Betta fish are often considered solitary fish, generally because of male bettas’ highly aggressive and territorial nature toward other males, so do betta fish like mirrors, or will they become just as aggressive at their own reflection?
Betta mirrors are commonly used for exercise. Betta fish may become aggressive at the sight of their own reflection and will instinctively flare their fins, but shows of aggression are a natural behavior and potentially good exercise. A betta mirror can provide this without risk of injury through fighting another fish.
Betta fish are called Siamese Fighting fish because they are very territorial and aggressive, with the potential for fighting (sometimes to the death). Betta owners are always advised to keep male bettas in separate tanks.
Some betta aquariums will be partitioned into 2 or 3 separate tanks with glass dividers, but the fish can still see each other through the glass. In fact, fish do not see the glass as a solid barrier but rather as somewhat translucent. Owners of these types of tanks are often advised to use a more solid partition to block the view of other male bettas in the adjacent tanks.
Make sure to check out our Betta Fish Care Guide.
Do Betta Fish Like Mirrors
In most cases, betta fish do like mirrors, but usually, an adjustment period is required while they get used to it. Each betta fish will behave differently toward something new in their tank, and the reflection they see may be treated as friendly or a threat to its space.
A mirror should be treated like a toy, providing some entertainment and exercise. Betta fish have a pretty boring life with little to do, so adding a mirror to your betta’s tank can provide something to focus on and engage with.
In most cases, betta fish adjust well to mirrors and are more curious than threatened.
Can Betta Fish Recognize Their Reflection?
Betta fish are pretty intelligent as fish go, but understanding that what they see in a mirror is only a reflection of themselves is asking a little much. Maybe over time, they will understand to some degree, or maybe they will just realize the reflection is not a threat, but generally, betta fish are not overly concerned by their own reflection.
There will always be exceptions to this, and I know of a couple of reports where betta fish have been aggressive toward the mirror. However, in all cases, it was due to other issues, such as bullying from another tank mate or the betta in its mating season.
Do Bettas Get Lonely
Because betta fish are often kept on their own, the question “Do betta fish get lonely” is quite common.
In their natural habitat, betta fish frequently come across their own species in the waters they inhabit and flare up to protect their territory or a potential mate. This behavior may be considered stressful for betta fish, but it is very natural, and it could be considered more unkind to keep them confined and away from their own species.
A betta that sees its own reflection will react the same way as if they have seen another betta and will instinctively want to chase them away from its territory. The benefit of using a mirror is that the betta cannot do much harm when fighting its own reflection, and it certainly would not be a devastating fight to the death.
If you do not keep your betta in a community tank setup with easy-going tank mates or with other bettas of the opposite sex, a mirror may be of some comfort to them and will help activate some of their natural instincts.
So I have mentioned that bettas will flare at other bettas, and it’s a very natural behavior for them, but what is flaring, and why do they do it?
Why Do Betta Fish Flare At Their Reflection
When betta fish flare, they open their gill covers and expose the bright coloration on each side of the body. Bettas don’t necessarily do this because there is another betta in view, but it can signify that one is present somewhere nearby, and they are trying to make themselves look as big as possible to scare off the threat.
Betta flaring is an aggressive show of gill flickering that occurs when the fish detects a danger. When male bettas establish claimed territories or mating partners, they exhibit this flared gill behavior. Fighting is often limited to flaring gills and spreading of their brightly colored fins.
In worst-case scenarios, betta flaring can progress to a serious and devastating fight to the death, which is what Siamese Fighting fish are best known for.
The first time I ever saw my betta flare aggressively was when he spotted his own reflection in the glass, and since then, he has done this whenever he sees something that reminds him of another betta fish.
Betta fish flaring is also a way to communicate with one another at close range, and it’s often worth considering flaring as a courting behavior. When a male betta is trying to get attention from a female betta, some flaring will occur along with some dancing and showing off its brightly colored fin plumage.
Is Flaring Bad For Bettas
If a betta is flaring because they are feeling threatened, they may become stressed, and this can be considered bad for them. However, if the flaring is part of their courtship behavior, the opposite is true.
Betta fish sometimes flare for no obvious reason other than to stretch out their muscles. A betta fish that doesn’t get enough exercise, for example, will flare more often even when there are no threats present. Flaring can also ease constipation in betta fish.
When bettas flare due to pent-up energy or boredom, adding a small mirror into the fish tank is an excellent idea and will be great exercise for them.
What Is A Betta Fish Exercise Mirror
A betta exercise mirror may be a good option to try, and you will find them in many pet stores and fish stores. In fact, you will be surprised how much exercise equipment is available for your pet fish.
You can get a floating ball that will amuse your betta fish for many hours. They are often multicolored and will spin when your betta pushes them around the tank. A cheaper option is to make your own from a ping-pong ball.
Zoo Med is a company that sells many types of exercise equipment for betta fish, such as a floating exercise mirror. The mirror is suspended from a floating ball and will therefore float around the tank. It reduces boredom brought on from captivity, helps your betta exercise its fins by flaring, and aids in more natural behavior.
The Zoo Med Exercise mirror is not expensive, and many people that own one have reported much more sociable behavior from their betta fish.
Betta Fish Exercise Mirror
You won’t really know how your betta will react to a mirror until you try one, but you may find that your betta loves it. Don’t be concerned if your betta flares at it, as this behavior is expected, although to begin with, I would try it for short periods, which will avoid too much stress.
Watch your betta from a distance to gauge its reaction to the mirror. A bored betta will soon be swimming around your betta tank quite vigorously, and I am sure you will enjoy watching its natural behavior when your betta sees the mirror.
If you do find that your betta becomes very aggressive over time, this will likely pass and be replaced by curiosity, but I would advise you to check there are no sharp edges anywhere within the tank, which could cause injury.
There are many toys made specifically for betta fish, some found in fish stores and a very good variety found online. Bettas will definitely react well to most toys, and they are an excellent way to relieve boredom.
Mirrors may be useful in various ways for your bettas, including viewing themselves from different angles, giving them company when they are bored, and providing them with some exercise. However, because all fish have their own personalities, it will be difficult to say with certainty whether betta fish like mirrors.
My bettas loved their mirrors once they got used to them, and many betta owners have used them with great success.