• 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.

Strangest thing; probably another disaster


Pygmy Octopus
Dec 15, 2002
Ever the stubborn aquarist, I bought another octopus, my third. This one seemed promising; I got him from my LFS, and he was happily exploring the tank after acclimation. Then, suddenly, he jerked as if something stung him. All his legs extended fully, and he flipped onto his back, furiously spraying ink. He seems to be currently in a state of semi-paralysis, with his legs still extended and only partially responsive to his attempts to move them. He is breathing at the moment, but it doesn't look good, to say the least. I believe I caught the event on video, as well, though I'm unsure since my batteries were low and cut off around that time. I will try and upload the video after it charges. The only thing visible around him were some pieces of dried coral. All water conditions were fine, from the last time I tested a few days ago. What could possibly have caused this?
update: I reviewed the video, and he appears to have pounced onto a piece of blue dried coral before being "stung." I have removed the offending rock, for whatever good it will do.
Bizarre....I can't believed it stung him. This coral...it was purchased dried and dead? It's blue? Was it perhaps dyed that color? Now...I'd be surprised if the octo could actually detect copper directly, but...I know that a blue dye could contain copper. :?

Well, he's dead :frown:
Here's the morbid video:
(1 meg, divx)
I purchased the apparently copper-encrusted coral from the same place I got the octopus. Hopefully they'll give me a refund or credit after I show them the video. Having lost three of them, I am now officially depressed. The psychiatrist will probably be less than impressed after I require Prozac for bad luck with cephalopods.
hi Brandon

i tried to dl the video but all i got was a freeze frame of the tank for 9 seconds...??? i tried real player, quicktime and divx????

The bad news is that I think that you are going to have to scrap that tank and start again.

I refer to an email conversation with Dr Caldwell who eventually had to scrap an entire system months after soem copper had been used in it.... months later octos would still die, so it doesnt look good Im afraid!

Can you check your tank for live voltage? just an idea..... a heater wire maybe or something?

The video works for me. Here's another format:
(1.5 meg, quicktime)
Maybe that will work. I don't think that live voltage is a possibility. The piece of coral was perched atop the substrate, and it is very apparent that something happened after he grabbed onto the coral for a few seconds, possibly ingesting a piece. Also, I moved him away from the coral after the incident, so the rigid muscles should not have been the result of extended electrical shock. A neurotoxin in the coral strikes me as more likely.
I really would like to avoid scrapping the tank. I'm moving to California for college this fall, so I have a finite amount of time. I think I'll bring a sample of water to somewhere with a sensitive means of detecting copper, to see if the copper remained isolated to the coral or permeated throughout the tank in concentrations I can't detect with my testkit. I only had one blue coral in the aquarium, so I'm optimistic.
There are also some home copper testkits available...I have a "Fastest" kit from Aquarium Systems. I don't know if it can detect copper past the toxic levels for octos or not...it's intended to monitor a copper treatment regimen for fish.

The Blue colour of the coral may not be copper! Sorry.
There is variety of coral that is naturally Blue when dead. I forget it's scientific name, but it does not look like acropora sp.. It is more rounded.
Most corals are bleached to help remove any organic matter that is left on them. Was the coral soaked in freshwater, ideally with a dechlorinator before being added to your aquarium? This would neutralize the bleach
I guess even a trace of bleach would be deadly for any aquatic organism, especially a sensitive octo.
Polyfilters are excellent for removing copper and many other pollutants, supposedly you are able to introduce inverts 72 hours after using copper. Never used one like this before, so would not like to risk a prize specimen.
BTW, It took a few attempts for me to keep them successfully, got the hang of it now though :smile: .

Hello J. Scott,
My murderous coral is shaped like the blue coral in your avatar, except it has more branches. Also, the blue coloration seems limited to the exterior; where the coral was broken off one can see the interior calcium is white. Don't know if that means it was dyed or not.
I am not sure how they attempted to remove the hazardous chemicals on the bleached coral, but they told me it was safe to put in the tank after rinsing off the dust. They seem to be competent enough, as this is a large, relatively successful fish store, so I don't think bleach would be the problem. Moreover, bleach should be rather soluble, and shouldn't have been confined to the coral piece itself after having been in the aquarium for so long. The guilty toxin had to be present on the coral, since the video clearly shows that something significant happened after he grabbed onto it or bit it. I'll mail the coral, or a piece of it, to someone if he or she is curious enough to analyze it.
In any case, I have learned another lesson. In future tanks, I will strictly avoid artificial decorations and recommend that anyone else do so, as well. Might be verging on object-oriented paranoia, but I think my success rate so far warrants it. :?
Brandon... Also, Rusty, I used the fasTest copper kit after the first incident, and the reading was negative.
Hi there!

I've been following your posts and feel sooo bad everytime one doesn't make it! If it helps any, I too in the beginning had many failures, till I got it right. If I were you, maybe redo the tank to be sure of what's in it. Before I got Hermin, I totally took the tank down to almost a few inches of water. Left the culture in tact. Was 2 weeks before I found him out at That Fish Place in Pa. My tank was about 3 years old with just fish for a long time and deffinately no history of copper. It's been 5 months now.

Anyway....Keep trying! They are deffinately worth it!