Stingray Care: What Do Stingrays Eat?

Published on July 22, 2019
Stingray Care: What Do Stingrays Eat?

A freshwater stingray is a predatory sea creature that has one of the most oddly intimidating jaws of all marine animals in contrast with how flat its body looks. It is also cartilaginous, just like sharks—cartilage skeletons support their body instead of bones. That is why many people assume that the stingray diet has the same frightening predatory nature as the latter. Well, we have it all figured out in this article for you instead.

Before we get to that, remember that the stingray diet is a severe matter as what they eat directly affects their shape, color, swimming, hunting performance, and hiding skills.

Yes, these flat sea creatures have to maintain such an attractive shape through a healthy diet.

The Freshwater Stingray’s Natural Menu

So what do stingrays eat? They need a proper freshwater stingray care diet, and they love and need their nutritious small fish and other benthic organisms living beneath or on the sea sand. That concludes the following specials:

  • Lobsters
  • Oysters
  • Shrimps
  • Worms
  • Clams
  • Snails
  • Squid

The Making of the Menu

Freshwater stingrays have a powerful jaw due to its being cartilaginous. That is why they can gobble up the mentioned animals above effortlessly. Before the indulgence part, though, there are many interesting facts about how freshwater stingrays collect their food.

Stingrays use ampullae of Lorenzini—a sensor that makes it easy for them to detect the electric signals emitted by their prey. Sharks use the same sensor. Freshwater stingrays have a terribly-placed pair of eyes for hunting, so this sensor makes up for that.

Their mouth is the strategic location of this sensor. Since a freshwater stingray’s mouth is under its body, they can quickly burrow their body into the sand to hide from their predators while quickly skimming and stuffing worms into their mouth.

We could say that as much as sharks are scary, being preyed on by a stingray is even more terrifying. Their flat bodies make a mean suction effect when taking in a meal.

Now, many articles will tell you that stingrays are nocturnal hunters, and they are just as much as they could be diurnal and actively preying on their favorite meals during the day. The fact is with over 60 species of stingrays discovered in different waters all over the globe; there is variety in the time they hunt.

Also, the “flying” ray has to eat whenever it feels hungry due to how its diet affects it significantly. Its body is for tactical hunting that is the envy of many sea animals, and no time of the day can change that agility.

How Long Do Stingrays Live?

Freshwater stingrays are independent sea creatures. They are born fully developed and looking just like a mini version of their parents. From that moment on, they can already take care of themselves. Yes, baby stingrays are already self-sufficient right at their first flight under the sea.

The lifespan of stingrays depends on many external factors. The most dominant element of all is the fact that predators on top of stingrays in the food chain can also eat them. That’s right.  Despite the almost uncanny similarity of predatory features between stingrays and sharks, the former is still not safe from being devoured by another sea creature itself.

Sharks prey on stingrays too. Funny how that works, right? But what you might find a little shocking is the fact that the cute seals and sea lions we adore are also freshwater stingrays’ main natural predators.

Yes, our bottom-feeders are not safe from more prominent fish species. Another thing, some people also enjoy having stingray for dinner. That makes us its predators too, and that is when people use the adorable seals to attack them.

Freshwater stingrays can still defend themselves during situations like that, though. That is with the use of their infamous tails that are still unfortunately ineffective in protecting themselves from sharks.

Now, going back to the “how long do stingrays live” question. With no predatory attacks on these sea flyers and a healthy diet, these flattened fish can live up to 15-25 years when they are in the wild. That is a long-term life span in marine life terms.

Freshwater Stingray Care Nutrition Tips

Keeping such a wild fish in an aquarium might be a little challenging, especially that you want them to live long outside of their home. That means that tank stingray meals can replace their natural diet that they would probably have trouble gaining a taste for in the beginning.

As I have mentioned, the freshwater stingray needs to follow its menu to keep its looks and overall health sharp. Their favorite scrumptious lobsters could be too costly or unavailable for you to give them on the regular. Also, there are a lot of species in the wild that they eat, which you cannot just get from a pet store. Here are the following nutritious alternatives to their natural menu’s specials which you can easily buy:


stingray bloodworms

Photo by Distant Hill Gardens

This go-to fish bait is a favorite aquarium food because 99% of fish eat them, including freshwater stingrays. Although these worms are rich in protein, it's ideal for feeding them to your Stingray is once a day as too much of these could also damage any fish’s health.


Like bloodworms, these are a favorite aquarium meal that luckily most tank stingrays immediately recognize as food. Although there are unpredictable patterns for some stingrays’ appetite for blackworms, it doesn’t mean these are bad for them. Blackworms contribute to ensuring a balanced diet for stingrays.

Gut-Loaded Earthworms

Feeding these worms to your Stingray is a great way to get some vegetables into its system with no encouragement. Yes, stingrays find these earthworms filled with minerals, vitamins, and fiber irresistible.

Mysis Shrimp

shubunkin fish food

By michelle jo (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

This shrimp type is the best for feeding tank freshwater stingrays as they are available in stores as frozen goods. That means that you can store them so that they are readily available at your home whenever you need it to balance the diet of your stingray. It is also a more affordable alternative to lobster.

We highly advise a varied diet for your stingray so that they maintain good health. Shrimp is part of the natural menu of stingrays, so it is a great thing to add this shrimp in your tank menu because you can buy them in stores.

Live Fish

Although live small fish is a typical, accessible tank stingray food, it is risky given the contamination issues. These are prone to parasites that can harm your stingray severely, and we know how stingrays are so motivated to feed on them.

There are two ways to feed live fish to your stingray without setting them up for danger. First, you can have these live fish quarantined for a month minimum and preferably longer. Sounds about right, but that’s not a very convenient reach for maintaining your stingray’s diet.

The second option is home-breeding thiaminase-free fish. I am sure this is a further stretch unless you’re an all-round marine hobbyist or farmer.

It always depends on your decision whatever you include into your freshwater stingray’s diet. One last tip for live fish as food for your aquarium stingray is to avoid the following small species and their relatives because of being thiaminase carriers:

  • Cyprinids
  • Goldfish
  • Minnows

Freshwater stingrays are sensitive when it comes to food. They only eat what they want, and whatever it is they take in has a significant impact on how their bodies perform. That is why freshwater stingray care is intensively about their diet.

Having the majestic flat sea flyer in an aquarium at your home is not just about aesthetic, for you have a daily goal of reaching that 15-25 lifespan of this species. That is an estimate for those that are in the wild, so it is a challenge but still possible. You have to know fully the nutritional value of whatever it is you feed these stingrays.

They require more attention in their diet than we humans do in a way. That is if you are an aquarium hobbyist. That means that as long as you consider those alternatives, research them more, and balance them out properly, your stingrays will stay alive for a very long time.

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