White Skirt Tetra

Peaceful, Hardy, Fun to Keep

White Skirt Tetra

The White Skirt Tetra is commonly available and it's a good breed for a beginner fish keeper. It is very robust, requires little caretaking and it's easy to breed. They're also peaceful additions to a freshwater aquarium community.  White Skirt Tetras can live up to seven years and are a striking fish to look at in an aquarium. Be aware, however, that some breeders will artificially color their White Skirt Tetras, creating a range of pretty-looking fish that are likely to have health issues or lose their color after a short time in your tank.

Breed 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 5.8–8.5
Hardness to 30 dGH
Temperature 70-90 degrees Fahrenheit (20-26 degrees Celcius)

Origin and Distribution

There is no such thing as a wild White Skirt Tetra; the White Skirt is a 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 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 in captivity.

Colorings and Markings

This species is a color variation of the popular Black Widow/ Black Tetra. They achieve their mature size of two inches at approximately one year of age. A number of long-finned and color varieties have been produced, some of which are artificially colored. Most notable of the color variations are the pastel blue and pink varieties, which are achieved via dyes. They 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 harmful and shouldn't be supported.

About Artificially Dyed Tetra

In some areas, it's possible to buy pastel-colored Tetras with names like Blueberry Tetra, Strawberry Tetra, or Rainbow Tetra. These are albino or nearly-transparent Tetras that have been artificially dyed. While these fish are very pretty, there are serious issues related to the process of dying the fish. In general, it's best to avoid dyed fish, as their health may be compromised.

There are three methods for artificially coloring Tetras:

  • 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; those that survive do live fairly normal lives (though the colors fade over time).
  • A more complex dying method involves inducing the fish to shed its protective layer of slime, 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 stressful to the fish.

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


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, particularly 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. They are accustomed to large plants in their natural habitat and enjoy a planted aquarium. Water parameters may range from acidic to alkaline and hard to soft. Ideally, they should initially be matched to the water conditions from the supplier. White Skirt Tetras are hardy at 70 to 90 F but if kept at colder temperatures, they are prone to developing ich.

White Skirt Tetra Diet

White Skirt Tetras are not picky eaters, and they are omnivores. 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 worms, as well as vegetable supplements such as spirulina.

Sexual 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 (tiny baby fish) may be fed freshly hatched brine shrimp, egg yolk or finely ground flake foods.

More Pet Fish Breeds 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, in general, peaceful fish that are willing to share their space with other non-aggressive species. If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:

Otherwise, check out all of these other pet freshwater fish breed profiles.