All About The Zebra Danio Fish

If you’re a complete beginner in the aquarium industry, this post is just for you.

Today, I will talk about the Zebra danio aquarium fish with a high energy level and extra mild temperament that is both; easy to keep and breed, even for novice aquarists. Therefore, in this article, we will discuss everything about Zebra danios.

Let’s go!

A Brief Overview Of The Zebra Danio Fish

Scientific NameDanio rerio
Common NamesStriped danio, zebra danio, zebrafish
FamilyCyprinidae
OriginEastern India, Bhutan, and Bangladesh
DietOmnivore
Care LevelVery easy
ActivityVery active
Lifespan3 – 5 years
TemperamentPeaceful
Tank LevelAll levels
Minimum Tank Size10 gallons
Temperature Range72 ° to 81 °F
Water Hardness5 to 12 d GH
pH Range6.5 to 7.0
Filtration/Water FlowModerate
Water TypeFreshwater
BreedingEgg layer
Difficulty to BreedEasy
CompatibilityCommunity tanks
OK, for Planted Tanks?Yes

What are Zebra danios?

What Does A Zebra Danio Look Like

Zebra Danio, colloquially known as the Zebra fish are very popular freshwater fish that originates from Eastern India and Bangladesh. Zebra Danios prefer cold water temperatures, but they are known to survive a wide range of temperatures from as low as 39.2°F to 77°F. In essence, despite being cool water fish, zebra danio enjoys both color or tropical aquarium settings.

Origin and Habitat

The very exciting part about Zebra danios is that they don’t have one natural habitat. In fact, the natural habitat of zebra danios varies according to the seasons because they enjoy the warm water of around 82°F in summers, and cold waters of around 60°F in winters. Thus, I recommend this fish species to beginners as they are hardy fish, especially when it comes to maintaining water temperature.

Since they are tropical fish, Zebra danios mainly originate from the tropical waters in India, Bangladesh, and Bhutan, where they are primarily found in slow-flowing rivers and streams.

Appearance

In a community tank, it is very easy to recognize zebra danio because of their distinctive zebra-like horizontal bluish-black and white stripes spread from gill to tail. The display of these horizontal stripes is so adorable that it propels the spectators to gaze at the display aquariums.

Zebra danios have slender, slim, silver-gold, compressed bodies accentuated with the barrels at the end of their lips and their unique appearance with horizontal stripes reminds you of zebras in the wild. This is the reason why I adore this fish species so much.

Zebra danios are small fish, reaching a maximum length of around 2.5 inches in captivity. However, in their natural habitat, they might get a few inches longer.

Types of Zebra Danio

Based on the colors, markings, and patterns, zebra danios come in various varieties.

Long fin Zebra danio

Unlike the typical zebra fish, this variety has long, flowy fins with a beautiful long tail.

The Leopard danios

Leopard Danio in Planted Tank

Leopard danios are also very popular in the freshwater aquarium industry, however, they are not true danio species. Unlike other types of zebra danio such as Albino, golden, veil-tailed, and long-finned zebra danios, leopard danios are a variation of zebra fish that crosses with zebra danios, producing young, fertile fry. The care for leopard danios is similar to zebra fish. However, they are quite different in terms of appearance. The leopard type is easily distinguished by the dominant distribution of black spots over the entire body.

There are other types of zebra danios such as neon zebra danio or GloFish zebra danios that come in a variety of colors including Sunburst Orange, Galactic Purple, and Starfire Red, Electric Green, and Cosmic Blue.

Albino varieties feature whitish-gold bodies with red eyes. Albino zebra danio is very rare in the natural habitat or in the wild. But they are easily available in the fish stores.

No matter what coloration, patterns, and markings your zebra danios adorn, if they are stressed, they will lose all their coloration. So, make sure you don’t stress these creatures out.

Average Size

They are small freshwater fish that reaches the ideal length of around 2 to 2.5 inches in length. For this reason, they make great tank mates for small community tank fish that entertain other small, yet peaceful species.

Zebra Danio Care

Though Danios are some of the hardiest fish you can ever keep. But besides being robust, active, and easy to care for, zebra danio requires some basic amenities that add to their comfort and necessities.

In this section, I’ll discuss everything about Zebra danio care — From zebra danio tank size, setup, water parameters, and plants to potential diseases they carry.

Aquarium Setup

Naturally, zebra danios are bottom-dwelling fish with a preference for moving waters. Since danios are schooling fish that are highly active fish, mostly favoring mid to upper levels of the tank, I recommend providing them with free swimming space along with lots of aquarium plants and hiding places to add to their activity level.

Tank Size

Zebra danios are small schooling fish, but they enjoy lots and lots of free-swimming space. Therefore, even though they can survive in a 5 gallon tank, they need at least a 10 gallon tank to flourish and move around freely. Also, they are active fish, so a heavily planted tank with lots of live plants and hiding places would do justice to their inquisitiveness.

Water Parameters

It’s a blessing in disguise for beginner aquarists that zebra danios are not very finicky when it comes to water temperature. However, experts suggest neutral to slightly alkaline water for zebra danios to thrive better.

The optimal water temperature for zebra danio is around 72º Fahrenheit to 81º Fahrenheit (22.2 to 27º Celsius). But they can withstand temperatures anywhere from 62º to 93º F.

The recommended pH range of your zebra danio tank should be around 6.5 to 8.0, and the hardness of the water should be between 10 to 20 dH. If the hardness goes below 6, there are high chances of mortality in zebra danios.

Filtration and Aeration

You need a strong filter to clean all the aquarium mess and remove toxins and germs released from zebra danio poop. Also, an aquarium filter is a great investment that encourages aeration and removes carbon dioxide from the water and adds oxygen to the water through the air.

If you have a large tank, it is imperative to install filters to circulate the water properly and avoid dead spots and algae spikes in your fish tank. Zebra danios, like most fish, love to swim against the water flow, and an aquarium filter just that to keep your danios happy and healthy.

Zebra danios cannot withstand toxins, such as ammonia and nitrites. Therefore, I recommend changing the water partially on a regular basis to remove nitrates and add fresh minerals to reduce the chances of stress and other fish illnesses.

Recommended Filters for Small Tank

If you have a small tank, I suggest installing an internal filter that effortlessly cleans the tank with superior-quality sponge filters.

I’ve seen many seasoned aquarists using internal filters in large, heavily stocked tanks as a secondary filter because it provides mechanical and biological water filtration with minimal maintenance.

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Recommended Filters for Large Tank

For a large zebra danios aquarium, nothing would work better than a Hang On Back or canister filter because they have a tendency to clean large volumes of water in a short span. HOB or canister filters also give you the leverage to customize the filter media and you can add lots of media for maximum cleansing.

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Also, they allow you to add a variety of foams, including coarse, medium, or fine foam to trap the tiniest particles and allow you to add various bio media for the removal of active toxins in your tank such as ammonia and nitrites. Adding nitrate removers will allow you to wipe your tank clean of nitrates.

Lighting

A dimly lit aquarium with adjustable LED lights would do good for Zebra danios. If you have a heavily planted tank, specialized aquarium lighting is essential for the development of aquarium plants.

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If you have a neon zebra danio A.K.A GloFish zebra danio, then you need blue light to showcase those beautiful neon colors on your valuable danio.

Aquatic Plants and Decorations

Plants add to your beautiful aquarium landscape. Also, zebra danios appreciate live plants so much. However, if you’re not gentle with live plants, it is okay to use plastic or artificial plants. Plants such as Java fern and Amazon sword are suggested to keep in a Zebra danio aquarium as they help in oxygen circulation

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Apart from plants, zebra danio enjoys the presence of decorations as well such as driftwood and pebbles to mimic the rocks and roots in their natural habitat. Plants and decorations also provide your zebra danios with lots of hiding places that might minimize the territorial behavior of your fish with other tank mates.

Tank Maintenance

Unlike most freshwater fish, the care and tank maintenance for zebra danios is not difficult at all. You just need a regular routine and mindful dedication to water changes and routine filter maintenance.

Always remember, despite being a hardy freshwater fish, poor hygiene and tank conditions might cause irreversible damage and stress to your fish and shorten their life span.

Poor hygiene and improper tank maintenance can also result in algae outbreaks and other fatal fish diseases.

Substrate

Substrate adds the natural look to zebra danios’ artificial habitat. Therefore, a soft sandy or muddy substrate with small pebbles or gravel is recommended for their tank.

I also advise getting a darker-colored substrate to flaunt the vibrant colors of these shoaling fish.

Community Tank Mates

In a community tank, I suggest adding at least four to six zebra danios because they feel the most comfortable around this number.

But there are many other suitable tank mates for zebra danios such as:

  1. Rainbow Fish
  2. Peaceful Barbs
  3. Gouramis
  4. Yoyo loaches
  5. Corydoras catfish and Plecostomus catfish
  6. White cloud mountain minnows
  7. Most tetras

Incompatible Tank Mates

Avoid slow-moving, long-finned fish like Guppies, Endlers livebearers, and Siamese Fighting Fish.

If you’re planning to introduce Bettas as tank mates in an aquarium, I recommend avoiding them. Danios are dither fish, which means they are extremely active. Their overactive nature will stress out a Betta fish and the Danio may nip the long fins of your Betta out of boredom.

Breeding

This might surprise you but Zebra danios mate for life even after the death of the other mate. Therefore, if you plan to use them for breeding purposes, first identify the true matches and isolate them in the breeding tank.

Zebra danios are generally very easy to breed because it is a schooling fish that prefers to stay in a group of at least five or six suitable tank mates that are equally peaceful and active as danios.

One intriguing part about these fish is the male danio mostly spawns with just one female fish and stays loyal to it (video source).

Breeding Tank Requirements

Though breeding zebra danios is easy as a breeze, still there should be some preparations in a separate breeding tank to carry out the process smoothly. The breeding tank should have fine leaf plants and a layer of marbles to facilitate breeding and spawning.

One more thing to consider is to place the female fish a few days before the male fish. This is to relax her and settle her down before the male arrives. After a few days, when the male is added to the spawning tank, it is recommended to put in a few cups of cold water to induce the spawning process. The female fish produce approximately 300 to 400 eggs which are then fertilized by the male fish. These eggs float down to the tank and rest on the marbles so they can be safely hatched.

How to Prepare a Breeding Tank for your Zebra Danio

To prepare a breeding or spawning tank for zebra danios, I recommend adding fine-leaved plants in a 20 to 30-gallon tank. The bottom of the tank should be bare or filled with large marbles or rocks. I also recommend placing a mesh cover on the substrate so your fish don’t end up eating the eggs. Also, I suggest treating your tank water with fungicide on and off to prevent fungus from developing in the aquarium.

The water temperature of the breeding tank should be raised to around 78 degrees before placing the males and females. The females will lay around 200 to 800 eggs if favorable conditions are met. I recommend removing the parents as soon as the breeding and spawning are complete.

The fertilized fry hatch in around 3 days. It is recommended to feed the fry up to seven times a day with any high-quality commercial fry food. Also, you can feed live food for proper nourishment such as live infusoria, liquid fry, and the crushed yolk of a hard-boiled egg, Daphnia, or brine shrimp. Once the fish is all grown up, you can transfer it to the regular and larger aquarium.

Zebra Danio Food and Diet

Zebra danios are omnivorous and in their natural habitat, they usually feed on small insects, worms, crustaceans, and mosquito larvae. You can also feed them live food in captivity, but make sure to ensure cleanliness and hygiene by removing leftover food from the aquarium because it’s the main culprit for excess nutritents.

Feed them high-quality fish flakes, algae wafers, and various vegetables including spinach and cucumber. Zebra danios eat live or frozen food twice a week as an occasional treat to keep them healthy and happy.

How Often Should You Feed Zebra Danios?

Zebra danios are voracious eaters so you should feed them often. Make sure you feed them for at least three minutes every session with fish flake food or pellets.

For adult fish, the feeding schedule should be divided into two periods a day. But remove uneaten food from the fish tank to keep it clean and free of bacteria and viruses.

Fish keepers swear by the floating flake food and frozen foods such as blood worms, mosquito larvae, etc. These frozen foods can easily be found in pet stores.

Common Health Problems and Diseases

Zebra Danios are hardy freshwater fish that normally do not die of diseases if taken good care of. However, if the tank conditions are poor and the water quality is not maintained, they can get common fish diseases such as Ich and Mycobacteriosis.

Ich

Ich is caused by a parasite called Ichthyophthirius multifiliisIt directly affects the upper respiratory tract of the fish leaving white spots on the body. The most common symptoms of Ich are:

  1. Lethargy
  2. Flashing (when fish rubs the skin on hard, rough surfaces)

When the disease is diagnosed, vets recommend quarantining the fish and reducing the water temperature to around 76 or 77°F.

Mycobacteriosis

Mycobacteriosis is a chronic bacterial infection, prevalent in lab colonies1. The common symptoms of mycobacteriosis are:

  1. Lethargy
  2. Anorexia
  3. Inflammation
  4. Ulceration on skin and fins
  5. Edema 
  6. Nodules on internal organs
  7. Deformed muscular or skeletal development

If your fish catches this disease, be sure to cover your open wounds or cuts as it is a zoonotic disease and might transfer to your from an infected fish.

Unfortunately, there’s no treatment for mycobacteriosis yet. You can only avoid the disease by maintaining the water quality and hygiene of your tank.

Differences Between Male and Female Zebra Danio Fish

The male and female zebra danio are visually identical because they are not sexually dimorphic. So, it’s likely impossible to distinguish between the two.

However, a trained eye can distinguish males from females. The males have gold stripes between the blue ones whereas female zebra danios have silver stripes that are larger in the stomach area.

Also, male danios are smaller and slender than females. While breeding, the female body is filled with eggs so it seems like a fully blown balloon, which makes them broader in the belly area than males.

FAQS

How Many Zebra Danios Should Be Together?

Zebra danios are popular freshwater fish that are schooling fish. Therefore, if you want them to thrive, it is recommended to keep them in groups of at least 5. Otherwise, they will stress out and show signs of aggression towards other fish.

How Big Does A Zebra Danio Get?

Zebra danios are popular freshwater fish that are schooling fish. Therefore, if you want them to thrive, it is recommended to keep them in groups of at least 5. Otherwise, they will stress out and show signs of aggression towards other fish.

How Big Does A Zebra Danio Get?

Zebra Danios are small fish that don’t reach beyond 2.5 inches in length in an aquarium setting.

What Is The Lifespan Of A Zebra Danio?

The lifespan of zebra danios highly depends on the quality of lifestyle. However, the average lifespan in captivity is between 3 and 5 years.

Are Zebra Danio Easy To Care For?

Zebra Danios are very easy to keep and breed. They are very flexible to water temperatures and won’t create a fuss at the feeding time.

How Many Zebra Danios Should Be Kept Together?

You can keep as many zebra danios as you want, provided that the tank size is optimal for the group. We recommend keeping at least 5 danios in a tank as zebra danios are schooling fish that seeks solace and security in a group.

However, when keeping multiple fish in the tank, make sure to provide enough tank space and hiding places to cope with the aggression and territorial behavior of males.

Are Zebra Danios Friendly?

Yes, zebra danios are extremely friendly with their compatible tank mates.

What Fish Can Live With Danios?

In an aquarium setting, the compatible tank mates for zebra danios are small fish that are peaceful and compatible with a community tank. You can keep small, community fish such as:

Rainbow Fish
Barbs
Gouramis
Yoyo loaches
Corydoras catfish and Plecostomus catfish
White cloud mountain minnows
Most tetras

What Do Danios Like In Their Tank?

They love tanks mimicking their natural habitat. So, a tank that is heavily planted and big enough to accommodate a school of danios with dim lighting and decorations with lots of swimming room is admired by the danios.

Are Zebra Danios Freshwater Fish?

Yes, zebra danios are freshwater fish, originating from the tropical waters in India, Bangladesh, and Bhutan, where they are primarily found in slow-flowing rivers and streams.

Why Are Zebra Danios Used As A Dither Fish?

Zebra danios are schooling fish kept in a group of 5 or 6. These fish are known to be highly energetic, peaceful, and active swimmers. Therefore, they are commonly used as a dither fish to calm the timid and shy fish in the tank and help them relax.

Final Thoughts

Zebra Danios are easy to care for and highly low-maintenance freshwater fish that needs nothing but good water quality and lots of room for free swimming. However, be informed that they are still prong to get diseases such as Mycobacteriosis that are chronic and highly fatal for the fish. Therefore, it is imperative to maintain the water quality and a good overall diet and feeding to ensure a healthy and happy environment for your Zebra Danios.

by Mark

Mark is the founder of Aquarium Store Depot. He started in the aquarium hobby at the age of 11 and along the way worked at local fish stores. He has kept freshwater tanks, ponds, and reef tanks for over 25 years. His site was created to share his knowledge and unique teaching style on a larger scale. He has worked on making aquarium and pond keeping approachable. Mark has been featured in two books about aquarium keeping - both best sellers on Amazon. Each year, he continues to help his readers and clients with knowledge, professional builds, and troubleshooting.

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