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

DWhatley

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10 Month Update

Miss Broody has disappeared and has not been seen for two weeks. I see a shell that is wedged up into a live rock cubby but it has not moved (a near by shell has) and her arms don't come out when I feed Cyclop-eeze. She left her den several days after her second mating with HideNSeek and I am afraid she has not eaten since.

HideNSeek and MIA come out for feeding at night but don't interact much with each other or with me. Both will take a freshly killed shore shrimp most nights but will often hide afterwards rather than staying out or exploring. They seem to be eating more crabs now but I don't see them catch them.

Sisty and Dusa still live well together. We see them out touching each other early (for them - about 10:30 ish) most every night but I am having a hard time getting pictures. They are also showing some physical signs of aging but are much more interactive than the other two males in the larger tank.

Babies are two months old but I still don't know how many have survived. There are two that feed openly at night but I think there are more that come out later and eat the live shrimp. I separated one that was more aggressive than I felt was safe in the net but I believe he escaped into the tank through a hole I failed to notice and cover (I spotted one loose two nights ago but could not catch it). I think there were fewer hatchlings than I originally guestimated now that I know they have been escaping but I really can't guess on the numbers with any feeling of confidence other than I know two died and I counted ten alive at one point. I have not found any more dead but know there are fewer than ten left. The ones I do see are about the size of an eraser.
 

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Wonderful journals D! We picked up a merc from our lfs about 4 weeks ago and this week we discovered that she is expecting! Your accounts are going to be so helpful! Thanks a million and best wishes for continued success!
Greg
 
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BTW, what was your routine regarding reef additives (if any) while you had octo eggs (Reef Plus Vitamin Amino Acid Supplement, Reef Complete Calcium Supplement, etc.)? Up to this point, my wife has added such things to all six of our tanks twice a week for corals, liverock, etc., but had a moment of concern when she remembered that we now have octo eggs in one. Thanks!
Greg
 

DWhatley

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Greg,
Octo biology is so different from most other things that the recommendations are to NOT add the typical enhancers. Since I don't keep much other livestock with my octos, I have followed this advice. It is not that vitamins, calcium and iodine (the things I personally add to my reef tanks) are known as negatives it is just that the effects are unknown. I have not had the rate of success (83% - lost one of the 6 born when it climbed out of the water) I had with the first goup. I can think of four things that are different

1. There were considerably more fry so underfeeding and possibly predation may have been a problem.
2. I fed live shrimp earlier this time and they eat less Cyclop-eeze in favor of the shrimp.
3. I did not include new hatch brine in the first weeks of feeding (I am wondering if it might help hydration since there is no nutrition but it is not a proper food and should never be the only food)
4. This batch is inbred (first is unknown).

I don't know which, if any of the above are impactive. I will suggest, however, that you find some frozen Cyclop-eeze to feed both the new borns and the mother when she stops eating (you can offer it to her now as I feed this to mine nightly along with shore shrimp (freshly killed nightly) and crab (live in the tank about one a week are consumed). I thaw it in a small dish with saltwater and use a plastic pipette to put it in the tank/breeder net. Do not squirt it directly on the octos though as they do not seem to like the "wind" from the squirting. Also be sure it is well diluted as it seems to bother them if it is too dense (I don't think this is a major thing but they do eat better if it is well diluted and I think it has to do with breathing - just conjecture).

Please start (if you have not already) a journal on your new critter!
 

DWhatley

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Sisty was really funny tonight. Since I was overhauling my reef (for the new octo) in the breakfast room, the lights were on well past the norm (lights are normally off at 10:30 ish and feeding is roughly at 11:00 but it was closer to 1:30 tonight. I have fed late many times before but the lights were off at the normal time). The minute I turned the lights off Sisty was out front on the LR doing his very fast arm wiggle and glaring at me (he does not do the arm thing very often any more). When I passed by the tank he sprang to the glass and continued with the frantic arm gesture. Normally, I have to feed a few rounds of Cyclop-eeze before they want their shrimp but he was so determined to get my attention, I offered shrimp after only a couple of squirts and he grabbed it from my fingers. When I offered the shrimp to Medusa, he climbed up my finger and took it directly with his beak (or at least inside her webbing). Dusa is usually fussy about the shrimp and sometimes does not want it from my fingers but will take it from a tube so this was an interesting event. He did not continue to grab at my hand once he had his shrimp and did not try to bite but made it clear I was late feeding and should be ashamed :lol:.

One just does not expect this much interaction/reaction from the Mercs and I wish I knew if there is anything I am doing that has encouraged it or if these two are just unusual. I will put two of the hatchlings in the same tank to see if location and tank size (heavily trafficed room, small hex tank) could be part of the answer.
 

DWhatley

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It has been three weeks and still no sign of Miss Broody. I believe she may have died this week behind the shell I noticed wedged in a rock. I think it is possible that she positioned the shell and then was too weak to move it and likely starved. A serpent star has been staying close to the area during most of her disappearance but moved to a new location yesterday. In the past, I sometimes have been able to find a missing octo by locating a serpent and I have been squiting food into the rock in that area with the hope that she would eat but I have not seen any arm movement. The serpent's change of location makes me think she may have died and I cannot get to the shell to check or remove any remains. So far the water is OK and the biologics are well established. I will do extra water changes for the next week and monitor for ammonia but don't know what else I can do.

Five or Six (I still don't have an exact count as I need to see all of them at the same time to be sure) of her young are now recognizable octopuses and are likely to survive. They are eating primarily Cyclop-eeze and less of the live shrimp. I am going to reintroduce some frozen mysis and try adding frozen krill to their nightly feeding since gholland has been having success feeding their brooding mom with several different foods.

I possibly put Sisturus and Medusa in harms way last night. I have mentioned that they are often together and touching each other and sometimes "attack" but never do harm. I went to feed last night and did not notice they were together when I put the Cylop-eeze in the tank over what I thought was one octopus. One fully engulfed the other's mantle with its web and the captured one was struggling to free itself (they have never attached like this nor has one ever had trouble extracting it self). I used the pipette to separate them and they both took shelter in the live rock. Half an hour later they were back at the top of the tank, together and acting normally. I made sure to place the food where there was no direct competition and will continue to be more cautious. Neal mentioned the feeding frenzy instincts of the Humbolts and I wonder if I witnesses something remotely similar.

They are acting normally tonight and were peacefully together near the filter inlet again. This time I started feeding at the other side of the tank and they separated to come feed.
 

DWhatley

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I found one of the babies dead two days ago. It looked quite cannabalized and I hope to take a picture before it decomposes. I had separated one of the babies because it appeared to be aggessive (possibly two since I moved it in a barnicle house) but decided to move it back because of my concerns about feeding density. I don't know if reintroducing one to the group made it a target for agression or if it really is more agressive than the rest and killed for housing (there is plenty of prime realestate). The only other things in the net are a few small shrimp and snails. The clean-up crew could have been munching on one that died naturally but my feeling (hope) is that it was killed by another octopus. I hope I am not going to loose the rest to natural causes. At 2.5 months I think I am down to four juveniles.

FYI a hungry pencil urchin can make huge holes in a breeder net. I had to transfer all the shells to the net with the small hole (hopefully everyone was still in residence and not running around in the main tank). I would like to find something like a hair net to replace my netting (these are about twice the size of the standard breeder nets and have a plastic grid floor about 1/3 of the way down and I think a hair net would be about the right size). If anyone knows of a place to find a thick one, please post it.

Still no sign of Miss Broody after about 4 weeks. I would have expected to see a body by now (water parms are OK but I am changing out water weekly in stead of bi-weekly) unless she is indeed trapped behind the suspended shell that I can't even touch, let alone investigate.

The four males are still doing OK. The two in the large tank are not as regular about coming out to feed (they are eating more live crab than previously) and are less interactive and more skiddish than they have been. Sisty and Medusa still come out like clockwork but they are often at the top of the tank (yes, I do more frequent water changes on this tank now too) when they are out. Sisty let me pet him for a while this week (I don't try it often) but both males in the smaller tank seem less interested in the human companion.
 

DWhatley

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I think I am down to only three offspring now (I regularly see 3 at one time but there may be a fourth). You just can't get cocky with any success in this hobby. I keep thinking I am missing something important but I keep missing it. There is a possiblilty that the fact that these were inbred effected their mortality BUT I do not find many carcasses. Either they have escaped the net and died (or are not coming to the outer walls, you would never find them in the LR) or they are being consumed (either from an alive state or after natural death) by their sibblings. These little ones do not come out and feed at all like the first group and that also has me puzzled.

The two males in the same tank are also more recluse than they had been (MIA and HideNSeek were always less human sociable than Sisty and Dusa). I will only see them long enough to give a shrimp about every other night and then they quickly vanish.

Sisty and Dusa, on the other hand, continue to greet me nightly and perform at least an hour of ballet. Both sets of males hang out together and are often found touching. Unfortunately, everytime I try to photograph Sisty and Dusa together, they see me and come over to see if there is a food offering. If I give attention to one (usually by rubbing my finger on the tank), you can count on the other to come over and want attention as well (even when they refuse additional food). They have learned an interesting trick. Sisty has done this for quite some time but now Dusa also feeds at the surface and will bring his mantle out of the water in kind of a rolling dance (the third pictures shows part of the movement but they actually bring their full mantle out of the water). When the behavior first started, I changed out water immediately but have since noticed that they only perform the antics when I am known to be present. If most Mercs acted like these two, they would be very popular pets. Unfortunately, I think these are the extreme exception. I also think Dusa would be more timid if he did not follow Sisty's lead.

The pictures were taken with a flash and, unfortunately, reveal their aging much more than in their normal red lighting.
 

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