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Octopus in a large public tank, assistance needed


O. vulgaris
Oct 19, 2005
Hello everyone ^.^;

Its been awhile since I posted here. I've been taking care of little calamari (bimac) for 9 months when he finaly passed away from what I can only call old age. Since I dont live near any oceans I've burried him in the backyard and plan to plant a tree over his grave to grow and remind my family of him.

But anways that was just a little update since ive been awol.

Alot of things have happened in my life lately. I'm about to open a large video game arcade and bar/restaurant. It's going to be quite a hit, I know it because I have the determination to make it so. My life is really going into business and becomming successful, but octopus are still very close to my heart.

I'm aspiring to install a 500-1000G+ self made display aquarium in the establishment. Although I first considered using this as a reef system, the idea popped into my head perhaps I could house an octopus for the public to see. I was thinking perhaps I could feed it twice a day so the customers would see it, even announce daily feeding times. Perhaps even teach it to do tricks like open the jar to get the food or play with toys and solve puzzles.

I was thinking if I did this, many people who would never even see an octopus in their entire life would get a chance to see one, and perhaps I could raise awareness and discourage people from eating these intelligent creatures.

So the assistence I need from the wonderful people here at tomno... If it was a 500-1000G system what would be the absolute best species to put in it that people would notice. I know octopus are picky, some are shy, some love attention... I'm really trying to pick a species that is large enough to be noticed in such a huge tank, and perhaps active enough too....

Any feedback would be wonderful, ideas for the business or the tank/equipment or the octopus anything, I thrive on feedback :biggrin2: Hope to hear from you soon tonmo!
Sorry to hear about your bimac.

That sounds like a great ambition for a cool hangout! I suspect there are a number of folks who could help with advice for large octopus keeping, Jean comes to mind in particular. Unfortunately, though, I think most folks around here who have kept large octos have had the option to pipe in fresh seawater, so I haven't heard too many folks talk about closed system tanks that large, but hopefully you can find some help. I'm not really qualified to help substantially, but if I were in Michigan, I'd hang out there! Particularly if you had a lot of classic Williams arcade and pinball machines... (I haven't played Stargate, Sinistar, or F-14 Tomcat in years...)
Sorry to hear about little calamari, but nine months is a good long time when keeping bimacs. RIP calamari :angelpus:

As for your new tank, I'd think a vulgaris or GPO might be the best. I'd lean towards the vulgaris. I think you could make the tank attractive so that it would be nice to look at when the octopus wasn't active, as well.

You might find your best advice from public aquariums - that's a large tank you'll have.

I plan on having lots of pinball machines :biggrin2:

But I never knew there was a stargate video game ? O_O; I'm a stargate fanatic lol.

Thanks for the help Nancy, I'm sure I definitly could make the tank look attractive without the octo out, I'd just really want the public to see it as much as possible. I imagine most people wouldnt even notice an octopus if its staring them in the face lol, perhaps the feedings is what will really draw it out. Could I ask you why youd suggest a vulgaris over a GPO?
squall7733 said:
I plan on having lots of pinball machines :biggrin2:

But I never knew there was a stargate video game ? O_O; I'm a stargate fanatic lol.

The stargate video game was before the TV show, so it's not really related; in fact, when they made a PC version of Williams' arcade games, they called it "Defender II" since it was an enhanced version of defender. But the arcade version was called Defender:Stargate, or usually just Stargate. I assume the rename was some legal entanglement with the Stargate TV folks. I could rant about how fun a game it is, but I should :silenced: myself now, since this is pretty far off topic....
I would go with a vulagaris or a GPO but you would definitely need to secure the top (people are keen to see them but IN the tank not crawling round their feet............seems to freak them out for some reason!).

As for feeding by all means try to make an event out of it..............but be aware that the octi might not play by the rules. Ours are VERY nocturnal and while they come out during the day, they rarely feed. You will also need to be scrupulous in your cleaning, crab bits need to be removed regularly (visitors don't always like to be reminded that octis eat live food!).


Do you think that having such a large tank compared to the size of the octo would encourage its habbits to journey around the tank and look around or do you think it might frighten it to stay in one spot?

I don't even have my Vulgaris in my tank yet and I am already planning my GPO tank.
Ebay is the best bet if you want a bare bones acrylic tank. Don't go glass, I like my tank being glass but it is too darn heavy. Remember weight of a 500-1000 gallon in IMMENSE - so be sure the floor can handle it.
I was looking at a 48 wide x 96 long x 48 tall that would do nicely for about $3000. Build your own filter is much better, but the chiller cost will be close to the tank cost. Build it in a wall so you don't have anyone seeing the bulky life support stuff and throwing things in the tank.
Vulgaris are cool, but when you say how a GPO could lift a child into the tank - teenagers get interested.
Hi Squall,

Based on my limited experience (5 years) volunteering at a small public aquarium as well as observing octopus husbandry and exhibition at several other institutions, I've got to say that I don't think your idea will work out the way you hope. OTOH: There might be some modifications possible. Consider the following:

1. Regardless of species, octopuses are reclusive by nature. Sure, many folks on this forum have had an octopus that became somewhat gregarious but, almost without exception, those were animals that had learned to feel safe with a very limited number of individual humans - usually in a pretty sedate atmosphere. The sounds and flashing lights associated with a game arcade will almost certainly be very stressful to an octopus. Likewise, alcoholic beverages will likely result in a few of your customers doing things that will scare or stress the octo. In either a bar or arcade environment the most likely scenario will be that your octopus(s) will stay out of sight during your open hours. You and your wait-staff will constantly be explaining to people "No, that's not an empty aquarium. There's actually an octopus in there but it never shows itself when we're open." BTW: I've seen institutional tanks in which the octopus was forced to stay out in the open by the simple expedient of not providing any hiding places - that was one stressed out cephalopod!

2. Most species of octopus would get 'lost' (in display terms) in a thousand gallon tank. That would be a good size tank for a Giant Pacific Octopus (GPO) but then you'd have to deal with refrigerating the water (preferred temp ~ 50F) and possibly dealing with related issues like large amounts of condensation. A 500 gallon tank would be too small for a GPO but probably too large to effectively display a smaller species.

3. On a more positive note; if the restaurant portion of your establishment is going to be quiet in nature, you might consider installing two to four tanks in the 250 -300 gallon range - each housing an O. vulgaris. Alternatively, you could install a number of tanks ranging from O. wolfi size (20 - 30 gallon?) to O. vulgaris size. By having a number of octopuses on display there will be a better chance that one or more will be visible at any given time. By custom selecting your species list you may also be able to save time and money by avoiding animals with difficult needs. You may also be able to use a common sump for all tanks that need the same temperature.

4. Put a good deal of research into what feeding strategy you'll use; here's a cautionary tale: Where I volunteer, we've always kept one or more GPO's and, until this year, we always fed them live rock crabs (Cancer productus). Our GPO's have almost always been very shy and the public rarely gets to see more than a glimpse of an animal that is well back in its den. This year, we tried a different strategy (we return our GPO's to the wild at the end of our four month tourist season). We tried feeding squid which we had purchased frozen and then thawed as needed. The GPO's accepted the squid with no problem and, because squid are much smaller than crab the animals would get hungry more often which meant more opportunities for public viewing. One of our GPO's even learned the classic "food in a screw top jar" trick! Then disaster struck! One of our staff members decided to give the GPO's a treat of live crab. This reminded the animals that crab was their favorite food and that squid was a very poor substitute. They now refuse squid completely and almost always wait for the Center to close for the night before collecting their crab dinner.

5. Regardless of the size and number of tanks, make sure you plan for the amount of time and effort it's going to take to maintain them. As Jean said, the public is going to have a different standard for judging a tank's appearance than you may. While we might find a shell midden outside the octo den to be interesting, most of the public will just think it's sloppy looking (or worse). Multiple animals in multiple tanks may seem like more work but keep in mind that there are a whole different set of troubles with maintaining a really big tank. We have a 600 - 700 gallon tank for our GPO and cleaning it requires that it be 75% empty; which also means that the GPO has to be removed to another tank during cleaning. With a thousand gallon tank you're getting into SCUBA territory for cleaning and maintenance. We do a thorough cleaning once per week and remove crab remains every one or two days. In a restaurant setting, you'll have to do more unless you want to spoil your customers' appetites (I'm guessing that's not a good idea).

6. My personal feeling is that to do this right you're going to have to spend a ton of money and time on your octopus(es) and that such expense could only be justified if you can find a way to make the octopuses a central theme of the establishment.

Exhibitionistically yours,

Good luck with all this! I must ask, where in Michigan are you? Though I may be on the coast now, I'm schooling in MI, and I'm sure those of us in the area would love to visit your arcade and talk ceph.
If you do decide to house any of the afore mentioned cephs in your building, I would consider coming all the way to MI to see them (and your arcade). I think you have a great idea!

if actually do this in ur arcade/bar that would be amazing!!! if i were you i would put the tank in the wall behind the bar but then people wont be able to see tons..... i think if u had a gpo that would be cool as hell..... good luck and hopefully u share some photos...
We had a small octopus (~5kg) in our 5000L tank she wasn't always immediately visible but we designed her cave facing the outside of the tank and she could usually be seen. Visitors loved playing "find the octopus". We siphon the tank once a week (specially constructed siphon) and scuba dive it once a month in winter (more in summer). We can also lower the level so that a staff member can get in in waders to clean.................that's an advantage of a flow through system!


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