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[Octopus]: Varys, our brooding O. mercatoris

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Jan 18, 2008
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Been awhile since we updated, and really not too much exciting to report. Varys has a pattern of eating well for about 3 days then blowing food away on the fourth day. Overall favorite for her is frozen mysids but rejects even those on her off nights. We've been making an effort to re-photograph the eggs but she's been too fast at covering them up when she notices that camera. Kinda odd that she'll let us look at the eggs but hides them from the camera.

Now they're quite "plump" as though they were about to burst, and we can try to describe them: you can distiguish the mantle and 2 eyes, and at this point the mantle is oriented down, so that the baby is basically hanging upside down, but Varys sometimes has an arm under, and keeps the eggs oriented sideways. On the egg that we can see best, there's another smaller dark spot that's down where the distal end of the tentacles would be... maybe just a fired-up chromatophore?

Valentine's Day 2/14/08 will be exactly 4 weeks since we first spotted the eggs. We're going out for a nice dinner.... wouldn't it be cool to find little "ticks" on the glass when we get home?
 

DWhatley

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If Vary's eggs hatch like Trappers and Miss Broody's, you will only see 2 to 5 a night so start watching Vary (intentional miss-spelling ;>) closely. Other's (with different species) have reported mass hatchings and "snow" but with the count you have, I expect something similar to my own experience. Remember these are "white" ticks and it will take careful observation to see them (hopefully you are using a red light most/all of the time). I don't think I ever spotted them during the day.:fingerscrossed:
 
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We're 30+ days into the egg development and Varys is proving rather uncooperative when it comes to getting a decent photo these days. :banghead: She actually does appear to see the red light when we shine it into her den, as she quickly covers up the eggs and shakes a tentacle our way. Any attempts to use a white light have had the same effect... until tonight. Using a white LED flashlight we were able to get one good pic:


...and a brief movie (9Mb) (I've quit using youtube because of the poor quality after conversion). Give the movie a minute to load after clicking on the link... even though it says "done", it will take a few seconds. You can definitely see all the little brown chromatophores on the babies now and sometimes they even move inside the eggs (can't see them moving inside the eggs on the movie though, just Varys doing her thing).


They look like they're ready to pop any time... Can't be long now! We're working on individual containers for each of the babies... just to insure that we don't have any issues with cannibalism and so we can feed and view them more easily. Promotional materials for the "Mercaplex Octominiums" will be made available ASAP!
 

DWhatley

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Greg,
You might want to rethink the baby containers slightly. I used breeding nets inside the main tank for three reasons.
1. Food density - If the food is too scattered they will not get enough to eat. By keeping several in one container, you can keep the concentration higher at feeding time with more consumption.
2. Because of 1, you will need a way to clean out the containers and refresh the water on a continuous basis.
3. Water movement. I believe the babies need a continuous water flow (at least in the first few weeks). I am not sure if this is to keep the food moving or to help with respiration but I believe it is necessary. I have a power head directed at the net during the day but now turn it off at night.

As for the red light, mine notice the LED flashlight but not my overhead lights (red are on 24/7). The octos in the small tank have a type of outdoor florescent with a red lens and it has never effected them negatively. The larger tank has a set of red LED's that seem to be OK but if I move it around they do notice so I am thinking that the LED spectrum is more visible.

I also have another thought on my disappearing young. It has not made much sense that they were consuming each other (I know this did not happen with the first group as all but one survived). If the babies try to eat a shrimp that is close to their mantle size, there is always considerable left over that stays in the net for me to clean up but most of the young just disappeared with no trace of corpse. However, last night I caught one of the adult males inside the empty breeder and it got me thinking about the possibility that they may be the culprits (very late/early since I have never seen this before). With the first group, only the mother was present in the main tank. This time around there are two adult males and I am leaning toward this as an explanation (anictodotal to be sure but the dissapearances have had no other satisfactory conclusion). You might consider a couple set off individually and several in a breeder net to see if one group fares better than the other.

Also, you will have to give them small shells or LR (shells are recommended) to use as dens so photography will be very difficult and they are very sensitive to flash. The two that I kept without dens (but in a darkened environment) died very early, as did the one little guy that was active during the day.

I keep watching for your birth announcements!
 
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D- thanks for the input. Shame on those adult males!

Well, we had several reasons to want to separate them. We mainly want to be able to monitor the feeding of each individual and eventually we hope to be able to recognize appearance and personality differences that may develop. Cannibalism may not be an issue but then again, it only takes one with cannabalistic tendencies to theoretically cause a problem.

Our thinking was: the pro of the breeder net is the water movement allowed through the net, which naturally has to be better than stagnating water in a "cup". We figured that any type of holes drilled into the more solid container that would be numerous and large enough to allow for good water flow would also be easily escapable for a tiny octopus baby. However, the cons of the breeder net are that it's hard to see inside unless you're looking down from above, and they're not easily divided into smaller containers if there is an issue with aggression between babies.

So, we are working on a combination floating container that will have the back and bottom side composed of breeder net, and these will be oriented such that the return flow from the filter is directed at the rear net portion. The front of the containers is clear plastic for observation. They'll each have a couple of small shells to choose from in their containers. We think that particulate waste matter can be pipetted out, and "surface skimming water changes" are easily performed by dunking or partially lifting the container out of the water and allowing new water to flow in...

We'll get a picture of these when they're ready and hopefully get some feedback.
 

DWhatley

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Sounds like an interesting and potentially successful set up if there is enough room for each of the babies to swim and hunt the tiny food. Dunking should be no problem during the day as it is almost a guarantee that they will be inside at that time. I am all but certain that Varys won't be a problem and I am not totally sure the males have been. However, I have and still do see them hanging out by the nets at night. I assumed they were just eating the Cyclop-eeze that washes through the net but now I can't be sure.

I am looking forward to the pictures of your contraption! You might try an experiment with the water movement in a bucket to be sure you will have current through the chambers. I am not sure what you could use as a dye, but maybe just some food placed at one end and see how it moves about.
 
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Well... I just fed Varys a piece of krill and sat around waiting to see if she would want another piece or spit it out. She seemed to eat most of it, but spit a small bit of leftovers. I tried to coax her into trying another piece, but when I went to put it in front of her den... she spit out a baby! :baby:

I can now see two of the little twerps swimming and crawling around the tank... where's the camera...
 

DWhatley

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Whoo HOO! I've been watching for this post!

Now to CATCH them ;>). I used a number of methods but found that Jean's favorite (turkey baster) did not work too well. It was the easiest way to catch them but VERY difficult to get them OUT of the baster. If you have a VERY fine net (brine shrimp fine) that works but anything with even medium openings could be a disaster. When I could get them in my hand, this was the best technique but not always doable.
 

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