Fish Description

Black Skirt Tetra Profile: Care, Size, Lifespan, Tank Mates, Breeding

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Black Skirt Tetra (Scientific name: Gymobocorymbus ternetzi) is one of the most common freshwater fish in the aquarium hobby. It is easily available in the Aquarium market and is a hardy fish. So it is the first choice fish for many beginner fish keeping hobbyists.

The fish is also called as black tetra, high fin black skirt tetra, blackamoor, or black widow tetra.

Black Skirt Tetras are small in size but their personality makes up for their size. Being a quick swimmer they tend to fill up your aquarium despite their small size. They are omnivorous and accept any form of food that you provide.

Black Skirt Tetras belong to the Characidae family native to Paraguay, Southern parts of Brazil, Bolivia, and Argentina.

There are two distinct types of Black Skirt Tetras, The normal Black Skirt Tetras, and The Sail-finned Black Skirt Tetra.

The sail-finned Black Skirt Tetras are relatively harder to find.

In captivity, Black Skirt Tetras tend to live for about 2-3 years if provided with good care and a suitable environment.

Female Black Skirt Tetras are comparatively larger than the male counterpart. Males usually grow to around 2 inches (5cm) in length, while some larger females grow to 2.5 inches (6cm).

Black Skirt Tetras are closely related to other fish of the tetra family, so they make an amazing tank-mate for other tetras too.

So the following things should be noted before you bring home your first pair of Black Skirt Tetras.

Origin and Habitat in the Wild

Black Skirt Tetras are native to the river basin’s of Paraguay, Bolivia, Argentina and in the southern parts of brazil where the water is in the cooler side with the temperature usually varying from 20°C to 26°C (68°F and 79°F). Water in these areas are usually shallow and very less amount of light penetrates the water thus keeping its natural environment devoid of bright lights.

Black Skirt Tetra Description


Black Skirt Tetras are relatively small fish; they can be identified by two lateral lines on the body and the distinguishing feature, a skirt-like appearance of the anal fin due to the black coloration on the back half of the fish. In a well-maintained tank these fish grow to 2.5 inches in size.

black skirt tetra


Black Skirt Tetras are available at almost all of the Local Fish Stores throughout the year. Even though they are considered relatively harder to breed their availability in the store is not a problem that you will face too often.


Black Skirt Tetras are usually priced at affordable rates. The prices for a pair of Black Skirt Tetras vary from Store to Store starting from $1 to $2 a pair.


Black Skirt Tetra in the place of their origin tends to live for about 6-7 years. While in well maintained Aquarium they have a lifespan of about 4-5 years. This is because no matter how well you treat your aquarium water you cannot replicate their natural habitat.

Sexual Differences

It’s not that difficult to distinguish the sexes of a Black Skirt Tetra.

Usually, a mature female is larger in size than a mature male Black Skirt Tetra. Females have vertical black stripes in their body that run parallel with the anal fin. In the males’ white spots occur occasionally in the caudal fin; they also have wider anal fins.

Fish Keeping Difficulty

Black Skirt Tetras are one of the easiest fish to keep in the hobby. These tetras are very hardy and can adapt to a wide range of water parameters. And they also do not require any specific care. Likewise, the fish are mostly resistant to many diseases and rarely get infected. Thus, the mortality rate is also very low. With a little bit of care, Black Skirt Tetras tend to live for years.

Social Behavior

Black Skirt Tetras are schooling fish, so you need to add at least 6 of its own kind for them to feel safe. Black Skirt Tetras are semi-aggressive, not to get fooled by their sizes they are nifty fin nippers. Slow fish with long tails like Betta’s, Goldfish are to be avoided as their tank mates.

Caring for Black Skirt Tetra

Black Skirt Tetras require a longer tank rather than a deep one. A shallow tank with a long length will just do fine. As these fish are schooling fish and fast swimmers, they require plenty of swimming areas. So, a minimum tank of 15-Gallon is a must of 4 pairs of tetra.

Planted tanks are suggested but a densely planted tank should be avoided as there may be little to no place for them to swim. A mild balance of plants and driftwood allow them some hiding place when they feel threatened at the same time they get plenty of places to swim around.

They are omnivores so a variety of food is optimum. They accept a wide variety of fish food they will eat anything you feed them and don’t have any special requirements.

Tank Size

Tank size has an important impact on the proper growth and health of any fish and especially Black Skirt Tetra.

A tank with length 20inches is a minimum for them, and the larger the school of fish the longer aquarium is preferred. Tank depth doesn’t matter that much when it comes to these fish. But the thing to be noted is that they are some of the best jumpers so covering the tank is mandatory. If not you’ll be losing a number of fishes as they jump out of the tank.

Lightings in Aquarium

Black Skirt Tetras don’t require much light, as their natural habit is murky and they usually reside beside the shades of the tree/stones. So, if you are trying to replicate their natural habitat in your aquarium, use dim to moderate lightings in your aquarium.

Likewise, if you are planning to create an aquascape with plants, driftwoods, and stones, add the light that your plant requires. If there is enough hiding place if in the case of bully there isn’t any problem.

Water Quality

Black Skirt Tetras prefer soft water like in its natural habitat.

A pristine water quality allows a fish to live its life to the fullest.

Clean water ensures the fish to be healthy and not get any disease. Black Skirt Tetras can accommodate a wide range of water parameters. Changing 20-25% of the water every other week will ensure that your aquarium water is at its optimal quality. This will remove any harmful chemicals buildup in your aquarium. And will also remove other waste products from your aquarium that will degrade the aquarium water quality.

Water temperature: 60°F-90°

pH level: 6.8 – 7.0

Water hardness (kH) level: 4.0 – 8.0

The ph and kH value of the water should be monitored every other week. Or it will cause a significant spike in their value will lead to a catastrophe causing you to lose some or all of your fish.

Water Filtration

Filtration is one of the most important parts of fish keeping. It keeps the water clean for the fish to thrive in. A good filter with the gentle flow is required for Black Skirt Tetras. As a strong flowing filter would disturb the fish, a slow-flowing filter is preferred.

A water filter is a helping hand when it comes to maintaining the water parameter as all the beneficial bacteria will buildup in your filter media.

Fish Diet

In the wild, Black Skirt Tetras feed upon insects and worms. They also eat plants sometimes. But in captivity, they eat almost everything you offer to them.

They accept anything from Fish flakes, pellets to micro worms. In my personal experience, it’s best to cycle their diet.

Feeding them flakes and pellets everyday and giving them frozen bloodworms every once in a while will be the best diet for the Black Skirt Tetras.

black skirt tetra

Aquarium Decorations and Substrate

A densely decorated tank should strictly be avoided for these fish. Likewise, any sharp substrates should also be avoided.

Keeping a log of driftwood and some hiding places would serve its purpose good. And for the substrate for the tank fine-grain pool filtration sand preferably dark in color would be the safest bet as it will aid in replicating its natural habitat.

Anything that is added to the tank might contaminate the water, so they should be prewashed thoroughly.

Fish Tankmates

Black Skirt Tetras tend to go along with most of the tropical fish. Fast-moving, schooling tetras would make a good tank mate. Fish like Neon tetra, Cardinal Tetra, Danios, Rasboras, molly fish are the ideal tank mate for Black Skirt Tetra. Even some dwarf cichlids like German Ram Cichlid are able to live together.

However, any long-finned and slow swimmers should be avoided in the same tank with this fish. As these fish are semi-aggressive and are attracted to colors and long fins. Black Skirt tetra will definitely bully fish with these characteristics.

Aquarium Care

The filtration of the water should be the main priority here. A regular maintenance every week where you scrape off any algae (if present) and partially changing the water should be enough. And don’t forget to keep the lids closed.

Fish Disease

Black Skirt Tetras are one of the hardiest fish and rarely get any disease. But like every other fish, they are prone to diseases like skin flukes, parasitic infections, bacterial infections, a bacterial disease which is a result due to unstable parameters or any external factors that decrease the immunity of the fish.

Drastic changes in the temperature of the water cause stress to the fish and decrease the immunity of the fish to fight against antibody resulting in an infected fish.

Even in a perfectly controlled environment ingestion of a contaminated food source will result in the disease of the fish. However, the chances of the fish getting infected are relatively less if you’re keeping the water clean and carrying on the regular water maintenance.

Breeding Black Skirt Tetra

Breeding Black Skirt Tetras is not one of the easiest things to do. They rarely breed in the aquarium and a completely different breeding setup is required for them to breed. The initiation of breeding can be started when a male Black Skirt Tetra starts chasing a female restlessly, the female can also have an increased size of the stomach by carrying eggs.

breeding black skirt tetra

Setup Breeding Tank for Black Skirt Tetra

Before the breeding begins it is very important to properly set up a breeding tank for the fish. Unlike other fish, Black Skirt Tetras require a separate tank for breeding.

The Breeding Tank

For the breeding tank, a smaller tank is used preferably 10-20gallon. Good aeration is required so a small sponge filter can be used. An adequate amount of plants should be placed on the tank for them to spawn on. The temperature of the breeding tank should be slightly increased than that of their normal tank to encourage them for laying eggs and then fertilizing them.

The water conditions

The water conditions should be noted carefully after the pair has laid the eggs chlorine is added to the tank to prevent the eggs from rotting or getting other infections.

And after fertilization, the water conditions should be monitored properly until the hatching of the new fries.

Good Filter

As mentioned above while breeding Black Skirt Tetras a sponge filter is preferred. A powerful filter should be strictly avoided while breeding as it may suck in the eggs or even the fries after they hatch out.

The use of a sponge filter has its various benefits over a motorized power filter. Sponge filter provides good aeration and also aids in gentle surface movement.


For greater success at breeding Black Skirt Tetras, the females should be conditioned separately for a week or two prior to spawning. A high nutritional diet composed of live foods, blood worms, daphnia, frozen foods is ideal.

Mesh To keep out the parents

It’s unlikely for the parents to eat their own eggs but Black Skirt Tetra does. After spawning a large batch of the egg they tend to eat it most of the time.

So to prevent them from eating their own eggs, you can make use of mesh to keep the adult out of reaching their eggs. Them holes in the mesh should be big enough for the eggs to pass through while small enough for the adult fish to pass through.


The recently hatched eggs fall from the mesh to the bottom and get attached to the plants. The eggs are adhesive and don’t require any medium to get attached to the plants.

Breeding Process

After completion of the setup of the breeding tanks, introduce the male and female Black Skirt Tetras in the breeding tank.

When they are ready to spawn, the male will then chase the female throughout the tank. And in the meantime, the female gradually starts laying eggs. The breeding process takes place for 2-3 hours and the female will lay 500 or more eggs.

After the female is done laying the eggs the pair should be removed as they might eat the eggs.

Next, the eggs are properly inspected and checked if there are any unfertilized eggs. The unfertilized eggs are removed from the tank to prevent any fungal infections.

The fry will hatch in about 18-30 hours and will begin to swim freely in a couple of days.

Breeding Difficulty:  Intermediate

Caring the Black Skirt Tetra Fry

The fry should not be fed right away. They are born with a yolk sac attached to their bodies. And for the first couple of days, they consume their yolk sac and get nutrition from the yolk sac itself. After the yolk sac is completely used up, it gets disintegrated and falls off, and then the fry becomes free swimming.

Now you can feed them the smallest foods available. Baby Brine shrimps are one of the most suitable foods for the fry. Many fry foods are commercially available these days and “Hikari fry food” is one of them.

The water parameters should be maintained properly and the water quality should be top-notch. The sponge filter should be constantly cleaned and the acidity of the water should also be checked regularly.

Keeping the temperature constant and feeding the fry with live foods should promote quick growth.

They attain their maturity within a year. While the can be kept with the adults after they reach their juvenile stage which is 4-5 months after birth.

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