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Octopus not eating, odd behavior and waste?


Dec 22, 2004
This is a cross-post from my thread on Sleipner, but it was suggested I start another to bring in a broader audience. I hope some of the pros out there (Roy, Adam, Jean, etc) might have some advice.

I received my octopus (a captive-raised bimac, ~3.5 months old) three weeks ago and he has been acting rather strangely. He's rejected all food for over two weeks, creates strange poos, and isn't observed to leave his den at all.

After a short acclimation period of a couple days he spent the better part of a week active in the tank finding dens and hunting during the day. He didn't seem to mind my presence and we did the tug-of-war once. He wasn't very skilled at hunting crabs but managed to eat at least three in as many days, and produced many of the red poops I was used to from my cuttlefish.

After that he retreated to a new den of PVC and for the past two weeks hasn't been seen to leave. I peer at him often, but he doesn't seem to mind my presence: he appears healthy and reactive inside his den and doesn't exhibit overt color changes, breathe heavily more than once, ink or move to the back/pull shells in to hide as I would expect if he was afraid of me.

Most worrisome is there's no evidence that he has eaten in the two weeks. He's been offered fiddler crabs, Oregon tidepool crabs, hermit crabs, three genera of snail and thawed krill. There are a couple crabs in the 75 gallon tank with him, and I have also offered them to him by hand (he doesn't seem to mind my hand, and for the first week of this condition would wrap arms around a small crab being held by me, but would give up if it squirmed too much). I've also put overturned snails and hermit crabs in front of his den--easy morsels within arm's reach--to no avail. I've offered the krill four times (both by hand and with a skewer), and in one instance he sliced and tasted with his beak but rejected it.

His poops are strange. Instead of the oblong red poops 3-4 mm long, now I see smaller (2-3 mm), flesh-colored/translucent poops with stringy ends. At some points I've noticed a few of these per day, other days none.

I'm somewhat worried about autophagy, but I haven't noticed any stubby arms (he does move around a bit inside his den), and besides not leaving the den he doesn't show any symptoms of being fearful.

I've also wondered if perhaps the animal's biological clock is wired a bit wrong and is producing infertile and malformed eggs, spitting them directly into the water column as the strange poops I've noticed. No stalked festoons or eggs are visible inside his den.

The water is pristine and 68 degrees. I've been doing water tests every few days during the ordeal. The behavior began a few days after he settled into a 1" PVC den. The pipe was rinsed and set in the water 3-4 weeks before he arrived so I assume its lost any manufacturing residues. The tank has a 13 hour photoperiod and a macroalgae refugium on a reverse cycle to keep the pH stable.

Any ideas? Its possible that he's hunting amphipods at night, but every time I've gone through the room at night to get to the bathroom he's been in his den. And I'd think he'd have to really be filling up not to take the snails and crabs sitting outside his den!

I'll attach a few videos of him in his first week when he was acting normal; for no other reason as a size reference and to show he's never been that great at catching crabs :)

Sleipner attacking a crab 16 seconds

Sleipner tries again 17 seconds

Sleipner breathing 8 seconds

PS to Tony--is there any way to use an tag on the forums for the videos?
I have a few thoughts. I remember you mentioned this is #3? Did all 3 come from Zyan or were there other sources? Did these go into the same tank? My thoughts are if indeed all 3 were introduced into the same tank, maybe there is something in the tank that is affecting them that doesn't show up on a test reading. Sometimes babies just do not thrive. I have had a few that acted normally for a few weeks and then just stopped eating and died, some unexpectedly and some I just knew would not make it. I think Nancy had brought up that an octopus has many babies in the wild just for this reason so at least a few grow to adulthood. If you remember, one octopus, Lil Pumpkin, I had her for almost 6 months but she stayed stunted, very tiny and our thoughts at the time were had she been in the wild, this would have been one of the ones that did not thrive but being she was in a safe home aquarium is why she lived as long as she did, although stunted.

I tend to think to get 3 that would have this issue, I'm leaning more towards something undetectable within your tank.

That's my 2Cents! Should be interesting to hear others thoughts! Keeping fingers crossed!

This is and interesting case. There is a chance that there could be something wrong with the tank (i.e some chemical) but its almost imposible to determine unless you have the ability to do the tests. As far as what corw314 said about "runts" it could be possible if all the babies are raised in the same tank, that's why I seperate them. If the damage is done it's hard to reverse it. Another possibility is possible food contamination which coud happin with wild caught food but is rare and hard to determine, but I've had one case while at the NRCC where a pond that we collected food at was contaminated with chemicals be the owners to kill grass. And another case where there might have been the same problem due to a lot of construction near by. Most of the problems like this are hard to determine which out a chemistry lab the best you can do is try different food such as live ghost shrimp if you have not already. Make sure you are using DI/RO water and try to minimize any other risks. The age is a little young for it to start laying eggs but I've seen stranger things but if it was it would still most likely attach them to something. There is a chance that it is fine, I've had an octopus in a tank for 3 months and never knew it was there, it some how managed to survive with minimal food. I'm sorry I can not offer any better advice but there are a lot of things that can cause things like this.
Good posts! After mulling it over, I think you are faced with either a contaminated tank (they used an inappropriate glue or copper), the source of octos, or some sort of leached problem with the food...the bad part is that it is almost impossible to detect any of these without spending a small fortune. You may want to get a hold of your local public water utility, and see who they use to test for toxins in their water, often these labs will test an oddball water sample just to break up the pattern for free...it's worth a try, at least.
Thanks for the good posts, everyone.

For the record, here's my cephalohistory:

April '04: Received a tiny bimac from Octopets, maybe 1/2" ML. This guy didn't make it a week, but he was also very tiny.

June '06: Received a bunch of baby S. bandensis from the artist formerly known as Righty. They too were tiny (maybe 1/4" ML), a couple died and a couple grew to maturity.

December '06: Received a 3 month old bimac from Zyan. It ate twice, then crawled out of its den a week later and died on top of a rock.

A week later I got this one from Z. As far as I can tell is been about two and a half weeks since he's eaten, but--other than not leaving his den--doesn't seem to be at all inactive or show any signs of fatigue. I'm crossing my fingers that he will just be fine, but it is perplexing.

I'm using RO/DI water from a trusted LFS (I know that they test TDS regularly and change membranes, unlike say, Walmart). Since my cuttles grew to a natural end, I'm hesitant to suspect copper or other contamination in the tank.

My wife and I are going to be out of town next week, so that might help if he's spooked by my presence or motion in the room. I'm contemplating whether or not to do a big water change before we leave.

Its also worth noting that he has a couple of tiny irregular white spots on him, notably one on his head below and anterior to his eyes. This is vaguely visible in the first video of him attacking a crab. The marks strike me as similar in color (but not morphology) to marks that would appear occasionally on my cuttlefish, which I suspected to be areas of damaged iridophores from fighting which would heal in a couple weeks. I hypothesize he might have gotten a nasty pinch by a crab at some point; which might explain how timid he is towards them.

It looked like that crab you were feeding him was way too big! No offense, or anything. What are you feeding him now and where the heck did you get those crabs from? They are huge!
AprylWillis;85406 said:
It looked like that crab you were feeding him was way too big! No offense, or anything. What are you feeding him now and where the heck did you get those crabs from? They are huge!

I'd have to disagree, considering my O. Mercatoris can conquer Fiddlers and he's about half the size of Sleipner. Then again, I got pinched by one of the larger Fiddlers and I was rather surprised how strong they are.

I'd agree with Cuttlegirl. In my experience with animals, strange poop and loss of appetite generally coincide with internal parasites. Of course that's experience with mammals.

Sucks that any saltwater parasite treatment is probably going to be just as detrimental to an octopus as the parasite itself.
I believe the crab to be of a reasonable size, given that it is smaller than the ones he was shipped with and had been eating in his previous home.
But are you the one hunting it? It looked like he struggled because the crab was larger and much more defensive than the smaller ones he was probably used to. Unless you've had luck with him eating this size, I would guess that was what was wrong in that video.

I'm just going to say it like everyone else. You have to look at his condition further before you make ahy decisions on his health. I would assume it's something you cannot test--it could also be a psychological problem.
Thanks for the article! The marks on Sleipner seem dissimilar to the cysts described, but it doesn't seem unlikely that he's battling some other parasite or infection.

Last night I was mixing the starter for tonight's pizza dinner and had MASH on in the living room. Sleipner decided to sit with his head sticking out of the den, the furthest out he's come in more than a week. Either he's feeling a little bit better or he has a fondness for Donald Sutherland. I guess I can't complain either way.
Glad Sleipner is hanging in there.

Can he see the TV ?- we're always collecting reports of octo TV watching, but so far they seem to prefer cartoons and sports.


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