Hey Bret- I'm an aquarist at Rosamond Gifford Zoo. Do you have, or know of, a Metasepia development chart that has descriptions and/or images to correspond with roughly what day of development they are at? Because of space limitations, ours are breeding & laying in the exhibit, then we are pulling the eggs, making it difficult to age eggs as this is my first time. I'm using your Drum and Croaker article to help with the husbandry. Thanks!
My name is Bret Grasse. I'm an aquarist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and and manage our cephalopod collection. I've been fortunate enough to raise metasepia for about 5 years now and I can absolutely empathize with your frustrations. They are just a difficult species, no doubt about it. Please ready my D&C article for some helpful information. http://drumandcroaker.org/pdf/2014.pdf You are off to a good start by offering smaller mysid size class. It's important to make sure to increase the size of the mysid as your hatchlings grow. As a generic guideline, the prey should be about the width of the cuttlefish's head. It's also important that you don't overfeed. Make sure that the mysid are consumed before adding more. If prey remains in the hatchling tank throughout the day, the cuttlefish's predatory instinct is suppressed and they wont eat. It's almost like they get overwhelmed with too much prey. Hatchling tank walls should be non-transparent for improved prey recognition. Similarly, prey items should be fed prior to feeding them to the cuttlefish. This will make them non-transparent for easier detection and make them more nutritious. It's normal for baby meta to not eat for the first day or two after hatching, so try not to overfeed in these first few days. Premature hatching is a big problem, you need to start off on the right foot with a healthy fully developed hatchling if possible. I've used batadine baths and a solution called Revive that I would highly recommend for the eggs. Revive is made for corals and it irritates copepods, flatworms etc. When you use it on cephalopod eggs, it does the same thing. Without all that biofouling, the egg's external tunic is preserved for longer and allows for full development before hatching. I perform these baths every 4-5 days. Correct artificial incubation is also important to prevent premature hatching. So adjusting your incubators also may help.
First off I want to thank everyone for all of their help and input. I just thought I would share an update.
When I first published my question in October of last year, of that initial clutch, we only reared one flamboyant out of a ridiculous amount of hatchlings. All the others hatched prematurely and were overstimulated with food as we were learning about this particular species. How the one survived, I had no idea.
Luckily, that one turned out to be a female, but since she was captive-bred (probably inbred way too many times) her development was extremely slow and didn't really reach sexual maturity until March of this year (so about 5 months old). I lovingly named her Penelope.
We were lucky to have received two wild caught cuttles to put with her in January. As luck would have it, we ended up with a male and a female. The female was quite young and the male was persistent. Both Penelope and my new female started laying eggs around the same time in late March early April. Penelope sadly died in the middle of April (April 14th) but I had witnessed successful copulation with all cuttles. That same day I noticed that the eggs were starting to develop. It was a bittersweet day as Penelope had taught me so much (and I attach to my Cephalopods quite easily) but now I had our second opportunity to rear these animals.
On May 15th, the baby cuttles began to hatch. They hatched through the next week. I am so very proud to say of the 13 that have hatched ( I think we have had 2 that died mid-development) we have had only 2 losses thus far. Everyone is eating well, we had zero premature hatching, and we are so very excited to learn even more. I will update as needed throughout their time with us.
I just really want to thank everyone for all of their help, especially @Bret Grasse MBA. I don't think we realized when this process first started 9 months ago how difficult this species is to care for at this point in their lives and all of you have been so wonderful in providing your knowledge to help us. I very much appreciate it.
I've attached a few photos (done with my phone so not the best pictures) of their first week and the last photo is a comparison of when they were born 5 weeks ago to last week.