Black Skirt Tetra also known as petticoat tetra, high-fin black skirt tetra, black widow tetra, and blackamoor, is among the popular freshwater fish, and for a good reason too! It has an exciting look that differentiates it from all other fish in your tank, and not only that: Black tetras are super easy to take care of.
Before you jet off and fill your tank up with these tetras, let’s learn all there is to know about them.
Black Skirt Tetra Stats
|Care Level||Beginner/ Intermediate|
|Average Lifespan||3-5 Years|
|Maximum Size||3 Inches|
|Breeding Type||Egg Scatterer|
|Minimum Tank Size||15 Gallons|
Black Skirt Tetra is also referred to as Gymnocorymbus ternetzi and is a member of the Characidae family. However, unlike most members of the Characidae family, these tetras have a much darker appearance. But being dark doesn’t mean that they are less beautiful than the other bright, colorful tetras.
From Argentina, Brazil, and the Paraguay River Basin, these fish are rift through South America. Across the globe, black skirt tetras go by many names, a few of which are black widow tetra, blackamoor, and petticoat tetra. Due to their ease of care and massive popularity, petticoat tetras are readily available at your local pet store.
Black Skirt Tetra Species
Owing to black skirt tetras’ popularity and record with aquarists, you will find many of them at your local pet store. Here are a few of the Skirt Tetra species you will find:
Long-Finned Skirt Tetra
Long-finned skirt tetras may have brighter hues than the black skirt tetras, but they also share similar patterns. They are genetic offshoots of black skirt tetras. Long-finned skirt tetras are also a little larger. They go by several names: long-finned black widow tetra, black skirt, hifin tetra, black hifin tetra, and longfin black skirt tetra.
White Skirt Tetra
White tetras do not naturally occur in the wild because they are a product of cross-breeding in captivity. The cross-breed process is a deliberate attempt to get these fish to express their albinism trait. Their solid white body lights up any aquarium. However, in an effort to change their colors, some breeders dye them; this can have harmful effects on the fish. So, do not buy dyed white skirt tetras.
Colored Skirt Tetra
Colored skirt tetras are artificially colored skirt tetras as well. They come in different color morphs ranging from yellow to blue and even red. Usually, they are white skirt tetras that have been injected with dye to change their color.
The coloring process is painful and often leads to the untimely death of this fish. So if you want a fish with a long lifespan, stay clear of colored skirt tetras.
Black skirt tetras share the same tetragonal shape that all species in the Characidae family have. They are longer at the front and have a rear that tapers dramatically to their tail. If you think the tetragonal shape is the most dramatic thing about this fish, then you haven’t seen their fins.
The black skirt’s fins are distinct: the tail fin is thin and fork-like, while the dorsal fin is small in comparison and squared off. To top it off, their anal fins extend from the middle of their body down to their tail in a unique, quirky shape.
As far as color goes, black skirt tetra has a unique color gradient responsible for their name. Their head is almost translucent, but as you work your way down to their tail, the silver color darkens to virtually a dull gray.
In addition to the base coloring on the fish, the front half of the petticoat tetra is peppered with two vertical black stripes. They also have tiny translucent rays. While the rays are not as pointy or firm as what you’d see on other fish, they are easily visible on close inspection.
How to Distinguish Between Male and Female Black Tetras
The differences between male and female black skirt tetras are indistinct. However, female black skirt tetras are larger and have a rounder abdomen than their male counterparts. These differences become more apparent when they are about to breed.
Another way to distinguish between male and female Black skirt tetras is to take a close look at the anal fin. Male Black tetras have broader and larger anal fins than females. Their caudal fins are also smaller and peppered by white spots.
We get several questions asking how big black skirt tetras get. The simple answer is that they can reach two and a half inches with proper care and maintenance. However, a few aquarists have come forward saying that their petticoat tetras have reached three inches in captivity.
The trick is feeding them a balanced diet, setting up their tank just right, and keeping them happy and healthy.
Black Skirt Tetra Behavior
Black skirt tetras are generally peaceful community fish, but they do have a penchant for fin nipping. Their usual targets are fish with long flowing fins like betta fish and angelfish. Their daily routine includes darting across the tank to see what is happening around them. They are just like a group of high school teens roaming the streets looking for all the popular places.
They appreciate tanks with lots of hiding places. You can create these safe zones for them with caves, rocks, woods, and plants. As far as plants go, tall plants work best because black skirt tetras prefer to swim in the middle of the tank.
Since black skirt tetras prefer to be in schools, ensure your tank has at least six of them. That way, they feel safe and are less prone to aggression.
Black Skirt Tetra Care
Here’s a list of what you need to properly care for black skirt tetras:
With black skirt tetras, the larger the tank, the better because they need enough space to swim and explore. We recommend getting at least a 15-gallon tank for six of these fish. And if you intend to raise a school of more than six of these tetras, you will need an even bigger tank. That way, your tank is not overcrowded, and you don’t run the risk of disease spreading.
Black skirt tetra tank should also have a tight-fitting lid to prevent the fish from jumping out and ending up stone dead on the floor of your house.
Caring for your black skirt tetra involves providing them with good water conditions because poor water quality significantly affects their quality of life and health. The best way to achieve this is to mimic their water parameters in the wild as best as you can.
Out in the wild, black skirt tetras live in warm waters with slightly acidic pH. Here are the recommended water parameter levels to help you raise happy, healthy black skirt tetras:
- Keep the pH levels between 6.0 and 7.5
- The recommended black skirt tetra temperature range is 70 – 85 F
- Keep the water hardness between 4 to 8 dKH
A great way to ensure all these parameters are within the acceptable range is to test the water regularly. You can get an aquarium test kit from any local store near you and use it regularly.
Water Quality and Maintenance
Black skirt tetra does not do well in poor water conditions; therefore, it is essential to equip their tank with an efficient tank filter. The filter helps to clean up the tank without necessarily altering the water chemistry. It means that with a powerful canister filter, you can clean off algae, remove nitrates and ammonia from your tank and ensure they do not harm your fish.
Tank size and water quality aside, selecting substrate for your aquarium is a big deal for most fish. However, because the black skirt tetra is not a bottom dweller, it is not a big decision for them. We, however, recommend that you stick to darker colored substrates since they offset the black skirt tetras base color nicely.
Line your fish tank with dark-colored fine-grain sand that replicates the substrate in the tetras’ natural environment. Before you add the substrate to the tank, ensure that you wash it thoroughly; that way, you don’t risk introducing germs and diseases to the tank.
Black skirt tetras do not require specific lighting conditions in captivity. In fact, in their natural habitat, their waters are murky and not bright at all. So opt for dim to medium lighting in your fish tank.
Black Skirt Tetra Diet
It is essential to know what petticoat tetras feast on in the wild so that you can tailor their meals appropriately. In the wild, black skirt tetras eat insects and other small invertebrates primarily. Occasionally, they can snack on plants. But in captivity, they will accept practically anything.
Thus, we advise that you ensure their diet consists primarily of proteins, live or frozen. Great options are fish flakes, micro worms, tubifex, blood worms, and pellets. To balance out their diet, offer them some leafy plants too.
How to Decorate Black Skirt Tetra Tank
All you need to decorate the black skirt tetras’ tank is a little bit of creativity and some guidance. Here are some pointers:
Plants are one of the ways to introduce some life and color to your aquarium. The best part is that the rivers where skirt tetras are found naturally are rife with plants! Go for taller plants that provide these fish with hiding spots and exploration centers. Ensure that the plants are hardy and can withstand black skirt tetras snacking on them.
While arranging the plants, remember that moderation is vital. Leave enough space in the tank for your fish to swim across the tank freely.
Rocks, driftwood, caves, would make great hiding spots for your fish. So that your tetras have a safe place to retreat to when they feel threatened or shy. Ensure that you disinfect these rocks, driftwood, and caves before introducing them to your established fish tank.
Black Skirt Tetra Tank Mates
Black skirt tetras are schooling fish; thus, they are best kept in groups of at least six or more. Because of their peaceful disposition, it is not hard to pair them up with other fish species. Just be sure to keep fish with long-flowing fins like Angelfish out of their tank because it brings out the best in them.
Also, avoid getting skirt tetras in the same tank as slow-moving fish.
You can decide to run a solo tank or opt for a tank with different compatible species. Great examples of black skirt tetra compatibility mates are rasboras, timid bottom-feeders, danios, molly fish, loaches, tiger barbs, corydoras catfish, dwarf gourami, and other tetras.
When in doubt, steer clear of fish that are larger and more aggressive than your tetra. If not, your black skirt tetra will spend most of the time fending off attacks from its tank mates and end up stressed.
Black Skirt Tetra Breeding
Black skirt tetras are among the easiest fish species to breed. However, you still need to put in a little bit of work because while they may reproduce readily in the right environment, they are terrible at taking care of their fry. But enough of the tales of woe and let’s focus on how to get these fish to breed and raise their fry.
The first step is conditioning the sexually mature black skirt tetra male and female pair.
How to Condition Black Skirt Tetra For Breeding
Start with setting up a 15-gallon breeding tank for your fish. Replicate the water parameters in the main tank and ensure the tank is adequately cycled so that your fish doesn’t die.
The next step is to ensure your tank has everything it needs to make your fish feel comfortable in it. That means introducing sturdy plants to the tank to provide shade and some hiding spots. Another thing to do would be to add rocks, driftwood, and every other item that can be used as a hiding place for your fish.
The final thing to add to your tank is the standard equipment – filters, aquarium heater, spawning mops, nets, and artificial grass. The last three help break the eggs’ fall as the female black skirt tetra sprays them all over the tank. Yes, black skirt tetras are egg scatterers.
Once the tank has been appropriately set up, you can introduce the bonded pair to the tank. And to get them to breed quickly, you have to feed the couple with high-quality food rich in protein. There’s something about good food that gets them in the mood and ready to spawn.
Once the male black skirt tetra is well conditioned, he begins to chase after the female in a bid to get her to mate with him. If he is successful, the female scatters her eggs all over the eggs. She can lay as many as 1000 eggs in a single session! Then the eggs sink to the bottom and take about two days to hatch.
Black Skirt Tetra Fry
For about three days after the black skirt tetra eggs hatch, they feed on the egg sac. After that time passes, you will need to provide them with the best food you can find. Don’t worry, it’s not that hard to figure out. You can feed them infusoria, pellet food, or powdered fry food. The choice is yours.
After a few weeks, you can start to feed them baby brine shrimp. You must continue to protect the baby black skirt tetra fry by removing the parent tetras from the breeding tank and keeping the fry safe from predators until they can stand their own.
Black Skirt Tetra Lifespan
The average black skirt tetra lifespan in captivity is between 3 and 5 years. And yes, although in captivity, they have a relatively short lifespan. That aside, there have been some instances where they outlived this average lifespan range.
The key here is keeping your aquarium pristine and keeping the fish stress-free because black skirt tetras suffer greatly in poor water conditions.
What Happens as Black Skirt Tetras Age?
As black skirt tetras near the five-year mark, their color begins to fade and continues this way until they are almost translucent. Of course, apart from aging, sickness and stress can also have this effect on your tetras.
How to Ensure Your Black Skirt Tetra Is Healthy
Black skirt tetras are, like every other freshwater are prone to various diseases. Most of these diseases are a by-product of poor tank water conditions and increased stress levels. This means that if you can keep the stress levels low and diseases at bay, you will have a tank full of happy, healthy fish.
Here’s how to ensure your black skirt tetra stays healthy and enjoys a stress-free life in your tank:
- Only purchase fish from trusted suppliers.
- Get a tank with enough space to cater to your black skirt tetras needs
- Isolate fish before adding to your tank; that way you have a chance to observe the fish and pick out any sick ones
- Ensure that you only add fish to a cycled tank to eliminate the risk of your fish dying due to extreme shock
- Disinfect all equipment before adding them to the tank or dipping them into the tank water. And yes, that includes your nets, spawning mops, nets, substrates, trees, etc.
- Pay attention to the water parameters. If they are not within the accepted range, your fish can become considerably stressed and disease prone
- Carry out regular water changes to get rid of waste and toxic substances that may have accumulated in the tank over time.
- Ensure your fish is provided with high-quality live protein and plant matter that they can finish in two minutes
Common Black Skirt Tetra Diseases
If your tank conditions are subpar, then your Black Skirt tetra will fall prey to common freshwater diseases like ich. Ich is caused by a parasite and is characterized by the development of white spots all over the body of your black skirt tetra. Ich can quickly become fatal if prompt actions are not taken. Luckily, a simple over-the-counter medication will tackle ich.
Another common freshwater disease that affects black skirt tetra is fish dropsy or fish bloat, which is caused by poor water conditions. It affects the abdomen of your fish and causes it to swell up and look bloated. Usually, fish dropsy is a pointer that the fishs’ immune system has been severely compromised by bacteria in the tank water or the stress.
Yet another disease is fin rot which, as the name suggests, affects fish fins. It is caused by an infection that spreads throughout the tetra’s body and affects the tissues in the fin. Often, the disease gets in through an injury to your fish’s body. Once you tackle the localized infection, your fish’s immune system will handle the rest and ensure that the affected fin regrows.
Here are the most important things we talked about, regarding the black skirt tetras:
- Black skirt tetras are great fish species with stunning colors and activity levels
- On average lifespan, they live for three to five years, but with proper care, you may be able to extend it
- They are egg scatterers and are not particularly great caregivers, so you have to protect the fry yourself
- Black skirt tetra care encompasses setting up their tank, conditioning them for breeding, feeding them the right thing, and ensuring they are not stressed
- They are peaceful schooling fish and are easy to pair with other fish tank mates
- Black skirt tetras can breed very easily, especially when they are in the right environment
- Feed them well, clean their tank regularly, keep them stress-free, and you’ll have some of the healthiest black skirt tetras in your hands!
Now that you know everything about black skirt tetras go ahead and decide if you want one. Trust us, their stunning color and high activity levels make them a joy to watch. So go get your tetras from a trusted supplier and use our guide to raise this tetra species successfully.
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