The Zebra Danio Care Guide

By Nadine Oraby | 2020 Update

If you are planning on buying a zebra danio, then you must be looking forward to quite a fun ride! They are fun, naughty and you do not need to be a professional aquarist to care for them.

What to know about a Zebra Danio? A Zebra Danio fish is a really convenient fish, to put it mildly. It is simple by nature much like a child in many ways. It does not require any special meals for being satisfied and healthy. Not to mention it, has a lovely appearance and fun mentality.

Zebra Danio | Beginner Guide (Video)

The guide will reveal to you all you need to know in order to keep the fish as a pet.

General Overview

A Zebra Danio needs friends, a wide tank to play and swim around in… it eats almost anything and is a tough fish despite its friendly and peaceful nature. But if you do not treat it right, it can result in a depressed and sad fish.

The Zebra Danio fish is the best choice for a beginner. But even if you are an experienced fish keeper, you can still enjoy its appealing looks that come in a beautiful zebra pattern.

The Zebra Danio also is known by the names Zebrafish, Striped Danio and Zebra Fish, is a wonderful and popular fish.

You will barely ever notice any trouble with it. The reason why it has  “Zebra” in its name is because of its beautiful stripes of white and dark colours on it. Makes sense.

So it is also pleasant looking, and probably soothing too due to its peaceful nature. But, as much as it is peaceful, it is not a motionless and static fish.

The fish does not grow to become very old though. It lives around 3.5 years but it is not rare that they reach an age of 5 years. Their size remains rather small though; they grow into becoming 5-7 centimetres long.

There is a slight difference in this aspect between female and male Zebra Danio. The females have a more rounded belly and the males are straight-lined and slim.

When it comes to tankmates, the Zebra Danio fish needs fellow mates, a good 5 other species will cut it. It needs this crowd of fish in order to be more active, play around and so it prevents becoming stressed.

It plays, swims quickly, randomly all over the tank. This behavior can be used for a beneficial purpose if your tank is inhabited by lots of aggressive fish; the Danio Zebra is a fun distraction to them. It keeps the aggressive ones staying away from trouble. Worth noting!

Other fish types you can accompany them with are all barb fish. The barb fish is in many ways similar to the zebrafish.

They also love playing and being active and they have an urge to be where there is a crowd; a real party fish! Rainbowfish is another good fit, also a very colorful and beautiful fish to say the least.

It can be about the same size as the Zebra Danio but a bit bigger, however sometimes reaching 20 centimeters.

This is also a fish that is popular in the average home aquarium. Gouramis is another fish that can co-habit the tank. Although you need to pick the kinds that are the same size as, in particular, the Gourami fish wants similar sized fish of its own kind.

Another aspect is choosing the less shy ones; Gouramis have different personalities, some like playing with others while there are those which can be timid to the point they start hiding and isolating themselves.

You’d better pick the ones less sensitive to boisterous fish in this case. No need for bullying in the fish aquarium if you prefer keeping it peaceful.

This fish is overall a must-have for beginners who have not had fish pets before because even the breeding does not require any rocket science.

There is even a bit of romance to it, the Zebra Danios mate and remain a couple for the rest of their lives. Even if their mate dies, they remain faithful to them and refrain from other fish. Sweet, isn’t it? They are in many ways easy to care for even their breeding process and aftermath is clear and simple.

Due to these overly simple breeding habits and cheap care-costs, they are prime candidates for commercial breeding too.

A downside (that should not affect the pet owner though) is that they become less resistant and robust to wild habitats; however, that is not an issue as long as they remain in the tank and are not freed into the wild.

A Living Environment

You may think it is only the social and love life of these fish that are convenient. There is more to it. The fish is very flexible and adaptable regarding the environment in the tank. It requires sweet water, and the water should be soft to medium-hard, with a pH value of 6.5–7.2.

The temperature span is very vast, but it prefers a 18º to 24 º C range. Be careful to not put it in water that is too cool though.

This can take its toll on the fish. However, you may not need a water heater, it is not a necessity. As far as the tank per se is concerned, it is more a matter of leisure for the fish that is at stake than any necessary requirements.

Another reason as to why they are a super fish for beginners, you can’t go wrong with it. A normal sized tank is quite enough to keep it in, but the Danios love playing and swimming about and having lots of friends and mingling so being generous with extra space for it to move around, it will make it feel exalted.

Invest hence in a big tank. Most filters can be used but we recommend a Hang On Back filter.

It does so much when it is stressed or protest against something that is troubling it, but they do it occasionally as well when it plays lively and is excited. For the sake of safety place a suitable lid on top of the tank to prevent any misfortunate jumps resulting in dead fish on the floor. The light also needs to be diffuse, and place suitable plants here and there in the aquarium.

Zebra Danio prefers it that way. Imitating its natural wild habitat is important. Making it as similar as it would have been outside of the aquarium tank.

As for the food to feed it with, the same is applicable to it; Zebra Danios are not picky, but at times such as during mating seasons they must be fed with special foods in favor of the breeding process. Otherwise, they can be fed with anything but they will enjoy live or frozen invertebrates and fresh vegetables.

A general guideline is to imitate the foods it would have eaten in the wild like insects, worms and algae. It can be costly for some fish keepers.

In that case, flake food of good quality can come in handy. For a better diet and as a nutrition supplement give them occasionally live food, which can be frozen too if you find it creepy to handle living, moving, slimy worms..!


The procedure is rather smooth, but the steps are important to follow thoroughly in order for the breeding to be successful. If the steps are not carried out properly, the results will be unsatisfying.

Some fish owners have experienced that the Zebra Danio does not produce eggs that are healthy and good, and others claim their fish did not lay any eggs whatsoever.

Possible factors to this misfortune are that the temperature could have been either too high or too low. You can make a slight temperature increase by dawn that is when it is supposed the spawning takes place. It ought not to be higher than 19º C.

A temperature that exceeds this, along with overfeeding the fish will make the fish become old and therefore incapable of being fertilized. We want to feed them just enough. Here is where the point of precision is enhanced once more.

The steps are easy, but accuracy is of the essence — temperature, quantity of food and so on. It will show on the female’s belly when she is ready to be fertilized so keep it under close observation.

As far as the environment for the eggs is concerned, some experts say it is not a good option placing sand in the bottom of the tank. Small-leaved plants are what you should go for.

The first option will leave the eggs unviewable. As far as the amount of the eggs, it can be between 50 to 400.

When it is time for the breeding, you can either place half a dozen in the tank or just one female with two males. The procedure per se is rather rapid and fast in movements. The kinetic energy is incredible!

Immediately after it is done, remove the breeders because they will consume the youngsters otherwise. You can put them back in the tank after around two weeks. Another step is to avoid changing the tank water afterward, instead of do it prior to the breeding and make sure it is rich in oxygen.

The Tank and the Mates

Before the breeding period, you ought to have a separate tank for the female Zebra Danios as previously mentioned. This goes for after the spawning is over too, as the breeders tend to consume the young fish. Separating them is crucial, hence. You don’t want the whole process to have been in vain nor kill innocents!

The needs of the fish are barely ever complex to prepare, there are only special demands before, during and right after the spawning.

Since the Zebra Danio is a very energetic fish, almost hyperactive like a little kid, it is better you bought it a wide tank where it and its fellow mates can enjoy free play and movements.

Also, there is a hierarchy in the world of fish. Zebra Danio is no different! It is less distinct and not very hostile in comparison to other species and animals.

They will create a somewhat individually structured hierarchy, and that also manages to reassure them. It does not have the same negative aspect as power hierarchies humans can build up.

Zebra Danios, when isolated from others and when experiencing loneliness, become stressed and act aggressively. This is only when it is not well; it is not a common normal behavior it has.

Pick friends from other fish types that are open to more bouncing and spirited games as it can be pretty much like a playground in the tank and that won’t be fair to timid fish who prefer a calm atmosphere and hiding

. However, they should not be so to the point of aggression as the Zebra Danio fish is at the end of the day tremendously peaceful.

Naughty perhaps, but friendly which is the reason it is happy in the company of other fish — no warfare for this one. Also, make sure the other fish are the right size, big ones will be a bad match. Such is the case with the Oscar fish that can grow extremely fast and reach huge sizes. A recommendation is a pet fish you can invest in that has resemblances to the Zebra Danio, namely the Neon Tetras.

They too, are very tiny, eat all sorts of stuff presented, have beautiful looks and love to hang out. It is a good match.


Despite the fact that the Zebra Danio is a gentle and delicate fish, it is by no means weak. It can handle a lot of hard conditions without any trouble. Some things can cause them to fall ill though; however, it can be prevented given one knows the signs and symptoms and acts on it soon. It will make a significant difference. Upsetting the balance of the tank life can be a factor that hurts the fishes’ well-being. The quality of the water needs to be at the top. Cleaning the tank and quarantining anything that infects it should be carried out instantly.

If the water temperature is considerably low, they tend to become more vulnerable and can become ill. The Zebra Danio is a tropical fish and will not survive in extreme weather conditions. At the breeding times, the temperature should be right and feeding it the right amount of food, not too much, not too little.

Either will cause problems. After breeding the young fish can be an easy bate for the breeders, which is why its urged to isolate them.

A kind of psychological misbehaviour due to restlessness results in the Zebra Danio acting out in an aggressive way which will disturb its surroundings.

Sometimes it jumps very high, expressing its dissatisfaction, this is dangerous because in no time you can find it somewhere else on dry land where it will not survive.

For precautionary reasons install a lid on top of the aquarium. You can also tell a troubled Zebra Danio from its lack of appetite. It will refuse to eat what it otherwise eats with a happy, healthy appetite. This is also a symptom of the fish when it is suffering from dropsy.

Dropsy is a common aquarium fish ailment and severe too. This brings us back to previous content; upon an upset bacterial balance infection can spread in the tank.

It can be prevented by keeping the tank clean and the filters too. There are more cooperating factors that parallel to the negative bacteria worsen the conditions. The temperature might require an adjustment, but as to the temperature, it differs depending on the fish type, and wrong or bad nutrition results in poor conditions.

The Looks and Other Interesting Stuff

The typical Zebra Danio is, as the name suggests, coloured with stripes. Some of the dark colour can be black or a bright blue shade. Young fishes have short fins which in due time grow into becoming bigger. Their edges may have a touch of yellow.

The uncommon attributes of the fish sexes are only viewable when they are adults. If you are intending to have them breed you need to buy the adult fish in order to guarantee you have fishes with opposite sexes instead of being disappointed when they grow up.

The body forms differ as well as the colour nuances; the female has got paler colours than the male which shows a strong, bright and richer colour saturation. The female is also slightly longer, but the male fish is more straight in shape and what you might call “slim”.

Even more differences when they are to mate, the female needs to put excessive body mass for a sturdier fertilisation. It becomes more stable as applies for the human female when there is more fat (not overweight though, that is a disease and an unhealthy condition!) as well. The same principle.

The members who are still in the wild are created to manage a more severe milieu and survive.

The pet fish has become less robust, softer and more “civilised” like an indoor cat it has turned into an “indoor” fish. These are some facts about the fish in captivity, there is another type of Zebra Danio that has been manipulated further. It is the GloFish, a kind of Zebra Danio that has been experimented on.

Scientists manipulated some of the Zebra Danio’s DNA. They modified it genetically in order to create new or heighten certain of its features. The new features it has developed are the colours of red and green and orange which are fluorescent and extra intense when exposed to UV lights. This could be another fun attribute for an amusing and decorative fish tank at home!

Zebra Danios have often been used for scientific experiments. You may find it quite surprising that Zebra Danios are used extensively for research on human diseases. How come??

As strange as it sounds, 70 % of the human DNA you will find in the Zebra Danio fish too. Remarkable, isn’t it? Other features that are exactly the same, is that the zebrafish has two eyes, a mouth, a brain, a spinal cord and other organs like us. Many typical human illnesses can, therefore, be tested and remodelled in the body of the Danios.

It is widely known that mice are and have been used for many years for scientific research. The Zebra Danios are sometimes easier to experiment on than mice for a couple of reasons. The size, for example, the fish take up much less space. They also breed rapidly and another very positive aspect regarding the breeding is the huge amount of offspring you get at a time, it could be hundreds.

As you need to repeat the same experiment several times, in order to ensure scientific accuracy and a trusted positive result, this quantity is definitely desirable. The embryos of the zebrafish are transparent. This transparency allows scientists to view the inside of the embryos clearly under a microscope, which is not the case with mice, the embryos are not clear.

Here follows a concrete example of how this fish has helped our science of medicine. A generation of a knock-out of a gene called dystrophin in the zebrafish has been found to be similar to the severity and progression of an illness humans’ can suffer from named Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

In the case of humans and Zebra Danios, the lack of the gene eventually and slowly leads to necrotic muscle fibres that are replaced by cells that are inflammatory, fibrosis and muscle fibres with abnormal sizes. Naturally, we can not explore all the progression of human diseases and dysfunctionalities in this fish; one reason is that they do not have all our organs nor all genes.

In these cases, we need to get help from other animals. An organ that you definitely will not find in the zebrafish is the lung. But then again, did anyone expect them to be 70 % like us? We always thought monkeys to be our closest peers. Clearly, we were wrong… Nature never ceases to surprise.

Related Questions

Other popular fresh water pet fish? Pet fish that are strikingly similar to the Zebra Danio are the Neon Tetras. They are small, all-around eaters, beautiful, and like being in groups. A perfect match. Don’t you think? They’ll be BFFs in the tank. Guppies are another choice. Very playful and adaptable to versatile conditions. If you do not need any breeding, just keep the males as they are more colourful. Mollies are a third type of fish which are also peaceful and can survive in many types of conditions.

Popular saltwater aqarium tank mates for mollies: Bicolor Blenny is the first fish out here. It is a rather peaceful fish but likes picking on members of its own kind at times. They definitely have an interesting personality and interesting colours so if you like variation and a little drama… go ahead and buy one!  Chalk Bass is a fish that is peaceful but hardy. It needs lots of caves and places for a hideout. But it is a community fish who likes being with other fishes so you can be filling the tank with more fish, don’t worry. Roya Gramma, a fish that is intensively sparkly. Definitely a beautiful colour sensation in the tank! It is very small but can be aggressive towards its own kind. Give it plenty of caves and rocks so it can hide, a habit it has. It can’t keep dazzling you with its fabulous looks constantly. Give it a break, being in the spotlights can be quite unnerving.


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