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Dances with Danios
By Frank Greco, Senior Aquarist, New York Aquarium

danio fish

Most of us who have fish have, at one time or another, kept the popular zebra Danio (Danio rerio) or perhaps its larger relative, the giant Danio (Danio malabaricus). However, there are quite a few more species to this group than just those two, and any of them would make great additions to almost any aquarium.

In the wild, Danios are small minnow-like fish found throughout Southeast Asia in both slow- and fast-moving streams and rivers. Even though some Danios have been known to the hobby for over 50 years, many new species have been discovered in the last five to ten years, mostly in Myanmar, also known as the Asian country of Burma, and have yet to be scientifically described (although most of them are already in the hobby).

'Boisterous' is perhaps the best word to describe these fish; once in your tank they will dart all over, chase each other and, sometimes, their tankmates, although damage to either party rarely occurs. If you choose to keep Danios, however, you'll want to keep them in a school of six or more. This is when they are at their boisterous best.

Danios are best kept in tanks well suited for their active lifestyle. Long tanks are better than short, high tanks, although Danios will do well in either. Good water current is also preferred, given where these fish are found in nature. They will tolerate a wide temperature range of 65 to 80 degrees, but they are most comfortable somewhere in the middle. Water parameters are also wide ranging, and Danios will do well in any environment providing extremes in pH and temperature are avoided.

Even though they are an active group of fishes, Danios generally get along well with their tankmates, making them an ideal community fish. Size the tankmates to the size of the Danios because, as mentioned earlier, Danios are boisterous and a larger Danio may inadvertently nip or shred the fins of smaller fish.

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Feeding Danios is easy--they eat anything. In nature, they feed upon small insects and crustaceans. In your home aquarium, they fare well on prepared foods, with the occasional treat of live blackworms.

Danios look beautiful in planted tanks. Most species within this group are very colorful, an attribute which rarely shows in a fish dealer's often-bare tanks. I think this is one reason many of the newer species have not become more popular with American hobbyists: they've never seen the fish at its best! A quick Google search of Danios, however, will illustrate just how beautiful they are. Some of the new species, such as the Glowlight Danio (Danio choprae) and the Goldring Danio (Danio sp.) don't get larger than 2.5", and are highly desirable for those with smaller, apartment-sized aquariums.

There's nothing more relaxing and fun than watching a school of Danios cavorting around the tank. Boundless energy packed into a little fish! Add a school of them to your tank, sit back, and watch the action!

Frank M. Greco is a long-time hobbyist and Senior Aquarist at the New York Aquarium. Visit him on the Web at Got a fishy situation at home? Write to Frank at He may answer your question in his next column!

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Most recent update: 9/19/06
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