• Welcome to TONMO, the premier cephalopod interest community. Founded in 2000, we have built a large community of experts, hobbyists and enthusiasts, some of whom come together when we host our biennial conference. To join in on the fun, sign up - it's free! You can also become a Supporter for just $50/year to remove all ads and gain access to our Supporters forum. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more cephy goodness.

[Octopus]: Varys, our brooding O. mercatoris

Joined
Jan 18, 2008
Messages
569
This is the first entry of a journal to document our first cephalopod experience. We made an impulsive purchase of an unidentified octopus on 12/22/07, an easy date to remember as it was our anniversary gift to ourselves. We named it Varys, after the the Master of Whisperers (a cryptic, cunning character known for disguises in George RR Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series). We knew that the octo was collected less than a week before from the coast of Florida by friends of our LFS owners, and thanks to helpful input from members of Reef Central and videos of her first introduction to the aquarium (and yes, we have since removed the dendrophyllias and tubastreas!):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yce5DoMBkeA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_KDXTlyyfQE


... we were able to identify that we had an adult O. mercatoris. The octo took up residence under a piece of liverock and was completely nocturnal. We read up on the species and were pleased at how voraciously it was eating (a crab, snail, silverside, crawdad, basically whatever we offered-every night since day one.)



Then, on 1/14/08, we added a really nice emerald crab, and instead of an empty exoskeleton outside the entrance to her den the next morning, there was the emerald crab alive and well. We didn't worry, the previous offering had been a pretty big crawdad- maybe the octopus was still full. The next night, my wife remembers in retrospect, she was up in the middle of the night letting a dog out, and decided to turn on the red light and watch the octopus. Contrary to expectation, Varys was not out and about. However, she was able to see the octopus writhing around and undulating in the burrow, and didn't see the emerald crab. My wife assumed she'd missed the hunt and the octopus was under there eating the crab. However, the following morning, the crab was spotted again, alive and well, and the 2 entrances to the burrow were now completely blocked off with rubble and shells.

We feared the worst, that it might be the behavior of impending death, and again there were no sightings of the octopus and the crab survived a third night. We didn't want to ignore a potential carcass under the rock, so on 1/17/08 we finally decided to have a look. To our amazement and complete delight, there was Varys, doing her best to cover over and protect a small clutch of at least half a dozen 8-9mm elongated eggs!



We very carefully set the rock back down, only now the walled-off entrances were disturbed, so we were able to observe her behavior a little. She was hovering right under her eggs, and using several arms to "fondle" or "caress" them. She also kept one eye on us, and used a couple of other arms to eject some disturbed pieces of rubble. Probably thinking "stupid, stupid irritating humans.... I thought I trained them better than this...."

Since then, she's refused all food items, including cyclopeeze, jettisoning them with a quick squirt. She walled herself off completely again on 1/19/08, and we haven't disturbed her since then.

We're now making plans for rearing juvies, choosing to be optimistic about the eggs being fertile. Only time will tell...
That's pretty much all we have to share at this point. We are extremely glad to have an online forum since we have zero experience, and please do not hesitate to give us input- we'd greatly appreciate advice, comments, or gentle reprimands...

Cheers,
Greg and Jen Holland
 

monty

TONMO Supporter
Staff member
Registered
Joined
Mar 8, 2004
Messages
4,884
good luck! dwhatley is certainly our merc husbandry expert at this point, and it will be fascinating to see how her techniques developed for Trapper and her offspring work out for an unrelated merc!
 

DWhatley

Kraken
Staff member
Moderator
Joined
Sep 4, 2006
Messages
20,925
gholland,

There is an excellent chance that Vary has viable eggs. Great shot of them by the way, I have never seen what they look like :oops:. It is interesting that you see a low count since Trapper only had 6 hatchlings (Miss Broody had more but I don't know how many since I had escapees from the nets).

Continue to offer Cyclop-eeze near the outside of Vary's den but do not "blow" it into her den. Both my females ate this way through their brooding. However, Miss Broody, is now nowhere to be found and may think she is brooding eggs again (this is not supposed to be viable) and is not eating (assuming she is still alive an barricaded behind the shell I have located in an unusual spot). I noticed heavy eating with Miss Broody just before she started refusing normal food so hopfully this will sustain Vary for awhile and she will become hungry and eat (this was the case with Miss Broody but she would only eat the Cyclop-eeze after some point in the process). You might also try using an air line and a small, headless shrimp or freshly killed crab (trapper took quick frozen mithrax) near her any opening you can find near her den (do not offer live, this seems to represent a threat to the eggs and she will blot it away). Be very patient and try dandling it there for about half an hour (you might wait a couple of days so that she is hungry). Twice this technique has worked but now I am at a loss as to what to do as I cannot be sure Miss Broody is where I think she is and I am not sure she is alive (I did see HideNSeek come out from that area last night so he may be the one moving things about and not Miss Broody).

When the babies start hatching try to capture them within 24 hours. You should see little white "ticks" on the glass that you can coax up to the surface. I preferred using my hand or a very fine net for this as using a turkey baster made it difficult to release them to the breeder net (they would stick to the inside). When the babies hatch expect a 5 - 10 day hatching with 2 - 5 per night. Be sure the breeder net has a selection of small shells to choose from (more than the number of fry in the net).

GOOD LUCK!
 
Joined
Jan 18, 2008
Messages
569
1/21/08

An arm emerges....

Today we offered Varys a thawed mysis shrimp by pipetting it into the gravel right next to one narrow opening to her den. She waited a moment before an arm began investigating and then the mysis disappeared.

Thereafter, she responded immediately to the pipette by waving arms outside the den to collect more pieces of mysis (directly from the pipette and sometimes with almost frenetic enthusiasm) - at one point she ignored the mysis and wrapped 2 arms around the pipette, pulling it steadily toward the entrance (to investigate it, I suppose). After all, it was clearly a "mysis dispenser" -- might want to look into having one on hand right inside the den.

It's a relief to see some activity. She seemed to be ravenous! Later this evening she also accepted an offering of cyclopeeze for dessert. Gotta admire the dedication it takes to be a brooding octo-mom!

Thanks for the feeding tips, D.
 

DWhatley

Kraken
Staff member
Moderator
Joined
Sep 4, 2006
Messages
20,925
Most excellent! If my experience holds, she should eat nightly with no further problems (you may have an occassional night of minimal feeding). I didn't try frozen mysis (I don't know why not since I keep plenty on hand) and I think variety is a very good idea so please keep reporting what she will and will not accept. Trapper also showed that frantic arm movement (no so much with Miss Broody but she continued to eat larger shrimp much longer than Trapper, was likely younger when she laid eggs and was tank raised and accustomed to being hand fed). I am really enjoying your reports and don't feel so much like the Lone Mercatoris Ranger!

I would nix the idea of keeping a pipette sitting inside the den. Both my girls were very clear about not wanting things put inside, even food as keeping the den clean seems to be an important part of the brooding process. And, yes, you will likely be spending at least 30 min a night with her :sleeping:
 
Joined
Jan 18, 2008
Messages
569
dwhatley;108909 said:
I would nix the idea of keeping a pipette sitting inside the den. Both my girls were very clear about not wanting things put inside, even food as keeping the den clean seems to be an important part of the brooding process.
Sorry for the confusion... we didn't mean to imply that we were actually thinking about putting the pipette in the den... it was just a poor attempt at humor -- octopus mind-reading!

At any rate... she accepted frozen mysids and/or cyclopeez for three straight nights before rejecting all attempts last night (1/24). Tried krill first... it was a no-go. She just blew it away from the entrance. Tried cyclopeez next and that was completely ignored. She's still moving around, so no worries there. We were thinking of trying very small pieces of silverside tonight... maybe try mysids again if that doesn't work.

We're trying to set up a culture of large amphipods (gammarus) this weekend... The math associated with feeding baby octopuses is a bit intimidating... 2-3 amphipods/mysids per day times 12 babies (very optimistic)... equals 24-36 per day... times 7 days in a week... you can all see where this is going. There's no way we could harvest that many from our existing tanks so I got permission to collect the filters from the tanks at work with the hopes that I can induce some of the amphipods living in them to come out into a refugium at home. (All of my colleagues are really excited and eager to help any way they can!) I'm sure we'll be buying live mysids online in the very near future too, but this amphipod thing gives us something to do.

Sorry for the mundane nature of this post, but it's just a bunch of "hurry-up and wait" on this end. :smile:
 

DWhatley

Kraken
Staff member
Moderator
Joined
Sep 4, 2006
Messages
20,925
Oops, guess it was similar to my family suggesting that I main-line coffee!

Keep offering tiny dead food daily. There were a few days my girls just were not hungry but (I mentioned that you might see this on occassion) for most of the brooding cycle, they ate daily.

As for mine, Miss Broody is nowhere to be seen and I am afraid she may have died behind the shell that is wedged in the LR. A serpent star had been staying very near the shell up until two days ago (I could sometimes locate my octos by the location of the serpents) but has now moved to a different part of the tanks so I fear the worst for her. The two males continue to eat regularly and the five (or six, still don't know for sure) babies are growing faster than their parents did on Cyclop-eeze and small shore shrimp. I have some frozen Krill and clam that I will try to feed later this week. None of my others would eat either but your success with different food suggests I should try again. Thanks!
 

Latest Posts

Forum statistics

Threads
20,701
Messages
206,286
Members
8,429
Latest member
Stoutsails

Monty Awards

TONMOCON IV (2011): Terri
TONMOCON V (2013): Jean
TONMOCON VI (2015): Taollan
TONMOCON VII (2018): ekocak


Top