Dwarf Spotted Danio Fish Species Profile

Characteristics, Origin, and Helpful Information for Hobbyists

dwarf spotted danio fish

Choy Heng-Wah

The dwarf spotted danio that has had a long history in the aquarium industry is a hearty little fish from Myanmar. The earliest written descriptions of the spotted danio are from the early 1900s. Since the 1960s, the export of this fish was affected dramatically by the political instability in what was then called Burma. Along with the stabilization of the country since the 2000s, this beautiful fish has started to make a comeback in the aquarium trade.

Species Overview

Common Names: Dwarf danio, dwarf spotted danio, spotted brown, spotted danio

Scientific Name: Danio nigrofasciatus

Adult Size: 2 inches, usually smaller

Life Expectancy: 3 years


Family Cyprinidae
Origin Myanmar
Social Peaceful schooling fish
Tank Level All levels
Minimum Tank Size 10 gallon
Diet Omnivore
Breeding Egg scatterer
Care Easy
pH 6.5 to 7.0
Hardness 5 to 12 dGH
Temperature 74 to 82 F (24 to 28 C)

Origin and Distribution

This species originates in the lakes, streams, rivers, rice paddies, and various still bodies of water in Myanmar. The range of this species is relatively limited, having been found only in the central regions of the country, where it is primarily a seasonal fish. During dry periods of the year, water sources dry up, and this fish diminishes in number. When the monsoons come, bringing copious amounts of water with them, fish populations rebound.

Colors and Markings

The body is silvery in color and iridescent under good lighting. The most defining feature of this species is a single bold dark stripe that runs from gill to tail, turning bluer in color as it nears the tail. This stripe narrows when it reaches the tail, but continues through the tail fin. Above this stripe is a white stripe, which in turn is bordered by a much thinner dark stripe of the same color as the primary dark stripe. The small stripe often breaks up into a series of small spots as it reaches the area of the tail.

Below the primary dark stripe is a series of small spots that cover the lower part of the body. The fins are relatively colorless for the most part, except for the strip on the tail fin, as well as spots on the anal fin. These spots on the anal fin are a means to identify this particular species. In addition to spots, the anal fin also is edged in pale brown. The brown anal fin edging is more predominant in males than females.


Spotted danios are a peaceful fish that get along with other species. However, they are rather timid. This, combined with their diminutive size, limits their suitability for community aquariums. They will do well when kept with other small species, particularly those from the same part of the world. This includes the glowlight danio and panther danio, among other species originating from Myanmar.

Small tetras and rasboras are also suitable tankmates, as well as cory catfish. Spotted danios should always be kept in schools of at least a half dozen, preferably more. The larger the school, the less timid the individuals will be.

Dwarf Spotted Danio Habitat and Care

Spotted danios are most comfortable in a habitat that is similar to their native conditions. They do best in a well-planted aquarium of live plants, but artificial plants will do. A dark substrate is ideal for showing off the lighter colors of this species. Overhead lighting will also bring out their delicate coloration. Provide some bogwood and rocks to complete the river habitat. The aquarium should have a well-fitted cover as this species is inclined to jump.

Water conditions are not extremely critical, but these danios are sensitive to build up of toxins, so regular water changes are recommended. Soft to moderately hard water is suitable, with an acidic to neutral pH. Like many other types of danios, this species can tolerate colder water temperatures, but when breeding, elevating the temperature is recommended.

Dwarf Spotted Danio Diet and Feeding

This species is omnivorous and will accept almost any food, including flakes, small pellets, freeze-dried foods, and frozen foods. They particularly relish small live foods, which should be provided as supplemental food when possible. In place of live food, use frozen bloodworms, brine shrimp, and daphnia or mosquito larvae.

Spotted danios will feed in the upper portion of the tank, but they are still rather timid and may not compete well for food with boisterous fish. If they are in a tank with more active species, take care to ensure the spotted danio is receiving its fair share of food. Use multiple feeding rings to help distribute food more evenly among tankmates.

Gender Differences

Females are larger overall than males and have a rounder body. The slimmer male is more brightly colored, while females have more subdued coloration. In males, the anal fin has a golden tint with a light brown edging. When well-conditioned for spawning, the male becomes even more vibrantly colored, while the female will become rounder in the belly as she fills with eggs.

Breeding the Dwarf Spotted Danio

Spotted danios are relatively easy to breed. In some cases, they may spawn without any special accommodations. You may not even be aware that spawning has taken place. However, they are voracious egg and fry eaters; if the owner wishes to raise most or all of the spawn to adulthood, a separate tank is needed to ensure survival.

A separate breeding tank can also serve as a grow-out tank. This tank should be set up with a matured sponge filter and filled only half to two-thirds full with water in the range of 77 to 79 degrees Fahrenheit (25 to 26 Celsius). Lighting should be dim, and the tank should be equipped with either a spawning mat or plenty of fine-leafed plants, such as Java moss. Alternatively, mesh can be used on the bottom to allow the eggs to fall out of reach of the adult fish.

Condition the breeders with live foods before spawning. When the breeders are ready, place two males and one female in the prepared tank. Males will actively court the female, eventually resulting in the female beginning to deposit eggs. A dozen or so are released at a time with a maximum of only a couple hundred, usually far less. Promptly remove the adult fish once they finish laying eggs. In approximately 24 to 48 hours, the eggs will hatch; this will happen sooner if the water temperature is higher. Lighting should be kept very dim, as the fry are sensitive to light.

After a few days, the fry will become free-swimming. Initially, they will feed on infusoria; move on to freshly hatched brine shrimp. If unable to provide infusoria, use a commercially prepared fry food, feeding them frequent small meals. As the fry grow, larger foods can be fed.

There has been reported cross-breeding between this species and pearl danios, as well as other species of danio. However, the fry produced from these crosses are usually infertile.

More Pet Fish Species and Further Research

If dwarf spotted danios appeal to you, and you are interested in some compatible fish for your aquarium, read up on:

Check out additional fish species profiles for more information on other freshwater fish.