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Ceph. Research Questions

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Sep 27, 2006
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Hey everyone,

I'm a biology student (Middlebury College, VT) thinking of starting up some research that looks at the learning capabilities of cephalopods (All well-treated, non-invasive, observation based!). Basically, in order to collect reliable and meaningful data, I'll need to culture multiple organisms in our college animal facility in order to run learning trials and study these interesting animals. I've been doing as much research as possible about this massive undertaking, and I understand that patience is a huge virtue. This is why I'm planning on starting the tank cycling process this spring in hopes of having livable conditions for the cephs starting late summer/early fall. This forum appears to be one of the top knowledge basins I've come across, and I was wondering if anybody had some general pointers that I should consider when putting together the tank setups and picking species.

The good news: We have ample space in temperature/light/anything controlled rooms, and can draw on (reasonable) funding. I have kept a wide variety of freshwater fish and plants for quite a while personally, and understand the need for quality equipment and careful planning. The animal facility staff and I are willing to spend lots of time keeping salt tanks in prep for the fall.

The bad news: Nobody really has a lot of experience keeping marine organisms. Last year we kept brittle stars, but due to a lack of equipment and knowledge I'm sure the setups weren’t ideal. (Basically mixing salt water to 1.024, letting it sit, adding to 25 gallon tank with multiple hang on filters+airstones, gravel substrate with hiding places, no fluorescent or compact lighting, just overhead ambient).

I'm in contact with as many people in Vermont as I can locate who have experience/knowledge about keeping salt tanks and especially cephs, but if anybody has any suggestions for our initial purchases (i.e., we're starting up some simple fish/live rock tanks, what would be smart so they easily convert to ceph tanks in a few months) I would GREATLY appreciate your input!


Thank you in advance,
-Outi
 

tonmo

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This forum appears to be one of the top knowledge basins I've come across
Confirmed. :smile: Someone smarter than me will be along to help on this soon! I'll look forward to your posts in the coming months; will be very interesting to see how this goes! Best of luck -- you're in the right place.
 

monty

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:welcome: to TONMO! I don't wear a smart person hat in the "tank talk" forum, but I might be able to fake it talking about the actual biology and behavior aspects...
 
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monty;86653 said:
:welcome: to TONMO! I don't wear a smart person hat in the "tank talk" forum, but I might be able to fake it talking about the actual biology and behavior aspects...
Awesome! Any suggestions on species to look at/avoid based on their behavioral tendencies (obviously avoiding the blue ring). I suppose we'd be looking for individuals that seem especially interested and "aware"/active....
 

robyn

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Hi Outi,

I am no expert at the tank cycling issues (and I'm new on the forum too, so I'm sure you'll get much better advise than from me), but I work on learning and memory in cephs (mostly Nautilus but I've done some work on octos too). What kind of stuff are you planning to test?

In my limited experience bimacs are pretty good for behaviour experiments - they're quite interactive in experimental setups.

I've had minimal luck with briareus and (edited- I had doflieni here), I meant rubescens (many hours of JST - 'Just Sat There' in the recordings). Vulgaris is a good choice for learning exps, but they can get large and rowdy. GPOs are fantastic to work with but when we had them they were very expensive to buy and ate a huge number of crabs every day...

I have a ton of excellent papers on learning and memory in cephs, so if you're in need of any extra reading (or are having trouble getting good papers), let me know, maybe I can help.
 
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Thanks for the species advice, a bimac sounds like a great plan...

We're still in the planning stage as to exactly what we're going to test, but I'm thinking of trying to really zero in on what exactly the animals are keying on when they learn new behaviors. From what I understand, these organisms have survived almost as a direct result of their adaptability as well as their cognitive plasticity. I know there is a great deal of research and published material about disabling sections of the brain and determining the impact it has on their learning abilities, but I'd be more interested (and morally inclined! These animals while not vertebrates are clearly capable of higher cognition) in finding what enhances their learning rather than what disables it.

I think that the majority of my problems will come from the physical upkeep. We have a machine shop here that I can use; however things like building a sump/drilling a tank and planning out powerheads/skimmers and the like are all novel regions of understanding to me. Like I said, our marine upkeep here is functional for the rudimentary specimens we do keep, but in order to have functional octopi you clearly need to understand a lot more about aquaria and equipment than I currently do. On a side note, I absolutely love reef tanks and plan on owning one as soon as I reside somewhere for more than 4 years, so anything tips people have about initial tank prep and upkeep are very welcome!
Best, -O
 

Jean

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The selection of species should also be based on how much space you actually have!!!! Bimacs for example need a minimum tank size of 50G per octopus, generally octopus cannot be housed together either!!! Dwarf species can be held in 30 G. You'll also need to source a very LARGE quantity of food......these guys eat rather a lot. Some species (eg Bimac) can be trained to eat frozen food, but it varies from individual to individual. Good rule of thumb too, feed marine species to marine species (FW only as a treat.......a particular hobby horse of mine as anyone on this forum can tell you :biggrin2:).

You'll also need to make sure your tanks are extremely secure, these guys can squeeze through the tiniest gap and lift surprisingly heavy weights. I had a student who looked at hierarchical behavour in Octopus warringa here in NZ and the lids were so tight we had to get our workshop guy to design a special tool to get them off!!!!!!!

Last thing check your water quality regularly, octopus are waste producing machines and they don't tolerate much in the way of poor water (especially spikes in ammonia/nitrate/nitrite). If you have a flow through system so much the better but secure mesh over the inflows and drains (we have had midget octopus climb up the inflows against the water current and turn up in a tank in a completely different room :shock:!!!!)

cheers

Jean
 

monty

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OutlawBoater92;86654 said:
Awesome! Any suggestions on species to look at/avoid based on their behavioral tendencies (obviously avoiding the blue ring). I suppose we'd be looking for individuals that seem especially interested and "aware"/active....
Well, even there I have to fake it, since I don't have real firsthand experience, just a lot of reading and a bit of secondhand. That being said, Sepia officinalis and Octopus vulgaris seem to be very popular animals for this sort of thing, and at least anecdotally a number of the smaller octopuses seem to be good candidates as well: bimaculatus/bimaculoides, briareus, rubsecens, cyanea. Or going bigger, GPOs (Enteroctopus dofleini) are good, too, but require a much larger tank (but they do live longer, if that's useful for your research goals).

You can get a pretty good idea of the popular animals just by flipping through Hanlon & Messenger and looking at which animals have been used in lots of experiments.

I expect the NRCC folks & Roy & marinebio_guy and others will have actual advice based on experience, so you should probably consider this stuff from me amateurish in comparison...

but I like talking about it!
 
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Sep 27, 2006
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Thanks everyone for the tips so far!

Ok here's roughly what I've put together for a general setup outline.

We have what looks like a 40 and what is a 55 gallon tank open for business. Would it be smarter to have a single water supply setup (is this possible?) or to treat both tanks as individuals and buy equpiment accordingly. I don't really care what the tanks look like (a plus), as long as we can provide an enriched existance for these guys.
I plan on a protein skimmer, and building (?) a sump based on online guides from so claimed sump-masters. (Correct me if I'm wrong here....Water overflows from the tank into the sump, where it is heated/cooled/filtered/skimmed/what have you and then pumped back into the tank afterwards? How would one go about drilling a tank and also preventing octopod exploration....a mesh of sorts?) We're also going to keep a tank of food varieties growing and healthy (hopefully!)
Does the water return account for enough water movement or should we find other means to circulate within the tank?

While the nature of trials conducted is still TBA, what would everyone think about having a specific trial tank? Is transfer enough of a problem that we should avoid it all together based on inking risks? Should we look into some sort of a trial/living region separation? (I know they're hard to keep in and out of places!)

It's starting to come together....I'm thinking of getting started on some live sand/rock around a month or so from now. Thanks again for all and ANY ideas people might have.

-Outi
 

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