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Black Skirt Tetra Care, Tank Setup & Breeding Guide

Are you yearning for a new addition to your community tank that is hardy and easy to take care of?

I know what many people think. Usually, hardy fish are less beautiful than other fish. I completely disagree. The beautiful thing does not have to be docile, right?

Here comes the black skirt tetra: a hardy and beautiful tetra. It is also called black widow tetra. The schooling fish has been a popular choice amongst aquarists because of its beauty. Despite its name, it comes in various colors.

The wild black skirt tetra tends to have a darker color. There are many coloration varieties that the aquarists have adopted in captivity.

They tend to be in school. So, you will not add a single black skirt tetra to your community tank.

The speedy fish are perfect for beginners. It is even prevalent for those who are completely new to this hobby.

Species Overview

Level of CareEasy
TemperamentPeaceful, good community fish
AppearanceTetragonal shape, black body, black and greyish colorations.
Life Expectancy5 years
Size2 inches
Tank Size10 gallons
Tank EnvironmentDensely stocked with substrates, plants, and some objects for shades and hiding. 
Tank MatesOther species of similar size

Before moving further to the caring topic, we will view the important information about the fish first.

The real habitat of these tetras is in the Guapore and Paraguay rivers in Brazil. The rivers where they live go through the forest, which comes with many shades and nutritious sources of food.

The black skirt fish spend most of their time near the surface of the water because it makes it easier to catch their prey and eat them. They are always waiting there to eat insects, small worms, crustaceans, and so on.

The scientific name is Gymnocorymbus ternetzi and they are also called black widow tetra, blackamoor and petticoat tetra.



The black skirt tetras have a unique tetragonal shape. They are relatively much taller in the front part of the body.

But the rear end of the species has a tapered appearance. The unique shape is lovable for aquarium enthusiasts.

The fin shapes are quite different compared to the other species in the same family. The tailfin is thin and resembles a fork-shaped object.

Since the fish is so small, it might be difficult for you to see its physical characteristics as I’ve mentioned in this article.

There’s also a dramatic anal fin at the bottom part of their bodies. This part goes through the body to the tail.

You might not be able to notice it at a glance. But if you take a closer look at your school tetras, then you can spot them.


The black skirt fish has been recognized for its main black dorsal and vertical black stripes on its body. The natural color variations can range from white to pinkish-hued. However, it also means that you can pick the color variations that match your personal preference. The suppliers will get them for you.

These buddies can also reach several colors.

If you have been browsing around for Characidae family fish, you will notice that most of them have bright and vibrant colorations.


It is a small fish. Although it reaches adult age, the size of the fish is still small. It can grow to approximately 1-3 inches.

Hybrids tend to be larger. But you might lose the authenticity of the black widow tetras for good. If you want to keep your community tank authentic, I’d suggest you focus only on the original breeds.


In captivity, you can expect the fish to accompany you for three to five years or more in the future.

Living in a well-maintained tank and proper diet, you can expect a much longer lifespan for this fish.

However, it is not common. They will die in five years. You need to maintain the tank and water quality to improve their life expectancy levels.

Black Skirt Tetra Care & Tank Setup

As mentioned, this fish is hardy. It is also very easy and simple to maintain. These tetras can survive in different conditions and challenges. However, it does not mean that they can live long in such an unfavorable environment.

You will want to provide the best tank setup and diet for them to improve their quality of life exponentially.


For the decoration, you will want to mimic the real habitat or origin of the fish. For instance, you need to subdue the lighting. Add the colorful gravel substrates.

You will have the freedom to design the gravel as you desire. But don’t forget to add large plants to strategic spots.

The large plants will give more shade to the aquarium and help your fish to stay safe and confident in your aquarium.

But don’t add too many plants since you want to spare them enough space for swimming and exploring around them.

Use the river gravel at the bottom. Add caves, driftwood, or other objects for hiding spots when your black widow fish visits the bottom part of the aquarium.

Tank Size

If you plan to add a small group of the black skirt tetras, a minimum of 15 gallons should be enough. But you can always add more than the minimum requirement to provide more space to swim in. Keep in mind that the other tank mates also need their space too.

It is always okay to add a larger group to your home aquarium. But you will want to consider the tank mates as well since some fish get intimidated by these fish when they are moving around from one corner to another. These fun creatures are active simmers. So, larger tanks are always much better.

Water Parameters

The water parameters should be adequate to maintain the life of your fish. Poor quality water can lead to a stressful life, and reduce their life expectancy. The obvious rule of thumb that we have always been following is to replicate the water conditions in their natural habitat.

  • Water temperature: 70 °F to 85 °F (aim for the middle of this range)
  • pH levels: 6.0 to 7.5
  • Water hardness: 4 to 8 dKH

I know that those numbers can be a bit tricky for you. But you don’t need to worry. You just need to get a water testing kit from the market to read the numbers accurately.

Tank Mates

2 black skirts in a tank

The fish is a schooling creature by nature. The black skirt tetras will be striving in a group of six or more.

Since they have a peaceful nature, tank mates similar to their size can be great. You must watch the slower-moving fish with long fins, like angelfish or betta fish.

They might not be good tank mates since your tetras tend to bother them, although they mean no harm.

The fish tend to stick to their group all the time. A group of at least six tetras can keep them healthy.

A larger group of black skirt fish makes them more happy and comfortable in the community tank. It is cool if you have a larger tank, as long as you decorate it well.

Here are some best tank mates for your black skirt buddies:

  • Cardinal tetra
  • Neon tetra
  • Dwarf gourami
  • Chili Rasbora
  • Cory catfish
  • Bolivian rams

Food & Diet

They are fond of any food you give them, including live and frozen ones. Consider mixing both frozen, live, as well as dried and flaked foods for balanced nutrients.

They will eat anything you give them. So, you don’t need to worry.

Breeding Guidelines

The key to breeding black widow tetra is to maintain a good water temperature of 78 to 80°. Install Java moss or other tall plants for the spawning spots.

During the spawning, males will protect the area. When you see the eggs, remove the parents from the tank since they will eat the eggs.

Eggs will hatch in around 24 hours. Feed them with brine shrimp and flake foods. They will reach maturity by year two.


Back then, breeders only took them from the wild habitat. But now things can get much easier. You can get your black skirt tetras from your nearby local stores now. Most of them are now captive-bred. That explains why there will be a lot of variations that you can see in the market.

Besides the original black skirt type itself, there is also a long fin black skirt tetra, a golden skirt tetra, as well as other colorations.

You might find dozens of variations out there offered by your pet suppliers. Consider talking with the seller first to explore the available options for you before proceeding.

But most of them are not frequently available in the marketplace. If you are lucky, you can grab them.