Feeding Your Pet Stingray – The Essentials of Maintaining a Varied Diet

Stingrays will eat a wide variety of foods. Maintaining a varied diet is extremely important in captive animals, as monocultural diets incur a risk of nutritional deficiencies. Stingrays are very active, and should be fed at least once a day, preferably twice or even three times daily. The daily diet can be varied in order to create some environmental enrichment as well as balanced nutrition for the rays.

First Foods

First foods for newly acquired rays should be blackworms or tubifex worms.
These foods seem to be the most readily accepted, and are small enough to be
inadvertently ingested either by mouth or through the spiracle, thereby giving
the ray an opportunity to taste these possibly unfamiliar foods by chance. Foods
that have been used for very small specimens, such as the teacup rays, are small
insect larvae such as mosquito larvae, small shrimp known as ghost shrimp or
glass shrimp, live adult brine shrimp, and blackworms. Chitinous foods such
as shrimp provide less nutritional value than do soft-bodied foods, and so should
not be used as sole food items.

The best way to be certain that your new stingray is feeding is to watch the
spiracles as the ray passes over food on the bottom of the tank. If it is eating,
you will see the spiracles opening and closing rapidly, or fluttering, as the
food is ingested and water is passed from the mouth and out the spiracles. Once
you observe a newly acquired ray readily feeding on black-worms or redworms
introduce finely chopped night crawlers in small quantities. Once stingrays
recognize these as food, most will readily eat them. Later, experiment with
other types of food.

Types of Food

Live Foods

Feed live foods, including blackworms or tubifex worms, in quantities adequate
to allow a small amount to be left in the tank so the rays can browse later.
However, when cleaning the substrate, note whether a significant amount of living
worms is present; blackworms and tubifex worms will colonize the substrate if
not eaten and add to the nitrogenous waste production in the aquarium.

Nonlive, Nonaquatic Foods

Chopped earthworms, redworms, or night crawlers and any nonlive, nonaquatic
foods should be fed in smaller quantities to prevent any overlooked food from
decomposing in the tank. Keep in mind that stingrays have relatively small mouths-a
10-inch (25-cm) ray may have a mouth that is 1/2 to 3/4 inch (13 to 19 mm) wide,
so chopped food items must be small enough to be eaten easily. If a ray ingests
a piece of food and repeatedly spits it out and ingests it again, this usually
indicates that the particle is too large. Some ray species, such as antenna
rays, have extremely small mouths relative to their size.

Once acclimated, rays often develop techniques for eating larger pieces of
food; for example, newly imported rays may have difficulty consuming even small
chopped pieces of night crawlers. Eventually, however, they learn to eat an
entire worm by sucking it into their oral cavity without chewing. Newly acquired
rays also often ignore feeder goldfish but they quickly learn to chase down
and consume feeders, even learning where they hide in the tank.

Commercially Prepared Foods

Stingrays may learn to eat other unfamiliar foods such as brine shrimp, pellet
foods, or other commercially prepared foods. While there is probably no harm
in offering these foods to rays, it is best to use fresh, live, or frozen foods
as the dietary staple. Although stingrays often do not initially accept frozen
or other nonliving foods, they may soon learn to eat these foods after they
have been acclimated. A benefit of frozen foods is that they are less likely
than live foods to introduce diseases or parasites.

Hand-feeding

Occasionally, a well-acclimated specimen will fail to gain weight, even though
you are offering enough food. Several things may cause this problem; the most
likely possibility is that it is not competing efficiently for food against
other fish in the aquarium, or it may have a parasitic infestation. Stingrays
occasionally do not seem to learn where foods can be found during feeding times,
and are always in the wrong part of the tank during those times. In these cases,
it is helpful to hand-feed such specimens. By this I do not mean feeding with
your hands. Although some aquarists do this with stingrays, I do not recommend
it because of the possibility of being accidentally stung. Remember that stingrays
are wild animals, and no matter how accustomed your specimens become to your
presence, it is impossible to always accurately predict their response to humans.
Instead, you should always perform the hand-feeding of specimens with long forceps
or a similar instrument. Stingrays generally avoid metal objects and appear
to be frightened by metal; however, because they can sense metal, they will
quickly learn that when there is a metal object in the aquarium, food is being
offered. In this way, you can teach your stingray to feed directly from forceps,
and selectively feed it more food.

Simply hold a night crawler (or a piece of night crawler) in the forceps, and
hold the worm in the aquarium so that the ray can touch it with its fin. It
should eat the worm immediately. After a few feedings in this manner, allow
the forceps to touch the ray while it is eating the worm. It will quickly learn
to associate the forceps with feeding and soon you will find that the ray will
pounce on the forceps as soon as it touches it, eagerly looking for a treat!

How Much and How Often

The key to having well-fed stingrays in your aquarium is providing plenty of
food. Unlike most fish that swim quietly between feedings, stingrays search
constantly for food, looking under and around tank ornaments, moving driftwood,
rocks, filters, and even other fish! This high activity level translates to
a high metabolic rate, which means that while searching for food rays continue
to burn energy. If they use up energy looking for food, but do not find any,
they will lose weight. To compensate for this loss of energy, it is essential
to provide adequate food. I cannot stress this enough. Hobbyists sometimes tell
me that they feed their rays three times weekly, thinking that this is adequate.
Stingrays should be fed at least twice, and usually three times, daily. In spite
of these frequent feedings, rays will still constantly look for food between
feedings!

When feeding significant quantities of live feeder goldfish, it is wise to
add vitamin B1 to the feeder supply. Goldfish contain the enzyme thiaminase,
which destroys thiamin, or vitamin B1, and this vitamin must be replenished.
It should be your practice to add one 50-mg tablet to each 500 gallons (1893
L) of water every two weeks. You can add the tablets directly to the sump of
the wet-dry filter; or as an alternative, the tablets can be added directly
to the tank.

5 Steps To Creating a Perfect Hermit Crab Habitat

Did you know that pet ‘hermie’ crabs are becoming a popular choice for people wanting to own an exotic pet? The main reason for this is that they are fairly easy to look after, once you know how, and they are relatively low maintenance. The key to keeping your little “hermie” happy is to create a home for the little guy that is as close as possible to his natural environment. This article is going to touch briefly on the 5 main steps needed to create the perfect hermit crab habitat.

1. The best type or species of the little crabby crawlers to keep in captivity is a land species and I would recommend that you aim to re-create the perfect home or environment in a tank or aquarium. Since these little critters prefer to live in pairs or small groups, you need to start off with the minimum of a 10 gallon tank, which will comfortably house 2 of the little guys (or gals if you plan to make more).

2. These little crabby crawlers just love to burrow and your hermie will appreciate you providing a layer of substrate for this purpose. In a natural hermie environment or home, sand would be the most likely floor covering that he would encounter. You can create this effect in your tank by layering the bottom to about a 3 inch depth with kids’ play sand or, if you prefer, ground coconut fiber or crushed coral.

3. If you’ve done your homework you will know that your crab hails from the tropics and so is used to basking in constant temperatures of between 72 – 80o F. To achieve this type of temperature you will, no doubt, need use a small tank heater. These are relatively inexpensive but are worth their weight in gold when it comes to creating your own tropical hermie paradise or environment.

4. Moisture is key to the life cycle of a little hermie so you will also need to prove a high level of humidity – around 80 per cent. This is easier than it sounds, since quite often just placing your crab’s water bowl inside the tank will be sufficient. If this is not enough, then placing a water soaked natural sponge in a dish inside the tank, works wonders.

5. As a final step, and to keep your new little buddy happy and lively, it’s good to give him some “stage props” such as an unpainted clay pot and some tree bark. These give him the opportunity to climb and hide, such as he would do in a natural setting or environment. Little hermies live in discarded shells of other creatures, such as snails or small crustaceans, and as they grow they need to move into suitably larger shells. Your role will also be to provide a variety of shells with assorted sized openings so that your hermie can choose his next home.

That’s really all there is to it. Once your little buddy is installed in a hermit crab habitat that he is happy to call “home sweet home” you will find that he gives your hours of pleasure and enjoyment.

How to Choose Hermit Crab Shells

You may not be aware of this but hermit crabs are not really classed as true crabs because they do not have their own shell and they have to source a discarded shell to move into. Once you become the proud owner of one or more of these little critters, not only will you be responsible for settling them into their new habitat, or crabitat as it is commonly known, but you will also need to become the provider of hermit crab shells for your new family members.

The little crabby critters need to be provided with a good variety of shells so that they can move into a new shell as and when they want. They can be quite picky when choosing a new shell, and in the wild it is not unusual to see a couple of crabs fighting over one particular shell. They will even fight to the death so you can see how important sourcing suitable crabby shells for your little companions can be.

Some species of the little crawlers like to change shells more often than others, but it is a good idea to have a variety of similar shells in different sizes for each individual critter that you own. The purpose of the shells for your little crabby pet is to protect the soft abdomen, which houses both the digestive glands and the reproductive organs, and also to keep predators at bay. It is important for the little guy to have a snug fitting shell as this helps retain the moisture which is vital to his well being. Too small a shell will render it difficult for the little guy to retreat into and too large a shell will make it almost impossible for the crab to hang onto.

Shells come in all shapes and sizes and with different shaped openings such as oval or round, and some even have more of a thin open slit. Until you get to know which sort your crab prefers, it’s probably better to provide a variety. Different species of these little crabby crawlers tend to pick out specific shapes. When choosing your crabby pet’s shells it is imperative to make sure that they are clean, both inside and out, and that there are no cracks or porous openings. Always boil the empty shells in a pan on the stove and leave to cool before presenting them to your pet.

The hardest part of providing your pets with shells can be finding them in the first instance. Some shops sell painted shells but I would be a little wary of choosing these because the paint could be harmful to the crabs. You may find your pet store stocks a few but the choice is likely to be limited. Alternatively you may be fortunate to find some on your local beach, but if all else fails, then I would recommend buying from a specialist online store. The good thing about buying your pet’s shells from a specialist online store is that their shells are usually numbered in size, so once you know what size your crab is wearing, you can easily order the next size up when he is ready for a new shell. Another bonus is that most stores will accept the return of an unused shell in exchange for a different size.

So you can see choosing hermit crab shells and getting the right fit, is almost as tricky as choosing a new pair of pants! However, now with all your new knowledge, picking out the right one for you and your little crawling companion should be that much easier.

Hermit Crabs Information – A Guide To Keeping Hermit Crabs

If you want to join the ever growing population of “crabbers” and you really fancy the thought of owning a land based hermit crab as a pet, then you are going to need some hermit crabs information that you can use, in order to to keep them successfully in captivity.

So where do we start! Well in order to be able to care for your pets properly you really need to know a little bit about their background in order to get the best out of them whilst in captivity.

One of the first pieces of info on these little critters you will need to know is that their natural habitat is the tropics. So in order for them to survive they will need a warm and humid environment (somewhere around 72oF and 70% humidity is perfect). You can purchase small heaters from any decent pet store that will regulate the heat, and the humidity can be controlled by placing a wet natural sponge inside the tank.

In the wild they live in and around the shoreline, so life can be pretty tough for these land based crawly critters. Information on the types of food they eat has been monitored closely by scientists and zoologists alike. As they are natural foragers they discovered that the crabs had to develop a less than discerning palate due to the fact that in order to survive, and indeed thrive, they had to find food in and around the confines of their relatively small living area. So this could mean things like fruit such as pineapple, coconut, papaya and mango, marine shrimp, even carrion (dead meat or fish) might be on the menu. Given the fact that they are not fussy eaters, it means that you can feed them relatively inexpensively. So give them a variety of fruit (crab sized pieces of course!) along with fresh veggies. Carrots are a particular favourite as they just love to crunch when they munch. They even have a slightly sweet tooth, so your crabby companions will just love peanut butter and chocolate (although moderation is the key here!)

So let’s talk about shells! You most probably know that one of the most endearing things about a crabby companion is that unlike normal crabs, it is not born with a shell. So in order to protect itself, the little critter needs to find other discarded shells to make its home in. However recent info about these little crawlers has shown that it doesn’t just run and hide in the first shell it comes across. In fact, the crabby crawler is very picky about where it lives. Once a shell has been found, the crabby crawler will stick with that shell until such times as it either gets too big for it, or the shell becomes damaged. So how does this effect you? Well obviously in the wild the crabby critter seeks its own shells, but in captivity you will need to do this for your new friend. The best thing you can do is to make sure that it has a wide variety of shells with varying sizes. You will find that after a while it will probably favor one particular type of shell and you will get to know which type this is. However, until then, variety is the spice of life (well for the hermit crab anyway!)

Hopefully you now have enough info about your crabby companion at your fingertips so that you can look after your new found critter with confidence, knowing that it will live a happy and long life.