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Panther Danio – Danio aesculapii


Panther Danio

Danios are amongst the most popular aquarium fishes. There are probably more than 30 distinct species of Danio from which the aquarist may choose and this includes a large number of visually stunning fishes that are bound to enhance any home aquarium.

Is the Panther Danio a good community fish? The Panther Danio should be considered to be an excellent community fish and gets on with most small species. The Panther Danio is suitable for novice aquarists but it should be noted that it can be a fin-nipper so be vigilant if keeping with species that have significant finnage. The Panther Danio is a truly captivating little fish, especially if you set up the conditions in which this little beauty can breed.

Key Facts

CategoryKey Facts
Common name(s)Panther Danio
Scientific nameDanio aesculapii
FamilyCyprinidae
Originate fromRakhine Yoma/Arakan mountains in Rakhine state, western Myanmar in southern Asia
Care requiredEasy to care for and hugely popular
TemperamentPlacid, shoaling fish
Colour & FormTorpedo-shaped with almost clear finnage and iridesccent “snakeskin-like” marking along its flanks.
LifespanUp to 4 years
Adult size1.6 inches
DietOmnivorous – eat aquatic insect larvae in nature
Aquarium size24 inches in length or greater
Compatible withMost other Tetras, Barbs, Danios, Guppies and other livebearers, dwarf cichlids, smaller Gouramis, catfish and loaches that live in fairly neutral, doft water
Avoid keeping withLarge and/or aggressive species and species with long-finnage
BreedingEasy if you put the fish in the right environment.
Water temp72 – 79 Fahrenheit
Water pH6.8 to 8.2
Water hardness (dGH or dH)1 to 12 dGH

Origins of the Panther Danio

Danios, as a “family” of fishes belonging to the biological family Cyprinidae and are found in nature in south and southeast Asia.

The Panther Danio is found in the Rakhine Yoma/Arakan mountains in Rakhine state, western Myanmar in southern Asia.

Characteristics of the Panther Danio

As you can see, the Panther Danio is an impressive little fish. It has a very slender, torpedo-shaped body and It will grow to up to around 1.6 inches in the aquarium and lives for around four years.

Panther Danios prefer fairly soft, neutral water with a pH of 6.8 to 7.2 with a temperature range between 72 and 79 degrees Fahrenheit and up to 12 dGH. 

The Panther Danio enjoys soft, neutral water conditions so it will be comfortable with other Danios (and Brachydanios – i.e. small Danios) and most small community fishes.

Floating and Indian Almond leaves are highly recommended. The floating leaves provide the shaded area that the Panther Danio will dwell beneath and the decomposing vegetation provides the tannins that will effectively synthesize the natural conditions found in the natural habitat of the Panther Danio provided that the water is properly conditioned to maintain its soft, neutral condition.

The Panther Danio is a shoaling fish and should be kept as a group of at least six fish, though a shoal of, say, twenty or more fish is highly recommended. Since this is a small species, there is every reason to have a decent-sized shoal and to include shoals of other small Danios in the same aquarium.

Having plenty of vegetation to break up lines of sight will also help to protect your Panther Danios from predation but it is obviously advised that Panther Danios are not kept with predatory species, as they are very small fish and may be seen as a snack.

The body of the Panther Danio in good condition is often described as being snakelike due to the iridescent, gold markings along its body from behind the gill plates to the end of the caudal peduncle. The fins have a faint, white leading edge but are otherwise more-or-less clear (hyaline).

It is difficult to distinguish the sex of adult Panther Danios until spawning times when the colour of the male will become more distinctive whilst the female becomes fuller-bodied. 

The Panther Danio tends to inhabit the upper area and middle areas of the aquarium (top to bottom). That said, it is a vigorous fish when breeding and will readily traverse the entire aquarium. It tends to feed in the middle area of its environment and, being such a tiny fish will prefer very small food and it loves baby brine shrimp a couple of times each week.

The Panther Danio is, by nature, a shoaling fish and it is generally recommended to purchase at least twelve fish – preferably twenty, as their nature is to swim together like a shoal and they will tend to thrive much better as a shoal. Panther Danios are excellent community fish and are ideal for novice aquarists assuming that the soft, neutral water and appropriate breeding conditions required are provided and maintained.

It is generally advised that the minimum tank size for Panther Danios should be one of at least 24 inches in length or more due to the shoaling nature of the species, which will enable a small shoal to move around freely. There is a predominance of so-called “Nano tanks” available but, being old-fashioned, I prefer my fishes live in an environment which, at least, attempts to mimic nature, rather than living in what I would liken to a prison cell. The tank should be well-planted but with clear areas where the fish can swim freely. The water should have gentle movement.

Panther Danios are difficult to sex until they are mature, where the female has a slightly fuller body when she is carrying eggs (gravid) than the male is likely to take on richer colouring. 

The general rule for Danios is that by keeping six or more of the same species in an aquarium they will be fully aware of which is male and which is female and they will act accordingly when the time comes for breeding.

Panther Danio – Video

How do Panther Danios breed?

Danios, in general, will scatter eggs by laying them over fine plants such as Cabomba, Fontanalis or Java Moss.

Panther Danios are like most other Danios in that they scatter their eggs. In respect of preparing a breeding tank for the Panther Danio, it is generally recommended that the bottom is covered in marbles between which the eggs will naturally fall, safe from predation from its parents.

As the female Panther Danio becomes ripe with eggs, the difference between the sexes may become more evident, as the body expands because it is carrying eggs. If you plan to attempt to breed Panther Danios then it is recommended that you have a breeding tank prepared. Such a tank can be empty and should be tall and not more than filled to around six-inches deep with water.

The water should have a reasonable current so the pump should not only be able to draw sufficient water to pump back as a current but should also include protection to ensure that the eggs do not get pulled through the pump.

The breeding pair will go through their mating ritual and the female release some of her eggs and the male will fertilize them until up to 100 eggs have been laid and fertilized.

Thereafter, the adults will take no further part in rearing their offspring and will eat the eggs, given the chance so it’s best to return them to the main tank.

It takes around thirty-six-hours for the eggs to hatch, depending on the water conditions and temperature and around a further seventy-two-hours for the yolk sacs to be depleted and the fry to become free-swimming

Breeding tank for Panther Danios

You should prepare a tank of around 5 gallons in size with mature, soft, neutral water. The water should have a low level of light and be no more than around six-inches deep. It is recommended that the substrate consists of marbles through which the fry will fall.

Danios prefer to spawn where the water is flowing do a decent pump is required to synthesize that flow and the marbles will help to prevent the eggs from being drawn into the pump or consumed by the parents.

You may wish to introduce baby brine shrimp, mosquito larvae or bloodworm as an inducement to reproduction.

The male and female will swim amongst the plants (if any) and the female will lay laying around 100 eggs during a spawning. The male(s) will swim alongside or behind her and fertilize the eggs as they are laid. The eggs are not adhesive and will fall to the bottom of the tank. Once the female has laid all her eggs the adults should be removed from the breeding tank.

Reduce the water movement by turning down the pump – only regular aeration is now required. Keep the lights off (or very low) and the tank dark (of fairly dark)  because eggs and fry can be particularly sensitive to the light.

The eggs will hatch typically in a day or two depending on tank temperature and conditions and the fry will become free-swimming after around three to four days after hatching. Keep the tank unlit for the first week or so then gradually increase the lighting. Bear in mind that the eggs and fry of a fish as small as the Panther Danio will be tiny indeed so you may need to use a magnifier “app” on your smartphone to see anything at all.

The newly hatched fry will feed firstly on their yolk sac but, once free-swimming, can be fed infusoria (particularly rotifers) and will also thrive on egg yolk during the first two to four weeks. It is worth mentioning that immediately after hatching, fry seem quite vigorous but will soon go into a resting state before they become free-swimming so please don’t mistake this initial stage as being free-swimming.

After around four days or so add baby brine shrimp. Once the fry are sufficient in size not to be treated as a snack then they can be introduced into the community tank where they will join the existing shoal. Before moving the adolescent fish into the community tank ensure that you have balanced the water temperatures to mitigate the risk of White Spot or other diseases being triggered.

Should your Panther Danios have a special diet for breeding?

Adult Panther Danios don’t need any particular inducement to breed. That said, it has been suggested that adding baby brine shrimp, mosquito larva may encourage them, presumably because the addition of a new food may “fool” the fish into thinking that it is breeding time. From my own experience, I would always recommend keeping all of your fish in the best possible condition at all times, as this is good for the wellbeing of your fish.

Mike Wheeler

I started keeping freshwater tropical fish in 1972 and it has been something of a passion ever since. In this website, my aim is to build up an everyman's guide to help the everyday aquarist get the best from this inspiring and entertaining hobby.

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