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Sharks & Rays
Sharks and Rays (or “Stingrays”) are all cartilaginous fishes, meaning that they have a skeleton made of cartilage instead of bone. They are among the most primitive fishes in the sea, going back over 200 million years in the fossil record. Sharks and Rays are, without exception, carnivorous. Some species are voracious predators, constantly on the hunt. Others are scavengers that feed on whatever is available. They either have pointy, sharp, sometimes serrated teeth or modified flat plates capable of crushing open the hard shells of mollusks and crustaceans.
Large, predatory sharks need to be in constant motion to keep water and oxygen flowing through their gills and thus require lots of room in which to swim. Since they must stay moving at all times, they require a significant amount of meaty foods to thrive. For these reasons, most shark species are not suitable for captivity. By far the most important sharks to hobbyists are the Horn Sharks and the Cat Sharks. Species from these two families are small (rarely over 40 inches in length), colorful, and do well in captivity. They are found in temperate and tropical waters—mostly in the Indo-Pacific. All are bottom dwellers that feed on small fishes and invertebrates.
Stinging Rays are flat-bodied bottom dwellers that spend most of their time buried in sand or soft substrate along coastal inshore areas. They generally feed on shellfish, crustaceans, and cephalopods (i.e., squid and octopus). The tail is armed with one or more venomous spines capable of causing severe pain, swelling, and muscle cramps as well as seizure and heart rhythm irregularities in more severe cases. Despite this dangerous adaptation of marine Rays, there are a few colorful species that are popular aquarium species.
Small Sharks and Rays that are kept in home aquaria have the potential of inflicting severe bites, cuts, or stings and should be handled with extreme care. Sharks and Rays require a suitably large tank, plenty of food, and an open area of sand or substrate to lay on or bury themselves under. Sharks and Rays typically will accept frozen single items (small fishes, squid, etc.) and can be fed with a “Feeding Frenzy” Feeding Prong to prevent the aquarist from accidentally being bitten or injured.