Zebra Danios are one of the easiest types of fish to find tankmates for. They’re like that one roommate who picks up after themselves and gets along well with almost everyone.
Of course, not every fish makes a good companion. You should select varieties that have similar needs in terms of water temperature, pH, and other environmental considerations. It’s also important to choose tankmates with compatible temperaments.
Before we get into that, let’s go over some Zebra danio basics.
Caring for Zebra Danios
- Size: Up to 2 inches
- Lifespan: 5 years
- Temperature: 64-75 degrees Fahrenheit
The Zebra danio (aka Zebrafish) is a really sensible choice for novice fish keepers. Their signature striping adds a bit of whimsy to your aquarium. Plus, they’re incredibly easy to take care of.
Zebras are versatile and robust, and they can thrive within a rather wide range of temperatures. While they mostly inhabit the upper portions of an aquarium, don’t be surprised to see Zebra danios exploring the furthest reaches of their habitat. Be sure to include some plants in a Zebra’s aquarium, as this will more closely resemble their natural surroundings.
These small fish are lively and active. They are a schooling fish, meaning you should buy a minimum of 5 at a time. Your school of Zebra danios may exhibit some posturing as they establish their social hierarchy. Generally, though, they won’t resort to fighting with each other over it.
Danios like to eat lots of things, so keep them happy with a variety of foods. Supplement flake and pellet food with live and frozen treats.
Suitable Tankmates for Your Zebra Danios
Since Zebra danios are so friendly, they’re compatible with a number of other freshwater pets. The following fish don’t just have personalities that are aligned with that of the Zebra danios. They also require similar environmental conditions.
1. Ember Tetras
- Lifespan: 2 years
- Size: Under 1 inch
- Temperature: 73-84 degrees Fahrenheit
The Ember tetra, with its brilliant orange and red coloring, is also sold as a Fire tetra. This vibrant fish has a non-aggressive personality, and it won’t cause trouble with other aquarium inhabitants. Don’t take its peaceful demeanor to mean the Ember tetra is boring, though. These little fish are full of life, and you’ll often see them gleefully flitting about the tank (much like Zebra danios).
Ember tetras love a lot of greenery to explore and use as hiding spots. They like to travel in groups and will exhibit spirited behaviors once they’re comfortable in a new home. Watch for these little characters to play hide and seek with their friends, among other adorable antics.
Embers are omnivorous and enjoy eating veggies and animal protein. Try to provide a diverse diet to keep your fiery little tetras healthy.
- Lifespan: About 3 years
- Size: 2 ½ – 3 inches
- Temperature: 68-82 degrees Fahrenheit
Platys are small, peaceful, and come in a dazzling variety of colors such as red, green, blue, and yellow. They’re relatively simple to take care of and are often recommended to first-time aquarium hobbyists. As you research and shop for them, you’ll probably see many of the following varieties – and likely more!
- Red Coral: This type of platy will add some vibrancy to your tank with their vivid red color.
- Comet: The Comet variation can be seen in combination with other pattern and color morphs. The term denotes platys that have distinctive black trim on the top and bottom edges of their tailfin.
- Bleeding-Heart: Bleeding Hearts have rosy streaks that run vertically down their bodies.
- Sunset: Sunset platys, like their namesake, are really quite lovely to behold with glowing yellow and orange bodies.
- Salt and Pepper: S&P platys have a smattering of black and/or white spots on their bodies.
Platys tend to be happier when they have some friends, so add at least a handful of platys to your tank at once. Platys are fantastic jumpers who can (and will!) leap right out of the aquarium. Make sure you have a secure lid for your tank.
As for food, Platys prefer vegetable matter. However, they do like to have a bit of animal protein sometimes for variety.
- Lifespan: 3-5 years
- Size: Up to 6 inches
- Temperature: 72-79 degrees Fahrenheit
Swordtails come in lots of color varieties, so you’ll likely see titles relating to this when you’re buying them. A Swordtail’s most distinguishing trait is its unusual tailfin, the bottom of which is elongated and looks rather like a sword extending from behind the fish.
Swordtails are tough, and they are usually quite adaptable when it comes to their tank environment. These active and lively fish like to run in groups. Keep them at about a 3 or 4:1 female-to-male ratio.
Swordtails are also jumpers, so keep that lid on tight whenever you’re not feeding your fish or cleaning your tank.
In the wild, Swordtails consume a lot of algae and plant matter. They also fancy a bit of animal protein from time to time. Supplement their mostly plant-based diet with other foods like brine shrimp.
4. Kuhli Loach
- Lifespan: Up to 10 Years
- Size: About 4 inches
- Temperature: 75-86 degrees Fahrenheit
Kuhli (sometimes spelled “Coolie”) loaches are nocturnal scavenging fish that have elongated bodies and look somewhat like small eels. As if their shape wasn’t interesting enough, they have bold stripes running across their bodies and 4 pairs of barbels protruding from their mouths.
Kuhlis will hide out and rest during the day, then come out at night to look for bits of food at the bottom of the tank. You may want to purchase a nighttime viewing light, which will enable you to observe your nocturnal tank dwellers without disturbing their day/night cycle.
Kuhlis are generally meat-eaters, although it’s good to give them some vegetable-based foods for balance.
5. Cory Catfish
- Lifespan: Approximately 10 years
- Size: 1-3 inches
- Temperature: 70-80 degrees Fahrenheit
Cory Cat is short for Corydoras Catfish. These small catfish are very mellow and easygoing. Put them in a small group of 5 or 6 fellow Corys, and they’ll mostly just keep to themselves and spend the day adorably playing together. Cory Cats are well known for their synchronized swimming routines and other entertaining antics.
While Cory Cats can withstand a fairly wide range of water conditions, it’s imperative to stay consistent once you’ve established your tank’s parameters.
You have a choice when it comes to Cory Cats. Various types (some different species, others simply “morphs” achieved through selective breeding) are available on the aquatic pet market. Here are a few of the most beloved.
- Julii: True Juliis are somewhat rare, but False Juliis abound – and most of us really can’t tell the difference. Everyone loves the intricate maze-like patterns on their bodies.
- Peppered: Peppered Corys have dark speckles on their bodies, hence the name. The base color of a Peppered cory can vary (usually a range of shimmery greens and browns), as can the arrangement of their spots.
- Pygmy: As you might have gathered, the Pygmy Cory is very small. Aside from its size, another thing sets the Pygmi apart from its fellow Corys. This tiny catfish doesn’t just hang around the bottom of the tank, and instead swims in the open waters higher up.
- Sterbai: Sterbais are lively and easy to take care of. They’re also very cool-looking, with elaborate black patterning that almost appears to shift as you look at it.
- Albino: Albino Corys are, of course, white. They also have the signature pink eyes of albino animals.
- Panda: Pandas have white bodies and dark panda-esque markings on their heads and tails.
6. Cardinal Tetra
- Lifespan: About 4 years
- Size: Around 2 inches
- Temperature: 73-81 degrees Fahrenheit
You may hear the Cardinal tetra referred to as a Red Neon tetra. In any case, this little fish is a hit among hobbyists. They have a fiery red underside, capped off by a shimmering strip of icy blue-green.
Even with all that beauty, Cardinal tetras aren’t stuck-up. In fact, they’re well known as peaceful neighbors for many types of fish. They love to school, so make sure there are several other Cardinals in the tank for them to hang out with.
Cardinal tetras are omnivores, and will be happy to munch on whatever is available. Just be sure to give them a good variety to make sure they’re getting proper nutrition.
7. Small Barbs
- Lifespan: Up to 5 years, depending on species and care
- Size: 6 inches or under
- Temperature: 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit
There are quite a few types of barbs out there, and most will make a fine housemate for your danios. Be aware that some, such as the Tinfoil barb, can grow to be over a foot long. The following barb varieties are suitable for cohabitation with Zebra danios.
Gold Barb: This barb has become quite popular with hobbyists. Gold barbs are actually more greenish when found in the wild. Through selective breeding, most sold in pet shops display the more recognizable golden hue. Gold barbs are versatile, exuberant swimmers. Give them some fellow Goldies to school with; they’ll do much better in groups of 6 or so.
Zebra Barb: If you want to keep your zebra theme going, Zebra barbs are there with all the black and white stripes you can handle. Zebra barbs are peaceful, but they are not mellow. They’re very energetic and need plenty of room to swim. Note that Zebra barbs are sometimes sold as Striped barbs. They also like to gather with other Zebras.
Black Ruby Barb: The Ruby barb gets its name from the way it displays a flush of deep red at maturity. Rubies can add some rich color to your aquatic landscape. What’s more, they’re fun to keep. Easygoing, yet active, these little barbs are curious explorers who will happily swim most of the day. Like other barbs, they enjoy the company of a few same-species friends.
- Size: ½ inch – 2 ½ inches
- Lifespan: 2 years
- Temperature: 74-82 degrees Fahrenheit
One thing about guppies is that there are many varieties of them. In fact, there are more than 300 different types to choose from. Many color and pattern combinations are available, as well as a few with unique fin shapes. Another thing about guppies is that they are visually stunning, regardless of type. Look at a tankful of guppies and you can’t really help but be delighted by the vivid colors and striking patterns.
Though “guppy” is the most common name, these fish are sometimes called Rainbow fish (because of all the colors, of course) and the Million fish (because they are so prolific). Guppies do best in groups. They’re sociable and enthusiastic, spending their days swimming all over the place.
Here are just a few of the most popular types of guppies.
Tuxedo: These distinguished little guppies have half-black, half-white bodies. This makes them look quite a bit like they’re wearing a tiny tuxedo. Most have a bit of added flair in the form of a colorful tailfin.
Snakeskin: Snakeskin guppies have distinctive patterns, usually consisting of braided or chainlike bands. Sometimes called Cobra guppies, they may also display separate rosette-like spots. They come in various colors and color combinations.
Metal: Metal guppies are so called because of their shimmering, metallic coloration. The fins of Metal guppies are actually iridescent, which means they reflect the colors around them – seeming to change color (very pretty to watch them swim)
Lace: This term refers to guppies with lace-like patterns on their tailfin. It’s commonly found on Snakeskin guppies, but it’s totally possible to see it with other variations.
Albino: True Albino guppies lack melanin, which makes their bodies devoid of color. Look for the signature pink eyes to determine whether a guppy is indeed an Albino.
9. Clown Pleco
- Size: 3-4 inches
- Lifespan: up to 10 years, sometimes longer
- Temperature: 73-82 degrees Fahrenheit
Small plecos (short for Plecostomus) such as the Clown pleco are ideal tankmates for Zebra danios. Not only are they peaceful, they’ll mind their own business hanging around on the bottom of the tank.
While coloring can vary quite a bit among Clown plecos, they are most commonly seen with dark black and white or orange banding. Clowns are generally mild-mannered, but a male pleco may get aggressive with another male. It’s not advisable to place two male plecos in the same aquarium.
Plecos are algae-eaters, but Clowns aren’t as big on the green stuff as most other types. Clown plecos prefer to dine on wood, so it’s very important to add driftwood to their habitat. It’s unlikely they’ll get all the nutrients they need from driftwood and tank debris, though. You should also toss some animal protein in the tank just for your Clown pleco every so often.
10. Harlequin Rasbora
- Lifespan: Around 5 years
- Size: 1-4 inches
- Temperature: 75-81 degrees Fahrenheit
The relatively small Harlequin rasbora has a happy personality that makes it a great fit for community tanks with other non-aggressive fish. Harlequins are very attractive, with a lovely configuration of silver with orange accents – and a signature black section near the tail.
Rasboras like a well-decorated home, complete with plants and places to hide. They thrive when allowed to school, and it’s recommended to get several at once. As with most schooling fish, it’s advisable to keep more females than males. Substrate isn’t a major concern, since these fish probably won’t hang out near the bottom of the aquarium.
Most Harlequin rasboras will happily eat flake food. They’ll also eat plankton, worms, small crustaceans, and insects – so rotate these things into their feeding schedule sometimes.
11. Honey Gourami
- Size: up to 3 inches
- Lifespan: up to 8 years
- Temperature: 74-82 degrees Fahrenheit
Honey gourami get their title from the honey-colored scales commonly displayed in males (the females are usually gray or silver). Both sexes of Honey gourami are born with this duller coloration, with males developing changes upon maturity.
Honeys are shy and friendly. They like to inhabit the middle and upper portions of the tank, so they won’t care much about what kind of substrate you use at the bottom. These fish are hardy and relatively easy to keep healthy.
Honey gourami do well in schools of 4-6 fellow Honeys. They’re not usually aggressive, although one fish in the group may exert dominance over the more docile ones. You’ll just have to keep an eye on this. It usually doesn’t lead to any real violence, although you should watch out to ensure all your little Honeys get their fair share at feeding time.
These fish are usually pretty happy to eat just about anything you put in the tank, and they like both veggies and meat. Just keep it balanced and diverse, and your Honey gourami will be well-nourished.
12. Ghost Shrimp
- Size: 2 inches
- Temperature: 68-85 degrees Fahrenheit
Sometimes, it’s fun to add something that’s not an actual fish to your aquatic community. Ghost shrimp usually make a suitable choice. They’re small and friendly, and they are always entertaining to watch.
Ghost shrimp do not require the company of other Ghost shrimp, so it’s okay if you only have space to accommodate one of these charming crustaceans.
Ghost shrimp aren’t just fun additions to your danio tank, and they’ll help keep it clean by scavenging bits of food and other debris lurking around. They’re voracious eaters, so you may need to provide some additional snacks for them.
Fish that Don’t Make Good Tank Mates for Zebra Danios
Despite all their endearing qualities, there are still fish who don’t get along with the Zebra danios.
Fish with ornate, trailing fins (like Angelfish) are beautiful to behold.
However, the do not make good tankmates for the Zebrafish. This is because some Zebras like to rudely nip at these flamboyant fins, so just don’t put any of your aquatic pets in this situation.
Overly Docile Fish
Even though Zebra danios are notoriously amiable, they’re also quite high energy. Fish that are really laid back may not appreciate the Zebra’s hectic lifestyle, and could become distressed over it.
If you have a fish that’s a bit of a bully, don’t place it with the peaceful Zebrafish. Domineering species don’t really belong in a tank with fish that are more lovers than fighters.
Very Large Fish
Fish that are significantly bigger than your danios might just compete a bit too aggressively for space. What’s more, they might even eat your adorable little Zebras. Don’t risk it. Place your danios with fish that are at least somewhat similar in size.
Care Tips for Your Zebra Danio Community Tank
Don’t overdo the vegetation. The fish on this list enjoy having some greenery in their environment. This helps simulate their natural habitat, which keeps them healthier and happier.
However, it’s really important to provide plenty of open space for your fish to swim freely. Maintain a balance between unobstructed water and features such as plants and wood.
Maintain consistent conditions
Fish, particularly freshwater varieties like the ones in this guide, are pretty picky about their water conditions. Even hardy fish can suffer if you aren’t able to keep a stable environment for them.
Choose a substrate that’s suitable for all the pets in the tank
Aesthetically speaking, most of the species mentioned in this guide have vibrant colors that stand out nicely against a dark-colored substrate.
A few smaller feedings per day is generally better than one big eating session. If you your schedule doesn’t allow this, just be sure you aren’t under (or over) feeding them.
Be sure that everyone in your tank is getting enough
This could mean distracting one group of fish by conducting a feeding on the far side of the tank. While they’re eating, feed another group on the other side.
Take it slow when introducing new fish
Anytime you’re putting fish into a new aquarium, it’s important to get them properly acclimated first. When you buy a new type of fish, ask the breeder or seller about the conditions they’ve been kept in and what you should do to ease the transition to the environment in your tank.
Make sure your tank has been fully cycled before introducing any fish. If you’re not familiar with doing this, read up so you can make sure the water is suitable for adding fish.
Beware of overstocking
It’s easy to get caught up in selecting fun fish to put in your aquarium. Put too many fish in one space, though, and none of them will be happy.
The problem is that an overfilled aquarium doesn’t provide enough space, oxygen, filtration, or nutrients for its inhabitants.
These conditions are akin to hanging a welcome sign for aquatic diseases. Further, otherwise peaceful fish may become aggressive and territorial in these conditions. If you have more fish than your aquarium can safely accommodate, it’s time to get a second one.
Get the biggest tank possible
Speaking of overstocking, you’re far less likely to overpopulate your tank if it has lots of space. There’s a general rule of thumb that says you should have 1 gallon per 1 inch of fish.
However, the ideal ratio can vary depending on the type of fish you have. One of the most common rookie mistakes first-time aquarium hobbyists make is underestimating how big of a tank they’ll need.
Err on the side of bigger, not smaller. It’s also important to remember that you don’t usually fill an aquarium all the way to the top and that a bit of the water will be displaced by all the stuff you put in there.
How to Spot Unhealthy Fish
If you’re going to keep a community tank, it’s your job to keep tabs on all its inhabitants. Watch for signs that one or more of your fish might be injured or sick. Catching a problem early gives you a better chance of successfully treating it, and allows you to minimize the risk to your other aquarium pets.
Most of the fish on this list are notably exuberant and active. If you find that one is acting lifeless and tired, keep an eye on it. While fish may act shy and standoffish if they are distressed (such as when they’re first placed in a new tank), a sluggish fish is likely a sick or hurt fish.
Lack of appetite
All living things love to eat and one of the first signs of trouble is when they don’t want to. When your fish is refusing basic sustenance, there’s probably an issue at hand.
If your fish is swimming in a way that seems “off,” or is otherwise acting out of character, pay attention. It could be something as simple as a fish who is ready to breed. It could also be a symptom of a serious problem.
Discoloration, rough fins
If your fish is displaying drastic changes in color or its fins look ragged and rough, there’s probably some kind of issue that needs to be addressed. Certain infections could be at fault, and it could even be the result of an injury from something inside the tank (such as a plant that’s too spiky).
Creating (and Maintaining) a Healthy Habitat
The absolute best thing you can do to prevent diseases in your fish is to keep your tank impeccably maintained.
Invest in a good quality filtration system
Get the highest quality filter you can afford, and make sure it’s the ideal type for your aquarium. The most important part is choosing a filter that is powerful enough to handle the load you’ll be placing on it. Read the specifications for any filter before you purchase it.
Keep the temperature stable
Use an aquarium heater if needed, and keep a thermometer in your tank. Find out the lighting needs of your fish so you can set up any bulbs it will take to accommodate them. Putting your lighting system on a simple timer is a great way to help maintain consistency.
Monitor the pH
Keep a test kit on hand and check the water regularly. Learn how to adjust the level when needed. A too-drastic change in pH can kill your pets.
Be careful about what you introduce to your tank
While it’s great if someone offers to give you a fish, snail, or other critter from their tank, proceed with caution. A new specimen could introduce disease or unhealthy bacteria. Overpopulation is also a concern, especially with snails, some of which are capable of reproducing prolifically without a partner.
Zebra danios are beautiful and lively, and it’s a fun task to create a perfect habitat for them and for their tankmates.