Ocellate River Stingray (Potamotrygon motoro): Ultimate Guide

The Ocellate River Stingray is a freshwater ray native to tropical and subtropical South America. This ray is usually colored beige or brown and has yellow-orange spots with dark rings. Markings and coloration vary depending on original location and between individuals. The Ocellate River Stingray isn’t aggressive but does posses a venomous sting: they are responsible for many human injuries every year and occasionally deaths. If you’re up to the challenge, this species can be a great introduction to freshwater rays. We’ve assembled this guide with most of what you need to know when adding these rays to your collection!

Ocellate River Stingray (Potamotrygon motoro)
Ocellate River Stingray (Potamotrygon motoro)

Ocellate River Stingray Care

Ocellate River Stingrays have complicated care needs compared to many freshwater fish species. They can grow to over 1 ½ feet in width and need large aquariums capable of handling their full adult size. This ray is a big eater and must be fed at least twice per day with high-quality meaty foods. All this food creates waste, and your aquarium will need a filtration system capable of maintaining high water quality.

Are Ocellate River Stingray easy to care for?

Ocellate River Stingrays have demanding care needs such as large aquariums, excellent water quality, and high-quality meaty foods. This freshwater ray is probably not the best fish for beginning aquarium hobbyists.


Ocellate River Stingrays need water stable water temperatures between 75° and 80° F. Temperature stability is important as this species is sensitive to rapid variations. Often temperature stability can be easy to achieve as Ocellate River Stingrays must be kept in large tanks which have enough water volume to resist rapid changes.

Water pH

Ocellate River Stingrays prefer water which is near neutral with a pH between 6.0 and 7.5. This species needs soft water, and you should avoid any substrate which contain coral as it can slowly dissolve and increase water hardness.

Ocellate River Stingray Size

Ocellate River Stingrays can reach a disc width of over 1 1/2 feet in captivity. In nature, they can grow even larger.

Food & Diet

Ocellate River Stingrays are carnivores with high metabolisms. They must be fed with meaty foods at least twice a day. Juvenile specimens can be fed live or frozen bloodworms, brine shrimp, and krill. Adults will need larger foods such as mussels, whitebait, prawns, and squid. This species shouldn’t be fed mammal meats such as beef or chicken. Mammal meats contain fats which cannot be metabolized by Ocellate River Stingrays and can harm or kill them.

It can be tricky to coax a newly purchased Ocellate River Stingray to eat. Getting them to eat quickly is important due to their high metabolic rate. Live foods such as bloodworms or earthworms can help a new Ocellate River Stingray become used to eating in captivity. Regular feeding with live foods is critical before they are transitioned to frozen, or other dead foods.

Ocellate River Stingray Lifespan

Ocellate River Stingrays can live up to 20 years in captivity. Before deciding to keep one of these fish it’s important to understand the care needs and commitment involved.

Ocellate River Stingray (Potamotrygon motoro)
Ocellate River Stingray (Potamotrygon motoro)

Tank Size

Ocellate River Stingrays need large volume tanks with enough horizontal room to allow free swimming. A 450 gallon tank which is 8 feet long, 3 feet wide, and around 2 ½ feet tall is a good choice for a single adult or pair.

Tank Setup

Ocellate River Stingrays need large tanks with sandy substrates, dim lighting, and excellent filtration. A close fitting cover is important as this species can jump. Because of its venomous sting you want to make sure and prevent having to scoop up an Ocellate River Stingray which has jumped from its tank. While substrate isn’t required, these rays like to cover themselves in sand while resting. Providing a deep bed of river sand can give them something close to their natural environment.

Filtration is a critical part of successful tank setups. Ocellate River Stingrays are messy and frequent eaters, and need large and efficient biological filters to keep their water quality high. You’ll need a filtration system which can turn over 4 to 5 times the volume of your tank in an hour. If you’re setting up a 450 gallon aquarium you’ll need filters capable of running at over 2000 GPH (gallons per hour). Canister filters can meet this high flow requirement, but multiple filters may be necessary. Another filter choice is installing a sump-type system where filter media and some equipment can be moved outside of your main aquarium. Sump filters allow you to use more filter material and can give your main tank a cleaner look. If you move your heater to the sump it can prevent your Ocellate River Stingrays from accidentally burning themselves. An exciting use for sump filters is to install dedicated lighting and using them for growing plants, essentially turning a sump filter into a freshwater refugium. Emersed plants can help keep water clean which can lead to fewer water changes.

What does their natural habitat look like?

Similar to other freshwater rays the Ocellate River Stingray lives in a variety of environments including, sand banks, shallows of large rivers in substrates of mud or sand, and even in flooded forest areas during rainy seasons. While it is a predator, this ray isn’t aggressive and often hides under whatever substrate is available in its area.

How to create an ideal habit for them in a tank?

Ocellate River Stingrays don’t need hardscape tank decorations. Aquarium plants can be torn up or eaten. Bare sandy substrates are the easiest way to keep this species feeling relaxed and comfortable in their aquarium. If you plan on adding decorations, bogwood, or other aquascape to this species’ tank it’s important to leave large areas of substrate for digging and open areas for swimming.

Ocellate River Stingray Breeding

Ocellate River Stingrays are livebearers which can be bred in a home aquarium. Because of the large tanks needed and difficulty of finding a mated pair, this isn’t a project which should be attempted lightly. Rays are notoriously picky about selecting mates. The ideal method is to buy a group of juveniles and let them select their own mates as they mature. This would require a large tank and is beyond the capabilities of many hobbyists. Alternatively, home breeders can carefully select a pair by choosing a male and female who are similarly patterned and where the female is slightly larger. Picking a smaller male help to reduce the risk of damage to the female during their aggressive courtship. Human selected breeding pairs are often incompatible. The best course of action is allowing this species to choose their own mates.

How do Ocellate River Stingray breed?

A male Ocellate River Stingray will chase a female, biting her along the body until he coaxes her into a belly-to-belly breeding position. Assuming the male can position himself under the female, fertilization happens internally and is quick. Watch the pair closely and be prepared to separate them if breeding gets too violent. Ocellate River Stingrays are livebearers with a gestation period of 9 to 12 weeks. Once pups are born you should remove them to prevent harm from other tank mates. Ray pups should be offered high quality live foods multiple times per day.

How to tell the difference between Male or Female Ocellate River Stingray

Ocellate River Stingrays are easy to sex as the males have a pair of sexual appendages beside each pelvic fin which are used during spawning. These appendages are easier to see on adult males but can be spotted on juveniles if you look closely.

Ocellate River Stingray Disease

Ocellate River Stingray are susceptible to bacterial infections caused by improper water care. Make sure your filter system and water change schedule are effective at keeping aquarium water quality high. Parasites are another threat that should be taken seriously. Adding new tank inhabitants can increase the risk of introducing parasites. All new aquarium additions should be quarantined in a separate tank for 4 to 6 weeks to check for signs of disease or bad health before adding to your main display aquarium.

Ocellate River Stingray Tank Mates

Ocellate River Stingrays are predators who are capable of eating many tank inhabitants. While this ray isn’t an aggressive species they are likely to feed on smaller tank mates and may defend themselves against larger fish when necessary.

Examples of Compatible and Incompatible Tank Mates

The best tank mates for Ocellate River Stingrays are other ray species. It’s possible to pair this ray with some other non-ray species such as Silver Dollars, Arowanas, and Bichirs; although these pairings should be watched closely for signs of aggression and separated if necessary.

Where can I find Ocellate River Stingray for sale?

Ocellate River Stingrays are available from online sources and some specialist local fish stores. It’s important to inspect any new ray before taking delivery. Edges of discs should be smooth and fleshy. If you see any waves or curling along disc edges this can be a sign that individual isn’t in the best health. A curling edge is known as the “death curl” among ray hobbyists and is often fatal although the cause of the condition is unknown.

Ocellate River Stingray Price

Ocellate River Stingrays can be bought for between $200 USD to over $350 USD depending on size.

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