Zebra Danio Fish Guide Life, Types, Tank, Diet, and Breeding
By Eddie Waithaka @aquariawise
Zebra danios are favorite fish of many freshwater aquarists because they are virtually indestructible. They belong to the minnow family and are hardy, active and perfect for beginners. And a great addition to any community tank.
Danios are beautiful swimmers with striped black and white zebra patterns. They are also true shoaling fish, so keep them in groups to best enjoy their aesthetics.
The fish are native to the Himalayan region and are sometimes called zebrafish or Danio rerio.
Their name is derived from the five uniform, pigmented, horizontal blue stripes on the side of their bodies which are reminiscent of a zebra’s stripes.
However, zebra danios have been used to make genetically modified variants with types that express green, red and yellow fluorescent glo commercially available.
That said, in this zebra danio guide, we are going to discuss everything you need to know including types, life, feeding, breeding, how to care for and so much more.
Zebra Danio Fish Overview
- Common Names: Striped danio, Zebra danio, Zebrafish, Danio rerio
- Origin: Eastern India, Himalayan Region
- Size: 2 inches
- Lifespan: 3 to 5 Years
- Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons
- Tank Level: All levels
- Water Conditions: 64°F to 74°F, ph 6.5 to 7.0, Hardness 5 to 12dGH
- Care Level: Easy, Beginner
- Temperament: Peaceful, social, schooling, good community fish
- Breeding: Egg layer
Zebra danios are a species in the minnow family with stripes across the body that extend to the end of the caudal fin.
Pure males are torpedo-shaped with golden lines between the blue stripes and females have larger, whitish bodies with silver stripes.
Zebrafish can grow up to 2.5 inches, but in captivity, they average 1.5 inches.
The fish are native to the streams in South-Eastern Himalayan regions which include part of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Myanmar. In the wild, they prefer low flow streams with a sandy substrate but also inhabit canals, ditches, and ponds in rice fields.
Danios are naturally omnivorous primarily feeding on zooplankton, insects and insect larvae. They, however, feed on other food types including worms and small crustaceans and adults even eat brine shrimp.
Zebra danios are hardy fish and are considered good for new hobbyists. They are quite playful plus cheap and broadly available as well.
Preferably, keep them in shoals of six or more regardless of whether you house them in a species tank or community aquarium.
Raise your danios in the aquarium water with a temperature anywhere from 67°F to 72°F and a pH of 7.0 to 7.8..
Moreover, they can live in a wide range of tank sizes, but it’s better to house them in at least a 10gallon aquarium.
Zebrafish are egg layers, with rapid breeding and a female body that will generally balloon when filled with eggs. Interestingly, mated pairs will remain together for life and rarely spawn with other danios even if their mate dies.
Behavior and Temperament
Zebra danios are mostly peaceful but can occasionally be fin nippers. They’ll behave fiercely when not in the company of many fish but when in a community, they typically remain calm.
In fact, zebra danios are sometimes used as dither fish to calm down other fish that may be nervous since they’re constantly swimming.
They also are highly social and normally swim together in sizeable shoals. And these little swimmers do get exceptionally active and fast.
The social behavior is usually extended to other fish species hence zebra danios will live in harmony with a host of fishes. Its however not unusual for them to chase lower-ranking fish if there is enough space in the tank.
You’ll also want to avoid keeping zebra danios with fish that have long fins especially if you have known nippers. They sometimes feel compelled to bite the conspicuous fins or tails.
Occasionally, zebra danios will open their mouth wide, elevate their fins and make conspicuous wavy motions to express aggression.
Lastly, avoid putting danios in overly cramped tanks since they get quite frustrated and anxious. As well as add a couple of hiding spots using either live or plastic plants for your danios to get away when overwhelmed.
Zebra Danios Lifespan
Zebra danios while living in an aquarium or fish pond have a lifespan of around 2 to 3 years, though, in ideal conditions, this may extend to over five years.
Spawning is induced by temperature and the fish embryo develop rapidly with all major organs appearing within 36 hours of fertilization.
Juveniles grow fast, mostly from an inch to about two inches in as little as four months and in about a year you should be able to max them out.
Unfortunately, like most freshwater aquarium fish, zebra danios don’t reach adult size when stunted by poor aquarium keeping techniques.
Danio Fish Types
There are dozens of selectively bred zebra danios today with a variety to suit different tastes. Therefore, it’s not exactly possible to place danios in groups.
However, some of the best-known danio fish types include:
#1— Golden Zebra Danio
This is a striking color variation of the zebra danio. It’s fairly small but quite conspicuous.
It has the dark blue stripes of the normal zebrafish but fairly bred out leaving it embellished with yellow-golden and white stripes.
#2 — Zebra Danio
In the aquarium, you’ll recognize its attractively striped black and white zebra patterned body. It is one of the oldest and pure danios to be kept in an aquarium and also the most popular in the family.
#3 — Dwarf Spotted Danio
This danio is smaller than a zebra and rarely grow more than an inch and a half hence suitable for smaller tanks.
Dwarf spotted danio is truly beautiful with the looks of multiple danios combined; stripes, dots and a fine net of dorsal scales lined in soft grey.
#4 — Giant Danio
The giant danio grows to a maximum length of four inches making it one of the largest of the danionins. Its characterized by a blue and yellow torpedo body with grey and clear fins.
If your danio is likely to be aggressive, the giant danio is an obvious culprit.
#5 — Pearl Danio
Pearls grow to a maximum length of two inches and live to five years which is considerably longer compared to an average of three years among all danionins.
The fish could have a brownish-yellow, pink or silver body and two light yellow to white or blue to red stripes.
Female pearl danios tow pairs of barbels.
#5 — Rosy Danio
At a glance, a rosy resembles a pearl danio, but without the yellow stripes on the side. Normally, it has a rosy coloration along the lower part of the body and lower fins and gleams purple-blue in light.
The rosy danio is also called purple passion danio.
#6 — Longfin Zebra Danio
The longfin is a variant that has been bred specifically for its long flowing fins.
This beauty reaches only about an inch and a half.
The longfin, however, does get pretty confusing because it’s eerily similar to other longtails variants like the longfin leopard danio that is spotted.
And the longfin blue zebra danio that usually has a prominent blue coloration.
Zebra Danio Tanks, Water Condition and Tankmates
Zebra danios are small hardy fish that survive in a host of freshwater aquarium environment. They grow to an average of two inches and therefore will work well with smaller tankmates such as neon tetras, harlequin rasboras, mollies, small cory catfish, and swordtails.
Below are the precise tank and water settings, plus appropriate tankmates for your zebrafish.
Zebra Danio Tank Settings
In the aquarium, danios are curious fish that love to swim and explore. Therefore, plant a couple of live plants or place plastic toys for your fish to investigate.
However, don’t overcrowd your aquarium because they still need large, open swimming areas. Preferably, leave space near the top of the water because they are surface oriented.
Another reason you need a reasonably big tank is that danios are shoaling fish and are normally kept in a group of at least six fishes.
Ideally, any tank that’s 20 gallons and above is good enough. Most times, they will do ok even in 15 gallons, but if you want them to live a full healthy life, try not to go below 10 gallons.
Zebra danios are also crazy little fish that don’t relate to the word chill. They swim at high speed almost all the time, so getting a long tank should be worth your while.
Moreover, they fancy moving water and will frequently swim in the direction of strong filter or air pump currents.
Also, keep a secure lid on the aquarium to prevent them from jumping out.
Speaking of filters, danios are not demanding when it comes to water cleanliness and are among the very few fish that can live in small filterless tanks.
In the wild, zebra danios are found in the Himalayan region, so though classified with other tropical freshwater fish, they technically are a cold water species.
They ergo prefer a water temperature of between 67°F and 72°F, but pet store bred danios are increasingly growing less tolerant to cold water.
On the other front, zebra danios are quite hardy and resilient hence not fussy about water quality, though you should generally cycle your tank. Moreso, when you have to keep danios in a small filterless tank.
That said, despite the impressive tolerance to a wide range of water chemistry, danios are happiest in soft to medium-hard alkaline water. Ideally, 50ppm to 140ppm and a pH between 7.0 and 7.8.
Also, maintain a good filtration and change 10 to 25 percent of the water once or twice a month. Plus, treat tap water with a conditioner before refilling your tank.
Zebra Danio Tank Mates
Zebra danios are always on the move and should be kept with other active fish. Slow-moving fish may get stressed by bigger fast-moving zebrafish breeds like the giant danio. However, the effects may at times be different when danios are used as dither fish.
Also, danios are naturally coldwater fish who prefer moving water. So pair them with fish like white clouds which are also hardy and like cold fast-flowing water.
Plus they are omnivorous, so if you don’t want to worry about feeding, tank them with other omnivores.
Some good zebra danio tank mates are:
White cloud mountain minnows
Black skirt tetras
Zebra Danios Diet—Food and Feeding
Most danios are omnivorous and are not picky eaters, though a high-quality flake food will go a long way with the fish.
Danios particularly enjoy small live or frozen invertebrates and fresh vegetables. Fresh greens provide the much-needed vitamin supply for your fish.
They also love vitamin-rich granules or flakes or most high quality frozen, freeze-dried or live food including brine shrimp either live or frozen.
For best results, rotate their diet daily and feed only what they can consume in under two minutes once or twice a day.
Breeding Zebra Danios
As I mentioned before, zebra danios mate for life meaning for you to breed them you need to have a breeding pair.
So, try to identify which two in your tank are the match before you decide to move any two into a breeding tank.
In case you want to breed danios but don’t have a pair in your tank, see if you will get a pair from your local pet store, which very likely you will.
Generally, male danios will be slightly thinner than the females, which are a little more rounded in the belly because they hold the eggs. Plus the boys will have more gold coloration along the back.
Once you’ve successfully identified your breeding pair, you can start your breeding tank. However, you’ll need to exercise extra caution to effectively raise fry to adults since danios are egg scattering fish and there is a chance parents will eat their eggs.
Nonetheless, zebra danios are fairly easy to breed, they will withstand a wide range of temperature and you most likely won’t need a heater. The fish are cold-water fish hence will do Ok in room temperature.
You will only need to make sure your water stays within the appropriate range for danios or increase the temperature to just about 78° F.
Preferably, prepare a 20-30-gallon aquarium with a couple of fine-leaved plants to breed your zebra danios. Use solid gravel or large rock substrate base to hold a spawning mat or java moss for your fish to lay their eggs.
When ready, the female will lay the eggs as the male fertilizes them. Once the breeding is complete, you should remove both adults from the breeding tank to make sure they don’t devour the eggs.
Normally, zebra danio eggs will hatch in 36hours. Feed the fry with infusoria several times till they are fairly grown, then introduce them to commercial food.
Zebrafish mature quite fast so you’ll need to transfer them into a bigger aquarium as soon as they max out the breeding tank.
Zebra Danio Glofish
Glofish are genetically modified zebra danios that are growing in popularity in the aquarium fish keeping hobby. They come in different fluorescent neon colors such as red, green, orange, pink, blue, purple, pink, blue and yellow.
You, however, can get other recent species of glofish such as neon tetras.
The difference between zebra danios and glofish is that researchers added a fluorescent gene from a sea coral to zebra danio eggs. Which produced a species that seems to glow when they encounter environmental toxins.
Originally, glofish were developed to detect environmental pollution. They were later introduced to the aquarium fish market where they’re traded as ornamental used to embellish fish tanks.
Glofish are generally more expensive than normal zebra danios.
However, in the aquarium, they exhibit classic danio traits like shoaling and need to be kept in groups. Still, some will exhibit fin nipping tendencies, plus feed on normal danios preferred diet which includes flake food and brine shrimp.
That said, the sale of glofish is regulated in some states, something you’ll want to consider in case you want to have them in your tank.
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Enjoy keeping Zebra danio fish.