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Chambered Nautilus Experiences


Jan 27, 2004
There is a Nautilus over at 6th Ave. Aquarium for sale at $65. I have never seen these outside of the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I am very curious as to how these animals behave. Please share your Nautilus experiences here.

Thanks, Justin :twisted:
:welcome: to TONMO, Justin!
Nautilus are very difficult and expensive to keep in an aquarium, since they need a chiller and other stuff. They aren't very exciting either, and from what I've heard they have the personality of a wet dish cloth.
Here's the only one I've heard of at TONMO, TONMO Cephalopod Community

I have to agree with Nick, I haven't kept them myself but the Townsville aquarium had some a couple of years ago and they were just hanging around in the gloom at the top of the tank (it was a VERY dimly lit tank) doing a great deal of nothing! The giant clam they had did more :lol:

I'm not sure how accurate the "chiller" statement is.

At 6th Ave. they have their tanks setup in a manner where each tank overflows into the next. The Nautilus is kept in the same water as the jellyfish, brittlestars, Lionfish and Naso Tangs!

Still curious. :x
Iv'e found a shop in my area that sells chambered nautilus for around $90. they were kept in a shallow tank (less than 20") at ambient temp. (72-78_). nautilus live in very deep water and come up to the shallows to feed. but even the shallows are very deep and very cold. if you keep them in water above 65. you'll probalby end up shortening their life span considerably. I read on the net about some scientists that kept nautilus for over a year and got them to breed by keeping them in a tank that allowed them to move from low 50s to low 70s. I was considering one myself but they seem to just bob in the water like pingpong balls, and most likely are unhealthy when you buy them due to the warmer temp.
I worked at the Waikiki Aquarium and with a researcher on Chambered Nautilus - while they can be alive at warmer temperatures, they must be kept cold in order to survive for any length of time. They will take food out of your hand, but other than that, they spend much time just bobbing around the aquarium. The Waikiki Aquarium keeps their Nautilus at 57-72 F. They cycle the water temperature - cold during the day and warm at night to correspond with the vertical migration Nautilus have in the wild. They have had Nautilus since 1985 and have had baby Nautilus hatch from eggs.

Hi Justin.

I work with Nautiluses in NY. We keep between 6 and 12 in a 280 gallon tank. They are hard to keep, but not impossible. They do need to stay cool - we keep ours at 17 degrees C. In my experience they can last in warmer water (23 maximum), but not for long. we have a recirculating system and our max lifespan is about a year. I think they do a lot better in open systems.

I wouldn't recommend them for a home aquarium for a couple of reasons - 1. they are not terribly active, so are not that entertaining. 2. they drop dead without any warning. 3. by the time they get to the commercial vendors they are often so moribund that your investment goes south within days. 4. they smell appalling once this happens!

Personally I think their behaviour is kind of cool, but I will admit that they're normally dead boring to look at. They are mostly active at night, so they're not a whole lot of fun in a lit aquarium. I have heard reports that animals kept in bright lights all day go blind frequently.

They're also kind of dopey and will find a way to get stuck in outlet pipes or otherwise bash themselves up on very innocuous-looking things. We have a UV scrubber running 24 hours a day on our tank and we still treat any minor scrapes aggressively, because infections seem to be a problem with captive animals.

On the plus side: They will eat from your hand (very cool!), and are not as shy as octopuses. They don't ink, they're not toxic and you could probably house them with other fish and inverts relatively easily.

Are you going to buy the one in the store? $65 is a pretty good price, generally speaking.
Robyn (Jean please chime in if you are here),

Do you know of any reason they could NOT be kept with abdominalis (pot/big bellied seahorses). My pots are tank bred but live in a semi-reef environmet (semi because not much wants to live in the cool water :>(. I would love to add a nautilus IF I can keep it properly and IF it would not harm my horses.

Do you QT new ones? If so do you use anti-bacterial/anti-parasitic treatments in QT and for how long?

They might be ok together - I've never seen active predation by captive Nautiluses, but seahorses are kind of slow, so maybe if they swam past at just the right distance, it might grab them... if you have plenty of little nooks where the seahorses could hide, it seems like it would be a good arrangement.

We don't really quarantine - we have two separate tanks on the same system, we always put new guys in one tank and old guys in the other, but this is mostly to avoid stressing the animals too much. Since the water recirculates its not really a proper quarantine. Most of the illnesses we see don't appear transmissible so QT is not something we worry too much about.
I saw a couple in an LFS in Marina few years back. Ben, the owner, might be able to tell you a little more about it, he is a pretty nice guy.
Being impatient for MarineBio_Guy's article, I PMed him to see if he was writing anything that would provide consideration. He replied that they will "eat anything" which would preclude safety to the horses since they will "hitch anything" and seem to have no self-preservation concepts about anything that doesn't move or doesn't move quickly(like stinging corals) Mine will hitch to my pencil urchin. Fortunately, the "mouth" is on the underside but my oldest female has actually been "trapped" for a short time. Mine have no exposure to need of self preservation since there are several generations of tank raising in their history.

I am thinking about modifying my set-up (next year at the earliest) to do some kind of shared water, visible fuge kind of thing. I will continue to collect info to be sure I can support the critter but I am liking the idea more and more. It may be that by then I will have to get a taller tank for the pots (my one female is over 2 years old now and could mate easily in the current 2' tall tank but the new guys are larger than she is). If that looks necessary, my current tank might work for the nautilus if I can make room to stack it above a new tank (I see the coming need of yet another decorative ladder). This would allow me to lower the temperature on the chiller and pump first to the nautilus tank and then allow a refugium type overflow of slightly warmer water to the seahorse tank with return from there to the sump. It should add a lot of interest to the setup, have great water volume and would give Neal a new project to plumb ;>).
We don't get Nautilus here so I don't have any experience with them, but I have seen video footage of them chowing down on a reasonably fast moving shrimp (this was in Townsville), so your horses may end up as dinner as they are not known for their speed!!!!

Personally I wouldn't keep Nautilus at home (even if you're an experienced salt water/ceph keeper) it just encourages shops to get them and the majority of home aquarists haven't got a clue about how to keep them nor are they particularly keen on learning, sorry to be so sour, I've just spent 3/4 of an hour on the phone trying to explain to an idiot why he can't keep our common octopus (which is 1.5 - 3 m armspread) in with his GOLDFISH!!!!!! :mad: :mad: I don't think I even managed to convince him that freshwater and marine animals can't live together :roll: (He actually asked me what was the difference and I don't think he was joking!). Fortunately, none of the petshops here in Dunedin sell octopus and so he'll have to go catch his own and I don't think he's capable of that!!!!

I need :coffee: :beer: :wine: :glass:

Please preface this with a BIG IMO.

When we started our first saltwater aquarium (30 + years ago), one could make the same argument for seahorses, cuttlefish and octopuses in addition to all the commonly kept corals. Some will still make that argument and say no one should be allowed to keep an aquarium.

The student who studies and learns should not be ruled by the inept and uncaring. Personally, if I find that I can't keep something, I won't go looking. If I go looking, it will be for the kind of vendor that has a clue. Yes, I have met the guy you were talking to (perhaps his twin given the distance) but I spend time explaining (more than some want) the specific needs and habitats of my critters to anyone (this includes the electrician, internet provider, HVAC guy, mailman, FedEx women, neighbor as well as the grandchildren - true list) who visits the house. The most easily available reading books for the grandkids (either for them to read to us or visa versa) are all stories or how to care books about our specific critters. I can guarantee my eight year old granddaughter can tell you more about saltwater critters than the guy you were talking to and probably more than most of her teachers in school.

My point in this ramble is, saying that there are idots in the world just doesn't win my allegiance to not do something. I CAN be dissuaded because of lack of resources (financial or knowledge) or a large laundry list of other reasons.

If we're still talking, I'll join you in your choice of beverage - it must be 5:00 somewhere.

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