Zebra Danio – A Complete Guide – Care, Diet, Facts

If you are starting your first fish aquarium, the Zebra Danios may be just what you’re looking for. You won’t have to spend a lot of cash.

Considering a fish aquarium because you live in a place that won’t allow other pets? Wonder how interesting a fish can be? Zebra Danios won’t disappoint you. They are high-energy little fish. They dash back and forth in the tank. They like to investigate small spaces among your aquarium plants, rocks, or driftwood.

Zebra Danios like to interact with other fish. If you plan to have only Zebra Danios to start, it is best to purchase six or more because they are schooling fish. If they don’t have enough tank mates, they may begin to nip at the fins and tails of the other fish.

It is very easy to take care of Zebra Danios, and when properly cared for, they can live up to five years.

What Do Zebra Danios Look Like?

Zebra Danios are often called “zebra fish” because of their horizontal blue stripes. Females have a rounder body and are shimmering white. Males are more golden in color.

Today’s wider variety of appearances among Zebra Danios is due to selective breeding. This has caused some Zebra Danios to have long fins.

Some zebra fish have been given shots of jellyfish hormones. This has produced zebra fish in bright colors. They even glow in the dark. Of course, they would be in great danger in the wild. They are quite popular in home aquariums.

Where Did Zebra Danio Fish Come From?

Although Zebra Danios are tropical fish. They are freshwater fish. They are a cold water fish.

The Ganges River area of India has been home to Zebra Danios for a long time. However, wild Zebra Danios live in many different places. They live anywhere from rivers with fast currents to lakes with almost no current at all.

Fish available in stores and pet shops today are nearly always captive bred.

Tank Size Requirements

Zebra fish are small, about 2 – 2 ½ inches fully grown. You could keep them in a five-gallon tank. But, they are very active fish and need room to move. Therefore, we recommend at least a ten-gallon tank, but the longer the tank, the better.

The more room they have to move, the less chance they will get stressed. Signs of stress in your Zebra Danios are loss of appetite or becoming aggressive to their tank mates.

There should be plenty of room for your zebra fish to swim near the top and in the mid section of the tank.

Zebra fish can be quite acrobatic. They are good jumpers. Therefore, you will want to keep some type of cover on your aquarium. Your Zebra Danios can entertain you for hours as they dart around the tank.

Aquarium Setup for Your Zebra Danios

When starting an aquarium of fish, you must be sure you prepare it properly for the health and well-being of your fish.

The first thing you should do is cycle the aquarium before you add any fish. This simply means growing “good bacteria” in your aquarium filter.

There are several different ways you can do this. First, you can add a filter that already has some aquarium dirt from a tank you already have in use. The way to do this is to put a new filter in an aquarium you are already using. Don’t remove the filter you already have in that aquarium. Place the new filter at the opposite end from the one currently being used.

Allow both filters to run in that aquarium for a month. This will allow some bacteria and waste to build up in the new filter. Then you simply move this filter to the new aquarium.

Another option would be to purchase “bacteria in a bottle”. This bottled bacteria can provide good bacteria to the water in your new aquarium in just a few days. This is because it has a higher concentration of nitrates. You can purchase bottled bacteria that is specifically made up of good bacteria needed for your freshwater tank.

Also, be sure to purchase a master test kit. You will use this to test your aquarium water to be sure it has the proper level of pH, nitrates, and nitrites for your fish.

Water Temperature and Aquarium Necessities

Treated sand is an excellent choice for the bottom of your freshwater Zebra Danio aquarium. Be sure to wash the sand before placing it in the aquarium. This will prevent the water from becoming cloudy.

Be sure to include tall and floating freshwater plants in your aquarium. Two great options are the Java Fern or the Amazon Sword Plant. The colors of your Zebra Danios will stand out in a well-decorated tank. You may also want to add a rock or some pieces of bogwood. Such items will remind your zebra fish of the tree roots found in their natural habitat – streams and rivers.

You should keep your zebra fish in water kept between 65 and 77 degrees Farenheit. Though they are considered a cold water fish, the captive bred Zebra Danios are not as hardy as their wild relatives. Therefore, keeping your water temperature too low can make them more likely to get sick.

Also, because Zebra Danios need water to be between 65 and 77 degrees, you may want to purchase a thermostatically controlled heater to assure water temperatures remain consistent.

Zebra fish also like a little bit of a current. Therefore, an HOB (hang on back) filter is suggested. This particular filter will provide a slight current in the tank water.

You will also want to add a prefilter sponge. It looks like a foam cylinder with a hole in one end. Place this over the end of your filter’s intake tube. This will grow good bacteria. It will also prevent fish or plant leaves to get caught up in the filter.

You will want to test the pH level of your tank water. You will want your tank water to remain consistent with a pH of 6.5 to 7.2. It can be dangerous to your zebra fish if the pH level changes too much.

Zebra Danios need about twelve hours of light each day. You will want a good lighting system. A popular choice, is an LED lighting system.

Diet For Zebra Danios

You can feed fish flakes to Zebra Danios twice a day. Simply sprinkle some flakes on the water’s surface.

However, to keep your zebra fish healthy, you should also include items that would be found in their natural habitat—rivers, lakes, and streams. This means some live food items like small worms and insects. They also like live or frozen brine shrimp. Another favorite is fresh vegetables, like lettuce.

Zebra Danios also enjoy daphnia, otherwise known as waterfleas. They are a type of crustacean.

Only feed your zebra fish as much as they can consume in a two-minute time period. Also, feed them two to three times a day due to the level of their activity and their high metabolism.

Tank Mates

Zebra Danios are community fish. Remember, they are very active. Therefore, it is best not to include slow-moving fish in the same aquarium. The zebra fish would most likely stress them out.

Tank mates that would work well with your Zebra Danios include: neon tetras, swordtails, white clouds, clown, and yoyo loaches.

Zebra Danios Are Easy to Breed

First, you need to separate males and females. Then you need to feed them high protein live foods like blood worms and daphnia. High protein live foods encourage breeding. Eventually, you will notice the female getting rounder in shape. That means she’s carrying eggs.

After two weeks, you can move the males and females to a breeding tank. Be sure to have two males to every female. You may notice that a particular male prefers one particular female. Often Zebra Danio males will remain devoted to one female.

The breeding aquarium should include some fine-leaved plants. This will provide your zebra fish something to spawn over.

When you see what appear to be see-through eggs at the bottom of the breeding tank, that means that the breeding was successful. There will be many of these tiny eggs – about 300-400. You can expect these eggs to hatch in about three days. At this point, you need to remove the male and female and return them to their home tank. Otherwise, they may eat the eggs.

Don’t let the number of eggs scare you. It is not common for all of them to hatch and actually reach adulthood. They can end up dying in your tank’s filter. You may, unknowingly, lose some when you cycle your tank water. They are so tiny, they are hard to see for the first week or so.

When the Zebra Danio eggs hatch, the fry, (baby fish), will cling to the side of the tank and eat their yolk saks. When they finish those, they will begin free swimming. At that point, you may ground fish flakes into powder to sprinkle on the water for them to eat. Another option is to mash up a little bit of egg yolk in a few drops of water. Be sure there are no actual particles in it. Then use an eye dropper to drop one drop at a time into the water. If you have plants in the tank, they will also get some natural-occurring food from them.

After about ten days, you can introduce them to newly hatched brine shrimp or small bloodworms.

After three weeks, you can introduce them to the same things you feed to your adult Zebra Danios.

Common Zebra Danio Diseases and How to Prevent Them

It is very important to keep your aquarium’s water clean. This can prevent your zebra fish from getting a disease from the bacteria in the water. If any of your fish experience fin loss, have reddened skin, or appear to be slow or stop moving, remove them from the tank immediately. These are signs of this bacterial disease.

You will need to keep infected fish in a separate tank. This will allow them to heal and prevent them from infecting any of the other fish. You may choose to do a complete water change. Or, if you are really concerned, you can disinfect the entire tank.

When you clean the tank, be sure to wear gloves and be careful. This particular bacterial disease can infect humans.

Another common disease that can affect your Zebra Danios come from nematodes. Nematodes are a type of worm; a parasite similar to a roundworm. Nematodes can enter your fish tank if your tank is heated. They can also enter during the cycle process. You may not notice these white worms until there are hundreds of them clinging to the sides of your aquarium.

How to Keep Your Aquarium Clean

As long as you keep a good water filtration system and cycle 25% of your water once or twice a month, your Zebra fish should do fine. Cycling water was described in the “How to Prepare Your Aquarium for  Zebra Danios” section. Also, be sure to keep the sand on the bottom of your aquarium clean, as described in the next section.

These two maintenance chores should keep your zebra fish happy and healthy.

How to Clean Your Aquarium’s Sand

Some sands are finer than others. If you use a fine sand, you will suck some of it up in the cleaning process. This will cause you to have to replace some of your sand at each cleaning. You can choose a sand with a bit of a larger grain without endangering your zebra fish.

You can choose from light or dark colored sands. Fish waste will not show up as much in the dark colored sands.

You can simply do a thorough vacuuming job of your sand. You use a siphon tube for this job. The larger grained sand doesn’t get sucked up because it is heavier. You want to hover the siphon just above the sand, gently swirling the water. Then, simply suck up any dirt that floats into the water column.

Another good way to vacuum heavier sand is by putting the siphon into the sand. Push it down so that it is about an inch deep in the sand. Suck up the waste that floats up, and any sand that may have come up a bit, will return to the bottom.

People Often Ask

Sometimes my Zebra Danios chase each other and appear to be nipping at each other’s tails? Is this normal behavior?

Yes, Zebra Danios are very playful. They also often have a “pecking” order (level of importance or status). If they are in small groups, they can become aggressive. However, in large groups, if the aggression reaches the nipping fins or tail stage, there may be another problem. They may become aggressive if your water levels are off. Be sure to keep a master test kit on hand, and test your water for pH, nitrate, and nitrite levels regularly. It could also simply be that the fish that appears to be aggressive is a male and the apparent victim a female. It is common for males to nip at females. They may just be trying to mate.

Do Zebra Danios need a heater?

Some people think Zebra Danios do well without a heater because they are considered a cold water fish.  Other people say Zebra Danios are tropical fish and so they need a heater. You want to maintain a water temperature between 65 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit. Therefore, you may want to use a thermostatically controlled heater to be sure your water temperatures will remain consistent. This way you will be able to assure the health of your fish.

Do Zebra Danios eat their babies?

As you may have noticed “Zebra Danios are Easy to Breed” section of this article, yes, Zebra Danios will eat the eggs and their young. That is why directions for breeding tell you to remove both the male and female adults from the aquarium when you see see-through eggs on the bottom of the tank.

How long do Zebra Danios live?

In an aquarium, Zebra Danios typically live two or three years. Some have been known to live as long as four or five years.

Is my Zebra Danio pregnant?

Zebra Danios can’t get pregnant because they do not bear live babies. Your female Zebra Danios typically have a rounder belly than the males. Also, be sure you are looking at a female. A female will not be as brightly colored as a male.However, if your female looks rounder than usual, she may be carrying eggs. However, the eggs cannot be fertilized as Zebra Danios do not bear live young. If a female is pregnant, she won’t look much bigger or rounder than normal. If she is carrying eggs, she will drop them and the male will fertilize them during spawning. Also, pay attention to your water temperature. Zebra Danios spawn in water that is about 78 degrees Fahrenheit. If the water temperature isn’t warm enough, there may be another problem with your fish.

You can read more about the breeding process in the section of this article entitled, “Zebra Danios are Easy to Breed”.

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