Zebra Danio (Zebrafish) Care Guide: Look, Size & More | 2023

By: Martin McAdam
Updated: May 2, 2023

Zebra Danios are one of the most beautiful fish in the world. Zebra Danios are a prevalent tropical fish in the hobby. They tend to be a bit shy, but they are worth it. They have a fantastic array of colors when healthy and cared for.

This is one of the most popular fish species in the aquarium hobby. Its constant motion and vivid stripes attract young children's and experienced hobbyists' attention.

The Zebra Danio is popular enough that several other species in the Hyphessobrycon Darioides genus have been given the same common name, and they can be challenging to tell apart.

Zebra Danios are very hardy fish that can usually tolerate less-than-perfect water conditions without any problems. Still, providing your fish with the best possible living conditions is always best.

In this article, we will cover everything about Zebra Danios like their size, lifespan, diet, care, appearance, breeding, etc.

Zebra Danio: Species Summary

Common Name:Zebra Danio, Zebrafish.
Scientific Name:Danio rerio
Origin:India and river basins of Southeast Asia.
Size:2 inches
Lifespan:2 to 5 years
Temperature Range:64°F - 82°F
pH Range:6.5 -7.5
Care Level:Easy to Moderate
Water hardness:8 to 12 dKH

Zebra Danios are a very active and energetic species that will spend most of their time darting around the tank. They are moderately easy to care for but can sometimes be sensitive. They are generally hardy and usually bounce back from illness quickly.

They are the perfect first fish for anyone just getting into tropical fish ownership or as an addition to an already existing tank.

Zebra Danios is like a densely planted tank with several places where the adults can hide while the fry has free access to plenty of light and some open space to grow. Zebra Danios are a hardy species and will do fine in most tank setups.

The smaller the tank, the more schooling behavior you will see from these fish, so even something as small as a 5-gallon aquarium can house several danios- just be sure to have enough danios so they don't end up schooling.

Zebra Danio fry will begin to show their adult coloration after 2 to 3 weeks. At this point, they should be moved to a separate tank or re-distributed amongst several smaller tanks.

The adults will usually eat the young, so it's best to ensure enough hiding places in the breeding tank to keep them safe. Once they are free-swimming, the fry will be large enough to take brine shrimp, micro worms, and finely ground flake food.

Zebra Danios are straightforward to breed, and it is recommended that the colony be split up every 3 to 6 months to avoid territorial disputes between breeding pairs. They are egg scatterers but will use plants, driftwood, or aquarium décor as their substrate to spawn on.

A ten-gallon (or larger) aquarium with a dark substrate and several plants will suit a group of 4 to 6 Zebra Danios. Since they're schooling fish, it's best to keep them in a group of at least 6.

Zebra Danios are not known for being picky eaters, so they may begin to refuse flake food over time. Make sure you have other foods on hand if this happens!

As with many species of cichlids, Zebra Danios can be a bit nippy with tank mates- especially when breeding. Keep them in a school of 6 or more and provide plenty of plants for cover.

Zebra Danio: Appearance

The Zebra Danio is a small, torpedo-shaped fish with horizontal blue and white stripes along its sides. Their fins are transparent with a black outline, and the tail fin has a curved black marking. Females have a stockier appearance than males do.

Zebra Danio Appearance

Males tend to be slightly smaller than females, but they're both slim, streamlined fish with vividly contrasting coloration that makes them easy to tell apart.

Mature males may have a reddish tint to their white underbellies, while females are usually a solid color with no patterning. Females will become much rounder as they begin to develop eggs and should be watched closely during this time.

Zebra Danios have a very streamlined and laterally compressed body shape. They possess a barbell on each lip, which they use to sift through the substrate for food items.

Their namesake stripes are unique depending on the gender of the fish- females have 3 horizontal black stripes running from the head to the tail base, while males will have 1 or 2 black vertical stripes instead.

The Zebra Danio has a black spot on its tail fin, while the Buenos Aires Danio lacks this spot and has a lower lateral line that runs to its tail fin. The Flagfin Danio has a black stripe through the dorsal fin and silver underbelly, while the Golden Danios lack this striping pattern and have a golden sheen to their scales.

Zebra Danio: Size And Growth Rate

Zebra Danios typically grow from 1/2 inch to one inch in size within the first year of life and then about 3/8 of an inch each year after. Females tend to be slightly larger than males, with a maximum size of 2 inches (5 cm) for females; 1 inch(2.5cm) for males.

Zebra Danio Size And Growth Rate

The growth rate depends on the health and diet of the fish, but it's safe to say that they'll take roughly 6-9 months before reaching their full adult size at room temperature.

Zebra Danio: Lifespan

Zebra Danios have a lifespan of 2 to 5 years or longer, but only if provided with proper care and nutrition.

Zebra Danio: Breeding

Zebra Danios are one of the easiest fish to breed in the hobby. They may be bred in groups or singly and can provide many hours of enjoyment for both novice and experienced tropical fish keepers.

You must set up a relatively bare breeding tank to breed Zebra Danios. A ten-gallon aquarium will be fine for a small group of 6 to 8 Zebra Danios, or you could use a larger tank if you plan to breed more fish.

Zebra Danio Breeding

The substrate should consist of a dark-colored medium such as sand, crushed coral, or potting soil mixed with gravel. Provide a nice amount of live plants and a tight-fitting cover for the tank to prevent evaporation.

Zebra Danios will breed in almost any condition, but their prime breeding time is when they are kept at the higher end of their temperature range. As with all cichlids, it's essential not to be too aggressive when breeding them.

Aggressive behavior will cause the fish to become stressed and may interfere with spawning.

The female Zebra Danio is responsible for preparing the nest and caring for the eggs and fry, while the male defends them from predators. The pair will usually spawn in a small depression they've dug out themselves,

which should be removed after spawning has ended. The female will need time to recover from the ordeal of creating the nest, so it's best to remove the male while she recovers or if you plan not to breed them again.

The females are slightly smaller than the males and may be distinguished by their more rounded bellies. Zebra Danios are open breeders, which means the fry are free-swimming fairly soon after hatching.

The female will usually keep them in or around the nest until they are ready to swim independently, which generally takes 3 to 4 days. Once they are free-swimming, it's best not to disturb the tank unless necessary, as this could cause stress and may interfere with the fry's development.

Zebra Danio fry will begin to show their adult coloration after 2 to 3 weeks. At this point, they should be moved to a separate tank or re-distributed amongst several smaller tanks.

The adults will usually eat the young, so it's best to ensure enough hiding places in the breeding tank to keep them safe. Once they are free-swimming, the fry will be large enough to take brine shrimp, micro worms, and finely ground flake food.

Zebra Danio: Reproduction

Zebra Danios are straightforward to breed, and it is recommended that the colony be split up every 3 to 6 months to avoid territorial disputes between breeding pairs. They are egg scatterers but will use plants, driftwood, or aquarium décor as their substrate to spawn on.

The Zebra Danio is one of the most popular fish species in the aquarium hobby. Its constant motion and vivid stripes attract young children's and experienced hobbyists' attention.

They are hardy, easy to care for, have a long lifespan with proper care, and are extremely easy to breed. A small number of them can be kept successfully in a 20-gallon (75.7 liters) tank, but they will be happiest in a larger planted community tank with room to grow and thrive.

Zebra Danio: Gestation Period And Pregnancy Rate

It's impossible to calculate the gestation period and pregnancy rate of the Zebra Danio because it breeds so readily and frequently in captivity. Offspring do not need to be cared for after birth; the parents will tend to them until they are able (typically) 3 weeks old and can fend for themselves.

Zebra Danio: Zebra Danio Mating

Sexing Zebra Danios can be fairly straightforward if you know what you want. The females are usually smaller than the males, but this is not always true.

The best method for determining gender is to watch the fish's behavior; the male Zebra Danio will chase after any other individual that enters his territory, including other Danios of either sex. He does this in an attempt to establish dominance and impress potential mates.

The male Zebra Danio will also claim a small territory beneath a floating plant or inside the thicket of a large group of live plants and defend this territory aggressively. The female will not challenge other Danios for dominance and instead seek out areas unpopulated by other fish to lay her eggs.

Zebra Danio fry will be produced in large numbers, usually hundreds of fry from each spawning. This can make them difficult to care for, and it's recommended that they be separated as soon as possible to prevent the parents from eating their young.

Zebra Danio: Spawning

Zebra Danios aren't particularly secretive spawners but do appreciate some cover for the parents, so you can attach a clump of java moss or spawning mops to your tank's decor. If you're looking for an easier option, leave the plants in place and wait for the adults to scatter their eggs among the roots or in the spaces between leaves.

Zebra Danio: Diet And Food

Zebra Danios are omnivorous fish that will eat most prepared flake foods and small live prey items. They should be fed various dried, frozen, and live foods to ensure they receive all the vitamins and nutrients they need to thrive.

Zebra Danios will eat most prepared fish food pellets or flakes intended for omnivores. They particularly enjoy bloodworms, tubifex worms, brine shrimp, and daphnia. These fish will also relish small prey items like fruit flies or mosquito larvae but should be fed sparingly due to their high protein content.

Zebra Danio: Social Behavior And Temperament

Zebra Danios are very peaceful fish that do well in most community aquariums. They will typically get along with any tank mates that aren't overly aggressive or nippy, but it's important to remember they are small and may become food for larger species. It is recommended only to keep them in a school of 6 or more.

Zebra Danio Social Behavior And Temperament

The temperament of Zebra Danios varies greatly depending on the fish's mood. They are peaceful and will not bother any tank mates if kept in a school. However, if they find themselves alone in an aquarium,

they can become shy or even nippy. Breeding Females are particularly aggressive when breeding, especially when rearing fry.

Zebra Danio Care

Given below are the details for the care of Zebra Danio.

Water Conditions

Zebra Danios are extremely hardy fish that can survive under a wide range of water conditions provided they are kept reasonably clean. The ideal water temperature range is 64° to 82°F, with a dKH of 8 to 12.

They are also fairly tolerant to changes in water conditions. However, it's still important to try and keep the water as stable as possible through regular filter maintenance and careful cleaning of plants and decor.

Aquarium pH Levels

Zebra Danios can adapt to a wide range of aquarium pH levels, but they sense the most comfortable range as acidic. The ideal pH level for Zebra Danios is between 6.5 to 7.5.

If you maintain your Zebra Danio in an acidic planted tank with driftwood, you can feed them a wider variety of foods. Use high-quality, low-protein flake food, pellets, and occasional frozen bloodworms or daphnia to give your fish the best possible diet.

Tank Size

Having plants and driftwood in your Zebra Danio tank is a good idea. Zebra Danios need a lot of room, so you'll need a 10-gallon minimum tank size with plenty of plants and driftwood for hiding. Larger tanks are always better as they allow more stable water parameters and room for a wider variety of tank mates.

Tank Decorations

Zebra Danios are an extremely active species that will appreciate densely planted areas, so be sure to include many plants for them to use as cover. Driftwood also makes a good addition because it provides shelter and swimming space, while tannins in the wood reduce pH levels.

If you put driftwood in your tank, ensure the pieces are not treated with chemicals such as paint or varnish. Driftwood that sinks immediately is often too dense and could trap the Zebra Danios in soggy areas, so it should be placed carefully to provide well-defined hiding spots.

Tank Region

Zebra Danios may establish a pecking order in the aquarium, especially when kept with other fish. Zebra Danios are highly active and will spend most of their time in the tank's middle or upper regions, making them popular tank mates because they generally leave slower swimming fish alone.


Zebra Danios are not overly fussy about filtration, but they will appreciate a small airstone to supply oxygen-rich water and occasional filter maintenance to keep the water clean.

A low-end power filter is fine for this species, provided you have mostly live plants in your tank. You should also include an air stone or powerhead to provide oxygen-rich water for your Zebra Danios.


Zebra Danios can handle a relatively wide range of temperatures but do best when kept in the 64° to 82°F range.

A heater will be vital to breed or maintain your Zebra Danios in colder water. It's also advisable to get a thermometer for monitoring the tank temperature since these fish are so sensitive to changes in water conditions.

Oxygen Supply

Low oxygen levels are the most common cause of disease in Zebra Danios. If your tank has poor filtration or is overcrowded, keeping the oxygen level high will discourage diseases like fin rot and hole-in-the-head.


Zebra Danios need minimal lighting. A low-wattage bulb will create a nice glow for your Zebra Danios without heating the tank so much that your other inhabitants are uncomfortable.

This type of light is usually adequate for viewing your fish, although you may want to raise it slightly if you have live plants in the tank.


Zebra Danios are highly active fish that spend most of their time in the top few inches of water. They need plenty of open swimming space, so avoid keeping them with smaller, more timid inhabitants like guppies or bettas.

Zebra Danios tend to school, especially when they're young, so they'll be happiest if you provide them with several tank mates of their species.

Extra Equipment

Zebra Danios are not fussy fish that need extensive equipment, but they will appreciate a small filter and heater if you want to breed them or maintain them in colder water. You can also get an under gravel filter for your Zebra Danio tank to keep the substrate aerated without using extra electricity.

Zebra Danio Fry And Raising Them In The Aquarium

You can feed the newly hatched fry infusoria and powdered fry food, but it's more convenient to set up a separate small tank for raising a few fish at a time.

Use an unfiltered one- or two-gallon container with low water flow and add a sponge filter or air stone to keep the water oxygenated.

Zebra Danio: Common Potential Diseases

Zebra Danios are usually disease-free and trouble-free. They're hardy fish that can tolerate a wide range of water conditions as long as they have excellent filtration and plenty of oxygen.

Some of the common potential diseases are:

  • Fungal Infections: Fungal infections are uncommon, but your Zebra Danio may be more susceptible if you keep the water too warm or don't use a heater.
  • External Parasites: Fish lice are one external parasite that can infect your Zebra Danio. Look for small, white specks on the body and fins that may move around a bit.
  • Internal Parasites: Some signs of internal parasites include reduced activity, spots on the skin, and white stringy feces.
  • Hole-in-the-Head Disease: One common fungal infection is a hole-in-the-head disease caused by poor water quality and affects both fresh and saltwater fish alike.
  • Ich: Ich is short for ichthyophthirius, a common parasitic infection in aquariums known as "white spot disease." It commonly affects fish like Zebra Danios that are kept in tropical aquariums. The main symptom is tiny white spots on the body and fins, but your Zebra Danio may also develop ulcers (open wounds) and lose color.

Zebra Danio: Treatment And Medications For Diseases

As always, your first line of defense is to keep the water clean, stable and oxygenated. Any time you have a fish showing signs of disease, immediately remove it from the main tank for observation and treatment in a hospital tank or by a veterinarian.

If you medicate your sick Zebra Danio yourself, follow the package directions carefully. Never medicate without proper instruction since incorrect treatment can be worse than no treatment!

Antibiotics may be used for bacterial infections. Antibiotics like penicillin and tetracycline are safe to use in a tank with live plants as long as you reduce the dosage proportionately after each water change.

Antifungals are useful in treating fungal infections, but it's best to consult an experienced fishkeeper before deciding on medication and dosage. Be aware that some medications can kill your biological filter if not removed from the water before you medicate!

Some medications contain too much copper, which can be fatal to fish. Copper-based medications are usually best used with a hospital tank to avoid killing off the bacteria that keep your main tank healthy.

It may have internal parasites if you can't see your Zebra Danio's anus. Your veterinarian can give you a deworming medicine if necessary. If you're concerned about parasites, buy an anthelmintic-like parasite clear or fish guard at your local pet shop. Follow the package directions for dosage and any precautions you need to take.

If your Zebra Danio has a hole-in-the head, its head will appear to be sunken in or caved in. It may also have red sores on the body and fins more visible after the fish flares at you. Treating fin rot is similar to treating hole-in-the-head disease but doesn't involve fungal infections.

Instead, fin rot results from bacteria attacking your Zebra Danio's fins and can be caused by poor water quality or injury to the fins. Symptoms include frayed fins starting to develop holes, red patches on the body near the affected area, cloudy eyes, and loss of color in its scales. After you notice the first signs of damage, it will usually worsen quickly, even if you treat your Danio with antibiotics.

Ich can be fatal if it's not treated quickly, so you should purchase an Ich medication or copper-based antibiotic at your local pet or fish store. Copper can be very toxic to healthy bacteria in your tank, so you must remove any filters or other equipment before treating the tank with copper-based medications.

For best results, treat Ich using an anti-parasitic medication like ich cure after you've removed any activated carbon and protein skimmers (protein skimmers remove organic waste and encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria).

Zebra Danio: Tank Mates

Zebra Danios are peaceful fish that can be kept with most community tank mates. They tend to do well in small schools of 6 or more, but more significant numbers are always better for this species because they are highly social and will generally behave themselves when in large groups. As a schooling species, they will do best when kept with other fish of similar temperament.

Zebra Danios make good tank mates for most community tanks, though some more aggressive species may bully or compete with them for food. They generally get along well with other small fish that prefer the mid-to upper-level of the aquarium.

They may intimidate very small or slow fish with their constant activity. Still, most community fish will appreciate the lively display and opportunity to hide in the Zebra Danio's thicket of plants.

Nerite Snails can be helpful tank-mates for Zebra Danios because the snails will consume uneaten food and other debris while leaving the Zebra Danio's plants untouched. Nerite Snails should be placed in areas where they won't be crushed or buried by décor and can securely attach to driftwood and rocks with a suction cup base.

Advantages Of Having Zebra Danios In Your Tank

  • Active: These fish are active and spend most of their time darting around the aquarium. Their fast, darting movements will add great excitement to an aquarium.
  • Bright Coloring:  Zebra Danios' striking colors instantly attract attention in any community tank!
  • Aids In Cycling Process: Heaters, filters, and other equipment used in the aquarium cycling process will attract them to the tank. The more you have going while setting up a new tank, the faster it will cycle!
  • Colorful: Zebra Danios are beautiful fish that add much color and excitement to any aquarium.
  • Hardy: They are a very hardy species and will adapt to most community aquariums. They are a great choice for beginner fish keepers or anyone looking for something fun and easy to add to their tank!
  • Easy To Care For: They are easy to care for and only require that their water stays clean. As one of the hardiest species of fish, they will usually bounce back from illness rather quickly as well!
  • Fun To Watch: They are very active and social fish that can be fun to watch!
  • Generally Peaceful: They are peaceful fish that can be easily kept with most other community aquarium residents. They are a perfect addition to any home!
  • Good For Breeding: They are a very hardy species and should breed easily in any home aquarium. They will readily spawn, so anyone with a ten-gallon aquarium should have success!
  • Easy To Find:  They are extremely popular among tropical fish keepers for their bright coloring and ease of care. They can be found in most chain stores and are very affordable!
  • High-Calorie Food: Zebra Danios will readily accept nearly all types of food and provide a great source of nutrition for larger fish in the tank.
  • Reliable Community Fish: They are an excellent choice for any community tank. They are usually very peaceful and will befriend most other aquarium residents!

Disadvantages Of Having Zebra Danios In Your Tank

  • Sometimes nippy: Zebra Danios can become a bit nippy when breeding, so it is important to provide plenty of plants for cover.
  • Temperamental When Alone:  They are generally peaceful fish that will not bother tank mates in large groups. However, if kept alone, they can become shy or even nippy.
  • Spawn Regularly: They will spawn if kept in a healthy aquarium with compatible tank mates. This can lead to overpopulation and frequent maintenance for the aquarium owner!
  • Prone To Disease: They are very hardy fish but can easily fall prey to Ich, ick, or other common diseases if not properly cared for.
  • Livebearers: They are closely related to Guppies and Mollies, so they can carry many of the same parasites that these fish are known to have. It is essential to keep them with tank mates without ick or other common fish diseases.
  • Social: They are generally peaceful fish that dislike being alone. They will become stressed if kept by themselves and can even become nippy! Ensure you keep them in groups of 6 or more, with plenty of plants for privacy, to prevent this behavior.
  • Not The Best Algae Eaters: They are not terrible algae eaters but are not the best choice for an aquarium with many algae problems. They will readily accept most food types, but it is essential to make sure their diet includes some veggies or algae every once in a while!
  • Activity Requires A Large Tank: They are very active fish requiring at least a 30-gallon aquarium to be kept happy. They are best in community tanks of 10 gallons or more.
  • Prone To Hiding: While not genuinely nocturnal, Zebra Danios can become shy alone or in a small tank during the day. They will usually become more active at night but still may stay hidden under plants until the lights go out.
  • Breeding Requires A Large Tank: They are generally peaceful fish with no problems with breeding. However, they require a large tank for their eggs to develop and hatch. Once hatched, the fry will require a large tank as well!


Zebra Danios are a great fish choice for anyone looking to add color to their tank. They are usually very hardy fish that can handle many tank conditions.

Zebra Danios will readily accept most food types and provide hours of amusement for the owner or any other community fish in the aquarium! Just remember that they can sometimes become nippy when breeding, so be sure to add plenty of plants and other items for them to hide in.

Also note that this fish should not be kept by itself, as it will become very shy and even nippy if left alone!

Zebra Danios are a great addition to almost any aquarium! Remember that they are very active fish that require at least a 30-gallon tank and should never be kept alone. These fish are excellent for aquarium owners looking to add a little color or activity! Zebra Danios are small, peaceful fish found in most stores.

They are straightforward to care for and often live for three or more years if provided with proper water conditions and nutrition. They are great beginner fish!


AquaMarinePower.com does not intend to provide veterinary advice. We go to great lengths to help users better understand their aquatic friends. However, the content on this blog is not a substitute for veterinary guidance. For more information, please read our disclaimer.

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