The Colored Skirt Tetra beauty comes from the soft pastels of its naturally occurring colors!
A commonly available and popular fish, the Colored Skirt Tetra is a strain of fish developed from the White Tetra or Goldskirt Tetra. It has a naturally occurring pink or blue coloration, and breeders have developed this fish to bring out the best of its soft pastels. The White Tetra itself was developed from the Black Tetra or Blackskirt TetraGymnocorymbus ternetzi.
Like its predecessors, the Colored Skirt Tetra makes a very good fish for the beginning aquarist. It is very active and fast-moving, and it has a tendency towards fin nipping. Because of this, it should not be kept with smaller fishes but will do very well in a community tank with larger fishes. These fish are a bit more difficult to breed than the White Tetra, probably because they are highly inbred already.
The Colored Skirt Tetra likes a well lit tank with dense areas of bunched low vegetation, which leaves lots of open areas for swimming. A schooling fish, it will appreciate the company of its own kind in a standard school made up of about 7 fish. It is hardy and can live between 70° F to 90° F, but it is prone to develop ich if kept in colder temperatures.
White Skirt Tetras are often dyed various pastel colors. Both the natural Colored White Skirt Tetra, and artificially dyed specimens are sold under various names like the Blueberry Tetra, Strawberry Tetra, or Rainbow Tetra. Be sure to inquire about which type of specimen you are obtaining. Learn more about Artificial Colored Fish below.
For Information on keeping freshwater fish, see:
Freshwater Aquarium Guide: Aquarium Setup and Care
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Actinopterygii
- Order: Characiformes
- Family: Characidae
- Genus: Gymnocorymbus
- Species: ternetzi
- Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
- Size of fish – inches: 2.2 inches (5.51 cm)
- Minimum Tank Size: 15 gal (57 L)
- Temperament: Semi-aggressive
- Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
- Temperature: 70.0 to 79.0° F (21.1 to 26.1° C)
- My Aquarium – Enter your aquarium to see if this fish is compatible!
Habitat: Distribution / Background
The Black Tetra Gymnocorymbus ternetzi was described by Boulenger in 1895. The species is not listed on the IUCN Red List. They are found in South America in Paraguay and Guapore Basins where they inhabit the upper layers of the water, feeding on worms, small crustaceans, and insects These tetras show a preference for small, slow-moving creeks, streams, and tributaries that are well-shaded from the forest canopy.
The Colored Skirt Tetra is a captive-bred color morph developed from the Black Tetra or Blackskirt Tetra. Many of the skirt tetras are captive-bred for the aquarium industry. Other common names it is known by include Colored White Skirt Tetra and Colored White Tetra. There are no wild populations of this color morph.
- Scientific Name: Gymnocorymbus ternetzi
- Social Grouping: Groups
- IUCN Red List: – There are no wild populations of this color morph.
The Colored Skirt Tetra is deep-bodied and laterally compressed. This fish will reach about 2 1/4 inches (5.5 cm) in he home aquarium but will breed at just 1 1/2 inches. It has a lifespan of about 6 to 7 years. The Colored Skirt Tetra is distinguished by its two vertical stripes and by what appear to be overly-developed dorsal and anal fins, which make this fish appear to have a “skirt.” Most of this tetra’s mass is on the bottom half of its body. It is very light, almost transparent, with a natural pink or blue coloration, and it lacks the black stripes of its parentage.
The Colored Skirt Tetra is a naturally colored White Skirt Tetra and not dyed. Artificially dyed specimens are sold as Solid Colored Tetra or under various names like the Blueberry Tetra, Strawberry Tetra, or Rainbow Tetra.
About Artificially Colored Fish:
Many albino and transparent type fishes make an ideal ‘canvas’ for applying color. For quite sometime, artificially dyed specimens were regarded as intriguing and eye-catching additions to the home aquarium. Today, however, as aquarists have learned more about the processes involved, they have raised some serious concerns about the practice. In particular, these concerns involve the initial stress and possible pain to the fish, followed by a possibly higher susceptibility to infection.
Photo © Animal-World:
Courtesy Jackie Murphy
Color is added to fish by various methods:
- Feeding them dyed food. This method is of very little concern, but the coloration achieved by this method is not permanent.
- Injecting dyes into the fish. This practice can be seen in the painted glassfish. This method puts the color onto specific areas of the fish’s body.
- Inducing the fish to release its natural slime coat, then placing the fish into dyed water that is absorbed onto the surface of its body. Finally, the fish is put into water with medication that encourages the redevelopment of the slime coat. This method provides a more allover coloration and can be seen in the colored Red-tail Botia.
Fish that survive the injection process reportedly go on to live fairly normal lives, though the dyes usually fade with time. This may be true for fish subjected to the overall dying process as well. Some aquarists have reported that the Red-tail Botias may have shortened lives and possibly even develop other abnormalities. Aquarists should be aware of these concerns as the combined buying power of people in the hobby makes a big difference in what is made available.
- Size of fish – inches: 2.2 inches (5.51 cm) – These fish get up to 2 1/4 inches (5.5 cm) but will breed at 1.5 inches.
- Lifespan: 7 years – They have a lifespan of about 6 to 7 years.
Fish Keeping Difficulty
The Colored Skirt Tetra is a durable fish that is great for the beginning fish keeper. They adapt very well to water condition changes and make great tankmates in most community tanks.
- Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
- Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
Foods and Feeding
The Colored Skirt Tetras are omnivorous, though in the wild, their Black Tetra predecessors primarily feed on worms and small crustaceans. In the aquarium the Colored Skirt Tetra will generally eat all kinds of live, fresh, and flake foods. To keep a good balance, give them a high quality flake food every day. Feed brine shrimp (either live or frozen) or blood worms as a treat.
- Diet Type: Omnivore
- Flake Food: Yes
- Tablet / Pellet: Yes
- Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet
- Vegetable Food: Some of Diet
- Meaty Food: Some of Diet
- Feeding Frequency: Several feedings per day
Colored Skirt Tetras are not exceptionally difficult to care for provided their water is kept clean. Aquariums are closed systems and regardless of size, all need some maintenance. With home aquariums, the nitrates and phosphates build up over time, and water hardness increases due to evaporation. To combat these ever-changing conditions, water should be replaced on a regular basis. At least 25 to 50% of the tank water should be replaced weekly, especially if the tank is densely stocked.
- Water Changes: Bi-weekly
The Colored Skirt Tetra needs an aquarium that is at least 15 gallons or larger. They are very active and need open areas to swim freely, so they should be kept in a tank at least 20 inches long. Additionally, the tank should be securely covered as these fish are skilled jumpers and will probably do so if given the opportunity.
The Colored Skirt Tetra is very unfussy when it comes to tank decor though they prefer some plant cover and a darker gravel. Adding some floating plants will add shade and give this fish quiet areas to hide. To get the best out of the Colored Skirt Tetra, set up a biotype tank. For the substrate, use a river sand with some drift wood and twisted roots. Add some dried leaves to the sand, which will stain the water a light brown, and replace the leaves every few weeks. Using dim to help develop the tetra’s best coloring.
- Minimum Tank Size: 15 gal (57 L) – Fifteen gallons is the least amount of space advisable to host a small school.
- Suitable for Nano Tank: Yes
- Substrate Type: Any
- Lighting Needs: Moderate – normal lighting
- Temperature: 70.0 to 79.0° F (21.1 to 26.1° C)
- Breeding Temperature: 82.0° F – These fish will spawn at 82 to 86° F (27.8 to 30° C).
- Range ph: 5.8-8.5
- Hardness Range: 3 – 30 dGH
- Brackish: No
- Water Movement: Moderate
- Water Region: All – These fish will swim in all areas of the aquarium.
The Colored Skirt Tetra is active and can be a semi-aggressive fin nipper. Fin nipping can be reduced by keeping them in schools of at least 8 or more. In large groups, this fish will focus its attention on others of its own kind. The Colored Skirt Tetra should be kept in a community aquarium with fish of its same size or larger. With age, they become more sedentary. These tetras do well with most livebearers, danios, rasboras, other tetras, peaceful bottom dwellers, and some dwarf cichlids.
- Venomous: No
- Temperament: Semi-aggressive – These fish can be occasional fin nippers but are not considered aggressive.
- Compatible with:
- Same species – conspecifics: Yes – This fish should be kept in a small school of its own kind, with 8 or more individuals being best.
- Peaceful fish (): Monitor – Watch for stress in other fish caused by Colored Skirt Tetra fin nipping.
- Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
- Aggressive (): Threat
- Large Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
- Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
- Monitor – Tetras can out compete them for food.
- Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Safe – not aggressive
- Plants: Safe
Sex: Sexual differences
The male’s dorsal fin is more narrowed and pointed. Also, the male’s frontal portion of the “skirt” or anal fin is noticeably broad while the female’s “skirt” tends to run parallel to the stomach line. A mature female is also plumper.
Breeding / Reproduction
Colored Skirt Tetras have been bred in captivity. In fact, they are captive-bred color morphs developed from the Black Tetra. These egg layers are easily bred with a good pairing or in a groups containing about 6 individuals of each sex. They are ideal candidates for the beginning aquarist interested in a breeding project.
For the best success, the females should be conditioned separately from the males for 7 to 10 days prior to spawning. Feed them plenty of small, live foods and frozen foods. Provide a planted 10 to 20 gallon breeding tank with a small, air-powered sponge filter for filtration and aeration. The breeding tank should be a few degrees higher in temperature than the main tank, at around 82 to 86° F (27.8 to 30° C), with a pH on the acidic side of neutral and a water hardiness below 15 dGH. Keep the tank dimly lit with clumps of spawning mops or java moss, so the female has a place to deposit the adhesive eggs. A layer of mesh also works if it is wide enough for eggs to pass through but small enough to keep parents out.
The males will chase the females through the plants, occasionally quivering. The females will lay up to 500 or more eggs in a 2 to 3 hour period. Once a successful spawn has been achieved, remove the parents, or they will eat the eggs. Any eggs that are unfertilized will soon start to look fuzzy as they develop a fungal growth. They should be removed to prevent fungus from spreading to the healthy, fertilized eggs. The fertilized eggs will hatch in approximately 18 to 36 hours, and the fry become free-swimming a few days later.
For the first few days, feed the fry infusoria-type foods until they can feed on microworm or brine shrimp nauplii. The biggest challenge is that the young are prone to starving to death if they are in a dark tank and can’t find a food source. The fry should have plenty of light, both day and night, until they are large enough to eat freshly hatched brine shrimp. See Breeding Freshwater Fish: Characins for a general description of breeding processes, and see Fish Food for Fry for information about types of foods for raising the young.
- Ease of Breeding: Easy
The Colored Skirt Tetra are prone to develop ick if kept in colder temperatures. As with most fish, they can also be prone to skin flukes, parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.), ichthyobodo infection, parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.), bacterial infections (general), and bacterial disease. Colored Skirt Tetra are extremely hardy and disease is not usually a problem in a well-maintained aquarium. That being said, there is no guarantee that you won’t have to deal with health problems or disease. Remember that anything you add to your tank can introduce disease. Not only other fish but plants, substrate, and decorations can harbor bacteria. Take great care and make sure to properly clean or quarantine anything that you add to an established tank so as not to upset the balance.
A good thing about Colored Skirt Tetra is that due to their resilience, an outbreak of disease can often be limited to just one or a few fishes if dealt with at an early stage. When keeping more sensitive types of fish, it is common for all fishes to be infected even before the first warning signs can be noticed. The best way to proactively prevent disease is to give your Colored Skirt Tetra the proper environment and a well-balanced diet.
The more closely their environment resembles the natural habitat of their predecessors, the Black Tetras, the less stress the fish will have, making them healthier and happier. It is recommended to read up on the common tank diseases. Knowing the signs of common tank diseases and treating them early makes a huge difference. For information about freshwater fish diseases and illnesses, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments.
The Colored Skirt Tetra is readily available and is inexpensive. Both these naturally colored fish and other, artificially dyed specimens are sold under the names Blueberry Tetra, Strawberry Tetra, or Rainbow Tetra. Be sure to inquire which type of specimen you are obtaining.
- Animal-World References: Freshwater Fish and Plants
- Greg Jennings (Editor), 500 Freshwater Aquarium Fish, Firefly Books Ltd, 2006.
- David Goodwin, The Practical Aquarium Fish Handbook , Sterling Publishing Company, 2003