White Skirt Tetra Care Guide

White skirt tetra care guide

White Skirt Tetra Care Guide7 mins read

Fact checked by
Tal Halperin
Reading Time: 9 minutes
White skirt tetra care guide
Image from Flickr

The white skirt tetra is a small schooling fish in the Characin family (like all tetras) which can add a luster of pale color to your tank. It is a less commonly seen and more delicate-looking morph of the black skirt tetra but it is just as easy to take care of.

If you are looking for a fish that is low maintenance, interesting to watch, non-aggressive, and also doesn’t tend to be that prone to disease, this is the one for you. In addition, their cool color palette makes them perfect for a minimalist tank.

We’ll go over how to tell whether you have a white skirt tetra male or female, longfin white skirt tetra morphs, and more. Plus we’ll break down what to do if you ever find yourself asking ‘is my white skirt tetra pregnant?’ So, read on to find out more about taking care of these fun and unusual little tetras.

Breed Overview

OriginBrazil, Paraguay, Argentina
Lifespan3-5 years
Size3 inches or 6-7cm
ColorsOpaque or translucent white
Water TypeSlightly soft freshwater
Tank SizeMin 30 gallons or 115 liters
Temperamentpeaceful
Water Temperature75-80 F 0r 24-28 C
Water pH6.5-7.5
FoodOmnivorous

Appearance

The white skirt tetra, as its name suggests, is a pale white color and can sometimes even be see-through. It has a large and relatively disc-shaped body that is flat in comparison to some other tetra species too.

How Does The White Skirt Tetra Get Its Name?

Both the white and black skirt tetras get their name from a large fin that runs between their stomach and their tail fin, looking like a skirt. This gives them a distinctive angular shape that makes them stand out in the tank from other, more streamlined fish.

Is the White Skirt Tetra The Same As The Black Skirt Tetra?

The White Skirt Tetra may seem like it is a totally separate species, but in reality, it is simply a morph of the black skirt tetra. However, it is not a true leucistic or albino animal because it still maintains pigment in its eyes; therefore, it is simply a white version of the regular black skirt tetra.

White Skirt Tetra Longfin Morph

You may occasionally see the longfin white skirt tetra morph. Here the characteristic skirt is longer and trails behind the fish. The longfin white skirt tetra is a bit more delicate because of this, but care is otherwise much the same. However, because of this, they may need a less vigorous filter.

However, you should never keep Long and Shortfin varieties of the same fish in the same tank! Although the White Skirt Tetra is generally peaceful, these fish can threaten each other in terms of territory. In addition, your regular tetra may nip your longfin white skirt tetra as it is threatened by the extra finnage.

White Skirt Tetra Male Or Female – And How To Tell

It’s relatively hard to tell male and female White Skirt Tetras apart because they don’t exhibit a lot of sexual dimorphism (females do not look that different from males). So, how do you tell whether you have a white skirt tetra male or female?

However, the one exception to this is when the female is carrying eggs. In this instance, due to the pale coloring of the White Skirt Tetra, you may easily be able to see the eggs inside her body! So, is your white skirt tetra pregnant? It’s definitely a female! However, even outside of pregnancy, you may be able to determine the female by the more rounded abdomen that enables her to carry eggs.

What Are Glofish?

You may occasionally see very colorful White Skirt Tetras labeled as Glofish. However, these are not a distinctive species of fish and their bright coloration is unfortunately not natural. Instead, it is the result of artificial dyes that the fish have been injected with.

This practice is generally not recommended by most vets and is considered very cruel to the fish. If you are looking for colorful fish, there are plenty of species that have naturally bright colors such as those on our list of 15 Most Colorful Freshwater Aquarium Fish, as well as many livebearers such as guppies and Endler’s Livebearers.

Tank Setup And Maintenance

Tank setup and maintenance for white skirt tetra
The ideal minimum size tank for a single school of 5-6 White Skirt Tetras is 30 gallons or 114 liters. Image from Flickr

Setting up a tank for a white skirt tetra school is relatively simple and allows you to get creative. A small tank with a single school can be a good idea if you want these fish to take center stage, alternatively, a larger Amazonian setup can include other tetra species as well as other fish from the waterways of South America.

Ideal Tank Size For White Skirt Tetras

The ideal minimum size tank for a single school of 5-6 White Skirt Tetras is 30 gallons or 114 liters. This metric gives you a good idea of how much extra you may need to add if you want your tetras as part of a larger community tank, too.

White Skirt Tetras like to swim up and down. Therefore, getting a tank that is longer than it is tall can also be helpful. Luckily, there is no difference between the white skirt tetra male or female in terms of territories. They are schooling, so they are not territorial. Therefore, don’t worry about accounting for this like you may have to with cichlids.

Temperature, Filtration, And Substrate

White skirt tetras are not too different than any other tetra. However, bear in mind that like many Amazonian species, they can be sensitive to light. Otherwise, they require the following:

  • A tank temperature of 75 – 80 F (24-28 C)
  • A hob, sponge, or canister filter that filters approximately 4x the tank capacity
  • A sandy or rocky substrate. Alternatively, if you are planning an aquascape, you can use scraper soil.

Plants And Tankmates

Setting up a white skirt tetra tank is easy so long as you consider their Amazonian habitat. Many of the plants and tankmates that work well with other Amazonian tetras also work for the White Skirt Tetra.

Plants

The same plants that work for any tetras and other Amazonian species are great for the white-skirt tetra. Some of these include:

  • Amazon frogbit
  • Cabomba or hornwort
  • Water wisteria
  • Anubias
  • Java moss
  • Java fern
  • Guppy grass

Tankmates

Ideal tankmates occupy different parts of the tank, and are non-aggressive and will not nip your White Skirt Tetra’s fins, such as the following

  • Pleco fish
  • Cory catfish
  • Clown and kuhli loaches
  • Oto catfish
  • Peaceful barbs such as the gold and cherry barb
  • Mollies
  • Platies

Feeding

Fortunately, White Skirt Tetras are not picky fish, and you can feed them pretty much the same way as any other species of tetra. The only difference is a white skirt tetra pregnant female may eat more. Read on to find out how to feed all your tetras.

What To Feed Your White Skirt Tetra?

It’s best to feed your White Skirt Tetra a specially formulated fish food such as flakes or pellets and then supplement this with some fresh, live food or frozen protein.

Why Is My White Skirt Tetra Not Eating?

If your fish are not eating it could be to do with temperature, as fish tend to eat more at higher temperatures.

Alternatively, they could be sick, or feeling threatened by other tankmates. Alternatively, consider ‘is your white skirt tetra pregnant?’ If you have a fish with a rounded stomach that shows no other signs of illness, it may be pregnant. Sometimes pregnancy makes fish eat more. but occasionally you may see fluctuations in appetite.

Are White Skirt Tetras Omnivores?

Yes, White Skirt Tetras are omnivores, meaning that they need to eat meat occasionally. These are peaceful fish and they don’t have a strong predatory insect like some species of barbs or cichlids. However, they can still benefit from occasionally eating glass worms, brine shrimp, or tubifex worms.

Author’s note: In a mixed tetra tank, you may have several kinds of fish that have various different temperaments and levels of swimming ability. Therefore, it’s important to ensure all fish get fed! As some can be bolder or more aggressive than others and eat faster, always monitor the tank and add some food in multiple areas so more peaceful species can feed without competition.

Behavior And Temperament

Behavior and Temperament of White Skirt Tetras.
The White Skirt Tetra is generally a peaceful schooling fish. Image from Flickr

The white skirt tetra is generally a peaceful schooling fish. Like all schooling fish, they should be kept in groups of 5 to 6 or more as in the wild, safety in numbers is an important way of staying out of the reach of predators, and your fish still retain the inclination to do this in captivity.

White Skirt Tetra Behavior And Temperament

The White Skirt Tetra is generally a peaceful fish and enjoys swimming around in schools like other small tetras. However, compared to smaller species with narrower bodies like the Cardinal and Neon Tetras it also exhibits the behavior of swimming on its own. When it is especially happy you may see it hovering mid-water, a sure indicator that your fish feels safe.

Fin Nipping

Fin nipping can be a problem with many varieties of tetra but in the case of the peaceful White Skirt Tetra, they are more likely to be on the receiving end of fin nipping as opposed to being the aggressor. Unfortunately, longfin white skirt tetra are even more likely.

However, it’s fortunately very easy to prevent this from happening, as you can simply make sure you have a large enough tank so that fish can keep to themselves!

Pests And Diseases

Pests and Diseases in White Skirt Tetras.
Ich can be hard to spot on a White Skirt Tetra because it generally takes the form of small white spots on your fish’s body. Image from Flickr

White skirt tetras are generally prone to many of the common diseases and parasites any tropical freshwater fish can contract, such as the following:

1. Ich

Ich can be hard to spot on a White Skirt Tetra because it generally takes the form of small white spots on your fish’s body. Your fish may lose appetite, having difficulty swimming, or rubbing up against the sides of the tank. Sometimes if spots are not visible you may see the parasite around your fish’s gills instead. Treat it in a quarantine tank with a saltwater bath like any other parasitic infection.

2. Fin Rot

Fin rot can affect any fish, but is generally more severe and noticeable in fish that have distinctive fins such as the White Skirt Tetra, especially the longfin white skirt tetra. Look for sore and ragged, red or black-looking edges to your fish’s fins. You can treat it by quarantining the sick fish in a separate tank and using an over-the-counter medication that you can buy from any good aquatics store or order online.

3. Swim Bladder Disease

Swim bladder disease is another bacterial infection that can be more serious than fin rot because it is internal as opposed to external. As the name suggests, it is an infection of the swim bladder – the organ that helps your fish stay upright.

Author’s Note: You can spot the signs of this when a fish has trouble swimming or maintaining its position in the water. They may also seem lethargic. Treat it with antibacterial medication, and change the tank water as soon as possible.

Breeding

Generally, breeding White Skirt Tetras is the same as breeding other tetra species. These fish aren’t necessarily attentive parents and may even eat their young. However, the breeding process is very easy and can be done even by newcomers to the hobby.

How To Breed White Skirt Tetras

Breeding the white skirt tetra requires the following equipment. For the best results, have everything ready beforehand. Breeding any fish is more successful when you are organized:

  • Separate breeding tank
  • High protein food such as tubifex worms, daphnia, or brine shrimp
  • Infusoria
  • Breeding mop
  • Tank divider
  • Tank thermometer

Is My White Skirt Tetra Pregnant?

You will be able to tell if a female is pregnant as her stomach will be noticeably rounded. Due to their coloration, sometimes you may even be able to see the eggs through her body.

This is a good way of identifying a bonded pair! Generally, there is often a bonded male who will follow her around. Determining whether you have a white skirt tetra male or female is also possible through behavior. The male may chase the female during the courtship stage.

Encouraging Spawning

To encourage spawning, mimic a sheltered habitat that makes your fish feel safe. Rooted or floating plants, a breeding mop, or flat stone can all encourage your white skirt tetra pregnant female fish to lay her eggs, after which point your male fish will spray his milt over them.

These fish tend to spray their eggs all over the bottom of the tank. Some sort of soft substrate, like aquatic grass, mesh, netting, or soft sand can prevent them coming to any harm.

Do White Skirt Tetras Eat Their Eggs?

Yes, as mentioned above, White Skirt Tetras eat their eggs, which means that you will have to separate the parents from the eggs and fry.

We recommend having a separate breeding tank in this guide but if you can’t do this, using a tank divider can also work.

Caring For The Fry

Caring for the fry is relatively simple and, again, is similar to other tetras. Once the fry have hatched and have finished absorbing the yolk sacs of their eggs (after about 48 hours) you can feed them on infusoria, which is a specialist mix of microscopic organisms that mimics what fish fry would eat in the wild.

Once the fry are old enough to eat larger morsels of food (varies but generally after a couple of weeks) you can feed them baby brine shrimps, and as they grow larger let them progress onto other protein.

Final Thoughts

White skirt tetra lifespan
The behavior and temperament of white skirt tetras are typically peaceful and social. These fish are known for their lively and active nature, making them excellent additions to community aquariums. Image from Flickr

In summary, the White Skirt Tetra is a great choice if you want a peaceful fish that also has a unique look. You may not always see these fish in aquarium shops, which means you might have to travel a bit further to find some or contact a specialist breeder.

However, you will find once you get hold of them they are surprisingly compatible with a large number of other tankmates and their pale and enigmatic looks can add to a variety of tank setups.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are White Skirt Tetras good dither fish?
A dither fish is any small fish that can be added to a tank to show shyer fish that it is safe to come out into the open to feed. Dither fish are bold, generally small and fast, and they are happy swimming near the surface or in open water. Whilst they do fit some of these criteria, White Skirt Tetras are not the best dither fish out there are they are relatively shy and peaceful compared to bolder fish such as Neon Tetras and Zebra Danios, two of the most common dither fish in the aquarium trade.
Are White Skirt Tetras aggressive?
White skirt tetras are not aggressive at all and as outlined in the ‘behavior’ section they are more likely to be the targets of aggression than the aggressors. This is because their pale color means they are not generally seen as a threat or competition in mating, so they haven’t needed to develop the boldness of fish such as guppies to compensate for this.
Can White Skirt Tetras be kept in an Amazonian tank?
Yes, White skirt tetras come from the river systems of South America in their other color morph, the Black Skirt Tetra. Therefore, they are generally compatible with other peaceful Amazonian species like small cichlids, discus, and plecos, provided you give them a large enough tank.
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Sydney Perry

Sydney Perry has loved fish since she was a child and has enjoyed keeping many varieties over the years, ranging from black moors and shubunkins to betta fish. As a lover of nature and of Japanese culture, her dream tank is an Iwagumi aquascape, combining fish with carefully crafted aquatic landscapes in miniature.