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Black Skirt Tetra – Tank Size, Behavior, Compatibility & More

Brooke Billingsley

By Brooke Billingsley

black skirt tetra

When people think about freshwater aquarium fish, tetras often come to mind. However, many people don’t realize just how many tetra species and varieties there actually are! Gone are the days of Neon tetras being the only tetras available in the aquatics store. The black skirt tetra is one of the tetras that has shown up on the scene in the last couple of decades, and it’s consistently growing in popularity.

Let’s learn more about this interesting fish!

Size: Up to 3 inches long
Lifespan: 3–5 years
Similar Breeds: White skirt tetra, serpae tetra, black phantom tetra
Suitable for: Beginner fishkeepers, community tanks
Temperament: Peaceful, easy-going

The black skirt tetra is, as you might have guessed, named for the black, flowy fins that make them look like they’re wearing a skirt. They’re quite peaceful, making them ideal fish for community tanks, especially tropical and some blackwater setups. They’re also beginner-friendly fish, but they are shoaling fish, so they should always be kept in groups of six or more.

Black Skirt Tetra Breed Characteristics

Ease of Care

Black Skirt Tetra Cost

Black skirt tetras are very affordable fish, often retailing for around $2–$6. One thing to keep in mind when getting a black skirt tetra, though, is that these fish absolutely must be kept in groups. A singular fish will be highly stressed, which will make it prone to illnesses and early death.

When you consider the price of a black skirt tetra, just remember that you need to multiply the cost at least six times, with 10 or 15 fish being the most ideal. Because of the need for a group, you can expect to spend $18–$90 or more, depending on the number of fish you get.

black skirt tetra
Image Credit: Prosun Paul, Shutterstock

Sociability of the Black Skirt Tetra

As schooling fish, they are obviously social with their own species. However, let’s take a closer look at the sociability of the black skirt tetra.

Do These Fish Make Good Pets?

Black skirt tetras do make good pets, but they aren’t overly social fish toward people. Without hiding places and enough tank mates, they may be skittish and hide when you approach the tank. In situations where they feel safe and comfortable, they may not disappear when you come up to the tank, but they likely won’t pay much attention to you, although they may come to the surface in the hopes that you’re about to put food in the tank.

Black Skirt Tetra (Gymnocorymbus ternetzi) in a fish tank
Image Credit: Joan Carles Juarez, Shutterstock

Does This Fish Make a Good Tank Mate?

Yes, the black skirt tetra does make a good tank mate. These fish are generally very peaceful fish that keep to their group and don’t bother most other fish. The exception to this is that some black skirt tetras are known to nip at long-finned fish, so keep an eye out for this behavior.

Care Guide & Tank Set Up

Water Quality, pH & Temperature

Like all fish, the black skirt tetra needs high water quality to thrive. They can tolerate acidic to neutral pH conditions, with the ideal range being 6.0–7.5. They are tropical fish, so their water temperature should be kept around 78°F –82°F, although they can tolerate temperatures as low as 70°F. As with all fish, their tank should be free of ammonia and nitrite.

Black Skirt Tetra
Image Credit: Nur Laili maghfiro, Shutterstock


Any substrate will work for the black skirt tetra. These fish spend most of their time in the middle and upper portions of the water column, so they likely won’t interact with the substrate on a regular basis. They do need a tank with plants, though, so choose a substrate that will help support the necessary plants in your tank.


There are lots of plants that are well-suited to a black skirt tetra tank, including Amazon swords, water wisteria, java moss, and java ferns.


The black skirt tetra needs a regular day/night lighting cycle. Avoid too much lighting since this can lead to algae overgrowth. Make sure your tank lights are powerful enough to support the growth of the plants in your tank.

Black Skirt Tetra
Image Credit: Joan Carles Juarez, Shutterstock


Since you’ll be keeping a group of fish, you should assume that they will produce lots of waste. On its own, a black skirt tetra has a low bioload, but a group will produce more, so filtration is necessary to maintain water quality. They don’t need fast water currents, but the water movement from a HOB or canister filter is likely perfectly suited to this fish.

Things to Know When Owning a Black Skirt Tetra:

Food & Diet Requirements

The black skirt tetra is an omnivore that will eat just about anything that will fit in its mouth. You should plan to feed your fish high-quality community fish food. In general, pellets are of higher quality than flakes. You can also offer bloodworms, brine shrimp, and some fruits and vegetables as treats. Just remember to feed as much as your fish can eat in just a few minutes, and don’t allow food to rot in the tank since this will decrease the water quality.

Size & Growth Rate

You can expect your black skirt tetras to only reach up to 3 inches in length, with some staying smaller than that. They are relatively small fish that won’t take up a lot of space in your tank. Since they stay small, they will likely not grow significantly between the time you purchase them and the time they reach full maturity.

Black Skirt Tetra
Image Credit: Grigorii Pisotsckii, Shutterstock


There are no special varieties of black skirt tetras, but they do go by many names. You may hear these fish called black widow tetra, blackamoor, and petticoat tetra.

Lifespan and Health Conditions

Black skirt tetras are relatively long-lived fish, with a lifespan of 3–5 years. The length of time they live is largely dependent on their water quality, nutrition, and overall environment.  They are not more prone to any particular health conditions than other fish. Since they are long-finned fish, it is possible for them to sustain fin injuries on sharp edges and from other fish.

Male vs Female

At first, it may be difficult to determine if you have male or female black skirt tetras. They do look very similar in appearance, but there are some minor differences. For starters, females are usually larger than males, so the largest fish in the group are likely females. They are also slightly plumper in their body shape than the lean males.

Male black skirt tetras have fins that come to more of a point than those of females.

3 Little-Known Facts About Black Skirt Tetra

1. A Single Female Can Make Lots of Babies

Every clutch of offspring that a female black skirt tetra produces can contain up to 1,000 eggs! Not all of these eggs will be fertilized and make it to hatching, but you can still expect hundreds of fry.

2. They Share a Class with About 30,000 Other Fish

Black skirt tetras are part of the Actinopterygii class, which is a class of ray-finned fish. This class is divided into subclasses, but the Actinopterygii class contains around 30,000 fish, including some names you probably recognize, like piranhas, goldfish, catfish, anglerfish, and blobfish.

3. They’re Bred in Captivity

There are many types of fish that are wild caught due to difficulty breeding them in captivity, but the black skirt tetra is not one. All black skirt tetras that you purchase from the pet trade are captive-bred fish. Currently, IUCN has the conservation status of this fish listed as “not extinct,” which means that although the true numbers are unknown, there is no concern for their welfare in the wild at this time.

Black Skirt Tetra
Image Credit: Steve Bower, Shutterstock

Final Thoughts

The black skirt tetra may look a little less bright than its tetra cousins, but these fish are beautiful in their own way. They are fun to watch, although they may be a little bit shy when approached by humans. Keep these fish in groups of six or more to keep them happy and help them feel safe and secure.

With appropriate care, you can expect your fish to live up to 5 years.

Featured Image Credit: Joan Carles Juarez, Shutterstock

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