All You Need to Know About Caring for Black Skirt Tetra

Scientific Classification

Scientific Name: Gymnocorymbus ternetzi
Common Names: Black skirt tetra, black widow tetra, petticoat tetra
Genus: Gymnocorymbus
Family: Characidae

Species Overview

Also referred to as the Petticoat Tetra, the Black Skirt Tetra is a fish species that mostly exists in South American waterbodies. The average size of a full-grown Petticoat Tetra fish is 3.1 inches.

These fish are common in aquariums for various reasons. For instance, it’s easy to manage and less aggressive than other similar fish species. Many people also find it easy to keep Black Skirt Tetra alongside other fish species like White Cloud Mountain Minnows and Guppies. Moreover, Black Skirt Tetra is hardy and can adapt to different water conditions.

Lifespan Details

The Black Skirt Tetra has a lifespan of between 6 – 8 years. However, the lifespan decreases significantly when the fish lives in poor water conditions. Most aquarium owners like setting them in groups of 5 or more because it improves their lifespan.

The ideal tank size for Black Skirt Tetra is 21 gallons, and they like living in water with temperatures between 70 and 83 degrees Fahrenheit and a pH of between 6.0 to 8.0.

The Appearance of Black Skirt Tetra


The distinguishing characteristic of this fish species is its striking black-and-white color. It is a slim fish species with large eyes and a pointed snout structure. The other distinguishing aspect of the fish is its fins, which often feature a black collection of scales. Its tail is clear and whitish in color.


Reaching sizes of between 2.5 to 3 inches, the Black Skirt Tetra is a small fish species. It usually needs a tank of at least 20 gallons and lots of plant life. With the right conditions, some black tetra fish are known to reach sizes of up to 3.3 inches. Here are some key factors that influence the size of Black Skirt Tetra fish:

  • Genetics: It influences the development of the fish’s body. Fish with well-developed parents will be bigger and healthier than those with small parents.
  • Environmental conditions: Black Skirt Tetra requires high-quality living conditions. Water quality is the most crucial factor.
  • Age: The older a fish is, the bigger it gets (until it is fully grown).
  • Diet: Well-fed fish are more likely to reach their size potential.

Black Skirt Tetra Care

Here are some beneficial Black Skirt Tetra care tips you should consider:

Food and Diet

Classified as omnivores, the Black Skirt Tetra can feed on various food items. The best diet for optimal health should include a diverse fish meal recipe. This includes freeze-dried foods like shrimp, daphnia, and mosquito larvae.

It can also feed on vegetables such as spinach, zucchini, and kale, among other leafy greens. The fish can also feed on pellets, granules, and tetra flakes. Using a varied diet helps ensure a well-balanced meal plan.

The small Black Tetra fish might require processed food, mainly because eating large food pieces can be difficult. A good example is bloodworms and brine shrimp, which are my favorite fish meals. These, however, must be chopped to accommodate the needs of small Black Skirt Tetra fish.

Recommended Tank Size

While the Black Skirt Tetra is a small fish species, it requires spacious living conditions and several plants. Therefore, this species’ recommended fish tank size should be at least 20 gallons. The tank should also be well-filtered and will require regular water changes.

The size should vary based on the number of Black Skirt Tetras you want to keep. The more, the larger the tank.

Proper Water Parameters

There are various water parameters required for the Black Skirt Tetra. Here are some of the recommendations:

  • The best pH range for Black Tetra is 6 to 8.
  • The temperature range should be between 73 to 83 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • The hardness level should be between 5 to 19 dH.
  • The ammonia and nitrite levels should average 0 ppm and 20 ppm, respectively.

What to Put in the Tank

You must put various things in your aquarium to provide the right living conditions for Black Skirt Tetra. However, you must first consider a few factors to ensure you set up the tank correctly. Black Skirt Tetras require spacious tanks of up to 20 gallons. Water quality is also essential, and there are various tools you will need for this process. These include a heater, water filter, and water conditioner.

Here are some important things you need to add to the tank and their usefulness.

  • A heater – This should feature an automatic sensor to help regulate the water temperature levels.
  • Substrate such as gravel – It provides a supportive living environment for fish.
  • Water testing kit – This will test various water metrics like pH, hardiness, and quality.
  • Water conditioner – A water conditioner for black skirt Tetras is beneficial as it helps remove various impurities. These include chlorine, chloramines, and heavy metals, making the water safer for the fish.
  • Water decorations – This help to improve the appearance and living conditions of your fish. Common examples include driftwood, floating plants, and live or artificial plants. The fish like to swim and breed around plants.
  • Water filter – This will help remove any impurities from the water in the aquarium. It should be large enough to accommodate the amount of waste your fish produces.
  • Caves and rocks -These are DIY additions that you can add to improve the environmental diversity of your fish.

Common Potential Health Problems

Like other aquarium fish, Black Skirt Tetra also experiences various health issues. These include:

  1. Ich, a common health infection, occurs because of a parasitic infection. The infection affects the skin and gills of the fish. Common signs include increased breathing and white spots on the gill area.
  2. Fin rot is a common health issue that occurs because of bacterial infections. Some signs of the disease include fraying of the fin and discoloration issues.
  3. Dropsy is a health issue that causes bloating in fish and the scales to stick out. It also affects the swim bladder of fish, affecting their buoyancy capabilities. A common sign of the health issue includes the fish struggling with swimming or floating.
  4. Parasites can cause various health complications, such as weight loss and skin damage.
  5. Nutritional deficiency occurs when the fish don’t receive a well-balanced diet. Common signs include weakness and compromised immune functions.

Behavior and Temperament

Usually, black skirt tetras are known for being an active fish species. To maintain their temperament, you will have to feed them the proper food diet. Plus, they also fall in the schooling fish category. So, ensure you set them in groups of at least 5 individuals.

The fish live peacefully with other fish species. Some common fish species they get along well with include Danios, Corydoras and Gouramis.

The black-skirted tetra prefers to be active during the day. At the same time, they like hiding in settings with immense driftwood or plants.

The fish can sometimes also be fin nippers, which is unhealthy. So, it’s best to set them in aquariums that don’t have long-finned fish.

Best Mates for Black Skirt Tetra

Various mates work well for Black Skirt Tetra. However, it’s also essential to consider multiple other factors first when choosing the ideal mates. First, the fish are active schooling fish, living in groups of 5 or more. Plus, while they are peaceful, they are notorious for nipping slow-moving or long fish species.

Therefore, it’s best to pair them with species of the same size or the same temperament level, including:

  • Zebra Danio: these are also active schooling fish. They have appealing colors and prefer almost the same diet as Black Skirt Tetra.
  • Neon Tetra: these are peaceful and colorful schooling fish.
  • Corydoras catfish: these are peaceful bottom dwellers that live well with Black Skirt Tetra fish species. They help keep the substrate clean and offer a nice contrast to the active fish.
  • Otocinclus Catfish: these are small, peaceful catfish that also make up for unique tank mates for Black Skirt Tetra.
  • Rummy Nose Tetra: these fish are well known for having appealing colors and being peaceful.

Black Skirt Tetra Breeding

The Black Skirt Tetra fish species falls in the egg-laying category. They usually go through a breeding process that involves the same steps as other egg-laying fish species. You first must find a compatible fish species and set them in the same environment as your Black Skirt Tetra.

You will also have to supply the fish with a diet high in protein, which will encourage mating. Make sure to gradually raise the water temperature until it reaches 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The female will produce eggs when she is ready to spawn. Once the males notice this, they will begin the spawning process.

When the female is pregnant, it is advisable to transfer it to a separate tank of at least 10 gallons. You should then put a small airstone inside. The role of this item is to provide the fish with a reliable oxygen supply.

The eggs will hatch after an average of 2 days and should start becoming free-swimming fish after at least two days. You can start feeding them infusoria meals at this point.

How long does the female Black Skirt Tetra carry her eggs?

Expect the Black Skirt Tetra female to carry her eggs for up to two weeks before hatching. The female will usually carry her eggs in a portion of the body that is similar to a “saddle” of sorts. It exists on the underside of the fish.

The female usually has a round abdomen and a dark color on the lower body section. It may also have a flashing fin structure or move erratically during the spawning stage. Fish experts refer to this behavior as “shimmying,” which is the females’ technique to release eggs into the water.

When the female is ready to spawn, it will release the eggs in the water, which the male will fertilize. The female will then collect the eggs in her mouth and carry them up until they hatch. The fry (Black Tetra Young) will remain in the specialized mouth patch until they hatch. Be careful because some eggs might fall to the tank bottom or end up eaten by other fish.

Do you need to have a separate breeding tank?

Yes, maintaining a separate breeding tank is essential for Black Skirt Tetra. It guarantees sufficient space for the fish, free from stressors that can compromise the breeding process. The separate tank will also provide the perfect environment for the reproductive needs of the fish.

Here are some of the benefits of using a separate breeding tank:

  1. Improved water quality – A different breeding tank makes it easy to control the water quality and its various other metrics, like pH. It is imperative during the first few days of spawning.
  2. Controlled environment – You will find it easy to control the aquatic environments in a separate aquarium for breeding.
  3. Reduced risk of disease – Keeping a separate breeding tank helps reduce the risk of spreading parasites and diseases between adult fish and fry.
  4. Easier to observe behavior –  Having a separate breeding tank makes monitoring and caring for the fish and fry easier. That is because you are not distracted by other fish in the main tank.

But if you do not have a separate tank, the community tank will work just fine as long as it is big enough and the mates are friendly. You also need to exercise more caution to ensure the fish and its offspring are doing well.

Are Black Skirt Tetras Suitable for Your Aquarium?


Black Skirt Tetras are generally suitable for most well-developed aquariums. They are peaceful, hardy, and simple to handle fish species. Here are some tips to consider in determining whether this fish species is suitable for your aquarium:

Check for Health Signs

It’s best to go for fish with optimal health to increase their survival and proliferation chances. A healthy Black Skirt Tetra should have clear and vibrant eyes. Any issues like cloudy or discolored eyes signify diseases or issues like stress.

Also, check the fish’s swimming patterns. It is best to avoid a fish that appears to be lazy or uninterested in its surroundings.

Other things to look out for include:

  • Parasites and diseases – the ideal black tetra fish should not show any signs of disease or parasites. Everyday things to look out for include white spots on the body or fins.
  • Supplier Reputation – a seller’s reputation impacts the longevity and health of your fish. It’s essential to buy fish from sellers that offer value, have a rich history, and provide credible fish products.
  • Fins and scales- Healthy Black Skirt Tetras should have healthy fins and scales. These organs should be free from parasites, damage, or white spots.
  • Uneven coloration – The uneven coloration of fish can be a symptom of stress or disease. Ensure you check the color of the fish and determine whether it’s relevant to this fish species.
  • Activity and temperament – While Black Skirt Tetra is a peaceful fish, ensure you check their activity or temperament levels. The fish should be active and responsive to their environment.
  • Nutritional deficiencies – Black Skirt Tetra can sometimes be prone to health issues like nutritional deficiencies and parasites. The ideal fish should be free from these issues. Usually, most suppliers provide some form of evidence about the fish’s health.

Check for Signs of Stress

When purchasing aquarium fish, keep an eye out for any signs of stress. While they are fish, they also have personalities and preferences. Some of the fish you choose may be severely impacted by environmental changes or other living factors. These are prone to becoming ill and may not have longevity in aquariums.

Nevertheless, changing environments can sometimes be a challenging experience for all types of fish. Try to mirror the conditions under which you obtained the fish during the acclimatization stage. Doing this reduces the chances of the fish experiencing issues like stress, which can affect their health.

Final Thoughts

Black Skirt Tetra is a small and peaceful fish that can thrive in different aquarium environments. It has a dark body, with a visible line running through to the edge of its tail. The fish also has long fins with appealing colors.

Usually, the fish like to live in schools of up to 5 fish. It also likes environments with lots of plants and well-maintained water. Expect the lifespan of well-maintained black tetra fish to average up to six years.


Can I feed my Black Skirt Tetra live food?

Yes, you can feed Black Skirt Tetra live food. Some common examples include bloodworms, shrimp, and daphnia. However, it is also recommended that you feed live food to these fish sparingly. Many experts recommend you feed them live food as a “treat.”

Doing it in moderation helps reduce the likelihood of disease outbreaks in your aquarium. Whenever you opt to do so, ensure you verify the food source. Avoid feeding your fish food directly from natural water sources such as ponds or swamps.

A better alternative is purchasing fish food from credible local stores. Before you feed the fish, ensure you clean the live feed and double-check it for any unhealthy signs. Remove any unconsumed feed before it starts rotting – lest you risk contaminating your aquarium.

How many Black Skirt Tetras should be kept together?

The best number of Black Tetras to set in an aquarium averages up to 10 in a 20-gallon tank. However, this is just an amount to help you gauge the ideal fish number for your needs.

Keeping the fish in small numbers (up to three) can lead to stress or boredom. On the other hand, keeping them in large numbers and in a well-maintained tank significantly improves their health. The fish will have a better temperament and access to potential mates.

How can you tell if a black skirt tetra is male or female?

The best way to tell if a black skirt tetra is female or male is to check its appearance. Usually, females have a rounder body shape and a thicker stripe on the side of the body. Males have brighter colors and longer fins compared to females. Plus, males have pointed anal fins compared to the female species.

The male Black Skirt Tetras also have a much more colorful black stripe. The one on the females tends to have a “faded” appearance. As far as sizes go, the Black Skirt Tetras have bigger bodies than the female species.