He started flaring at my fan today (of all things.. won't flare at the flare-crazy fish in the tank beside him, but the fan freaked him out..) and I noticed that his flare looks..well...funny!
It looks like one of his gill covers is only half there..and the other is maybe 3/4 there..
So when he flares, it's strange and looks painful!
my betta NEVER flared for the couple of months I had him (Cat killed, someone left the cover off his 10 gal) and the only time he did was when I put a female in there with her in the box. He was so cute trying to get her to come over to his nest.
If your guy has gill problems, he should have trouble breathing. Hope this isn't the reason.
A stressed or "chicken" betta would not flare at other bettas, specially to an active "flare crazy" rival. When he regains his "nerves" he will flare reluctantly- not fully opening his gill covers..... sort of testing will the "other guy" (or in his case - the fan) flare back. Try isolating him for a few days then flare him to a submissive female or a mirror (a mirror will not flare unless he does .... lol).
Often, a once stressed male will always be afraid of certain color/s. Try pointing pens at him (use different colors every time) for a few second. If he doesn't respond, remove it/stop. If he responds, remove the pen in a way so that he thinks its swimming away.
for the longest time, i thought King Louie was just being a court dandy when he flat-out refused to flare at his mirror.
then, one evening, i noticed something odd.. all the lights were out except for the one in his tank, and he was puffing up over and over.. he'd approach the side of his tank, flare for all he was worth, shake his tail and dart away, only to repeat it a fraction of a second later.
oh, at this point i started giggling.. what a sight it was, my little Louie! suddenly he saw me and quickly started in on his "FEED ME" dance, like that's what he was doing all along. ever since then, the only time i could ever see him flare was when i would sneak up on him.
MY LOUIE IS A CLOSET FLARER!!
His breathing seems fine, he just flares weird. I put him in view of a new female I got and he flared and flared at her, but his flaring was still odd.. definitely a deformity.
my first betta, Io, had been kept in horrid conditions when i first saw him. i didn't even realize there was anything living in the bilge until i saw him wriggle against the side, it was that murky. i conspired with my coworkers to steal him, and his "owner" didn't even notice. his gill covers were like that, kinda lopsided. one was at a constant half-flare and his mouth was scarred from ammonia.. as were the scales on his head and face. he had once been a rich red with blue iridescence (his previous owner had moved overseas and had entrusted him to this vile person, i remember what he used to look like), but now he was covered in ammonia burns. he lived for quite a while after i took him, and passed away a spoiled rotten old man (we calculated he was about 5 at that point).
Wow, Echo, it sounds like a lot of your coworkers shouldn't have bettas. :( But Io was very lucky and 5 years is really old for a betta. It looks like his eyes had some permanent cloudiness from all that bad water, too. The poor guy, who knows how long he was wriggling against that glass waiting for someone to notice him? I think you're the hero of a lot of your office bettas.