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Black Skirt Tetra – Feeding, Behavior, Pictures, Breeding & More

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By Lindsey Stanton

black skirt tetra

The black skirt tetra is one of several dozen different species of tetra fish and it is also known simply as the black tetra or in some cases the black widow tetra.

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Black Skirt Tetra Care Overview

The black skirt tetra comes in a variety of colors, however as the name does imply it usually has the majority of its body covered in dark black.

There may also be some white or golden spots or stripes along the side of the body. Black tetra fish do sometimes come colored or artificially dyed which needs to be looked out for because the dye can wear off.

On the same note these fish can also lose some of their dark black color as they get older. These fish are actually native to South American slow moving river basins.

Black Skirt Tetra Lifespan

Black Skirt Tetra
Image Credit: Grigorii Pisotsckii_Shutterstock

The black tetra fish has an average lifespan of 4 years and can get as old as 5 years, with some even known to reaching 8 years of age.

How Big Do Black Skirt Tetras Get?

These fish on average can grow up to 6 centimeters of 2 inches in length, with the males generally being slightly smaller than the females, as is the case with most types of tetra fish.

This fish is said to be really good for beginners who are new to owning freshwater aquariums because their upkeep is quite simple and they are not all that demanding.

Within the black skirt tetra fish family there are actually 2 different kinds, these being the short fin and the long fin black skirt tetra fish.

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Housing/Recommended Tank Size

In terms of the housing and tank size it is recommended that these fish be kept in a minimum of a school of 5 tetra fish, specifically black tetra fish. That being said the minimum tank size should be at least 10 gallons.

In all reality these fish do like a slightly larger tank and would therefore greatly benefit from being in a 20-gallon tank (114 liters), especially if you have more than just the 5 black tetra fish in it.

These fish like to swim mostly around the center or the top of the tank. As the black skirt tetra is usually considered a prey fish they do like to be around a lot of plant matter, rocks, and floating wood debris where they can hide under or around.

Therefore it is recommended that you have several aquarium plants that grow to at least the middle of the tank as well as some chunks of wood or big rock castles.

While the upkeep for this fish is not too difficult, it does require some pretty specific aquarium conditions to survive and thrive. Of course this is a fresh water fish that will surely die if it is in salt water.

Black Skirt Tetra Temperature & Water Conditions

The ideal water temperature for the black skirt tetra is between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit (24–27 degrees Celsius); any warmer or colder than that and the tetra will most likely not survive past 24 hours.

The black skirt tetra is pretty resilient when it comes to different kinds of water, especially the pH level as well as the hardness of the water. This fish can survive in waters with pH levels between 6 and 7.5, meaning that it does well in slightly acidic and slightly basic water.

If anything the best kind of water is going to be more or less neutral in in pH levels. Also, it requires water hardness levels between 5 and 20 dH.

All of this being said the tetra fish are somewhat sensitive to nitrogen levels in the water, especially if there is too much of it. They are unlikely to make it through a whole nitrogen cycle which means that you need a nitrogen testing kit to make sure that you keep the levels appropriate.

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Black Skirt Tetra Behavior & Compatibility With Other Aquarium Fish

The black skirt tetra fish is generally considered to be pretty peaceful in nature and is not known to attack or eat other fish.

These fish should only be kept with other community fish because they are fairly small and will be eaten by larger predator fish.

Tank Mates

The black fin tetra gets along fairly well with most other type of fish; however they have sometimes been known to nip at the fins of other fish. The nipping of fins by black skirt tetras is best avoided by keeping them in larger schools of 5 or more.

Another thing is that the long fin black skirt tetra fish, due to having long fins, is vulnerable and known to having its own fins nipped at by other fish.

Tiger barb fish are known to nip at long fin black skirts, so putting them together in one tank is best avoided. On the other hand, fish like Angelfish are somewhat susceptible to the jaws of black skirt tetras.

Tetras have been known to eat Angelfish, and in order for an Angelfish to survive in the same tank as a black skirt tetra it should at least double the size in order to avoid getting bullied around.

We have covered a separate post on Tiger Barb tank mates here.

Feeding: How To Feed Tetras

Black skirt tetra fish are not picky eaters at all and will eat pretty much anything you throw at them. They have actually been known to eat various aquarium plants, but not in great numbers.

Generally speaking black skirt tetra fish do just fine with things like fish flakes, small fish pellets, live food like Tubifex, mosquito larvae, frozen or freeze dried Bloodworms, and several other common fish foods.

Don’t pour more food than is required into the tank because these fish have been known to overeat which can cause some serious health issues.

Breeding Black Skirt Tetras

In order to breed the black skirt tetra fish successfully it is recommended that you place them in a separate tank in order to ensure that they get it done.

Black skirt tetra fish do not really like to mate around other fish in aquariums so separating them is usually deemed necessary. Also, the black skirt tetra is a type of fish that scatters its eggs along the bottom of the fish tank, which means a bare bottomed fish tank is ideal for tetra breeding.

This means not having any sand (more on aquarium sands here) or substrate at the base of the tank. The tetra fish will feel the most comfortable and will be most likely to breed in a tank that has just a few plants, has a medium to low light level, moderate pH levels, and slightly warmer water.

Black Skirt Tetra Breeding Behavior

While breeding the you do need to be slightly careful and it takes some finesse because the black skirt is known to eats its own and others eggs.

This means that you need to leave the adult black skirt tetra fish in the tank long enough so the females can lay their eggs and so the males can fertilize them, but not long enough so that all of the eggs end up being eaten.

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Commonly Asked Questions

How can you tell if a black skirt tetra is male or female?

There are a few different ways of telling if a black skirt tetra is a male or female.

It can be difficult, but if you combine all identification methods, you should get a good idea of what’s going on!

  • Male black skirt tetras will often have white dots on the caudal fins.
  • If you have a point of reference, you can distinguish between the two by looking at the body shape. Males will usually be longer and skinnier, whereas females may be a bit shorter, and are usually always fatter.
  • With male black skirt tetras, the edge of the anal fin generally slants back towards the tail.

Is my black skirt tetra pregnant?

A pregnant black skirt tetra is pretty easy to identify. Now, with that said, black skirt tetras are not live bearers, or in other words, they do not give birth to live fish.

Rather, these fish lay eggs, so technically speaking, these fish are never actually pregnant. Only live-bearing fish can be pregnant, while egg layers cannot.

That said, you can usually tell when a female black skirt tetra is getting ready to lay eggs when she becomes much fatter and bulkier.

You will be able to see an abundance of eggs, kind of like a bag of marbles inside of the female fish.

How long does it take for black skirt tetra eggs to hatch?

Black skirt tetra eggs do not stay eggs for a long time, and it does not take them very long to hatch.

These eggs will usually hatch within 24 hours of the female laying them, granted that your tank conditions are ideal.

The black skirt tetra fry should become free swimming within 72 hours of hatching.

Are black skirt tetras hardy?

In terms of black tetra care, there is really not much to worry about, because yes, these fish are quite hardy. They can survive in a variety of water conditions, water parameters, temperatures, lighting conditions, and with a variety of tankmates too.

Now, of course, this all comes with its limits, but for the most part, yes, these fish are quite hardy, and it does make the black skirt tetra a pretty good choice for beginner fish keepers.

Are black skirt tetras fin nippers?

While the black skirt tetra has been known to nip a fin here and there on occasion, for the most part, no, they will not nip on fins.

That said, other fish which are fin nippers may actually nip on the fins of the black skirt tetra, so beware of this when creating a community fish tank.

Are black skirt tetras schooling fish?

Yes, black skirt tetras are by nature schooling fish, which they do for protection against larger fish. It’s all about safety in numbers.

Therefore, when you get black skirt tetras, to make them feel comfortable, you want to keep them in schools of at least 5 fish.

How many black skirt tetras fit in a 20-gallon tank?

Ok, now some people claim that you can keep up to a dozen black skirt tetras in a 20-gallon tank.

While this is technically possible, in our opinion, and in the opinion of every experienced fish keeper, this is way too much.

As we have probably mentioned a hundred times now, the rule of thumb is that every inch of fish needs to have a gallon of water.

Your average black skirt tetra will grow to around 2.5 inches long. So, if you do the math, this means that you should have no more than 8 black skirt tetras in a 20-gallon tank.

How often do you feed black skirt tetras?

Black skirt tetras should be fed no more than once per day, and they should be fed no more than they can eat in 3 to 4 minutes.

You might also like our post on Hermit Crabs here.

Featured Image Credit: Joan Carles Juarez, Shutterstock

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