Eleven of the 18 freshwater stingrays living at the U.S. National Zoo died over the holiday weekened, together with two arowanas. All dead fishes were residents of the zoo’s Amazonia exhibit; a 55,000-gallon (208,000 L) aquarium designed to replicate a flooded Amazon forest. Zoo officials are now suspecting low oxygen levels to be behind the sudden mass death.

potamotrygon motoro 3 Stingray mass death in U.S. Zoo
Picture of Motoro Sting Ray, Ocellate river stingray – Potamotrygon motoro. Not one of the dead rays.
Copyright www.jjphoto.dk

As soon as the deaths were discovered 7 a.m Monday morning, zookeepers tested the water and found low levels of dissolved oxygen. They immediately started supplementing the aquarium with reservoir water and no more fish have died so far. In addition to stingrays and arrowanas, the Amazon aquarium is also home to discus, boulengerella fish, and a large school of guppies. By 10:15 a.m. Monday, the oxygen levels were back to normal but zookeepers continue to monitor the health of the surviving fish just in case.

Necropsies performed on the dead fish did not unveil any definite cause of death, which makes low oxygen levels even more likely, according to National Zoo officials. They do not believe human error caused the oxygen drop, since all protocols and checks were properly followed Sunday night.

Insufficient levels of dissolved oxygen in the water are one of the most common causes of fish mass death, in the wild as well as in captivity. Last year, 41 stingrays died at the Calgary Zoo in Canada due oxygen scarcity in the water.