Black Skirt Tetra: A Complete Guide

Black Skirt Tetra (Gymnocorymbus ternetzi) not only look amazing, but they are also extremely easy to care for.

This is what makes them an excellent choice for aquarists of all levels, especially beginners with little experience.

This guide will teach you everything you need to know on the Black Skirt Tetra breed such as Behavior & Temperament, tank requirements, breeding, diet, plus much more.

Black Skirt Tetra Overview

Family: Characidae
Origin: Rio Paraguay, Rio Guapore, Bolivia
Temperament: Easy-going and peaceful
Size: 1-2.5 inches (2.5-6.4cm)
Tank Level: Mid dweller
Minimum Tank Size: 15 Gallons
Diet: Omnivore
Care: Easy
Breeding: Egg layer
pH: 5.8 to 8.5
Hardness: Up to 15 dGH
Temperature: 68 to 79 F (20 to 26 C)

Origin and Habitat

Black Skirt Tetra originate from South American countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, and Paraguay.

You will usually find them near the surface of the water, and the forest canopy provides both shade and food in the form of insects, small worms, and crustaceans.

Other variants of Black Skirt Tetra include the Black Widow Tetra, Petticoat Tetra, Goldenskirt Tetra, and the Colored Skirt Tetra.


On average, the Black Skirt Tetra live between 3 and 5 years in captivity. Although it is uncommon, some can live beyond this age.

To ensure they live the duration of their lifespan, it is important to maintain the tank and provide good water conditions. (more on this further down)

Behavior & Temperament

Black skirt Tetra are a peaceful breed with an easy-going temperament. They make excellent tank mates because they very rarely show signs of aggressive behavior.

The only one thing to be aware of is that this particular species is prone to nipping at flowy fins. So be wary if you have long-finned fish such as Angelfish or Betta Fish.

Black Skirt are very curious and will spend most of their time swimming around and exploring the tank. You’ll find that this breed also stick together as they are a schooling species. You mind find that they swim off on their own on rare occasions.


Like most Tetra species, they are generally small and grow 1-2.5 inches (2.5-6.4cm) at full maturity.

On rare occasions they may grow up to 3 inches, but this generally happens in the wild.


black skirt tetra appearance

Black Skirt Tetras, like other members of the Characidae family are recognizable by their shape. This shape is like a rectangular prism cube and known as tetragonal.

The back of their bodies are shorter than the front, with some having short fins and other with longer fins. Another recognizable feature is the significant taper to their tail.

Colors and Markings

Black Skirt Tetras are a stunning breed with a gradient hue pattern and two distinctive vertical black stripes on the front of their body.

Their darker colors will eventually fade as they mature until they become very pale once they reach the end of their lifespan.

One way to prevent or slow down color fading is to ensure that you always providing a thriving tank environment with clean water along with a healthy diet.

Gender Differences

Females are generally a little larger and rounder than males. Male Tetra usually have a larger anal fin than a female.

Tank Size

A 15 gallon tank is recommended for Black Skirt Tetra, but a 20-gallon tank is even better if you plan on keeping a large group of this breed.

Larger tanks provide more space for them as they are active swimmers. This helps to prevent overcrowding.

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Fluval Hagen HG Flex Aquarium 57L, 15gal, Black
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Water Conditions

The condition of the water is extremely important to keep your fish both happy and healthy. Fish can easily become stressed or pick up a disease if the quality of the water is poor.

Replicating the water conditions of a breeds natural habitat is always the best and safest option. When it comes to Black Skirt Tetra, here are some recommendations.

  • Water temperature: 70°F to 85°F
  • pH levels: 6.0 to 7.5
  • Water hardness: 4 to 8 KH

To ensure that potentially harmful substances such as ammonia and nitrates do not effect your tank, water replacements of 25-50% is recommended once every two weeks.

Always have a water testing kit at hand so you can regularly check the water.

What To Put Inside The Tank?

The natural environment of a Black Skirt Tetra is teaming life. It’s important to recreate this inside of their tank to create a thriving environment.

  • Plants: Like many other breeds, Tetras love plants because they are active swimmers and it gives them plenty of places to explore. Taller plants work best for this breed. Just don’t overdo it because they will still need space to swim.
  • Dark sandy substrate: The dark color of the sandy substrate mimics how it would be in their natural environment due to decaying leaves.
  • Hiding spots: If your fish are feeling threatened then driftwood and cave systems will give them plenty of options to hide and retreat.
  • Filtration: A strong filtration system is important to eliminate waste and prevent a build up of ammonia and nitrate.

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Flourite Dark, 7 kg / 15.4 lbs
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hygger Small Aquarium Ornament Poly Resin Wood Trunk Log Fish Tank Decoration for up to 20 Gallon Tank Betta Fish Accessories Hideout Cave(Tree Log)
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Common Diseases

One of the most common diseases to be aware of is Ich which is a parasitic infection that causes white lesions on the entire body.

Ich is brought on by stress or poor water quality water, which is why it is important to to setup a thriving tank with plenty of hiding places to help prevent stress.

Ich can be fatal if it isn’t dealt with, so it’s important to perform regular water tests to ensure the quality of the water remains high.

When it comes to treatment, a copper-based medicine is usually the best option. It’s also important to note that Ich is highly contagious. So infected fish must immediately be removed.

Another common issue with Black Skirt Tetra is fungal and bacterial infections such as fin rot, fish fungus, and dropsy.

Tank Mates

Although Black Skirt Tetra are a very peaceful and easy going breed, they can be mildly aggressive when it comes to fish that have long flowing fins and they may nip at them.

Here are some recommended tankmates to keep with Black Skirt Tetras.

  • Dwarf Gourami
  • Harlequin Rasbora
  • Honey Gourami
  • Neon Tetra
  • Bolivian Rams
  • Cardinal Tetra
  • Celestial Pearl Danio
  • Chili Rasbora
  • Cory Catfish

Black Skirt Tetra Food & Diet

When it comes to food, Black Skirt Tetras will eat plants and insects in their natural habitat.

Although you can feed them a diet of flakes and pellets in captivity, it’s always best to replicate their natural diet as close as possible which will result in happier, stress-free fish.

To do this you can supplement their diet with live and frozen food such as  bloodworms, daphnia, blackworms, tubifex, and brine shrimp.

It’s okay to feed them pellets or flakes on a daily basis but frozen and live foods should only be given as an occasional treat.


If you plan on breeding Black Skirt Tetra then you will need a separate tank specifically for breeding.

The reason for this is because they are known for eating both eggs and the fry. When it comes to the tank, a 10 gallon is the best option with the same water parameters as their main tank. You can even include some plants inside of there.

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Here are some tips you can follow:

  • Place a male and female tetra inside of the breeding tank.
  • For around 7 to 10 days, feed them 3 times per day with a diet of live food that is rich in protein.
  • Eventually the females belly will swell with eggs. At this stage, the male will generally chase her around the tank. You can remove the male from the tank if he becomes too aggressive.
  • Females can lay up to 1000 eggs which will land all over the tank.
  • As soon as the male has fertilized the eggs, remove both the male and female from the breeding tank, and place them back in their regular tank.
  • The eggs usually take 1-2 days to hatch and the fry will get the required nutrients from the egg sac.
  • Powdered food can be offered after several days, followed by brine shrimp after a couple of weeks.
  • Fry will get eaten by other fish, as well as their parents, so it’s important to keep them in the breeding tank until the danger of them being eaten has passed.