Black Skirt Tetras (Gymnocorymbus ternetzi): Comprehensive Care Guides, Tank Mates, FAQs

Black Skirt Tetras (Gymnocorymbus ternetzi): Comprehensive Care Guides, Tank Mates, FAQs

I love freshwater fish because they are diverse and beautiful. One species that has particularly caught my eye is the Black Skirt Tetra, also known as Gymnocorymbus ternetzi. These fish, with their unique coloration and behavior, are a joy to observe and care for.

The Black Skirt Tetra, native to the Paraguay River basin in South America, is a member of the characin family. This family is known for its diverse and vibrant members, and the Black Skirt Tetra is no exception. With a grayish hue that fades from near black at the tail to light at the nose, these fish are a sight to behold. Their two prominent, black, vertical bars just posterior to the gills add to their distinctive appearance.

The distinguishing characteristic of the Black Skirt Tetra from other similar fish is the evenly distributed dense cluster of dark chromatophores in the caudal region. This unique pigmentation is absent in all other members of its genus, making the Black Skirt Tetra truly stand out in any aquarium setting.

One of the things I love about Black Skirt Tetras is their schooling behavior. Watching them move in unison, darting about the tank, is truly mesmerizing. They’re not just beautiful to look at, but their dynamic movements add a sense of life and energy to the aquarium.

The Black Skirt Tetras have a non-discriminatory feeding behavior, consuming a variety of food sources. They happily feast on small crustaceans, insects, and worms. In an aquarium setting, they can be fed live foods such as Daphnia and mosquito larvae, as well as frozen foods like bloodworms. This varied diet keeps them healthy and vibrant.

Black Skirt Tetras are not just beautiful and easy to care for, but they’re also widely available. They’re a common fish species that can be found in most pet stores or aquarium suppliers. This makes them an excellent choice for both beginner and experienced aquarists.

In terms of size, Black Skirt Tetras are quite manageable. They grow up to 7.5 cm (3.0 in) in length, making them suitable for a variety of tank sizes. They reach sexual maturity at about two years of age and have a lifespan of 3 to 5 years in captivity.

Investing in Black Skirt Tetras: Price, Aliases, and Diverse Variants

When you decide to add Black Skirt Tetras to your aquarium, there are several factors to consider. One of the first things you’ll likely think about is the price. The cost of Black Skirt Tetras can vary depending on several factors, including the location and store where you’re making the purchase. Generally, these fish are quite affordable, making them a great choice for both beginner and experienced aquarists.

Another interesting aspect of Black Skirt Tetras is the variety of names they’re known by. The Black Skirt Tetra is a widely recognized name for this fish, but it can also go by several other names, including Black Tetra, Petticoat Tetra, High-fin Black Skirt Tetra, Black Widow Tetra, and Blackamoor. These aliases reflect the fish’s unique appearance and behavior.

Standard Black Skirt Tetra

Black Skirt Tetra
© Nicklas Iversen /

This is the most common variant of the Black Skirt Tetra. It has a grayish color that fades from near black at the tail to light at the nose. Two prominent, black, vertical bars appear just posterior to the gills.

White Skirt Tetra

The White Skirt Tetra is a color variant of the Black Skirt Tetra (Gymnocorymbus ternetzi). Although it belongs to the same species, the fish displays a genetic mutation which causes pigmentation to be absent, thus altering the color from the conventional black or grey to a shimmering white or silver. The term used to describe this color variation is leucism, which indicates a partial loss of pigmentation and differentiation from the true albino form of the species.

Like the Black Skirt Tetra, the White Skirt Tetra is a freshwater fish that is native to South America. It has the same care requirements, behavior, and temperament as the Black Skirt Tetra. It is a schooling fish that prefers to be kept in groups and does well in a community aquarium with other peaceful fish species.


GloFish are a type of genetically modified Black Skirt Tetra. They have been altered to exhibit bright, fluorescent colors under certain lighting conditions. GloFish were originally created to help detect environmental pollutants, but they have since become popular in the aquarium trade. They come in a variety of vibrant colors, including red, green, orange, blue, and purple. It’s important to note that the care requirements for GloFish are the same as for standard Black Skirt Tetras.

Creating a Comfortable Home: Ideal Tank Size and Water Parameters for Black Skirt Tetras

To ensure a suitable habitat for Black Skirt Tetras, it’s important to take into account several crucial aspects of aquarium setup. The tank size is of paramount importance. These fish are active swimmers and prefer to live in schools, so they require a decent amount of space to thrive. A minimum tank size of 20 gallons is recommended. This provides ample room for a small school of Black Skirt Tetras to swim freely and exhibit their natural behaviors.

In addition to tank size, the water parameters in the aquarium play a crucial role in the health and well-being of Black Skirt Tetras. While these fish can survive in various water conditions, maintaining specific parameters is crucial for their optimal health and survival. The pH of the water should be slightly acidic to neutral, ranging from 6.0 to 7.5. The water hardness should be between 3 and 10 dGH.

It is imperative to take into account temperature as a crucial factor. Black Skirt Tetras are tropical fish that prefer warm water. The ideal temperature range for these fish is between 70 and 85 °F. Maintaining the right temperature is crucial for their metabolism and overall health.

Understanding Their Growth: Lifespan and Full Size of Black Skirt Tetras

One of the fascinating aspects of keeping Black Skirt Tetras is watching them grow and mature. Understanding their growth patterns and lifespan can help you provide the best care for these captivating creatures.

Black Skirt Tetras have a moderate growth rate. They reach their full size of up to 7.5 cm (3.0 in) in length at around two years of age, which is also when they reach sexual maturity. This size makes them a perfect fit for a variety of tank sizes, from medium-sized community tanks to larger, more spacious setups.

In terms of lifespan, Black Skirt Tetras are relatively long-lived for a fish of their size. In captivity, with proper care and optimal living conditions, these fish can live for 3 to 5 years. This lifespan allows you to enjoy their company for a significant period of time, observing their behaviors and interactions with other fish in the aquarium.

Several factors, such as diet, water quality, and overall tank conditions, can have a significant impact on the lifespan and growth of Black Skirt Tetras. It is crucial to keep these factors in mind. A balanced diet, regular water changes, and a stress-free environment can contribute to a longer, healthier life for your Black Skirt Tetras.

Mimicking the Wild: Natural Environment, Behavior, Habitat Preference, and Aquarium Decoration for Black Skirt Tetras

Creating a comfortable and stimulating environment for your Black Skirt Tetras involves more than just providing the right water parameters and diet. It’s also about recreating their natural habitat to the best of your ability. This not only makes your aquarium more visually appealing, but it also contributes to the well-being of your fish.

Black Skirt Tetras hail from the Paraguay River basin in South America. This region is characterized by warm, slow-moving waters with plenty of vegetation. In the wild, these fish are accustomed to a habitat filled with plants, rocks, and driftwood, which provide hiding spots and breeding grounds.

In terms of behavior, Black Skirt Tetras are schooling fish. They prefer to swim in groups, which is a sight to behold in a well-set aquarium. This schooling behavior is a survival mechanism in the wild, where there is safety in numbers. In your aquarium, it provides a dynamic and engaging spectacle.

When setting up your aquarium, it’s important to consider the habitat preferences of Black Skirt Tetras. They are mid to top dwellers, meaning they spend most of their time in the middle and upper regions of the water column. Therefore, while it’s important to have some bottom decorations, you should also consider elements that reach or float towards the top of the tank.

Here’s a list of suitable aquarium decorations for Black Skirt Tetras:

  • Live Plants: These not only add a natural touch to your aquarium but also provide hiding spots and contribute to the water quality.
  • Rocks: Rocks can be arranged to create caves and crevices for your fish to explore.
  • Driftwood: Pieces of driftwood add a natural aesthetic to your aquarium and provide additional hiding spots.
  • Floating Plants: Given that Black Skirt Tetras are mid to top dwellers, floating plants can provide a sense of security and shade from the light.

Choosing the Right Company: Ideal Tank Mates and Fish to Avoid for Black Skirt Tetras

When setting up a community aquarium, it’s crucial to choose the right company for your Black Skirt Tetras. These fish are peaceful and prefer to live in groups, so they do well with other non-aggressive species. However, it’s important to avoid larger, aggressive species that might see the Black Skirt Tetras as prey or competition.

Black Skirt Tetras are schooling fish, meaning they prefer to be in groups of their own kind. A school of Black Skirt Tetras can create a stunning visual display in your aquarium, with their synchronized swimming and social interactions. Therefore, it’s recommended to keep them in groups of at least five or more.

Black Skirt Tetras offer a great opportunity to choose from a variety of tank mates. These fish are generally peaceful and can coexist with many other species. However, it’s best to avoid any fish that are known to be fin nippers, as Black Skirt Tetras have long, flowing fins that can be a tempting target.

Here are 20 ideal tank mates for Black Skirt Tetras:

  1. Cardinal Tetra: A small, brightly colored fish that enjoys similar water conditions.
  2. Harlequin Rasbora: Peaceful and easy to care for, they add a splash of color to your tank.
  3. Dwarf Gourami: A calm, slow-moving fish that won’t compete with Black Skirt Tetras for space.
  4. Neon Tetra: Small and peaceful, they enjoy being in schools and have similar care requirements.
  5. Celestial Pearl Danio: These small, colorful fish are peaceful and enjoy cooler water.
  6. Honey Gourami: Known for their peaceful nature and beautiful, warm coloration.
  7. Chili Rasbora: A tiny, brightly colored fish that enjoys being in large schools.
  8. Cory Catfish: Peaceful bottom dwellers that won’t compete with Black Skirt Tetras for space.
  9. Bolivian Rams: A peaceful cichlid that prefers the bottom of the tank, leaving plenty of room for Black Skirt Tetras.
  10. Platies: These are peaceful, hardy fish that come in a variety of colors.
  11. Mollies: Known for their peaceful nature and adaptability to various water conditions.
  12. Zebra Danios: Active and hardy, they can coexist well with Black Skirt Tetras.
  13. Ghost Shrimp: These small, transparent shrimp are peaceful and won’t bother your fish.
  14. Cherry Barbs: A peaceful, schooling fish that adds a pop of color to your aquarium.
  15. Guppies: Known for their vibrant colors and peaceful nature, they can coexist well with Black Skirt Tetras.
  16. Swordtails: These are peaceful fish that prefer the middle and top of the tank, just like Black Skirt Tetras.
  17. Bristlenose Plecos: Peaceful bottom dwellers that won’t compete with Black Skirt Tetras for space.
  18. Kuhli Loaches: These are peaceful, nocturnal fish that stay at the bottom of the tank.
  19. Amano Shrimp: Peaceful and hardy, they can coexist well with Black Skirt Tetras.
  20. Otocinclus Catfish: These are peaceful algae eaters that won’t bother your Black Skirt Tetras.

Keeping it Clean: Maintenance and Cleaning Tips for Your Black Skirt Tetras’ Tank

Maintaining a clean and healthy environment is essential for the well-being of your Black Skirt Tetras. Regular maintenance and cleaning of the tank not only ensures the health of your fish but also enhances the aesthetic appeal of your aquarium. Here are some tips to help you keep your Black Skirt Tetras’ tank in top condition.

  1. Regular Water Changes: Conduct regular water changes, ideally once a week. Replace about 25-30% of the tank water to maintain the water quality and keep the nitrate levels low. Remember to treat the new water with a dechlorinator before adding it to the tank.
  2. Monitor Water Parameters: Keep a close eye on the water parameters. The pH should be between 6.0 and 7.5, and the temperature should be maintained between 70 °F85 °F and 85 °F. Regularly testing the water will help you detect any changes early and take corrective measures.
  3. Clean the Substrate: Use a gravel vacuum to clean the substrate and remove any uneaten food or waste that has settled at the bottom. This will prevent the buildup of harmful substances that can affect the water quality.
  4. Scrub the Algae: Algae can quickly take over your tank if not controlled. Use an algae scrubber to clean the tank walls and decorations. However, leave some algae as they are beneficial for the tank’s ecosystem.
  5. Filter Maintenance: Clean the filter regularly, but avoid doing it during the water change as it can cause a sudden change in water parameters. Rinse the filter media with the tank water and not tap water to preserve the beneficial bacteria.
  6. Check the Equipment: Regularly check the equipment like heaters, filters, and lights to ensure they are working properly. Your fish can experience stress due to any malfunction that results in a sudden change in the tank environment.
  7. Quarantine New Additions: Don’t take any chances with new additions to your aquarium – always quarantine them for a few weeks beforehand to make sure they’re free from any harmful diseases or parasites that could negatively impact your tank.

Remember, a clean tank is a healthy tank. Regular maintenance might seem like a lot of work, but it’s worth it to keep your Black Skirt Tetras happy and healthy.

Breeding Tips for Black Skirt Tetras

Breeding Black Skirt Tetras can be a rewarding experience, but it does require some preparation and care. These fish do not tend to their eggs or fry, so you’ll need to set up a separate breeding tank to prevent the adults from consuming the offspring.

Here are some steps to follow for successful breeding:

  1. Set Up a Breeding Tank: A 10-gallon tank should suffice for breeding. Maintain the same water parameters as the main tank and introduce some plants or a spawning mop, artificial grass, or a net. These will provide hiding spots for the eggs and create a barrier between the eggs and the adult fish.
  2. Choose a Bonded Pair: Select a bonded pair of Black Skirt Tetras and place them in the breeding tank. Feed them protein-rich live foods until the female starts to swell with eggs.
  3. Monitor the Breeding Process: The male may chase the female around the tank. It’s important to monitor their behavior and make sure that the male is not displaying excessive aggressiveness. If he causes harm, separate the fish temporarily.
  4. Egg Laying: If successful, the female will scatter up to 1,000 eggs throughout the tank. The eggs will sink to the bottom, ideally into the grass or netting where they will be hidden from the adults.
  5. Remove the Adults: Once the eggs have been laid, return the adult fish to the main tank. The eggs should hatch within 24 to 36 hours.
  6. Feeding the Fry: The fry will feed off the egg sac initially. After a few days, you can start feeding them powdered fry food or infusoria. In a couple of weeks, they should be large enough to eat baby brine shrimp.
  7. Grow Out: Keep the fry separate until they are large enough not to be eaten by other fish.

In conclusion, Black Skirt Tetras are a wonderful addition to any freshwater aquarium. Their unique appearance, peaceful nature, and relatively easy care requirements make them a popular choice among both novice and experienced aquarists. These captivating fish are irresistible, whether it’s their stunning combination of black and silver colors, their playful nature, or their ability to thrive alongside various other aquatic species.

To ensure the well-being and contentment of Black Skirt Tetras, it is essential to create a conducive setting that resembles their indigenous abode, offer them a diverse and balanced diet, and adhere to routine aquarium upkeep. With the right care, these fish can thrive in your aquarium and provide you with years of enjoyment.

If you’re thinking about including Black Skirt Tetras in your aquarium, or you’re already a happy owner, our guide has given you useful knowledge and helpful advice. Happy fishkeeping!


Are Black Skirt Tetras aggressive?

No, Black Skirt Tetras are generally peaceful. However, they may nip at the fins of slow-moving fish or those with long, flowing fins.

How many Black Skirt Tetras should be kept together?

Black Skirt Tetras are schooling fish and should be kept in groups of at least five. They are more likely to exhibit natural behaviors and feel less stressed when kept in a school.

Can Black Skirt Tetras live with bettas?

While it’s possible for Black Skirt Tetras to coexist with bettas, it’s not always recommended. Black Skirt Tetras can sometimes nip at the fins of bettas, which can lead to stress and injury.

Do Black Skirt Tetras need a heater?

Yes, Black Skirt Tetras are tropical fish and require a heater to maintain a consistent water temperature between 70 °F85 °F and 85 °F.

Do Black Skirt Tetras eat plants?

While Black Skirt Tetras are omnivores and can eat plant matter, they are not known to damage live plants in the aquarium. They will typically eat the food you provide them and not turn to the plants.

Are Black Skirt Tetras good for beginners?

Yes, Black Skirt Tetras are hardy fish and relatively easy to care for, making them a good choice for beginner aquarists.

Can Black Skirt Tetras jump out of the tank?

Like many fish, Black Skirt Tetras can jump, so it’s a good idea to have a lid on your aquarium to prevent them from jumping out.

How can I tell the difference between male and female Black Skirt Tetras?

Males are generally smaller and slimmer than females. Females tend to have a more rounded belly, especially when they are full of eggs.

Do Black Skirt Tetras hide?

While Black Skirt Tetras are generally active swimmers, they may hide if they feel threatened or stressed. Providing plenty of hiding spots with plants or decorations can help them feel more secure.

What is the best substrate for Black Skirt Tetras?

Black Skirt Tetras are not particularly picky about substrate. You can use sand or gravel, depending on your preference and the needs of other tank inhabitants.

Can Black Skirt Tetras change color?

Yes, Black Skirt Tetras can change color based on their mood, health, or environmental conditions. For example, their color may fade if they are stressed or unwell.

Are Black Skirt Tetras nocturnal?

No, Black Skirt Tetras are not nocturnal. They are most active during the day and will sleep at night.

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Total posts created: 98
A long-time freshwater fish enthusiast with a passion for sharing knowledge about this fascinating hobby. Over the years, Michelle has dedicated countless hours to studying, learning, and experiencing firsthand the joys and challenges of fish-keeping.

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