Black Skirt Tetra Species Info and Care Guide

black skirt tetra Gymnocorymbus ternetzi
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Last Updated: May 2, 2023 by Flora Gibbins

Have you ever heard of the Black Skirt Tetra? These small, active fish are a popular choice for freshwater aquariums and are known for their striking appearance and social behavior. Did you know that Black Skirt Tetras have been bred in captivity for decades and have become one of the most widely distributed freshwater fish in the world?

If you’re considering adding these fish to your aquarium, read on to learn more about their care, behavior, and tank requirements.

Black Skirt Tetra Overview

  • Other Names: Black Widow Tetra, Petticoat Tetra, Blackamoor
  • Scientific Name: Gymnocorymbus ternetzi
  • Adult Size: 2-3 inches (5-7.5 cm)
  • Lifespan: 3-5 years with proper care
  • Appearance: Deep black body and long flowing fins that resemble a skirt, bright white stripe on their dorsal fin
  • Origin: South America, specifically the Paraguay and Guapore river basins

Origin and Distribution

The Black Skirt Tetra is a freshwater fish that is native to South America, specifically the Paraguay and Guapore river basins. They are a member of the Characidae family, which includes other popular tetra species such as the Green Neon Tetra and the Congo Tetra.

While they are originally from South America, Black Skirt Tetras have been bred in captivity for many years and are now widely distributed throughout the world. They are a popular choice for aquarium enthusiasts due to their striking appearance and lively behavior, and can be found in fish stores and online retailers in many different countries.

In the wild, Black Skirt Tetras are found in slow-moving rivers and streams with plenty of vegetation and hiding places. They are omnivores and feed on a variety of small insects, crustaceans, and plant matter.

As a popular aquarium fish, the Black Skirt Tetra is now bred in large numbers in fish farms and breeding facilities around the world. This has led to a wide range of color variations, including albino and long-finned varieties, which are highly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts.

Despite their wide distribution and popularity in the aquarium trade, it’s important to remember that the natural habitats of these fish are still under threat due to habitat destruction and pollution, and efforts to protect their native ecosystems are ongoing.


The Black Skirt Tetra has a unique and eye-catching appearance that makes it a favorite among aquarists. As their name suggests, these fish have a long, flowing “skirt” of black fins that resemble a ballroom dancer’s dress. This skirt is offset by a bright white stripe that runs along the length of their body, creating a dramatic contrast that is sure to draw attention in any tank.

When swimming, Black Skirt Tetras move with grace and agility. They have a unique undulating motion that makes them appear almost weightless in the water. Their fins flow behind them, giving them a fluid and elegant appearance.

In terms of size, Black Skirt Tetras typically grow to be between 2 and 3 inches long. Their small size makes them a great choice for smaller tanks, and they can be kept with a variety of other freshwater fish.

Behavior and Temperament

In the wild, Black Skirt Tetras are known to form schools of hundreds or even thousands of fish, and they exhibit similar behavior in the aquarium. They are happiest when kept in groups of five or more, and this allows them to form a tight-knit school and feel more secure in their environment.

One interesting aspect of Black Skirt Tetra behavior is their preference for swimming in the middle of the tank. They are not bottom dwellers like some other fish species, and they also don’t spend as much time near the surface. Instead, they tend to swim in the open water, darting around in schools and exploring their surroundings.

Black Skirt Tetras are generally peaceful fish that can be kept with a variety of other freshwater fish species, but like any species, they can become aggressive if their territory is threatened. This is why it’s important to choose tank mates that are compatible with their behavior and temperament. Avoid keeping them with fish that are too large, too aggressive, or too territorial, as this can lead to conflict and stress for all the fish in the tank. We’ll cover this in the next section.

Black Skirt Tetra Tank Mates

If you’re planning to keep Black Skirt Tetras in your aquarium, it’s important to choose tank mates that are compatible with their behavior and temperament. While Black Skirt Tetras are generally peaceful fish, they can become stressed or aggressive if they are housed with fish that are too large, too aggressive, or too territorial.

Ideal Tank Mates

Good tank mates for Black Skirt Tetras include:

  • Other peaceful community fish, such as Neon Tetras, Cherry Barbs, and Corydoras Catfish.
  • Small to medium-sized Tetra species, such as the Cardinal Tetra or the Lemon Tetra.
  • Livebearers, such as Guppies, Platies, and Swordtails.
  • Dwarf Gouramis, which are peaceful and add a splash of color to the tank.

Tank Mates to Avoid

Some fish species should be avoided when keeping Black Skirt Tetras, including:

  • Large and aggressive fish, such as Cichlids, Oscars, and Plecos.
  • Bottom-dwelling fish that may compete for space or food, such as Loaches and some types of Catfish.
  • Fin-nipping fish, such as Tiger Barbs or Serpae Tetras, which can be aggressive towards Black Skirt Tetras.


Black Skirt Tetras are social fish that thrive in groups, so it’s important to keep them in schools of at least five or six fish. A larger school of 10-12 fish is even better, as this allows them to form a tight-knit group and feel more secure in their environment.

Black Skirt Tetra Care

Proper care is essential for keeping Black Skirt Tetras healthy and happy in your aquarium. These fish are generally hardy and low-maintenance, but they do have some specific requirements in terms of tank setup, water parameters, and diet.

In this section, we’ll take a closer look at how to care for Black Skirt Tetras, including their tank requirements, feeding habits, and common health issues.

Tank Setup

When setting up a tank for Black Skirt Tetras, it’s important to provide a comfortable and stress-free environment that mimics their natural habitat. With proper tank setup, you can create a beautiful and vibrant underwater world that provides a safe and stimulating home for your fish.

Here are some key factors to consider when setting up a tank for these fish:

Tank Size

Black Skirt Tetras are relatively small fish, but they are active and social and need plenty of space to swim and school. As a general rule, a 20-gallon tank is the minimum recommended size for a school of five or six Black Skirt Tetras. For larger schools, a 30-gallon tank or larger is recommended.

What to Put in Their Tank

Black Skirt Tetras prefer tanks that have plenty of hiding places, plants, and decorations. This not only provides them with places to explore and play, but also helps reduce stress and provides a sense of security. Some good options for tank decorations include driftwood, rocks, and live or artificial plants.


A good filtration system is essential for maintaining a healthy and clean tank environment for Black Skirt Tetras. A power filter or canister filter is recommended, as these provide strong filtration and help keep the water quality stable. It’s also important to perform regular water changes to maintain good water quality and reduce the risk of disease.


Black Skirt Tetras do best with a substrate that is soft and fine-grained, such as sand or small gravel. This allows them to forage and dig in the substrate, which is a natural behavior for these fish. Avoid substrates with sharp edges or large gravel, as these can damage their delicate fins and scales.

Water Parameters

Maintaining good water quality is crucial for the health and well-being of Black Skirt Tetras. These fish are sensitive to changes in water chemistry and can become stressed or sick if the water parameters are not properly maintained.

Here is a summary of the water parameters for this fish.

  • Temperature: 72-82°F (22-28°C)
  • pH range: 6.5-7.5
  • Hardness level: 5-15 dGH
  • Ammonia and Nitrite levels: Zero or close to it
  • Nitrate level: less than 40 ppm

Diet and Feeding

Black Skirt Tetras are omnivores, which means they can consume a variety of food items, including both plant and animal-based sources. In the wild, they primarily feed on small insects, crustaceans, and zooplankton.

To provide a balanced diet for your Black Skirt Tetras, it’s important to offer a variety of food types. You can feed them a combination of commercially prepared flake or pellet food, as well as live or frozen foods. Some good options for live or frozen foods include brine shrimp, bloodworms, and daphnia.

When feeding your Black Skirt Tetras, it’s important to only offer them what they can consume within a few minutes. Overfeeding can lead to poor water quality and other health problems. It’s recommended to feed them small portions 2-3 times a day rather than one large meal.

In addition to their regular diet, you can also offer your Black Skirt Tetras small amounts of fresh vegetables, such as blanched spinach or zucchini, to provide additional nutrients and fiber.

Lastly, it’s important to keep in mind that every fish is different and may have different feeding habits and preferences. You should monitor your Black Skirt Tetras closely and adjust their diet and feeding schedule accordingly.

Common Diseases

Like all fish, Black Skirt Tetras are susceptible to various diseases and health problems. Here are some of the most common diseases and health issues that can affect Black Skirt Tetras:

  • Ich (Ichthyophthirius multifiliis): Ich is a parasitic disease that causes white spots on the body of the fish. It is highly contagious and can be deadly if left untreated.
  • Fin rot: Fin rot is a bacterial infection that can cause the fins of the fish to become frayed or rot away. This can be caused by poor water quality or injuries to the fins.
  • Velvet disease (Oodinium): Velvet disease is a parasitic disease that causes the fish’s skin to become covered in a fine, gold or rust-colored dust. It can be fatal if left untreated.
  • Dropsy: Dropsy is a symptom of various underlying health issues and can cause the fish to have a swollen, bloated appearance. It can be caused by poor water quality or bacterial infections.
  • Swim bladder disease: Swim bladder disease is a condition that affects the fish’s ability to swim properly. It can cause the fish to float to the top or sink to the bottom of the tank.

Breeding Black Skirt Tetras

Breeding Black Skirt Tetras can be a rewarding experience for aquarium hobbyists. These fish are relatively easy to breed and can produce large numbers of offspring. Here are some key things to keep in mind if you’re interested in breeding Black Skirt Tetras:

Gender Differences

It can be difficult to distinguish between male and female Black Skirt Tetras, especially when they are young. However, as they mature, some differences become more apparent. Males tend to have a slimmer and more streamlined body shape, while females are generally rounder and larger in size.

One of the most distinct differences between males and females is the shape of their anal fins. The male’s anal fin is more pointed and elongated, while the female’s anal fin is more rounded and shorter.

The Breeding Process

To encourage breeding, it’s important to create a suitable environment for the fish. This can include adding live plants, providing hiding places, and maintaining good water quality. Once the fish have paired off, the female will lay eggs on a flat surface, such as a plant leaf or a breeding cone. The male will then fertilize the eggs.

After spawning, it’s important to remove the adult fish from the breeding tank, as they may eat the eggs or fry. The eggs will hatch in about 24-48 hours, and the fry will become free-swimming after about 3-4 days. At this point, you can start feeding them baby brine shrimp or other small, protein-rich foods.

Some Breeding Tips

Here are some additional tips for successfully breeding Black Skirt Tetras:

  • Keep the water temperature between 75-80°F (24-27°C) to encourage breeding behavior.
  • Provide plenty of hiding places for the fry to avoid getting eaten by adult fish.
  • Use a separate breeding tank to isolate the adult fish and prevent them from eating the eggs or fry.
  • Use a sponge filter to avoid sucking up the eggs or fry during water changes.
  • Feed the fry small, frequent meals throughout the day to help them grow and develop properly.

Related Species

If you’re a fan of Black Skirt Tetras, you may also be interested in some related species that share similar characteristics and behaviors. Here are some species that you may want to consider adding to your aquarium:

  • Serpae Tetra (Hyphessobrycon eques): The Serpae Tetra is a colorful and hardy species that is often kept with Black Skirt Tetras. They are similar in size and temperament, and both species prefer a planted aquarium with soft, slightly acidic water.
  • Bleeding Heart Tetra (Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma): The Bleeding Heart Tetra is another popular species that is often kept with Black Skirt Tetras. They are known for their distinctive red markings on their bodies, which resemble a bleeding heart. They prefer similar water conditions and can coexist peacefully with Black Skirt Tetras.

FAQs on Black Skirt Tetras

Can Black Skirt Tetras jump out of the aquarium?

Yes, Black Skirt Tetras are known to be good jumpers, and it’s not uncommon for them to jump out of uncovered aquariums. It’s important to use a tightly fitting lid or cover on the aquarium to prevent the fish from jumping out and potentially injuring themselves or damaging the aquarium.

Can Black Skirt Tetras change their coloration?

Yes, Black Skirt Tetras can change their coloration depending on their mood, health, and breeding status. During breeding season, males may develop a more intense black coloration, while stressed or sick fish may appear pale or washed out. Providing a stress-free environment with good water quality and a varied diet can help keep the fish healthy and vibrant.

Can I breed Black Skirt Tetras in a community aquarium?

It is possible to breed Black Skirt Tetras in a community aquarium, but it can be challenging due to the risk of adult fish eating the eggs or fry. To increase the chances of successful breeding, it’s recommended to use a separate breeding tank

Are Black Skirt Tetras the Species for You?

Black Skirt Tetras are a great choice for aquarium hobbyists who are looking for a hardy, peaceful, and visually striking species to add to their collection. With their distinctive black coloration and active swimming antics, Black Skirt Tetras can be a beautiful addition to any community aquarium.

If you’re interested in keeping Black Skirt Tetras, it’s important to do your research and ensure that they are compatible with your existing fish and aquarium setup. By providing a suitable environment and meeting their care requirements, you can enjoy the beauty and companionship of these fascinating fish for years to come.

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