• 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.

makes me angry


Dec 30, 2005
read this


this makes me alittle angry that he killed so many octopus, did no research on them, rushed out and bought one, and had no idea what he was doing. then he got a o. vulgaris and put it in a 40g. Says its doing great but I think pretty soon hes gonna need to move it out of that one. I was happy that he menchened this website and one of our guys for octopus, what to you guys think? just curious

tony is right.

Also, Jason runs one of the best aquatic shops in all of the UK, he is very experienced and writes for PFK Evey month.

It is a shame that so many cephs have died in the past but with input from all the TONMO.com members we are gradually making the statistic that much better

tonmo said:
:smile: We actually have this article published on TONMO.com:

Hi Tony,

Please take this in the constructive way it is intended.

I think that it's a mistake to publish Mr. Scott's article here unless you accompany it with an almost line by line critique.

My impression of the article was that the author was constantly making incorrect assumptions as well as drawing the wrong conclusions from the facts available. In spite of the mistakes, Mr. Scott manages to present his story in such a way as to excuse or minimize his own culpability and present the octopus as an extremely difficult animal to keep - until the end of the article when he essentially got temporarily lucky with an O. vulgaris in an undersized tank at which point the octopus was presented as being a fun animal to have.

When I read that article I came away convinced that it would discourage the folks most likely to learn to be successful with cephs while simultaneously encouraging the sort of person who generally chooses to 'just go for it' regardless of the consequences.

Of course, Mr. Scott can be defended on the basis that his article is over two and a half years old and our knowledge of the subject has advanced during that time. Nonetheless, in my opinion, it's not a good idea to publish such an article without comment on this site since, by doing so, you give tacit approval to the article's content.

Constructively yours,

Hi Alex,

I personally feel that the article is representative of where the hobby was a few years ago and to be honest, where it is still stuck in some cases. Especially in the UK where the article was published.

When I started out, and I am sure several other members here will remember, there was virtually no information about cephalopod husbandry and I would also have to stick my hand up and say that unfortunetly, through lack of understanding, I had captives die. The advancements have been huge since then.

On re-reading, I think that the effort and expense that JS had to put into the task at hand would demonstrate the exteme nature of what is sometimes needed.

I think people should read the article and if need be ask for detailed information on the forums. I don't think it needs a line by line critique, people should be able to read it in its original state as part of their learning.

At least these days in the USA there is a good supply of captive bred bimaculoides and an increasing supply of S bandensis. But its not even all that long ago that online articles were stating 25 - 30 gals for a bimac and 40gal for a S officinalis!!!

:bugout: Also, in case you think I am a regular visitor to his shop for big discounts LOL :lol: I have had no contact with JS for about 18 months and live about 450 miles away LOL
Tidepool Geek: thanks for the input! I definitely take it constructively.

What I'll do is link to this thread from that article, so people can discuss its contents here (and read your comments).
Colin said:
At least these days in the USA there is a good supply of captive bred bimaculoides and an increasing supply of S bandensis. But its not even all that long ago that online articles were stating 25 - 30 gals for a bimac and 40gal for a S officinalis!!!

Some online articles are still saying that. The websites of Octopets and Fish Supply both say 30 gallons and up. I have to hand it to Drs Foster and Smith, however, who do say 50 and up.

tonmo said:
What I'll do is link to this thread from that article, so people can discuss its contents here .


Since the link between Jason Scott's article Keeping an Octopus and this thread was provided in answer to a suggestion of mine (Thanks Tony!) it seems only fair that I contribute my two cents worth of critique.

First, what follows is not meant to be a criticism of Mr. Scott personally. I think his article reflects an honest effort to provide proper care for the animals he tried to keep. Unfortunately, the article seems to present a significant number of errors and misunderstandings that could, I believe, cause new hobbyists to either avoid or adopt octopus keeping for the wrong reasons.

I've numbered the paragraphs of the original article and quoted them in red. My own comments follow each cited paragraph in black:

The first aquarium was fifteen gallons and equipped with a Bak-Pak skimmer with built in biological filter. An eight-watt fluorescent tube provided lighting, this was the smallest available, but still a little too bright. For decoration I used ten kilograms of live rock.
A fifteen gallon tank is almost certainly too small, even for a so-called "pygmy" species such as O. bocki. Conventional wisdom suggests that the minimum size tank for this size animal be 50 to 100% larger than the one described in the article. TONMO's own Colin Dunlop recommends a minimum size of fifty gallons and makes no exception for small breeds. [FWIW: I personally suspect that the very smallest species such as O. wolfi could be kept in a somewhat smaller tank.] It's important to remember that tank volume has two functions; to provide living space for the animal and to provide a sort of buffer to absorb 'chemistry spikes' from the octo's very active metabolism.

After the aquarium was matured I obtained a small Red Octopus, I later found out this was an extremely nocturnal species (Octopus bocki). Identifying any Octopus correctly is difficult, even for experts. This species only comes out in complete darkness and does not exhibit many of the character traits associated with other more day active Octopus, for example colour changes. It fed well on cockles still in their shell; it used the empty shells to form a barricade to its hole in the live rock where it lived. Any way this did well for two months, before it got stuck behind it's own barricade. It was trapped for several days before I realised, when it was released it was very distressed and died the next day.
I have a couple of problems with this paragraph. First, why is it that people who will spend whatever time and money is necessary to obtain the exact species of fish, coral, or even worm seem perfectly satisfied to buy whatever octopus happens to show up at the LFS? The author had the good fortune to receive O. bocki, a species that doesn't get very big but consider what might have happened if he's gotten an O. vulgaris instead. If the animal didn't die prematurely from stress or ammonia poisoning the tank would have eventually gotten so full of octopus that there would hardly have been room for water. Second, "stuck behind it's own barricade"? The author is describing textbook octopus maternal denning behavior and his own conclusion that the animal had somehow trapped itself is just not supported by the facts presented or by simple logic.

6 through 11
Even for someone in my position (I work in the aquatics trade) obtaining an Octopus requires a bit of luck, they do not always travel well and it is hit and miss what species you may get. In the mean time I added a Domino Damsel to keep the filter ticking over. A few days later I visited Tropical Marine Centre, to my amazement they had single Octopus vulgaris with arms about five inches long. This was my lucky day, it was only the second time in many visits I had seen anything other than the commonly imported nocturnal species. I was aware that the aquarium had only just matured, but this was just too good an opportunity to miss, I had to have it.
At this point the author has spent hundreds or even thousands of dollars on equipment to monitor his water quality but we have seen no indication that he's done any research into what his water parameters should be. He has an 80 gallon tank that contains a fish known to be extremely territorial and aggressive. Now he buys, almost on impulse, an O. vulgaris to keep. The problems here are all about size. When he brought it home the octopus was apparently too small to deal with the aggressive damsel. On the other hand, this species would have outgrown an 80 gallon tank long before it reached its maximum size. Fully grown, O. vulgaris can be up to 5 pounds in size and, according to Colin Dunlop's excellent article, an octopus can produce waste equal to three times its weight in fish. Consider an 80 gallon aquarium housing 15 pounds of fish - not a tenable situation.

After two weeks the water quality was near perfect (NH4 0, NO2 0, NO3 0 PO4 0.01, pH 8.2, S.G. 1.025 and the Octopus was had already learned to associate me with feeding time.
Later in the article he shows a table that reflects increases in nitrate and phosphate (albeit not harmfully higher) a pH of 8.0 and oxygen at 90% of saturation. the pH and oxygen levels are probably related and are somewhat problematic for an octopus. Octos have a high metabolism but their use of oxygen is inefficient because of their copper based blood (as opposed to our iron based blood). What that means is that,even under the best of conditions, an octo tends to tire easily. With a reduced amount of oxygen available the animal probably feels a bit like a human with a mild case of asthma.


This time it looked like I had finally succeeded, until… One night about 10:00pm it started act very odd like it was turning itself inside out! I was horrified, I immediately changed twenty-five percent of the water and added carbon. The next day it seemed OK. I never did find out what caused it to act so strange, but Octopus sometimes clean themselves by rubbing their body (mantle) with their arms, I was not aware of this at the time.

Here again, the author is worrying over a perfectly normal and regular octopus behavior. The writhing action is performed mainly to help shed the old epidermal layer of its suckers. This shedding is necessary for the octopus to properly sense his environment. Octo suckers are truly multi-tasking pieces of equipment. They're not only used to grasp things but are also the animals major touch sensor and an important part of its sense of taste/smell.

After this incident I decided to add some extra equipment and invested in a U/V sterilizer and chiller. The chiller is excellent, on all but the hottest days it keeps the temperature at exactly 25°C, With some of the exceptionally hot days we had this Summer I'm sure the Octopus would have really suffered without it. Since adding this equipment I have never seen the Octopus act out of character or clean itself.
Apparently the UV sterilizer was added because of the (perfectly normal) cleaning/shedding behavior. If, as was claimed, the octo quit this periodic behavior I would take that as an indication that UV was contra-indicated. More likely though is that the octopus simply didn't happen to do it in the author's presence any more. The behavior doesn't generally last very long and the way you usually know that it has been done is by the blizzard of sheds floating around the tank for several minutes. [They look sort of like milky contact lenses.]

A chiller is a really useful thing to have but I question whether 25C is the proper temperature for this particular animal. O. vulgaris is among the most widespread of all octo species. In fact, there is a discussion among taxonomists about whether there may actually be several sub-species each endemic to a different environment. There was no mention of where this octopus was collected but, since the author is in Great Britain and O. vulgaris is found all along the southern coast of G.B. and Ireland where the water is quite chilly the possibility exists that he bought a British octo. A quick Google search indicates that the mean water temperature in southern England is 12C. To a sublittoral marine animal the difference between 12C and 25C is HUGE!

The difficulty of keeping Octopus and other Cephalopods is not to be underestimated; they certainly are not for the inexperienced. They require a good deal more expertise, equipment and dedication than many are prepared to provide.

Absolutely true! I submit, however, that the most important thing that a prospective octopus keeper can do is to learn about the specific animal he intends to keep. There is no such thing as a generic octopus. Each species has different needs with respect to space, substrate, food, temperature, escape proofing, and enrichment. Different species have markedly different lifespans (although all are pretty short) and it's all too common for certain octopodes to be sold with no consideration for how much of their lifespan remains.

Those who wish to learn more about Octopus should visit TONMO.com, I did not find this site until I had learned how to keep Octopus the hard way. Colin Dunlop is their expert on Octopus & Cuttlefish and has kept them several species successfully.
Best advice in the whole article!

Critiquely yours,

It's me again,

My previous post had to be cut down a bit to fit. I'm posting what I deleted from the other post because I really don't want people to think I'm doing this just to be a jerk.
I want to reiterate that I'm not posting this rant as an attack on Jason Scott. As I said before, I think he was making a good faith effort to keep these animals in spite of a lack of good information. My point is that Scott's article was written as a How-To when it was published over two years ago but, in light of the information now easily available here on TONMO that article is now more of a How-Not-To. My concern is for the prospective ceph keeper who might read this article without also reading the excellent articles and checklists by Colin and Nancy.

Adjunctively yours,

I had always considered Jason's article as a record of how he learned and increased his knowledge about octopuses.

However, maybe we need a guide to our articles with comments on each one. I intend to update my articles from time to time as we learn more about keeping cephs.

Hi Alex

I have carefully read all the points you have made and thought about my feeling on the original article.

Honestly, fair enough. They are all valid points. I had never really thought of the article as being the definitive guide to octopus husbandry, more of one person's experience and how they managed it. So I personally hadn't worried about it too much as I knew the other info was out there.

However, you are right that a new person to the hobby could come away with the wrong impression and its important to pick up on some points.

Yes, all our articles need to be kept up to date.

I can also confirm that the vulgaris was imported from the tropics and not local caught. Octopus vulgaris was also, the 'best guess' at species ID. It was never scientifically proven so that is also a flaw.

The UK still has no reliable company IDing or importing specifically named species!!!

points taken on board

Thanks for posting Alex. I think linking articles to commentary here in the forum is a great way to "keep it real" (and it's in line with Web publishing standard of "comment on this article" treatment seen everywhere). Appreciate your input!

Were should i get an octopus i am still doeing reasearch on them and wanted to know the best one to get here are some personality traits i like i dont need to have them

happy to see you
And i do need it to be small

Thank you!!!!! :smile: im in Canada Toronto i know none of you are there so you probably wont know anywere to get one
One small point to note... UK gallons are different to US... Still probably not big enough for a ceph, but a 15 gallon tank in the UK ,is 18 US gallons, this may sound pedantic, but makes a significant difference when discussing big tank volumes !

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