It is a tropical freshwater fish that has it all, from intelligence to beauty to peaceful temperament and fondness for algae. Yes! Panda Garra is a complete package.

Being energetic and lively, you will see it having leisure time in the aquarium, and it hardly falls short of catching the eyes. Whenever you enter a fish store, we are more than sure you would ask about it.

Its major purpose is to cleanse up the tank from algae. Coming from water bodies that are rich in oxygen, nutrients, and food, Panda Garra would love it if you mimic the same very surrounding.

After gaining popularity in 2004-2005, it has never looked back. From size to lifespan to care & breeding, we will cover it all for you. Give a thorough read below if you are thinking of petting this incredible fish.

Let’s Know the Fish First

Quick Species Facts
Scientific Name GarraFlavatra
Other Common Names Panda Nibblefish, Striper Garra, Rainbow Garra
Family Cyprinidae
Origin Myanmar, Asia
Life Expectancy 5 – 6 Years
Size 3 to 3.5 Inches
Type Freshwater Fish

Habitat and Origin

Found in the rivers of Western Myanmar, Asia (Rakhine Mountain range, to be specific), this cyprinid was one of the most popular hits among seven species that were discovered back then. The original habitat included low forest, oxygenated streams that had sand and gravels as their substrate.

Why have we mentioned oxygenated water a couple of times? Simply because that will be the first parameter you need to set in your fish tank. Subsequently, they love fast running water and live quite comfortably in it.

They are medium-bottom dwellers and would live peacefully in the community tank. Other tank mates are obviously a matter of concern. Study more about it below.

Things To Know: Though Panda Garra Flavatra love to have currents going across their bodies, they are found to be thriving in less oxygenated and low on current streams as well. This makes them immensely adaptable for your community tank.


In the fish-keeping world, panda garra’s size is considered perfect for tanks, neither small to overlook nor too large to occupy the whole space.

Growing to a maximum length of 3.5 inches, they will most probably explore hidden spots in the aquarium. Do not confuse their small sizes with their mini-dosage. The latter is quite significant, and you’d see them having a good portion of algae alongside the food you offer.

Panda Garra’s moderate size makes it one of the finest choices for medium-size tanks. Again, the growth of every creature residing in your fish tank depends on the environment you offer. Ideal water parameters, a nutrient-rich diet, and peaceful tank mates are a must.

Color and Appearance

Talking of the appearance of this fish, there is more than what meets the eye. The first glimpse of it showcases the dominance of brownish-black color flowing through the body, and amidst it are shades, spots, or patches of yellow.

One striking feature of this creature is its modified lower lip. It forms a disc-like adhesive structure that is used to maintain a sturdy position in the fast-flowing current while feeding on food. Isn’t it impressive? It can replicate the same manner while in your tank.

Two moderate-size eyes, three fins, and a tail fin are what you’d see popping outside the body. When it swims in a brightly-lit aquarium, you cannot help but stare at it for minutes. And once you catch its liveliness, you just spend minutes talking to it without knowing.


The life expectancy of this species is around 6 years. Again, getting your fish to reach that ‘half-a-dozen’ mark is all up to you. Proper feeding, consistent water quality, ideal tank mates, regular monitoring, and all such practices add to it.

If you wish your panda garra’s lifespan to touch the maximum mark, try to catch hold of the very exact surroundings it gets in the wilds of Myanmar.

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Female or Male Identification

It is relatively hard to distinguish a female panda garra from a male during juvenile age. There are significant changes that you can identify them from their body shapes and that too when they get mature.

The First feature is the shape. Males tend to have a slimmer body while females tend to plump as they grow old. Secondly, you get to see a series of tubercles on the male’s head. It clearly states the gender.

Pro Tip: Relevant signs can also be observed when the breeding period comes near. You must notice the tail color of the male. It switches to a reddish shade from brown. It does not happen to females.

Detailed Care Guide

Quick Care Facts
Care Level Moderate
Social Temperament Peaceful
Diet Omnivore
Breeding Advanced

Food and Diet

Being omnivore in nature, this creature likes to enjoy a diversified menu. For starters, you can feed meaty items, including mosquito larvae and brine shrimp, and next comes to the sinking algae pellets and algae wafers. Further, if you are left with no such choice, you can offer commercial fish food too.

Besides all of this, Panda Garra will be seen feeding on algae and biofilm. Now biofilm is nothing but a culmination of microorganisms that are contained in there due to the presence of aquatic plants. Not to forget – the worm section in the menu, as this fish likes to have bloodworms, tubifex worms, and white worms.

Author’s Note: Though there have been instances where aquarists are found feeding melons, spinach, green beans, and such semi-large foods to this fish. But this should only be done if you are hoping to change the water the very next day as it can lead to quality deterioration.

Temperament & Behavior

This is where Rainbow Garra gets interesting. By interesting, we mean the liveliness, the daily activity, the flowing elegance, and everything that this creature showcases. When you pet these fish, you see them swimming day and night, mainly searching for food.

And it does not take them long to get familiar with their owner. This can be seen when you go near the aquarium to feed them, and they are most likely to come near your hand. In addition, Garras Flavatra is known for its peaceful nature. They won’t be teasing, nipping, or attacking any of their mates.

The tangible signs of aggression only come forward when one tends to barge in the territory of another (though the whole tank is their boundary). At that point, you can see the irritated fish turning to a yellow shade, and it gets settled inside only. Other than that, your school will roam here and there, explore some spots, scavenge and swim around plants, and it makes it all lovely to look at.

Pro Tip: It is strongly recommended that you either buy a single panda fish or half a dozen at least. There is nothing in between. If you have only 2 or 3 of them, they are most likely to pass aggressive signs, which are no good at all. A group, however, swims peacefully.

panda garra care and breeding


Breeding is sort of complex with Panda Garras. They are one of the species that require specialized conditions to be set to promote this process. While in the wild, a couple mates in the rainy season; that’s May to July in this part of the world. At that point, the water is enriched with oxygen in the pH is just perfect. Here, this becomes the first requirement of the fish tank.

Apparently, you need to have a group of them as a school, but for breeding, you only wish to keep a couple, and that too in a separate tank. Make sure the diet there is sufficiently on the protein side. Once the process is concluded, and the eggs are laid, you should instantly remove the parents.

Yes, these fish are not at all good with their fries and may make them their next meal. On the sight of tiny swimmers, you should start feeding ‘fry food.’ Maintain a constant current. That’s pretty much it.

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Diseases & Threats

Though these creatures are not easily prone to illness, they can still get caught in clutches of bacteria and fungus. Much like any other tropical freshwater species, Panda Garras also have skin issues majority of which are cotton growths on the body. These can be easily identified and are mostly present around the fins and gills.

Further, bacterial infections such as ulcers, red streaks, bloating, and popeye are in the queue. These are caused due to poor water quality, stress, irritation, or an untreated injury. However, these are adaptable to various changes, but you shouldn’t test the ability of any of the pets in your tank.

Caution: Though panda garra’s care does not raise any eyebrows, there is one possible threat that comes from within. These fish tend to go to the top and escape the tank. It should be kept in tanks that have lids tightly intact, and any kind of small spacing in there is sufficient for them to seep through.

Tank Care and Setup

Quick Tank Tank
Minimum Size 8 – 12 Gallons (For single) 18 – 25 Gallons (For a small group)
Water Temperature 21˚C – 25˚C
Water Hardness 3 – 11 dKh
Lighting Bright
pH Level 6.5 – 7.5

Right Tank Size

The right tank size for any rainbow garra would be the one that exceeds the minimum limit. Since these are active creatures and like to sense all the four corners of your aquarium, they require space to do so. And with plants, lighting, toys, substrate, and of course, tank mates, it becomes daunting for them. Hence, ‘Ample Space’ is what we call it.

Talking about the numbers, you need at least 25 gallons in place for a group of five fish. The rule of thumb states that a moderate-sized fish of this family wants to have 6 gallons of own. And this is the bare minimum for any of the fish tanks they will settle in.

What to Include Inside the Tank?

Your fish tank can get ‘as vivid, elegant, spacious, and alive’ with this fish as you could imagine. Starting with the substrate, a mixture of sand, gravels, and pebbles is no less than a treat.

After all of the decorative parts, you should focus only on one thing, ‘Currents.’ A filter capable of maintaining fast currents is of utmost importance. Driftwoods and oxygenating techniques are also welcomed.

Panda Garra Care - Plants Inside the Tank
Image Credit:


Subsequently, live plants are a cherry on top as they’d allow spots for them to hide and enjoy in. Since this fish likes to swim in fast currents, you would not have a bunch of options for live plants to put in. A fair list would contain Java moss, Java ferns, Vallisneria, etc. The other plants that go the best with this fish are –

1.   Anubias

If you are looking for something to put in your aquarium with Panda Garra, Anubias might be the answer. It is one of the most beautiful plants you can use because it provides a dense cover and doesn’t require too much light. Plus, these plants look great when floating about in your tank. Another positive about this plant is that the Panda Garra will not damage it.

2.   Indian fern

This trendy plant has also been called Pothos. It is one of many aquatic plants that grow in the wild and doesn’t need high light to survive. Keep in mind that if your water temperature gets below 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the Indian fern may lose its leaves.

3.   Amazon sword plant

The Amazon sword plant is another very nice alternative for your aquarium with Panda Garra. This one will require a decent amount of light, and it gets up to 3 feet tall and produces long, narrow green leaves.


It is recommended that a fair bit of bright lighting be maintained in the aquarium. It has two benefits. First is unleashing the true beauty of Rainbow Garra Fish amidst all of the aquatic life. Secondly, it promoted the growth of algae and microorganisms, which are no doubt a ‘snack for life’ for these.

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Water Parameters

No aquarists can speak less of maintaining the water parameters when it comes to petting this species. It should be noted that the correct water parameters enhance the chances of breeding. And in daily life, they allow the fish to maintain a healthy life.

Mark these- the temperature should remain close to 22C, pH level close to neutral, water hardness should not cross 11-mark, ammonia & nitrate moderately above 0 ppm, and change the water once a week. The use of de-chlorinated water is encouraged.

As a pet parent, every aquarist knows that maintaining water parameters is of utmost importance to any creature. A small change does not harm but testing this fish’s capability will not do any good. Henceforth, make it your responsibility to keep the quality up to the standards.

Ideal Tank Mates

Being a peaceful contestant in the aquarium, Panda Garra is gentle with all sorts of fishes in the aquarium except for their family. We have mentioned that you either keep a single or pet minimum of 6 of them to maintain peace.

Other than this, the list of suitable candidates include:

  • Barbs (Rosy Barbs, Yellow Barbs)
  • Royal Farlowella
  • Albino Bristlenose
  • Endlers
  • Tetras (Congo Tetra, Silvertip Tetra, Diamond Tetra, Neon Tetra, Ember Tetra)
  • Zebra Danios
  • Sparkling Gouramis
  • Roseline sharks
  • Loaches
  • Rasboras (Red-Tailed Rasbora, Lambchop Rasbora, Dwarf Rasbora, Harlequin Rasbora)
  • Corydoras
  • Shrimps
  • Freshwater Snails

Apart from this, you can ask your local fish storekeeper which fish is a suitable contestant. Since panda garras like to keep their businesses with them, you should avoid any giant aggressive creatures such as crayfish and crabs. They love to have a taste of small fish.

Since many local stores do not sell this species, you can find it online. The online platform is where you find every minute detail of its livelihood. And that is why we are here guiding you to create a perfect home for every fish in your fish tank.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Panda Garra Algae-Eaters?

Yes, Panda Garras love to feed on algae, and most of the time, they are found snacking on them. But this should not be the only source of food you offer them. A whole menu is mentioned above, and make sure you keep it versatile.

Can Panda Garra become Aggressive?

You only see this creature showcasing its aggressive bits when another cousin from the same family tries to barge into the former’s territory. There can be a bit of scuffle. Once the war is over, you won’t be seeing the winner harassing the loser. The peace continues to thrive.

Is Panda Garra a Loach?

Despite having some resembling features and appearance, these are not loaches. It is a tropical freshwater fish belonging to the cyprinid family having characteristics of its own that are everywhere applauded in the fish world.

Is Panda Garras fry safe?

It depends on the context of safety we are talking about. If you are talking about whether the fries are safe with their parents, NO! THEY ARE NOT. Secondly, if we are observing whether petting Panda Garra fries are safe, Yes! It is. These do not require sheer maintenance—just regular practice.

Can they be kept in a 5-gallon tank?

Though Rainbow Garra’s size makes it an ideal fit for small-medium tanks, we recommend you not to keep them in a 5-gallon tank. Here is why. Since you’d be maintaining plants and toys for them to enjoy, it occupies a fair portion of space. Further, it is an active creature that likes to roam, swim, explore, hide, launch itself to the top. It won’t be enjoying in such a small dimension, which can lead to stress.

Should I Keep Panda Garra with African Cichlids?

Being a freshwater Asian fish, the needs and parameters of panda garras are different from that of African cichlids. That is why you won’t see a combination of them being put together, which can cost one’s life.

Final Thoughts– Are They Good for Your Tank?

There is no question why you should not get this creature right away for your tank—having beautiful features, sturdy thriving capability, unmatched adaptability, and social catchiness! Panda Garras have it all, and they are not just suitable for your tank but far above it.

About the Author

Shelby Crosby

Shelby is a passionate fishkeeper who has been writing about fish for over 5 years. She is a pro aquarist and holds a BSc Honors Degree in Wildlife and Fisheries. She creates her own beautiful aquarium layouts and loves to share her knowledge of tropical fish with other hobbyists.

Career Highlights:

  • Has worked with several aquarium manufacturers as a consultant
  • Organized and hosted workshops on freshwater fish keeping at retail stores, educational facilities, and libraries
  • Released content for the amphibian community through her writings

Educational Highlights:

  • BSc Honors in Wildlife and Fisheries in 2011 (University of Northern British Columbia)
  • Completed her undergraduate thesis on the effects of zoochlorella supplementation on the growth and health of fish.

Writing Experience

Miss Crosby is a Freelance blogger; many of her articles are posted online on various blogs. She has also written a few short articles for "Tropical Fish Hobbyist Magazine" in the past. She is a regular contributor to Her education, first-hand experience with fishkeeping, and in-depth knowledge in aquaculture make her one of the most competent writers in the industry.

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