My octopus stories (raising the deep-sea "bigeye")


Pygmy Octopus
Aug 25, 2019
San Diego
Dear cephalopod community,

This my first post but I've been lurking on this forum for awhile. My name is Adi Khen and I'm a PhD student at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UCSD. I actually study coral reef ecology, but in my spare time I took up animal husbandry and have completely fallen in love with octopuses! I've been raising the deep sea species Octopus californicus-- commonly known as the "North Pacific Bigeye," collected from a trawl on one of our research vessels. Our octopuses are in chilled water on flow-thru (approx. 8 degrees Celsius) and are usually fed thawed fish. They're supposedly more social than other species and can live together (but, mind you, the tank is >100 gallons) and best of all are charismatic, clever, and just *so* cute. I've spent a lot of time with them, both observing them and interacting with them, and have written a couple stories about my experience which I wanted to share with you if that's okay!

Please see here: Raising an ‘Alien’ from Earth
And this was my original story: The Story of My Octopus

At this point I feel like I owe it to my 'pet' octopuses to promote public understanding and appreciation for these creatures <3 and I've received positive feedback so far but I'd love to hear any of your thoughts too, especially as experts/hobbyists! I'll try to keep you updated about our latest bunch; one of the larger females laid eggs about a month ago and although there's been no visible development yet, I'm thinking it might take much longer for this deep-sea species...

Oh, and I also make digital scientific illustrations! I've drawn this species, as well as a general diagram of octopus embryonic development and a tentacle-tribute which I'm attaching here in case you're interested :)

Thanks for reading,


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Incredible! Thanks for joining our community -- looking forward to this!! What a unique experience...
They're supposedly more social than other species and can live together
Have you seen this thread? (it was referenced in @pgs' book Other Minds):
Thank you! Yes, I've heard about those "octopus societies" and I'd expect no less from such intelligent creatures; it's a shame they're so short-lived!

At one point we had 6 bigeyes living together (presumably 2 females and 4 males if it's true that females are generally much larger for this species). They each seemed to claim their own spot within the tank but other than some play-wrestling every now and then (and one mating incident which ended in sexual cannibalism [!] more in the story) they didn't pay too much attention to each other. I'll add some pics now to the gallery!
Your articles are a great read! I would be especially interested to see more photos of your experimental aquarium setup and culture operation. Good luck with the mom on eggs! The photos you posted are either of unfertilized eggs or maybe they are just a bit slow to develop. I've had moms incubate viable eggs for months before hatching, so all you can do is wait and see.
I'd be willing to bet they are fertile (because you see them enough to continually keep a group) but, as you suggested, observation has it that the deeper cold water animals take longer to incubate. Circumstantial evidence (ie monitored but not a controlled environment) has indicated that at least one very cold water species, Graneledone boreopacifica may incubate for over 4 years.
Very cool articles! Thank you for introducing us to a relatively unknown species...I have a couple of questions actually. How big do they get? In the selfie photo, they seem quite small (in comparison to the common octopus). Also, when you say deep species, how deep more or less? Last but not least, as far as I can tell, in the photos you have your octos in your palm outside the water, do they really let you handle them out of water? Are they relaxed when so?
Thanks for your questions and interest! Yes, they're quite small though I'd suspect the ones I was holding in the selfie photo are males. Females are up to ~3x as large and I don't usually hold them unless they initiate the contact themselves. But yes, they're especially social not only with each other but also with humans. One of my favorite memories is them grabbing onto my hand and 'exploring'/tasting my fingers, sometimes crawling up my arm and playfully squirting me with water, hahah! They don't seem to mind (briefly) being out of the water, though I always limit it to less than a minute of course.

As for depth, as far as I know their documented range is >100 to 1000m deep or more. We've collected them on otter trawls of 200-500m depth (see the link to our Scripps benthic invertebrates collection database here: Benthic Invertebrate Collection at Scripps, we have several preserved specimens of Octopus californicus and you can search for more details including exact location)
This is all very interesting...I keep coming across more and more "social" species, both towards each other and humans (e.g. the Larger Pacific Striped Octopus, the Gloomy Octopus etc.) I wonder if sociability of octopuses is a fluid concept, meaning that octopuses are not asocial per se, but will become more social depending on circumstances
That's such an interesting theory and from my experience so far (though limited only to this species...) I'd be inclined to believe it!!! Wow! Now I wish I could keep even more octopuses as pets and test this out! :biggrin2: Has this been looked into scientifically other than the octopus 'societies' that were discovered?
Has this been looked into scientifically other than the octopus 'societies' that were discovered?
There is a little bit (not much) beyond octopolis and octlantis, as discussed here:
@tonmo I recently submitted my closeup shot of bigeye octopus (Octopus californicus) suckers to the UCSD Art of Science contest and would really appreciate your vote, if you're willing to do so. Thank you :heart:

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