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Sick Octopus?? Eye Infected?


Pygmy Octopus
Mar 26, 2016
New Jersey

I have an octopus what I believe to be a vulgaris. Have had him for about two months now and he went from being shy and showing signs of what appeared to be senescence to thriving. He went from being out during day and scared all the time to sleeping all day hidden, then coming out at night, very active, eating, playing, being a bully to other tank mates, etc.

However, recently he lost several legs overnight. While their is a possibility others in the tank may have bit them, they seem way too clean to be enemy bites. One is ALL the way up to his head. Two days in a row he came out minus a full leg. He is STILL behaving the same, thank god. He is still all over the tank at night, bullying his tank mate - a lionfish - he hates when he is sleeping on the corners. ALWAYS has to "Kick" him off. The night before I saw he lost the legs, we swear we saw his leg in his mouth. It was definitely in there, he even adjusted several times almost looking like he was putting it in further. He was up against the glass which is how we saw. While we couldn't saw for sure, he was NOT acting normal at all.

So he's missing, 2 full legs, the others are all half or a tiny bit more. He doesn't seem to be in pain because he comes out at night and is all over the tank as usual. No odd behavior. But on the second night when we noticed an additional leg had been severed, we saw something wrong with his eye. His eye we thought was gone until we were able to take a picture. I take pictures of him often, a few every night, just to make sure I can see everything is ok, since he only comes out at night.

We asked our LFS if they knew what it was, and they said they had NO idea whatsoever. We are concerned because of the leg loss and now something with his eye. I've fought against all these guys in the tank but I have to admit it's been very peaceful. I know some will judge and I don't disagree, but really they are all "predators" but they are all also more "pacifists." That is their personalities. It's a 75 gallon tank, plenty of live rock, they are all fed everyday, water always good.

I hope I've given enough details to draw a picture of the situation so someone can maybe shed some light on what we can do to help him!!!!!!! The tank is good but if needed I can ask my boyfriend to provide specifics.

I'm new so I appreciate any help, I hope I didn't babble on too much, and thank you in advance. Pictures enclosed, including one before he lost the legs - hes "standing" on the sand in that one.


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@Janelle, From your description I would expect autophagy, possibly brought on by stress. There seems to be two different forms of autophagy (eating their own arms), one that may be brought on by stress or damage (and, as you surmise, the tank is prime for this) and one brought on by a deadly, contagious bacterial infection.

Even though you are seeing an eye infection, because of the lionfish interaction, I am guessing both the missing arms and the eye problem are likely caused from lionfish stings (stinging coral can have a similar effect). The arm removal is likely an attempt to eliminate the poison damage. You can try to treat the eye infection by adding a small amount of Tetracycline (available for fish without a prescription from some fish/pet stores and on-line) to his food. This will not mitigate current or future sting problems.

If you cannot remove the octopus from this environment, it will likely die soon either from the physical stress of the toxin or from the infections caused by the burns. I know a 75 gallon tank SEEMS large but it is teeny-tiny compared to their natural environment where each can find their own space. The lionfish has few natural predators and pretty well rules the roost. Their invasion of the FL waters (where there are NO natural predators) has been an on-going drama with massive efforts just to keep the population in check and trying to avoid them wiping out the fish spawning grounds.
He passed away last week. We caught him again eating his own tentacle. He slowly got worse and worse, but he still spent his nights going up and down the tank walls, seeing his other fish friends... =[

Thank you so much for your response and information. It is so hard to find out information on Octopus. I don't think everyone realizes how serious it is when you are doing this. They charge you $15 dollars for a fish and it just seems so easy to buy and throw in a tank and see what happens. I hope others don't make the same mistakes, and I hope other people like me in the position who are watching all of this happen, do more to prevent the over excitement of buying fish for a new hobby.

I have to say though that I never ever wanted an Octopus near me, and he became so amazing and so sweet and he was such a passive Octopus. We witnessed our Green Wolf Eel (blenny) literally protect him and keep an eye on him towards the end. Our puffer would somewhat antagonize Octo, but the Green Wolf Eel would come quick, snap at the puffer, and hang around until he knew Octo was OK.

I know people say their can be friendships among them in the tank but they are short lived. However, I've seen the Eel get mad, or threatened, annoyed, etc. I also saw Octo crawling underneath him, stepping on him, and putting his tentacles on his mouth or a few times on his "cheeks" so to speak. The eel didn't even flinch. More like he was in awe of him. At the beginning they eyed each other down a lot, and were very, very, very tense. That changed.

RIP Octo !!


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Rough luck Jenelle, sorry for lil guys loss. Don't get discouraged though if you want to try in future. Like life, getting a healthy octo is unfortunately a dice roll. Until the octo is in your tank, theres nothing you can do to guarantee its health, its maddening, but like I said don't worry...for every bad experience I've had 2 or more good ones in the hobby!

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