Zebra Danio (Danio rerio) Care And Species Profile

Zebra danio

Last updated on July 29th, 2022 at 11:00 pm

Danio rerio, also known as the zebra danio or zebrafish, is a freshwater fish belonging to the minnow family of Cyprinidae. They are native to the Indian subcontinent (i.e., Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan) and have also been introduced in Taiwan, Thailand, and parts of southern China. They belong to the genus Danio and have twenty-one recognized species at present; danio rerio being one of them.

Formerly Brachydanio rerio, also known as the zebra danio, danio rerio is an adorably speckled, egg-laying fish native to the tropical plains of India. These fish have become popular in the aquarium hobby since their discovery in 1883, and today there are countless varieties available through selective breeding. As with any pet, you’ll want to know how to take care of your zebra danios so that they live long, healthy lives in their new homes.

What kind of pet do you have? Is it cuddly? Is it funny? And do you enjoy sharing your home with it? Most people would answer yes to all three questions, but more and more people are also finding that they enjoy the benefits of fish as pets as well. This Zebra Danio care and species profile will help new owners learn about this fish and other species of fish, so you can choose which one is right for you!

Here’s everything you need to know about keeping this species in your home aquarium!

Origin and description

Zebra danio

The Danio rerio, is a freshwater fish native to India and Bangladesh. The species gets its name from its stripes, which look like those of a zebra. It’s a small fish that will grow up to about 2 inches long, making it suitable for home aquariums or large tanks at pet stores. It makes a good pet for beginning aquarists since it is hardy and easy to care for. Plus, it provides hours of entertainment with its swimming patterns and natural behaviors.

Danio rerio is one of approximately 3,500 species of freshwater fish belonging to the minnow family, Cyprinidae. It originates from eastern Asia and was first identified in 1758 by a Swedish zoologist named Carolus Linnaeus. The common name refers to its black and white striped patterning reminiscent of that seen on a zebra’s hide.

In addition to being used as a research model for studying vertebrate development, genetics, physiology, and disease, they are often kept as pets in home aquariums because of their low cost and hardiness. They have an average lifespan between 4 and 5 years with some individuals reaching 5+ years old when cared for properly.

Although you might not be familiar with them, Zebra Danios are some of the most popular fish species in aquatic pet stores. They’re a zooplankton feeder and will thrive if they have plenty of live or frozen foods to munch on. The zebra moniker comes from their black-and-white striped patterns. Similar species include Glofish, Electric Blue Danios, and Pearl Danios. Like other danionins, these fish can be housed in groups of one male and several females; males may fight each other.

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Species profile

Zebra danio

Zebra Danios are active and hardy fish. They are a small schooling species, so they do best in groups of at least six or more. They thrive in freshwater tanks that mimic their natural environment as closely as possible. Like most tropical fish, they prefer warm water; however, they can tolerate temperatures up to 82°F.

The ideal temperature for them is between 78°F and 82°F. Maintain pH levels at 7.0 – 8.0, hardness levels between 10 and 25 dH, and carbonate hardness around 4 – 6 kH. They’re relatively easy to feed because they will eat just about anything you give them; however, due to their small size, it’s probably best not to overfeed them, particularly if there are only a few other fish sharing your tank with them, to avoid clouding your water with excess waste build-up.

Scientific name

The scientific name of the zebra danio is rerio zebra


The zebra danio originates from India, but is now found in Africa and has been introduced to almost every continent except Antarctica. It inhabits streams with little current and temperature ranges between 18 – 24 degrees C (64 to 75 degrees F). The water must be well oxygenated and clear.

These fish can tolerate a pH range of 6 to 8, though a neutral value of 7 is recommended for breeding purposes; ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate should all be 0 ppm or lower. Zebra danios are shoaling fish and must be kept in groups of at least five.

Males are slightly larger than females, growing up to 2 inches (5 cm) while females grow up around 1.5 inches (4 cm). In their natural environment, they feed on insects and other small invertebrates that fall into their habitat, although they will accept flake food without any problems if no live foods are available.

Zebra danio size

Your zebra danio can grow up to 3 inches in length, with females being larger than males.

Zebra danio tank size

While they don’t get especially large, bigger is better when it comes to your tank size; as a general rule of thumb, you should provide them with 10 gallons of water per inch of fish. Because of their small size and minimal bioload, smaller tanks can work for a pair or trio.

But if you have more than that, they need to be in a bigger tank with plenty of space to swim. Because they’re schooling fish, they need several other of their own kind in order to be healthy and happy.

Zebra danio tank set up

The zebra danio will thrive in a tank with a temperature range of 68 – 76 degrees Fahrenheit. The water should be soft to moderately hard, but not extremely so. Since they are known jumpers, an aquarium cover is recommended. Plants that grow partially submerged, such as Amazon sword and crypt plants, also make great additions to your zebra danio tank.

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They will enjoy live or artificial plants for hiding places and snacking on. Filtration should be strong enough to keep up with bioload, which can easily reach fifty fish in a forty-gallon tank. An external filtration system may help you keep maintenance levels low. While they do well alone, groups of five or more do best if there is some type of divider between them – like rocks – since males can become territorial over females during spawning times.

Place your zebra danios in a 10-gallon or larger tank, equipped with an efficient filter and activated carbon filtration. Danios thrive in groups of at least five fish; however, it is often recommended to house them in tanks with many more of their own kind for optimal socialization. A spacious tank decorated with rocks, driftwood, and plants will give your danios plenty of space to swim freely.

Use dechlorinating liquid prior to adding tap water to your aquarium as chlorine and chloramines can kill fish over time if not removed. Be sure that you are also providing a steady supply of fresh, clean water by performing regular water changes every one to two weeks. Water temperature should range from 75 – 78 degrees Fahrenheit while pH should fall between 6.0 – 8.0.

Danios do best when fed a varied diet containing brine shrimp, bloodworms, tubifex worms, and high-quality dry foods designed specifically for tropical fish.

Zebra danio tank mates

A lot of people keep zebra danios with neon tetras, guppies, swordtails, platies, and other small fish. Zebra danios can also be kept in larger tanks or community tanks with other colorful fish like discus. Remember that a bigger tank means you’ll need to maintain it more often.

Predatory species, such as the redtail catfish, should not be kept with your zebra danio.

Zebra danio breeding

Zebra danio

Zebra Danios are livebearers. Once a female is ready to spawn, she will release eggs into her nest of plants. The male will swim above and release sperm to fertilize them. The female will then pick up these eggs in her mouth and carry them until they hatch about two days later. It’s best to remove breeding adults from their colony when you notice egg spots appearing on your plants.

While you don’t have to worry about your fish being eaten by their young as some other livebearers do, some zebra danios will bite each other during spawning. To avoid losses, keep all adult fish away from fry at first. After one week, all fry should be big enough that there shouldn’t be any problems between parents and offspring.

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This species is easy to breed if conditions are right—if there aren’t any males around, females may begin dropping eggs without mating! For instance, if you only put one male with several females in a 10-gallon tank they may still produce offspring even though it isn’t likely.

Are zebra danio peaceful or aggressive?

This fish is known to be non-aggressive, but that doesn’t mean they can’t defend themselves. They will typically choose flight over fight, and won’t turn on a tank mate unless their territory or food supply is being threatened. They are also known for swimming in groups; if you keep them with others of their kind, you may never have to worry about aggression.

Zebra danio care

Zebra danio

Zebra Danios are community fish and prefer to be kept in groups of three or more. Danios get along well with most other types of fish but can sometimes nip fins. Keep them with larger species and ones that swim mostly at mid-level, rather than bottom dwellers.

They can also be housed with livebearers such as guppies, platys, and swordtails; small catfish; gouramis; tetras; Plecostomus catfish; freshwater angelfish, including butterfly danio. They do not thrive if kept by themselves – they will often die from loneliness after a few weeks without any companionship.

Zebra danio diet

Zebra Danios are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and animals. In fact, you can feed them a wide variety of commercial aquarium foods as well as live, frozen, and freeze-dried fare such as mosquito larvae, brine shrimp, and Daphnia. These fish will also nibble on algae if it’s available in your tank — but keep in mind that too many algae are unhealthy for any fish.

So while these little guys aren’t picky, overfeeding is just as harmful to them as it is to other fish. If you find that your water quality has deteriorated since adding Danios to your tank, try cutting back their meal sizes so they don’t get excess food in their bellies and produce waste faster than you can filter out. For example, instead of feeding two handfuls twice per day, cut down each serving by one handful and offer three meals per day instead of four or five.

Water parameters

Zebra danio

pH, temperature, and hardness should be at their natural levels. Zebra Danios do well in a pH of 7.0 to 8.0, though they can survive and adapt to varying degrees of acidity/alkalinity if need be. They prefer soft water with a low carbonate hardness, but will also tolerate harder water if necessary.

If your tap water is very hard or full of minerals, it is best to use bottled spring water when mixing up new batches of water for your fish tank. You don’t have to buy distilled or reverse osmosis water because these types of waters typically lack important minerals that fishes need for good health and proper growth rates.

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While normal municipal tap or well water may not always have enough minerals to support good zebra danio’s health, it is still better than using straight dechlorinated tap or mineral-free bottled spring waters which contain no beneficial nutrients whatsoever. The ideal temperature range for zebra danios is 75 to 82°F (24 – 28°C).

However, it has been observed that Danio rerio are more active and healthier in higher temperatures so many aquarists actually choose to keep their aquariums between 82 – 86°F (28 – 30°C) instead. Lower temperatures result in slower swimming speeds, faster metabolic processes, and less activity all around; however, most aquarists agree there is little difference in appearance or overall behavior between healthy danios kept at different temperatures within reason.

Zebra danio lifespan

About 3 years for females and about 4 or 5 years for males. Be prepared for rapid growth in their first couple of months, followed by long-term stability after that. They will reach sexual maturity in their third or fourth month.

Parasites and diseases

The zebra danio is a common aquarium fish, however, its delicate nature makes it more difficult to care for. In fact, it can be so sensitive that many aquarists do not keep them. Zebra danios are especially prone to Cryptocaryon irritans, commonly known as ich. It is an external parasite contracted by all danio species and some of their close relatives.

The only cure for ich is prevention; quarantine tanks should be used when purchasing new fish. Add AmQuel Plus or Mardel Cure/Ich Aid to your tank every week. Regularly test water quality and perform 25% water changes every one to two weeks. Proper water conditions prevent stress and enable optimal immune system functioning. Be sure to provide adequate space for swimming with lots of hiding places for fish less than one inch long.


Their natural predators are larger fish. They are also prey to birds and amphibians. Zebra Danios get eaten by larger fish such as Gouramis, Barbs, and African Cichlids. These fish will eat them if they can’t escape their territories!

Do they make great pets?

Absolutely! Zebra Danios are a very popular species for aquariums due to their striking coloration, easy-going nature, and compatibility with other fish.  They’re great beginner fish and can live in smaller tanks if they’re not overcrowded. They also have beautiful, contrasting stripes that make them quite eye-catching as well as active swimmers that entertain us with their energetic behavior.