Bacterial communities of two critically endangered rays from the South Atlantic, the butterfly ray (Gymnura altavela) and the groovebelly ray (Dasyatis hypostigma), were described using 16S rRNA gene metabarcoding. The study characterized the bacterial communities associated with (i) G. altavela in natural (in situ) and aquarium (ex situ) settings, (ii) skin and stinger of G. altavela, and D. hypostigma in aquaria, and (iii) newborns and adults of D. hypostigma. The results revealed potentially antibiotic‐producing bacterial groups on the skin of rays from the natural environment, and some taxa with the potential to benefit ray health, mainly in rays from the natural environment, as well as possible pathogens to other animals, including fish and humans. Differences were observed between the G. altavela and D. hypostigma bacteria composition, as well as between the skin and stinger bacterial composition. The bacterial community associated with D. hypostigma changed with the age of the ray. The aquarium environment severely impacted the G. altavela bacteria composition, which changed from a complex bacterial community to one dominated almost exclusively by two taxa, Oceanimonas sp. and Sediminibacterium sp. on the skin and stinger, respectively.