[Octopus]: Olaf - O. Vulgaris - Need help - new Octo just arrived and no idea what to do...

Jan 5, 2016
Dallas, TX
Ok so this is my first post although I have been following this board for a while. The title might be a little dramatic. Basically my wife suprised me this morning with a new octopus delivery for xmas. I had been planning on getting one eventually but wasn't really ready to pull the plug. I was hoping to get approval on what I am doing and make sure it is all correct.

Luckily I was already getting everything ready. I had one more fish in my QT and then I was going to put him in my 265 gallon reef display. The QT is the new home to my octopus as planned. I have already octoproofed it as best I could. It's a cube with a glass top, then I cut thick acrylic to go on top of the recessed glass with very tight clearances on all incoming connection. I am going WO weight it down till I can build clamps to lock it in. The overflows have sponges securing them. I am pulling the hydor 550 out till I can get netting for it.

I have the parameters set at 79 degrees, 8.2 ph @ 1.026 Ammonia and nitrite are both 0 and have been for 9 months. Nitrates are about 5ppm, but I will water change before dropping in the octopus.

I am using Rodi water and IO salt.

I have been drip acclimating for about an hour now. He came with salinity at 1.027, ph of 7.2 and 70ish degree temp.

I plan to acclimate for another 1 or so.

The Octo has not inked.

The tank has been up for nearly a year and fed well but no meds were used, meds were only administered in my hospital tank (not qT)

The octopus is way bigger than I expected which I no is not ideal. He is going in a 60 gallon cube. I have no ID at all so don't know where to start with that.

I haven't sourced food at all either. I know the basics of what to feed them. If anyone knows a member in dfw (Plano technically) I would love to pick their brain on this.

I will post pics of the octopus shortly. Sorry this is so long I just know these questions will be asked so thought I would go ahead and supply the answers now :smile:. Thanks for having me.
Here is a pic of the Octo and my hand for reference. Anyone able to Id? I will do better pics after acclimation.


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80% guess on Octopus briareus but more pictures will help. Do you know where it was originally found? O briareus would be a Caribbean species and likely a local catch. This one looks to be an adult. I usually take about 3 hours to acclimate but mine have been shipped vs purchased locally. If the animal seems relaxed, I will offer food before releasing it. I recommend NOT using the bag to release to the tank. If you can coax it into a container or shell, then move both to the tank, this is preferable, particularly with O. briareus as it tends to freeze and take its time exploring the tank.

Tank prep sounds excellent. A 60 with sump is usually adequate for the suggested species but a longer (vs square) tank is preferred. Without sump, I would suggest extra water changes. Nitrates don't seem to be a major concern and usually run much higher because of the feeding waste but keeping ammonia and nitrite to zero is critical.

You can try thawed table shrimp on a stick (regular nylon feeding stick or bamboo skewers work well). Start with a piece somewhat larger than the eye. For an octopus of this size, a whole small shrimp will likely be appropriate but acclimating them to thawed is often helped by starting with a smaller piece.

For live food (suggested once a week if you can get it or any time it stops eating), any small crabs (I remove pinchers) are universally accepted. The most commonly available are fiddlers (almost always available on-line, Paul Sachs has been a reliable supplier, year in and year out.) I actually prefer smaller water dwelling crabs but they are not often easy to source. Another healthy favorite has been blue crab claws. When in season, I raid the local Asian market for loose claws in their live bins. I have had to try to explain that I am not removing the claws, just looking for the ones already separated from their owners. These freeze very well (don't buy the frozen as they have been cooked). O. briareus is supposed to love lobster but the few keepers that have offered raw pieces have been rebuffed. Fish are not recommended (especially anything bought from a pet store). Live clams from the grocery/seafood store can usually be kept in the tank, add a small amount of filtration and don't cause a mess when they are eaten (not usually a first choice but may be pounced upon during the first month of tank acclimation) or die. I place them in a well aerated bucket of tank water for several hours to expel their shipping contamination and to be sure they are healthy. Be sure to place them in a fairly deep bucket as they will empty something too shallow. Other mollusks are also natural foods but can make a mess of the tank and I don't offer them. (anymore).

There is a collection of post linked in this thread that are usually helpful to first time keepers.
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Oops, Now I fear this is O. vulgaris. A much larger species. I've kept one in a 60 BUT LittleBit never grew to normal vulgaris size. El Diablo is more typical. This is one of my very favorite species but I am concerned about space.
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Thanks Dwhately,

Your post is very helpful. I have a feeling I will be reading forum post all night. I did get the Octo (no name yet) acclimated. It took a while to bring the PH up and ended up taking 2.5 hours.

He explored for a while but seems active and happy. I will have to get food, I do have muscles that I feed my bamboo shark. I might try those.

He appears to have been either injured in collection or at another point. One of his legs is missing all the way back to the webbing and another is missing the tip. I don't know if they grow back...

Should I treat him with anything like antibiotics?

I posted new pics :smile:
Hi Nathan,

Welcome to the site! That's a nice looking octopus, very sturdy-looking.

I'm here in Far North Dalllas and know something about octopuses ( and have kept them). Where was your octopus purchased? You might be able to get more information on where it came from if you'd ask detailed questions, and rhat would help determine the species.

You will have to try different types of food, and they're not very available here in the Dallas area. I ended up offering very fresh thawed frozen shrimp,
occasional live shrimp and fiddler crabs shipped in, an occasional crawfish. She would not
eat any type of fish or lobster. But then, octopuses have different personalities, so it doesn't hurt to try.

Send me a private message if you like.

LOL, saw the pics and hence my change of id (I give a 97% to the O. vulgaris guess, they EYES are a give away as well as the shorter arm length to mantle ratio).

Yes, octopus arms grow back (and regularly lose them to crabs, eels and fish - grow back rate is not clear and depends on age as well as species but you should see at least an inch a month - with some this may be a week's growth). The damage was likely natural. Look at the very end of the damaged arms. It is very rare (even for very young animals) to collect one in the wild that has no arm damage. You should start seeing a small thread (the first time I saw it I wondered if it was dead skin that should be removed - DON'T). Eventually, you will see suckers along the edge and then it will start growing out to look like the other arms.

No antibiotics needed for arm detachment. They seal off these wounds in seconds and bleed very little. I do keep antibiotics available (tetracycline) and will administer in food if there are signs of infection (occasionally the eyes have problems) but rarely need them.
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This is our FIRST octo of the new year and I'd like to move this thread to our journals (in hopes that we get to follow along with your experience :biggrin2:). With your permission, I'll also add the name (when you find one that fits) and guessed species to the title to help others find the thread in the future.
Thanks to both of you. I looked over your thread and I think this fella looks exactly like the pics you have on the webbing and mantle. I will start reading on o vulgaris . This Octo is way bigger than what I was planning on. I expected to get one in that was 3-4 inches lol. Legs spread tip to tip would be 15ish inches.

I have a 150 gallon that will be decommissioned soon so maybe that would be better for him. I do run a sump with filter socks, skimmer, and a dual power filter for extra biological mechanical filtration as well as carbon. It would be a while to get the 150 setup though. Luckily it was a reef and is copper free!
The 150 is way better (but may still be small but likely doable - fortunately the Caribbean animals are quite a bit smaller than their Mediterranean cousins. IMO, these are the smartest of the octos we keep and I would dearly love to keep another (be sure to read the Box of Chocolates summary linked in the New Keepers info collection) but best practice is to take what you get, accomodate and enjoy. Like LittleBit, they can be aggressive but, as you may see in my journal, I think LittleBit wanted attention and that I was probably a bit sissy with interaction (she is the only octo that has left sucker marks on my arm - they are probably the strongest of the home kept as well).

You will not likely be happy keeping an O. mercatoris (Caribbean dwarf) after keeping a vulgaris. Mercs are delightful but are nocturnal and rarely interactive. O.hummelincki is an diurnal, in-between size that is more or less perfect for most keepers, fits well in a 60 gallon tank (again, long better than square as they do swim a bit) - just hard to come by (Shelby, my current ward and is O. hummelincki). Where O. hummelincki is diurnal (and sleeps at night as well as early in the AM) O. vulgaris is noted to be crepuscular (foraging early evening, early morning) but can be found out and about at any time of the day or night (noted in the wild as well as in the aquarium). They CAN appear somewhat similar (true of many species) in appearance but it does not take long to note the differences. Besides size, O. hummelincki has a notable (usually) set of false eye spots below each eye.

On the West Coast (coldwater) O. bimaculoides is very popular (slightly larger than O. hummelincki but a 60 is doable) but cannot be sold so obtaining one is difficult and requires a chiller.

O. briareus is another that may eventually be of interest. Also a Caribbean and quite crepuscular. It is larger than O. hummelincki but smaller than O. vulgaris. I often call them the blonde of the octopuses as they don't appear as intelligent as O. vulgaris but are stunning to see when they deploy their very deep mantle.

I've kept and fully enjoyed all of the above and favoritism often runs with the one currently in house :wink:

I looked over your thread and I think this fella looks exactly like the pics you have on the webbing and mantle.
I suspect you may be looking at the @Lmecher 's El Diablo pictures as LittleBit had me confused for quite sometime (she was a baby when she arrived) and I kept insisting she was O. joubini for months. El Diablo's pictures are far more typical of O. vulgaris.
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As I was feeding Shelby, it occurred to me to mention that no mollusks were safe with LittleBit. With all other octos I have been able to leave several clams in the tank. Eventually, most were eaten but some lasted through several octopuses. Not with LittleBit, she ate anything you would put in the tank so the only clean-up crew I could keep with here were brittle stars. A couple of turbo snails survived the longest but she would try to eat even these (I would see her wrestling them off the wall and tucked into her mantle but the operculum is strong enough to give them a fighting chance. There is a photo series with one crawling around after such an attack.
I sent an email to the wholesaler and he sent me back the following message

"Glad you like the octopus and it is doing well. It is Octopus briareus. I hand collected it here in the Florida Keys about 2 miles off shore. He was just cruising the reef not in a hole.

Thank you for your order.

Jason Fox
Foxy Saltwater Tropical Fish

[email protected]



You never know if that's 100% accurate but he did right me back right away.
Until more pictures, I am sticking with the O. vulgaris guess. They are sometimes (as with the two I have linked above) found in the Keys and used to be fairly common around the Tampa area (not so much over the last 10 years though).

In trying to ID an octopus (my hobby extension but it often takes me a bit to be comfortable with a good guess and I have been fooled with babies often - that being said, O. briareus young are quite distinguishable), one of the features I look for is the color of the tips of the sucker rings (most helpful in differentiating between O. hummelincki and O. bimaculoides). This one has blue/purple tips and O. briareus usually shows only white. Another is the arm to mantle ratio (keep in mind that arms a often truncated so this is not always reliable). O. briareus' arms are about 6 x the mantle length where vulgaris only about 4 times. Watch for it to raise skin flaps (papillae) around the mantle. O. briareus only raises tiny pinhead bumps, never skin flaps. Another is skin patterns, O. vulgaris has splotchy circles that may show orange/yellow spots (on occasion) and often show a veined pattern, O. briareus has only two colors, white and shades of peach (almost to a brown) that tend to run in stripes or blend. Briareus also has an iridescent green (men often call it blue) set of tiny dots covering the animal (when they die, the spots seem to be on a top, thin translucent layer that can slide around, not embedded in the thick skin). These can usually be seen with a flashlight (and is a way divers will often find them on night dives). The fact that it was out cruising during the day also favors O. vulgaris but one cannot rely heavily on time of day for crepuscular animals. The eyes are also different. O. vulgaris eyes sit low on the mantle and often show a stripe where O. briareus tend to hold them out in a V shaped stalks (again, they can present themselves in different shapes so a collection of pictures is always more helpful than a single image). The eyes in your later pictures, along with the wide mantle resulted in my changing my initial guess.

@Animal Mother's journal of Kalypso has a really nice series of images showing O. briareus' color effects. I think you will see the difference between the two species from these images and the ones of el Diablo.
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Rereading your initial post, I will recommend pulling the temp down to between 72 and 75. 72 is a little cold but with the closed top, the display will likely be warmer than the sump (assuming your heater is in the sump - do put it there if it is in the display as they don't understand too hot to touch - information from an experiment Jacques Cousteau performed with torches filming them underwater).

I'll also recommend some fun reading that is still very relevant. Octopus and Squid, The Soft Intelligence is out of print but used copies are easy to find (Amazon and eBay) and inexpensive. Excellent read and there is quite a bit about their adventures with the Mediterranean O. vulgaris.

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