What to feed and how much
The vast majority of rays are not finicky eaters, and once you get them eating, be prepared to shell out big bucks to feed their voracious appetites. The best foods for medium to large stingrays are:
Some aquarists stuff the food with vitamin-fortified pellets for added nutritive value, or inject feeder goldfish with vitamins and let the rays hunt them down. However, the nutritive value of goldfish is questionable (they are quite high in fat), and they often carry parasites such as anchorworm that can make your rays very sick, so use them sparingly if you use them at all.
Worms are a very good choice for newly-acquired rays. They are nearly all digestible protein, and the ray will probably end up metabolizing or storing around 80% of the total calories. Chopped nightcrawlers are the best way to beef up and energize a skinny and inactive ray. If you're feeding smaller rays or trying to get a new specimen to eat, live blackworms are probably your best bet, but make sure you get them from a reputable, disease-free source. Note that while rays love blackworms, they will not touch live tubifex.
These fish will literally eat until they can no longer move, so no matter how hungry they seem, don't give into their begging. Three or four nightcrawlers per day should serve as a good starting point for determining the appropriate ration for your fish-- feed more or less as you feel is needed.When your fish are done feeding, always remember to remove uneaten food from the aquarium to avoid fouling the water.
Feeding baby rays
Live blackworms (a.k.a. "baby food") are the best way to feed young rays. They can be expensive and expire rather quickly if not kept adequately refrigerated and washed daily. A worm keeper, such as the one pictured below, can be a great help in prolonging their life.
Live blackworms in a "worm keeper". The worms rest on a screen suspended in water. This arrangement makes daily rinsing a great deal less time-consuming.
Many owners enjoy feeding their rays by hand. Don't tempt fate. Until you and your ray are completely familiar with one another, don't try it. Even then, be very careful. If you inadvertently startle the ray you're trying to feed it, that tail can whip around in a split second and, well, you know the rest. My advice: invest in a pair of feeding tongs or let your fish hunt down their own food.
Worm gravy feeding trick
Many new owners find it difficult to wean their rays off of blackworms and nightcrawlers as an exclusive food source. If you are in this situation, try coating the new food item in worm juice and offering it to your pet. This should fool them into eating it, and after a few additional trials, they should start to accept the new type of food without the worm glaze.
© 2007 K. Birkett.