Can Guppies and Zebra Danios Live Together?

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Many aquarium keepers prioritize a community environment rather than a single-species one. The reason is generally more fish diversity, causing the tank to look cooler and more vivid. The problem comes primarily from the fact that accommodating 2 or more species is far more difficult than accommodating one.

The best way to go about it would be to choose 2 fish species similar in water requirements, diet, size, and overall behavior. This takes time, and knowledge since even fish of similar size and appearance may sometimes be incompatible as tank mates.

Today, we will discuss guppies and zebra danios, looking at their differences and similarities to see if they qualify as compatible tank mates.

Do Guppies and Zebra Danios Get Along?

Yes, they do if you consider their friendly, peaceful, and acceptant demeanor. Both guppies and zebra danios measure about the same, around 2.5 inches in length, and will share the same swimming space. Guppies prefer the mid-to-top tank area, while the danios are top swimmers.

But there’s a problem which stems from zebra danios, let’s say, more inquisitive and spiky personality. The danios are known to nip on other fish’s fins, especially those larger fins like angelfish, bettas, and, of course, guppies. This is a fitting behavior, given that zebra danios are shaped like a cigar with short and inconspicuous fins.

Fin nipping won’t typically hurt guppies directly, although that can happen too. The real danger is that the danios’ behavior may stress guppies, forcing them into hiding and weakening their immune system. It may also cause injuries, leaving the victims prone to infections, parasites, or even diseases.

Zebra danios tend to display their fin nipping behavior when kept alone or in very tight groups of only 2-3 members. But it can also happen in larger populations.

To prevent the issue, decorate the tank with a variety of plants, both rooted and floating ones. You can also add driftwood, live rocks, and other ornaments that either fish species can use as a hiding spot and safe space.

You should also monitor the fish population’s dynamics to make sure the interactions between the 2 species remain in the acceptable zone.

However, as we’ll see over the course of this article, guppies and zebra danios display some crucial differences that may make them incompatible.

Keeping Guppies with Zebra Danios

These species will generally get along great so long as you provide them with optimal living conditions. These include going over aspects like:

– Tank Size

The tank size is one of the most important factors to consider since it will impact your fish population directly. It doesn’t matter if the water quality is pristine, the temperature is right, and your fish are well fed. If they are overcrowded, they will display aggression stress, fall sick, and even start dying.

Figuring out the optimal tank size for a community tank comes with additional challenges since different fish species have different space requirements. Fortunately, guppies and zebra danios are very similar in this sense. They both prefer to live in shoals, and the minimum group size required should be 5-6 individuals. Preferably more, especially if you plan on having more than one male.

Knowing that 1 guppy requires around 2 gallons of water per fish and that the same applies to zebra danios since they’re of similar size, a 20-gallon tank should suffice. I would, however, recommend a 30-gallon tank for the 2 groups since you also need room for plants, aquarium decorations, and various tank systems like a heater and filter.

Plus, you may need the extra room in case you decide to keep some of the fry coming along the way.

– Water Temperature

This is where things don’t look so good for the 2 species’ cohabitation capabilities. Guppies and zebra danios don’t really align when it comes to temperature preferences. Guppies prefer more tropical environments, with temperatures varying between 72 to 82 °F. Their optimal area sits at mid-70s, but the zebra danios optimal area sits at mid-60s.

Their preferred temperature range sits at 60 to 74 °F max, which makes their max the guppies minimum. This can create a variety of problems since, although both species can adapt to each other’s temperatures, they won’t be exactly comfortable at those values.

This will inevitably lead to problems stemming from inadequate water temperatures. Some of these problems relate to cold waters that affect the fish’s immune system and lead to stress and disease over time. The other issues relate to too warm waters, which also create discomfort and display a lower oxygen level.

In my opinion, there’s no way you can find a middle ground for the 2 species in this sense.

– Diet and Feeding

Both guppies and zebra danios are omnivorous, and they both feed at the water’s surface. This could raise some competition, especially in smaller tanks, where fish need to bump into each other when feeding. To prevent that, feed the fish in separate areas of the tank so that everyone gets food.

A healthy diet program relies on 2 meals per day and providing the fish as much food as they can consume within a minute or 2. Anything more than that will simply sink to the tank’s bottom and decay on the substrate. Overfeeding will result in a lot of residual food that turns into rotting dead matter and change the water’s chemistry for the worse.

Not to mention, overfeeding can lead to fish constipation which comes with a variety of side effects as well. Learn your fish’s feeding behavior and try not to overfeed them. It’s better to feed your fish less than more that they need.

– Number of Fish

I recommend keeping guppies in groups of at least 6 individuals with no more than 1 male per group. If you have 10 guppies, don’t have more than 2 males. Males can get quite competitive, especially when there aren’t enough females for all of them.

Pretty much the same applies to zebra danios, where males are incredibly energetic, especially during the mating phase. You may need to keep a bit more zebra danios compared to guppies, thanks to their especially tight sense of community.

An interesting aspect about the danios is that, unlike guppies and many other fish species, they are monogamous. It’s a rare occurrence in the fish world, given that any animal’s biological prerogative is to mate with as many females as possible. Zebra danios go against the grain and mates for life.

This means that males aren’t that aggressive during the mating phase since each of them will mate with the same female. That being said, they still have their hierarchy to follow, but that too is rarely enforced by violence.

A group of 10 zebra danios should be stable enough to thrive over the years. Allow them to breed, and that number will increase significantly soon. This is especially true when considering that a zebra danios female can lay up to 500 eggs.

Do Zebra Danios Eat Baby Guppies?

Yes, they do. Zebra danios are surface roamers, and that’s where all the guppy fry will gather upon birth. The danios will see the fry as the perfect meal and expect the adult guppies to join in. Guppies don’t display any parental instincts or any consideration for the moral value of cannibalism.

The same thing can happen with guppies eating zebra danios eggs, although that rarely happens. Part of the reason for that is because danios lay their eggs on the substrate, and guppies rarely reach that area of the tank.

Consider investing in a separate breeding tank if you want to breed your guppies and keep the fry alive. This will provide the guppy fry with a safe space to grow and develop at their own pace. If that’s not an option, at least provide the fry with floating surface plants so that they can hide from adult fish.

The latter isn’t really a failproof method, but it’s something.

Conclusion

Guppies and zebra danios are similar in behavior, diet, and overall likeability. But they differ dramatically in terms of water temperature requirements, and that’s a deal-breaker from my perspective.

You can theoretically make it work, but I highly doubt you’ll succeed in avoiding life losses among your fish. It’s best to pair zebra danios with fish species that are more compatible with environmental requirements. These include species like barbs, gourami, loaches, swordtails, or Corydoras.

Updated: February 9, 2022

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