Zebra Danio Care Sheet – Tank, Food, Breeding, Substrate & Accessories

  • Scientific Name: Danio rerio, formerly Brachydanio rerio
  • Family: Cyprinidae
  • Size: 2½ inches
  • Temperature: 65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH: 6.5-7
  • Alkalinity: Undemanding
  • Origin: Eastern India

Should you keep a Zebra Danio?

The zebra danio is a active fish that should be housed in groups of five or more with other peaceful community tank residents of similar size. It should be housed in large aquariums that are long, rather than wide or tall. Provide a coarse sand or fine gravel substrate. Plants can be included on the sides and back of the aquarium, leaving plenty of room in the center for swimming. Decorate modestly with a few rocks or driftwood.

How do you take care of a zebra danio?

Here are some basics to keeping danios the right way and saving yourself and the danios lots of grief in the future.


You really should have a 20 gallon or larger, but you can sometimes get away with a 10 gallon tank. Danios are very active swimmers and thrive in longer (as opposed to tall, cylindrical, or hexagonal) tanks. They’ll still survive in a tall 10 gallon tank and many people keep them in 10 gallon tanks, but if you’re shopping for a new aquarium, you’ll want a long 20 gallon.


Danios require a temperature of between 65-75°, but the important thing here is to minimize as much as possible the fluctuations in temperature. That generally requires an aquarium heater. A 50 watt stealth heater like the Visitherm is ideal. Note that this temperature is a little lower than what other tropical fish prefer, so keep that in mind if you are planning to add any tankmates.


You really need a filter for ANY fish, despite the fact people keep bettas and golfish in unfiltered tanks or bowls. But in this particular case, it is a must have. You simply cannot have a tropical fish tank without a filter. A simple sponge filter would be fine, or you could spring for something like a bio-wheel.


Pretty self-explanatory. Some aquarium kits come with a hood that has a built-in light, but in case you are starting from scratch without a kit, just get very basic lighting. You aren’t growing corals here where high intensity output is extremely important. The idea here is just to simulate day and night.

Water Conditioner

As hardy as danios here, you can’t just put regular old untreated tap water in the tank both initially and during water changes. You’ll also want to pick up Stress Coat or Prime – these are two extremely popular water conditioners that will get rid of chlorine so your water is safe to add to the fish tank.

Water Temperature

65-75 degrees Fahrenheit.

pH Levels

Danios require a 6.5-7 pH level.


You need gravel or some type of substrate to line the bottom of the fish tank. Danios aren’t picky, but if you’re adding loaches or any type of catfish as a tankmate, you should stay away from rough ceramic media as this will scratch their faces. If you are adding live plants to the tank, then this is slightly more complicated in what substrate would be best. Standard issue aquarium gravel is fine otherwise.

Testing Kit

You will need the ability to test for ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. Many people just use test strips, and these are fine for a guideline, but they’re often not the most accurate thing in the world. Aquarium Pharmaceuticals makes a freshwater master test kit (which would also let you test pH), so that is something you may want to consider. No testing supplies available to hobbyists are 100% accurate. Ammonia especially is a difficult test, so keep this in mind as well when taking readings. One other thing, many local fish stores and some chain pet stores will do a free water test, so you may want to confirm some readings with them.

Optional Items

You will probably want to decorate your tank, so any decor you buy, just make sure you rinse it off before putting it in the tank, as you don’t want the water to get dusty. You might also consider a bacteria booster for starting the nitrogen cycle, though opinions are mixed on the effectiveness of these.

Feeding Your Zebra Danios

They will accept a wide variety of small live foods, such as:

  • Bloodworms
  • Insect larvae
  • Brine shrimp (nauplius)
  • Tubifex worms
  • Freeze-dried & frozen flake foods

You may also supplement its diet with parboiled romaine lettuce and foods that contain Spirulina.

Brands of Fish Food

TetraMin is extremely easy to find and makes a good staple food. I like to feed my danios Omega One Tropical Flakes and New Life Spectrum Freshwater Flakes, though these brands are both a little more difficult to find in chain stores (any local fish store will carry them, though, and possibly Omega One). For any freeze-dried food, I like San Francisco Bay brand.

Flakes vs. Pellets

Pellets have the advantage that it’s much easier to dose the same amount, and you also dramatically cut down on uneaten food polluting the tank. You might to consider Hikari Micro Pellets…just make sure any pellet food isn’t too large, as danios aren’t exactly adult cichlids…their mouths cannot handle large pellets.

Another thing to keep in mind is the fact that fish stores generally keep their fish on flake food, so that is what your danios likely will be used to, and what they’re most likely to accept at first.

Feeding Frequency

There is no standard guideline for how often or how much to feed your fish. You really should only feed them what they can eat in 2 minutes, as excess food will degrade water quality. You will get a feel for it as you care for your danios…some people prefer to feed little amounts twice a day, some more than that once a day, some feed a conservative amount 6 days per week and then skip the 7th day to avoid constipation (yes, fish can get constipated…one way to treat this if they ever do is to serve them a blanched pea).


Like all animals, your danios can get sick. Here are some common ailments:

Ammonia Poisoning

Noticing red or purple gills? Are your fish very close to the surface gasping for air? Ammonia poisoning is common in new aquariums that have not been cycled. A quick fix is an ammonia detoxifier like Amquel+ or Ammo-Lock (I prefer Ammo-Lock). If it’s an emergency and you don’t have that, do an immediate partial water change.


Noticing bloated danios with raised scales? This is the result of a bacterial infection, often stemming from malnutrition. You will need to do a partial water change, and possibly get medication from your local fish store if it’s not too late.

Fin Rot

Are your fish kind of laying on the bottom of the tank with rotted fins? You’ll need tetracycline, just make sure to remove any carbon filtration in your tank before adding it.


Do your fish have white spots on them, looking sort like someone just salted them? That’s ich (pronounced ‘ick’). Any pet store will have a variety of medication for treating this common ailment. It usually is caused by sudden temperature changes, stress, and bad water parameters.

Breeding Zebra Danios

The zebra danio normally spawns with just one partner. The female is fuller-bodied and larger than the male and has more subdued coloration. The male’s body usually has a bright-yellow background with fine red lines between wider blue longitudinal lines.

Are zebra danios livebearers?

No. Zebra danios lay tiny eggs which can easily fall into tiny crevices in the substrate on the tank floor if they aren’t consumed first.

The trick is to make sure the other danios don’t eat the eggs, which they will if this is not a densely planted tank. One common solution is to put the danios in a separate tank that uses marbles as the substrate (the idea being that the eggs fall in between the marbles where the danios won’t be able to eat them).

How often do zebra danios lay eggs?

Breeding is most successful in shallow water (4 to 6 inches deep) in a densely planted aquarium (either artificial or live plants are fine). Place the female in the aquarium a day before spawning and add the male the same evening. After a rigorous courtship, the pair will spawn in the early hours of morning and will produce between 400 and 500 eggs. Once spawning is complete, remove the pair. The fry will hatch in two days and will accept small fry foods.

Are zebra danios easy to breed?

Yes! In fact, if you’ve introduced a male and female together then they’ve probably mated recently without you even noticing. If you haven’t introduced them yet, encouraging them to breed is easy:

Simply feed the danios for a week prior with your best quality food (tubifex, bloodworms, etc.). After transferring them to the new tank, leave them for a few hours to lay the eggs, and then transfer them back to the old tank. You will see fry within a couple days if all goes well.

Can Zebra Danio Be Glofish?

GloFish are zebra danios that have been genetically modified to glow under blacklight. In normal light they are flourescent shades of red, green, and yellow. Apart from the different coloring, they are otherwise identical to zebra danios.

Please note that these aren’t painted fish. Painted fish are typically glassfish that have been injected with dye which is obviously very traumatizing to the fish. In the case of glofish, a gene was injected into a fertilized danio egg and the fish were bred from that first glofish. The live fish aren’t harmed in any way.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are zebra danio aggressive?

They can be, especially if they are unable to form a school. Some may even chase and bite the fins of some of the longer-finned fish you may keep in the tank. That’s why we recommend to keep at least 6 together so they can form a school and become more mellow.

Are zebra danios compatible with betta fish?

Not really. Zebra danios and bettas are incompatible primarily due to their temperature requirements. Danios require 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit while bettas need 78-82 degrees. Danios are also very active so they really need a 20 gallon tank to thrive while bettas are comfortable in just 10.

Are zebra danios and guppies compatible?

Danios will occasionally harass and bite at the fins of guppies they’re kept with. Sometimes this can be mitigated by ensuring that the danios are properly able to form a school, but even then some may just have an aggressive temperament.

Are zebra danios compatible with neon tetras?

Sometimes. Depending on the temperament of your fish it could be a problem though. The most important factor is that they’re able to make a school which tends to relax them and ease their aggressive behavior.

What are the best tank mates for a zebra danio?

  • Corydoras
  • Gourami
  • Barbs
  • Sword Tails
  • Loaches

Avoid adding tank mates if you notice your danios are aggressive and bite at the fins of other fish.

What is the zebra danios’ life span?

Between 2.5-3.5 years under ideal circumstances.

How big do zebra danios get?

2-2.5 inches long.

Leave a Comment