Caring, Feeding and Breeding For Zebra Danio

An Inexpensive and Easy to Keep Comunity Aquarium Fish: Zebra Danio

Danio rerio - Zebra Danio
Zebra Danio. Thierry Marysael

Zebra Danio is a favorite of freshwater fish hobbyists and they are active swimmers. They are also very loyal to their breeding partner and mate for life!

Zebra Danio: Basics

  • Scientific Name: Danio rerio
  • Synonym: Barilius rerio, Brachydanio frankei, Brachydanio rerio, Cyprinus chapalio, Cyprinus rerio, Danio frankei, Danio lineatus, Nuria rerio, Perilampus striatus
  • Common Name: Striped Danio, Zebra Danio, Zebra Fish
  • Family: Cyprinidae
  • Origin: Eastern India
  • Adult Size: 2 inches (6 cm)
  • Social: Peaceful, suitable for community tanks
  • Lifespan: 5 years
  • Tank Level: All Levels
  • Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons
  • Diet: Omnivore, eats most foods
  • Breeding: Egglayer
  • Care: Easy
  • pH: 6.5 - 7.0
  • Hardness: 5-12 dGH
  • Temperature: 64-74 F (18-24 C)


The Zebra Danios was originally thought to originate from a wider range that stretched as Myanmar in the east and Pakistan in the west; however, the current consensus is that this species originates from a narrower range that is contained to parts of India and Bangladesh. Part of this change in distribution is due to the identification of similar species that were once misidentified as Danio Rerio, as well as damage to the environment that resulted in a reduction of habitable areas.

Fish available in the industry today are almost always captive bred. Zebras are easy and inexpensive to raise, making them prime candidates for commercial breeding.

While commercial breeding has provided a large and unlimited supply of this species, it has also resulted in a fish that is less robust than the original wild species.


Among the hardiest and active of aquarium fish, the Zebra Danio is easily recognized by its distinctive horizontal stripes.

Blue-purple horizontal stripes run from gill to tail, setting off the slim compressed silver-gold body of this attractive fish. The peaceful nature and small size of the Zebra Danio, no more than two and a half inches, make them well suited to a community aquarium.

Albino/golden, veil tailed and long finned Zebra Danio varieties are available, as well as a popular leopard variety. The leopard strain is characterized by a copious sprinkling of black spots over the entire body. In the past, the Leopard Danio was considered a different species, but genetic studies have proven that it is merely a spotted variation of Danio Rerio. All varieties thrive in schools, and they should never be kept singly.


Zebra Danios are a peaceful fish that get along with most any tankmates, however, they will nip fins of certain species of fish. Any fish with long flowing fins, such as Angelfish, Bettas, and Guppies, are potential targets of the active Zebra looking for something to do.


Zebras are primarily surface dwelling fish that favor moving waters. Technically they are considered cold-water fish, preferring water in the 64-75 degree range. However, they will adapt to a wide range of water conditions.

With the advent of commercial breeding, this species has become less robust than species in the wild. If water temperatures are kept low, they tend to become more susceptible to disease.

Zebras are extremely active, and although they have a preference for the upper levels of the aquarium, they will move throughout the entire tank. Provide them with diffuse lighting and an open swimming space, together with vegetation around the periphery of the habitat. A darker substrate will help showcase the color in these fish and gives the habitat a more natural feel.


Zebra Danios are omnivorous, accepting almost any foods. Although undemanding in diet, they particularly enjoy small live or frozen inverts and fresh vegetable matter.

Sexual Differences

Males are a bit smaller and more slender than females.

Both sexes have two pairs of barbels and the same stripes, but females are usually larger and more full-bodied than the males, which is particularly noticeable when they fill with eggs.


Zebra Danios are ideal for beginners as they are prolific breeders, and interestingly, mated pairs remain together for life and rarely spawn with others, even if one mate dies. The best way to obtain a mating pair is to start with a school of a half dozen or more young Zebras and allow them to choose mates.

Set up the breeding tank with shallow water, approximately six inches deep. Furnish the tank with fine-leafed plants or a spawning grid on the bottom. Course gravel works well as the eggs will fall between the gravel pieces and will be protected from the adult fish, which will readily eat their own eggs.

Spawning requires temperatures of up to 78 degrees and can be triggered by raising the water a couple of degrees near dawn when spawning normally occurs. About 300 to 500 eggs will be scattered across the bottom and on the plants. Remove breeders after spawning, as they will consume the young.

The fry will hatch in two days. They are very tiny and can easily be lost when changing water, so take care when maintaining the grow-out tank. Feed the young commercially prepared fry food or finely crushed dry foods. You can also add powdered egg to the fry food to promote growth.