• Looking to buy a cephalopod? Check out Tomh's Cephs Forum, and this post in particular shares important info about our policies as it relates to responsible ceph-keeping.

Dipping my toes in...


Pygmy Octopus
Jan 18, 2020
Belmont, MA

Like many others I have been prowling the site for a few months, but this is my first post. Love how my title is "Benthic Lurker", very accurate.

I live in the greater Boston area and am a scientist. I grew up in Southern Florida and have been keeping freshwater/reptiles/amphibians for many, many years. After a long hiatus due to career/marriage/kids I got back in 3 years ago with a saltwater/reef tank. Started with a 30 gallon and moved to a 90 gallon about a year ago. My current system is here:

It's a mixed reef with lots of new corals still growing out. Plenty of failures and lessons learned along the way but fortunately no big tank crashes. Have even had success keeping more challenging fish species (pipefish, mandarin/other dragonettes,etc...) long term by growing and feeding alternative food sources like hatching baby brine shrimp and culturing white worms.

I've been a long time member and frequent visitor to the New England Aquarium for about 8 years. With my wife and two young (5&9) children we go often in the evenings when the crowds die down. I spend a lot of time enjoying the octopus and cuttlefish tanks, and their nice reef tanks.

I've been thinking about getting a cephalopod for over a year - mostly thinking about it and reading what I can find online. Interesting how saltwater is a small sliver of the total total aquarium hobby, reef tanks are a small piece of the saltwater community, and keeping cephalopods seems to be a small sliver of that community (though I appreciate lots of people keeps cephalopods w/o much interest in reefing). Most notably it means there are fewer sources for good information and the infrastructure around purchasing cephalopods and their foods is not well developed. Makes me really appreciate this site.

Back in January I decided I would get another, small saltwater aquarium system though not yet sure what for. I got sand and rock and started cycling it in a Rubbermaid container in my basement. I seeded it with waste water/sand from the larger system and fed it weekly with fish pellets. In February a nice, second-hand aquarium that fit well into my allowed space popped up on my local reef community site (shoutout to Boston Reefers) and I bought it - a 40g gallon Waterbox cube with a small rear sump. Through bostonreefers.com I also purchased more second hand equipment (LED light, HOB protein skimmer, auto-top off, heater) over the following weeks. Still need to figure out the aquarium lid situation - would need to make or buy something.

About 3 weeks ago with the unexpected work-from-home situation and kids that were bouncing off the walls we decided to set up the new tank. I think the few months of basement cycling did the job as I never saw a spike in ammonia/nitrite/nitrate and after the first week I added a fish (green chromis) from my large system - fish is doing great. The system is currently heated to 78 F with the heater and, if I remove the heater, the tank will drop to about 71 F. I do not want to buy a chiller so whatever direction this tank goes in I would prefer it work in this temperature range. I have't turned on the lights yet as I don't have a clean up crew for the aquarium, but will probably move in that direction soon.



I would like the take the plunge towards a cephalopod but sourcing the right animal and good food sources has been my biggest concerns. Great that this website sometimes has animals available, I am curious about recommendations for sourcing cuttlefish. Cuttlefish seem even harder to find than octopi (but perhaps easier to keep?). Would also be interested for recommendations for octopi species given the temperature constraints (71-78), tank size (40g) and hoping to get something that is active during the day (or at least comes out when they us). The tanks are in my living room/dining room.

Food sourcing is probably my biggest concern. I grow live foods for my reef, but this is clearly a different beast. Sounds like getting cephalopods onto frozen shrimp/krill/fish can be hit or miss. I can catch local saltwater shrimp/crabs in the warmer months, but they seem to disappear in the cold months (of which there are many in Boston). I'm not against setting up small feeder tanks in the basement, but wonder if I would need one for fresh water (say for ghost shrimp) and one for saltwater (for local shrimp/crabs).

Any and all suggestions/recommendations are greatly appreciated.

Anyway, I'll stop there and just say happy to be active on TONMO and very happy this site exists.

Best wishes in these crazy times!
Currently TONMO is only sourcing US Pacific animal that need a cold water environment. To meet all your want list items, there are two that are semi-common.

Abdopus aculeatus is day active and a great choice but is often caught as an adult with limited tank life remaining. You won't find it listed that way though and the only source I know of can be hit or miss (Live Aquaria will tag them "Pacific", occasionally others will call them Bali or Pacific Brown). Be aware, that with those labels, you may or may not get the desired animal and there is no sending it back or refunding your money.

My favorite, but harder to come by animal, for your tank would be Octopus hummelincki. At one time these were easy to come by and often caught in Haiti and traded to fish collectors/vendors in the FL Keys. Both the cold snap and earthquake in 2010 have reduced their availability but keep it in mind as you search.

For a brief overview of the octopuses we typically find and some of their base attributes (as well as a few other hints on things like food and tank mates), have a look at the posts linked in, Posts with Info for New Octo Keepers.
In addition to what DWhatley recommended, I can give specific information about food availability in the Boston area, as well as differences between cuttlefish and octopuses.

I would much prefer to have a tank with an octopus over a tank with a cuttlefish. This is because they are less fussy when it comes to eating live vs. frozen food, they are able to go longer periods of time without eating, and they are less sensitive to slight changes in water chemistry. Additionally, octopuses ship much better than cuttlefish do, and are often cheaper and easier to come by. (Most cuttles you'd find from online breeders will be juveniles or eggs, because raising a captive cuttlefish to adulthood can be difficult and require almost full-time maintenance and care from breeders).

For food, I like to feed my octopuses crabs. They take some work for the animal to take a part (may be a beneficial form of enrichment), I like to watch them carry around the crab carapace after they are done eating, and I can source them locally during the warmer weather. The problem with feeding live crabs is that they are dirty, the carapace pieces need to be removed from the octo tank every few days, and you may have to feed more than one or two depending on the size of the crab and the size of your octopus.

Local Asian Shore Crabs can be found under almost every rock along the beaches on cape cod (down near Woods Hole and Falmouth have been particularly successful locations for me), but check up on MA wildlife collection regulations before you go. I've always been working with a research institution collection permit so I am unsure what the rules are for hobbyist collectors. You could go on a bulk crab-collection run a couple times over the summer, and maybe set up a 3rd tank to keep the backup crabs in over the winter if you have the means.

You will probably only need to feed your octopus 1-2 crabs a day depending on size and the activity of your animal, and it may even be less than that. If you are unable to make the trip to the cape or other beaches along northern MA, then live crabs can be ordered from various places around the United States (Florida has a few live-bait shops that are willing to ship to MA).

If you don't want to feed live food, then you will most likely be able to train your octopus to eat thawed pieces of frozen shrimp (the kind people eat at cocktail hour) or pieces of thawed frozen fish (any local white fish should do well, as long as you vary the diet from day to day). Training your octopus to eat off a stick can be tricky, and I can give you more advice in the future if you decide to take this route.

Excellent setup you have going so far! I look forward to seeing more photos and hopefully you will be able to get an octopus for that new tank! (Just remember to make the lid nice and secure when you get around to it!)
Well, the tank cycling went well and I've added a few soft corals to make it look nice. There are a few aptasia that came in on the live rock, so I added 5 peppermint shrimp to deal with them, which they have mostly already done. I'll either move them to my larger reef tank or leave them as a potential clean up crew/octo-snack. I bought a small 10g aquarium and caught some local asian shore crabs. We've been able to keep them alive by keeping the tank in the basement w/o a heater, and daily feedings of marine pellet food for two weeks now. So thinking this might be a nice way to feed. For the larger crabs to people usually pull the claws off?


At the moment I am waiting on a tight fitting screen top which should arrive in the next 2-3 weeks. Regarding acquiring an octopus a local store had a mimic octopus for $250 and will be getting in bimacs for $300. This seems crazy expensive to me, but would be interested to hear others thoughts. I reached out to KP Aquatics who seem to get mostly briareus with the occasional joubinis and hummelincki. Am tempted to wait until Philipp gets more in as they will definitely be warm water species which is what I am hoping to get.
I would recommend to take the claws off of crabs that you feed, just to protect your octo from potentially being pinched or losing an arm.

$300 for a bimac sounds a bit expensive to me. I would probably not pay much more than $200 at most, especially because you can never know how old they are when they show up or how well they have been shipped, which can have a large impact on their longevity. Maybe other users can chime in on their experiences with bimac price points. I know occasionally @tonmo has bimacs available for around $200. That program is on hold right now but you could look through the past sales to get a sense for a "normal" price.
So this week the tight lid for my aquarium came in and Philipp/KPaquatics got in two O. briareus octopuses so we are going for it.

At the moment I have a weak LED light on the aquarium for the soft corals. I'm think about making these reverse light cycle (lights on overnight) to encourage more interaction with the octopus during the day. Any thoughts?

Also, I have added a small powerhead to the aquarium as I needed more flow to keep the aquarium clean and stop dinoflagellates, etc... from growing. I don't have a sponge or net over it to keep little tentacles from going in. Is this necessary? and if so are there recommendations for what works?
Definitely cover the intake of the powerhead or you will have (as a minimum) chopped arms. Depending on the type (I use the koralia style), consider using a coarse sponge or a media bag to cover the intake. WIth the Koralias I use an old (often zipper broken) media bag like this (this is not a vendor recommendation, just a first find example but I do get them from eBay)

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