Black Skirt Tetra Care: The Ultimate Guide

The Black Skirt Tetra is a stunning freshwater fish that is perfect for any aquarium. Click here to find out more about their care.

Black Skirt Tetra – Quick Facts

In a rush? Check out the quick facts about Black Skirt Tetra below.

Fish Info

Scientific NameGymnocorymbus ternetzi
Common Namesblack skirt tetra, black tetra, black widow tetra, butterfly tetra
AppearanceBlack, long anal fin, black dorsal fin, black pectoral fins, black caudal fin, tiny pelvic fin, tiny secondary dorsal fin. The fins are translucent.
DifficultyThe difficulty of caring for black skirt tetra lies in maintaining water quality and providing a varied diet.
DistributionThe black skirt tetra is found in the Paraguay River Basin, Brazil, and Argentina.
LifespanThe average lifespan of a black skirt tetra is 3-5 years.
ShoalingYes, the black skirt tetra is a shoaling fish.
TemperamentThe black skirt tetra is a peaceful fish that rarely shows signs of aggression.
Keep in Groups of6 or more.
Tank MatesBolivian Rams, Cardinal Tetra, Celestial Pearl Danio, Chili Rasbora, Cory Catfish, Dwarf Gourami, Harlequin Rasbora, Honey Gourami, Neon Tetra
DietBlack skirt tetras are not picky eaters and will consume both plants and insects.
LengthThe black skirt tetra usually grows to be around 3 inches long.
Sexual DimorphismThe female black skirt tetra is larger and rounder than the male. Male black skirt tetras also have more pointed dorsal and anal fins.
Breeding DifficultyThe difficulty of breeding black skirt tetra lies in the fact that they are egg scatterers that show absolutely no parental care.

Water/Tank Recommendations

Water TypeFreshwater
Water TemperatureThe ideal water temperature for Black Skirt Tetra is 22-28°C (72-83°F).
Water pHThe ideal water pH for black skirt tetra is 6.0 to 7.5.
Water HardnessThe ideal water hardness for black skirt tetra is 5-19 dH.
Tank sizeThe minimum tank size for black skirt tetra is 15 gallons, but the recommended tank size is 20 gallons.


The black skirt tetra is a beautiful freshwater species that fly under the radar of most aquarists. They don’t look particularly colorful on their own, but they have an interesting look that you won’t find with any other fish.

This guide will teach you everything there is to know about black skirt tetra care. You’ll learn their ideal tank conditions, water requirements, diet, and more!

About Black Skirt Tetra

The black skirt tetra is a gorgeous freshwater fish that live in the wild throughout South America.

Black skirt tetras are not as visually appealing as other popular species like neon or guppies at first glance, but they have just as much to offer aquarists! These beautiful little fish are quite playful and will spend their days darting around your tank, creating excitement wherever they go.

Like many types of common tropical fish from South America, the black skirt tetra on sale are bred in captivity.


The black skirt tetra is an interesting and beautiful freshwater fish with quite a unique look. They are round in shape with a pointed dorsal fin and a long anal fin, which resembles a skirt. The fish is a silver-grey color, with stripes of darker grey to black on its body.

Some fish keepers choose this fish because of the faint resemblance to piranhas. This is due to their round shape and protruding lower mouth.

Their Length

The average length of a black skirt tetra is about 3 inches. So these fish aren’t very big. Because of this, you can keep them in smaller aquariums (even nano tanks). However, as a shoaling fish, they will feel comfortable and secure when surrounded by other individuals, so keep that in mind when choosing the size of your tank.


The lifespan of a black skirt tetra is usually around 3 to 5 years when given good care. This can vary depending on the quality of their habitat and diet, but overall this is an average range.

Like any other fish species, you could significantly shorten their lifespan by keeping them in sub-optimal conditions or feeding them low-quality foods.

Additionally, poor water quality can cause stress and lead to disease.

Sexual Dimorphism

The difference between male and female black skirt tetras isn’t that difficult to spot. In fact, the easiest way to differentiate is by looking at their size and dorsal fins.

The dorsal fin of the male fish has a pointed shape. The same is true for the anal fin of the males.

Another easy-to-spot feature of sexually mature fish is girth. Female black skirt tetras tend to be plumper than their counterparts.


Black skirt tetras are endemic to the Paraguay River Basin. They can also be found in Brazil and some parts of Argentina.

These fish thrive in the blackwater rivers that they call home. The waters are acidic (though alkalinity levels fluctuate) and flow quickly through dense vegetation all year long. This fast-moving water provides a lot of hiding places, which makes it easy for these active fish to avoid predators.

Caring for Black Skirt Tetra

Black skirt tetras are a breeze to care for. As long as you meet their basic needs, these fish will do just fine!

That said, there are still some important things that you need to pay attention to. For example, poor water conditions and an improper diet can negatively impact your fish’s health (and possibly shorten their lifespan).

Here are some important care guidelines for black skirt tetras that you need to follow.


Black skirt tetras have a varied diet. In their natural habitat, they eat insect larvae and crustaceans. However, they will accept most commercial fish foods in captivity.

However, you can’t rely on dry flakes alone to meet the nutritional requirements of your black skirt tetra. These fish love live food like brine shrimp or bloodworms for protein-rich snacks between meals!

You can provide these as occasional treats, but frequent feeding is not recommended due to their small stomachs.

How Often & How Much to Feed Them

Black skirt tetras should be fed twice a day. These fish are small and relatively active, so they have high metabolisms that demand frequent meals.

When you feed them, do so in small quantities to prevent overfeeding. Each fish only needs about two milliliters of food per meal. Too much food can cause poor water quality as it pollutes the tank when left uneaten.

Note: Keep an eye on your black skirt tetras during feeding time to ensure that no one is getting bullied out of their share!

Possible Diseases

Black skirt tetras are not immune to disease. In fact, they’re susceptible to all the diseases that affect other freshwater fish species.

The most common ailment is Ich. Though rare, it can spread quickly through your tank if you don’t take preventative measures. It shows itself as white spots all over the body of infected fish and can eventually lead to death if not treated immediately (be sure to quarantine any sick fish).

Tank Setup

Black skirt tetras like to be kept in groups of 6 or more. It is not recommended to keep fewer, as they are a shoaling fish and so they need a community to feel safe.

To recreate their natural habitat, we recommend starting with a 20-gallon tank and adding about 10 gallons of moderately soft water from your aquarium pump. Black skirt tetras prefer shallow waters between 2 and 8 feet deep, so keep this depth relatively moderate.

Next, lay down some driftwood branches and rocks scattered throughout the tank’s bottom. Finally, add plants such as Java ferns and hornwort for additional coverage.

Aquarium Size

The smallest aquarium that can house black skirt tetras is 15 gallons, but the recommended tank size is 20 gallons.

You can keep a small group of six or more in this smaller volume, but if you want to maximize their potential to thrive and be happy, it’s definitely worth going bigger.

We recommend going with a larger aquarium because these fish do best when they are kept in large groups. They behave better and stay healthier when there are more of them around.

Water Conditions

Black skirt tetras do well in warmer water but also tolerate cooler temperatures. They prefer neutral to slightly acidic waters as well (6.0 pH).

The fish are used to living in slow-moving waters with lots of vegetation and ample hiding places to take shelter when they feel endangered or threatened.

These tropical fish can become more sensitive during the breeding season. You may notice some fin-nipping between males and females, as courtship is typical for this species.


The ideal water pH for black skirt tetra is 6.0 to 7.5. However, this can be a little bit difficult to achieve, especially if you have an aquarium with live plants (which we recommend).

Note: Make sure all of your equipment is rated for this range as well! Anything subpar will not hold the necessary acidity needed by these fish.


Black skirt tetras prefer temperatures between 72 and 83 degrees Fahrenheit. They can survive in cooler waters but thrive and live longer in a slightly warmer environment.

Note: Remember that too much heat can be more dangerous for small fish like this one. Always use a thermometer and make sure the temperature is right before implementing it in their tanks.


The hardness of the water is a factor to consider when caring for black skirt tetras. These fish are used to soft waters, meaning you don’t need to go out of your way to simulate hard water conditions.

Nonetheless, it’s important not to stray too far from their natural habitat. If your tap water is too far on the softer side, consider adding a touch of hardness with an aquarium salt mix or mineral stones.


It’s important to use a strong filtration system in the tank. A canister filter or sponge filter is best.

Tiny air pockets in your water could indicate poor oxygenation and stagnant water, which could lead to disease if left unaddressed. A good filtration system will ensure that you keep conditions clean while preventing harm to your fish.

Aquarium Plants

As mentioned earlier, black skirt tetras prefer dense plants that offer a home. Not only will they use them for protection, but these fish also like to rest in the leaves of live plants.

You can choose from any of the traditional freshwater aquarium plants. Black skirt tetras don’t seem to have preferences regarding plant species (which is always nice). Densely planted tanks with vegetation create an environment where your fish feels safe, which leads to less stress and a longer lifespan.

Behavior and Compatibility

Black skirt tetras are peaceful and relatively active fish. They play well in groups of six or more, grouping up to explore the tank together.

However, they aren’t necessarily social with other non-aggressive species. Sometimes these fish nip the fins of other fish. When kept in a large group of their own kind, however, black skirt tetras tend to be very peaceful towards others.

Don’t house them with any large fish or aggressive species. These small fish aren’t strong enough to defend themselves against bullies.

How Many to Keep Together

The recommended number of black skirt tetras to keep together is six.

A larger school can help these shoaling fish feel safe and confident enough to swim around the tank without stress or anxiety. When they’re nervous, their coloration dulls significantly.


The black skirt tetra is an incredibly peaceable fish.

The only potential for aggression comes when keeping them with large or aggressive species that could harm the little black skirt tetras. Avoid this by pairing these fishes with similarly sized tank mates.

These fish prefer to stay in groups, which is another reason why they work well with similarly sized community fish. They will often swim and play together.

Tank Mates

Black skirt tetra do well with other peaceful fish and will not cause trouble. In fact, they’ll happily school with others of their kind and create a large group that swims together!

Some good tank mates for the black skirt tetra include:

Groups of oscars or any similarly sized cichlid should be avoided due to potential aggression issues. Also, avoid large catfish like plecos because they may eat your fish.


Breeding black skirt tetra is not difficult. In fact, it’s very easy!

Provide plants that are closer to the water surface for spawning purposes. This will be where you see most of your breeding occur. The eggs tend to fall back down into a separate area in the tank below, so providing surfaces on both sides of the spectrum is ideal.

The main difficulty of breeding these fish is that they tend to eat their eggs. Because of this, we recommend putting your potential breeders in a separate breeding tank, then moving them out once the eggs are ready.

Are Black Skirt Tetra Fish a Good Choice For Your Tank?

The black skirt tetra is a beautiful and rewarding fish to care for. It’s also very easy to find in stores, making it an excellent choice for beginners and experienced aquarists alike.

However, these fish do have their challenges. As long as you stick to the recommendations laid out in this guide, you should have no trouble keeping your black skirt tetras happy and healthy!


Black skirt tetras are one of our favorite freshwater species. Here’s why:

They look gorgeous. There’s no getting around it; these fish are wonderful and a joy to watch swim in your tank!

They work well with a variety of other species. These guys get along fine with most peaceful species that stay out of their way. This makes them quite easy to care for if you have an established community tank setup.

In general, they’re hardy and low-maintenance. Black skirt tetra care is not particularly challenging, which means owning them can be fun and hassle-free for aquarists at any level!


While there are a lot of positives to owning black skirt tetras, there are some things that you also have to be mindful of.

This is not an aggressive species and rarely shows signs of aggression (even when kept with other fish). However, they can still nip at the fins or kill off much smaller fish that get in their way.

You may also notice some fin-nipping with their own kind. This is a natural behavior in the wild, but it can also occur within your aquarium.

These fish are quite active and love to swim around all day long. Unfortunately, that often leads to injury when kept with slower or inactive fish. If you want them to have peaceful tank mates, then stick to similarly energetic species.


Black skirt tetras are an excellent freshwater fish to keep in your tank. Their unique appearance and easygoing temperament make them a pleasure to care for!

We hope you found this guide helpful and are now more prepared to care for these fish.

Leave a Comment