Giant Danio

Family: Cyprinidae Giant Danio, Devario aequipinnatusDevario aequipinnatusPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough
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Hi! I'm really new to being an aquarist, and I decided to bring two giant Danios home with a (cleaned) 10-gallon setup I bought from a thrift shop for cheap. I do... (more)  Chris

The Giant Danio is aptly named, because it is two or three times the size of the other danios!

The Giant Danio Devario aequipinnatus (previously Danio aequipinnatus) is a good sized cyprinid and larger than other danio species. They can reach a length of almost 6 inches (15 cm) in the wild, though they usually only reach about 4 inches (10 cm) in the aquarium. Most of the other danios are only about one to two inches in length.

These danios become the stars of the aquarium because of their beautiful markings and bubbly personalities. They are quite spectacular fish to look at and can reflect a surprising range of colors, from greens through blues. In their natural coloring they are somewhat variable, with one occasionally seen variety being a partial albino. This morph is commonly known as the Golden Giant Danio, or sometimes the Yellow Giant Danio.

The common name "giant danio" is sometimes used to refer to other larger danio species. At one time several of these others were actually considered to be synonymous with this fish, but are now valid species on their own. These include the Malabar Danio Devaria malabaricus, Devario affinis, Devario browni, and Devario strigillifer.

The Giant Danio is so similar in appearance to the Malabar Danio, that even though they originate from separate geographic areas, these two are often confused. Differences are slight but the Malabar Danio has a moderately deep body while the body of this species is less deep. It is also thought that the central horizontal stripe on this species most likely won't extend onto the tail fin, while it may with the Malabar.

Although not as hardy as some of the other species, these danios are quite tolerant. They are often used as the first fish in an aquarium to get the system running. Their only real demands are a tank that is spacious and with clean water, well-aerated water. They need at least 30 gallons and more importantly, a long aquarium of 36 inches or better to allow them to swim freely. They will like some current in the water as they enjoy swimming against it.

These danios are lively schooling fish and should be kept in a good sized group of 8 to 10 individuals. They will behave, and misbehave, much like small children do. Like children they will move about ceaselessly, play games with each other, and occasionally squabble over food and space. Keeping them in a large enough school will help to reduce any spats as they tend to form a natural hierarchy with each having a position.

They are not aggressive fish but are quite active and very energetic feeders. Their constant activity can be disruptive to slower swimming fish and shy or smaller tankmates, so it's important to choose appropriate tankmates. Good companions are other robust, similarly sized fish. These include cyprinids like some of the other danios and barbs, loaches, catfish, and even cichlids. Because they are quite quick, these danios are sometimes used in Central and South American cichlid tanks as dither fish. Larger cichlids will chase and defend their territories from these active danios, making a more harmonious environment for other inhabitants that could otherwise be harassed.

For Information on keeping freshwater fish, see:
Freshwater Aquarium Guide: Aquarium Setup and Care

Geographic Distribution
Devario aequipinnatus
Data provided by
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Cypriniformes
  • Family: Cyprinidae
  • Genus: Devario
  • Species: aequipinnatus
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Giant Danio - Quick Aquarium Care
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
  • Size of fish - inches: 5.9 inches (15.01 cm)
  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gal (114 L)
  • Temperament: Peaceful
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
  • Temperature: 70.0 to 75.0° F (21.1 to 23.9° C)
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Giant Danio Devario aequipinnatus (previously Danio aequipinnatus) was described by McClelland in 1839. They originate from much of northern India and its neighboring countries including Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, and northern Thailand. This species is listed on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern (LC). It is common and widespread across its range and there are no major widespread threats.

In nature these fish inhabit clear, moderately flowing streams and rivers at elevations up to 1000 feet (300 m) above sea level. These waters have varying conditions but are mostly shaded environments with substrates of smooth rocks and gravel, and sometimes with overhanging vegetation. They swim in schools at the surface of the waters and feed mainly on insects and insect larvae.

  • Scientific Name: Devario aequipinnatus
  • Social Grouping: Groups
  • IUCN Red List: LC - Least Concern


The Giant Danio is an elongated fish with a torpedo shaped body, and there is a barbel at the end of each lip. These are one of the largest danios. In the wild they can reach lengths of about 6 inches (15 cm), though in the aquarium they usually only reach about 4 inches (10 cm). They have an average lifespan of 5 to 7 years with proper care.

These are handsome fish though they can be somewhat variable in color. In general the background color is an overall grayish hue, cast with yellows to greens. The sides have a bluish green wide stripe with various yellow stripes and spots. The fins get transparent farther from the body and may have a tinting of pink or green.

The occasional albino fish may accidentally occur in a brood, but this is due to a rare genetic mutation and can not be controlled. A partial albino color morph sometimes seen is commonly known as the Golden Giant Danio, or sometimes the Yellow Giant Danio. No varieties of the Giant Danio are in existence as of yet, but a long fin version is being attempted.

  • Size of fish - inches: 5.9 inches (15.01 cm) - Though they reach about 6 inches (15 cm) in the wild, they usually only reach about 4 inches (10 cm) in the aquarium.
  • Lifespan: 7 years - Their average lifespan is 5 - 7 years.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

The Giant Danio is a moderately hardy fish that's good for the beginner. They do need clean water but are quite durable and can normally fight off most aquarium diseases. They are usually very easy to feed, eating just about anything that is offered as long as it floats at the surface where they can readily consume it.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

Foods and Feeding

Giant danios are omnivorous and will eat most any prepared or live aquarium fare, though the food does need to float at the surface. As with all danios, these fish are quite active and have high nutrient requirements, so select a flake food that will provide for their needs. In the wild they pick off insects from the water surface, so often won’t really chase after food that has left the surface until everything else is gone. These fish will do best when offered food several times a day, but offer what they can eat in 3 minutes or less at each feeding. If you feed only once per day, provide what they can eat in about 5 minutes

  • Diet Type: Omnivore
  • Flake Food: Yes
  • Tablet / Pellet: Yes
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet
  • Vegetable Food: Some of Diet
  • Meaty Food: Some of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day - Offer only what they can consume in 3 minutes or less with multiple feedings per day.

Aquarium Care

These fish are not exceptionally difficult to care for, and mostly just needing their water to be kept clean. At least 25 - 50% of the tank water should be replaced once a month. If the tank is densely stocked 20 - 25% should be replaced weekly or every other week. Aquariums are closed systems and regardless of size all need some maintenance. Over time decomposing organic matter, nitrates, and phosphate build up and the water hardness increases due to evaporation. Be mindful during maintenance that these fish will jump, so keep a close eye on them.

  • Water Changes: Monthly - It the tank is densely stocked the water changes should be done every other week.

Aquarium Setup

The Giant danio is fairly hardy and will adapt to most aquarium conditions. It is a schooling species that will spend most of its time in the top and middle regions of the tank, particularly if there is open water or water current. They are extremely active swimmers and need open space to swim unobstructed. They will do best in a spacious aquarium of 30 or more gallons. However more importantly the tank needs to be a long, 36" or more, so they can swim laps and be active. Provide good filtration with some current, as they enjoy swimming against the water flow. They need highly oxygenated water so adding some air stones can help. The tank should be covered to prevent jumps.

These fish are most comfortable and effectively displayed in tanks with subdued lighting and a dark colored gravel or sand substrate. They like  well planted aquariums and a variety of plants will make them feel safe. Dense tall plantings around the sides and back are great, but these fish prefer open water in the middle of the tank for swimming. The use of a few hardy floating plants will help to create shadows.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 30 gal (114 L) - It is important that they have a long aquarium, 36" or more in length, to allow them to swim freely
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: No
  • Substrate Type: Any
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate - normal lighting
  • Temperature: 70.0 to 75.0° F (21.1 to 23.9° C)
  • Breeding Temperature: - Breeding temperatures are 72 - 82° F (25 - 28° C).
  • Range ph: 6.0-8.0
  • Hardness Range: 2 - 20 dGH
  • Brackish: No
  • Water Movement: Strong - Though they don't need torrent conditions, they do enjoy a current to swim against.
  • Water Region: All - They will school in the middle and upper regions, whichever has more open water.

Social Behaviors

The Giant Danio will be agreeable in a larger group of 8 or more individuals, but in small numbers they tend to irritate each other. They may harass smaller fish and mildly annoy larger fish but almost never damage either. This is often mistaken for aggression, but to them it’s just play. Some aquarists resolve this by keeping them in a species tank or in a tank with fish of similar demeanor and size.

Never mix them with fish noted for wanting a slower paced environment. Good tankmates are other robust, similarly sized fish. These including other cyprinids like some of the danios and barbs, as well as loaches, catfish, and even the more peaceful or semi-aggressive cichlids. It is also advisable to introduce these fish to the aquarium all at once or at least a few individuals at a time, because lone new comers may be bullied.

  • Temperament: Peaceful - This fish has a very big personality. It will chase other fish around, though usually without consequence.
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species - conspecifics: Yes - They are best kept in groups of 8 - 10 or more, but should be introduced to the tank at the same time, as later additions may become bullied.
    • Peaceful fish (): Safe - These are a very lively fish so pick tankmates that will not be bothered by it.
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Monitor
    • Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
    • Slow Swimmers & Eaters (): Monitor - These very active fish will make calmer tankmates nervous.
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Safe - not aggressive
    • Plants: Safe

Sex: Sexual differences

Males are noticeably thinner with more intense coloration. The center blue stripe of a fully mature female will bend upwards at the tail fin, while the male's stripe will be straight.

Breeding / Reproduction

Breeding the Giant Danio is not at all difficult. They are sexually mature when they are about 2 3/4 inches (7 cm) in length. Like other danios, these fish are egg scatterers rather than having a specific breeding site, and will exhibit no parental care for their young. But unlike most of the danio species, they lay adhesive eggs in the manner of the barb species. Once their eggs are scattered in the water column, they will fall towards the substrate but will also adhere to the leaves of plants or other objects.

These fish can spawn in a 20 gallon breeding tank with a thicket of dense bushy plants or a cluster of plastic plants at one end. As the eggs are often released throughout the water column, marbles or pebbles used as substrate will help protect eggs that fall to the bottom. The water should be fresh and clear with the temperature between 72 - 82° F (25 - 28° C).

Two fish will form a breeding pair which they sometimes keep for life. Add the female to a separate breeding tank and let her settle for about a day before adding the male. When they are both there, the morning sun hitting the tank will cause the spawning to begin. If conditions are favorable, the female will release her eggs in open water and the male will fertilize. During the spawn, the parents should be fed live worms, to keep them from eating the eggs.

The female will release 5 - 20 eggs after each pairing, until up to about 300 eggs are laid. The eggs will scatter, landing on the plants and substrate, and possibly the glass sides of the tank. Keep the eggs oxygenated using an air pump. The eggs will hatch in about one to two days. For the next 3 to 5 days the young will be hang from the plants and glass until the yolk sac is absorbed, and then will become free swimming. At that time or before, parents should either be removed or kept constantly well fed. Feed the free swimming fry powdered dry foods and small live foods. See the description of breeding techniques in: Breeding Freshwater Fish: Barbs. Also see Fish Food for Fry for information about types of foods for raising the young.

  • Ease of Breeding: Easy

Fish Diseases

Giant Danios are extremely hardy and disease is not usually a problem in a well maintained aquarium. They are primarily susceptible to Ich if good water quality is not provided. With any additions to a tank such as new fish, plants, substrates, and decorations there is a risk of introducing disease. It's advisable to properly clean or quarantine anything that you want add to an established tank prior to introduction, so as not to upset the balance.

These fish are very resilient but knowing the signs of illness, and catching and treating them early makes a huge difference. An outbreak of disease can often be limited to just one or a few fishes if you deal with it at an early stage. The best way to proactively prevent disease is to give your fish the proper environment and a well balanced diet. The closer to their natural habitat the less stress the fish will have, making them healthier and happy. A stressed fish will is more likely to acquire disease. For information about freshwater fish diseases and illnesses, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments.


The Giant Danio is readily available in stores, online, and through mail order and is moderately inexpensive in price


Author: Barbara Roth, Clarice Brough CFS
Lastest Animal Stories on Giant Danio

Chris - 2013-03-26
Hi! I'm really new to being an aquarist, and I decided to bring two giant Danios home with a (cleaned) 10-gallon setup I bought from a thrift shop for cheap. I do have a question about feeding in much is a 'little amount'? To err on the safe side, as I've heard of fish dying from overfeeding so I give them three small meals of around...four large flakes equivalent. Maybe somewhat less than a pinch. Am I giving them enough food, or am I giving them too much? This is my first time and I really want it to be right. Thanks for the help!

  • Jasmine Brough Hinesley - 2013-03-26
    It sounds like you are doing just fine feeding your fish! I wouldn't worry about overfeeding them too much, as long as you do regular water changes. One pinch 2-3 times a day is a good amount.
  • Tyler - 2013-04-09
    To start off, be sure you feed a variety of food including fresh chopped veggies. Also a 10 gallon is way to small for these fish. Even one or two. With only having 2 you will quickly notice a dominant fish in the hierarchy whom will most likely kill the other one. You need a group of at least 5 or 6 at minimum. 90 gallon cichlid community tank 75 gallon giant danio species tank
Tanner Collins - 2015-04-14
When i began my aquarium experience several years ago i was as naive as the come i had a 10 gallon tank with a simple H.O.B filter gravel and 2 plants and which was home to a 4 inch baby lake catfish i caught (again naive) i thought it would be a good idea to get him some friends so i added 3 tiger barbs 3 giant danios and 2 red tailed sharks thinking 10 gallons was sufficient i soon found out this was not the case. I proceeded to buy a 29 gallon tank and set it up and add the fish to there new home within 24 hours obviously I had never heard of nitrogen cycle let alone new tank syndrome. so one by one every fish died. that is every fish but the giant danios who also now that they had there own tank proceeded to have baby's so I am convinced that they are an excellent fish for beginners and experienced hobbyist alike. Ps let it be known i have come a LONG way in 3 years.

  • Clarice Brough - 2015-04-16
    That's a great story Tanner! I'm glad you never gave up, and your fish will give you many years of joy.
David - 2015-02-15
I have a 190-L freshwater tank with two African featherfin catfisn (Synodonts eupterus) and two jewel cichlids (Hemichromis guttatus). All of them are between 4-6 inches long, and I keep the tank at 27*C and a pH of around 6.3. It is well-planted, with Amazon swords and bunches of Java fern on bogwood. There is black sand as the substrate. For many months now I have been trying to find new fish for the tank, but I have found none that have survived for more than a few weeks. The jewels breed regularly and, during spawning, often attach the Synodontis, but other than that there has been no problems between the cichlids and the featherfins. Other fish I have tried include pangasius catfish plecs. I have considered trying African peacocks, but I am concerned about pH being too different for them. Right now I am thinking about giant danios, since they seem large and pretty robust. Would these be suitable tankmates?

  • Clarice Brough - 2015-02-15
    From the size of your tank and fish, your almost at about the right stocking level. But because your tank sounds to be well established, that could be pushed a bit. However the Jewel Cichlids are very aggressive, especially when breeding, and aquarists say no other fish can survive with them. Giant Danios are hardy and fast but they need a school, around 8 - 10 fish to be happy. Not sure how this will work out, might be better to keep the Jewel's as a species specific setup and do a community in another aquarium.
zalmon schultz - 2014-04-22
I have discovered my danios like to eat frog eggs and worms.