Keeping and Breading The Black Tetra or Black Skirt Tetra


The commonly called Black Skirt Tetra comes from South America – Paraguay, Brazil and Bolivia – the drainage   basins of the Amazon, Rio Paraguay, Rio Pilcomayo, Rio Guapore, Rio Mamore, Rio   Beni, Rio Madeira, Rio Tapajos, Rio Negro and Lake Rogoa, in shaded, mostly shallow waters and flood regions.

Thomas R. Reich explains how to bread the Black Tetra

You must see this fish to realize its remarkable beauty. There are many very good reasons why this fish has been so popular since its introduction to the aquarium would in the 1930’s.  The Black Tetra was so popular in fact it garnered, not one, but at least 6 popular common names over the years. Not only is this a fish of striking colors, it has a unique shape and is one of the least demanding fish to keep in the home aquarium. Can stand ranges of temperatures from 60F to 90F, eats anything, is non-aggressive and breeds very easily!


Thomas R. Reich explains how to bread the Black TetraThe physical description of this fish does not do it justice. First, the rear half of the body, the large dorsal fin, and the exceedingly large anal fin are jet black. The forward part of   the body is silver with clearly visible vertical black bars. The caudal fin is clear, that is to say transparent. The anal fin is so large that the fish appears to wear a ballet skirt and it   certainly seems to dance, as it hovers around the darker areas of the aquarium!  To add to the Black Tetra’s unique appearance, it has silver-rimmed jet black eyes.


In its native habitat in Paraguay and the Matto Grosso area of Brazil, the Black Tetra grows to a length of three inches, although in captivity it seldom grows to more than two inches. An interesting feature of this characin is that with fright its colors turn pale.   From its habitat we could expect the Black Tetra to endure a wide range of variations in temperature; however it thrives at anything from 70F to 85F. It is best to breed this fish at about 75F. The Black Tetra is a very active fish and indulges in much harmless chasing of other fish, though it never seems to injure them.


This species was first introduced to fish keepers in 1935 from just 3 of the species that had been imported from theThomas R. Reich explains how to bread the Black Tetra Amazon basin; for many years, all the Black Tetras being kept in aquariums were descendants of this original trio! As their domestication proceeded, they developed into one of the easiest egg-layers to breed in the aquarium world. One reason is that this is a very widely bred fish in farms, and its collection in the wild proved to be far more expensive than breeding this extremely prolific fish in Florida.


One pair of Gymnocorymbus Ternetzi in prime breeding condition can produce 500 offspring every 2 to 3 weeks! More over, they can do this through the temperature fluctuations in the Florida environment.  Finally, inbreeding is not a problem with this species, and after nearly 70 years of inbreeding, this species natural reproduction is in captivity.


Thomas R. Reich explains how to bread the Black TetraAnother strain of this species has been developed over the years, the long-finned variety. There are many strains of this variety, look for a pair that has very long free flowing fins, with no kinks or small bumps, for best resulting fry. The long-fin variety breeds true for the most part.


Like many Characins, Black Tetras require a large aquarium of at least 10 gallons, clear water, and a thick growth of plants along the walls, leaving plenty of swimming space in the middle.   The darker the background and bottom of the tank, the more at ease the fish feels, the brighter the colors and the more eggs they will be comfortable laying!


Many aquarists find it difficult to sex half-grown specimens. But if the eye is trained to observe only the body of the fish, Thomas R. Reich explains how to bread the Black Tetraand to disregard completely the fins, it will be easy to see that the males are more elongated and the females are deeper in comparison with their length. When in prime breeding condition, the female Black Tetra will look as if she is latterly about to explode, and the sex difference is more than obvious at this point, as she can be filled with up to 1,000 eggs, which are large by Characin standards!


The male Black Tetra are somewhat smaller than the females, with small white tips on the tail fin. In transmitted light, like a strong flashlight from behind the fish, you can see that the translucent body cavity of the male run into a point towards the rear, but the female is rounded in the rear. The fins also provide a means of separating the sexes; the male’s dorsal fin is more pointed than that of the female and the males anal fin is broader at the front.


Thomas R. Reich explains how to bread the Black TetraBlack Tetras can be breed with great success by the novice, and are considered ideal for a home breeding project. Successful Black Tetra breeders are usually 9 months to a year old, and from 1 ½ to 2 inches long. Weather breeding the long-fined variety, or the standard (usually   the best bet for the beginner), the female should be conditioned separately from the male for 7-10 days on a steady diet of 3 live or frozen brine shrimp, blood worm and misquote larva diet meals per day.


Tank should be filled with at least 4 or 5 fine leaved bunches of   plants, leaving large open areas, these fish like to swim and chaise fast! Introduce the female in the late afternoon, followed by the male one hour later, just before dark. They   will breed the next morning, the male Black Tetra chasseing the female through the plants and occasionally quivering, laying up to 500 or even 1000 eggs over 2 or 3 hours. When the chase stops, they will rest a few minutes and then start searching for and eating eggs.   Both parents should be removed at once. There are so many eggs, that as long as you stop the egg hunt within an hour or so you will have many eggs left.


You should use aged but virgin water, making sure all plants are washed in a salt bath to kill any snails and other pests Thomas R. Reich explains how to bread the Black Tetrathat will eat the eggs. PH and hardness are not critical, but ideally 6.8-7.0 and a hardness of 100-150 ppm. The temperature should be raised to about 75F-78F. The water should be heavily aerated before introduction of the pair, and then left totally still until the fry are free swimming.


The eggs hatch after about 24-36 hours. They hop on the bottom, or cling to the glass   like little slivers for another 2 to 3 days, when they become free swimming and immediately begin swimming and darting about in constant surch for food. Unlike most Characins, the Black Tetra is immediately able to swallow good sized pieces of food, this results in very rapid growth if fed frequently. A sponge filter should be added at this point.   Because of their great number, enough usually survive, even for the novice, that they may have be divided to several tanks for maximum growth.


Thomas R. Reich explains how to bread the Black TetraFirst week of free swimming, the Black Tetra should be fed infusoria and first bit powered food, the second week start baby brine in the mix and the third week graduate to growth food and baby brine shrimp. The critical period is the first 2 weeks from the time they are free swimming. During this time temperature should be a constant 75F to 78F and water should not be touched.


After two weeks 10% water changes, siphoning off the uneaten food Thomas R. Reich explains how to bread the Black Tetrafrom the bottom is   recommended by weekly. At this point the Black Tetra fry are well on their way and will eat almost anything. The Black Tetra are really most beautiful in their first 3 months when they are almost completely black, they begin to look like adults in about three months and mature at about 6 months.


Try this breading project and send us some pictures to post of your success with the Black Tetra, and remember, its a hobby, enjoy every project.  In order to be most successful, make sure to treat the fish in a humane manor and work hard to do your best to support the life and lives you are dealing with!


Enjoy – Dr. Reich

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Breeding the Tiger Barb – Barbus Tetrazona

Breeding the Tiger Barb with Thomas R. Reich PhDTIGER BARB – BARBUS TETRAZONA    

By:  Dr. Thomas R. Reich PhD

The Tiger Barb or Barbus Tetrazona fish belongs to the family Cyprinidae and it comes from Thailand, Sumatra and   Borneo, form where it was imported in 1935.  The body is deep, plump, and yellow-white, with a brownish to olive black, the flanks have a red-brown sheen and are accented with four black bands. The dorsal and anal fins are blood-red, and the ventral fin of the male is sometimes black.

Tiger Barbs are also sometimes called Sumatra Barbs, although, their native environment extends well beyond Sumatra Breeding the Tiger Barb with Thomas R. Reich PhDand throughout South-east Asia as well.   Before 1950 the common name “Tiger Barb” was used for the Bardus Oligolepis species, now obscure and almost forgotten due to its similarities to the Barbus Sumatranus, then referred to commonly as “Red Fin Barbs”.  The fact that the original  Tiger Barbs as we knew then were hard to keep and harder to breed, unlike the easy to keep and very easily bred Barbus Sumatranus” now known as the “Tiger Barb” you know today. Not a vital fact, but nice trivia to use at an aquarium society meeting!

Breeding the Tiger Barb with Thomas R. Reich PhDThe Tiger Barb is probably the most widely kept barb in the beginners aquarium. They are also so easily bred, that they should a consideration as a first egg-layer to breed!  The Tiger Barb can be instantly recognized by the four black stripes crossing their bodies vertically.  Males are more colorful than females, with reddish tips to their fins and a redder tone than the female, with reddish tips to their fins and a redder tone to their faces, or as some observe, the males look like they have a red nose.Breeding the Tiger Barb with Thomas R. Reich PhD

This can be confusing to the unitiated, for when these fish are out of condition, or not in breeding   season, the males and females look virtually the same, as the males distinctive red fins and nose fade almost completely away. However, sexes can still be told apart by paying attention to the size and shape of the belly, the female is always fuller and rounder, even   when not carrying row.

Probably the most striking and colorful of all the Barbs, but it has one serious drawback: some of the males become aggressive. In bad cases these bullies will not only make life intolerable for other barbs but, having killed them off, the bully will go after long finned Angles, Bettas and other long finned varieties much larger than the rough male. By   constantly pecking the fins and body of the larger fish and quickly darting away to the cover of rocks of Breeding the Tiger Barb with Thomas R. Reich PhDplants, the rouge male Tiger Barb will turn the larger slower fish into a ragged, unhappy, listless specimen which, unless protected, will simply give up and die.

Luckily, not all Tiger   Barbs are this way. In fact, only about 1 in 10 males become rouges, and usually when not kept in groups of at least 3 or more of their kind. The bully should and must be eliminated, getting more Tiger Barbs at this point will not stop his bullying, once this trait is observed, the fish will not be changed, get rid of it at once! Above all do not breed a bully, the trait can be passed on to its male offspring.

Careful breeding by US fish farms has greatly reduced this trait in the Tiger Barb males in recent years, but chances are that you will run across one of these bullies in your years of the hobby. Breeding should be confined to the more docile males, so that the vicious trait is less likely to be perpetuated.   The fish has a lively disposition and always keeps its fins erect and well spread. When resting the body is often inclined nose downward. They are fun to watch, and other than the occasional bully, make a great community tank fish.

Well-oxygenated water is essential for Tiger Barbs; if the oxygen level is poor, the fish   will cluster at the surface adoptingBreeding the Tiger Barb with Thomas R. Reich PhD an almost vertical posture. This makes them a good barometer for general condition of the water in the community tank. Other fish will show little or no change in behavior when the water fowls, the Tiger barbs will be your first indication that your filter is not functioning correctly, or it is time for a major cleaning or water change.

This also points out a very important step in breeding these fish.  The breeding tank must be Airated thoroughly before the breeders are introduced, and fresh live plants that help oxygenate the water are helpful. The temperature should be raised to 78F-80F and maintained with a good quality heater, and water should be fresh and   slightly acid. If substrate is to be used it should be new and well washed, either sand or fine gravel, bare bottom is just as accepted and sometimes better for rearing the fry. The breeding tank must be thoroughly sterilized since contamination and bacteria rob the water of the precious oxygen.

Breeding the Tiger Barb with Thomas R. Reich PhDFemales of this species must be conditioned before breeding, placed apart from other fish and fed plenty of live food and left alone for at least a week. The fuller out line of the female will grow heavy and girth will increase greatly and they will show a much fuller outline as breeding time nears.  A strong, healthy, well adjusted non-bully male should be used; the harder it is to catch him the better!

After fully preparing the breeding tank with small leaved plants or nylon yarn device, and fully aerating the water, by pumping heavy amounts of fine bubbles into the water for at least 24 hours before introducing the breeders, introduce the female first and about an hour later introduce the male. A long courtship that continues until the female is exhausted and hovers over a thicket of plants.  Quivering the female Tiger Barb expels the eggs, several at a time, among the plants. This continues for   about 2 hours, until hundreds of eggs have been laid.

Large female Tiger Barbs may produce as many as 700 yellowish eggs at a single spawning. When this process is   Breeding the Tiger Barb with Thomas R. Reich PhDcomplete, the male and female will lose interest in each other. Remove both the male and female immediately, for their attentions will turn to eating the eggs as soon as they recover from the exhaustion and remember they are hungry! The young will hatch after about 36 hours in 78F-80F water. The fry appear as small glass slivers, they are very hard to see at first, but look closely as they cling to the sides of the glass tank.

Rearing presents few problems, provided that the water quality is maintained. The fry are free-swimming about 5 days after hatching and can be fed satisfactorily on proprietary fry foods commercially available, though infosoria, in small amounts for the first week, is recommended. Use a sponge filter form the first day of feeding, the day the fry become free swimming, because the fry will not tolerate fowled water of any kind.

Breeding the Tiger Barb with Thomas R. Reich PhDThe fry should be fed small amounts of food at least 5 times a day for best results. When two weeks old, they will eat anything they can fit in their little mouths. They are veracious eaters, and if you keep the stomachs visibly full they will be well along at about 3 months, selling size in about 5 months. A fun fish to breed, fast results and a nice tank full of happy active Tiger Barbs as the reward for your hard work!

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Rosy Barb; Fun to Watch Fun to Breed

Rosy Barb explained by Thomas R. Reich PhD

Rosy Barb explained by Thomas R. Reich PhDTHE ROSY BARB – BARBUS CONCHONIUS      

By: Dr. Thomas R. Reich PhD




The Rosy Barbs is well known to aquarists. It is one of the hardiest and best of the egg-layers for beginners. The adult fish can survive in a temperature as low as 60 degrees   Fahrenheit although 75F is probably the best for both adults and the youngsters.

Rosy Barb explained by Thomas R. Reich PhD

Both  sexes of the Rosy Barb are ornamented with a large black spot faintly outlined in brown near the base of the tail. The male, as in the case of many fish, wears the brightest colors.  His back is a   greenish-gray blending into silver at the sides. The female is olive-brown all over.  The   popular name was derived from the fact that at spawning time, a rosy color covers the  lower part of the sides of the male.


Rosy Barb explained by Thomas R. Reich PhDMany derivations of the wild Rosy Barb have been   developed over the years through selective breeding. In many strains of farm raised Rosy   Barbs, the males are rosy almost all the time, another variety has beautiful long flowing   fins and tail, and the male of that strain is almost completely rosy red!



Rosy Barb explained by Thomas R. Reich PhD

First indications of sex in young fish are that the males develop a black area in the dorsal fin. Strange as it may seem, males show their best colors when kept together.  Now and then they perform a circular dance. Head to tail, they gyrate round and round until the   viewer is treated to something that compares to a fireworks show in colors. During this spin the fins are fully extended, and their coloring is superb. When placed in a breeding tank spawning will take place; but the male rarely adorns himself in the colors produced when two males perform their strange dance.


Rosy Barb explained by Thomas R. Reich PhDRosy Barbs mature in about six to nine months and grow sometimes to a length of five inches in the wild, although two to two and one half inches is a good size for aquarium-bred species. The scales are somewhat larger than those of most aquarium fish of the same size. The Rosy Barbs will live in peace with most other fish and are proper candidates for a community tank.


Rosy Barb explained by Thomas R. Reich PhD

Breeding is relatively easy, at an age of about 12 months. The water should be soft to   medium-hard at about 77F and a pH 6.5-7.2. The tank need not be larger than a 10 gallon, provided it has filtration, a substrate of sand, an area of open water and a clump or two if live plants as prescribed for barbs or a hanging clump of nylon wool.  For more information go to our section on breeding egg-layers here at



Rosy Barb explained by Thomas R. Reich PhDThe ripe   female should be introduced first, and then a few days later the male can be put in the prepared tank. Very often spawning takes place the following morning, the fish coming together flank to flank, and the male then wrapping his body and fins round the female. Spawning lasts for about two hours and both fish should then be removed to prevent them from eating their eggs. The eggs hatch in about 2 days feeding should start when tiny fry are free swimming, start with infosoria for 2 weeks then baby brine shrimp and fine dry fry food.

Rosy Barb explained by Thomas R. Reich PhD


For more information on breeding all kinds of egg-layers go the our section on egg-laying fish: Read more ›

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