The Zebra Danio: Doing weird stuff with a common fish...?

As a kid, I think one of the most memorable sites in my first aquarium was my group of 8 Zebra Danios  (Danio rerio) racing at high speed around the tank in a furious fashion, as if they had to get somewhere in a big hurry...only to reverse course, and do it all again. I've never forgotten how much I liked the Zebras- or almost every other Danio species kept in the aquarium. 

And the amazing thing about this fish is that it's probably THE most bulletproof species you can keep. In fact, I recall reading somewhere that it's tolerated temperature range based on wild type localities is from 76.2 – 101.5°F (24.6 – 38.6°C). I mean, if THAT isn't a broad range, nothing is! And it tolerates water with a pH from 6.0-8.0. Yeah, these guys are hardly what you'd call "fussy" fish!

And you know me- Once I hear that, I get these weird ideas like, "What if we mimic the conditions of the natural habitat of the fish? Would they do better? IS there an advantage somewhere?" I think like this for so many fishes, as if to shun the fact that 90% of what we keep in the aquarium these days has never seen a stream, pond, or river.

It's just..I dunno..irresistible to me to think about this kind of stuff. Taking the most common of common fishes and giving them "throwback" conditions; seeing if it somehow "awakens" something locked into their genetic code over eons...something...

I mean, it's kind of silly...there are so many other things to do in the hobby...yet I can't help but wonder if we can learn something from relocating some aspects of their long-forgotten wild habitats...

An, in regards to the Zebra, what's interesting to me is the habitats in which these fish are found. Typically, these fishes are found in Northern India, and this area is subjected to seasonal rainfall between the months of June and September due to the summer Monsoon, and the water levels and characteristics vary considerably at different times of the year. They are often found in inundated rice paddies and marginal pools, with silty, kind of turbid water with very little movement. During the dry times of the year, they spend their time in calm, shaded areas of streams, with rocky substrates. 

This is interesting, because it reminds me a bit of the Amazon igarape, although instead of rain forest, you've got rice paddies...

So, my simple thought is...this fish seem to hang out in what we as hobbyists would think of us less "desirable" conditions for much of the year- the silty rice paddies..And only spends the dry season in the more permanent, less turbid streams. Why would this be? Is there some advantage? Like food, better substrates for breeding, protection? Why the turbid water?

Would there be an advantage to keeping a fish like the Zebra in different conditions different times of the year, as in nature? Would you WANT or NEED to? I mean, the fish has been a captive bred staple of the hobby for almost a century...but I can't help but wonder why these fishes live the way they do in the wild. Would you get different behaviors, colors, health, spawning out of the fish by doing this "seasonal transition"...Using a very fine sand substrate, maybe mixed in with some mud or something similar to replicate the rice paddies, with pump returns very gently angled at the bottom to simulate turbidity.

Again, why, you ask?

My answer? I just think it could be kind of cool. Weird, but cool.

Am I the only one who imagines weird stuff like this? Maybe?

On second thought- don't answer that.

Stay curious. Stay inventive. Stay passionate.

And Stay Wet.

 

Scott Fellman

Tannin Aquatics 

 

 


Scott Fellman
Scott Fellman

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