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Zebra Danio: Care Guide, Types, Lifespan & More (with Pictures)

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By Lindsey Stanton

Zebra Fish

The zebra danio (Danio rerio) is a hardy freshwater fish that is extremely popular in tropical aquariums. These fish can form large shoals and come in a variety of color morphs. They are one of the most popular shoaling fish available and have been selectively bred and genetically modified to change their appearance.

They are perfect for community tanks because of their social nature and are an excellent choice for a beginner who is wanting to start their first tropical aquarium. These fish will add a dash of color and energy to an aquarium. This article will show you every care aspect the zebra danio requires.

Quick Facts about Zebra Danio

Species Name: Danio rerio
Family: Cyprinidae
Care Level: Easy, beginner-friendly
Temperature: 20°C to 27°C
Temperament: Peaceful
Color Form: Silver, blue, golden, albino, Glo morphs
Lifespan: 3 to 6 years
Size: 2 inches
Diet: Omnivore
Minimum Tank Size: 20-gallons per 10 danios
Tank Set-Up: Planted, freshwater
Compatibility: Peaceful communities

Zebra Danio Overview

Zebra danios are a species of fish from the cyprinid family. These fish are widely distributed from Nepal down to India. This species is found in the tropical and subtropical waters in Bangladesh, India, and Bhutan. They are a loved freshwater shoaling fish for many different reasons.

You will find them in nearly every pet store that stocks fish. Alongside being incredibly hardy, they are also easy to care for and are perfect for community tanks because of their peaceful nature. They can live for up to 6 years if they are cared for properly. In average conditions, you can expect your zebra danio to live up to 4 years.

A zebra danio may be hardy enough to tolerate a wide range of conditions, but bad care can cause them to deteriorate quite fast. Unfortunately for fish lovers, these fish are also commonly used as test subjects for various research studies. A fun fact is that humans share 70% of their genes with each other!

Although they are used as test subjects, they have helped a lot of scientists further their knowledge of fish-related medications and housing ideas. They are found in various habitats, including slow-moving rivers and streams when they are in a dry season. They will then live in ponds when the flooding season is at its peak. In the monsoon season, the fish live in rice paddies.

Danio rerio
Image Credit: Grigoriev Mikhail, Shutterstock

How Much Do Zebra Danios Cost?

Since these fish are in high demand, they will be relatively inexpensive. You should not expect to pay much for a natural-colored species. One zebra danio should cost roughly $1 to $3. You will, however, pay more for the glo fish versions. These fish are genetically modified and do not survive in the wild.

If you choose to purchase them from an online breeder, you can expect to pay $2 per natural-colored danio (silver or blue striped) and $5 for a glo danio. Shipping will also be added to the total price if you purchase a group online. Since they require large groups to be happy, you can expect to pay up to $30 for a large school.

Typical Behavior & Temperament

Zebra danios are active fish that stay towards the mid-ground of your tank. They are also commonly seen swimming near the surface, where they wait for food. If you keep one to five zebra danios, you should expect some fighting to break out amongst the small group.

At least 10 danios are required to form a successful school. If your danios are not part of a large group, their temperament can quickly change from peaceful to semi-aggressive. They can fin nip their tankmates if they are kept in a small group or a tank that is too small for them.

zebra fish
Image Credit: topimages, Shutterstock

Appearance & Varieties

These fish grow to a maximum size of 2 inches. The females are shorter with rounded abdomens., and the males are sleek and have flat abdominal areas. You may notice that as your zebra danio starts to develop, it may get a curved back. This is a common genetic deformity that is the result of bad genes being repeatedly bred.

They have a blue or silver striped pattern that extends from the head towards the caudal fin. They also come in fun colors like the glo danio, albino, red, pink, peach, and green. This makes them pop out in an aquarium with their vivid coloration. There is some form of gender dimorphism with the background coloration of the male danios being more golden than that of the silver color of the females. There is also a fin variation called the long-finned zebra danio.

These fish will have long-flowing fins, especially by the rear. The long-finned danios do not live in the wild and were specifically bred to have longer fins than their wild varieties. One of the most naturally occurring forms of these fish is the albino. However, albino zebra danios are more likely to become prey in nature than their colorful counterparts. There is also a fancy coloration called the golden morph zebra danio. These fish are golden orange with transparent fins.

The popularity of these fish has encouraged breeders to produce a variety of different colors. Some will look so bright that they seem to glow. They should not be mixed with the glo fish danio, which has its unique coloration that is almost neon-looking. If you keep your danio in large aquariums, it is not uncommon to see your danio reach 3 inches.

This is due to their size, but it is rare, and an extremely large source of water would be required to achieve this.

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How to Take Care of Zebra Danios

Habitat, Tank Conditions & Setup

Tank/aquarium size

If you want to keep a school of 10 zebra danios, you will need a tank size of at least 20 gallons for juveniles. Once they reach a mature size, 40 gallons will be necessary. The tank should have more length than height and come with a strong lid.

These fish are known to jump out of their tank if they are kept in cramped conditions. For this reason, a bowl or vase should never be used. The tank should have a decent amount of width so that the fish can make a group formation.

Water temperature & pH

They are often referred to as both tropical and temperate water species. They may be able to live in cooler temperatures, but this increases their risk for disease. It is best to keep your danio in a tropical aquarium with the temperature set to 24°C. This seems to be a range that meets their temperature requirements in the middle. The pH is flexible, with a range between 6.0 to 8.0.

Substrate

Since danios are not bottom dwellers, many substrates work well for them. Aquarium sand, gravel, or pebbles are all good options. You can even keep your tank substrate-free, although this has its disadvantages by minimizing the amount of space beneficial bacteria require.

Plants

These fish do not require heavily planted aquariums, but they do appreciate some live ones throughout the tank. They do not hide unless they are ill and will mainly be seen swimming in the middle of the aquarium, where fewer hiding spaces exist. You can grow large-leafed plants to provide your danio with an enriching environment.

Lighting

Danios shine in the light, and it when their true colors will come out. You can choose between artificial or natural lighting for the aquarium. Keep in mind that you should not keep the light on too long. Fish need at least 8 hours of rest. They do best in moderate lighting, and this can be achieved with the right artificial lights or window placements.

Filtration

These fish appreciate fast currents in the aquarium. This can be achieved by using a good quality filter with a strong output. The filter should be able to filter five times the amount of water volume in several minutes. Clean water is essential for all fish, and regular water changes should be performed.

Zebra fish
Image Credit: NERYXCOM, Shutterstock

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Are Zebra Danios Good Tank Mates?

This fish is commonly found naturally living with a variety of peaceful community fish. You should aim to keep other fish that swim at different levels in the aquarium. Avoid placing aggressive fish in the same tank as your danios. Background research should be done to ensure each species of fish is compatible with your danio.

The fish should also not be prey motivated and be able to fit your danio into their mouth. Fin nippers should also be avoided, especially for the long-finned varieties. You should also avoid keeping danios on their own or in small groups. This will greatly stress them out and lead to illness. We have put together a list to give you a basic idea of some good tankmates for your zebra danios.

Suitable
  • Scarlet badis
  • Flying barb
  • Ember tetra
  • Honey gourami
  • Emerald pufferfish
  • Bengal danio
  • Celestial pearl danios
  • Burma danios
  • Rosy barbs
  • Dojo Loach
  • Bronze cory
  • Rummy nose tetra
  • Frogs
  • Invertebrates
Unsuitable
  • Guppies
  • Mollies
  • Plays
  • Red-tailed catfish
  • Rainbow/red-tailed shark
  • Bala shark
  • Cichlids’
  • Arowanas
  • Oscars

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What to Feed Your Zebra Danio

These fish are omnivores and feed on algae, worms, larvae, and small crustaceans in the wild. In captivity, you should try and feed foods that replicate their natural diet. Luckily, most of their wild foods are available at pet stores. Alongside supplements like brine shrimp, daphnia, and worms, you should feed quality commercial food.

Common commercial foods for danios come in the form of small pellets, granules, and flakes. The food should be made for danios and other shoaling fish. Algae-based flake foods can be fed three times a week to incorporate some vegetation into their diet. As an extra snack, you can feed zucchini, cucumber, or deshelled peas. To have a constant supply of protein-rich food for your danio, you can start your very own mosquito larvae hatchery.

Keeping Your Zebra Danio Healthy

Danios are suited for novice aquarists, but research and basic knowledge of their care are essential. To avoid disease outbreaks, you must ensure the water is kept clean. This can be done by running a good filter in the tank and doing frequent water changes.

Gravel vacuums should also be performed to suck up any debris in the substrate. The water should be dechlorinated, and you must use a liquid testing kit to measure the amount of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrates in the tank’s water. Poor water quality is the main cause of poor health in danios.

By providing your danio with good conditions and meeting the right requirements, you will be rewarded with a healthy danio. Ensure the diet is varied and that you keep no unsuitable tankmates that will induce stress.

Breeding

Since these fish are targeted toward beginners, their breeding is an easy task. You can do minimal things to encourage your danios to breed. A breeding tank is a great place to start breeding your healthiest bunch. Place the chosen fish into a small breeding tank.

The temperature should be warmer than the original tank by a few degrees. Start by feeding high-quality protein-rich foods like mosquito larvae or worms. Place more females into the tank than males to avoid stressing out the females. This is because the males will chase the females when they want to spawn.

The females should become more rounder in their bellies and will eventually deposit eggs within 24 hours. If the eggs are white, it means they are infertile. Translucent is the color that best indicates successful spawning has occurred. The parents should be removed and placed back into the main tank. The eggs should hatch after 3 days, and you will notice small fry swimming around.

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Are Zebra Danios Suitable For Your Aquarium?

If you are looking for a colorful shoaling fish that adds vivid colors to your aquarium, look no further than a group of colorful zebra danios. A beginner and experienced fish keeper can both keep this amazing fish if they have the right tank conditions. The tank should be large with suitable tankmates, and the temperature should be tropical.

You should have basic knowledge of diagnosing and treating common fish diseases before you attempt to keep these fish. Zebra danios are incredibly active and should be kept in a long tank. We hope this article has helped you better understand the care zebra danios must receive.


Featured Image Credit: slowmotiongli, Shutterstock

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