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[Article]: Keeping cephalopods in captivity


Staff member
Site Owner
May 30, 2000
TONMO.com Staff member Colin Dunlop has authored an article which is now appearing in the February/March 2004, Issue - 16 of Marine World Magazine. He has graciously agreed to have it printed here on TONMO.com as well. Thanks Colin!

Also credited are Nancy King, Carol Sauer and Roy Caldwell, for contributing their remarkable photos to this article.

Keeping cephalopods in captivity
Hey Colin, great article! :notworth: Good for you for getting it published in Marine World Magazine -- very cool!!

I have a question -- are the Mimic Octopus and Wunderpus considered two separate species? I thought they were interchangable names for the same beast? They're so sparsely documented, perhaps I just missed it.
yes, mimic and wunderpus are different species, but neither are formally described to science yet, Dr Roy will keep us posted on that!

to clarify pic credits in order as seen...

pic one... Nancy King- Ollie

pic two... me- sepia officinalis and dinner

pic three.. Carol's Ink

pic four... Dr Roy Caldwell- exclusive pic of brand new blue ring species called 'Lizard Island'

pic five me again- sepia o in camo
Years ago (around 1995) while snorkelling in an coastal island near the Great Barrier Reef, I collected an octopus and kept it in my reef tank for just over two months before it was apparently 'murdered' (I kinda witnessed the event) by another octopus (different and more common species of comparable size). It was not until the documentary of National Geographic that I have actually seen it again, only on TV though. I believe it was what was decribed as the wonderpus (99% confidence in the identification-that 1% uncertainty was not because of my doubt in my observation but in the difficulty of identifying octopii to species level). The most remarkable thing was that the wonderpus, with the body size (excluding the arms) of a pin-pon ball, can extend its arms from 20cm long to well over 120cm long! I wonder why me and all my friends who witnessed this had not managed to come up with a nice name like 'wonderpus'. I didn't realize that it was not even being scientifically decribed before. I have watched and recorded on tapes both the documentaries (shot in indonesian waters?) on wonderpus and mimic octopus. I am not sure I can agree that they are different species though. :grad: The specimen that I kept was dark brown when I collected it from the reef in shallow waters. It began to display the banded pattern on its arms (as seen on TV) about fifteen minutes after introduction into my tank. Unlike other octopii that I have kept so far (over a hundred), it refused to take food that I offered (sometimes even after inspecting the food). The introduction of another octopus into the tank (which I regretted ) was an attempt to observe the interaction between octopii (of comparable size of course). The result turned out to be a tragic one. :cry: This species was, unlike the more common species, very shy and timid but equally inquisitive. It even stick up one of its eye above the tank hood to peep on me while I was sleeping :P . While it could have easily escaped by crawling out of the tank, it never did.

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