Black Skirt Tetra Expert Care Sheet & Tank Set Up Guide For Beginners

When paired in a colorful planted community, the darkness of black skirt tetras can provide some real contrast and depth to your tank.

And what’s also great, is Black Skirt Tetras are some of the easiest fish species to care for, provided that you have the key information needed to keep them healthy. 

In this guide, I’ll walk you through everything you need to know about this lovely fish species and how you can take proper care of black skirt tetras.

Origins & Appearance: Black Skirt Tetra

Close up of Black Skirt Tetra (Gymnocorymbus ternetzi) in planted fish tank

The Black Skirt Tetra (Gymnocorymbus ternetzi) is native to Paraguay, Northeast Argentina, and South-Central Brazil, especially around the basin of the Paraguay River. It’s also not uncommon to find clusters of Black Skirt Tetras near the upper Paraná and Paraíba do Sul Rivers.

Black Skirt Tetras are usually found in the upper areas of the water column. They like to swim and reproduce in small streams, river tributaries, and creeks. They also prefer shaded waters where there’s no direct sunlight. Oh, and they mostly inhabit slow-moving waters. 

The waters in their regions are slightly warm and acidic, which is why hobbyists try to mimic these conditions in their aquariums.

The Black Skirt Tetra got its name from its distinctive black tail that fades into grey in its upper body part. There are also two black bars across its body near the eyes. 

The Black Skirt Tetra isn’t that large, reaching up to 3 inches in length. Other popular names for the Black Skirt Tetra include Blackamoor, Black Widow Tetra, and Petticoat Tetra. 

Black Skirt Tetra Care Stats Overview

  • Tank size: 15 gallons min. 
  • Temperature: 78°F – 82°F
  • pH: 6.0 – 7.5
  • kH: 4 – 8
  • Living zone: Small streams, river tributaries, and creeks
  • Temperament: Peaceful; may act aggressively towards fish species with long fins
  • Diet: Omnivore

Scientific Classifications

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Actinopterygii
  • Order: Characiformes
  • Family: Characidae
  • Genus: Gymnocorymbus
  • Species: G. ternetzi

Black Skirt Tetra Lifespan

The lifespan of Black Widow Tetras is highly variable. They can live anywhere from 3 to 5 years, depending on the environment they live in and their diet. Typically, Blackamoors live longer in their natural habitat than in captivity.

You can extend their life span by feeding them nutritious foods and maintaining stable water conditions, but we’ll discuss these points in more detail later.

Sexual Dimorphism: Size & Coloration

Distinguishing between male and female Black Skirt Tetras may take some practice. Female Black Widow Tetras are usually larger and plumper than their male counterparts. 

On the flip side, male Black Skirt Tetras have more pointed anal fins and dorsals. They’re also slimmer. 

There aren’t any significant differences in coloration between male and female Blackamoors, but males may have a few white dots on their caudal fins.

Black Skirt Tetra Care & Tank Set-Up

Black Skirt Tetra (Gymnocorymbus ternetzi) in planted aquarium

Here’s a detailed breakdown of how to set up the perfect tank for your Black Skirt Tetras to prosper:

Tank Size & How Many Can Be Kept Together

As a general rule of thumb, you need a minimum tank size of 15 gallons to keep a small group of Black Skirt Tetras. You’ll likely need much larger tanks if you’re planning on introducing some tank mates and maybe even more Black Skirt Tetras—usually, the bigger, the better. 

You can keep as many Black Skirt Tetras together as you want, provided that the tank size is suitable for them to swim comfortably.

The Nitrogen Cycle

Every tank owner must be fully aware of what the Nitrogen cycle is. Skipping this step and introducing your Black Skirt Tetras to an uncycled tank can lead to several complications down the line.

But why is the Nitrogen cycle important? Well, the Nitrogen cycle purifies water from the toxins generated when fish produce waste, protecting your fish from getting sick or even dying. 

So, how do you make sure that your tank is cycled correctly? Just follow these steps: 

  • Add ammonia to your tank using pieces of uneaten fish food or fish waste
  • Wait for the bacteria to form and start feeding on the accumulated ammonia
  • The bacteria will start producing nitrate after the ammonia levels increase rapidly then start declining
  • The nitrate will oxidize the ammonia to form nitrites
  • Similar to the ammonia stage, wait for enough nitrites to build up and bacteria to develop during the 2nd week
  • The formed bacteria will transform the nitrites back to nitrates
  • Once the ammonia and nitrite levels reach 0ppm, you can now say that your tank is fully cycled!

 You can learn more about the Nitrogen cycle here.

Water Parameters For Black Skirt Tetra

Maintaining suitable water parameters for your Black Skirt Tetras is essential for them to thrive and reproduce. 

However, keep in mind that the key here is to keep the water parameters stable. You don’t need to reach a perfect number for any water parameter because it doesn’t even exist. Your fish will do just fine within a range of numbers. 

On the other hand, fluctuating water parameters may lower the lifespan of your Black Skirt Tetras or any fish species, for that matter. Not to mention, they won’t breed because the environment is just different from what they’re accustomed to in their natural habitat. 

Here are the ideal water parameters ranges for your Black Skirt Tetras:

  • Temperature: 78°F – 82°F
  • pH: 6.0 – 7.5
  • kH: 4 – 8

Black Skirt Tetra Tank Set-Up

Setting up your Black Skirt Tetra aquarium doesn’t require any special equipment. You may just need some basic aquascaping tools, such as:

  • Straight and curved tweezers
  • Straight and curved scissors
  • Algae scraper
  • Sand flattener

Black Skirt Tetras live in ultra-clean freshwater. They also prefer slow-moving waters, so make sure that the water flow in the tank is weak.

It’d be a good idea to include some medium-sized plants in your fish tank because Black Widow Tetras like to swim around them. 

As we’ve mentioned earlier, Black Skirt Tetras spend most of their time in shaded waters in their natural habitat. To imitate that in captivity, dim lighting would be ideal. Not to mention, Blackamoors look much better in low lighting, so it’s a win-win situation here.

LED lights will provide the most customization and allow you to adjust the intensity until you reach the sweet spot.

Regarding the substrate, black sand or gravel would make suitable substrates for Black Skirt Tetras. Just make sure that you choose a dark-colored substrate to mimic their natural habitat. They don’t swim a lot near the bottom of the tank, anyway, so, as long as the color is dark, you’re good to go.

Blackamoors aren’t really the type of fish that spend most of their time hiding, but adding some caves, rocks, and maybe even driftwood will create a fun playground for them to swim around.

Black Skirt Tetra Diet & Feeding

Black Widow Tetras are omnivorous, and feeding your Black Skirt Tetras isn’t that difficult. In fact, they usually eat anything that comes in their way, including plants and insects. They also love brine shrimp and bloodworms. 

In captivity, you can feed your Black Skirt Tetras commercial dry food, like pellets or flakes. Just check the ingredients to ensure that they’re free of fillers like rice and soy. 

Also, try to avoid fish meals as much as you can. A fish meal is just a combination of nasty things like fish eyes and skin. It adds zero nutritional value to your fish. Not to mention, it’ll make your fish produce more waste.

Ideally, the food should contain essential nutrients, like protein, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, and fibers. Protein is vital for bone health and growth, while omega 3 and 6 fatty acids are essential for your fish skin to glow. Fibers, on the other hand, are needed by Black Skirt Tetras because they aid in digestion.

Also, try to go for a mixed diet of frozen and live food to provide your Black Skirt Tetras with all the nutrients they need to flourish and stay healthy. 

Behavior & Tank Mate Compatibility

Black Skirt Tetras are by no means aggressive. They almost never show any signs of hostility towards other fish, whether that fish is of a similar or different species. However, they may not get along with angelfish and betta fish. Black Skirt Tetras like to nip away at flowy fins, a feature that both angelfish and betta fish have. Tiger Barbs should be avoided, too.

It’s also worth noting that Black Skirt Tetras usually swim around in groups, and that’s pretty much what they’ll be doing all day, every day. Sometimes, a Blackamoor may drift away from its group for a while, but it’ll be back sooner or later. 

Here’s a list of some of the best tank mates for your Black Skirt Tetras:

Breeding Black Skirt Tetras

Breeding your Black Skirt Tetras is pretty straightforward, but it does require some effort from your side. 

One of the biggest challenges you’ll face is that Black Skirt Tetras don’t really protect their eggs, meaning that you must keep them in a separate tank to prevent them from getting eaten. 

A 10-gallon tank would get the job done. It’s also preferable to put some plants inside, and maybe a spawning mop, too. 

Put the couple in the new tank and feed them an adequate amount of protein-rich foods. Once the female starts producing eggs, the male will attempt to approach the female. If everything goes well, the female will lay hundreds of eggs all over the tank.

Sometimes, the male may approach the female aggressively. If that happens, remove the male from the tank and give it another shot a day or two later.

The eggs will slowly sink to the bottom. At this point, you need to hide the eggs from the adults. We recommend using artificial grass at the bottom of the tank to provide a place for the eggs to stay out of sight. 

Once the male and female tetras are done breeding, put them back in your primary tank and wait for the eggs to hatch. Generally speaking, it might take anywhere from 24 to 36 hours for the eggs to hatch.

Finally, wait for a few days until the fry eats the egg sac, then introduce some infusoria. Continue feeding them infusoria until they’re big enough to eat baby brine shrimp. Once they reach maturity, you can introduce them to your primary aquarium. 

Are Black Skirt Tetras Right For You?

Keeping some Black Skirt Tetras is no rocket science. Once you properly set up your tank, cycle it, and adjust the water parameters, all you need to do is feed them a nutritious diet that will keep them happy. You’ll also have to measure the water parameters every once in a while to make sure that they’re stable.

The only aspect that might require some extra effort is breeding because you’ll need a whole new tank for it. Other than that, the process usually goes smoothly.

When all is said and done, Black Skirt Tetras can create some contrast in your aquarium when paired up with colorful fish, resulting in a charming aquascape that you’ll love to stare at. They’re also peaceful and like to swim a lot, which makes them super entertaining to watch. Enjoy your Black Skirt Tetras!

Christopher Adams
Christopher Adams

Hey there, my name is Christopher, and I've successfully ran freshwater aquariums for the past few decades. The mission of this site is to make it simple for anyone to run their own freshwater aquarium.

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