Black Skirt Tetra (Gymnocorymbus ternetzi)

black skirt tetra

The black skirt tetra, also known as the black tetra, high-fin black skirt tetra, petticoat tetra, long finned tetra, black fin tetra, blackamoor, black widow tetra, or just skirt tetra, is one of several varieties of tetra belonging to the family Characidae. Native to South America, it is found in both freshwater and brackish environments, inhabiting ponds, lakes, streams, and occasionally rivers with soft bottoms and slow current speeds.

The black tetra is a species of fish in the family Characidae that inhabits the lowland rivers and lakes of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela, as well as the Caribbean island of Trinidad and Tobago.

While it mostly feeds on aquatic invertebrates, it will also eat some plant matter when available. This species can reach about 8 centimeters (3 in) in length and will readily eat small live food such as brine shrimp and micro worms when young but grow to become more carnivorous with age.

Origin and description

The Black skirt tetra is a species of characin and it comes from South America. It has a slender body, elongated oval-shaped scales, silvery sides, and black fins with white tips. Its eyes are large, round, and black. The Black skirt tetra prefers soft to medium-hard water and a neutral pH that is not too high or low.

The Black skirt tetra should be kept in groups of at least six fish. They will swim around looking for food at all times so there should be plenty of open space for them to swim freely.

They are omnivorous fish so they will eat most foods offered such as flake food, frozen bloodworms, brine shrimp, freeze-dried foods, etc.

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Species profile

black skirt tetra

Black skirt tetra belongs to the family Characidae and is native to South America. They can be found in slow-moving waters such as rivers, lakes, and ponds. They are popular aquarium fish because of their peaceful nature and coloration. They are omnivorous, feeding on algae, plants, and small invertebrates in its natural habitat.

In captivity, they should be fed a variety of high-quality flake food and frozen or live foods such as bloodworms or daphnia. Their water should be well oxygenated with a pH between 6.0 and 7.5, temperature between 23°C and 28°C, hardness between 10°dH and 18°dH, and carbonate hardness (KH) between 4°dH and 8°dH.

Scientific name

The scientific name of the black skirt tetra is Gymnocorymbus ternetzi

Common names

Black skirt tetras are also referred to as skirt tetra, long finned tetra, blackamoor, black fin tetra, petticoat tetra, high-fin black skirt tetra, black tetra, or black widow tetra.


Found in clear rivers and streams in northern Bolivia, Brazil, and Peru. In their natural habitat, black skirt tetras live in a tropical climate. They are schooling fish that can be kept in tanks with other peaceful species of similar size. They are mostly active during daylight hours.

They prefer to swim in schools of at least six individuals; if they are not kept in schools, they will become stressed out and may even die from shock. Black skirt tetras are omnivores; their diet should consist of both meaty foods like brine shrimp or bloodworms as well as plant-based foods like algae wafers or flakes.

They grow to an average length of three inches long, although they can reach up to four inches long.

Black skirt tetra size

Black skirt tetra can grow up to 3 inches (8 cm) in length.

Black skirt tetra male or female

The anal fin of male black skirt tetra is slanted backwards towards the tail. Similarly, the shape of their bodies can differentiate the two sexes; female black skirt tetra are typically plumper than males. White dots sometimes appear on the caudal fins of male Black Skirt tetras

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Black skirt tetra tank size

Due to their size, the minimum recommended tank size is 15 gallons (57 liters)

Black tetra tank mates

The Black skirt tetra is usually found in shoals of six to eight fish. They tend to be timid towards other fish, and should not be kept with larger, more aggressive species such as Oscars or Arowanas. Black skirt tetras are peaceful shoaling fish and should be kept in groups of at least 6 individuals for a healthy tank.

Some good tank mates are Cory Catfish, Neon Tetra, Harlequin Rasbora, Honey Gourami, Cardinal Tetra, Celestial Pearl Danio, Dwarf Gourami, and Chili Rasbora.

Black skirt tetra breeding

black skirt tetra

It is not difficult to get Black skirt Tetras to spawn, the tricky parft is to prevent adult fish from eating the eggs and fry. Most of the time, a planted 10-20 gallon aquarium is enough to encourage them to spawn. Make sure your fish have a good supply of food, and maintain a 26-27 degree temperature.

Water should have a pH around neutral and a hardness value below dH 15 (the lower the better). It is appreciated, but not required, to add spawning grass to the bottom.

Adult fish can consume eggs and fry, which is why they should never be kept in an aquarium.

Rather than catch the fish when they get stressed, you can instead place them in a large net or basket inside the aquarium before they spawn in order to prevent them from getting stressed.

If you have only one aquarium, this is a great alternative since the eggs will fall through the mesh and rest safely at the bottom.

Black skirt tetra eggs

An egg scattering species, the Black skirt Tetra produces a large number of small eggs that are scattered throughout the aquarium. In order to prevent fungi from attacking healthy, fertilized eggs, unfertilized eggs should be removed from the aquarium after they start looking fuzzy due to fungi growth.

At 26 degrees Celsius, the eggs usually hatch within four days.

Caring for the fry

You can feed newly hatched Black skirt Tetra fry liquid fry food, microworms, or vinegar eels. Newly hatched Black skirt Tetra fry can be quite small, and will spend most of their time clinging to aquarium walls or decoration.

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Normally, newly hatched brine shrimp can be eaten when they are around three days old. One-month-old Black Tetra fry can be fed the same food as their parents.

It is better to perform small water changes several times a day in order to prevent causing any rapid changes to the water quality. Changing large amounts of water is harmful to Black Tetra fry, so best to perform them in small amounts.

Are black skirt tetras aggressive or peaceful?

Black skirt tetras are generally peaceful, though they will become territorial if kept in too small of a tank or if there aren’t enough hiding spaces. They do well with other fish but may bully smaller or more timid species.

A larger tank is also important because these active fish enjoy swimming up and down in groups. In addition to more room for swimming, a larger tank is also needed to reduce aggression and fighting between males as they vie for space.

Black skirt tetra care

black skirt tetra

As with many tetras, black skirt tetras like to keep their tank set-up sparse and well-planted. They will do fine in temperatures between 76 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit and pH levels between 6.0 and 7.5.

Plant species from genera such as Cryptocoryne, Microsorum, Anubias, Bolbitis, or Echinodorus make good companions for them in an aquarium of at least 15 gallons. Black skirt tetras are a schooling fish that should be kept in groups of five or more individuals..

They are schooling fish that prefers to be kept in groups of 5 or more individuals, although they can be kept singly if necessary; they just won’t behave normally and may become stressed easily if not kept with other members of their own kind.

Black skirt tetra food

Black skirt tetras are omnivores; they eat both plant and animal material. In nature, they eat algae, small invertebrates, small fish, and some types of plants. If you keep them in an aquarium, they will be happy to consume flake food and live foods like daphnia or brine shrimp.

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If you want to feed them plant matter (algae or spirulina flakes), you will need to supplement their diet with brine shrimp as a protein source.

Tank requirements

The black skirt tetra is one of several similar fish available to aquarists, and all should be kept in groups of at least six to ensure they feel comfortable and secure. They are also incredibly territorial, so you’ll need a very large tank for them—and their own filter.

This species will eat live plants, so if you want to keep them in your aquarium it’s best to include plenty of hardy species such as java fern. They require a lot of light, which makes them unsuitable for tanks that aren’t lit well. In terms of water conditions, these fish prefer slightly acidic water with low levels of nitrates.

Black skirt tetra lifespan

These fish species can live between 3 and 5 years.

Parasites and diseases

Black skirt tetras are vulnerable to many different types of parasites and diseases, especially if their tank is overcrowded. Some common ailments include anchor worm, ichthyophthirius, marine velvet, and goldfish disease. Regular parasite treatments can help ward off sickness. If you notice symptoms such as loss of color or clamped fins on your fish, you should have your water tested for diseases.


Black skirt tetras are small fish and for that reason, it is hard to find them on any animal’s list of natural prey. However, goldfish or aggressive species such as tiger barbs will eat them. This particular tetra is also a favorite of some plecostomus catfish species. It may be smart to keep these animals away from your black skirt tetras if you want to keep your fish healthy and safe.

Do they make good pet?

While black skirt tetras do make good pets, they require a fairly high level of care that many new fish owners aren’t prepared for. As such, black skirt tetras are best kept by more experienced aquarists who can provide them with all of their needs.