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Doggy - the Chambered Nautilus


O. bimaculoides
Jul 27, 2013
(hmm, no appropriate prefix? :wink:

started a thread on Nautilus feeding earlier, and have decided to start a journal thread here instead.

First and foremost - the name. My 21 month old daughter is fascinated by all animals. Additionally, her favorite thing to watch on TV is "Scooby Doo", which she excitedly called "Doggy". "Doggy" has now become her name for any animal she sees and finds interesting, but doesn't know what to call it. Hence, we have a canine-named ceph in our tank now.

I had a 120G tank without any display species, as our last generation of bandensis had finally kicked it and we hadn't any viable egg hatches (or so we thought, but I can get to that later).

I went to one of the LFS to buy some various supplies and saw the Nautilus there. He was being kept in 78F water and under high lighting. According to the staff, he was improperly shipped to them by a vendor and they hadn't had any intentions of buying him in the first place - but didn't seem overly concerned about the care and conditions. Since my 120G needed some life and it was maintained at 72F, I decided to bring him home and lower the temperature on the tank even further.

My decision to purchase him was based upon my belief that I could at least give him a better quality of life than what he had at the LFS, and not being overly optimistic on his longevity. I just hate seeing something needlessly suffer - I thought I'd just invest some money and give him a chance.

Doggy is currently living in a 120G tank with 100lbs of live sand and 150lbs of live rock. Additionally there is about 40G in the sump with healthy populations of various macros under higher lighting. The display itself only has blue lighting, and I have half the tank covered with cloth to provide even more of a lighting buffer.

We also run a Phosban reactor, and obviously skim heavily. I have also recently added a cannister filter (no foam/sponge, just chemical media) with Purigen, Phosguard and just today added some Cuprisorb. The latter due to seeing a penny in a tank at an LFS and just getting paranoid.

We have had Doggy for two months now, and he seems to be healthy.

When he first came into the tank, he couldn't submerge although he was a strong swimmer. We initially fed him live shore crabs and minnows, which he has always readily accepted. He actually devoured a crab during acclimation - no reservations about eating whatsoever. 2-3 weeks after being in the tank (and I'm sorry I didn't keep a better record about this) he was submerging much better, and now he has no trouble whatsoever.

For feeding - I have been buying fresh market shrimp and soaking them overnight in Selcon before feeding, three day a week (M/W/F). I cut the shrimp into two segments and make sure he eats the tail (more shell, more calcium) before he eats the meatier top. I also give him the occasional minnow, or crushed shore crab (I remove them from the 75G tank I maintain for food only and crush their carapace, so they remain fresh but have no chance of escape). He does get most excited for the minnows but it is important to keep the calcium intake high.

Other recent additions to the tank include adding a 10 decent sized clumps of codium to help with nutrient absorption/export. For those not familiar, codium can thrive in lower temperate and lower light settings (fairly unique traits for the more common macro on the market) and aren't palatable to most tank inhabitants.

I had planned on gradually lowering the temperate to 55F or so, but was surprised one day to see baby sepia bandensis swimming around the tank. Since I'm told 65 is a healthy temperature to keep Doggy at, albeit low for the cuttles, I've decided to keep the temperate at 65 for now and see how the cuttles do. Their diet, since hatching, has been 100% off the amphipod population in the tank as I was never aware that they were present. They should be about 3 weeks old now, and still seem to be doing fine and growing (slowly!).

Pictures and updates coming soon...
Today's feeding adventure -

Doggy was fed as normal (Selcon soaked shrimp cut in two, tail-end fed first). When he was later fed the second part, he played with it for a few minutes and spit it out. About 45 minutes later, he was swimming around and clearly searching for it. Eventually he found where it had been discarded munched on it for awhile.

As far as I know, this is the first time he has fed himself since being added to the tank. I'll still be excited to see him catch live shrimp and crabs, but until then knowing he has progressed so much in our tank makes me very happy!

quick disclaimer(s): obviously I don't leave large pieces of extra food in the tank to rot! I wanted to see how the CUC handles the cooler water, and have been optimistic about him being able to search out and feed on his own. End of day, large scraps go into the food tank (live feeder crabs and minnows) and are promptly consumed. :wink:
Is the shrimp one of the FW prawn monsters I have seen in the seafood market or is Doggy quite small (or is the apparent sizing due to a photography angle)?

From some of the comments @gjbarord has made, I wonder if he will ever hunt live. They may be primarily scavengers.
In captivity, all bets are off... There are a handful of reports of nautiluses in captivity eating live food. But nothing that I've seen from wild nautiluses suggest they hunt live prey in their natural habitat.

Its a saltwater shrimp from the market (not sure what species though). The angle makes it look much larger than it actually is - its about 3" total length.

I've been really curious about the nautilus' ability to catch live prey. Most of the literature I've read suggests they are predators - but after hand-feeding him so many times, I don't get the impression that he has enough strength to grip most prey.

I had the idea to stock the tank with more feeder shrimp (which also would help out as CUC) to see if he'd have any luck capturing them. Always happy to keep hand feeding him though.

Is the shrimp one of the FW prawn monsters I have seen in the seafood market or is Doggy quite small (or is the apparent sizing due to a photography angle)?

From some of the comments @gjbarord has made, I wonder if he will ever hunt live. They may be primarily scavengers.
I'll have a listen tonight and probably make adjustments!

Today, being a feeding day - I cut the meat out of his shrimp and made him eat the entire shell + tail first, then let him have the rest about an hour later. He ate the entire shell, and about half of the meat.

I wish he were easier to photograph. When we got him, the edge of his shell was blackened. That space still is, but the new shell growth is lighter with normal coloration and pattern.

@gjbarord - suggestions on how much I can actually handle Doggy (for the sake of measurements, etc) without stressing him out? My own observations are that they don't seem to be an animal that gets as stressed as others (like, my old octo) as I've been able to handle him some and immediately have him take food and eat later. I'm being very hands-off with him and just enjoying him as a pet, but I feel like shell measurements and other things might be interesting to take once in a while.

Also (and completely unrelated) - I'm very amazed at how many people refer to the nautilus as a "boring" tank specimen, comparing them to a "large snail that just sticks to the side of the tank". Doggy seems _very_ active, throughout the day I can watch him swimming around the tank, flaring his tentacles. And, he very rarely crashes into anything anymore, navigates the rocks and caverns without any issue - never gets blown around by the return jets, etc. Maybe not as exciting of a predator as having cuttles or octos, but very fascinating to have around nonetheless.
I have to agree on the, "not boring" and have half wished I could rescue one at no benefit to the seller. Several years ago I visited one at a pet shop several times in much the same condition you found Doggy. I so wanted to try to give it a better home (18" warm water tank and having buoyancy problems). The vendor (who eventually went out of business) had no interest in reading about a proper habitat, insisting it was eating and swimming fine (I didn't lecture, just suggested :roll:). I fretted for more than week but decided not to encourage the store with a sale even though I have a 3' deep tank with a chiller that would probably handle the high temp range for a naut.

Somewhere, @gjbarord has written a bit on the puzzle of the blackened edge but don't recall if they saw recovery with new shell growth.
The handling should not be so much of a problem. What I would try to reduce is the amount of times that you take it out of the water, if you are doing that for the measurements (not sure how you are measuring it). There are just so many bad things and things we don't really understand regarding taking nautiluses out of the water - air trapped in eyes, internal cavities, chamber....

You'll see more and more black shell as it grows. It might not always be consistent and it might look worse and then look better, but assume that as you see growth, the black lines will be more and more apparent.

Hi Greg,

Thanks for the input! I will probably have someone grab Doggy with our large feeding tongs and use a cloth tape measure to get measurements once a month.

I've read that copepods are considered nuisances to the nautilus in the wild, but that hasn't been observed in captivity. Any insight on that assertation? I've always stocked extra pods in my tanks for CUC but want to be careful on that now. Also I have another 120 gal system, at the same temperature that currently only holds a pair of big belly seahorses (and a lot of rock and sand) that I am considering plumbing together for the extra volume to the system, however hesitant with the pod concerns.
@cuttlegirl - he does a pretty good job of swimming and maneuvering with a turbo hitching a ride, but ends up finding a corner and rocking pretty violently. It has only happened twice and I make sure to remove the snail as soon as I see them :wink:
Also because I keep bumping the thread... I'm not so great at the journaling here right now. If anyone has any questions or suggestions please chime in, I'm happy to give more input! I notice there aren't many nautilus keeping journals - so if there are more questions or things I can do to help more hobbyists get different information please ask.

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