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    Stingrays for Saltwater Aquariums

    Stingrays for Saltwater Aquariums
    • Special Care
    • Diet
    • Tank Environment
    • Tank Mates
    • Common Species
    • Origin: Varies by Species
    • Average Size: 1 - 5 feet
    • Lifespan: 10+ years


    Special Care
    Stingrays are equipped with a large spine on the tail that can puncture the skin to deliver a painful venom. Be careful to avoid contact with this appendage when handling these fish or working in their enclosure. Rays are not generally aggressive, but may attempt to use the spine in defense if it is afraid or agitated.

    Diet
    The most commonly kept rays are bottom-feeding fish. Their prey includes crustaceans such as crabs, shrimp and small lobsters, bivalves such as scallops, mussels and clams, as well as worms and the occasional small fish. Most rays can be trained to accept foods such as earth worms, shrimp, squid, clams or pieces of fish from a feeding stick or from the hand. Just be careful if hand-feeding rays; they may accidentally nip fingers! It is also important to avoid large open-water fish such as tuna and swordfish when choosing food for your ray. These types of fish usually contain mercury in their muscle tissues that can poison your ray. Rays are enthusiastic eaters, but don't let that fool you into overfeeding! Rays usually eat small meals, and can actually suffer greatly from feeding too much at one sitting. Thus, it is only necessary to feed them very small amounts on a daily basis. In order to determine if a ray is being fed appropriately, monitor the fish's appearance. The ray should be neither obese nor emaciated. Look at the ray's disc and tail: the skeletal structure should not be visible, and the body should be sleek, not bulging between feedings. In order to stay healthy and grow properly, rays need the right amounts of fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals in their diet. For this reason, it is important to feed a large variety of foods on a regular basis. Different foods have different amounts of proteins, fats and other nutrients that must be kept in balance for the ray to survive. Water-soluble minerals are normally present in salt mixes. Regular water changes will keep these minerals in good supply. Amino acid and vitamin supplements can be added directly to the food before feeding if necessary. Be sure to remove uneaten food from the tank immediately to help prevent stress from poor water quality.

    Tank Environment
    Rays have flattened bodies and wide discs that make it difficult for them to maneuver in small spaces. Thus, a very large tank is necessary to keep them healthy and stress-free in captivity. Provide an aquarium that is at least the same width as the maximum size of the ray and two or three times length of the maximum size. Width and length are much more important that height when choosing an aquarium for rays. When hiding or resting, rays often burrow into the substrate with only the eyes visible. Due to this behavior, it is important to provide a fine, smooth-edged substrate that will not scratch or abrade their delicate skin. Make sure that the substrate layer is at least 2 inches deep for effective burrowing. Because space for swimming and burrowing is very important, the tank should be sparsely decorated or left free of large objects. Water quality is an extremely important factor in the health of a ray. They are extremely sensitive to poor water conditions and inadequate tank space. Frequent water changes and consistent monitoring of water conditions are a must! Build-up of nitrates can cause serious health problems or even death. Tank space is important for water quality, as larger tanks tend to stay in balance more easily, and reduce stress. A protein skimmer and an efficient biological filter are important equipment to maintain good water quality. Rays are also very sensitive to stray electrical currents, so a grounding probe is a wise investment to eliminate any stray current that may be emitted by electric aquarium equipment.

    Tank Mates
    It is important to choose tank mates that will not harm your ray. Some suitable invertebrate tank mates include slipper lobsters, spiny lobsters, linkia stars, brittle stars and pencil urchins. Keep in mind that invertebrates may end up as stingray food at some point. Appropriate fish tank mates include cardinals, hawkfish, squirrelfish, batfish, goatfish, snappers and jacks as well as cleaner fish and any other specimens that do not nip or chase the rays.

    Common Species
    Yellow Ray, Yellow Spotted RayUrobatis jamaicensis
    Max. Size: 26 inches
    Origin: Atlantic Ocean from Southern USA to Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea
    Temperament: Docile
    Additional Information: This ray is an attractive fish that is dark and round with small yellow spots on its disc. It prefers sandy open areas, where it digs and fans its disc to find burrowed prey. It is a relatively hardy and small species, and is a good candidate for captive keeping. They have also been known to reproduce in captivity. Tank size should be not less than 300 gallons.

    Cortez Round RayUrobatis maculatus
    Max. Size: 16 inches
    Origin: Baja California to Gulf of California
    Temperament: Docile
    Additional Information: This ray is a hardy fish that is beige with small dark spots on its round disc. It prefers sandy or muddy open areas and rocky areas near reefs, as well as bays. It hunts by digging in the substrate for worms and crustaceans. Its small size makes it an ideal candidate for captive keeping. Tank size should be at least 200 gallons.

    Blue Spotted Ribbon Tail RayTaenuria lymma
    Max. Size: 12 inches
    Origin: Eastern Africa, Philippines, Melanesia, Polynesia and Australia
    Temperament: Docile
    Additional Information: This ray is a very popular species due to its brilliant blue spotted, round disc. It inhabits tidal flats, lagoons and sandy regions on reef margins. Though its small size makes it a candidate for captivity, it is extremely delicate, and does not usually survive in aquarium environments. It is a somewhat migratory species that requires a lot of open space despite its small size. It is exceptionally susceptible to stress from poor water quality and poor nutrition. If attempting to keep this fish, be sure to obtain a specimen that has been feeding in captivity as they have been known to refuse food to the point of starvation. Due to their delicate nature, a minimum tank size of 300 gallons is recommended.

    Southern RayDasyatis americana
    Max. Size: 60 inches (5 feet)
    Origin: Atlantic Ocean from Southern USA to Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea
    Temperament: Docile
    Additional Information: This ray is a cream to beige colored fish that has a pointed snout and diamond-shaped disc. It prefers sandy and grassy open areas, where it feeds on fish, worms, crustaceans and mollusks. It is a relatively hardy species, but its extremely large size makes it inappropriate for any aquarium under 5,000 gallons. If interested in keeping this fish, be sure to have a back-up plan ready for when it outgrows its aquarium.