• Looking to buy a cephalopod? Check out Tomh's Cephs Forum, and this post in particular shares important info about our policies as it relates to responsible ceph-keeping.

Senior Thesis Project


Sep 17, 2007
Hello everyone here at TONMO! I know Im new here, but Ive been lurking for a few weeks and am finally ready to come into the open! :biggrin2:

So here's kinda my story as of right now. Ive been addicted to the idea of keeping cuttlefish since I saw my first one ever about a year ago at a local fish store. Ive been keeping reef tanks for about 2.5 years now, and have had success with many different creatures (fish, corals, mantis shrimp, eels). But nothing has quite itched that scratch that only a cephalopod can scratch..... key my senior year of college.

I, like all college students across the country, have to complete a senior thesis project. I figured, with some extra funding by the school, that this would be the perfect time to dive into my dream of keeping a cephalopod, specifically, a cuttlefish! So now I start my quest, to figure out how this is all going to work.

My biggest and most difficult problem will be obtaining a healthy specimen (which if anyone can please help me with, i would be forever in your debt!). I live in the Pacific Northwest (Olympia, Washington area) so I'm a distance from the local hot spots for the marine trade, but not so far it will be impossible for me to get this to work.

Im currently sitting with a 20 gallon setup that is already been up and running for over a year now (was the home of my amazing eel, but I sold him to a bigger and better home once he outgrew my tank). Now I just have to figure out how to get it upgraded to make sure it will work well for my cuttle project. Depending on how much money will be available to me for this project, I want to upgrade my tank to slightly larger one, but not so big that I cant proceed to perform my observations.

As for the project itself, im thinking of doing something with the ability for cuttlefish to adapt to coloring around them. (I actually got the idea from those displays they have at Home Depot, with all the different cards of paint colors.... I walked by and was like, hey, i wonder how many of these colors a cuttlefish can replicate closely) It's still in its roughest idea form, more brain storming than anything, but its a start. I have to talk with my professors about it as we continue to develop our ideas. If anyone else has any ideas they would be interested in me trying out, please, feel free to comment.

So, for what I really came to this post for...... help! As I already said, I need to locate some cuttlefish for sale (preferably a couple S. bandensis) and/or some eggs that I can start to raise now so they will be grow enough for me to use in my project. Also, Im looking for help on any ideas to help me set up this tank (or another) so that it will be an effective home for these cuttles. If you guys, who are as close to experts as anyone can find on this subject, have any information or means of helping me, I would greatly appreciate it! Im hard working and willing to do a lot to make this project work. The biggest limiting factor I have will be money, but im hoping that shouldnt be too big of a factor.

Thanks for reading everyone, all comments welcome!

PS - I plan to document this entire project (with pictures, information, videos, etc), so this can be a big experiment for everyone to follow along with! The more help I can get from people, the better it will be!
Welcome to TONMO.

Watch the posts and you're bound to find a member with S. Bandensis eggs for sale. You'll need a bigger tank though. Probably 50 gallon or more, a 30 gallon is barely sufficient for a single specimen, and raising the babies in a small tank will mean you have to stress them whenever they get moved to a larger tank, so best to start with a larger tank in the first place if you can. I'll leave the rest to people who've actually kept them. Sounds like a great project!
thanks for the quick reply! ya, i was worried a 20 gallon would be too small....... maybe use that to raise the youngin's in, so I can isolate them?
Good luck! Many of us will be watching closely... our resident experts will help. Definitely read our forums and check the ARTICLES link on the navigation menu across the top of the site. And remember, Search is your friend!

Welcome, again -
I believe Cuttlegirl started her 3 in a 30 gal, but they rapidly outgrew it, and she wasn't sure it could have taken even 1 when full grown. Having a big sump might help some, since water volume and filtration are big issues, but a 20 is pretty much generally thought to be too small.

One important note for your project, though, is that cuttles don't see colors, only intensity... there are some pictures around of cuttles matching the intensity and texture of those blue-and-yellow goldfish rocks, but missing the colors completely. However, it's still an interesting thing to investigate: cuttles in their natural environment need to be cryptic to animals with color vision, so they match what they can see of the black-and-white environment, and their leucophores and other reflective cells are "tuned" to reflect the colors of their typical environments through the different colors of chromatophores such that they normally get the color pretty close to right even though they can't see it.

Hanlon & Messenger's Cephalopod Behavior is the best starting reference I know of for this, and Hanlon's lab has some more recent papers updating this stuff.

Good luck, and keep us informed!
I started mine in net breeders in a 30 gallon and had to move them to a 55 gallon when they were 5 months old. They need the space to move, hunt and to each have their own part of the tank to "hang out."

I did a senior thesis on cuttlefish (many years ago). My only advice is that you should be prepared to study something else in case they die. I had S. officinalis hatchlings and they only survived about a month in my care. I have learned much more about caring for cephalopods since then. I ended up studying their cuttlebone using Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM). But in the fast paced life of a senior, if your research animal dies, you could be left without a thesis...
sweet! ya, ive found a lot of research papers on the cuttlefish, though mostly on S. officianlis. This is why I would like to work with S. bandensis, just because you never know what could be different between the two.

Ya, actually was just doing research and found out that they are supposable colorblind. Very interesting, but could help me refine my project a bit more.

So its seeming to be more and more that I will need a larger tank. That shouldnt be a problem, as I have no problem trying to find an adequate upgrade. The actual experiment doesnt take place until later in the year (second semester, so around january), but I would like to get the cuttles settled in early on so I wont be relying on stressed out animals for the tests. Still the biggest test will be to get some shipped my way before the weather gets too bad and/or they have time to grow up a bit.

Haha, ya, I have also been wondering what I would do if the animals died during the experiment. Im talking that over with my profs, and hopefully can set something up with a local zoo that also has a cuttlefish display (maybe refer to behavior analysis or something along those lines). Or, possible adjustment might be to do some sort of an octo instead of cuttlefish, as octo's seem to have a bit more information on keeping them
you might want to look more into the color blind thing. Just a thought*

i know dogs were long considered color blind but they can in fact see color. they just tend to see best in the blue spectrum ( like how everything looks at night when wolves hunt ***)
As part of your project you could incorporate a prey culture component, rather than depending on the purchase of live (or dead) prey.

Should the cuttles (or octopus) die (touch wood this does not happen prematurely) then you have something to fall back on (research wise). Keeping prey items alive, and getting them to reproduce in sufficient numbers to ensure that you have sufficient, quality food available to feed your pets, is a very challenging undertaking, and well-worthy of a project undertaking.

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