The Complete Guide to Painted Glass Fish Care

Painted Glass Fish, also known as the Indian Glassy Fish, the Indian X-Ray Fish, the Malaysian Glassy Fish, or simply the GlassFish, gets its name from its translucence. Looking at them does really seem like you are looking through glass.

Their appearance is mildly disconcerting and at the same time pretty cool. You’ll get a kick out of their behavior and temperament–they are active and daring schooling fish.

One thing to know about them straight away is that in the wild they prefer brackish water. But not to worry; they adapt to freshwater tanks with little fanfare, and will do just fine in a freshwater aqua sphere.

I’ll go over everything you need to know to create a happy and safe aquatic home for these transparent fish. Read on to find out their origin story, habits, appearance, and habitat, and diet needs.

Painted Glass Fish Facts & Overview

painted glass fish

Care Level:Very easy
Temperament: Peaceful
Color Form:Translucent
Lifespan: 3-4 years
Size: 3 inches
Minimum Tank Size: 15 gallons
Tank Set-Up:Freshwater with plants
Compatibility: Peaceful community

Painted Glass Fish, scientific name Parambassis ranga, is found in the standing waters of many Asian countries, including Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, and Thailand. During the rainy monsoon season, their water is more brackish, which is probably the origin of the myth that these fish cannot live in freshwater.

Actually, they do live in freshwater in the wild, but while they are breeding, the water is a little brackish due to the rain. But it’s misinformation that they can’t live in a freshwater tank.

What’s more important to note is that they need slow-moving or still water, so you’ll want to keep that in mind when you’re curating your tank. You want to be wary of filters that are too strong and increase the flow, and not to pair them with fish that need fast currents.

While this species was once known as Chanda ranga, it is now known as Parambassis ranga, part of the Ambassidae family.

If you see a fish labeled as a “disco fish” or “painted fish,” stay away. These are likely poor translucent Painted GlassFish that have been artificially injected with dye, a cruel process that risks the life of the poor fish.

Typical Behavior

Although they are active when in their schools, Painted GlassFish are still peaceful creatures that are unlikely to both other species. The only time they might get a little feisty is during breeding time, which I don’t recommend in captivity, anyway.

Painted Glass Fish are more likely to be bullied than they are to cause problems. In fact, they are relatively shy fish who like to stay hidden within plants and driftwood, especially if they are not in schools of 5 or more, which is where their comfort zone is. In addition to increased shyness, they are also more stressed when they are alone or in a smaller group.


Painted Glass Fish have wide bodies and high fins to go along with their signature translucent bodies. You can actually see their bones and organs right through their skin–it is truly a fascinating sight.

These fish reach a size of about 3 inches (7.5 cm) as adults.

Sadly, many Painted GlassFish have been subjected to artificial coloring, an unethical, painful, and cruel practice that involves injecting dye from a needle directly into the Painted GlassFish. This color is not real and actually life-threatening to the poor fish. Most fish who have been needle-injected with dye actually end up dying.

Distinguishing between females and males

During breeding time, you can tell the difference in physical traits between males and females. The males will develop dark colors on their dorsal and anal fins right before breeding, and their translucent bodies often have a yellow tint.

Habitat and Tank Conditions

If you are interested in curating an aquascape with contrast, choose a dark substrate to bring out the translucent nature of the Painted GlassFish.

A dark substrate will also help with any shyness issues that your Painted Glass Fish might have. Lush plants are a definite must, as they need places to hide, and they have plentiful vegetation in their natural environment.

Rocks and driftwood are also non-negotiables; they create a natural feel for the Painted GlassFish and offer refuge.

Water flow should be slow or still; if your filter creates too strong of a current, you may need to restrict the flow at the filter intake.

Water Conditions

Painted Glass Fish originate in tropical waters and should be kept in the same water conditions in your home aquarium community. Painted Glass Fish are comfortable in moderate to soft water and slightly acidic to slightly alkaline water.

They need a tropical temperature in the range of 68-86° F (20-30° C). We have already covered the fact that they are freshwater fish, not brackish water fish.

The optimal parameters to ensure a close match to their natural habitat are:

  • pH levels: 6.5 to 8
  • Water hardness: 8 to 20 dGH
  • Water temperature: 68-86° F (20-30° C)

What Size Aquarium Do They Need?

You will need a minimum of a 15-gallon (60 liters) tank for one Painted GlassFish. But since they are schooling fish and need to be in a group of at least 5, I would recommend at least a 30-gallon (114 liters) tank.

If you have a community tank with multiple species, you’ll need to go even bigger. It may seem strange that such a small fish needs such a large tank, but these are active swimmers who travel in schools, so they do need the space.

If you keep them alone or in a small group, you probably won’t even see them because they will be hiding.

Tank Mates

Painted Glass Fish is pretty mellow tank mates. They are peaceful and playful and should be kept with fish of similar leanings. I recommend small to medium-sized non-aggressive fish. You should avoid putting them in a community tank with predators that are larger than they are–they can be harassed or killed.

Good tank mates for Painted Glass Fish include

Keeping Painted Glass Fish Together

As a schooling fish, Painted GlassFish will live a longer, fuller life if they are kept in groups of at least 5. Painted Glass Fish that are kept alone or in small groups suffer from poor quality of life and likely will not thrive.


Painted Glass Fish need a variety of meaty protein. They are carnivores and will benefit from a mixture of freeze-dried, frozen, and live foods. Good choices include bloodworms, brine shrimp, mosquito larvae, and tubifex worms. They are not fond of flake food, so make your special Painted Glass Fish happy and treat them to the good stuff.


Painted Glass Fish, like most aquarium fish, will benefit from a clean tank and a stress-free environment. Perform partial water changes every two weeks, check water parameters regularly, and make sure your Painted GlassFish has enough room to swim around freely in their school. These are active fish that like to keep moving.

If you provide them with the cleanliness and peace they require, you will do much to keep their immune system in tip-top shape, reducing the chance that they will be stricken with a parasitic, bacterial, or fungal infection.


I don’t recommend breeding Painted GlassFish, not because the spawning won’t work, but because it’s so difficult to keep the fry alive; it doesn’t seem fair to engage in a practice that will most surely not have survivors.

But here’s what happens in the wild. The male Painted GlassFish will develop a darker color when it is breeding time. Females will deposit up to 200 eggs that hatch within a day. The fry becomes free-swimming after 3 or 4 days.

The rainy season or monsoon season is the time that Painted Glass Fish breed since the temperature increases and the rain makes the water softer. They deposit their eggs on plants with broad leaves. Like most egg scatterers, Painted GlassFish are likely to eat their eggs and their fry if given the chance.

Are Painted Glass Fish Suitable for your Aquarium?

Painted Glass Fish add an eerie and exciting vibe to your freshwater community aquarium. I highly recommend a school of these unique fish if you have enough room in your community aquarium for a group of at least five.

Their temperament is peaceful and they are fun and active fish. They are excellent additions to any community.

Make sure that you get the actual transparent Painted GlassFish and not the one that has been artificially dyed. For one thing, the dye is dangerous and can harm the fish. And what’s the point? If you have the chance to get an actual transparent fish, why not go for it?

Do you think Painted GlassFish is a fun community tank resident? I’d love to get your feedback in the comments below.

About Robert 394 Articles
Robert Woods is the creator of FishKeeping World, a third-generation fish keeper, and a graduate in animal welfare and behavior. He is also a proud member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the Marine Aquarium Societies of North America, and the Nature Conservancy.

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