Sadly, water changes are my only control. Fortunately cephs and fish tolerate much higher nitrates than corals. I have thought about lighting my sumps but then I would have to scrub the algae there too Since I keep very few corals (almost none, a couple of mushrooms, polyps, volunteer sponges and occasional gorgonia), everything survives (including me). I do keep a small deep sand bed in one of the octo tanks but the set up is unusual. The weir area was the original all in one filtration (before that was a word). We drilled the tank to add a sump and I added 6" of sand to the overflow area. I am no sure it helps but it does not hurt. What I would really like to do is build a refugium above the tank but octoproofing it would be extremely difficult.
Thanks for the tip on the socks and your help in general.
I paint the back and sides of my tanks black so I am only concerned with the front glass. I can handle algae growing on the glass in the sumps as long as its consuming nitrates and phosphates. Hitchhikers on live rock is also a concern of mine. I am not sure the extended curing time for dry rock wouldn't be worth the wait. A main tank with sand and rocks for six months sounds pretty dull but will be worth the wait if need be. The Ceph's are such interesting animals it is worth it.
I make fish food and have been thinking about a formula that would work well for these animals. What I have in mind is shrimp meal, a little whole menhaden fish meal for the B vitamins, egg whites as a binder, paprika and red pepper for vitamin C. I think that they might eat it. I have made very similar food in the past and the fish were frantically searching for more at least fifteen minutes after it was all eaten. The approximate numbers are 56.3% protein, 4.4% fat, .1% starch, 6.7% fiber, .1% sugar, 27.4% minerals and 5% moisture. I dehydrate the food at low temperatures to preserve the vitamins. My only concern is whether the mineral content would effect algal growth. In long term FW studies we have done the phosphate doesn't promote a noticeable increase in algal growth. If you would like to give it a try I will make a 1/2 lb to test. If you don't like the protein etc. numbers I can try to manipulate those as well.
I've only kept cuttles a couple of times (my primary interest is in octopuses) and only the recent group lived a full normal lifespan but I don't know of anyone feeding a fish food type diet. It will be interesting to see if you can create something that they will eat (eating is a primary problem with cuttles). Most will eventually accept dead food (not at all in the first month or so) but it still needs to look like a shrimp or crab. For octopuses, fish diets have been tried in aquaculture with only limited success (slower, lower growth rates - not a concern for the pet industry - and higher mortality) but I don't recall studies for cuttlefish (or attempts to aquaculture them for food.
Here are some discussions and article references about nutrition requirements (most is for octos but likely would apply) but even if you create a good balance, I suspect you may have problems getting them to eat ground up food (don't laugh but there are posts swearing that you may have to paint eyes on the food to get cuttles to recognize it). It might work more effectively if you gut loaded shrimp or crabs with your mix, even potentially feeding the food in the same tank. Octopuses might begin to eat chunky food this way (some of mine have scavenged the smaller bits provided for the brittle star, my current resident being a good example).
I believe the problem with most manufactured foods is that they don't smell like food. The excessive use of grain in most foods leaves them smelling more like bread than shrimp. In my opinion the grain bound food formulas used in aquaculture that have transferred to diets for captive animals have done them no favors as far as their health is concerned. How can a food designed to promote maximum growth in the least amount of time be good for the animal in the long run? If looks are the the main reason Ceph's take food why don't all of them eat frozen foods? Freezing any shrimp etc. does diminish the way it smells and varies due to the length of time it has been frozen and the condition of the animal when it was frozen.
You do have to take into consideration how different cephs are from fish. They locate (at least cuttles and squid, less so with octopuses and nautilus) by sight. They smell by touch using their suckers (texture may also be involved). They eat using a beak to break off pieces and a radula to file it down to small bits to fit through their brain surrounded esophagus. Movement rather than smell appears to play a very important role with new hatchlings. Getting all this to work with bits and pieces will be a challenge.
I highly suggest splitting your first hatchlings if you want to try dead food when they first hatch. Live mysis shrimp have been the only consistently eaten food for the first month or so. There has been some minor successes with various pods and small shrimp but most attempts with other than live mysis have failed with no success with any form of dead offerings.
Another bit of undocumented and untested observation seems to indicate that second generation success my require live food. This is anecdotal and might be interesting to test while you are experimenting.
I am mainly interested in trying it with adults at this point. Keep in mind many fish fry require live foods for a few weeks. The active live food triggers that hardwired predatory response. I am aware that Ceph's are much smarter than fish. However this fact may work to our advantage if presenting a dead food that smells like the real thing and they realize its an easy meal. I am not at all surprised that nobody has had success feeding a starch based pellet. I don't mean to sound arrogant but my food is very different in a good way. As you can see from my example earlier all ingredients have a purpose. I don't extrude the food that I make. It is dehydrated on a sheet and comes off in pieces roughly 1/8" thick. I will look around and see if I can find a crab shaped cookie cutter.
I plan to eventually get some eggs from Blue Zoo so it would be possible to set up separate hatching nets. What size Mysid are suitable for newly hatched cuttlefish? From what I have read I am assuming adult mysids are ok. If Mysid are carnivorous I could gut load them with what I call Grow powdered before feeding.
I think the chance of getting tank raised specimens to eat my food is decent. Honestly I wouldn't be surprised either way. The odds are not good with wild caught specimens but its worth a shot.
Keeping cephs is an ongoing experiment and we still have a lot to learn but only a few years ago, few aquariums, let alone hobbyists were successful (saltwater aquariums with artificial salt is still a very young industry). My comments are to help you find info on what has done before and decide how to alter the failures for your own and not meant to sound negative.
That being said, you won't find many (if any at this point since the eggs have been more successful and way less expensive for suppliers) juveniles/adults so you will have to grow them from eggs. The downside, as you have probably guessed, of working with eggs is the first month cost. Finding cheaper food is also an ongoing experiment and there are a few successes with something other than mysis but they have been small crustaceans in a keeper's tank and not something commonly available (ie not typical amphipods or copepods). My best luck with keeping mysis alive was to put them in a round tank (bio-orb), live rock as the only filter, loop a VERY gentle air tube around the bottom and feed them frozen daphnia at least twice a day and not changing the water. Prior to that approach, they would not last a week.
You will definitely want movement for the food and an air line is often used to wean them to frozen (also mixing frozen with live and keeping it all moving seems to be helpful. Once they understand they have their food slave trained, don't be surprised if at least one will shoot its tentacles out of the water at your hand when you go to feed. Keep in mind the multi-reports of eyes needing to be on the frozen, you may want to add some kind of black marking. Once they readily take frozen, feeding stops being an issue and you may want to take the traditional route until they reach this stage and then try offering your mix.
After the first couple of weeks, typical pods can (and probably should) be added. Pretty much any size mysis works for the first few weeks but they will continually look for larger prey as they grow and will eventually take down crustaceans their own size. Cheato is almost always used with new hatchlings, possibly to help attract the mysis/pods away from the breeder net sides and make them easier to hunt.
Typical, second food is usually very small shore shrimp, then larger shore shrimp (freshwater glass shrimp can also be used if you find them locally) then small crabs and continuing the shore shrimp. As adults weaned to frozen, they can eat pieces of table shrimp as well as the larger frozen mysis (I found the table shrimp more suitable).
There are quite a few journals for you to review that discuss feeding success and failures to help get a feel for what to expect. You might also checkout some of the MBARI pages on their cuttle raising program for some ideas. Here is a really good video with @Bret Grasse MBA (TONMO member and one of our speakers last weekend). We have a whole thread on some of the animals exhibited in the MBARI tentacles exhibit. This Advanced Aquarist article, Keeping and Breeding the dwarf cuttlefish Sepia bandensis
by @Thales (staff member Richard Ross) is probably the most extensive reading by a successful keeper that you will find but examine the yellow stickies at the top of the Cuttlefish Care forum for others.
I appreciate your input. I welcome the challenge of getting Cehp's to eat something besides live or frozen food. It gives me something new to work on. I find these animals interesting enough to spend some time working on it.
I have been studying the nutrient profiles of shrimp and crab in an effort to replicate them in a dry diet. High protein, very little fat and a decent amount of minerals sums it up for both. I have watched several videos on tumbling the cuttlefish eggs and its very similar to hatching a mouth brooding Cichlid's eggs. I have a lot of experience tumbling those, the cuttlefish eggs are simply larger. Thanks for the tip on the mysid shrimp.
Will definitely go the mysid route with most of the eggs. My inquisitive nature is getting the best of me in trying my grow food on a few. Its worth a try with the grow food on the chance that it works. May have to have a back up plan (read another tank) in case it does. The food will have shrimp eyes in it, where they will be I can't say.
I have read the article by Richard Ross. It was very good. I have also read some of the yellow stickies that you mentioned. I will check out the others. Thanks for the links!
I have watched the video with Bret Grasse in my searching for cuttlefish videos. It was well worth watching again. Has anyone working with these animals used a water driven egg tumbler? They are much easier to control the tumbling rate than air driven tumblers and you don't have to move the eggs from one system to another.