• 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.

must patience best ambition?


Nov 27, 2006
I’m long time lurker here on TONMO, and keeping a pet octopus has been a seemingly unattainable dream of mine for as long as I care to remember. My lack of a cephalofriend boils down to three factors that lead me to doubt my credentials as an octopus owner.

So here's the thing; I have been reading the articles and forums here on TONMO and elsewhere for a solid couple years now, and I feel like I have a good understanding of what it takes to keep an octopus happy and healthy, and regulate water quality in a marine aquarium, but that is inevitably trumped by the fact that I’ve never actually kept a marine aquarium myself :oops:. I’ve done FW before with success, but I’m well aware that SW has its own ins and outs. Despite knowing the nitrogen cycle through and through, and having read countless accounts and silently, mentally troubleshooting many that have posted problems in their own tanks, I still fear that all research and knowledge will fail me in the field. this is basically what makes me fear that acquiring an octopus would be irresponsible and cruel to the brilliant little critter.

Funds and availability. I’m fairly confident that an octopus is fairly inexpensive. Obviously it depends on “when”s and “how”s because it seems that many of you have acquired your pets through unique personal circumstances, but in any case I know that bimacs run around $50 on marinedepotlive.com and so I am not too concerned in that department. However, I’ve done the budgeting and I know setting up an aquarium will be very costly. It seems difficult to reach escape velocity below, say $600 and come out with a respectable setup (having no inside contacts or engineering skill-sets, as many of you do). I’ll need to get everything from aquarium and stand, to lighting, to skimming and filtration, to LR and LS, to a reliable supplier of live food on a regular basis. The thought of establishing a website, helpmebuyanoctopus.com has occurred to me, and otherwise working to acquire the funds through various means. In the grand scheme of things it is affordable in my situation with a little elbow grease. But besides that, I haven’t seen octopuses for sale anywhere lately, though I’ll be living next year near Boston, so I imagine there will be something out there somewhere. This brings me to the next issue

I’m a college student and thus far haven’t been staying in the same place for more than 10 months at a time. My home is in Chicago, but I study out in Mass. That has always posed a stopgate when considering a large aquarium setup, but at this point I am willing to put together what I can and get it back and forth by one means or another. The short life cycle of many octopuses does do well to alleviate my fear of irresponsibly acquiring a pet that I will have to drive across the country at some point and reacclimate in a new setting.

So clearly the biggest issue is my noob status when it comes to marine aquarium keeping. I understand that an octopus can only be added to an established system of several months or more. Perhaps this cycling time would give me the much needed experience required to be a responsible keeper. Perhaps not. Besides that I believe I could work out the budget and make sure to give it a good home for the lifespan of a well selected individual octopus (one that is already mature, or of a shorter-lived species).

Although I am hoping that the experts here on the TONMO board will offer me encouragement to shoot for my dream, and assure me that it’s a plausible scenario for this year, I know that you will likely advise me to do the prudent thing and start with some hardy fish. Okay, I’m ready to accept that. Do your worst, but know that you’re forcing me to hold off for another few years on this excellent name I’ve come up with: “Octopus Prime.”

Unless my instinct to play it slow and safe is misguided (having read all the advice in these articles and forums, I doubt it is) please give me some advice as to how to ready myself for the privilege of octopus keeping. What progression of starter fish or inverts do you recommend? Obviously since I’ve been reading here, I have a preference for the extra-ordinary. And I’m very open to suggestions. Oh god I want a ceph pet so damn much it’s excruciating :banghead:. But for now it looks like I will continue to read and dream.

Oh and my name is Mike. It’s nice to meet all of you. Thanks for being out there.
:welcome: Mike. I have a couple of thoughts for you. One would be trying to volunteer at the New England Aquarium in the husbandry department. You would gain some valuable experience and maybe even some left over supplies from other volunteers/aquarists. Also, check and see if there is a local aquarium society in the Boston area, they may have some used equipment. Lastly, you want to buy the biggest aquarium you can possibly afford because you will immediately want to upgrade...

I would suggest starting with some fish, just to see how things go with maintaining a salt water aquarium. Then you could trade the fish in at a local fish store when you feel comfortable housing an octopus.

Couple of questions for you...

If you go home for the summer, do you have a place you could store your aquarium? Or do you have someone who could take care of the aquarium for you? Aquariums become more stable over time (provided nothing major goes wrong...), so it would be better if you didn't have to tear apart the aquarium every summer.

Oh and one last thing, this is an expensive hobby, you will be needing to replace parts, get new RO/DI water, purchase salt, and purchase food for your octopus. If you are lucky, your octopus will accept dead food. It is still a good idea to supplement with live food.

Good luck, and don't get too discouraged!
Thank you cuttlegirl for the excellent input. volunteering at the NEA is a brilliant suggestion. Unfortunately I do live in Worcester, a solid 40 minute drive from downtown Boston, but I'm sure I could put together a very part time kind of thing. I know that there are a few aquarium societies in the area, that I was planning to contact when I return to Mass in August, also to rack up experience points.

I'm going to be a senior undergrad next semester, so unfortunately where i will be next summer really is up in the air, but chances are it will not put me in a stable situation for aquarium ownership. i am really trying to figure out a one year plan that will allow me to resell or store my equipment at home for some time, come next summer. this is why my octopus ambitions have really culminated recently. given the life cycle, this is probably the last chance i'll have to give it a try until i establish myself as a fully fledged grown-up haha. i know this is an unusual question, but are there other keep-able specimens with desirably short life cycles? unfortunately, many of the marine fish that have caught my interest can live 10-15 years!

as far as the expenses and aquarium size lessons go, these are factors i've come to realize as very important given my reading. i continue to take these into consideration. i think the budget will be viable if i can find a way to be a a conscientious marine aquarist, as a certain Robert Fenner might put it.
Well if you have an eye for the...unusual then maybe mantis shrimp would be for you? Mantis shrimp are very easy to take care of (at least most of them are) and pretty easy to get. Most reefers view them as evil little beasties that hitch a ride on live rock and will destroy an entire tank including the tank itself. In fact they are relatively small and any mantis under 4" (almost all smashers) couldn't scratch a glass tank. They come in 2 varieties, smashers and spearers. Smasher club prey, cracking exoskeletons and eating the insides. Spearers usually prey on shrimp and fish. Check out the reefcentral.com mantis shrimp forum. N. wennerae, a common floridian smasher, can be kept in a ten gallon. This will allow you to get your feet wet w/o too much investment.

hahah you're right on the mark, pea-brain. ive been reading about that baneful enemy of home aquarists for a few weeks and the strange minority that keep them as pets. they seem to have interesting behavior patterns and an attractive quirkyness. ive been considering a mantis shrimp or some clowns and an anemone as my backup.

after seeing what they can do to a small octopus, boy do i feel sorry for those that get hitch-hiking mantis shrimps in their live rocks.
:welcome: Mike...

Another thing that comes to mind is that if you can find like-minded people, you might be able to start an octo-tank in some common area like your dorm or frat or a lab you help with, and pass off the torch of octo-keeper to someone else when you leave...
Wow...I am impressed at your intention of doing right by your first octopus. I applaud you for not rushing into this as understanding what it takes to maintain a saltwater tank is imperative to being successful once you are ready for your first octopus. I think you would do well to start with something small that possibly could be transported as you venture from school to where ever.

And did I say :welcome:

I would recommend patience. Octopus are animals for advanced aquarists, and a good system requires a lot of money and is a pain in the butt to move. Set up a small saltwater system to learn the ins and outs, and by the time you're out of college, have a job and a stable place to live you'll have the skill and the money to do the job right.


Dan gives good advice. A 'saltwater thumb' is a great thing to have when dealing with cephs. Set up a 20 gallon nano saltwater tank with pc or t5 lighting and keep some fish and soft corals. You can do it cheaply either new with an out of box system for about 250 bucks, or even better, try to find something used.
thanks everyone for th advice. yes "take it slow and safe" seems to be the resounding voice of reason in this case. at any rate i am planning to get as large a tank as i can manage and start to cycle it. i'll see how things go from there, probably starting with some fish.

an exciting bit of news too: it turns out one of my roommates has actually been working at a program that teaches kids to design and manage their own saltwater aquariums and then they go and collect specimens to keep along the coast (spider crabs and stuff like that). she says she'd be psyched to volunteer with me at the NEA and help me along the way with aquarium keeping. with her help maybe things will go well enough that i can safely keep an octopus at some point. she also lives closeby so she might make a fine beneficiary of any fish or octopuses at the end of the year... well don't worry ill be taking things one step at a time, and keep you posted with any further octopus related developments.
Hey drop me a line when you get back to town, I live in boston, have kept saltwater for many years and I am approaching 3 weeks in ceph keeping. I am a member of both the boston reefers club and the boston aquarium society and would be happy to help you out with my octo/live food connections.

Welcome to the area.

Mr. Fishy;98896 said:
Hey drop me a line when you get back to town, I live in boston, have kept saltwater for many years and I am approaching 3 weeks in ceph keeping. I am a member of both the boston reefers club and the boston aquarium society and would be happy to help you out with my octo/live food connections.

Welcome to the area.


W:lol:W thank you,i will definitely contact you when i get back to mass in about a month. i emailed the local Worcester Aquarium Society but they never go back to me and their website has been untouched since 05. i am definitely hoping to volunteer at the NEA like Cuttlegirl suggested and if i can find some help with used components and live food, i will be most grateful
I'm also nearby, just south of Providence (Any other city so ironically named?). If you're ever going to be in the area I'd be happy to show you my setup, although its inhabitant's days are surely numbered as we head into the warm month of August.

Hi Mike,

I volunteered at the NEAq for three years part-time (one day a week) during college, and it was that more than anything else that got me hooked on marine bio and cephs. The people there are great and volunteers are a huge part of what makes the aquarium successful, so if you are willing to commit to a certain period of time, they are often fairly accommodating in setting up a schedule that works for all involved. There are several different departments you can volunteer for - fishes, lobsters & jellies, birds, etc, but even if you work in a department that doesn't include the resident ceph(s) as part of the normal duties, you can always visit frequently. They let me feed the GPO pretty much every week. :smile:

Good luck!

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