Manta Ray Manta birostris (Donndorff, 1798) in Captivity

Data, text, and photos for this page were collected by Filipe Pereira
Manta Ray Bibliography (in progress)

Photograph Aquarium and Details DW (m)
M (kg)
Sex Time in captivity

Lisbon Oceanarium, Lisbon (Portugal)
In 2002, after two unsuccessful attempts, the aquarium received a manta ray (Manta birostris), 2.2 m wing-span (DW), caught in a set-net for tunas in the southern region of the country (Algarve). At that time, no other aquarium outside Japan had ever been successful in displaying the species. The animal currently swims in the 1.22 million-gallon "Global Ocean" tank (34x34x6.7m; water temperature 22 C), together with 80 species from around the globe. It feeds on small crustaceans once a day by filtering from the water the food given by staff members. Two years later, a 1.35 m DW male devil ray (Mobula mobular) was caught in the same set net with wounds in both cephalic lobes and tail. It has recovered totally and is still the only one of this species found in any aquarium, measuring now more than 2 meters DW. The large manta ray will be released this year, between spring and the end of summer.
"The male specimen was released on April 12, 2007, measuring 3.5 meters wing-span, after spending more than four years at the aquarium facilities. The operation involved huge logistics, never used before by any aquarium, such as a special crane adapted to the building's structure and a floating crane holding a large container where the animal was taken to the release site, 17 miles from the aquarium (never an animal was released this far from its captive facility). Two sattelite tags were attached to the animal's body, and for six months the aquarium staff will be receiving informations and data about its location, the depths it has plunged, etc. The other specimen, a devil ray (Mobula mobular), is now the major attraction of the Open Ocean tank."

3.5 F 5 yr
  Ocean Expo Aquarium, Okinawa (Japan)
Has tried several times to exhibit manta rays in their 1.1 million-litter tank (27m long, 12m wide and 3.5m deep) but only two of them has survived (one captured in1992 and the other in 1998), which were transfered to the new facility in 2002 (see below).
    10 yr

Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, Okinawa (Japan)
The new facility in Okinawa, the suceesor of the Ocean Expo Aquarium, continued the display of manta rays in their 7.5 million-litter "Kuroshio Sea" tank. They exhibited successfully four specimens of Manta birostris with wing-spans from 3.5 to 4.2 meters and innitiated a breeding programme for the species. On June 8, 2006 the specimens in the tank displayed mating behavior, for the first time anywhere else in the World, and the aquarium's staff hopes to have a newborn this year.
Updated by Filipe Pereira:
After recording mating behavior last year, a manta ray pup was born on 16 June, 2007; the first time ever in captivity. See below for details and pictures.

3.5 - 4.2   15 yr
16 June 2007
Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, Okinawa (Japan)
Update by Filipe Pereira: On June 16, 2007 for the first time in the world, a manta ray was born in captivity, 374 days after its parents mated in the Kuroshio Sea Exhibit. The newborn female was 1.9 m TL at birth. The event was recorded by aquarium staff. During its short stay among the other residents of the 7.5 million litter tank, the pup suffered several agressions from its own father. He chased her constantly from behind causing the pup to collide several times against the tank walls. The newborn also collided with a 7.5 m long whale shark. It was moved to a quarantine tank but was found dead 5 days later, on June 21. A necropsy revealed internal bleeding and several abrasions on her left eye and other parts of her body. The exact cause of death is under investigation.
1.9 TL F 5 d
17 June 2008
Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, Okinawa (Japan)
Update by Filipe Pereira: The Okinawa Aquarium has once again become the birth place for a manta ray, one year after the first pup was born, which was killed by its father. A second pup was born on June 18, 2008. It was a male and measured 1.82 meters diskwidth.
To avoid the problem with the first pup, the second pup was transfered after birth to an ocean pen set (2 km South from the Aquarium). There it will be maintained until it gains the ideal size and feeding pattern of its parents and the other specimens displayed in the 7500 m3 Kuroshio Sea exhibit. For further details, please check
1.82 M > 1 yr so far
30 April 2009
Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, Okinawa (Japan)
On April 30 2009, the Okinawa Aquarium inroduced the juvenile manta ray born on June 17, 2008 in their 7.500 tons Kuroshio Sea exhibit , where it joined its parents and the other two Manta birostris already on display. For almost a year, the second b manta ray pup was kept, fed, and observed at the ocean pen, where it had grown to more than 2 m TL. This juvenile is the first successfully captive-bred and captive-grown manta ray in the World. The captive population of manta rays at the aquarium is now 5 which is the largest collection of manta rays on display in any aquarium.
>2 m TL M > 1 yr so far
24 June 2009
Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, Okinawa (Japan)
For the third time, a manta ray (Manta birostris) was born at the Okinawa Aquarium, in Japan! It happened on June 24th, 2009, at 16h58. The same couple that have bred two times before made it once again and a new baby manta ray was born.. The newborn was taken to the ocean-pen where it will grow safely and be trained so it can join its parents, brother and two more manta rays, as well as three whale sharks and the multi-species community of the 7500 m3 Kuroshio Sea Tank.
1.92; 70 M?  
MbAtlantisAq.jpg Atlantis Aquarium at Paradise Island Resort (Bahamas)
A Manta birostris was caught off the island´s shores and displayed in their 1.7 million-gallon tank for more than 3 years, growing to a huge 4.5 meters of wing-span. At that size, aquarium staff decided to release the animal; the first successful attempt to release an animal that large by any aquarium. Presently, another specimen caught in the same location is kept in the same exhibit. They have been exhibiting manta rays since 1998, and there were three specimens brought to the facilty and later successfully released back into the sea. Presently there are three specimens on exhbit.
4.5   >3 yr
MbOsaka.jpg Osaka Kaiyukan Aquarium, Osaka (Japan)
Together with the whale shark, the manta ray (Manta birostris) represents one of the main attractions in the 5,4 million-litter "Pacific Ocean" tank, with almost 4 meters wing-span.
NandiUshaka3.png Ushaka Sea World (Durban, South Africa)
"Nandi" was rescued from a shark-net set in one of Durban's beaches and taken to the Ushaka Sea World to be treated for wounds. The recovery was completed in a 580,000 gallons tank representing the open ocean, where she lived for a year. "Nandi" is currently on display at the Georgia Aquarium (see below).
~2.4 F 1 yr

Georgia Aquarium, in Atlanta
has announced on 25 Aug 2008 their new resident in the 6.3 million-gallon "Ocean Voyager" exhibit, ) brought from "uShaka Sea World", in South Africa, in a 30-hour long operation. About a year ago, the female specimen ("Nandi") was caught in a shark-net in Durban nearly dead and was transported to the park facilities to be treated for wounds sustained during its struggle to free itself from the net. At that time, she measured almost 8 feet (2.4 m) wing-span and was kept in a 580,000 gallon open air tank representing the oceanic habitat. After one year, the animal outgrew the exhibit and the staff wanted to release her back in the wild. Two biologists that cared for her decided to call the Georgia Aquarium if they were interested: A team of the Georgia Aquarium flew to South Africa to prepare the whole operation of transfering "Nandi" from Durban to Atlanta. In July 2008 , "Nandi" arrived the GA Aquarium, where it was kept in a holding tank attached to the "Ocen Voyager" exhibit, ideal for training her to feed properly. August 25th was the day when "Nandi" was finally introduced to her new home, shared by four whale sharks and thousands of other marine fish, where she will be observed by millions of people from this day forward, as an ambassador of one of the most fascinating species of our oceans...!
Update by Richard S. Nugent: Georgia Aquarium now (March 2011) has four mantas on display. The original (Nandi) which came from South Africa and three others (two female, one male) taken off the east coast of Florida between 2008-2010. They range in size from 10 to almost 12 feet across. All are doing well and are still growing.

>2.4-3.6 F >2.5 yr
Photograph Aquarium and Details DW (m)
M (kg)
Sex Time in captivity

Created February 2007, revised March 2011. Back to previous page
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