Freshwater Stingray: Care, Size, Lifespan, Diet & More

Freshwater Stingrays (Potamotrygonidae) are a family of fish native to South America that has become popular in the aquarium trade. These fascinating creatures can make great pets for experienced aquarists, as they require specialized care and attention. 

They are active bottom-dwellers that spend most of their time scavenging for food and hiding in sandy substrate. While they may not be as interactive with their owners as other pet fish, they do display interesting behaviors such as burying themselves in the sand or swimming around quickly when startled. With proper care, these unique fish can provide years of enjoyment!

In this article, you will be provided with the proper instructions for taking care of Freshwater Stingrays and all the necessary components that go into keeping a stingray in an aquarium.

Species Profile & Overview

Freshwater Stingray fish are native to tropical and subtropical regions of South America. They can be found in slow to fast-moving rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds. They live in rivers that drain into the Caribbean and Atlantic.

These rivers include Río de la Plata in Argentina, Rio Negro, Tapajós, and Tocantins basins. There are many different species of stingrays living in these rivers but all belong to the same family and need similar care requirements. 

These fish live in a vast variety of water conditions in their natural habitat, making them super hardy species. Adults usually live in all parts of the rivers but the juveniles are often found in shallow and clean waters.

These fish are known to be peaceful but shy in nature; however, they can become aggressive if provoked or harassed by another animal or human. Their sting is mainly for defense and they only use it to defend themselves. 

They tend to hide away during daylight and explore at night hours. But this doesn’t mean they don’t come out during the day. 


Motoro Stingray (Potamotrygon motoro)
Motoro Stingray (Potamotrygon motoro)

The Freshwater Stingray fish is a truly remarkable creature, with its unique body shape and coloration. These majestic creatures have flat disc-like bodies that are usually adorned with beautiful patterns and colors. 

They come in many different shades of browns, blacks, blues, greens, and even yellows. The most common color and pattern on these fish are brown and white spots. But the black varieties are also common.

The colors of these fish mainly depend on the river they live in. In different rivers, they’ve developed different colorations which are scientifically classified as different species. 

These fish lack any fins and use their body to swim around. Their long tail is equipped with a razor-sharp barb that has venomous teeth around them. When provoked the fish will stab the predator to defend itself.

When kept in an aquarium setting, these stunning fish really stand out amongst other species. It’s no wonder why so many aquarists love keeping Freshwater Stingrays in their tanks – they’re simply breathtaking to behold!

The most common types of freshwater stingrays include:

  • Ocellate river stingray or Motoro (Potamotrygon Motoro)
  • Pearl Stingray (Potamotrygon Jabuti)
  • Polkadot Stingray (Potamotrygon Henlei)
  • Black Diamond (Potamotrygon Leopoldi)
  • Potamotrygon SP

Adult Size

Freshwater stingrays are large species of fish, with adults ranging from 18 to 36 inches in length. Males and females do not differ much in size, although males tend to be slightly larger than females. The size of the fish will greatly depend on its species and age.

Their relatively large size makes them hard fish to keep in most aquariums. These fish require plenty of bottom space as they spend most of their time on the substrate. This makes keeping these fish a challenge as they grow.


Freshwater stingray fish is an incredibly unique species of freshwater fish that can live between 5 to 10 years in captivity. In the wild, however, their lifespan is unknown due to a variety of factors such as predation and environmental conditions. 

Same as in the wild, the primary factor affecting the lifespan of freshwater stingrays in captivity is water quality. Poor water quality can lead to health issues such as bacterial infections and parasites which can shorten their life expectancy significantly. 

Additionally, they require a large tank with plenty of bottom space so they live stress-free. Diet is another factor that affects the lifespan of these fish. Providing them with a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals will help keep them healthy throughout their lives.

Behavior & Temperament

Freshwater Stingrays are generally peaceful fish and can be kept with other species of similar size. They tend to stay near the bottom of the tank without disturbing or colliding with other fish in the tank. 

In terms of behavior towards other fish, Freshwater Stingrays are usually not aggressive. But can become territorial if housed with multiple specimens in a small aquarium. 

These fish will look at any small fish as their prey. If a fish can fit in their mouth it will eventually hunt it so you should only house them with bigger fish. 

When kept in a small aquarium, the stingrays may become stressed due to lack of room and may attack (sting) other fish trying to defend themselves. The venomous barb these fish have is mainly for defense and they only use it when other fish threaten them. 

Freshwater Stingray fish are an incredibly interesting species of fish that can provide their owners with hours of entertainment. They are very fun fish to own, especially during feeding time. 

Freshwater Stingray Care

Freshwater Stingrays require special care due to their sensitive nature, but the rewards of keeping them can be great. Unlike many other freshwater species, they need a large tank with plenty of space for swimming and hiding places. 

Additionally, they need excellent water quality that is kept stable by regular water changes and filtration systems. Keeping these requirements in mind, anyone who decides to keep Freshwater Stingrays should find that they make an exciting and rewarding pet!

In the next few sections, we will shed light on different aspects of freshwater stingray care requirements.

Tank Size

The minimum tank size for a Freshwater Stingray fish is 180 gallons. When these fish are smaller, you can keep them in smaller aquariums but you will eventually need to upgrade your tank. Ideally, the bigger the tank the better it is for these fish so if you can get a tank even bigger than 180 gallons.

These fish do not need height when it comes to the design of the tank. They need a flat bottom surface to be able to explore and live naturally. Because of their large size, the minimum width of the tank should be 24″ to 36″. 

This allows enough space for the fish to swim around and turn easily. One freshwater stingray can live in this size of tank comfortably; however, if you plan on having more than one ray, then you’ll need a larger aquarium or indoor pond.

Motoro Stingray (Potamotrygon motoro)
Motoro Stingray (Potamotrygon motoro)

What To Put In A Freshwater Stingray Tank

The best way to decorate an aquarium for Stingray fish is to not overcrowd the bottom of the tank. Any decoration you add to the tank will take some space and your fish can not move around freely.

However, if you have a larger tank you can add plants, rocks, and driftwood that mimic the look of their natural environment. Adding some large caves or shaded areas will also help your stingray to stay calm and happy. 

Adding live plants can be a little tricky but it’s definitely possible. If you have root-feeding species of aquatic plants, you can plant them in pots so they don’t get disturbed by the ray.

However, we recommend adding water column plants like Buce Plants, Anubias, Java Fern, Amazon Frogbit, and Dwarf Water Lettuce.

These plants are easy to care for and will not need substrate. You can simply attach them to driftwood and rocks keeping the bottom of the tank free for your stingray.

Because these fish are on the substrate, for the most part, it’s best to give them the most comfortable substrate. Most people keep their ray in a bare bottom tank with no substrate. This seems to have no effects on the fish but we prefer to have sand in our tanks.

Sand is the best substrate that can mimic their natural habitat. These fish will play around and can even dig in when looking for food. White sand will make your fish more visible so try to keep the substrate white; especially if you have darker or black types of rays.

Light Requirements

Freshwater Stingray fish need medium lighting in their tank. These fish look their best in bright lighting conditions but it might not be very comfortable for the fish. 

If you provide them with a few shaded areas then a bright light will be the best option to have for a few hours per day. These fish live in shallow waters that have shade from trees so if you can give them some shade you can use any light. 

High-quality light is also beneficial for plants in the tank as it encourages photosynthesis which is essential for plant growth and health. Plants require a certain amount of light energy to produce food through photosynthesis. So providing high-quality lights will ensure that your plants get enough energy to filter the water for your fish.

Water Conditions & Parameters

When it comes to water parameters, Freshwater Stingrays are very hardy and adaptable. However, like Bichir, it is important to match the water parameters of the tank to the natural habitat of this fish for optimal health. 

Matching your aquarium water to what these fish have in their natural habitat helps these fish stay healthy long-term. This can also help reduce stress and prevent disease outbreaks due to changes in water chemistry or temperature.

Here is the ideal range of parameters for a Freshwater Stingray:

  • Temperature: 75 – 82 Degrees Fahrenheit
  • pH: 6.8 – 7.6
  • TDS: 500 – 250 PPM

It’s important to do weekly water changes to keep these fish healthy. Stingrays will eat a lot of food and as a result, will make a lot of waste. So regular water changes are necessary to maintain the water quality. 

Generally speaking, it’s recommended to change 10-25% of the total volume each week. However, if possible, try to do even smaller but more frequent water changes. This will prevent major changes in water parameters. 

Filtration System

Freshwater stingray fish need a strong filtration system because they produce large amounts of waste. This can lead to poor water quality and unhealthy conditions for the fish, as well as other inhabitants in the tank. 

A good filter will help keep the water clean by removing excess food, debris, and toxins from the aquarium environment. It can also reduce the times you will need to change water per week.

We recommend canister filters or sump filters for these fish. Because these fish need a larger tank you might want to build a large sump filter that can house enough filter media to keep a large tank clean. With canister filters, you might need to put more than one to ensure clean water at all times.

Common Diseases and Prevention

Freshwater Stingray fish are very susceptible to all common aquarium diseases. These fish are also at risk of many skin infections that can be caused by poor water quality. 

Some of the common diseases that can affect these fish include bacterial infections, fungal infections, parasitic infestations, and internal parasites. These illnesses can cause a variety of symptoms including discoloration of the skin, cloudy eyes, lethargy, loss of appetite, rapid breathing rate, or difficulty swimming.

If left untreated these conditions can lead to serious health issues such as organ failure and death. Owners of Freshwater Stingrays need to be aware of any changes in behavior or appearance so they can seek treatment immediately if necessary.

Poor water quality can cause most of these diseases in aquariums. In poor water conditions, harmful bacteria can easily grow and make the fish sick. Poor water quality can also lead to poor oxygen levels, which can stress fish and make them more susceptible to disease.

To prevent diseases make sure to not overfeed your fish and never leave uneaten food in the tank. Regular water changes and proper tank setup are also necessary. 

Diet and Feeding Requirements

Freshwater Stingray fish are carnivores, meaning they eat meatily. In the wild, these fish feed on small fish, invertebrates, crustaceans, worms, and other aquatic animals. 

They are also expert hunters; these fish trap other species under their bellies and then push them toward their mouths. So if a fish can fit in their mouth it will hunt and eat it.

Freshwater stingrays should be fed a variety of foods, including live and frozen. 

At younger ages, you can feed them bloodworms, earthworms, krill, shrimp, silversides, and other small fish. But as they grow you can start to feed them raw shrimp and tilapia. You can also supplement their diet with Beefheart if you want faster growth. 

Feeding should occur once or twice daily and it’s best to put the food where your fish stays. Sometimes stingrays can’t find the food so you will need to make sure they eat the food. This can make feeding somewhat time-consuming compared to other fish.

Breeding Freshwater Stingray

These stunning fish are fortunately easy to breed in captivity. As long as they are in a breeding age and your tank environment is clean they will breed.

To breed Freshwater stingrays in an aquarium, the first step is to make sure that the tank is large enough for them to move around and be comfortable. The water temperature should be kept between 75 – 82 degrees Fahrenheit with a pH level of 6.5-7.0 and moderate to low hardness levels. 

A nutritious diet that includes live or frozen foods is also necessary to condition the fish to breed. Lastly, when breeding these fish it’s best to keep one male with multiple females so they can establish their territories without too much aggression from other males.

Freshwater Stingray will give birth to live fully developed pups (ovoviviparous). The babies are small replicas of their parents and are ready to swim and eat right away. 

These fish breed once per year and can give birth to about 2 – 6 pups. The newborn babies are about 3 inches in diameter so you will need to separate them from the parents to a grow-out tank. 

Tank Mates

Freshwater Stingray fish are gentle towards other tank mates, but they have all the means to defend themselves when needed. In a larger aquarium, they will have more room to swim around and feel less threatened by the presence of other fish.

As long as there is plenty of space for them to move around freely, they should remain peaceful and not show any aggression towards their tank mates. They may even form relationships with some of the other fish in the aquarium!

Here are our top picks of tank mates for Freshwater Stingrays:

Motoro Stingray (Potamotrygon motoro)
Motoro Stingray (Potamotrygon motoro)


Keeping Freshwater Stingray in an aquarium can be a rewarding experience for any aquarist. These unique and fascinating creatures are relatively easy to care for, making them ideal for experienced aquarists. 

They have an interesting shape and coloration that make them stand out from other species of fish, as well as their unique ability to “fly” through the water with their wing-like fins. With proper care, they can live long lives in captivity, providing hours of enjoyment for all who observe them.