Black Skirt Tetra – Care, Feeding, Tank Mates and Full Details!

The Black Skirt Tetra, scientifically named Gymnocorymbus ternetzi, is a captivating freshwater fish native to the waterways of South America.

Renowned for their distinctive appearance and playful behavior, these hardy swimmers are a favorite amongst aquarists of all skill levels.

Their alluring jet-black “skirts” elegantly trail behind them as they dart around their aquatic home, while their silver-gray bodies shimmer under the aquarium lights, making them a stunning focal point in any tank setup.

But Black Skirt Tetras are more than just good looks. They bring dynamic energy to an aquarium with their spirited and social nature.

As a schooling fish, they love to move in unison with their group, making their display in your tank nothing short of mesmerizing.

Keep reading to explore everything you need to know about the Black Skirt Tetra, from their unique characteristics to their ideal tank conditions, preferred diet, and much more.

By the end, you might just find yourself eager to add these delightful little swimmers to your aquatic family!

Quick Stats About Black Skirt Tetra

Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Mildly aggressive
Color Form: Silver, black, white
Lifespan: 3-5 years
Size: 1-2.5 inches
Diet: Omnivore
Family: Characidae
Minimum Tank Size: 15 gallons
Tank Set-Up: Freshwater with plants and rocks
Compatibility: Peaceful with most fish

Black Skirt Tetras (Gymnocorymbus ternetzi), exude a unique charm, weaving a dark tapestry against the vibrant backdrop of your freshwater aquarium.

As sought-after species, these fish offer aquarists a chance to delve into a captivating world of beauty and ease.

Our mission is to guide you through the fascinating journey of Black Skirt Tetra care, from understanding their striking appearance to their natural habitat, and more.

Black Skirt Tetra Appearance

Black Skirt Tetras are truly stunning, casting an alluring spell with their distinctive silhouette.

Resembling a tetragonal shape, they boast a taller front body that gracefully tapers off towards the tail, displaying their elegant family trait as part of the Characidae lineage. Their tall, sleek bodies are further enhanced by a unique pattern of fins.

Their tail fins, slender and forked, dance around with every ripple of water. The dorsal fin, in contrast, is a compact square.

Perhaps the most noticeable feature is their anal fin – it extends from the mid-body right to the tail, widening at the belly, almost like a whimsical underskirt.

The graceful balance of these features paints a stunning visual display, the proverbial cherry on top of your aquarium.

As for the color palette, these tetras opt for a more refined look. Their translucent fins appear in shades of deep gray to black, radiating tiny, intricate rays.

The body, in contrast, gleams in a grayish-silver tone, becoming gradually darker towards the tail – thus earning them their name, Black Skirt Tetra.

To further accentuate their appeal, two vertical black stripes run through the front body, adding depth to their mesmerizing look.

Natural Habitat of Black Skirt Tetra

To truly understand the care these fish need, it’s crucial to examine their natural habitat. Black Skirt Tetras hail from the warm, slightly acidic waters of South America.

Their native surroundings range from the Paraguay River Basin to various water bodies in Brazil, and Argentina.

These fish are accustomed to thriving in densely vegetated water bodies. The dark, sandy substrate, often covered with decaying leaves, mimics the bottom of the wild streams, whereas taller aquatic plants form their playground.

These factors not only provide shelter but also add to their overall wellbeing.

Origin and Distribution of Black Skirt Tetra

Black Skirt Tetras were first discovered in South America, a testament to their hardiness and adaptability.

Known under various names such as Black Widow Tetra, Petticoat Tetra, and Blackamoor, they have expanded their territories, making a significant impact in the aquarium trade globally.

Nowadays, these fish are readily available at most pet stores, their popularity underpinned by their unique appearance and relatively easy care requirements.

The sight of a school of Black Skirt Tetras gracefully navigating the tank has become a captivating feature in homes and offices around the world.

Growth, Size & Lifespan of Black Skirt Tetra

If you’re considering adding Black Skirt Tetras to your tank, understanding their growth pattern, size, and lifespan is pivotal. Upon reaching full maturity, these fish usually measure around 3 inches in length.

However, they may be smaller due to previous inadequate care or genetic factors. As responsible aquarists, your duty is to provide the best care, ensuring their optimal growth.

A well-cared-for Black Skirt Tetra has an average lifespan of 3 to 5 years in captivity. Although not among the longest-living tetras, their lifespan could be extended with optimal care, including proper diet, pristine water conditions, and a stress-free environment.

Black Skirt Tetras are a true joy to behold, and caring for them can be a rewarding experience. Armed with this knowledge about their appearance, natural habitat, origin, and growth, you’re now one step closer to becoming a successful Black Skirt Tetra keeper.

Black Skirt Tetra Behavior and Temperament

Getting to know the Black Skirt Tetra’s unique behavior and temperament will help you understand this species better, ensuring you provide the best possible care for these intriguing creatures.

As lively swimmers, Black Skirt Tetras thrive when in groups, often swimming in perfect harmony. The school’s synchronicity can be a mesmerizing sight, an aquatic ballet that adds life and movement to your aquarium.

Though they are generally peaceful, they can show mild aggression if the school is too small, which emphasizes the importance of keeping them in a group of six or more.

Black Skirt Tetras are also known to be middle-to-top dwelling fish. It’s not uncommon to find them exploring the top layers of the tank, where they search for food or simply engage in their social rituals.

Their curiosity, combined with a generally peaceful demeanor, makes them an excellent addition to a community tank.

Tank Setup For Black Skirt Tetra

A well-thought-out tank setup can significantly enhance the wellbeing of your Black Skirt Tetra.

Here’s a comprehensive guide to help you optimize your tank for your new aquatic pets.

Tank Size

The first step is choosing the right tank size. A minimum 20-gallon tank is recommended for a school of Black Skirt Tetras. This space allows them to swim freely and display their natural behavior.

Remember, a larger tank is always better, particularly if you plan to add more fish to your community tank.


Black Skirt Tetras prefer a substrate that resembles their natural habitat. Dark sand or fine gravel works best, mimicking the riverbeds of South America.

This type of substrate will not only make your fish feel at home but also enhance their stunning coloration.

Decorations and Hiding Spots

Decorations are crucial in recreating the Black Skirt Tetra’s natural habitat. Opt for driftwood and rocks to add an authentic touch.

Live plants are also an excellent addition, providing plenty of hiding spots and improving the overall water quality. Floating plants are particularly beneficial as they mimic the shaded areas Black Skirt Tetras are used to in the wild.

Water Parameters

Maintaining the right water conditions is key for the health of your Black Skirt Tetra. The water temperature should be kept between 70°F to 80°F, with a pH range of 6.0 to 8.0.

A water hardness of 4-18 dGH is ideal, mimicking the slightly soft water of their natural habitat.

Filtration and Aeration

A quality filter is essential to keep the water clean and clear, reducing harmful toxins. Black Skirt Tetras do well with moderate water flow, mimicking the riverine conditions they are accustomed to.

Ensuring a good level of oxygenation is also crucial for their health.


When it comes to lighting, subdued is the way to go. Remember, in the wild, these fish are accustomed to shaded areas.

Overly bright lights can stress them, so consider adjustable lighting that can mimic a day-night cycle.

Tank Mates

Black Skirt Tetras get along with most peaceful community fish that won’t fit them in their mouths. Excellent choices include Corydoras Catfish, Platies, and other Tetra species. However, avoid keeping them with long-finned species as they may nip at the fins.


Black Skirt Tetras are omnivores and thrive on a varied diet. High-quality flake or pellet food serves as a great base, but remember to supplement this with regular servings of live or frozen foods like bloodworms, brine shrimp, or daphnia.

This will help keep your Tetras healthy and their colors vibrant.

By providing the right environment and diet for your Black Skirt Tetras, you can ensure their health, happiness, and longevity.

Tank Maintenance for Black Skirt Tetra

Keeping your tank in optimal condition is essential to the wellbeing of your Black Skirt Tetra. From water changes to filter upkeep, let’s delve into how you can maintain a clean, healthy environment for your aquatic friends.

Regular Water Changes

Regular water changes are paramount for your Black Skirt Tetra’s health. It keeps water parameters stable and dilutes toxins that naturally accumulate over time.

Aim for weekly changes of about 10-15% of the tank volume. Remember, use water that matches the temperature and pH of the tank, and treat it with a dechlorinator before adding it in.

Cleaning the Tank and Decorations

Maintaining cleanliness of the tank and decorations helps prevent build-up of algae and harmful bacteria. Regularly remove and clean any artificial plants and decorations using a dedicated aquarium cleaner.

For the glass, use an algae scraper or magnet to remove buildup. Avoid using any cleaning products that aren’t designed for aquarium use, as they can harm your Black Skirt Tetra.

Filter Maintenance

Your filter is the lifeline of your tank, working round the clock to keep the water clean and habitable. To keep it running smoothly, clean the filter once a month.

Rinse it gently in tank water to remove debris, taking care not to disturb beneficial bacteria. Remember, always replace any worn-out components promptly to ensure the filter is always functioning at its best.

Monitor Fish Health

One of the most important aspects of tank maintenance is observing your Black Skirt Tetras regularly. Check for signs of stress or illness, like changes in behavior, color, or appetite. By catching potential issues early, you can prevent minor problems from escalating into major ones.

By incorporating these maintenance practices into your routine, you’ll be able to provide a healthy, clean environment for your Black Skirt Tetras.

After all, a well-maintained tank is the cornerstone of a thriving, vibrant aquarium.

Acclimating Black Skirt Tetra

Introducing your Black Skirt Tetra to their new home is a crucial process that ensures their comfort and longevity. A gradual introduction is key, as sudden changes in water conditions can stress fish and cause health issues.

Begin by floating the sealed bag that your Tetras arrived in on the surface of the tank for about 15 minutes. This aligns the water temperatures.

Then, over the next 45 minutes, gradually add small amounts of tank water into the bag to adjust your Tetras to the tank’s specific water parameters.

Once acclimated, gently release your Black Skirt Tetras into the tank. Avoid adding the water from the bag to your aquarium to prevent any potential contaminants from entering your setup.

Black Skirt Tetra Diet and Feeding

Feeding your Black Skirt Tetra a balanced diet is crucial for their health and vibrant coloration. Let’s unpack their dietary needs and how you can best meet them.

Omnivorous by Nature

Black Skirt Tetras are omnivores, meaning they consume both plant-based and meaty foods. A variety of foods can keep your Tetras healthy and energetic.

Staple Diet

  • Flakes and Pellets: High-quality fish flakes or micro pellets make up the staple of their diet. These are specially formulated to provide a balanced mix of nutrients.

  • Live and Frozen Foods: Supplement their diet with live or frozen foods like brine shrimp, daphnia, or bloodworms. These treats provide additional protein and enrich their diet.

Veggie Treats

Occasionally, offer blanched vegetables like peas, spinach, or zucchini. These provide essential vitamins and fiber, promoting good digestive health.

Feeding Frequency and Quantity

Feed your Black Skirt Tetras 2-3 times a day, offering only as much food as they can consume in 2-3 minutes. Overfeeding can lead to water quality issues and health problems for your Tetras.

Note the Behavior

Keep an eye on your Tetras during feeding time. This will not only allow you to adjust the food quantities based on their appetite, but also let you monitor their health. Unusual feeding behaviors can be an early sign of stress or illness.

Feeding your Black Skirt Tetras a varied and balanced diet will help ensure they thrive in your care, displaying their most vibrant colors and active behaviors.

Black Skirt Tetra Tank Mates

When selecting tank mates for your Black Skirt Tetras, it’s essential to pick other species that enjoy similar water conditions and share a peaceful disposition.

Here are some excellent choices for Black Skirt Tetra companions:

  1. Tetras: Bleeding Heart Tetra, Red Phantom Tetra, or similar vibrant fish get along well with Black Skirt Tetras due to their calm nature and similar size.

  2. Cory Catfish: Peppered Cory Catfish, Otocinclus Catfish or similar bottom dwellers provide a nice contrast and won’t compete for the same space.

  3. Platies: These colorful, livebearing fish share a peaceful temperament with Black Skirt Tetras.

  4. Mollies: Mollies are another good choice due to their calm demeanor and shared water conditions.

  5. Guppies: These small, colorful fish are non-aggressive and make great companions.

  6. Zebra Danios: Known for their lively behavior, Zebra Danios add activity to your tank without causing stress.

  7. Rasboras: Peaceful and easy to care for, Rasboras make a great addition to a community tank.

However, there are certain species that don’t pair well with Black Skirt Tetras.

Here are some fish to avoid:

  1. Cichlids: Most Cichlids are too aggressive and territorial to share a tank with peaceful Tetras.

  2. Oscar Fish: They are large and aggressive predators, which might harm your Black Skirt Tetras.

  3. Arowana: These fish are powerful predators that may view smaller Tetras as food.

  4. Red-Tail Sharks: Known for their territorial behavior, they could stress your Tetras.

  5. Pufferfish: Their aggressive nature and sharp teeth can be a threat to your peaceful Tetras.

Breeding Black Skirt Tetra and Fry Care

Black Skirt Tetras are egg scatterers, which means they scatter their eggs randomly among plants for fertilization.

Here’s a guide to facilitate a successful breeding process:

Creating a Suitable Environment

Create a separate breeding tank with soft, slightly acidic water and plenty of plant cover. A dimly lit environment will encourage spawning.

Sexing and Pairing

Males are generally smaller and slimmer, while females are larger and have a more rounded belly. Choose healthy, mature Tetras for breeding.


The female will scatter hundreds of tiny, transparent eggs, which the male will then fertilize. After spawning, remove the adult fish to prevent them from eating the eggs.

Caring for the Eggs

Eggs will hatch within 24-36 hours. Protect them from fungal infections by maintaining good water quality and using a fungicide if necessary.

Fry Care

Once the fry are free swimming, usually after 3-4 days, feed them infusoria or commercially prepared fry foods. As they grow, you can gradually introduce micro worms and crushed flakes.

Remember, breeding Black Skirt Tetras requires patience and attention to detail. With the right care and environment, you can witness the fascinating process of fish breeding right in your own home.

Signs of Stress in Black Skirt Tetras

Stress in Black Skirt Tetras can often be detected through changes in their behavior or appearance.

Look out for these signs:

  1. Erratic Swimming: If your Black Skirt Tetra starts swimming in an unusual or erratic manner, this may indicate stress.

  2. Loss of Color: Stress often leads to a noticeable loss in the fish’s vibrant color.

  3. Loss of Appetite: A stressed fish might refuse to eat, which could lead to weight loss.

  4. Isolation: Tetras are social fish, and isolation from the group may be a sign of stress.

Common Issues and Treatments for Black Skirt Tetras

While Black Skirt Tetras are hardy, they may still face common fish health issues.

Here are some potential problems and their solutions:

  1. Ich: This is a common disease characterized by small white spots on the fish’s body. Treat it with over-the-counter Ich medications and by slightly raising the water temperature.

  2. Fin Rot: This condition is typically caused by poor water quality, leading to rotting fins. Improve water conditions and consider antibacterial medications if severe.

  3. Fungal Infections: These can appear as white or fluffy patches on the fish’s body. Fungal treatments are readily available in pet stores.

Additional Tips for a Healthy Aquarium

A healthy aquarium doesn’t happen by accident.

Here are some tips to ensure your fish thrive:

  • Test the water parameters regularly. Maintain a stable pH, temperature, and hardness.

  • Never overfeed your fish. Leftover food can decay and lead to poor water quality.

  • Maintain a regular cleaning schedule. This includes water changes and cleaning the tank and decorations.

  • Always quarantine new fish before adding them to your main tank to prevent the spread of disease.

Should You Get a Black Skirt Tetra for Your Aquarium?

Black Skirt Tetras could be a fantastic addition to your tank, especially if you’re looking for peaceful, easy-to-care-for fish. Their beautiful appearance and playful nature can add life to your aquarium, making it more enjoyable to watch.

However, it’s crucial to ensure you can provide the right care and environment before bringing them home.

With adequate attention to their diet, tank conditions, and social needs, Black Skirt Tetras can bring joy to your aquarium for years to come.

Conservation Status

Black Skirt Tetras, also known as Gymnocorymbus ternetzi, are not currently listed as endangered or threatened. They remain a stable population in their natural habitats.

However, it’s important to buy from reputable breeders to promote sustainable fishkeeping practices.

Availability & Pricing

Black Skirt Tetras are readily available due to their popularity among aquarists. You can find them in most pet stores and online marketplaces.

The average price for a Black Skirt Tetra is usually around $3 to $5 per fish. However, pricing can vary depending on size, age, and the breeder’s reputation.

Frequently Asked Questions About Black Skirt Tetra

Q – How long do Black Skirt Tetras live?

Ans – Typically, Black Skirt Tetras can live up to 5 to 7 years with proper care and a healthy diet.

Q – Can Black Skirt Tetras live alone?

Ans – No, they are schooling fish and need the company of their kind to thrive.

Q – What size tank do Black Skirt Tetras need?

Ans – For a small group, a 20-gallon tank is the minimum recommended size.


Black Skirt Tetras are an excellent choice for both beginners and experienced aquarists. Their unique appearance, playful nature, and hardiness make them an attractive addition to any community tank.

By understanding their behavior, needs, and the ideal tank setup, you can ensure a healthy and vibrant life for your Black Skirt Tetras. Remember, a well-maintained tank equals happy and healthy fish!