting the glass. Often turning the tank or moving it to another location will fix the problem. Also, the background color outside the aquarium can enhance or reduce his ability to see his reflection. Darker colors show the reflection more than light colors. Keeping the tank away from walls or nearer light colored walls will be better then keeping it against a dark wall. Also, attaching a scenic image to the back of the aquarium glass will often camouflage reflections as well. Most fish stores carry aquarium backdrop images you can tape to the outside of the tank. While a solid blue or black backdrop will worsen the reflections, images of aquarium plants or rocks will hide the reflection.
Adding live or silk plants is a great way to break up the sightlines between your betta and his reflection. I like adding live Java Ferns myself all throughout the tank. They are inexpensive, require little care and are found at most local fish stores. Bettas love planted aquariums and can often be seen swimming through the vegetation or resting on a plant leaf. When plants are kept healthy, they can help reduce toxins in the aquarium. I will warn you though, once you plant your first aquarium you’ll love how it looks so much that you will quickly look to add more planted aquariums to your home. Planted aquariums can be as addictive as keeping bettas.