[Octopus]: Inky the Octopus hummelincki

DWhatley

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First, let me say that I love being able to physically interact with my octos. However, I have come to think that their willingness (desire) to be petted may have something to do with itchy skin and our petting makes a great, soft scratching post. Anecdotal observation suggest that as they become senescent, their skin my itch more than normal (possibly to the point of biting their arms and bringing on infection that heightens the itch). They are also bothered by bristle worms more often (they smell the flesh beginning to decay) and don't seem to be able to keep them away (possibly the reason for not using her den). These is ONLY anecdotal observations and conclusions but fit what I have seen after keeping over 20 animals.

Her symptoms are common for senescence and your captivity time is not overly short (they are a small egg species for for the first month they live as plankton then settle and grow exponentially). However the fact that she is no longer happy with her den makes me suggest that you double check your PH, salt levels and ammonia, either one being an issue can cause senescent like behavior. Since you are using untreated water, there may be something natural that is causing discomfort. If your salt is low, buy or make some slightly heavily salted water using RO/DI or distilled fresh. Bring up her salt level over a 24 hour period (similar to acclimation - slowly add new and take our an equal amount of old). PH is a little harder but you can still use RO/DI or distilled fresh and add a saltwater buffer to correct the PH and then do water changes. If ammonia or nitrite are the issue, do a large water change ASAP but check your water source first. If your normal water source is OK, use it, if not, back to the RO/DI or distilled base and add commercial salt mix.
 
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I have experienced a lot of octopuses trying to "haul out" as I put it. It's important to stay vigilant whenever you have the lid of the tank removed. You could also use a net or a piece of plastic to keep her from reaching over the lip of the tank.

As you've said earlier in the thread, Inky may be starting to under go senescence. Her lack of interest in eating, ignoring prey in the tank, strange behaviors, and that she is no longer spending time in the dens she has previously made are all signs of senescence.

Make sure to spend some quality time with Inky while they are still around. It's a pleasure to see all the photos and text write-ups you do.
Thanks for the advice. It's just good to talk to folks who have been through this.
 
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I too have noticed that my octopuses become more interactive as they move through senescence. It’s a tough thing to go through, but enjoy it while you can! If you can have another person around when you are handling her, that can be helpful if she tries to haul out again- it’s a step I take with my more social octopuses.

It’s hard because it feels like you become more “bonded” with your octopuses during senescence, only to loose them. I just remember that I’d rather have them die at my house and make me sad, than get eaten by predators out in the ocean.
Thanks for sharing your experiences. I am happy that we still have the interaction.
 
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First, let me say that I love being able to physically interact with my octos. However, I have come to think that their willingness (desire) to be petted may have something to do with itchy skin and our petting makes a great, soft scratching post. Anecdotal observation suggest that as they become senescent, their skin my itch more than normal (possibly to the point of biting their arms and bringing on infection that heightens the itch). They are also bothered by bristle worms more often (they smell the flesh beginning to decay) and don't seem to be able to keep them away (possibly the reason for not using her den). These is ONLY anecdotal observations and conclusions but fit what I have seen after keeping over 20 animals.

Her symptoms are common for senescence and your captivity time is not overly short (they are a small egg species for for the first month they live as plankton then settle and grow exponentially). However the fact that she is no longer happy with her den makes me suggest that you double check your PH, salt levels and ammonia, either one being an issue can cause senescent like behavior. Since you are using untreated water, there may be something natural that is causing discomfort. If your salt is low, buy or make some slightly heavily salted water using RO/DI or distilled fresh. Bring up her salt level over a 24 hour period (similar to acclimation - slowly add new and take our an equal amount of old). PH is a little harder but you can still use RO/DI or distilled fresh and add a saltwater buffer to correct the PH and then do water changes. If ammonia or nitrite are the issue, do a large water change ASAP but check your water source first. If your normal water source is OK, use it, if not, back to the RO/DI or distilled base and add commercial salt mix.

Thank you so much for all of your advice. I double checked her water parameters again, just in case. My salinity was fine, it tends to run a little high if anything. The Mosquito Lagoon water fluctuates, depending on rainfall, but it's 1.026 right now. With evaporation it can creep higher, but adding distilled fresh keeps things lower. The lagoon PH is 8.3. Mine looked slightly lower so I did use a little of the buffer I have used in the past, it will bring it up to 8.3 without going higher. My ammonia is always undetectable, but the nitrite was slightly elevated, not enough to measure with my API saltwater kit. I did do another water change just in case (I checked my water source again last week, everything was perfect). Her water was pretty close to is where it should be to begin with, but it’s on target now.

Inkie's dens are actually both food-safe pottery forming the "cave", with lots of live rock surrounding it. When she was smaller and outgrew the dens that were naturally occurring in the live rock, I was paranoid about a rock collapse if she moved a rock, so I first introduced a big ceramic glass (from an art show years ago). I surrounded it with rock and she moved right in. I have just added bigger pieces of pottery as she has grown. She lines them with shells and small pieces of rock. She slept in the smaller one she barely fits in and hung out in the bigger one, usually attached to the top. As I said before, she stopped eating and stayed in her den without leaving (as far as I know) for two days and then left without returning. I have seen in the larger one for brief periods, but she’s still sleeping in odd places around the tank. There definitely aren’t bristle worms in her den, but there are in the live rock.

I also bought a half dozen live shrimp at the bait store. She has never been very good at catching them, but they bury themselves in the sand and she spreads herself out on the bottom probing with her arms. She does eventually snag one. She didn’t pay any attention to them when introduced, but they are in the tank if her appetite returns, along with the crabs.

Inkie really seems to like to have the area “under” her hood, where it joins her legs, rubbed. It’s the one thing she reacted to from the first time I did it. She stays a lot longer now, and quickly returns for more. I have wondered if that’s something other octopuses have enjoyed.

Thank you again. I will keep a very close eye on all the water parameters. At least I can eliminate that as a cause.
 
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Inkie is not doing well today. She has very labored breathing and her syphon is extended more than usual. The tips of her arms are curled. She briefly came to the corner and would rise to my hand, but didn't really want to be touched. Her movements are somewhat uncoordinated, her legs are crossing one another. I'm leaving the lights really low and just hoping she doesn't suffer for a long time.

I'd like to share a recent funny story. Inkie's tank is behind my desk in my classroom. A have a small table where I work with students, it abuts the counter her tank sits on. Her habit is to rise and fall in the front corners of the tank when she's seeking contact. Often, she would emerge from her den about the time the school day ended. She would hover in the corner and, whenever possible, I would hang my hand in the tank providing contact, while working with a student.

One evening, a couple of months ago, I was sitting at that table grading papers that needed to be submitted that night, and I had ignored several of her appearances in the corner. I was then surprised by a stream of water from the tank that landed squarely on the papers I was grading. After quickly drying the papers, I took a break and gave her some attention. She had never squirted anything but the odd unwelcome adult who approached the tank (and never me). She never squirted the table again.

Two weeks ago, I was sitting at my desk planning some long-distance lessons that needed to be posted. Again, working against a deadline, I ignored her bobbing in the corner behind my back. I was surprised by an unexpected stream of water that went across my left shoulder and landed on the top left corner of my computer screen. Message received. I dried my screen and spent some time with her.

It’s this kind of thing that will make it so tough when she’s gone. I am lucky that I teach at a public charter school that is willing to give us a higher degree of freedom. I live 40 miles from the school and have basically been camping out in my classroom taking care of several tanks, mostly Inkie. My administrators know how attached I am to these guys, and how much my students get out of having them here.
 

DWhatley

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There is definitely something in my eye :disrelieved:. This brings back memories of the special octos I have kept (sadly, not all are interactive -- regardless of species). Don't be disappointed if the next few are less interested (perhaps less intelligent, no real way to tell). It is these special moments that make me continue to keep them as the only thing worse than watching one naturally pass on is looking at an empty tank.
 

sedna

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So amazing that you could share Inky with your students!!! Sorry for the difficult time being, it’s so hard to watch them go...
 

pkilian

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I love reading through these stories @tduncan . Your experiences with Inky will hopefully inspire your students to develop an interest in the ocean, the world as a whole, and all the wonderful creatures that inhabit it.

I myself was inspired by educators that took their passion for learning and teaching above and beyond what was required of them, and I am really happy to know that your students get the same experience. I'm sure they benefit from it more than they may realize right now.

Thank you again for sharing Inky with us. She continues to be a joy to read about :smile:
 
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