Zebra Danio | A to Z Guide – Care, Tank Mates, Size and Diet

The zebra danio is one of today’s most favorite and popular freshwater fish in the fish-keeping hobby because of the ease when it comes to taking care of this non-demanding pet fish.


The zebra danio, also known as zebra fish, is a freshwater fish belonging to the minnow family of Cyprinidae. Most often, the zebra fish is recognized as Danio rerio. However, recent studies have claimed that it should go under the genus Brachydanio and the family Cyprinidae together with carp species and goldfish. 

Before intensive studies have been conducted focusing on zebra danios, scientists claim that their family line roots from South Asia. Specifically, researchers have deemed Myanmar and Pakistan as the home countries of zebra danios stretching in two different directions of the globe. However, current studies rejected this information, saying that zebra danios really originated in Eastern India, specifically in some parts of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.

The main reason behind the changing history records is that many older records almost certainly represent misidentification of other species and new advancements in technology call out for recent fact discoveries. Environmental deterioration resulting in depletion of habitable ecosystems has also decreased their natural origin, even though the wild ones can make it to different water habitats.

Zebra danios can share their aquarium with other social aquarium fish. This species is very tranquil and can definitely be combined with other fish. Additionally, breeding of zebra danios is a more popular practice nowadays in the aquarium industries because of low management cost. While aquarium reproduction has paved the way for continuous supply of zebra danios, it has also resulted to be less vigorous than the traditional species that lived in the wild.


Source: Zebra Fish

The zebra danio is named for the five complex, blue stripes which are very visible on the side of its body that continues to create horizontal lines up to the caudal fin. However, the way to get there takes time as zebra danios have transparent stripes during the larval stage. These blue stripes add up to the attractive look of this fish, running from gill to tail.

Its shape is tapered and compressed sideways with its mouth in an upward direction. The male is shaped like a missile with golden and blue stripes lined consecutively; the female has a bigger, white belly and silver lines in between the stripes of blue. Usually, females will have a lesser pinkish color and of course, their body type is fatter because of the eggs that they carry. Adult females have a small genital papilla that can be found on the anal fin.

Zebra danios have a lot of available varieties such as albino, long-finned, golden, veil-tailed, and even the stunning leopard variety. The leopard group is distinct with scattered black spots over its entire body. Before, scientists have separated the leopard danio as an entirely different species but recent scientific studies have shown that it still belongs to the species of zebra danios, just with little look of uniqueness.

Well, there’s still more to zebra danios. Some say that they all look the same. However, there has been lots of selective reproduction in the aquarium, so you might find zebra danios in different shades and colors. 

Behaviour & Temperament

Are Zebra Danios Aggressive?

No, zebra danios are not aggressive. Instead, they are playful, energetic, active and social species that prefer to live in large groups. These fish can safely be released to get along with other species. They are hardy fish and considered good for beginner aquarists. They are peaceful fish but they can also be seen chasing each other harmlessly around the tank. However, they could stress or injure slow-moving fish by nibbling its fins. 

Any fish with long limp fins, such as angelfish, sailfin mollies, bettas and guppies, are potential targets of an active zebra danio. Good potential tank mates may include barbs, corydoras catfish, similar-sized gouramis, loaches and swordtails. 

Zebra danios roam around every part of the aquarium, but they prefer to hang out at the upper and in the middle areas. In addition, they prefer to swim in the shaded open areas of your tank.


How Long Do Zebra Danios Live?

Wild zebra danios are considered an annual species which only live for about a year. Though, when handled and cared for properly, you can expect your aquarium danios to live for about two to five and a half years. 

Common Diseases

Zebra danios are usually healthy fish, but they can also be sensitive and prone to common aquatic diseases like ich, so it is important to keep your aquarium clean to avoid infections that are harmful to the overall health of your zebras. Stressed fish are more likely to get sick since stress, of course, weakens their immune system. Here are other diseases that zebra danios can get:

  • Mycobacteriosis. Zebra danios are also not safe when it comes to this bacterial infection. Mycobacteriosis roots from different kinds of bacteria that could be inhabiting the aquarium of your pet. The symptoms of mycobacteriosis are not shy at all and can be seen affecting the physical appearance of your zebra danios. These signs may include swollen skin, inactivity and even loss of fins. Always remember to always maintain good water quality to avoid outbreaks that can cause mycobacteriosis.

You cannot treat this with disinfectant treatments. All you need to do is immediately change your water and set apart your infected fish from the tank so that they can heal in a fast phase. In some cases, the outbreak may be so terrible that you need to pull out all of your fish and clean the tank.

This is a disease that can also harm humans, so as an aquarist, you should be very careful in cleaning your aquarium if you have wounds. Putting on gloves and using safe tools is highly recommended to avoid infection.

  • Intestinal nematodes. Your zebra danios can also be affected with these parasites. These nematodes are worm-like and can cause your fish to change their color into a darker shade. They may also appear slow-moving and inactive and may also cause weight loss. Infected fish should be removed and isolated while they are in the process of healing. 

To ensure your zebra danios are safe from any disease or parasites, make sure to provide them with clean water. Keep the pH level between 6.5 to 7.0. Moreover, isolating an infected zebra danio in a separate aquarium is highly suggested to avoid infecting other zebra fish in the main tank.


How Big Do Zebra Danios Get?

Wild zebra danios are usually small. Their length is usually around 1 ½ to 2 inches. Aquarium breeds are likely this small as well, but since they have bred and reproduced, they can have longer fins. A perfect example is the Longfin Zebra Danio which has very long fins that give them a more attractive look.

Zebra danios can grow larger and longer when kept in a water pond instead of being kept inside the aquarium. It is because they won’t have any natural predators and will have plenty of space along with natural sources of food.

How Many Zebra Danios Can Be Kept Together in a Tank?

Ideally, you can keep a small group of 5 danios in a 10-gallon aquarium, or a group of 25 danios in a 50-gallon tank. As long as you provide them with 2-gallons of clean water per fish and avoid groups smaller than 5, your fish can make it to survive and make a playful life. In short, the number of danios which can be kept together depends on how large your tank is.

Zebra Danios Care

Tank Size

Zebra danios can be found in different environments in the wild. However, they prefer to live in water that has a small amount of current like the water in ponds and in tanks. 

Since the majority of zebra danios reproduced nowadays are done inside an enclosed watery area, they are immensely hardy, and they can actually survive and even develop in any aquarium. Due to their small size, zebra danios can live in aquariums with five gallons.  But since they are a very active social fish, it is better to put them in a larger tank which is suggested to be best for them. 

Tank Setup

Tank setup should be well picked and organized, even though zebra danios are easy to take care of and easy to breed. As much as possible, provide them with a good and healthy habitat. 

Here are some of the most important things that you need to know when decorating your zebras’ home tank:

  • Fine sediment. One of the best examples to use is soft and treated sand.
  • Substrate. This should be rigorously cleaned before adding to the aquarium to promote cleanliness and avoid muddy water for your pet’s home. Once you have already placed the substrate, proceed with carefully adding the water to prevent stirring up the substrate. Zebrafish can survive in waters having between 65 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit, and they prefer it so much to have soft to medium hard waters with 6.5 to 7.0 pH.
  • Good filtration system. This is a must. The type of infiltration system, though, may vary depending on the size of the tank and the number of fish in the aquarium.
  • Artificial source of light. The tank should receive at least 12 hours of light each day.
  • Freshwater plants. Anubia Nana, Java Fern, Cryptocoryne Beckettii and other fresh plants can be added to the aquarium. By doing so, you are supplying high concentration of oxygen to the water. These beautiful addition can be your zebra danios’ playground and hiding places, aside from giving your aquarium a natural look. This practice has been proven to heighten habitat complexity which lessens the active and often aggressive behavior of zebrafish. 
  • Bogwood. You can add some pieces of this based on your tank size. Bogwoods are a good replacement for underwater tree roots. 
  • Large rounded pebbles. Good substitute for the rocky bottom of the river.

Also, you have to take note that zebra danios have been known to be little jumpers, so you must always keep your tank covered. If you don’t, you may be surprised by a dead fish on the floor.

Water Conditions

Zebra danios are community fish and they need to be kept in groups of at least 5. Like the other social fish, if the number of their company is too low, there’s a big possibility for them to be stressed and depressed which can portray symptoms such as antagonism towards other tank mates and poor appetite.

Zebra fish can survive in waters having water temperature between 65 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit, and they prefer to have soft to medium hard waters with a pH of 6.5 to 7.0.  You have to remember that zebra danios are “hardy” fish species. Therefore, it is recommended to maintain a hardness level between 5 to 12 dH. This keeps your pet fish safe and trouble-free inside the aquarium regardless of being active.

Diet and Feeding

What Do Zebra Danios Eat?

Zebra danios are omnivorous and they eat almost any food you will give them. Although undemanding in diet, they particularly enjoy small, live or frozen invertebrates and fresh vegetables. Zebra danios aren’t picky eaters. They eat small aquatic crustaceans, algae, worms and aquatic insect mosquito larvae.

Inside the tank, they can be fed a variety of foods.Their main diet will be a good quality flake and you can sometimes use an algae-based flake food. You can also give them fresh vegetables like cucumber, shelled peas and spinach. As a treat, live foods like Daphnia, Artemia and bloodworms can also be fed to them once a week. If you are unlucky to find live foods in the market, you can also try some dried or frozen options.

Fry or juvenile fish should be fed specially to female danios for developed food nourishment as they are the ones who lay eggs. This can also be a baby fish food to promote healthy growth.

The amount of food you feed your fish will vary with the number of fish you have in your tank. The smaller the amount, the faster they will consume it. Make sure to feed them properly with the right food and right amount.

How Often Should I Feed My Zebra Danios?

You can feed your zebra danios with the right food once or twice a day. For the best health condition of your zebras, rotate their diet everyday and feed only what they can finish in under 2 minutes. 

How Long Can Zebra Danios Go Without Food?

Generally, zebra danios can live up to 14 days without food.

In their natural habitat, it is not in the calendar of zebra danios to eat daily. In fact, they can even stand longer days and periods without meals. However, the case is different for aquarium fish given the factors that were different in terms of the ecosystem. An adult aquarium fish can last an average of three days to one week without eating. Other fish species have stronger immunity and can go on for two weeks without any food.

Tank Mates

What Fish Can Live With Zebra Danios?

Zebra danios are not demanding when it comes to their tank mates. They can live together well with a variety of creatures. Again, they are social fish.

In the wild, zebra danios can be found in waters along with other species like:

  • Indian Flying Barb
  • Honey Gourami
  • Scarlet Badis
  • Emerald Pufferfish
  • Ember Tetra
  • Bengal Turquoise Danio
  • Celestial Pearl Danio 
  • Burma Danio
  • Scarlet Badis
  • Rosy Barbs
  • Rummy Nose Tetra
  • Bronze Cory
  • Dojo Loach

All of these would make suitable tank mates. Other kinds of danios also make a good choice for your zebra danio tank. Here are some of them:

  • Celestial Pearl Danios
  • Bengal Turquoise Danios
  • Burma Danios.

If you don’t prefer to add numerous fish species in your aquarium, you might also consider to add some aquatic invertebrates like: 

  • Zebra or Nerite Snails 
  • African Dwarf Frog
  • Blue Velvet Shrimp

Similar to the saying “no man is an island”, no fish should also be kept alone. Unlike us, humans, who have freedom in choosing our peers, let us choose our danios’ friends who will be good for them and will provide them with a healthy environment and positive vibes. With that said, here are some of the species that you should avoid.

What Fish Don’t Do Well With Zebra Danios?

There aren’t so many rules as to which fish you should stay away from in your zebra danio’s tank but there are certain creatures to avoid. These species are the ones with significantly longer and flowing fins who can encourage your danios to nip.

  • Elephant Ear Guppies
  • Sailfin Molly Fish

If you are a die-hard fan of these two species mentioned above, there is still another option to discourage the nipping behavior of your danios. All you have to do is provide a large enough tank. If you observed that your danios nip more than usual, it could be a sign that your tank is small and overcrowded, or that your group of zebra danios is too small.

Additionally, avoid placing catfish along with your zebrafish. Catfish can attack and kill your danios without any warning. 


If you are a newbie to the fish-keeping hobby and you want to try breeding, zebra danios are the best option. Zebra danios are best for beginners because they are so easy to breed, and a perfect avenue to gain some experience with.

Of course, there are still particular procedures that you need to follow. These steps aren’t hard to keep but you need to make sure that you’ll apply these for your zebra danios’ benefits.

The first step is to separate the danios based on their gender. You can easily identify which are the females by their rounded bellies, compared to the long and narrow body of the males.

Once you have separated the zebra danios based on their gender, you can commence feeding them with Daphnia and bloodworms which are some of the examples of the live foods that were mentioned earlier. These foods are rich in protein which will promote breeding. You will soon notice that the females are developing rounder bellies as they grow older, which means that they are already starting to have eggs.

After you feed them with high-protein foods in a span of two weeks, you can transport your male and female zebra danios back to the breeding tank. It is highly recommended to keep a ratio of two males for each female to reduce behavioral aggression. Most of the time, your fish will generate offspring within 24 hours.

When you see eggs that are almost transparent at the surface of the breeding tank, you can be confident already because that means that the eggs that were produced by your female zebra fish are fertile. If you notice eggs that are distinguishingly white in color, that means the opposite way around as these are infertile eggs.

The final step would be moving the females and males back into their original aquarium. Make sure to proceed with this act as soon as possible because zebra danios, just like any other fish, may have the tendency to eat the eggs. After three days, the eggs will begin to hatch. Care for your danios, observe them more often and feed them with the food mentioned earlier. When they reach the age of maturity, you can bring them back from the breeding tank and into the main tank with their friends.


Are Zebra Danios Easy to Care of?

Yes, zebra danios are easy to take care of. They are not demanding of their tank mates, they are not picky of their food, and also they are easy to breed. Zebra danios are definitely a great and the best start for new aquarists. Unquestionably, they are easy to care of.

Their lively, playful and active behavior can surely blow your boredom away. They can be your stress reliever but make sure that you will be taking care of them properly without bringing them any negative stress. 

All in all, zebra danios are best for:

  • Those who are beginners in fish-keeping
  • Those who understand their nature
  • Those who have a tank and enough things to provide a healthy environment for them

Meanwhile, zebra danios aren’t suitable for:

  • Those who don’t understand their behavior and their nature
  • To those who aren’t responsible for taking care of them

Zebra danios enjoy being with other aquatic creatures, whether it is species like them or entirely different species. Just like these fish, let us also enjoy their presence inside the tank and take care of them regardless of their nature and differences. 

Happy breeding!