White Skirt Tetra Fish Species Profile

Characteristics, Origin, and Helpful Information for Hobbyists

White Skirt Tetra

The white skirt tetra is commonly available in fish stores and is a good fish for a beginner fishkeeper. It is very robust and is easy to breed. This species is also a peaceful addition to a freshwater aquarium community.  White skirt tetras can live up to seven years, and they are a visually striking fish. Be aware, however, that some breeders will artificially color their white skirt tetras, creating a range of pretty-looking fish that are unfortunately very likely to have many health issues and to lose their color after a very short time in your home tank.

Species Overview

Common Names: White skirt tetra, petticoat tetra, gold skirt tetra

Scientific Name: Gymnocorymbus ternetzi

Adult Size: 2 inches (5.5 cm)

Life Expectancy: 5 years


Family Characidae
Origin Rio Paraguay, Rio Guapore, Bolivia
Social Peaceful, good community fish
Tank Level Mid dweller
Minimum Tank Size 10 gallons
Diet Omnivore, eats most foods
Breeding Egglayer
Care Easy
pH 5.8 to 8.5
Hardness to 30 dGH
Temperature 70 to 90 F (20 to 26 C)

Origin and Distribution

There is no such thing as a wild white skirt tetra; the white skirt is simply an albino or no-pigment variation of the black tetra (Gymnocorymbus ternetzi) and is only bred in captivity. The black tetra inhabits the Paraguay and Guapore Basins in South America. In these habitats, they prefer still and slow-moving waterways, and they tend to congregate in shady areas under dense foliage. They feed on insects, worms, and crustaceans which they find toward the surface of the water. White skirt tetras are not an endangered species as they are bred entirely in captivity.

Colors and Markings

This species is a color variation of the popular black widow tetra (black tetra). They achieve their mature size of two inches at approximately one year of age. A number of long-finned and colored varieties have been produced.

Most notable of the color variations are the man-made pastel blue and pink fish, which are achieved with the use of dyes. The dyed individuals may be sold under names such as strawberry tetra, blueberry tetra, or rainbow tetra. Any fish that may have been artificially colored should be avoided. Fish dyeing is a harmful, inhumane practice that should not be supported.

About Artificially Dyed Fish

Albino or nearly-transparent tetras are the strains of fish that have been artificially dyed. While these artificially-colored fish are very attractive, there are serious health issues related to the process of dying fish.

As you search for a fish to place in your tank, be wary of those with unique colorings and "pretty" names; do some research to be sure the fish is displaying natural colors. Otherwise, you may be in for a shock when your "blueberry" fish shows its true (white) colors and subsequently comes down with a disease.

There are three methods used to artificially color tetras and other species:

  • They may be fed dyed food, which temporarily changes their coloring. This is the least harmful dying method, as the dyes are not toxic—but as soon as the owner switches to ordinary food, the pretty colors start to fade.
  • The breeder may physically inject dyes into specific areas of the fish's body to produce a particular colorful effect. This technique, not surprisingly, kills quite a few fish due to injury and infection. Those that survive do live fairly normal lives, though the colors fade after a short time.
  • A more complex dying method involves inducing the fish to shed its protective layer of slime and then placing the fish in dyed water. Without the slime layer, the dye essentially soaks into the fish's skin. The fish is then placed in a tank with medicated water which induces the slime layer to reform. This process results in semi-permanent coloring but is very stressful to the fish; lifespans are greatly reduced.


A schooling fish by nature, white skirt tetras are best kept in groups of three or more. Due to their peaceful nature, they make excellent community fish. Some owners report that they sometimes nip the fins of slower moving fish, however, only those with long flowing fins such as bettas or angelfish.

White Skirt Tetra Habitat and Care

White skirt tetras are an undemanding species that will adapt to a range of conditions. Subdued lighting, as well as neutral-colored gravel substrate, is preferred. Their originating species is accustomed to large plants in their natural habitat so these also enjoy a planted aquarium.

Water parameters may range from acidic to alkaline and from hard to soft. Ideally, they should initially be matched to the water conditions from the supplier. White skirt tetras are hardy in the wide range of 70 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit; when they are kept at colder temperatures, they become prone to developing white spot disease (known as ich).

White Skirt Tetra Diet and Feeding

White skirt tetras are not picky eaters as they are omnivorous. As a result, virtually any kind of live, fresh, frozen, freeze-dried, or flake foods is suitable. For optimal health, provide a variety of foods that include high-quality flake foods, brine shrimp, and any type of worm, as well as vegetable supplements such as spirulina.

Gender Differences

Female white skirts are generally larger than males and have a rounder body. Males have a broader anal fin and a narrower, more pointed dorsal fin.

Breeding the White Skirt Tetra

Larger males will generally claim a territory that they will guard during spawning periods. Although they are egg scatterers, they prefer to spawn among fine-leaved plants which you should provide in the breeding tank. Once spawning has occurred, the parents should be removed as they will consume the eggs.

Eggs will hatch after approximately one day. The fry (baby fish) may be fed freshly hatched brine shrimp, egg yolk, or finely ground flake foods.

More Pet Fish Species and Further Research

Beginning aquarium owners can easily fill their tanks with a wide range of hardy, easy-to-care-for tetras in a wide range of varieties. Tetras are also generally peaceful fish that are accepting of living alongside other non-aggressive species. If you’re interested in similar species, check out:

Check out additional fish species profiles for more information on other freshwater fish.