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6:56 AM   April 19, 2015
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Something’s Fishy: Danios

These fantastic starter fish can help introduce beginning customers to the hobby.
By David Lass

The Danio genus contains a large number of fishes, many of which have been a staple in the aquarium hobby and industry for many years. Fish breeders have developed quite a few variations, and new danios are being discovered and brought into the hobby on a regular basis.


Giant danios are among the most popular species within the genus, growing to about four inches and thriving best in schools of their own kind. Credit: Alfred Castro/BowTie Inc.
Danios are some of the easiest fish to keep in aquariums; they are an excellent choice for beginners. They do very well in a new tank as it is being cycled, helping build up the nitrogen cycle’s good bacteria in the tank. Most danios are found in the wild in the Far East, from India to China, but almost all of the danios in the hobby today come from fish farms in the Far East or Florida. Danios are temperate- to cool-water fish, and they do very well without heaters in their tanks. They are ideal for nano-tanks.

These fish will eat any food they’re given, and they can thrive solely on a diet of dry prepared foods. As they are schooling fishes, the more of their kind in the tank, the happier they will be. They are very active swimmers and should receive the longest tanks possible. Since they do best when kept in schools, many stores have found that the best way to sell danios is to price them in quantities. Most are inexpensive enough that they can sell in schools of about seven to 15 fish at reasonable prices, to encourage hobbyists to keep them in large schools.

While generally as hardy as any other fishes, danios do not do well if they are kept at too high temperatures. They do best in the lower-level selling tanks. The only disease that danios are susceptible to is velvet, which is caused by an Oodinium parasite. Hobbyists usually can avoid velvet by keeping the water conditions pristine. In addition, it is a good idea to treat danios that have just come into your store with a precautionary dose of copper.

By Popular Demand

Danios come in many patterns and varieties. Surefire customer pleasers include:

  • Zebra Danios
    Zebra danioz (Danio rerio) are a favorite, and they have been around for many years. They are very easy to keep, and often stores suggest them as the first fish for a new hobbyist’s tank. Zebras are also often the first egg-laying fish that a hobbyist will set up to breed, as they breed freely in the aquarium and the fry are easy to raise.
    In addition to the typical appearance, zebras are also available in gold and long-finned varieties. Spotted zebras, as opposed to ones with full lines on the body, may or may not be a distinct species. Pearl danios (Danio albolineatus) are often available and make a nice contrast to regular zebras.
  • Glofish
    The glofish is the first variation of the zebra danio that is a truly genetically modified fish. The popular variety was created by inserting a fluorescent jellyfish gene into the DNA of the zebra. Glofish have been available for a number of years now, and they have been greatly improved in terms of the colors available, as well as the strength of the colors. While not exactly preferred by purists, there is no doubt that glofish are very popular and just as hardy and easy to keep as the normal zebras. Click here for some interesting information on the glofish.  [Editors’ note: Glofish are sold and may be kept throughout the U.S., except in California, where biotech aquatic organisms are banned.]
  • Giant Danios
    Giant danios (Danio malabaricus) are also very popular. They are more than twice the size of zebras, with adults growing to four inches or so. They like to be with as many of their kind as possible, and they require long tanks since they are extremely fast-moving fish. There is a golden variety available, and they are a really nice fish.
  • Celestial Pearl Danios
    The celestial pearl danio, also known simply as “CPD” (Celestichthys margaritatus), was an absolute sensation when introduced into the hobby a few years ago. It was first named the “galaxy rasbor” until the taxonomists decided it was a danio rather than a rasbora. This tiny fish grows to one inch in adulthood and has a slate gray body covered with regular white/yellow spots and red fins. When the first photos of the fish were published in a British fishkeeping magazine, readers accused that it was a doctored photo. The CPD is, in fact, a real fish. Although there was initial concern that they might be overfished in their native habitat in India and Myanmar, virtually all of the fish now in the hobby are farmed in the Far East. The price for this little gem is still fairly high, but they are terrific tank additions.

Other New Danios

Many new danios are making their way into the hobby, and which ones become popular is often seen quickly. Since danios breed so freely, as new species prove to sell well, in a matter of months the fish breeders in the Far East will have farmed stock available, as they did with the CPD. <HOME>

David Lass has been keeping tropical fish since he was 12 years old, has been involved in most aspects of the hobby and currently wholesales fish to retail stores in New England.

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Something’s Fishy: Danios

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