Rescued an octopus from an Asian Food Market today

Dec 6, 2009
Stopped into an Asian Food Market today and was saddened to see a bunch of octopuses in a tank, all dead with the exception of this one and possibly another one, but this one was moving around and looking very sad to be in there... it's different than buying a "don't encourage them" type of thing from a local fish store, as this is a food source and they're going to bring them in regardless... anyway, I couldn't help myself. It's currently in a 10 gallon tank as that's the best I could throw together with cold water and an ice probe to keep it cool until I figure out what it is (tank is woefully small for it, it's arms stretch across the tank and can curl up the wall while it's in the corner). My guess is that it's from the West Coast as it was in with abalone and I think that they are collected in California waters, but no idea. Here are some pictures that I sent to the National Zoo to get an ID from a friend there in the Invert House. The ones where it's just sitting there are from when the lights were on, the ones where it's stretched out are from when it was dark and I turned on the lights.














Macropus is the name of a group of octopuses and they come in many sizes (I have had two I believe are in the complex, Puddles is dwarf sized and Beldar small but not dwarf, Roy's latest is growing like a weed and is at least a medium sized animal). Norman's Cephalopods A World Guide suggests that variabilis may be a member of this complex and it appears to be the primary food octopus in Korea so that's likely as good as we are going to get on ID. For temperatures, I would suggest attempting the cooler end of the water temperatures around Korea as it is not likely an arctic animal (they are looking at harvesting some in the northern extremes though but most current food octos are still found in warmer waters). If you can extend...
Last photos.



It's still alive today, has better coloration, is much more responsive and is moving around. Seems like one of the arms has a modified tip so it's probably a male, but this could just be damage or me seeing things. Another arm also has some dead tissue at the end where it looks like the arm was chopped off or damaged and removed. Contemplating chopping the dead flesh off if this guy lives so that it can try to regenerate, but not sure if that will help or not. Looks like it's dead about 1 cm.
Upvote 0
DON'T chop off the "dead tissue". If it is what I think, and looks like a little string of dead meat, it is new growth!!!!! (I thought the same with my first new growth once). Look very closely at it and you should be able to almost see tiny suckers (you would in a week's time)

I am still not 100% sure on species and it could be something we don't see much.
The color and eyes are my drawback. Not vulgaris though. The other options run in the macropus family and I am thinking this is a better guess. We see some of the smaller ones from Indonesia but the larger ones are native to the Caribbean. The color usually shows much redder in photos but the constant display of spots and the eyes fit. Are the front four arms considerably larger than the back 4? Not aways a good ID because the arms get damaged so frequently. However, if all four front arms are significantly longer and thicker than all four back ones, macropus complex is likely a better direction.
Upvote 0
The dead tissue is not new growth on this guy. The arm was lopped off at some point in time and there's a bit of skin hanging there, but what has me thinking that this needs to be removed if it starts to recover is that the last 3 or 4 suckers on that arm are limp and the entire chunk is white and hangs loosely versus the rest of the arm which seems to move around. I won't touch it right now as it won't touch food (there are now 2 live emerald crabs in there with it). I'll try and see if the front arms are longer than the back arms. Amazingly with this guy, all but that one arm is intact and the other looks to be a modified tip which led me to believe that it's a male. I'll try and get more pictures later on of it. It continues to be more active and is moving around more, but I'm worried about the temperature and am still contemplating the move to a different tank in my workshop which will keep the temperature down (the workshop is not heated and hovers at around 50 degrees). The temp has climbed to 65 in there due to the ambient temperature, but the octopus seems fine still, I'm honestly more concerned about the waste in the water and it getting fouled if it continues to stay warmer. Clarification question, when you say thicker and longer, how much?

Some of the photos turned out reddish, but those were the ones I didn't post because they were blurry and probably more due to the fact that there was a flash than anything else. I'll see if I can get a good quality video of it moving around so the arms can be seen. It crawled up the side of the glass this morning for my daughter and her friend and splayed its legs out in all directions, that would have been a great photo op.
Upvote 0
This photo from above seems to indicate that the front arms are much thicker than the back arms. You can see one arm that is curling up (I believe that might be the one with what I think may be dead tissue at the end) and then the arm that is curling down the pipe and towards the glass is much thinner than that. Plus, the front arms seem to span the entire length of the tank.

Upvote 0
If it's any help, from the reading I've been doing some octopuses have alternating suckers and this one seems to have those. It is also lacking any dark circles around the suckers, something else I saw as reference for I believe vulgaris or briareus. The webbing is very small compared to some species, too. Looking through different pictures of O. macropus there are definitely some similarities, but one video I saw of an unknown species thought to be this was that the suckers were lined up versus alternating as this one does.
Upvote 0
The last picture is what started me thinking macropus. The arm difference is both length and thickness and the front arms would be 1.5 or better times the back ones. On my two (much smaller animal in this complex) the first pair were the largest the second pair only slightly thinner and shorter. The back 4 were (are, as Puddles is also most likely in this group but is not the same as Beldar). The eyes on this one kept reminding me of one other like it from Korea. I also looked up a post I remembered about octos for sale in a Korean market and they, too pose a good resembelance. Unfortunately, we never determined an ID.

See what you can find on Octopus variabilis.
Upvote 0
I looked again at the arms and the front 2 are much larger than the back ones. They are at least 2x the size and stretch out more. Unfortunately, I'm not sure how well this one is doing now, seems like it's becoming lethargic again. I may move it to the shop just to get it into a colder area and reduce the tank temperature down some. I am not confident about how well it is doing now. It's a ghostly white color now, and although this is one of the colors that it can be, it is reminiscent of the ones I saw in the bottom of the tank at the store.

It does have a specialized tip on one arm as well. Didn't want to take any more pictures and stress it out.
Upvote 0
That grey white is definitely an undesired color and often comes just before death. Good luck with him. I was editing while you were typing so you likely missed my suggestion to look up Octopus variabilis (I could not find much). It seems to fit most of the observations, may be part of the Macropus complex and is heavily eaten.

A very important part of trying to get it identified is to be sure the temperature is where it needs to be to give it the best chance. Generally speaking SLIGHTLY colder works better than slightly warmer but there are definite tollerances.
Upvote 0
If it is from Indonesia, you may want to go warmer rather than colder... also, if possible, you may want to leave it where it is so you don't stress it more than it already has been stressed.
Upvote 0