Freshwater Stingrays Revealed at the Aquatic Experience!

Dive in and explore the Aquatic Experience where Jennifer O. Reynolds of Vancouver, BC, will be speaking on freshwater stingrays in the wild and in the aquarium. Jennifer has over a decade of experience in the public aquarium industry as a Senior Biologist, and has served as a consultant to World Fisheries Trust and Coast Aquariums. In addition to speaking to aquarium societies, Jennifer is an avid photographer and writer, with articles published in popular aquarium literature including Amazonas, and contributions to several scientific manuscripts. Jennifer’s aquatic travels have taken her to Africa and South America to learn more about freshwater fishes.


Come hear Jennifer speak from her extensive experience in designing and maintaining aquariums of all types, including african cichlids, amazon fishes, and planted tanks.  Her specialized knowledge can help you create amazing freshwater systems, including a habitat for freshwater stingrays.


Jennifer has particular expertise in breeding and rearing tiger stingrays (Potamotrygon tigrina) which she has done for the Vancouver Aquarium, one of only two facilities to have reproduced this species successfully in North America.


As Jennifer will explain, although stingrays that tolerate freshwater can be found around the world, only the stingrays of the family Potamotrygonidae, found in South America’s freshwaters, can truly be called “freshwater”. The Amazon basin is home to numerous species of these beautiful animals which live all along the river and its tributaries, from Peru and Colombia, to the mouth of the Amazon in North Eastern Brazil.  There are also stingray species found in other tropical South American rivers not directly connected to the Amazon.


As for food, Jennifer will speak about what freshwater stingrays eat in the wild, such as shrimp, crab, snails, insect larvae, other small invertebrates, but also how to properly feed them in aquarium settings and ensure they have a nutritious diet.


Jennifer reveals that although these fish are not aggressive and don’t attack humans on purpose, they are called stingrays for a reason.  “If they are accidentally stepped on or if they are handled, they can inflict a painful and in some cases, very serious wound,” she said.  So, if you encounter a stingray, Jennifer recommends that you do not “pet” it or move too closely to it.  It is best to observe it from a distance because their behavior in the wild is difficult to predict.  “Although they use their venomous spine primarily for defense, it is all too easy to accidentally brush up against or spook the stingray. In the wild, and even in aquariums, stingrays typically bury themselves in sand, making it even more difficult to spot them,” she said.


She will also speak about their appealing patterns, behaviours, and great personalities. According to Jennifer, there are a dramatic and beautiful range of sizes, patterns and colors of the stingray available in the aquarium trade, including black rays with a striking pattern of polka dots, such as the Xingu River ray (Potamotrygon leopoldi), and the more popular brown and orange ocellated ray (Potamotrygon motoro). Even more dramatic patterns exist, such as in the tiger stingray (P. tigrina), found in Peru,and their close relative, the flower ray (P. schroederi), found in Brazil and Venezuela.


In terms of aquarium care, Jennifer will speak about what you need to consider when purchasing a stingray for your aquarium, as even small rays can grow to be quite huge.  Some stingrays, sold as “tea-cup” size rays in pet stores, are in fact baby stingrays of different species.  “Fully grown stingrays typically become bigger than an average dinner plate, so it’s best to purchase an aquarium that is larger than 200 gallons, as they will quickly outgrow a small tank,” she said.  Although the amount of food offered will affect the growth rate, stingrays need to eat frequently because of their high metabolisms, and don’t tend to do well if kept in small aquariums with limited food supply. Kept in a well-maintained aquarium with good water quality and an optimal food supply, some freshwater stingrays can grow to their adult size in about three years.


New and exciting are high quality lighting systems for both night and day. “Aquarium lighting really matters,” she said, “it affects the behavior of the fish and the more natural, the better.”   She also noted that you can now coordinate your electronic devices and connect your aquarium lighting with your iPad and or iPhone.  Also, she is a fan of the Hydrowizard, an energy efficient new flow device which which produces more natural water flow than typical aquarium powerheads or pumps.


There is a major response to creating sustainability within the aquarium industry, and one of Jennifer’s passions is to educate hobbyists about sustainably sourcing their aquarium fishes.  She has volunteered with Project Piaba, which promotes the sustainable harvesting of aquatic resources to ensure that both the Amazonian rainforests that produce so many beautiful fish species, and its human inhabitants, can continue to survive and thrive. Learn more about Project Piaba by attending the Aquatic Experience in Chicago this November!