Angry Titan (RIP), originally uploaded by c4lin.

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.

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Reader Interactions


  1. Anonymous says:

    Betta Care 101thanks! i didn’t know that dark background cause more reflection.

  2. Anonymous says:

    that is soe good advice but what if your betta doesnt flare at all and it is a male?

  3. Anonymous says:

    My betta is flaring for this reason, but he jerks and looks like he’s having some real trouble, I feel bad leaving him in there. Do you think he will stop on his own?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Hi! We recently upgraded out Betta to a ten gallon, filtered glass aquarium. The only issue is, the poor little guy can’t see anything other than his reflection.
    I don’t know what it is that’s causing the inside of our tank to become a one-way mirror, but it’s really stressing the little guy out. Any ideas on what we can do to help?! Or will he just get over it, as many have suggested?

    • Lynne says:

      I put some landscape film for aquariums across the back and ROSE colored Reynolds Seal-Tight plastic wrap across the sides. The ROSE color seemed to work at preventing the mirrored effect. The inside looks pink but you can still see into the tank from the outside. I tried the green and purple colored plastic wrap but the reflection still showed with those colors. Just spritz some water and apply the Rose plastic wrap to the tank. My Betta was flaring at the reflection till I applied the plastic wrap.

  5. Michelle says:

    Hi! I just got a Betta about two or three days ago..its my second fish but the first was when I was to little to really take care of it by myself so I’m not that experienced. I plan to upgrade my Betta to a larger tank as soon as possible, but for now he’s in a one gallon bowl. The first couple of days I had him, he just lazily swam around some, but I came home today and he was thrashing around like crazy. I looked closer and realized he was seeing his own reflection. He sees himself in every wall and is really getting worked up. I hate seeing him like that but I don’t know what do. I tried everything you suggested up there. Should I just buy a different bowl? Please help.

    • Christie F. says:

      There is really no guarantee that buying another fish tank will fix the problem. I’d hate to see you spend a lot of money and not have a good fix. I’d give him a few days to relax. He is very new and hasn’t really acclimated to his surroundings yet. One thing you can do if he doesn’t calm in a week or so, is plant a line of tall aquatic plants (real or silk) around the sides of the tank to block his view. Provide him positive desecrations like a bubble wand and/or give him a good place to hide with drift wood or a ceramic pot as a retreat when he doesn’t feel like fighting off his reflection.

    • Rena says:

      Mine too! It doesn’t feel nice to leave him in like that. He is in direct sunlight, so maybe I could move his bowl? Help!

      • Kayla says:

        Your not supposed to put Betta fish in direct sunlight

  6. Angie says:

    My male betta is in a 10 gallon tank. He has live plants, caves, and driftwood in his tank. I have a planted background on the back of my tank.
    He has a heater and filter. He gets water changes every week.
    He flares at his reflection in the glass, after I did all that. I’m just worried because I was told that if they flared too much, they get holes in their tails.

    • Christie F. says:

      They call this a “blow out“, when a betta gets a small hole in his tail, presumable from too much flaring. I wouldn’t worry too much about it as lots of bettas flare without getting a serious blow-out. When blow-outs happen, they are typically very minor (pin size holes) that are fully healed again in a day or two. If your betta is experiencing frequent and severe fin tearing or holes, then there are a variety of options available for prevention and treatment.

  7. Lauren says:

    I just got a male veil tail betta and bought him a 3 gallon tank with 2 hiding spots and a large plant section also, but we just realized the two short sides of the tank have a one way mirror. He doesnt seem to be really attacking his reflection but he is definitely very interested in it. He does scope out other parts of the tank and swim around but he also spends a good amount of time at the sides swimming up and down and sometimes flaring out under his gill. He’s only been in the tank for a few hours but I’m worried this is adding a lot of stress and or that it will bring about long term problems and stress. Should I buy a background just for the sides? Should I wait a few days? I just want him to be happy and calm. Thank you!!

    • Christie F. says:

      Flaring at what he thinks is another male betta is normal and natural behavior. It only becomes an issue if he continuously flares and never seems to relax. As long as he has hiding spots where he can get away from “the threat” it shouldn’t be too much of an issue. Give it a few days at least, most bettas will get used to seeing their reflection. If after several days he is still flaring relentlessly, then I would suggest adding a tank background to the sides. Select one that is a busy image (lots of plants or rocks). Solid backgrounds often don’t hide the reflection well.

  8. Spencer says:

    Hey thank you for the info. I just got my Betta into a new tank and he seems to have a problem with his reflection, he is not flaring, but he is swimming up and down the side walls chasing it. I will give it a few days and see how he turns out.

    • bettaman says:

      best way to stop reflection flaring is to go to a hobby shop and get some glass etching compound. before you set up the tank give the inside a quick wipe over with it on the 3 sides you won’t be looking through. then quickly rinse it out. this stuff takes the reflecting polished surface off a bit and dulls it. don’t leave it on for too long you don’t want to turn it to an opaque matt finish just take off a bit of the surface sheen.
      (works like a charm). your betta will then come to the front of the tank and interact with you instead of his own reflection.
      this alone is worth the effort.

      • Mel says:

        Is it safe for the betta

  9. KAR says:

    is it a problem then if my betta fish no longer flares if he sees his refelxion in the mirror, because i have added plenty of things to his bowl to keep him some what happy( sorry im a broke high schooler) and i have it in a warm location, i do the water changes often,and i feed him twice a day no more then 4 pellets. i stuck the mirror infront of his bowl once and he completely ignored it, is he ok??? also what are the signs of that tail rotting disease, he seems to have this stuff on his and i dont know what to do about it… 🙁 help please….

  10. Julie says:

    Great site! But my red halfmoon male, is gaining some black on his side… Is this normal or is this a disease?? Please help!! He’s acting fine oither than sometimes flaring at his tank.

  11. Vee says:

    For betta fish, the tank needs to be heated or not necissary?

  12. Vee says:

    Also…i have four in one tank, I was told if all are female its ok but I noticed when I brought them home all three were veiltail and one crowntail, does that matter? The dif one seems to be on its own and out of place

  13. bob the big blue betta's mom says:

    Whew! Moved bob into a beautiful 15 gallon last weekend, but every time I turned the light on he flipped out. Lucky google search at lunch led me here, came home and removed the lovely black background. Bob is now happily exploring his well-lit palace. Thanks!

  14. katelyn says:

    I bought a male betta about a month ago and i change his water about once a week but i changed it today and he tarted flaring for the first time and wouldnt stop. I shut off the light on his take and i this he has settled down but i dont understand why he is so stressed after that cleaning!

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  16. Lisa says:

    I got a new Male Betta a couple weeks ago and I’ve been struggling to find Good advice for his care, specially his water changes. I bought him a 5 gallon tank with a light, filter, and made the perfect setup for him using silk plants and hideouts. I was told at the petstore I can use well water with conditioner but I wasn’t comfortable doing that. I felt that is was best not to do that due to the fact that it stains and ruins my brand new sinks. Could only imagine my fish in that. Anyways I bought distilled water and conditioned it, then slowly acclimated him to his new tank. First week he seemed fine loving his tank but now he seems freaked out all the time and at unease. Also has ripped his fin, and overall to me doesnt look very healthy. He eats and swims and had a bubble nest but I noticed a big change with his appearance. Not sure what to do. I have done water testing strip, came back fine, bought pretty much everything I could think of. Has anyone experienced this? No matter how hard i try i cant seem to Have a healthy fish. I feel like Ive became a crazy fish mom:/

    • Marlene says:

      Distilled water lacks important minerals and shouldn’t be used for Bettas.

  17. Sam says:

    I’ve had my betta for months and only recently has he seemed to be stressed. Flaring a lot, not moving away from one corner. He has hiding spots and fake plants. 2.5 gallon tank. I think it’s affecting his health too. Please help.

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