#1 Species. As you will soon learn, this is a complicated topic.
The first thing to keep in mind is that it will take you longer to purchase, build out and cure your tank than you will have your first octopus. The animals we keep only live for about 12 months (8-12 for the dwarf, 12-18 for the warm water and 12-30 for cold water). There are no breeding programs so virtually all are wild caught so age is unknown and it won't be a new hatchling.
Further complicating requirements, size and and habits of the individual animal vary greatly. We have seen animals of the same species vary widely in size (this is true in the wild as well as aquarium kept animals) so guessing age based on size at acquisition is not accurate. We have seen nocturnal or crepuscular (early morning, early evening hunters) be strictly nocturnal as well as day active. Several keepers of diurnal animals have been disappointed to find them nocturnal.
Next in the "fun" of keeping an octopus is the lack of vendors knowledge. Very, very few vendors can identify the animal they are selling. We do have a set of about 6 that are most commonly shipped/found and most of their requirements are similar.
With those forewarnings, decisions for preparing your environment need to be based upon keeping a variety of species. Tank size is the biggest issue and sizing a tank for the larger animals is wise. So a MINIMUM of 55 gallons with a 15 gallon or larger sump is my recommendation and if you have room for a 60-75 gallon with a larger sump, all the better. The only animal we see (and we have seen very few of these since the extreme cold snap in 2010) that the larger tank is inappropriate for is the dwarf O.mercatoris. The dwarfs will survive well in the large tank but you may never see it once released. The other consideration (a minor one) is should you end up with a very young animal, growing it out in a smaller (35 ish) tank is somewhat preferred in that it is easier to find and feed while it is still very shy and often fully nocturnal.
List of typical species (for pictures and keeping experiences, look at the list of our octopuses posts at the top of the Journals forum
, the animals journaled will have the species and a link to the journals)
The typical Box of Chocolates
- usually comes from the Philippines (will not likely be available much this year with their earthquake and Tsunami)
Abdopus aculeatus (sp)
- diurnal. Almost always full adult, small egg with no chances of growing out the young. The Abdopus complex contains a number of animals, some are likely unnamed (hence the sp I placed after the species). On occasion we see what appears to be a young aculeatus
that turns out to be an unidentified adult member of the Abdopus
Macropus ? - nocturnal. Species not identified (likely Callistoctopus aspilosomatis
often labeled luteus)
but we see what appears to be the same animal fairly often. Mine have been very interactive and very nocturnal, 3:00 AM being their out and about time.
Wunderpus Photogenicus - we do not support keeping this exotic due to observed declining numbers, failure to do well in an aquarium, loss of habitat and no way to tank raise them (small egg). They are often listed as a mimic octopus, another species we do not support keeping at home.
- East Coast (typically FL Keys)
- Crepuscular. Arguably one of the prettiest octopuses when in full web display. Often early evening active and sometimes almost diurnal as it ages. It is a large egg species and possible to raise a few young (very
difficult but possible). This species is probably the most easily identified. All adults have very long arms but the body size can vary significantly.
- Diurnal. Probably the most desired of the Caribbeans. This is a thick, robust animal with an identifying eyespot and often mislabeled as a bimac. Also known as the Caribbean two spot and Octopus filosus
. They are hard to find (many were imported from Haiti but have been in extreme short supply since the earthquake) . One note of casual observed but not studies concern is that the females often seem to brood within two weeks of entering the aquarium. My theory
is that they are more easily captured while out foraging for their last meals. The size varies from dwarf to medium so age will be a total mystery.
Octopus mercatoris -
Nocturnal to crepuscular. The smallest of the group we keep. Not a very active species. Females will often locate a den and rarely leave. Males tend to be a bit more adventurous. I have found placing a giant barnacle about 1/3 way up the tank provides a satisfactory den and will allow viewing and feeding. Often mislabeled Octopus joubini
. This is a large egg species and the most common animal that can be kept (with limitations) in multiples and tank raised for more than one generation.
Octopus vulgaris -
crepuscular to diurnal. The largest of the group we keep. The Caribbean vulgaris are much smaller than their Mediterranean cousins but still need a large tank (75+ recommended). I have only kept one and fortunately she stayed small enough to live in a 60 but this is not the norm for the species.
- West Coast
Octopus bimaculoides -
diurnal. This is a cold water species that does well in a tank kept below 68 degrees. It tends to survive longest if kept even cooler. It's primary collection is in California tide pools but it is illegal to sell the live animal (it can be caught for private use, including food, pet or bait). It is the longest lived (at proper temperatures) of the animals we keep. A fertilized female will produce large eggs and has the highest success rate of hatchling survival in an aquarium. If you see one for sale, it is more likely the Caribbean hummelincki.
On a rare occasion you will see them offered as unexpected hatchlings from an educational facility.