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Advice on handling Tuvalu

Sep 8, 2006
Okay, well Tuvalu and I are to the point where we trust each other pretty well. She came out about 15 minutes ago, and perched on her favorite spot after I squirted a tiny bit of plankton in for my snails, star and urchin.

I walked back over to the tank when I noticed her and lifted my hand toward her. She pointed her head up toward my hand, like she was about to swim. I lowered my hand and she rested. I put my hand on the glass, and she swam to it. I slid my fingers across the glass and she followed. So I rinsed my hands off and opened the lid, and put my finger in the tank. She slowly reached up and grabbed my finger, and I just kept lowering my finger in toward her instead of jerking away like I usually do (I'm still kinda freaked out by the whole "bee sting" thing) and she wrapped 3 legs around my finger and pulled them in toward the center of her legs... like maybe she wants to take a bite? I held my hand in there, but hesitated to allow her to pull my finger in any further, and she let go and backed off. Then she just sat there, so I stroked her mantle, and she didn't show any signs of distress or fear, best I can tell.

Soooooo, getting to my question. Does it hurt that bad? I really think we are "bonding" but then again, since I feed her with my fingers, what is the likelyhood of her thinking my fingers ARE food? I keep telling myself to just go for it and let her climb all over my hand but if I get bit and react poorly I don't want to freak her out and make her fear me, because she obviously trusts me.

You are potential food! Sampling behavior sooner or later could involve biting, particularly if the octopus detects resistance. Aside from the pain of the incision and the injection of venom, you should also consider the chance of an allergic reaction to a foreign protein and/or infection. There are a lot of nasty bugs in an aquarium.

Why not continue as you have been by keeping your contact at arms length and continue to try to pet her mantle? I pretty much think any attempt she makes to draw you toward her center is with the intent of tasting you with more than her suckers.

That being said, with the little Mercs (about the size of Einey when you first got him), I am experimenting with touch for the less shy ones. Initially, they would grab and climb up my finger, dragging their den and wildly attacking my finger. It feels pretty much like something is trying to give my finger a "hickey". I am sure they are trying to bite when they do this but I don't think their beaks can break the skin (I don't feel anything sharp but the "sucking" numbs my finger tip). They seem to be getting less agressive now (about a week into the experiment) and sometimes will gingerly reach out and touch the offered finger like their mother would do (I have found crooking my finger rather than pointing it might be helping with the more curious and less agressive approach), sometimes my finger is ignored (no reaction at all, not even ducking back into the shell) and sometimes I feel the octopus trying to blow it away (the water actually feels cooler than the surrounding water).

I am sure I have accompished one goal. Those that will "play" with me (3 of the 5) no longer fear my hand in the water. What I hope to accomplish over time is to use my hand in the water as a sign to come out of their dens to eat. I continually worry about food density in the 45 but they are starting to get big enough that I think they will do better in a more interesting environment. There are no tops on the nets but so far, they stay inside and go to the lower level when they want to hunt or explore. I may decide to push the nets fully underwater (maybe an inch below the surface) and see if they choose to leave.
Dwhatley, I will definitely keep up the contact, but yes, I agree. She isn't trying to get a better grip. She intends to make contact with her mouth. It's just whether she's just going to nibble or chomp. That's great progress on your part considering the nature of the species. Being "Daddy" from day one doesn't hurt I'm sure. It will be interesting to see how your babies do as they mature. Do you work with them with lights on, or are they completely nocturnal?

Just the fact that Tuvalu doesn't jet away from me or flash when I touch her makes me happy enough. I don't know why I'm so interested letting her crawl into my hand. I guess just the concept of her trusting me that much... makes her that much closer to being more of a companion pet than just an animal I care for.
I fed her a teeny tiny piece of thawed silverside earlier and actually got a pretty good view of her beak. It is quite a bit smaller than I thought it would be, narrow and very pointy like a freshly sharpened pencil lead. Perfect for penetrating small gaps in crabs armor. I'm positive it would at least pinch the crap out of me, probably leave a pin-head sized hole.
The feeling of her suckers on my fingers is what freaks me out the most. So strong! Remarkably strong.
Close Shipposhack, I run a set of 24 reds 24/7 but also run white and blue LED's during the day. The tank is in a corner and could get natural light but I have verticle blinds and direct the light away from the tank.

I have one little guy that will stay out of his(?) den over a 24 hour period about once a week. I can see his eyes open during the day but he doesn't move around or hunt. It is a little worrisome since, typically, when a Merc comes out of its den and stays out, the end is near. This little guy seems to be doing OK though and is one that will interact some so I hope it is just a positive personality thing. Strickly on human behavior comparisons, I would venture to guess that I have a male and a female in that net. The male being the one that is venturing out and the female the one that stays in the den but willingly comes partially out when she knows there is food about. Three in the other net are not as distinctly different from each other except one that rarely shows itself.

I have been trying to "pet" a mantle but my fingers are as big around as the mantle so the attempts have been a bit clumsy and not successful (no inking though).

AnimalMother, did Einey grab your finger at all? Even these little ones can grab and stick. I am not quite sure if the sucking feeling I get is from the mouth area or just from the suckers. I posed the question at TONMOCON II, "Do octopuses suck?" and after a titter, no one had an answer. It "feels" like there is a sucking action at the center and when I watch the Cyclop-eeze it "looks" like it is being sucked up but I can't tell for sure. I know the end of my finger is numb when they release it.
Einy never allowed me to get close enough to him to touch him. A couple of times I would put my finger on the glass right in front of him, and he would reach out of his den and touch the side of his container, but I think it was more of a "can I eat that?" reaction, like a Hermit wandering by his den. As soon as he reallized he couldn't grab it he would just go back in his den.
I just remembered that Nancy showed a picture of her husband's hand or arm when Ollie decided to get too friendly. Ollie was a bimac and would have been bigger than Tuvalu but you might want to look up the picture or Nancy might read this and remember where it is :sagrin: or repost it.

Humm, a forum entry of octo bite stories ...
Here is the very famous pic of Bill's hand. As you can see, it's not much of a bite. He might be one of the first people to describe it as "not as bad as a bee sting".

We were just talking about this incident tonight - he says he wasn't afraid of being bitten because he knew Ollie and and she was never aggressive. Also, at the time people thought bimacs never bit and never escaped. Both were eventually proved wrong by what was reported here on this forum.

I found the finger bite post by Dan along with several others and created a new post (Octopus Bites) with links. I might get to be an interesting thread with all the new octos this month.
shipposhack;99837 said:
Unless we're all smart enough not to get bit that is.

Animal mother - Did you know Tuvalu is also the name of a country? I'm sure you did, but I thought it was cool when I saw it on FedEx and DHL's sites.

Yep. "The first flag of Tuvalu was raised on Independence Day, October 1, 1978. It was designed by Vione Natano, selected from submissions during a nationwide contest. The original nine stars on the flag represented the nine islands in the group, despite the name of the country meaning "8 standing together". Tuvalu was the traditional name of the island group. The ninth island, tiny Niulakita, was inhabited only since the 1950's, and was not part of "ancient" Tuvalu. There were talks of naming the country Tuiva, "iva" meaning nine. These never went very far, and the traditional name was retained. At one time it was also proposed to have all the stars pointing straight up, but this was never implemented."
dwhatley;99836 said:
I found the finger bite post by Dan along with several others and created a new post (Octopus Bites) with links. I might get to be an interesting thread with all the new octos this month.

And that picture of Dan's finger is EXACTLY why I am so skiddish about letting her do as she pleases with my hand.

I like typing and pickin' my guitar.

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