Zebra Danio Tank Mates – 21 Great Choices (With Pictures)

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Zebra danios are one of the easiest fish to keep in the freshwater aquarium hobby, but they’re a little more limited by suitable tank mates than other species. These are fast-moving, active schooling fish that need cooler water temperatures. Not every species of tropical fish can withstand such activity or water parameters.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about zebra danio care and some of their best tank mate pairings!

Key Takeaways

  • The zebra danio is a hardy, active fish that can be kept with a variety of species.
  • These fish do best in a coldwater setup but can be acclimated to warmer conditions.
  • Some of the best zebra danio tank mates are tetras, rasboras, and corydoras.
  • Tank mate species to avoid include bettas, aggressive cichlids, and fish with large mouths.

Intro

Before we can talk about tank mates, we need to understand zebra danio care.

Zebra danios, scientifically known as Danio rerio, are highly adaptable freshwater fish native to many regions throughout Asia. These fish can be found in cold to hot fast-moving or stagnant conditions across India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Bhutan; they have been introduced to many other regions of the world, including South America and North America. They usually live alongside vegetation but don’t rely on it for survival1.

Zebra-Danio

These freshwater fish grow to be about 1 to 2 inches on average and are named after the alternating silver and bluish-black horizontal stripes along the sides of their body. They have a torpedo-shaped body that helps propel them through the water.

Zebra danios are a very important species for science. They are considered a scientific model organism, which allows for many avenues of biological study. In fact, a zebra danio has even been sent to outer space! Interestingly, there is also evidence that zebra danios have memory, which means that they may experience some level of consciousness.

Tank Size

It is no wonder why the zebra danio is a favorite addition to the aquarium setting due to its high adaptability. These are easy-to-keep fish that bring a lot of movement to the upper portions of the aquarium.

Zebra danios are a schooling fish, which means that you need to allow space for at least 6 or more individuals. In general, a school of zebra danios can comfortably fit in a 10 gallon aquarium with minimal other fish. However, a 20 gallon long aquarium will allow for a bigger school as well as other tank mates.

Water Temperature

One of the most important aspects to keep in mind when keeping zebra danios is their need for cooler water conditions. While these peaceful fish have been documented across a 50 degree range, they seem to do best when the water temperature is kept stable between 65-82° F.

The Top Zebra Danio Tank Mates

Now that we have some understanding of where zebra danios come from and how they live in both their natural habitat and in the aquarium, we can start to consider some tank mate options.

The best zebra danio tank mates will be able to live with an active fish in colder-than-normal water temperatures.

1. Harlequin Rasboras

  • Scientific Name: Trigonostigma heteromorpha
  • Tank Size: 10 gallons
  • Adult Size: 1-2 inches
  • Water Temperature: 71-80° F
  • Temperament: Peaceful

Harlequin rasboras are small, colorful orange and black fish that resemble tetras. They are schooling fish that need to be kept in groups of at least 6 or more. Together, they are active swimmers that will stay in the middle portions of the aquarium.

With more active fish, like the zebra danio, harlequin rasboras may school tighter together and be less active. However, with a larger tank, the two species will complement each other in terms of activity and color.

2. Cory Catfish

Albino Cory Catfish
  • Scientific Name: Corydoras spp.
  • Tank Size: 10 gallons
  • Adult Size: 1-5 inches
  • Water Temperature: 70-80° F
  • Temperament: Peaceful

There are many different species of corydoras available in the aquarium hobby, coming in a variety of sizes. These are bottom-dwelling fish that like to school far away from zebra danios at the top of the water column. This distance, in addition to cories preferring slightly cooler-than-normal water conditions, makes them a good pairing for zebra danios.

Some of the most popular Corydoras options include the bronze cory (Corydoras aeneus), pygmy cory (Corydoras pygmaeus), panda cory (Corydoras panda), and Sterba’s cory (Corydoras sterbai).

3. Mollies

Sailfin Molly in Aquarium
  • Scientific Name: Poecilia spp.
  • Tank Size: 15 gallons
  • Adult Size: 3-5 inches
  • Water Temperature: 72-82° F
  • Temperament: Peaceful to semi-aggressive

Mollies are one of the most popular freshwater fish. Mollies are large fish that come in almost every color, with many different varieties available.

They not true schooling fish, but they do enjoy the company of at least two to three others. This, in addition to their size, means that they are good feature fish for tanks over 10 gallons.

It is important to note that while mollies are often seen as community tank fish, they are capable of showing aggression to other fish and each other, especially if there are multiple males in the tank during breeding times. They also prefer the upper portions of the water column. Because of this, it’s important to watch how your mollies and zebra danios interact.

4. Swordtails

Swordtail Fish in Planted Tank
  • Scientific Name: Xiphophorus hellerii
  • Tank Size: 20 gallons
  • Adult Size: 3-6
  • Water Temperature: 64-82 °F
  • Temperament: Peaceful to semi-aggressive

Swordtails are very similar to mollies in terms of color, activity, and behavior. These fish come in all different color variations and are easily recognized by their extended tail fin. They can also be kept in cooler water temperatures.

These fish are not a schooling species but exhibit shoaling behaviors in small groups with one male and several females. Swordtails are relatively active fish that like to stay in the upper portions of the aquarium. They can become aggressive towards other fish and their own if more than one male is present.

While swordtails are generally peaceful towards zebra danios, hobbyists should look out for possible fin-nipping and competition during feeding times.

5. Neon Tetras

  • Scientific Name: Paracheirodon innesi
  • Tank Size: 10 gallons
  • Adult Size: 1.0-1.5 inches
  • Water Temperature: 72-82° F
  • Temperament: Peaceful, shy

Neon tetras get along with most freshwater fish, and zebra danios are no exception. These small red and blue fish can be timid, especially when kept in smaller groups. Luckily, they only grow to be about an inch big, which allows for more room for keeping a bigger school. This is necessary as zebra danios can potentially stress them out.

The good news is that neon tetras and zebra danios generally live in two different areas of the tank. Neon tetras usually stay in the middle and lower portions of the aquarium, away from the hustle and bustle of danios. Still, some extra decorations and hiding spots might encourage your tetras to be more present.

6. Rummy Nose Tetras

  • Scientific Name: Hemigrammus bleheri
  • Tank Size: 10 gallons
  • Adult Size: 1-2 inches
  • Water Temperature: 75-85° F
  • Temperament: Peaceful, active

Rummy nose tetras have a similar appearance and behavior to the zebra danio, but they’re a little more challenging to keep. These peaceful fish are identifiable by their bright red faces and can be seen swimming in schools in the upper portions of the water column.

While rummy nose tetras make a good option for a zebra danio community tank, they are much more sensitive to incorrect and changing water conditions than other fish species. These fish do especially well in bigger groups in a heavily planted tank.

7. Apistogrammas

Apistogramma cacatuoides
  • Scientific Name: Apistogramma spp.
  • Tank Size: 20 gallons
  • Adult Size: 2-3 inches
  • Water Temperature: 72-86° F
  • Temperament: Semi-aggressive

If you want another fish species to be the star of your aquarium instead of your zebra danio school, then an Apistogramma cichlid might make the ideal tank mate. These dwarf fish are from South America and are one of the more peaceful species of cichlid available. They have a moderate temperament but will readily tolerate other small, peaceful fish.

The trick to choosing good Apistogramma tank mates is selecting fish that can’t be mistaken for another cichlid and that stay out of their way during breeding periods. This makes the zebra danio a good option.

8. Chili Rasboras

  • Scientific Name: Boraras brigittae
  • Tank Size: 10 gallons
  • Adult Size: <1 inch
  • Water Temperature: 70-82 °F
  • Temperament: Peaceful, shy

If you’re looking for something even smaller than the zebra danio, chili rasboras are about as tiny as you can get. There are a few considerations that will need to be made before making these two tank mates, though.

Chili rasboras are extremely small fish that grow to be less than an inch big. They love to school at the top of the water column but will scatter if threatened. Unfortunately, this can sometimes become problematic if you have an especially active or bold zebra danio.

If you find that your chili rasboras are overwhelmed by your zebra danio school, then you may need to increase the size of your rasbora school, add more plants, or reconsider rehoming one of the species.

9. Ember Tetras

  • Scientific Name: Hyphessobrycon amandae
  • Tank Size: 10 gallons
  • Adult Size: 1 inch
  • Water Temperature: 72-80 °F
  • Temperament: Peaceful

While not exactly the same, ember tetras are a good (and cheaper) alternative to chili rasboras. These two fish share some of the same orangey-red colors and ember tetras only grow to be a little bigger.

Unlike chili rasboras, ember tetras are hardy fish that prefer the middle and lower portions of the water column. They take comfort in a school of 6 or more and can withstand the activity of a zebra danio school.

For most hobbyists, ember tetras are a better addition to the zebra danio community tank than chili rasboras.

10. White Cloud Minnows

  • Scientific Name: Tanichthys albonubes
  • Tank Size: 10 gallons
  • Adult Size: 1-2 inches
  • Water Temperature: 57-72°F
  • Temperament: Peaceful, active

White cloud minnows are one of the best zebra danio community tank mate options, period! This is because their tank size, adult size, water temperature, and temperament all align.

White cloud minnows are not tropical fish and are instead, minnows. This means that they are incredibly hardy fish that can withstand a wide range of water temperatures and parameters. They are also active schooling fish that enjoy their own company and that of other fish species.

11. Boesemani Rainbowfish

Boesemani-Fish
  • Scientific Name: Melanotaenia boesemani
  • Tank Size: 40 gallons
  • Adult Size: 4-5 inches
  • Water Temperature: 72–77° F
  • Temperament: Peaceful, active

The Boesemani rainbowfish and the zebra danio is an odd pairing, but it’s doable! Both of these species are very active and a larger tank will be needed to comfortably keep both. While zebra danios will mostly stay towards the top of the tank, plenty of room should also be allowed for an active school of rainbowfish in the middle.

This is an unusual pairing mostly due to color and activity levels. As long as temperatures match and there is room to swim, Boesemani rainbows can live alongside zebras.

12. Cherry Barbs

  • Scientific Name: Puntius titteya
  • Tank Size: 25 gallons
  • Adult Size: 2 inches
  • Water Temperature: 73–81° F
  • Temperament: Peaceful, sometimes shy

Cherry barbs are one of the most ideal tank mates for zebras! Similar in size and activity, these two fish can comfortably live together as cherry barbs prefer the lower areas of the tank.

That being said, these small barbs can sometimes be shy fish. It’s best to keep these fish in a larger densely planted tank with a good-size school. They can be somewhat sensitive to water parameters, so they should be safely acclimated and kept with good tank husbandry.

13. Hatchet Fish

Marble Hachet Fish
  • Scientific Name: Gasteropelecus sternicla
  • Tank Size: 20 gallons
  • Adult Size: 2-3 inches
  • Water Temperature: 72-81° F
  • Temperament: Peaceful

If you’re looking for another fish to keep your zebra danios busy at the top of the tank, the hatchet fish will always be found just below the surface. While they don’t have the best vibrant colors, hatchet fish are one of the most interesting-looking fish species available!

These fish are great for community tanks but need a tight aquarium lid as they’re notorious jumpers.

14. Kuhli Loach

  • Scientific Name: Pangio kuhlii
  • Tank Size: 20 gallons
  • Adult Size: 3-4 inches
  • Water Temperature: 73-86° F
  • Temperament: Peaceful

No matter your tank setup, there is always room for a kuhli loach. These fish are incredibly silly and fit right in at the bottom of a community tank setup.

Kuhli loaches aren’t true schooling fish, but they thrive in the company of their own. It is important to take careful consideration when introducing kuhli loaches into community tanks as hobbyists sometimes keep them at higher-than-normal water temperatures.

Always make sure to keep an aquarium lid on to prevent your loaches from escaping!

15. Platy Fish

Sunset-Platy
  • Scientific Name: Xiphophorus maculatus
  • Tank Size: 10 gallons
  • Adult Size: 2-3 inches
  • Water Temperature: 64-77 °F
  • Temperament: Peaceful, prolific

Platy fish are one of the most popular species of freshwater fish for beginner hobbyists and are one of the best tank mates for zebra danios. These community fish are colorful, active, and unbothered by other active species.

However, platy fish are incredibly prolific and can quickly overpopulate an aquarium. This, in addition to being overall messy fish, can cause water quality problems.

As long as populations and water quality are kept in check, then platy fish can comfortably live with zebra danios and an assortment of other fish!

16. Otocinclus

  • Scientific Name: Otocinclus spp.
  • Tank Size: 20 gallons
  • Adult Size: 2-4 inches
  • Water Temperature: 74-79°F
  • Temperament: Peaceful, shy

Unlike the zebra danio, otocinclus are not beginner fish. In fact, these are some of the most difficult fish to keep due to their constant need for natural algae.

Otocinclus are smaller fish that rely on each other for safety. They need to be kept in groups of at least 6 or more and need an established aquarium with plenty of natural biofilm. A densely planted tank is a must.

Because these are some of the most challenging fish to keep and zebra danios are one of the easiest, these two species are not seen together often.

17. Cardinal Tetras

  • Scientific Name: Paracheirodon axelrodi
  • Tank Size: 10 gallons
  • Adult Size: 1-2 inches
  • Water Temperature: 73-81° F
  • Temperament: Peaceful

Slightly larger but more sensitive than neon tetras, cardinal tetras are great tank mates for danios. Cardinal tetras are colorful schooling fish that can be somewhat sensitive to both water quality and overactive tank mates. However, if they’re kept in a big enough school, they will feel safe to explore all corners of the tank, including where your zebra danios like to swim.

Cardinal tetras don’t have any special considerations, but they do best when acclimated and kept with live plants.

18. Honey Gourami

  • Scientific Name: Trichogaster chuna
  • Tank Size: 10 gallons
  • Adult Size: 2-3 inches
  • Water Temperature: 74-82° F
  • Temperament: Peaceful

The honey gourami is a great feature species for a zebra danio tank. These fish are big and bold but gentle giants. Honey gouramis can be kept alone or in pairs, as long as the tank size allows.

For the most part, the honey gourami makes a great tank mate for danios. Always make sure to keep an eye out for any potential fin-nipping between the two species. Zebra danios might take some interest in their thread-like pelvic fins.

19. Nerite Snails

  • Scientific Name: Neritina spp.
  • Tank Size: 10 gallons
  • Adult Size: 1-2 inches
  • Water Temperature: 65-85° F
  • Temperament: Peaceful

If you don’t want to keep other fish with your danios, then nerite snails are ideal tank mates! These snails can’t reproduce in freshwater, so you don’t need to worry about them overpopulating. They are also efficient cleaners and will help keep the tank clean of any algae or uneaten food.

20. Bristle Nose Pleco

  • Scientific Name: Ancistrus cirrhosus
  • Tank Size: 30 gallons
  • Adult Size: 5 inches
  • Water Temperature: 73-80°F
  • Temperament: Peaceful

If you want a cleanup crew member that’s a little more exciting than a snail, then bristle nose plecos are a great addition to the freshwater aquarium. These plecos grow to reasonable sizes and don’t need a pure vegetation diet. Instead, they’ll help keep the tank clean of leftover food and other organic debris, though they won’t clean up fish waste.

21. Other Danios

Leopard

If you’re a danio fan, then there are a few other species you can safely keep with your zebra danios. While there aren’t many species of danio available in the aquarium hobby, some of the most popular include:

  • Giant danio (Devario aequipinnatus)
  • Pearl danio (Danio albolineatus)
  • Glowlight danio (Danio choprai)
  • Blue danio (Danio kerri)

Apart from the giant danio, all of these species should have similar tank requirements, though exact specifications are needed.

Bad Selections

Though there are many great tank mates for zebra danios, there are a few that will never be compatible. Here are some species to avoid.

Bettas

Plakat Betta Fish

Betta fish are aggressive fish that need their space. The last thing a betta will tolerate is a zebra danio zooming around its territory.

These two fish are incompatible tank mates due to territorial aggression and overactivity of the Danio that will stress out the Betta.

Aggressive cichlids

Texas Cichlid

For the same reasons, zebra danios will never be compatible with aggressive cichlids, like most African Lake species. Not only will these cichlids see danios as a threat to their territory, but they’ll also see them as food.

Anything Big

Arowana Fish

That brings us to this next generalization. A zebra danio should never be kept with any species that could fit one of these small fish into its mouth.

A zebra danio can easily entice a predator as it zooms across the tank and be mistaken for food as a result. For this reason, it’s best to keep these danios with similar-sized tank mates.

FAQs

What fish can you keep with a zebra danio?

There are many fish that can be kept with zebra danios, but small tetras, rasboras, catfish, and loaches are some of the best choices! When picking a new fish for your zebra danio tank, water temperature and activity levels are the main factors to take into consideration.

How many zebra danios should be kept together?

These danios need to be kept in groups of at least 6 or more. Keeping less than this can cause individuals to become stressed out and reclusive. This might even lead to a premature death.

Are zebra danios good community fish?

Yes! Zebra danios are some of the best community fish available. These fish are extremely hardy and can be kept with most community species.

Are danios fin nippers?

Zebra danios can be fin nippers. It’s best to avoid long-finned tank mates or to increase the size of the school instead. This should help diffuse possible aggression.

Can danios go in a tropical tank?

Yes, zebra danios can be slowly acclimated to a warmer tank even though they prefer cooler temperatures.

Conclusion

Zebra danios are widely available fish. While they’re not the most colorful fish, they have bold stripes that catch the eye as they zoom across the tank. These fish are highly active and should be kept with tank mates that can tolerate their behavior. Luckily, many coldwater and freshwater species check this box!

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