WATCH: Enjoy Breakfast With the Stingrays at the Brevard Zoo Indian River Lagoon Aquarium
By Brevard Zoo // May 31, 2023
Brevard Zoo commissary team works closely with animal care and veterinary teams
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Feeding a stingray takes a little more effort than leaving food out or sprinkling it into our Indian River Lagoon aquarium.
Just like people, the animals need a well-balanced diet.
The Brevard Zoo’s commissary team works closely with their animal care and veterinary teams to ensure that everything on the menu for our animals is healthy and enriching. Read on to learn more about mealtime with their rays.
What’s on the Menu?
Each of our eight rays – two Atlantic stingrays and six Southern stingrays – is hand-fed to make sure each is receiving their recommended diet.
By feeding them individually, our Herps & Aquatics team can also do physical checks, ensuring everyone appears healthy, has a healthy appetite, and is showing normal behaviors.
The rays receive 4-6% of their body weight in food per week, adjusted based on their body condition score and the size of their liver. Stingrays actually store all of their body fat in their livers.
A healthy stingray will have a liver that fills most of its body cavity, which it can measure with ultrasound during regular physical exams.
So, while the food items that we are feeding each of the rays – fish, squid, and shrimp – are the same, the volume is different since we have rays of many different sizes.
WATCH: Feeding a stingray takes a little more effort than leaving food out or sprinkling it into our Indian River Lagoon aquarium. The Brevard Zoo’s commissary team works closely with their animal care and veterinary teams to ensure that everything on the menu for our animals is healthy and enriching. (Brevard Zoo video)
“Variety isn’t just the spice of life, it is essential for a well-balanced diet,” said Nicole Moyer, area supervisor of our Herps & Aquatics team.
Many of our stingrays have preferences for what they like to eat. Shrimp is usually a favorite for everyone, while certain fish are hit or miss. If the “wrong” species of squid is offered, they won’t touch it or anything else it touched.
The Herps & Aquatics team gets to know each ray individually and tries to adjust their diet to still be balanced – but not too heavy on items they often refuse. Still, they try new foods several times before ruling anything out.
“And their preferences can and do change over time,” Nicole said. “Our youngest, Wheeler, used to refuse absolutely everything but shrimp, but as he has grown up a bit, he has expanded his tastes.”
The rays are usually fed twice a day. They are naturally very good at regulating their appetite and don’t tend to overeat. The Herps team prepares the day’s allotment, and the rays eat what they’re hungry for in the morning, then have whatever is left in the afternoon.
Their care team often mixes things up in the afternoon by putting their food into puzzle balls or other enrichments, which encourages natural foraging behaviors.
Take Your Vitamins
Usually, during the rays’ morning meal, they receive a vitamin called a Mazuri Shark and Ray Supplement. The dosage is based on how much food they eat, which adds another reason to weigh out the portions.
It’s multivitamins with a strong focus on being an iodine, vitamin E, and thiamine supplement. Iodine is essential for stingray thyroid health – similar to us, it’s actually the reason we iodize table salt.
Iodine naturally occurs in their environment and in their foods, but it can be removed when food is frozen or through our water filtration system, so we add it back in with the vitamin tablets.