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Zebra Danios: Complete Care Guide (Diet, Tank & More)

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Are you looking for a small, peaceful addition to your freshwater aquarium? Then the zebra danio may be for you! 

These are smaller fish that do well in a community tank and are easy to care for. 

They are also a favorite amongst both beginner and experienced aquarium enthusiasts. 

While they are easy to care for, you should learn everything you can to ensure these little fish are thriving. 

Read on to learn everything you need to know about zebra danios- all the way from their appearance to where they originate from!

Zebra Danio Care Sheet

Scientific NameDanio rerio
Common NameZebra Fish
Size2 inches
Minimum Tank Size10 gallons

Zebra danios are peaceful fish that stay under 2 inches in length. They are known for their zebra-like stripes. They do well in community tanks with other species, or amongst their own kind. A minimum tank size of 10 gallons is best, but the more room the better since they love to dart around!

Appearance, Temperament & Lifespan


This popular freshwater fish received its name for the more identifiable feature of its zebra-like stripes. 

Zebra danio

These horizontal stripes cover most of the body, starting from the gill plate and all the way through the tail. 

Typically these horizontal stripes are a blue-purple color, depending on the light they may look gray or black.

Due to their fins being transparent, it gives them the appearance of a torpedo-shaped body. 

The only fin on their body that isn’t transparent is their anal fin with condensed stripes. Males tend to be slimmer and smaller and have more of a torpedo look. 

The females are more round and plump. Typically males tend to be more of a golden shade as females have more silver or white colors with their stripes.

There are many different variants in appearance besides the standard striped look. There are long-finned, albino, and leopard variants as well.

Longfin zebra danio

Temperament and Behavior

Zebra danios are very peaceful fish making them a great addition to a community tank. They tend to be quite active and playful. 

They will typically spend their days darting around the tank. Unlike most fish that tend to stay around certain levels of the tank, the zebra danio will go everywhere in the tank.

Due to their personalities and that they will venture around all levels of the tank they are used as dither fish. 

A dither fish comes in handy in helping the rest of the tank mates feel more at ease. 

This is because they can bring out more playful behaviors in fish that are shyer. They also can help fish that can be aggressive feel more relaxed. 

Dither fish helps create balance in the tank, zebra danios make great dither fish.

As previously mentioned zebra danios are active. They have a lot of energy and need lots of exercises to get that all out. Although the zebra danio is very peaceful they can be fin nippers. 

Lifespan and Size

The zebra danio is on the smaller spectrum for freshwater aquarium fish. They are very small and will only grow to about 2 inches on average. 

This nano fish is a very popular choice for aquarists.  

On average the zebra danio lives for two to five years. Although they can be hardy little fish, their lifespan depends on the care they are given in captivity. 

Ideal living conditions will help maximize their lifespan. Poor water quality and care lead to shorter lives as they are at a higher risk for disease.

What do Zebra Danios Eat: Diet & Feeding

Zebra danios are hardier fish and can eat about anything that you feed them. 

However, as with any other species, it is best to mimic their diet in the wild to keep them happy and healthy. 

In the wild, they eat a lot of small insects or worms as well as algae and crustaceans.

Although a high-quality flake or pellet can serve as a solid base for their diet, it is best to add in or supplement their diet with live foods. 

Live or frozen foods such as brine shrimp, daphnia, black worms, or wingless fruit flies are great options for zebra danios. 

They have small mouths and the foods they are given should be small as well.

Zebra danios are easy to overfeed, when they are overfed they will gain weight. It is best to feed your zebra danios twice daily. 

During feeding times only give them what they can fully consume within two minutes. To avoid over-feeding remove any leftover food from the tank after two minutes. 

This will also help to keep your tank clean.

They can also be fed small bits of blanched vegetables as well. Adding vegetables into their diet will help create the balanced diet they have in the wild. 

Blanch vegetables such as zucchini, peas, cucumbers, or spinach are great options. 

Ideal Zebra Danio Tank Mates

As mentioned previously the zebra danio are very peaceful and make great additions to a community tank. 

However, zebra danios are shoaling fish and need to be kept in groups of at least five together. 

When the zebra danio is kept by itself without a shoal they become shy and full of anxiety and may have a premature death from stress or disease.

Zebra danios can be placed in a community tank with other fish that are similar in size and temperament. 

This leaves a wide option in possible tank mates for the zebra danio. Ensure the other species have similar tank requirements as the zebra danio as well.

Examples of ideal tank mates for zebra danio:

  • Honey Gourami
  • Neon Tetras
  • Corydoras
  • Ember Tetra
  • Guppies
  • Swordtail 
  • Plecos
  • Cardinal Tetras
  • Yoyo Loaches
  • Rainbow Fish
  • Barbs
  • Mollies

Although the zebra danios will get along well with most fish there are some that should be avoided. 

As they are smaller fish it is best to avoid much larger fish that will see the zebra danio as a meal. 

Fish that tend to be more aggressive should be avoided in order to prevent injuries or other issues. 

It may also be best to avoid fish with long extravagant fins as there is a risk of potential fin nipping.

Tank mates to avoid for a zebra danio tank:

Zebra danios can coexist in a tank with other non-fish tank mates as well. They will peacefully coexist with snails or even frogs. 

They can live with shrimp as well, however, there is the potential of them being eaten if they are small enough.

Aquarium Setup & Tank Requirements

Because the zebra danio is so small it can live comfortably in a minimum tank size of 10 gallons. 

As previously mentioned, they are schooling fish and need to be in a group of at least 5. The small group of five would do fine in a 10-gallon tank, increasing in size every fish added. 

They are active and need room to swim and play, it is best to avoid overcrowding. 

In the wild, the zebra danios live in a lot of different environments. They are hardy fish that can adapt well to different environments. 

As they can be found in small ponds or large rivers. The factor that all these different environments have in common is they are very slow-moving. 

Even though they are pretty hardy fish and can adapt well, certain water parameters should be kept in the tank. 

Although zebra danios do tend to prefer well-decorated as well as natural-looking environments and decor. 

This is to provide them with the ideal environment where they can thrive and be healthy. Also as with any other fish, it is best to maintain water parameters to ensure the health of your fish.

Ideal water parameters for zebra danios:

  • Water Temperature: 64°F to 82°F, around 76°F is ideal.
  • pH Levels: 6.5 to 7.5 as neutral as possible.
  • Water Hardness: 8 to 12 KH

Aside from water parameters, it is important to have the ideal tank setup for your zebra danios to thrive. 

As they love to play and will spend a lot of time exploring and swimming around the tank. Also when setting up the tank, mimicking their natural habitats is also recommended.

Starting at the bottom of the tank, it may be best to opt for fine sand or gravel. 

Even though they venture to the bottom layer of the tank, they aren’t known for digging through the substrate. 

This leaves more options in the substrate as they will not be prone to substrate-related injuries.

Adding plants inside your zebra danio tank is great for numerous reasons. Of course, they are great for providing oxygen and nutrients to the water. 

They can also provide shelter for them as a place to relax, feel safer, or help provide shade from light. 

It is best to put a variety of different plants in the tank as floating, tall, and short. This will provide a balance in the environment as they swim around. 

Java fern and Amazon Swords are great options for live plants. It is best to be careful in the placement of plants as the zebra danio requires plenty of space for playing and swimming.

Breeding & Raising Zebra Danio Fry

Zebra danios are considered easier to breed, and they will do so quite frequently. 

What also makes breeding easier is that the zebra danio will pair up and breed with the same mate every time. 

They will naturally pair off with this mate as they grow up.  This removes the time it can take when pairing fish to mate.

It is very important to set up a separate breeding tank for the spawning process. This breeding tank should be cycled and have similar conditions as their home tank. 

It is best to opt for a shallow bed of rocks for the substrate in order to protect the eggs. Once the mated pair is in the breeding tank they can start being conditioned to trigger spawning.

To condition the mating pair, they will need to be fed a high-protein diet prior to spawning starts. Also start slowly raising the temperature of the waters. 

You will want to increase the temperature to about 78°F to trigger spawning. The breeding tank should also always be kept dimly lit during the breeding process.

As the female gets ready for spawning, she will become plump and have rounded bellies as they fill with eggs. 

The female can lay up to 400 eggs at a time. As she lays the eggs they will fall into the rock or pebbles at the bottom.

This will help protect the eggs from being eaten by the parent fish.

Zebra danios have no paternal instincts and need to be removed from the tank after the eggs have been laid. 

They will eat the eggs almost immediately after spawning, this is why the choice of substrate is important. 

Once the parent fish are removed and returned back to their home tank, the eggs and fry can be cared for. 

The eggs will hatch around 48 hours after they are laid. After hatching the fry will eat the sac for some time, after which they become free swimming. 

When they become free swimming they can be fed powdered fry food or infusoria. 

They can be switched to baby brine shrimp and small flakes when they are large enough to eat them.

Origin and Distribution

This popular freshwater fish originates from Central Asia. They can be found in slow-moving waters in India, Myanmar, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. 

In the wild, zebra fish have suffered from habitat loss, narrowing their populations. However, they are easy to breed in captivity and mostly are bred in captivity.