Are Mirrors Good or Bad for Betta Fish?

Mirrors are good for betta fish in moderation and are great for exercise and to stave off boredom. Excess mirror use or having a mirror in the tank full time isn’t recommended, since it can make the betta stressed. 

One of the most unique aspects of owning a betta is getting to see them flare, spreading their beautiful fins wide and showing off. This behavior is actually a territorial display and happens most often when they get a good look at their reflection.

Showing a mirror to your betta is one of the best ways to make them flare, but is it bad to show them their reflection? As with most things in fish keeping, moderation is key.

Are Mirrors Bad For Betta Fish?

Mirrors are not bad for betta fish. In fact, when used sparingly, they can be a great form of exercise for the betta.

When a betta flares at a mirror, it is reacting to its own reflection. Bettas flare as a territorial display, and when they see their reflection, they think it’s another betta that they have to scare off.

Showing your betta its reflection in the mirror once a day, or a few times a week, is a great way to keep them from becoming too bored and it helps them get in some much-needed exercise.

Bettas are extremely smart fish, and when they are left for long periods of time in an environment with minimal stimulation they can become bored, and boredom brings on unwanted behaviors like glass surfing and fin nipping. Letting your betta flare in a mirror is a great way to keep them entertained.

There’s a big difference between a once-daily mirror exercise routine and leaving a mirror in the tank, though. Constantly being exposed to a mirror will make a betta stressed out and exhausted from trying to defend its territory from what it perceives as an enemy that can never be reached.

Use a mirror with your betta once a day and keep an eye out for any signs of stress from the fish for the best results.

Betta Fish

What Do Mirrors Do for Bettas?

A mirror makes a betta think that there is another fish in their tank that they need to scare off by flaring their fins.

There are 3 main things that a mirror does for a betta:

  • Promotes natural behavior: When we keep fish, we are constantly trying to mimic their natural habitats and behaviors to keep them happy. Flaring is an example of one of these natural behaviors.
  • Helps the betta get out extra aggression: Bettas can be kept as community fish when they are paired with the right types of fish, but if they become too bored or agitated, they can bully their tank mates. Flaring at a mirror daily helps to alleviate these frustrations and keep them more peaceful to their tank mates.
  • Prevents boredom: If a betta becomes bored enough, they can begin to exhibit negative behaviors like glass surfing and nipping of their own fins. A mirror is just one way to provide entertainment to keep your betta happy.

Some owners even report that using a mirror to help their betta flare can help when the fish is constipated. The action of flaring stretches the muscles of the betta’s body enough that they can have a bowel movement even if they were previously stopped up.

How Often Should I Put a Mirror in My Betta Tank?

While a mirror is a great way to break up the monotony for your betta, too much mirror time can become problematic. You can put a mirror in your betta’s tank daily for 30 seconds to 1 minute, but never exceed 5 minutes of mirror time.

With a mirror, we want to encourage natural behavior without causing stress. Thinking that another fish has entered their territory can be upsetting to your betta, but when we limit mirror time to just a short daily stint, we can avoid problematic levels of stress.

Your betta will get the benefits of a daily flaring session while also still believing they were able to scare off their fake opponent quickly.

Never leave a mirror in your betta tank full time! If your betta is under the impression that there is constantly another fish in their tank, they will be in a state of agitation. In this state, your fish will be extra aggressive to other tank mates and may even stop eating as they become more and more obsessed with defending their territory. Be very careful not to overdo mirror time.

Another thing to watch for is accidental mirrors, which means reflective surfaces in your betta’s tank they can see their reflection in. Some decorations or tank backdrops can be mirror-like, and just like having a mirror in the tank constantly, a reflective surface can cause stress in your fish. Remove these objects if possible.

Do Betta Fish Like Mirrors?

The things that we have to do to keep ourselves healthy aren’t always something we enjoy, and the same can be said for mirror time and bettas. Bettas don’t like mirrors, but the benefits of occasionally flaring at their reflection outweigh the momentary unhappiness they experience looking at a mirror.

It might seem cruel to upset your betta once a day by forcing them to see their own reflection, but it’s actually important that they have an opportunity to flare in a controlled environment once in a while. It’s much better for your betta to be angry at themselves in the mirror instead of taking their aggression out on innocent tank mates, or even their own tails if they become too bored.

In Conclusion

Mirrors aren’t bad for bettas. In fact, mirrors can be great for your betta’s health and wellbeing when used correctly. Limit the amount of time that your betta comes into contact with a mirror, watch for stress, and make sure to never leave a mirror in your betta’s tank full time.