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[Octopus Eggs]: Trapper's Babies - Tank Raised Mercatoris

DWhatley

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Nancy,
Thanks for the encouragement. And you bring out a good point in that a keeper must be nocturnal, dedicated and very patient (the babies really didn't do much the first 5 months) to have an octopus experience with the Mercs. Anyone expecting the interaction of the larger ones would be disappointed. Sistruris comes close though :biggrin2:

Yes, the cyclop-eeze I use is frozen (I don't use dry or flake except to feed the food so I am not familiar with the other forms) and it is hard to find the smaller "bars" that used to be sold. It is quite expensive but the quantity is large for the price if you can find it locally. Unfortunately, I have to have mine shipped so I spend an unmentionable amount of money :sad: when I have to buy it. It looks like the frozen is whole critter, red and is slightly larger than new hatch brine. It looks a lot like the specs in Zooplex and about the same color (makes me wonder about what they use in Zooplex since it does not have to be kept cold). All my filter feeding inverts eat it (including the feather dusters) as well as the few fish I keep (excepting the lion, Trundle only eats live shore shrimp).

Filter feeding may be an erroneous term since octopuses have no filtering device but I am whole convinced that the Mercs catch small particles in the water with their suckers and then move the food to their mouths. Cephbase has a photo that shows new hatchlings swimming in the typical Merc posture and brings attention to the raised arms without explanation. I am sure this is a feeding pose.

http://www.cephbase.utmb.edu/imgdb/...D=&CephID=555&Location=&Keywords=&LowestTaxa=

All my babies except Sistrurus feed with their arms curled outward from their dens anytime I squirt the Cyclop-eeze into the tank. Sistrurus is more overt and comes out into the openl rapidly wiggling his curled arm tips at feeding time. I fed them late last night and late again this evening and it took Sistrurus 10 minutes to appear tonight (normally it takes about 3 minutes after I sit in front of the tank).

Toward the end, Tapper would climb up the tank wall and position herself to be beak fed directly from the tip of the pipette (I have posted a video of this on her thread) but prior to this she would sweep the water with her arms (and is how I realized she was eating it). I tried putting the food in a shell (among other similar experiments) so that she could "dip" her arm in a rich mixture of the food but she ignored it. If the food is too dense, the octos will blow it away (it may effect their breathing but that is just conjecture based upon my observations). It does appear that Sistrurus will also pick it up on the live rock but I have not seen this in any of the others.
 

DWhatley

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More Behavior Observations

Twice this week Sistrurus has done something a little unusual (actually, everything he does is unusual for a Mercatoris but this is new for him). At feeding time, I put a freshly killed shrimp in close to Medusa's den (she moved to the back last week the night I said she had not moved in awhile). I never see her out hunting but she has always taken my offering. Normally, I will feed Sistrurus for awhile then feed Medusa. Last week I put my hand in the tank to feed Medusa after only giving Sistrurus a couple of squirts of Cyclop-eeze. He surprised me by bumping my hand (he feeds in the front and my had was awkardly positioned in the back behind the live rock). Tonight, he initially ate only a small amount and went to the back of the tank. When he didn't come out for more, I looked behind the live rock and he was sitting over the primary entrance to Medusa's den. After I squirted the area with food, he went to the front as normal. I am not sure what to make of it but it is interesting.

Normally, I will feed these two first, go feed the other three and then come back to this tank to see if Sistruris wants to play. Tonight was a play night and he was wall walking (when he was first introduced to the tank he would make little dashes out to the walls and then zoom back to the LR, now he often climbs up and down the tank walls after feeding time). I put my hand in the tank and he played around my hand for a good ten minutes (can you say prune?). He let me "pet" his mantle and sometimes even seemed to rub against my hand. If I move my hand he would come over to it. He does not climb up into my fingers but will reach out and touch them. There is absolutely no agression or attempts to capture my fingers.

Miss Broody, on the other hand, will take my offering of live crab or dead shrimp but will always try to take my fingers into her den. Her posturing tonight reminded me of an evil octopus pose I saw somewhere and was about as intimidating as a small octopus can look.

HideNSeek will come to the front when he wants to be fed but is very shy. I have to put a shrimp in front of him and then "not look" so that he will take it (but he always does, albeit, sometimes 5 minutes later). He/she has been hungry for the last two nights and moved into a barnacle next to Miss Broody (making him/her easy to find and feed).

Mia, is still MIA. I see him slipping around to the back about once every 10 days and he never comes forward to eat. The fact that I see him secreting to the back makes me wonder if he is visiting Miss Broody at night but that is nothing more than second guessing:sly:.
 

DWhatley

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Miss Broody and Her Bo

As I mentioned, I am not sure if Mia's secretive tank front foray's are to visit Miss Broody or for some other reason but HideNSeek definitely had something other than food on his mind when he moved in next door :sly:

I checked on the tank before going to bed and saw HideNSeek with an arm near Miss Broody's den. He quickly returned to his own barnacle when I approached but I sat and watched for the next hour as he VERY slowly (almost undetectably) came back out of his den and inched toward the adjoining chamber. Once he made contact, he magically was in front of her den opening. I watched for five minutes or so with my fingers crossed that I was seeing a mating and not a murder, then got out the camera (probably not the smartest idea since I had to use the flash). I got off two shots and they initially did not seem to notice but you will see a brown object in the second one where Miss Broody began to push a snail shell (as a door) to the front of her den and HideNSeek quickly released her (more from the shell I think than the flash) and flew back to his den, leaving something in the water. With the lighting, I cannot tell if it is ink or sperm. I won't do that again but I will post the two pictures.
 

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DWhatley

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Na, just 3 and only two that sometimes share the "car". The little male will "visit" one of the other rooms when he wants to be fed or has other things on his mind but doesn't live there full time. Mia (the other, not in the picture, that I think is male) has been seen toward the front of the tank but does not seem to use the barnacles. Miss Broody lives their full time. I would say it was more of a cat house than a clown car :sly:
 

DWhatley

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Mia showed up tonight and was climbing the back wall, pretending to be a snail part of the time. I am convinced that the "mimic" of the Mimic and Wunderpus is no different than other octos. I think it is the coloration that allows us to see the immitations. I also think the mimicing may be natural or we misinterpret what they are mimicing since the Mercs have shown all the posturing attributed to the mimicing octos and they have never seen the creatures that are supposed to be being mimiced (I have even seen Sistrurus do the "sting ray crawl").

Roy had mentioned that Merc mating was violent. With HideNSeek and Miss Broody, it was not. The night after the above pictures were taken she left her den door fully open and was positioned upside down with her mantle fully exposed to the opening. After 3 days, she found a large shell (still inhabited by a hermit crab) and had closed her den more tightly than ever before and does not open the door. Trying to keep her fed is difficult but the hermit is somewhat helpful. If I put a shrimp near the opening, the crab will take it and then she takes it from the crab. Tonight I gave the crab a male fiddler leg and she still has not figured out how to bring it into her den with the shell blocking the opening. She gives up and then come back to it but will not remove the shell.

Monty, I left the red plastic tubing in the tank even though it has been totally ignored, until tonight that is. HideNSeek was inside it tonight when I came to feed the tank. Once I started feeding, he came out and went to the barnacles in the front but it will be interesting to see if he goes back to the tube now and stays there during the day.

Sistrurus continues to greet me nightly. Most nights he will clown around and play by climbing up and down the tank walls for maybe half an hour while I feed him. Once he is full he will go into the LR or a barnacle shell and sleep. I think he may come out again during the night because Neal has seen him on the glass (acrylic) in the mornings before the sun lights the room. I worry the Sistrurus does not eat enough since, as far as I can tell, he ONLY eats Cyclop-eeze where all my others will eat shrimp or crab (they all ignore the snails and hermits). I also worry that he will be the first to die since he is so much more active than the others.

I am beginning to suspect that Medusa may be male (very sad since I had really hoped to have babies from Sisty). I thought I saw an enlarged sucker last week but couldn't be sure since this one is quite recluse. Tonight, Medusa was in the live rock at the front of the tank and showed her eyes. After eating though she went back to the main rock and Sistrurus reacted quickly and they had a brief skirmish. Medusa made his/her way back into the LR and Sistrurus blocked the opening for a few seconds but did not follow. I am hoping this is a sign that he wants to mate but she is not ready rather than the possibility that they are both male. They have lived very close to each other without problems, choosing to be within arms reach until they were put into the larger tank (they still stayed close for about 2 weeks). Sistrurus' reaction was particularly surprising because he is extremely gentle. If I am seeing a mating behavior, it appears that if a male catches a female in the open, it may match the violence that Roy has seen.
 

DWhatley

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Update

Sisturus has been "wall walking" nightly for approximately 3 weeks. He waits until either Neal or I sit in front of the tank to feed him and then begins his antics (those sticky wallwalkers for kids really do move like Sisty's ballet). His movements are not a regular pattern but he will often go to the top and push an arm or two above the surface, never quite breaking free of the water. Last night (first time) he took two dead shrimp from me after I offered them to his extended arm. He rarely catches live food, has always refused hand feeding and I am always worried that he does not eat well, in spite of the fact that he comes out every night within a very few minutes of one of the food slaves presents. He is more interactive with Medusa and the contact is less aggressive. I have seen her reach out to touch him when he is doing his wall climbing and sometimes they tussle for a second or two but not violently and no one is missing arm tips or has sustained any damage. I don't know if this is courting behavior or just two octopuses reaching maturity in a small tank. Tonight they were both in the same barnacle cluster and when I sat in front of the tank both came out at about the same time. Sisty covered Medusa's shell, quivered and then arched over the opening for a maybe a minute but there was no biting and no arm reaching into the shell.

Medusa has decided to be more social all of a sudden. Tonight she kept reappearing fully out in the open (usually once she disappears you are lucky to see an arm or two and she has shown her full body only a very few times) and actually did a little wall walking (first I have seen). I don't know if this is emulating Sisty (she has been obviously observing him for about a week) or something else. I am going to do a water change tomorrow just in case but I don't think anything is amiss with the tank (I am 4 days later than usual on my every two week change - went out of town - so I am nerveous). This could be the beginning of the end but Trapper did this for a month or more before brooding her eggs.

Miss Broody I am relatively certain she is going to or has laid eggs. She has baracaded herself in her den for almost a month now and only tonight opened her door fully to feed (with lots of encouragement). I tried looking into the barnacle with a flashlight but, like her mother, she fully blocks the back wall of the shell (I never saw eggs in Trapper's den). She fed for quite awhile tonight for the first time since closing her door so I am hopeful she will continue to eat.

HideNSeek shows up (i.e. lets me see him) whenever he is hungry but stays hidden on nights when he catches his own food or is not interested. He has not used the red tube as a hiding place again but he changes sleeping quarters often. He stays low to the substrate and often hollows out places under the rock for his hidding place. None of the others have "made" a den, choosing the rock or shells instead.

Mia continues to be missing most of the time and is still only seen weekly or bi-weekly climbing or resting on the back wall of the tank. He never comes forward to feed and was the more recluse of the 5 from the beginning, never sharing a barnacle cluster with any of the others.

Tony is an orange and black striped serpent star that now thinks he is an octopus. He is often seen inside one of the barnacles attached to Miss Broody's den with arm swaying in the water catching food (at least until he detects feeding time, then he starts feeding in ernest and leaves the shell). Tonight he was wall walking (or at least trying to) and managed to crawl about 4 inches up the tank wall before sliding back to the bottom. Since he can't possibly observe the octos in the normal sense, it is quite interesting to see the similarities, none of the other 10 or so serpents I have acts like this one.
 

DWhatley

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Couple number 2, Please sign in

Well, the wall walking behavior new to Medusa seems to be the better of the two alternatives (water quality vs readiness to mate). This evening Sistrurus was out doing his wall walk before we sat down to the tank (not previously observed) and Medusa was inhabiting his last sleeping chamber, hummm.After about 5 minutes into their feeding time, he went to the den and poked an arm in :sly:. He took this position for maybe 3-4 minutes and I was able to (more or less) get a representative shot. I have photo shopped it to reduce the red and with close observation and a little imagination the event has been recorded. If you look closely at the enlargement, you can see the enlarged suckers at the base of several arms (all arms have this single enlarged sucker but they are most easily seen on the front ones).
 

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DWhatley

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Miss Broody ate tonight for the first time in over a week. Since she completely opened her "door" I thawed extra Cyclop-eeze and continued to feed until she closed it again. If my assumption that she started brooding eggs when she closed herself in is correct, I expect hatchlings any time. All three octopuses were hungry so I even saw Mia tonight.

Sistrurus and Medusa continue to come out nightly. Medusa no longer stays hidden in the rocks at night and is the first one out on the "glass" (even if I have not come to the tank) but still does not voluntarily interact. Sistrurus has started very active tank walking and jetting about during feeding time. I have read that this activity is a sign of senenence but he only seems to give a floor show while someone is watching (I have not seen him dancing about when I approach the tank or check in on it without sitting down). Medusa will tank walk but is still far more timid and is sometimes grumpy. I have seen Sisturus approach her and touch arm tips without any sign of aggression between them but at other times they will quickly meet beak to beak (without actually touching mouths) and seem to be squabbling. Neither turns deep red during these meetings and they are brief but it does make me nerveous. Tonight Medusa jetted across the tank in front of Sisturus and took a very aggressive (possibly defensive) position. She held two of her arms very rigidly out from her body (not the typical arms up between the eyes pose) and made a quivering motion with them. The whole length of the arm was in a tight motion, not just the tips like in the video that gave Sisturus his name. She did not attack but look ready to take on a ninja.

Sadly, I lost Trundle, my adult dwarf Lionfish this AM. He was noteably active last night and this morning I found him on the floor. We had a cold snap and don't (rephrase, didn't) have the heat on but that is the only thing I can think of that might have cause him to act strangely. I have had him since he was quite small, he was a beautiful specimen. The tank just isn't the same without him. I think I started to feed him at least three times today :cry:
 

Nancy

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Sorry about the loss of Trudle :sad:

What an interesting journal you're keeping! The photos add a lot, too.

Nancy
 

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