Simon & Garfunkel, the Black Skirt Tetras
The Black Skirt Tetra
Black Skirt tetras originate in the slow-moving river basins of South America. They are named after the lovely long black fin that hangs from their underside and resembles a skirt. When they're young, their skirts are very dark, but just like the rest of us, the older they get, the grayer they get.
There is also a tendency for their skirt and fins to transform into different shades of grey, or even lose all their colour completely and turn clear if they get too stressed out. Bringing them home from the pet store will surely take their lovely dark colouring away for a day or two, leaving them looking fairly transparent.
And apparently, so will a quick move from one tank to another.
Simon & Garfunkel, Out of School
Being Black Skirt tetras, Simon & Garfunkel are a type of shoaling fish, which means they should be in a group of at least five fish minimum so they can feel relaxed and safe, and naturally all swim together in formation. They are supposed to look like the schools of wild fish that one sees on ocean type documentaries, where the fish are darting about together, swimming in unison and looking like underwater flocks of birds.
I have read that if your schooling fish in your aquarium aren't schooling, then getting more of their kind will help them as it gives them the comfort of being in a larger group, which their instinct tells them is the safest place to be. Schooling fish are food for others in the wild, so those instincts must run pretty deep. That makes perfect sense to me, and as my three Black Skirts had taken up residence in separate corners of the tank and were acting like grumpy old bettas instead of the lovely bird-like flock of schooling fish they were supposed to be, it was obvious to me I needed to add a few more fish to the group.
I started out with three Black Skirts in my twenty gallon aquarium, I ended up with seven, and they still didn't school up properly. There was always the original three, each in their own corner, aggressively defending it from the others, and then one by one, four new ones in the middle. The four new ones weren't schooling either. They seemed to only be tolerating each other because to venture near a corner meant you were going to get chased back to the middle anyhow. I'm sure they were thinking, "May as well just stay here and save myself the hassle".
The Big Move
Having seven scattered Black Skirts in my twenty gallon aquarium with Beaster and Big Blue the gourami (as well as a few other residents), made it seem too crowded, so that is why I decided to move Simon & Garfunkel into my ten gallon tank that's already home to Elvis, Snoopy, Waldo, and a handful of Blue Diamond shrimp.
Poor Simon & Garfunkel's black skirts turned completely clear in the move! It's been over a week now since I surprised them with a fishing net ride through the sky, and their dark colouring is still nowhere to be seen. Other than their newfound intense fear of me, they're acting fine and eating, so hopefully it's just taking a little longer than normal to come back. I did after-all, abduct them from a fairly peaceful existence out of the only world they likely remembered, and then dumped them into an entirely new universe. Kind of like an alien abduction tale, only the chance of these guys going back to tell their side of the story to the masses is pretty slim.
Fish, just like any pet, shouldn't fear their owners. It's not fun having an animal that runs and hides whenever it sees movement, and it can't be much fun for the animal either....especially for a fish that has no where to go to escape.
After a week and a half, poor Simon & Garfunkel weren't getting past their fear and were still acting completely terrified of me. They used to get excited at feeding time but now they scattered and hid behind the plants until they thought I was gone.
I could only hope their memory was fairly short lived so they'd be able to get over it soon enough. I didn't have a lot of hope though, as quite a few months ago I moved Rocky and Sylvester, my two Yoyo loaches, from their fifteen gallon home into the new twenty gallon space, and I know they haven't forgiven me for the disturbance yet either.
Back to School
Poor Simon & Garfunkel just couldn't handle it. After three weeks of only seeing the tail end of them as they disappeared behind the plants every time they saw me, and not seeing their colours coming back at all, I decided they should just go back to the other tank.
I was right with that decision. Within days they were acting considerably less stressed and their skirts were back in the black!
Oddly enough, the surprise of having Simon & Garfunkel reappear quite suddenly from above as quickly as they left, (or perhaps it was their recounting of the abduction and the events that followed) has apparently left a tiny stab of fear through-out the entire group of tetras, and now, on occasion, I am able to watch my little family of Black Skirts schooling like a wild flock of starlings. It's not much, and it doesn't last for more than a few minutes before the original three go back to their respective corners again, but it's something.
Life is Blissfully Uneventful
A month has gone by now and I'm happy to say, everyone has their black skirts on, no one runs and hides from me anymore, and everyone gets excited at feeding time again!
Peace reigns through-out, so as far as I'm concerned, they can all keep skipping school and leave the flocking to the birds.
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