Octopus vulgaris cognitive expriment tank in Austria (Europe)

Sep 5, 2021
Graz, Austria (European Union)
Hi, hailing from the home town of Arnold Schwarzenegger, let me introduce myself since @tonmo asked for details about my project in another thread.

First, a picture of my new 2000 liter tank, which has just become ready for its first octopus:


It is not yet completely finshed, but the water quality has been right now for nearly a month, so I am ready.

There are two parts of the tank, left for living, and right for experiments and interactions, with a small "air bridge" between the two parts that can be crossed by the single occupancy octopus.

The facility is semi-private, in collaboration with several established research centers in Europe. It will be used for informal, preparatory sub-research-level cognitive experiments, similar in vein to those known from octolab.tv such as
but in our case to conduct proof-of-concept experiments for follow-up ethics-approved research experiments in certified research facilities as well as in the nearby Adriatic sea in the wild, according to the European legislation w.r.t. the protection of cephalopods used in scientific research.

One goal is to raise octopuses (a single one, one after the other, over several years) living together with humans, similar as in David Scheel's "The octopus in my home" documentary. Among other features, because of the way the tank is divided into two parts, a human can enter the water of the tank to interact with the octopus :smile:.

I'm particularily interested in empowering the octopus to control his or her own environment via pull-sensors, electro-mechanical devices, and interactive LCD screens. For instance, I want to allow them to be able to choose their food from several options, to let them turn on and off their light, or to let them control a water jet in their den. I also want to try my best to teach them to use a mirror as a tool, will conduct the Marshmallow test for O. vulgaris, find out how far the learning from video goes (for instance using cartoons), and try to understand how they cognitively perceive colors and polarization in controlled experiements. Some of the more futuristic experiments will aim at play behavior and capabilities, in particular allowing them to learn to play simple species-appropriate video games. Reactions to species-adapted video channels, to "magic" and "jokes" will also be part of the suite of experiments. There are many more ideas, e.g., to repeat the experiments that were done on symbol learning.

A very gentle method to weigh the animal regularily will also be used, as shown here (presented at https://www.cephalopodresearch.org/...022/07/CephRes2020-VirtualEvent-Abstracts.pdf ): Slany_Cephres - volume and weight method

We'll also allow suggestions of cognitive experiments from the public, and collaborations with remote researchers and university students who want to conduct their own cognitive pre-scientific experiments with our octopus. Contact me at [email protected] in case that would be of interest to you.

Once we have something to show, you will hear more here about the "octopus-intelligence" project. Also, videos will be made available via YouTube.

The tank was built by specialists who construct tanks for zoos and public aquariums, and have many years of experience with octopus tanks of all sizes in particular.

All the best!
Super-cool! I hope our community can help you with this project -- feel free to ping me here, or direct, any time with any needs or ways in which TONMO can assist.
Yes, she was very attentive all the time, almost always looked out, only once hid her eyes when the sunlight was very bright at one point (aftwards we always covered her in direct sunlight), and showed no fear whatsoever, even when we met a dog that reacted strongly to her. She also had a small crab with her in an arm throughout the whole trip, but was so busy looking out she totally forgot to eat it.
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wow, what an exciting day that must have been for her. Tell us a bit about how you acclimate her to the trip -- I'm imagining a slow, careful, lengthy process to move from tank to tank. And she's not small... I bet the crab helps a lot! :smile: 🦀
Yes, I indeed acclimated her very slowly, in fact starting last year every few days, first by just giving her time over many weeks to learn about the canister inside the water, then taking her out of her aquarium for a few seconds when she entered the canister freely, then to the open air bridge inside the aquarium with her inside the canister for a few seconds, later minutes, then days later carrying her around in the canister in the room, again days later the whole apartment (always stopping in front of mirrors, showing her the freezer with her food, going to the balcony, eating together at the dinner table with her in the canister), then again a few days later down to the street, watching passing cars etc), then up and down to the neighbors, later a short trip to the park outside, and so on. At one point she was so addicted to the canister that she entered into it immediately eight times in a row, always waiting for me to take it out and carry her around (I finally couldn't continue, the canister with the water inside is really heavy and I carried it on my shoulder 😂). There's of course more, but I have to leave for work now...

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